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O-Zone: Means of communication

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Steve from Jacksonville:
I get that fans thought MJD was "greedy" last offseason, and that his holdout and other off-field things have made some Jags fans upset, BUT why is no one saying, "No question re-sign him!"? For all the love Freddy-T got, he was never the NFL rushing champion, and given time, I fully believe MJD will rival most of, if not all, of Fred's stats. Do Jags fans REALLY want to see No. 32 running out of the tunnel wearing a Chargers or Raiders jersey? Why would anyone be okay letting him go?
John: I don't get a sense fans want to see Jones-Drew play in another uniform, and I think most fans absolutely understand and appreciate what he has given to the organization. But Jones-Drew is in his eighth season, and is coming off a serious injury. The Jaguars are taking a wait-and-see approach to all of their free agents, opting to not negotiate until after the season. I get the sense most fans are taking a wait-and-see approach with Jones-Drew for essentially the same reason. I don't know what it will take for the Jaguars to pursue Jones-Drew, because age will be a tricky part of the equation. They'll need to see something to indicate he can play out a contract at a high level. But if Jones-Drew has a big year – no, I don't think most fans will be "OK" with letting him go.
Christian from La Habana, Cuba:
How will the new scoreboards affect the acoustics of EverBank field?
John: WHAT!?
Ronnie from Jacksonville Beach and Section 123:
If Chad Henne comes out against the Eagles and goes 15-of-16 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, when is Gabbert getting surgery on his thumb?
John: I get the attempt at humor and believe me: I also have plenty of experience not being funny. Blaine Gabbert is the starting quarterback for the Jaguars for the regular-season opener, and there's no reason to think that's changing.
Jimmy from Jacksonville:
I have not read anything in the O-Zone concerning the new zone-blocking scheme. It has looked like it has been a seamless transition. Looks like I was worried for nothing.
John: The Jaguars for the most part have run-blocked pretty well in the preseason. The unit would like to be more consistent, but the second game was better than the first, and the linemen like the scheme – in part because many had played in it before and in part because it fits their athleticism as a group. I'd expect that area to improve if the linemen and Jones-Drew can remain reasonably healthy.
Matt from Section 133:
If Henne has a barn-burning game on Saturday night, can you imagine the headaches in this column for the next couple weeks? For that reason, I kind of hope he chokes.
John: Henne's a good guy and a hard worker and there's no reason for anyone around the Jaguars to hope he doesn't do well. In fact, the Jaguars need Henne to perform well and give the front-line offensive skill guys good looks in the final extensive tune-up for the regular season. There would be no negatives to it, and a good game from Henne gives the team a bit more confidence in the backup quarterback. I understand you're talking about outcry from fans, but that wouldn't be a headache for this column. This column has a pretty good idea of the Jaguars' quarterback situation.
Josiah from Jacksonville:
I was on board with Caldwell building through the draft. Yet, it seems you are on board to build the team through the draft's leftovers. All hail Tobias Palmer.
John: I'm just about done with the Palmer argument, and I'm not "on board" with anything. Caldwell laid out pretty clearly all offseason that not only would the draft key building the team, but collegiate free agency would, too. I'm not saying that Tobais – yes, "Tobais" – Palmer is going to be the core of the team, and I haven't said anything like that this week. I have made the point that when personnel people and coaches evaluate players in the preseason they evaluate them on many, many things besides a high-profile mistake or two. There is a faction of people out there rioting at the gates to release Palmer because of two preseason mistakes. I'm saying players can make mistakes in the preseason and early in their careers and still have the potential to develop into good players. People are struggling with that point, and I understand that, but that doesn't mean it's incorrect.
Daniel from Havannah:
Fourth down, game on the line – who do you throw to? Shorts or Blackmon?
John: I've been saying all offseason Shorts is the best receiver on the team, so it would be disingenuous not to choose him, but Blackmon has been very impressive in training camp and preseason. I'll still stick with Shorts, but how big of a difference is it between now and this time two years ago that the honest answer is that there are two really good options that are pretty much equal?
Rob from Richmond, VA:
It seems to me that I recall that Gus Bradley accepted the Jags job before the Eagles signed Kelly…
John: No, but it was very close to the same time. Bradley was in Jacksonville interviewing when the Eagles made their decision, but he had not yet accepted the Jaguars' position.
Thommy from Jacksonville:
Dear ROLG.... How is D'Anthony Smith doing? After all those nasty injuries, any hope for a roster spot?
John: There's hope, but it's going to be an interesting decision. Gus Bradley said this week that while Smith doesn't really fit the prototype of a defensive tackle in the Jaguars' system, his quickness and athletic ability do provide strengths. Smith clearly is not a lock to make the roster, but he has been healthy this training camp and preseason and that has given him a chance.
Johnny from Section 141 and Palatka, FL:
O-Zone, I'm digging your answers more and more each day. Excellent. I've been waiting for you to be over it, and it seems you are.
John: Hey! #Moodachay.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
MJD is a player whom most teams we face have to plan for. I believe that Blackmon is another maybe. On the defensive side, I would say it would be Sen'Derrick Marks. Who else on our defense is special enough that other teams have to plan for them?
John: I would say defenses must game plan for Cecil Shorts III as much as Blackmon, while on defense I would hold off on singling out any player, including Marks, as a player teams have to stop. Johnathan Cyprien could be that sort of player in time, but for now, the Jaguars are still in the process of developing a defensive identity.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
Is it possible for Henne to play well enough in the next two preseason games and remaining practices so that the team does not feel the need to rush Gabbert back before he is fully healed? I think that Gabbert should be the starter but I'd prefer that he returns to play at a fully functional level. Do you expect he will play in Week 1?
John: The team will not rush Gabbert back. It doesn't matter how Henne plays in the final two preseason games.
Jonathan Wade from Orange Park, FL:
Tom Coughlin would've cut Palmer right on the spot, Johnny O. #GoJags
John: Yes, except no.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I believe analytics have a place in football, and I believe the Jags made a good decision in sticking with Gabbert. However, how helpful are the stats that led to that decision? Every quarterback is going to look better if you factor out drops and throwaways, and every quarterback is likely better with more time to throw. Those two stats seem like no brainers to me...granted I'm sure there was much more going on than what we've heard about.
John: Yes, it does seem like an obvious stat – and probably, it is. But that's also a strength of analytics. Rather than just sitting around an office and saying, "You know, he's probably better with better protection," you now have some hard data to say, "Here's how much better he is in a specific scenario." No one around the Jaguars is saying that analytics necessarily is going to always tell you things you wouldn't have considered before, only that it's a tool to help measure and bring into clearer focus ideas. As Gus Bradley said when discussing it Friday, it's a tool that's being meshed with the coaching staff. It's a relatively new concept. It's not an end-all and it's not meant to be. It's a part of the equation, and as time goes on, I expect it to be a more prominent and important part of the equation of a lot of franchises.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
I'm thrilled to hear about the Union Jax folks. How do we let them know that we are excited to have them aboard?
John: I'm not sure. If only there were some sort of forum where people could write in and express those sorts of thoughts, and where other people could go and read those thoughts – and maybe if we could put that sort of forum online and associate it with the franchise – then maybe that would be a route you could go. Barring that, I'm not sure I can help.

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