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O-Zone: Making amends

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Monatte from Jacksonville:
With the stadium upgrades, is this the best way to keep up with other teams' stadiums? Every time we look around, teams are getting new stadiums and we are just upgrading our 20-year stadium. What happens in 20 years when our stadium is 40-years old and we are still paying for upgrades and other NFL teams are getting new stadiums? I think it's better if we spend our money now to get a new stadium, and add the different things we want in the new stadium. I think we are setting ourselves up for failure down the road. Please comfort me with a better outlook on this matter.
John: I get your concern, and on one level, it makes sense. But while there's little sentiment locally for a new stadium or the accompanying price tag, the city and team have made significant upgrades happen. The upgrades were needed now and will bring benefit now and in the immediate future. There are also prototypes for more significant upgrades that will significantly delay the need for a new stadium. Will a time come when a new stadium is needed? Sure, and the history of this team and city is somehow they'll find a way to make it happen. But that's a long way off.
James from Socorro, NM:
I am intrigued to see a backfield of Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson: two contrasting styles that should complement each other well.
John: The Jaguars are intrigued by this as well, and it's an important area to watch in the offseason. Gerhart seems almost certain to be the primary back next season, and he has a controlled, big-back style – with an ability to make defenders miss – that should be intriguing to watch. Robinson has added size this offseason and if he can solve the issues that hurt him last season – ball security and receiving – he has the speed to be a significant factor in the offense.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
What players, excluding those drafted or given contract extensions by Caldwell, would you say are locks to make the final roster? I'm not sure I can think of anyone other than Cecil Shorts III.
John: There are more than that – Paul Posluszny, Marcedes Lewis, Tyson Alualu, Josh Scobee, Bryan Anger – but your point is well-taken: the numbers are dwindling. Fast.
Tim from Jacksonville and Section 213:
Ninety of ninety sure doesn't sound very "voluntary" to me. I think people need to ease up on these guys. It is a job. Here's hoping that next year our desperation won't be so great that everyone freaks out over a guy not traveling across the country to show up for a "voluntary" practice.
John: The quotes you put around "voluntary" are precisely the reason the NFL Players Association negotiated offseason time in which players and coaches cannot talk football – because if such rules weren't in place, voluntary would become "voluntary" to the point that there was no offseason at all. As far as people freaking out over Clemons' absence, I don't think it has much to do with Jaguars fans being desperate. Media plays up OTA absences because they need something to play up, and fans get worried about them because fans are going to worry. Desperation doesn't really play a role.
Scott from Jacksonville:
If four or five other Jags missed the first OTAs, would the fans still wig out over Clemons?
John: Almost certainly not, but they probably would wig out over so many players not being there. Look, OTAs are a story for pretty much one reason: because the NFL has become a huge story year-round and we in the media have made OTAs a month-long reportable event rather than what it actually is – 10 practices that focus more on learning than on-field performance. There is, of course, nothing to be done about this. The hay is out of the barn and we're not going back to a time when OTAs were lower-profile, but a player missing a few OTAs isn't nearly as big a deal inside the building as it is outside. Ideally, the team wants everyone here, but the foundation of the franchise isn't crumbling because of an absence or two.
Bennett from Fruit Cove:
I can't decide what speedo I am going to wear in the pools at the Bank this year - Jaguar print or Black and Teal....oh the choices!
John: Shadrick and I were kicking around this concept over cupcakes and coffee Monday morning. Word got out of our conversations, and Mark Lamping promptly called us to the office for what he called a "preemptive taking to." Shadrick's still going speedo, but he's doing so at his own risk.
Scott from Jacksonville:
I just spent the last three days at Disney seeing thousands of people all over the theme parks. I wore Jaguars crocs, Jaguar shorts, Jaguar shirt, and Jaguar hat. I was fully decked out in all Jaguar gear and not one person said anything to me the entire weekend. Not sure if I should be disappointed or not.
John: I haven't been to Disney in more than a decade. My memories are vivid enough to say if you can get through three days without anyone speaking to you it's not disappointing as much as reason to celebrate.
Bill from Hammock, FL:
I guess I am getting a bit concerned over the expectations of the fan base. I read that an 8-8 season would be disappointing. No question we are moving in the right direction but a new receiving corps; a new, basically untested offensive line; and several new defensive players … I understand Vegas has the won/loss record for the Jaguars at 4.5. Let's hope we get five wins and a lot of improvement for 2015.
John: A fan base is a very large entity, and within large entities there are going to be a wide variety of opinions. Some are reasonable and some are far-fetched. Expectations of the Jaguars being much better than 8-8 probably lie somewhere in between, but that's OK. Fans are supposed to have high expectations. They supposed to be excited. It's not their jobs to be calm voice of reasons or to decide if teams and people running teams are performing adequately. That's Jaguars Owner Shad Khan's job. Khan understands where the Jaguars are in the building process, and that's what matters.
Stephen from Glorieta, NM:
Is the Jags training staff aggressively proactive to help the players remain injury-free? I know hamstring injuries are common as well as many other nagging injuries that might be minimized or prevented completely with proper stretching, etc. Reading about the Cowboys "ballet bar" got me to wondering.
John: Maybe it's the respect I have for trainers and other support people in the NFL, but these questions baffle me. They're PROFESSIONALS. You asked, "Is the Jags training staff aggressively pro-active to help the players remain injury-free?" That's a little like asking if Jedd Fisch thinks at all about drawing up plays. Yes, the Jaguars have trainers and they're diligent about their jobs to the point of being obsessed. And yes, that obsession very much includes being proactive to remain as injury-free as possible.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Hey John, not for nothing but while I do peek in to the stadium cam on occasion, I haven't had occasion to actually drive past there since construction began. The epic size of the scoreboards in person was a real WOW moment! You can look at all the artist rendering you like but until you see them live I don't think you get the full impact! So.. just a One-fer the boards I guess. Carry on.
John: Hey, one for the boards! – and yes, there is a whole lot of wow in the end zones at the Bank.
Jeremy from Miles City, MT:
Did someone seriously ask why Bryant and Clemons are the starters going into the offseason? Clemons has been one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league for most of the years he has been in it, and Red Bryant is probably the best player in the league to play the position the Jaguars want him to play. Not to mention it doesn't matter who starts because if they rotate the line as much as they plan, then the starter and his backup will probably play similar snaps most games.
John: Clemons hasn't been dominant his entire career, but he has been darned effective since joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 and that's what matters to the Jaguars. And yes, Bryant has been very good as a five-technique end, but your final point is the best one – that it's best not to get too caught up in who's starting and who's not in this scheme. There is going to be a whole lot of rotating and a whole lot of shifting and no one defensive lineman is going to play nearly as much as players such as Sen'Derrick Marks, Tyson Alualu and Jason Babin were playing last season. It's rotation time on the defensive line, where fresh legs and playing fast are far and away the top priorities.
Nick from Jacksonville:
I am from Jacksonville Beach John, not Jacksonville. Stop changing my hometown!
John: My apologies, Ned.

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