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O-Zone: Mystery solved

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Paul from St. Augustine, FL:
What position do you think holds the most talent in this year's draft? Are we now in an offseason where we can draft best available player or are we still drafting need?
John: I haven't delved into the draft in great detail yet, but my understanding is it's a good year for defensive perimeter players, and it also seems to be a pretty good running back draft class – certainly better than the last two years at running back. After Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, it's not generally considered a very deep quarterback class. Beyond that, I don't know yet. As for drafting best available, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said that's obviously the long-term goal – and that ideally you would have your first-round selection start as a rookie with other draft selections working their way into the lineup over time. Caldwell recently said he believes the Jaguars will be a lot closer to that this year than they have been in the last two drafts, though they may not quite be there just yet.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
When a contract has performance incentives such as Sen'Derrick Marks' sacks incentive, how are those counted against the salary cap? Do they count up front or do they only count if they accrue? Thanks!
John: They only count against the cap if they are reached.
James from Columbus, MI:
Are playbooks so different from offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator that the change really would trash Blake Bortles' offseason work plans with the receivers? In other words, it seems to me that they'll still be able to run some base plays and also be able to work on "chemistry" and stuff like that. Now for the requisite, "Bet-you-won't-post-this" pout, and now to be serious: how difficult is it really for quarterbacks and doing offseason work with scrapped playbooks?
John: The Jaguars' coordinator change is not an ideal situation for Bortles, but it shouldn't hurt too, too much in terms of him being able to work with the receivers in the offseason. That was probably going to be a matter of a few days, and they can still run some basic routes and plays based on the playbook anyway. Where it likely will make an impact is Bortles' feel for the offense and his comfort level with the terminology and what the new coordinator likes to run. It also means Bortles will need time to feel fluent with new language in the offense. Let's not over-play this: this is not the end of the world and doesn't doom the Jaguars to an awful season offensively; if that was the case the change wouldn't have been made. But it does make things trickier.
Jack from Los Angeles, CA:
With the return of Justin Blackmon likely for next season, and us going after Randall Cobb, I doubt Cecil Shorts III will be coming back. But what free agents do you think are worth keeping? I think the ones worth keeping are Alan Ball, J.T. Thomas, Austin Pasztor (for depth), Ryan Davis. I would let Alualu walk; he doesn't make any impact and I'd rather get other guys playing time then Tyson...
John: The Jaguars aren't assuming Blackmon will return, though I do believe it's very possible. I also don't know that pursuing Cobb is an absolute, though I agree that I don't think Shorts will return. I believe they should and will sign Alualu; he played much better than you and many other realize.
Billy from Section 214 and Orange Park, FL:
Please explain the "three-technique" defensive tackle position. How many techniques are there? Thanks and Happy New Year!
John: There are techniques across the defensive front depending on whether a team plays a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme. A three-technique defensive tackle plays alongside a nose tackle (also known as a one technique) in a 4-3 defense, and whereas the nose tackle's responsibility is to try to draw blocking from the center and guard, a three-technique's job is to penetrate the gap on the guard's outside shoulder. It's usually a more athletic player than a pure nose tackle.
Luis from Fruit Cove and Section 412:
O-Man, The most obvious answer to Sandra from Murfreesboro in Jaguars history would seem to me to be Jimmy Smith. He was cut by Dallas and Philadelphia. Suddenly, in 1996 he seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of the two best wide receivers the Jaguars have ever had on their roster. Happy New Year. Thanks for keeping us entertained every day. Go Jaguars! My Jaguars, win or lose, my Jaguars!
John: I interpreted Sandra's question to be asking about players who had played and were perceived to be playing poorly before going on to be very good. That's why I mentioned the players I did. Smith's scenario was a bit different because he never really got on the field in the NFL before getting his opportunity in Jacksonville. Either way, point taken … players take different amounts of time to develop in the NFL, primarily because professional football in many ways is a much different game than college – particularly in terms of speed.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
With Telvin Smith's size, is there any consideration to trying to have him switch positions to play strong safety? He seems to be about the same size as Cam Chancellor. Of course this would hinge on Johnathan Cyprien being able to move to play free safety. Pie in the sky or is this something that could happen?
John: This is something that observers talk about quite a bit, but switching positions isn't as easy on the field as it is on paper. Telvin Smith played at a very high level the last five or six weeks at outside linebacker. I don't know that the Jaguars have seen anything that makes them believe a switch is necessary.
Kyle from Clearwater, FL:
John, regarding the question you posted about officials having press conferences or being available to the media, I think that would be a horrible idea. The last thing any NFL fan wants is an official trying take the spotlight off the players. The NFL is a rock band and the officials are the bassist. They should only be noticed when they make a mistake, and they will make mistakes. Your team has to be good enough to not have one blown call change the game. That's my two cents.
John: While I give off a definite air of "young-person hipness" I am at heart an old-school guy – so, yeah, I agree: the less seen and heard from officials, the better. For the most part they do a difficult job very well.
Maria from Jacksonville:
Hi, Mr. Oehser!! I read the O-Zone every day and one question I have for you is: what are the odds of the Jaguars taking Amari Cooper with the No. 3 pick? We already have enough young wide receivers, but if Marcus Mariota and Leonard Williams go No. 1 and No. 2 overall respectively, he may represent the best available player. Isn't Best Available Player usually the route teams go with premium picks like ours?
John: The draft is nearly four months away, but I wouldn't rule this out as a possibility.
Robert from Fernandina Beach, FL:
At the risk of sounding VERY anti-Marcedes Lewis, I believe the five-year, $37 million contract he signed in 2011 was one of the WORST in the history of the Jaguars! He was a first-round pick in 2006 and had an outstanding year in 2010 where he gained 700 yards with touchdowns. His current contract (signed in 2011) expires in 2015 and he has produced a total of 10 touchdowns in the last FOUR years. He talks confidently, but his productivity has been abysmal! He can't seem to get open, "supposedly" is a "great blocker," is undependable on short third-down situations, drops passes all too frequently, and has had numerous injuries in the last two years. Contrast his $8.2 million cap with the TOTAL $ 2.24 million cap of the Colts Allen and Fleener, and my conclusion is "bite the bullet" –Trade him or waive him and select Maxx Williams, TE from Minnesota earlier than No. 35. What do you think?
John: I think you were right when you said there was a risk of you sounding very anti-Marcedes Lewis.
Joseph from Clark, NJ:
Do you see the Jaguars cutting Toby Gerhart next season given his lack of productivity and large contract? Do you think the best route may be signing a veteran running back and taking a long-term replacement Round 3-4 in the draft?
John: I don't think the Jaguars will release Gerhart, though I have heard this theory floated by plenty of observers. I think he showed this season he absolutely at the very least has value as a backup who can play effectively on third downs. I don't know overall how the Jaguars will address running back this offseason. I hope to get a better idea about that in the coming weeks.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
Are the door frames in EverBank Field damaged from Boselli trying to squeeze his head through them?
John: I've been trying to figure out how that happened.

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