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O-Zone: Master tactician

INDIANAPOLIS – Hey! One fer the combine!

Let's get to it . . . Robert from Orange Park, FL:
Chad Henne deserves to be re-signed. He may not be our franchise quarterback, but he earned my respect as a fan last season. He took a beating each week and I never heard him make any excuses. Not even when he's out there trying to convert third downs with Kerry Taylor and Jeremy Ebert running routes. Bring in Tarvaris Jackson? That's laughable. Chad Henne is not our long-term answer but I'm content with him playing the first half of the season until our rookie is ready to step in. How bout one fer Henne?
John: Hey! Another for logic and reason, but on a serious note, signing Henne is not about whether he deserves it or how many hits he took. It's more about giving the Jaguars an option around the draft. The Jaguars may well draft a quarterback who has a chance to enter the season as a starter, but David Caldwell and Gus Bradley would prefer not to force that if it's not necessary. Having Henne on the roster would give them a reasonable alternative.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
Haven't heard your thoughts on the center position. What chance do you see us getting Mack, La Puente, or some other center in free agency? With possibly a rookie quarterback under center, isn't center probably the most value veteran free agent we need?
John: I think the Jaguars will seriously target and seriously pursue a veteran center. I think there's a better chance of the Jaguars signing a free-agent center early in free agency than any other position. There will be a limit on what the Jaguars will spend because you have to be reasonable – particularly on the interior of the offensive line – so it's hard to say the chances on specific players. As far as your last question, while with a rookie quarterback it would be beneficial to have a veteran center, that doesn't make it a "have-to." The Jaguars are acquiring players for the long haul, not for the first two months of next season.
Chad from Section 149 and Orlando, FL:
I mean this as no disrespect to him, but what is the infatuation with Matt Scott? I understand the desire to get the quarterback position settled, but have you ever seen so many people follow a practice-squad quarterback?
John: The fascination with Scott stemmed from pre-draft perception, best I can tell. Some projected him as a third- or fourth-round selection, and because of that, when the Jaguars signed him as an undrafted free agent there was an assumption he could compete for a starting role immediately. That wasn't the case. As you say, it's no disrespect to him, and I would never make light of Scott's effort or his dedication. There's a possibility he may someday develop into a starting quarterback. But the fascination surrounding him at this point in his career is indeed … well, fascinating.
John from Albany, GA:
I am confused with the hype around Kirk Cousins. He was fourth-round draft pick two years ago. Since then, he hasn't exactly lit it up in his very limited in-game experience. Why is he so popular to warrant a discussion about him being a starter or him having a first- or second-round trade value?
John: I'm sorry you're confused. Confusion can be very confusing. But your question is a good one, and the answer revolves around the scarcity of true franchise quarterbacks. Because there aren't many, and because demand outweighs supply, there often is a rush by teams to pursue backups who have flashed in brief opportunities in the NFL. Teams doing this are gambling that the player can consistently match the peak moments they have shown during flashes as opposed to the player actually turning out to be the guy wasn't able to start in the first place. There are times the gamble pays off, and Cousins may well be a player who can start and win for a long period. But far more often than not teams trading for backup quarterbacks with the idea of turning them into starters find themselves starting backup quarterbacks.
Jerry from Tamarac, FL:
I wasn't a huge fan of the Gene Smith "good guys" syndrome but I think there is too much risk involved with a Top 5 selection when there are character questions. Understandably it's impossible to predict, but when there are red flags in college I say take them off your board.
John: There's really no hard, fast rule here, and much depends upon your definition of a red flag. Many, many players have issues in their background. Do you remove everyone? What do you tolerate? Each general manager must answer that question, sometimes on pretty much a case-by-case basis.
Jerry from Tamarac:
I believe wholeheartedly in the draft process. However, for free agency are there certain positions that are easier to determine if the player fits your scheme? Kicker and punter come to mind, but are offensive tackle and maybe defensive tackle like this.
John: Defensive tackle may fit your theory a little more than offensive tackle. The latter is fairly easy to scout, which is why you rarely see busts at the position. The problem with free-agent offensive and defensive tackles is pretty much the problem with free agents at any position: you're paying premium prices for players who weren't re-signed by their former teams. That makes it a risky marketplace.
Richard from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Manziel is showing a scary ego. He has threatened the Texans that if they don't draft him then the Jags will obviously not make the same mistake and he'll make the Texans sorry twice a season. He has a very high opinion of himself. One not fer Johnny Ego.
John: Peyton Manning once told Bill Polian and the Colts they'd be making a huge mistake not drafting him and that if they didn't take him, they'd regret it. Quarterbacks have to have ego. A word of advice: Don't put a tremendous amount of stock into such pre-draft posturing. It's not a big deal.
Frank from Knoxville, TN:
It's my understanding free agency begins on March 11 coinciding with the new league year. If so, how come some free agents are being signed (Carimi to ATL) and visiting other teams already (Byrd to PIT)?
John: Carimi signed with the Falcons because he was released by the Chicago Bears after the season. Players in that scenario are free to negotiate whereas other free agents are still under contract until the start of the new league year. As far as Byrd to Pittsburgh, you know more than me. I've seen nothing on it.
John from Jacksonville:
Is it possible that our team's scouting group, coaches, and general manager have more insight into the players for preparing for the upcoming draft than, let's say, the fans? Is it possible that they watch lots of film on lots of players, talk to the players, and breathe the players more than, let's say, the fans? With this said, it gives me lots of time to rest and not worry until the draft in May and to let those paid to analyze to do their job and for me to watch the result each time they announce a pick. Here's one fer, let's say.
John: Hey! One for logic and reason!
Cody from MA:
I understand MJD wants to test the waters of free agency. If there is a team who makes an offer and the Jags made an almost exact same offer who do you think he would choose – the team who he has had an enormous amount of love for him when all 32 teams skipped over him in the first or is he just looking for a fresh start?
John: If it's almost exactly the same, I think there's a very good chance Jones-Drew would choose to stay in Jacksonville. I think he was heartfelt when he talked late in the season about really liking the direction of the franchise under Gus Bradley and David Caldwell. It also is a positive for free agents to be with a team that understands their role and what they're bringing, and the Jaguars would know the role they want Jones-Drew to play. I don't think the love from his draft day would have much to do with it, though; he still needs to make the best decision for him based on the future and present rather than the past.
James from Jacksonville:
NASCAR, MLB and NBA all have their All-Star games in midseason. Why not the NFL? I wouldn't think injury would be a factor as they seem to take it easy at the Pro Bowl.
John: Injuries are the primary reason, and while players do take it easy at the Pro Bowl, I've never heard anyone associated with the league suggest a midseason Pro Bowl would be something anyone – players, general managers, coaches, owners – would remotely want.
Jess from Jacksonville:
Stadium progress? And do you ever run the stairs? It really doesn't look like it.
John: Want your question answered? It really doesn't sound like it.

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