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O-Zone: Let's hang out

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steve from Nashville, TN:
Julius Thomas presents himself in a polished and very professional manner as a NFL veteran.
John: I couldn't agree more, and Thomas – a tight end who signed in March as an unrestricted free agent from Denver – has been among the most interesting stories of the Jaguars' 2015 offseason. It's always fascinating to observe new players when they arrive with an NFL franchise. Rookies are difficult to read because they're rookies and rarely let their personalities show through immediately. Veterans are often more confident, enabling you to get a better read on them. This year's Jaguars veteran free-agent class has at least two players – Jared Odrick and Thomas – who appear ready to step into high-profile, media-friendly leadership roles. It will be intriguing to follow each player. But specifically to Thomas, yes – he's polished and professional. I don't know if that was a reason the Jaguars pursued him so heavily, but certainly it's an added bonus.
Eric from Jacksonville:
John: No doubt.
Clark from Orange Park, FL:
Understanding that there's no blocking and tackling going on, who have been the most impressive players in OTAs? Who should we be excited about?
John: As we move from Week 1 into Week 2 of OTAs, the storylines are indeed shaking out a bit. Thomas as expected has been impressive, and what's notable is he's a rare free agent who has appeared to fit in very quickly with a chance to significantly contribute immediately. While training camp is still months away, that's a very positive development. Ace Sanders also continues to be a significant story. After missing training camp last season, he never really got started and rarely played as a receiver. He also struggled as a returner. Many sort of wrote him off for this season, but Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley has spoken highly of him the last several weeks. Early impressions are also positive on free-agent signings Jermey Parnell and Odrick, but because they play right tackle and defensive end it's hard to get a significant read on them after a week of OTA practices.
William from Section 231:
Getting a little tense around the "round" table huh, Judge John?
John: Everyone has their limits in life. I'm reaching mine with Sexton.
Bryan from Frederick, OK:
Drop some knowledge on us, John: what is the forty-six defense? And which elements of it, if any, are used in Gus Bradley's "hybrid" scheme?
John: The "46" was a defensive popularized – and at times just about perfected – by the Chicago Bears under Buddy Ryan in the mid-1980s. It emphasized playing the outside linebackers – the strong-side and the weak-side linebackers – on the line of scrimmage, sometimes on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage and sometimes on the same side. This was to overload sides of the defense and to create mismatches up front that overwhelmed the offensive line's blocking schemes. It was a defense based largely on creating so much pressure that it overwhelmed running games and created sack/turnover opportunities. There are some elements of it in Gus Bradley's hybrid scheme, particularly at the strong-side "Otto" linebacker position.
Mac from Neptune Beach, FL:
This is how I see the next season starting: us beating the Panthers, then the Dolphins, then the Patriots, then the Colts.... 16-0 DUVAL TIL WE DIE! Do you agree?
John: While my prediction might be considered a touch more conservative than yours, May 31 is not the day to dampen your spirits. Perhaps there will be a more appropriate time later in the offseason, but for now: Dream on, my son, dream on … #DTWD.
Tim from Atlantic Beach, FL:
round ta·ble: a conference for discussion or deliberation by several participants who talk about something as equals; also: the participants in such a conference.
John: Except for the "equals" part I think we just about have this thing nailed – and … well, and the "round" part;" we're working on that, too.
Daniel since Day One from Jacksonville:
Why shouldn't kicking effect the outcome of a game called football? FYI: I expect a big increase in two-point attempts. I will be surprised if it's not at least close to a 25 percent increase. Do the math...
John: I think the argument isn't that kickers never should effect the game, but whether or not they need to be effecting it more. As for your theory that there will be a huge increase in two-point tries, as your question indicates, I disagree. But I do think it will be interesting to watch. I understand that statistics indicate that going for two more makes sense. And there could be some coaches who buy into that math. It's perhaps even true that coaches should go for two more in that situation. But when faced with the decision of taking what "feels" like a sure one point – and coaches believe a 33-yard field kick should be pretty close to a sure thing – or a two-yard run, I just don't know that most coaches are going to choose the two-yard play.
Chad from Sinking Spring, PA:
John, I was looking over the games the Jags have this year and I think it is very possible that the Jags can win 8-9 games this year.
John: I've said before and I imagine I'll say often before the season that I believe the Jaguars have a better chance to push for .500 – and to possibly attain that – than last season. There are some fans who become upset when I say "push for .500" because they would prefer I write that the Jaguars should be a Super Bowl contender each season and that always should be the goal. The Super Bowl always is the goal and the Jaguars certainly will begin the season doing everything to reach that. Right now, at this stage of their development, pushing for .500 would be significant improvement. It also would establish a a base and perhaps some momentum moving forward. Finishing better than that … well, that would be something now, wouldn't it?
Daniel Since Day One from Jacksonville:
Part of the players' contract is usually guaranteed, and part is not. What's so hard to understand about that? Part of the contracts says the player can't go to work for another team during the contract unless the team releases them. Again, what's so hard to understand??? In spite of that some players hold out and may refuse to practice or even play while demanding a new contract. Sometimes they get one, sometimes they do not. I really think it's pretty simple, don't you?
John: It's simple if you follow the NFL closely and take the time to understand contracts. If you don't want to do the latter – and I don't know that I would if I didn't have to write about it – then the NFL's approach does seem strange because it's different from the NBA and Major League Baseball. The bottom line is this system has worked for the NFL and players can get the security of guaranteed money in the form of large signing bonuses. This is only fair because it's a brutal sport with a high chance of injury. What the NFL system doesn't guarantee in any way is the base salary for seasons in the later years of huge, high-profile contracts. Players very often don't play those seasons and don't receive the money for those seasons. That may seem unfair, but the system has been in place long enough that if players don't understand it – and if agents don't make it clear – then it's hard to say they've been treated all that unfairly.
Andrew from Kansas City, MO:
So, now that a week of OTA's are complete, when do the OTA's for senior writers start??
John: It's the nature of the senior writer's schedule that OTAs begin when they begin for players, just as training camps for senior writers begin when training camps begin for players … and so on. And the final seasons of my contract aren't guaranteed, either. And I didn't get a signing bonus. Wait. What?
James from Destin, FL:
Johnny O, you know what squats are. Scobee says you do it several times a day when you see him walking your way. You always find something to squat behind and hide from him. Rumor has it you do that several more times a day when Khan is walking around.
John: You're right, but for accuracy's sake we should clarify the reasons for the squatting. With Scobee, the issue is what I have come to think of as "kicker neediness." For a while there a few months back, it got to the point where every time I saw Scobee it led to him approaching and trying to attach: "Say something funny, O-Zone … What are you doing for lunch, O-Zone? … Let's hang out, O-Zone …" It was tolerable at first, but after a while … yeah, I'll be honest: I started ducking him – or "squatting," as you put it. With Khan … well, yeah, I hide from him. Self-preservation is a priority in my life.

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