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O-Zone: Just another story

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
If all things are equal, do you take the rookie over the third-year guy? I like the Mike Brown story, but I think it will be Allen Hurns in that last wide receiver spot. We know Marqise Lee and Ace Sanders aren't going over the middle to move the chains in traffic. And it would seem Hurns will not only excel in that role as a fourth or fifth receiver on third down and red zone, but have at least as much play-making ability down the field as Mike Brown while having just as much or more exposure to the routes involved in Jedd Fisch's offense. It may come down to special teams, but your theory of rookie vs. veteran will be tested, and if Allen Hurns can cover kicks, I believe he will be the guy.
John: You make many good points. There is one caveat to my rookie-versus-fourth year theory. I said you take a rookie over a fourth-year guy if all else is equal, and things of course aren't always equal. That's particularly true at the receiver position, where it often takes a year or more for a young receiver to begin playing like an NFL receiver – i.e., running precise routes and getting open with anything close to consistency. Your theory on Hurns may be dead-on, and if everything he did in college translates perfectly to the NFL he probably would be a lock for that fifth receiver position. That translation often is difficult, which is why at this early juncture my guess is Hurns earns a spot on the practice squad before he is on the active roster.
Joe from Jacksonville:
Sign seen at EverBank Field: Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
John: I never much worried about that. When you lose hope young, things get remarkably simpler.
Taylor from Columbia, MD:
Who do you see as a more talented player, Dwayne Gratz or Aaron Colvin? As our potential starting cornerback tandem of the future, how does their game compare?
John: I've seen Gratz play a rookie season and I've seen Colvin walking the hallways while rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. My first impression is that Gratz is a little more of a prototypical physical, Gus Bradley-type corner. My impressions from what I've seen from Colvin in college video is he is a little smaller and perhaps at first glance slightly less physical than what this defense would normally use, but that he is potentially a very good cover corner. All of that, of course, is before seeing Colvin even play a practice snap.
Dustin from Dallas, TX:
August 8, 2011. I remember reading the O-Zone that featured "The Promise." It was a Monday and I was sitting in the Davis College of Business student lounge waiting on class to start. You made the bold promise to write an O-Zone every day until there was a blackout. I remember thinking "Heh, I'll give him a week."
John: Heh.
Steven from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I saw Dave Caldwell at the airport on Tuesday, with his family. I wanted to thank him for the culture he has helped to bring to the team, and wish him luck this season, but decided not to impose on his family time. Just for future reference, is it poor etiquette to approach someone in the organization when they are in public with their family?
John: I'm sure your desire to not impose was appreciated, but at the same time, Caldwell and Bradley both are very appreciative of how this community feels about them, and the support they have received. Approaching a player or coach in public is about being reasonable. Approaching and offering a handshake, a kind word or a thank you is usually appropriate. Approaching while the family is eating, demanding to know if and when Tim Tebow will be signed, and sitting between Caldwell and his wife wanting a full breakdown of future cap issues might be perceived as being "a bit much." I, for one, am at one with celebrities. If I see one approach, I typically lurk in a shadowy spot, wait for them to nearly pass, then take two steps quick into the light and wait several seconds before shouting, "WANNA HANG OUT?" I find celebrities as a rule to be to be strikingly skittish, but notably quick on their feet.
Daniel from Grimsby, UK:
Are current high school football players ever scouted by NFL teams at all? I'm guessing they are because in the English Premier League, players as young as five years old are scouted by professional teams. Different sport, I know, but surely the NFL teams have an idea of players before they enter colleges?
John: NFL teams rely on scouts to gather information, assess and ensure teams know about players. Scouts by definition are passionate about this process and are in constant contact with college coaches, who in turn also have spent their lives assessing football talent. Therefore, it is unrealistic to think NFL scouts haven't heard of phenomenal high school prospects. That being said, teams don't actively or officially gather information or scout high school players. Players at that age are almost always need significant development before being ready for the NFL and there is plenty of time for scouting as they develop.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
So, are you implying that Vick got by with a little help from his friends? Or am I just completely missing the reference =).
John: I'm still wondering if someone will get it.
Billy from East Northport, NY:
Appreciate the Beatles' reference. I'm used to the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band one, so I get by With a Little Help from my Friends was a welcome change. Ha ha.
John: Billy got it.
Mike from Section 238:
Have you seen enough to make an initial comparison between Blaine and Blake? We always heard Blaine was big, had all the tools, was smart, first in the stadium to work and wanted to be great also. Maybe the most significant differences are Blake's willingness to stand in the pocket, "climb the ladder," and some leadership skills? There was always a hint that all his teammates didn't take to Blaine.
John: It's really unfair at this stage to compare Bortles to Gabbert, with the obvious reason being Bortles has yet to play an NFL game or even participate in an NFL training camp. Remember, at this stage of Gabbert's 2011 rookie season the league was in the middle of a lockout and Gabbert had spent a few hours at EverBank Field the day after the draft. My first impressions of Bortles are that he may be pretty good in the pocket and that he is pretty natural in the locker room – and that he may be a little ahead of Gabbert as a rookie – but that's so premature that the answer could look very, very silly sometime down the road.
Daniel from Johnston, IA:
We've talked about why some college players can't make the jump to the NFL. Why do you think some offensive coordinators can't make the jump to head coach in the NFL? Some really good coordinators just aren't good head coaches (like Norv Turner for example).
John: First off, I would say Norv Turner was a good head coach, though not a great one. As for why some coordinators can't make the jump, there are many reasons, with some being the same ones that hold many coaches back – luck, injuries, fortune, fate, lack of talent, lack of a quarterback, etc. But the biggest tangible reason that many observers overlook is there are simply dramatically different skill sets involved. Generally speaking – and this is very general – the head coach is a big-picture manager who sets the vision for the team, speaks to the team and might be seen as the president of the company. An offensive coordinator is managing one side of the ball, calling plays, deciding what offenses will work best against defenses and vice versa. It's almost strictly an Xs and Os position whereas head coach is a managerial position. That's very simplistic and every situation has different nuances, but it's a reason many good coordinators aren't good head coaches. They're sometimes different enough positions as to almost not be the same profession.
Troy from York, PA:
Hey, O-man: what will happen if Blackmon gets reinstated this season sometime? What receiver do you see being the odd man out? Because I think he's still the best receiver we have on the roster if he's reinstated.
John: First, I wouldn't project Blackmon playing for the Jaguars this season. It's just hard to imagine. If by some crazy chance it did happen, he'd likely fit into the top group and the Jaguars' top four receivers would become Cecil Shorts III, Blackmon, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. I would project Ace Sanders at No. 5 with Mike Brown possibly at No. 6 if the team kept that many receivers.
Jim from Gainesville, FL:
O-Zone, have you heard?? The king called up his jet fighters, he said you better earn your pay. Drop your bombs between the minarets, down the Casbah way.
John: Every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world.
Kirk from Section 201:
If you were playing in MLB and had a walk-up song, what would it be?
John: See above answer.

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