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O-Zone: Looking for balance

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Josh from Zephyrhills, FL:
It sounds as if Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks will hit the open market. Could we take a chance on one of them? If you go back to when Jimmy Smith was added to the roster, he was about the same age as these guys. Also, with some notable centers on the market and a really deep offensive line and linebacker group, what is the pick you would make with the third pick and who is one guy on the open market you would sign?
John: As I write often, free-agency questions are brutally difficult to answer in January. A really deep offensive line and linebacker group can suddenly be very, very shallow if players get re-signed or franchised. Maclin and Nicks are another issue because they are wide receivers. On the one hand, I expect the Jaguars will address that position in a noteworthy way this offseason. But while Maclin and Nicks are clearly capable of being very good, there is perhaps no higher-risk position in free agency than wide receiver. I've always liked Nicks and if he can be signed for a reasonable contract, he makes sense. Reasonable doesn't always happen a lot with big-name free agents.
Mike from Section 238:
What I was referring to was that any time "saved" by skipping the PAT play could potentially mean more regular game plays because of the additional time. But now I'm not sure if the clock even runs on a PAT. Does it?
John: No, it does not. So that pretty much means you spent part of your life writing meaningless words. Welcome to my world.
Tym from the Southside:
Is there a chance the Jags go with a rather unconventional pick and choose Sammy Watkins at No. 3? I've only seen #Switzandpieces of his game tape, but he reminds me a little of a young #LarrySwitzgerald. What say you O-Man? #NeverForget #BarrySwitzer#SwitzTheOffseason#IWouldChallengeYouToABattleOfSwitzButISeeYouAreUnarmedBert from Denver
John: #Wow. No. 3 is a bit high for a receiver, so Watkins might make a bit more sense if the Jaguars trade back. With the No. 3 selection, you prefer positions such as left tackle, defensive end/pass rusher or quarterback. Wide receiver would be fourth on that list, but with some pretty good pass rushers available, I'd expect the Jaguars to go that route if quarterback isn't the call.
John from Jacksonville:
If we are talking a redesign of the goal posts, let's go with the rhombus shape. Also, let's have the goal post light up green when the kick is good and red when the kick is no good. And how about making it spin to add a little more of a challenge?
John: Are you serious, Clark?
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Now you have me confused on the half-the-distance rule. If the ball is on the seven-yard line and the penalty is 10 yards, the ball is placed on the 3.5 yd. line?
John: Yes.
The Riddler from Gotham City:
A little birdie told me you like riddles; well, riddle me this, Batman ... I mean O-Man! Where was the very first Senior Bowl held?
John: Jacksonville.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I don't get the whole argument for eliminating PATs. I could see if it was for player safety if more people got injured during them. You don't see that many injuries on PATS. Getting rid of PATS because of injuries – might as well just take the pads off and throw on some flags.
John: The primary reason for eliminating PATs is that most PATs are routine. The idea would be to eliminate what is generally a routine play and either have there be no PAT or what is now a two-point conversion play. To proponents of the change, this would eliminate a play that is usually comparatively uninteresting. The secondary benefit would be that there would be fewer PATs. Those take place in an untimed situation, so eliminating them would have the double benefit of quickening pace of play and making the game a bit safer.
Chris from Mandarin:
The PAT talk has got me wondering. How long will it be before the name of the game is changed to something else? Last year we heard rumors of eliminating kickoffs outright. Now the same goes for the extra point. I imagine punts would follow suit. I suppose we could call it Goodball since this is part of his brain trust.
John: I don't see the name being changed – oh, you were kidding …Seriously, while some readers are concerned about too many changes, Goodell doesn't go around willy-nilly changing rules. While I'm not thrilled with the idea of eliminating PATs, I do get the rationale and sort of doubt I'd miss them very much if they were actually taken away. And I highly doubt you'll see punts eliminated. They don't create dangerous situations nearly as much as kickoffs.
Chad from Jacksonville:
When do you think we will start re-signing some players?
John: Probably closer to the opening of free agency. That's when there will be deadlines for players and teams, and deadlines have a tendency to speed up contract decisions.
Dave from Oviedo, FL:
It has been said that certain positions in the draft have less risk, like choosing an offensive tackle over a wide receiver or quarterback. However, I'd argue that wide receiver and quarterback are easier to grade because their mistakes are with the ball in their hands and fans are quick to write them off as busts. On the other hand, an offensive tackle can give up a sack or miss an assignment all day long and they're given a pass..."oh, they'll be just fine." So, maybe the offensive tackle is seen as the safer pick, only because he's under less scrutiny than a player with the ball in hand?
John: When this discussion comes up, it's always important to remember we're talking generalities and there are exceptions to every generality. But while some positions such as offensive tackle – and cornerback as well – are considered less risky, it's not really about the reasons you cite. When tackles allow sacks, people are more apt to say, "What the …" than "Oh, they'll be just fine," so the scrutiny isn't that much less. But the reason it's less risky is generally speaking the skill set needed to play left tackle at a high level is easily indentifiable and translates well to the NFL game. It was easy to look at Tony Boselli, for example, or Walter Jones or Jonathan Ogden or so on and so on and think, "They were put on this earth to play left tackle." Either you have the leverage, strength, feet and size to do what those players do, or you don't. Cornerback is similar, though not as straightforward. With receivers, for example, more depends on the player's ability to run precise routes, grasp the offense and learn the subtleties and nuances of the position. There are just more unknowns and more projections, which makes it tougher.
Dane from Jacksonville:
With constant talk of altering the game coming from the league, how can they assume they know best what fans want? I can't imagine anywhere close to the majority of fans would want the PAT eliminated. I know they can't conduct business through polls, surveys, etc., but it seems silly and arrogant of them to constantly propose changes to a game that fans already find wildly entertaining.
John: I don't know that they're being silly or arrogant as much as they're doing what they can to make the game better/safer. "WHOA!!!!!" you say. "HOW ARE THE NEW RULES ABOUT DEFENSELESS RECEIVERS MAKING THE GAME BETTER? PUT A DRESS ON EVERYONE!!!" Well, while I agree that some of the helmet-to-helmet and defenseless receiver rules have altered the game in recent years more than is ideal, those rules are part of the league's initiative to promote player safety. The league hasn't found a perfect balance there yet. I don't imagine perfection that area ever will be found, but I suspect over time a better balance will be found and the rules won't seem quite so intrusive. As for the possible extra point change, this strikes me a little like the crown-of-the-helmet rules last offseason. There was a lot of uproar about it in the offseason and not a lot of discussion once the season began. If – and it's still an if – the league eliminates the PAT, myself and others won't be thrilled about it, but I doubt we'll see the game as being horribly worsened by the move once it's implemented.

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