JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Dave from Jacksonville and Section 410:
Two glass-is-half-full thoughts. Since Fowler's injury happened now he will have 17 months recovery for next year. The other thing is that defensive end is not a position of weakness and the Fowler selection was a pick for the future.
John: I sense we're approaching a time when the O-Zone will have less of an all-Dante-Fowler-Jr.-all-of-the-time feel; I also sense that it's understandably a slow, lo-o-ong trip to get there. As for your glass, I would say it's filled to about the right level. Fowler was selected No. 3 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Jaguars wanted and expected him to be a huge factor in the defense next season, and he appeared to have a chance to be a very dynamic presence very quickly. So, to try to say his absence is anything other than very frustrating and disappointing is disingenuous. At the same time, if he had to sustain a torn anterior cruciate ligament it probably couldn't have happened at a better time. He indeed should be better in 2016 having injured the knee in May as opposed to injuring it in August or September; I wouldn't project Fowler being 100 percent in 2016, but time should help him be a lot closer to that level at that time. As for your final thought, I don't want to go overboard in downplaying Fowler's importance for next season; he absolutely would have been a factor. But while he would have helped the defense, his absence shouldn't be devastating. If he can return to 100 percent, he should still be a long-term core player, which is the ultimate goal for a Top 10 selection.
Derrick from Orlando, FL:
Could the Jaguars cut Fowler before he signs a contract or adjust the contract to include performance incentives if he is not able to physically recover from the ACL injury?
John: I doubt there would be much push to do this, primarily because it would be a cruddy thing to do. But even if the Jaguars were so inclined – and they are not – all NFL teams sign agreements with unsigned draft selections ensuring the teams will negotiate in good faith if a player is injured participating in minicamp/offseason practices or workouts. If they didn't, few draft picks would show up before signing a contract.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
Do you see us bringing in one of the veteran defensive ends out there? Do you see us trading Marcedes Lewis before the season?
John: The Jaguars have a veteran defensive end. Chris Clemons. They also have Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and Chris Smith. So, while I wouldn't absolutely, positively rule out the Jaguars signing a defensive end, it hardly is a must. As for trading Lewis, why? It's OK to have quality backups behind quality starters. Newsflash: players expected to start become injured and when they do, it's good to have a backup. I can't think of any specific Jaguars-related examples of this in the last few days, but trust me: it happens.
Dave from Section 410:
Saw AC/DC before Bon Scott died, and Bad Company in '77. Do I get my man card back from that Bangles thing? Saw Neil Diamond a few years ago, front row. I think he sweated on me. Never mind about the man card thing.
John: I saw John Denver and Debbie Boone on back-to-back nights at the Coliseum in 1978, so I'm not saying anything right now.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
Don't you think the Jaguars should keep their draft picks from participating in rookie camp? It should be a tryout for players who want to make the team. Since we already know the draft picks will have a good chance to make the team why don't we have them sit out minicamp?
John: Rookie camp isn't solely a tryout camp; in fact, its primary objective is to get players acclimated with the Jaguars and give them an early feel for the NFL. That way, they're more ready for the offseason programs and organized team activities. Look, I understand there is going to be fallout from the Fowler injury and I'm the first one to say teams generally don't have to do as much in the offseason as they do. But if you're going to hold veteran minicamps and as many OTAs as teams do, I don't see the harm in a two-day rookie minicamp. What happened to Fowler was a fluke. It could have happened at the NFL Scouting Combine. Or at his Pro Day. Or anytime he did anything physical.
Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
T.J. Yeldon reminds me to some extent of Fred Taylor. He has similar size and running features and played in the SEC under a pro-set offense. My question is why are running backs less able to last as long as they used to like Taylor and others who played into their 30s? Why are running backs so different now in terms of durability and age?
John: I'm not buying into the Yeldon-Taylor comparison; it's not fair to Yeldon to compare him with one of the most talented runners of the last 20 years. When it comes to running backs, though, I don't know that they're all that much different than before. It always has been a short-lived position. There are rarities and exceptions in every eras. John Riggins. Walter Payton. Emmitt Smith. Fred Taylor. All played past the normal expectancy for running backs, but there were also countless backs in those eras who shone briefly at a high level only to fall off quickly as time, wear-and-tear and carries took their inevitable toll.
John from Savannah, GA:
I just can't get past the illogical feeling that 1999 was and always will be the high-water mark for this franchise. That was more than 15 years ago, John. It's depressing, and depressing can be.. well …
John: Depression can be depressing. That's one of its most-reliable attributes. But when you say your feeling is illogical, you're exactly right. Your feeling also has something to do with not looking around the league with a clear view. That's understandable when you're passionate about one team. The reality is many franchises have longer stretches of difficulty than they do of greatness. The Washington Redskins had a stunningly successful 12-year run under Joe Gibbs from 1981-1992 and never have recaptured that. The Houston Texans have been in the NFL since 2002 and never been to an AFC Championship Game. The Atlanta Falcons have yet to really have a Golden Era and the Buffalo Bills have struggled for a decade and a half after steady success for a decade and a half before that. The Jaguars have struggled big-time for a while now. No doubt. It can be very difficult to build out of such a stretch. This franchise has committed to building out of this stretch the right way, and while it has taken a long time the roster is improving and the foundation is being laid.
Bill from Dansville, NY:
The development of the rookie edge rusher selected with No. 3 pick was not going to make or break the 2015 season. The development of the second-year quarterback selected No. 3 the season before will. #Allisnotlost.
Andrew from Windsor, Canada:
Is there any chance that if Fowler cannot play again (or up to his potential) that the Jags get compensatory picks? If not, I think there should be a rule that if a top pick goes down because of injury the team gets picks to compensate for it.
John: No, there is no such system. I don't anticipate there being any such system, and I'm not sure there should be such a system. You can't make a rule to protect a team against bad luck, and I don't know you'd write the rule if you tried.
Matt from Jacksonville:
Since Fowler is out for the season and will miss out on gaining a year of NFL game experience, is there an option for him to practice more with the coaches once he's healthy? I know the CBA limits the amount of time players and coaches can be on the field together, but I feel like there should be provisions for this situation.
John: There is no option for this. Not that it's not a good idea, but again, it would be difficult to set up a system for determining who would be able to have extra practice and how much practice is allowed, etc. Injuries are part of the game. Fowler will begin working out within the league's rules when he is allowed, and those rules will allow him contact with the team's athletic training staff, etc. He will practice within the league's guidelines, too, and he will have ample time to prepare for the 2016 season.
B.J. from Winnsboro, LA:
Will Jags make the playoffs? What will we do with Toby Gilhart?
John: I don't have any idea who Toby Gilhart is, but if the Jaguars make the playoffs I'm sure he'll have a lot to do with it.
O-Zone: Key component
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Dave from Jacksonville and Section 410: