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O-Zone: Let's talk

INDIANAPOLIS – Ozone, 2013 NFL Scouting Combine Edition. Day One.

Let's get to it . . .

John from Fruit Cove, FL:
Would the Jaguars' new regime bring in a player that was cut by our old general managers/coaches – like a Mike Peterson, if he fits? Or do players hold grudges?
John: Players are people, so sure, they hold grudges, but it's usually people against whom the grudges would be held rather than the franchise. I don't know that at his age Peterson would be an option and don't know that you'll see former players returning. It's not because of a grudge on either side as much as the Jaguars moving in a new direction under Gus Bradley and David Caldwell. Their commitment isn't to the past. Nor should it be. It's to trying to build a consistent winner.
Joe from Jacksonville:
Just purchased my season tickets for next year. Looking forward to the experience of watching, enjoying this upcoming season. It's not all about winning or losing; it's about supporting something wonderful for Jacksonville, too. Win or lose you still have a great day with tailgating, mingling with other fans. GO JAGS!!
John: Speaking of wonderful, don't forget JP Shadrick. The guy has brought a vision and depth to his role that few imagined possible.
Eric from Lake Stevens, WA:
Bjoern Werner, Barkevious Mingo, Damontre Moore or Star Lotulelei... who would you see as the best fit for the Jags?
John: I like the idea of the highest-rated pass rusher on the board, but that's just my tendency to lean toward pass rush and quarterback at the top of the draft. I haven't heard a ton of consensus about who that pass-rusher is yet, but if it's Werner or say, BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, you could see that being a fit.
Joshua from Franklin, IN:
The talk about Brad Meester had me wondering. How difficult is the transition from a tackle or guard to a center?
John: It's not easy, particularly if a player never has played it. A center not only must handle the responsibility of delivering the ball to the quarterback either by conventional snap or in the shotgun, but he typically is responsible for line calls and reading defenses before the line of scrimmage. This is one reason you typically see a lot of teams around the NFL with centers playing into their mid-30s. Experience and ability to know what's going on on the field often trumps athletic ability at the position in a very big way. It's also why even in a rebuilding situation such as that facing the Jaguars there's a chance a player such as Brad Meester fits in the short term. A guy who knows what he's doing at that spot allows things to function around him.
Anthony from Madison, WI:
Alright, don't fill our roster with big-name free-agent acquisitions. I'm alright with that, for the most part. However, should we be considering signing more backup free agents for depth? I mean, we have, over the past few years, consistently produced one of the most injury-struck teams in the NFL. Consequently, our depth has been shown to be lacking and our players aren't stepping up. Should we be looking into creating depth, a much more reliable use of free agents with less risk?
John: If you're talking about signing veterans around the roster as backups, the problem becomes the salary structure of your roster. The NFL's salary cap is a tight cap, and it's designed so that teams can pay a limited number of core players enough to maintain the core of the entire roster. Even lower-priced veterans typically make more than rookies of the same ability, so that's why you see most backup positions manned by younger players with lower contracts. The days of having a team with veterans starting and backing up every position are long since gone. That's why teams are more susceptible to injuries these days, and it's why more often than not, if a player is in his fifth or sixth season is not starting he's not in the league.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I know that the Jaguars haven't crowned Gabbert the starter next year. But, with their positive public evaluation of him, it seems unlikely they'll use the No. 2 pick on a quarterback. Do you think that hurts their chance at trading that pick? The Chiefs also said this week that they don't see a first-round quarterback in the draft. So, for all intents and purposes, a team only needs to trade up to No. 3 to get their desired quarterback.
John: I wouldn't connect the positive words on Gabbert as having anything to do with what the Jaguars may or may not do with the No. 2 selection. With two months before the draft, there's an awful lot of work to do before David Caldwell decides what to do at that spot. Now, at this stage, it indeed seems unlikely it would be a quarterback – and Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said this week there was no clear-cut first-round choice – but all of that being true doesn't make anything set in stone, particularly not before the NFL Scouting Combine. Saying all of that, it is evident that the overwhelming consensus is this is not the greatest year to have a Top 10 selection, particularly if you're searching for a quarterback. Here's the good news about that: in scouting, the overwhelming consensus often is wrong, and there are good players in every draft. As with any draft, the key is picking the right ones.
Steve from DeFuniak Springs, FL:
Regarding the new logo, this all you need to keep in mind: my 10-year-old son and seven-year old daughter love it. I may buy myself one or two items with the new logo, but will likely buy the kids several items over the course of a year between birthdays, Christmas, and various other purchases. As a 37-year-old father, I am smart enough to realize I do not drive the market; it's the youth who are behind the wheel.
John: As a 46-year-old father of a 16-year-old, I am smart enough to know it's a long shot to believe I'll even get to buy myself one or two items.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
With a set salary structure is it safer to pick a solid o-lineman with our first pick?
John: In terms of how much teams are risking financially, yes, selecting at the top of the draft is safer for teams whatever position they decide to choose. No longer are franchises at the risk of being crippled by a rookie contract ala the Raiders/Jamarcus Russell if they get the No. 1 overall selection in a year in which the top quarterback turns out to be a bust. It's not so much the presence of a set salary structure that makes this true, but that the salary structure is set at a lower level. Russell signed a six-year, $68 million contract with $31.5 million guaranteed. Five years later, Andrew Luck signed a four-year, $22.025 million contract with all of the money guaranteed, so teams are clearly risking less. Still, while holding an early selection is safer financially, it still carries risk. You need to hit early selections like that because of the value they bring on the field. Miss them, and you have one less impact player on your roster, and you're sure to spend future drafts trying to make up for the error.
Blake from Jacksonville:
I always look back at Tom Coughlin and try to imagine what the best scenario would have been. I've come to believe he was every bit the reason the Jaguars were so good, and every bit the reason they became so bad. I was young at the time, but it always seemed like it was the drafted guys or the low-priced guys that made the team so good. The big money free agents just seemed to be OK players (at that stage) along for the ride. I guess it's what made me believe in the concept of building through the draft. If you hit on a free agent, even though he's good, he is expensive and will be good for a relatively short time. If you hit on a draft pick he is less expensive and will be good for longer.
John: There's a lot of truth in your email. Make no mistake: free agents such as Keenan McCardell and Leon Searcy were critical to the Jaguars' success in the 1990s, and throughout that time other free agents/veteran acquisitions such as Clyde Simmons, Jeff Lageman, Natrone Means and the like made contributions. But the draft did form the core, and the key to Jaguars becoming an annual contender was that they rarely missed on first-round selections in those early years.Tony Boselli, Kevin Hardy, James Stewart, Renaldo Wynn, Fred Taylor, Donovin Darius, Fernando Bryant – that's a pretty good run.
Brandon from Duval County and Jacksonville:
During these weeks of slow, slow football news, can you post two O-Zones a day and/or extended O-Zones? Football info mixed with your sense of humor is what is getting me through the offseason.
John: Sure, and when you're really bored in June, I'll post three, and you and I can just talk football on the phone 24-7.

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