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O-Zone: New Year's Greetings

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Eric from Boston, MA:
Can you give your personal evaluations of the coaching staff in the first year?
John: The coaching staff did a remarkable job on a couple of fronts. One was establishing a culture and foundation for the franchise. That sounds like so much Coach Speak to some, but in the context of this franchise and this season, it was a huge undertaking. The past struggles needed to be shaken out of the building. The players immediately liked Gus Bradley and the staff for the most part, but around midseason, you really saw the locker room get behind him full go. The week off at the bye seemed to solidify it and although Bradley doesn't ever like to say a job is complete, it's well under way on that front. In terms of individual playcalling and game strategy, there were things I questioned, but you're not going to get through a season without people having varying views on that. Besides, I've always found it difficult from an observer's point of view to question playcalling too much because there's so much that you don't know from the outside during a game. What I liked about Bradley's approach in this area was he didn't act like he was always right. If there was a play when he wavered or wasn't sure about his decision, he often admitted it. That's a good sign and shows he can learn from past experience. Overall, the staff did a good job adapting to a new, rapidly changing roster and improving through the course of the season. To keep this team on the same page and improving in a season of mammoth roster turnovers is a positive sign for this franchise.
Doug from Jacksonville:
Just so you know, John, and so you can pass the info down the hall … we will be renewing our season tickets. I'm tired of sitting next to "fans" at the game who complain the entire time. I am not a Chad Henne fan, never will be, but I am a Jags fan and when he is out there trying I am rooting for him. I am a fan. I have tickets. I am renewing. #standunited
John: #Standunited. #Herewego
Scott from Aurora, IL:
I wrote a number of tired-sounding and critical messages to this column early in the season. As Legolas said, "My apologies. I was wrong to despair." I was the lone Yooper Jags fan in 1995 at the young age of 11 and I can honestly say I have never felt better at the end of season that the Jaguars did not make the playoffs. This team is headed in the right direction.
John: No need to apologize. Winning is what fans want. What else could they possibly want? While the postseason is not always a realistic goal for a franchise, it always should be the desire of the fans. Considering the team was in the first year of rebuilding the roster, it was going to be tough to make the postseason this season. It may be tough next season, too. There's a chance the Jaguars could be better and more ready for the future next season without a mammoth jump in victories. If that happens, there will be rumblings and discontentment among the fan base, and that will be OK, too. What's important is to keep improving and keep taking steps forward in a sound way. That certainly began this year and it sounds as if by the end of the season you and a lot of others started seeing that.
Keith from Jacksonville and Section 436:
Now that the season is over and the post-mortems have been written, when do we go to all draft all the time? Happy New Year to you and yours.
John: We're getting there, Keith. We're getting there.
Jack from Quincy, FL:
Can you give us the rundown of important dates prior to the draft? Also, what is the reasoning behind letting a player go now versus a month a two from now?
John: Teams can designate franchise or transition players beginning February 17, and the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis runs from February 19-25. Teams can begin negotiating with free agents from March 8-11, with free agency beginning March 11 at 4 p.m. The Jaguars' offseason workout program can begin April 21, with the draft scheduled May 8-10. The reasoning behind letting a player go now would be if you absolutely don't want him and that there's no chance of trading him. That's why those decisions usually don't get announced until very close to the start of the new league year – in this case, March 11.
Jon from Jacksonville:
It was reported that one of the reasons Caldwell signed Sen'Derrick Marks before the season ended was so that extra money could be pushed onto the 2013 salary cap. I don't understand this reasoning because I thought under the new CBA any leftover cap room from one season could just be pushed forward onto the following year's cap. Please explain!
John: Your radar was pretty accurate on this one. There are some logistics and details made easier doing it one year compared to the next, but they're of relatively small importance. For the most part, you can roll salary cap space from one year to the next. The main reason for signing Marks when the Jaguars did was the reason Caldwell emphasized the most – that Marks was a good player who the team wanted to retain, and there was no reason not to get it done and out of the way.
Zach from Ponte Vedra, FL:
The quarterback talk is going to beaten into submission up until and including Draft Day, and rightfully so. Let's switch it up a little bit - top defensive prospect. The hype is stellar around Clowney, but I don't know where he fits into are defense, and I don't think his attitude concerns mesh with our new "getting better" culture. How about Anthony Barr? The 6'4, 250ish senior out of UCLA seems to have the perfect build and attitude, and is very raw - a good LEO, perhaps?
John: If Clowney is as good as advertised, he fits where he wants to fit. And I'm always hesitant to draw conclusions about a player's attitude based on media reports. It's just difficult to know where fact and fiction separate. You hear good things about Barr. I 'm looking forward to the Senior Bowl, which is when I really start my version of brushing up on the draft.
Chris from Jacksonville:
You could argue that two of our best, most consistent players over the last decade (not counting Taylor and MJD) have been Marcedes Lewis and Josh Scobee. Imagine if both were drafted by the Patriots or Colts. I think there would be talk of Lewis heading to Canton upon retirement and Scobee as one of the best ever. Instead, they are lost in Jacksonville. Just a thought.
John: Lewis and Scobee are two of my favorite players in the Jaguars' locker room. I enjoy dealing with them both. I enjoy watching them both. Both make my job more enjoyable. I don't know that Lewis would be a Hall of Famer if he were somewhere else, and I don't know that Scobee would be one of the best of all-time if he were somewhere else, either. Both are good, but you're putting them in the pantheon of all-time greats, and that's a bit much.
James from Socorro, NM:
Drake Nevis was influential in the run game, despite limited snaps.
John: Thanks.
Kenny from St. Clair:
Now that the season is over I think the Jaguars are in a good position in the draft to get a franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles. What do you think?
John: I think if no one drafts one of those players in the first two selections the Jaguars absolutely will be in great position to take one of them.
Michael from Ponte Vedra, FL:
With our biggest needs in the draft obviously being quarterback and defensive end, I feel that linebacker should be another area we should focus on. Paul Posluszny is getting up there in age, and Russell Allen and Geno Hayes aren't long-term choices. Do you feel drafting a linebacker should be a top priority as well?
John: I think that will be an area they give serious consideration, but I don't know that it's an absolutely must to take a linebacker in the first three rounds. I wouldn't be surprised to see LaRoy Reynolds get a serious opportunity to push Russell Allen next season, and Geno Hayes played well most of the season. You could draft to improve either spot, but there would seem to be more pressing needs with the premium choices in the first two days.
Andrew from Panama City Beach, FL:
After doing some research I believe 95 percent of some of our fans don't quite get it.
John: Not everyone's as smart as you and I, Andrew. We are the lucky ones.
Patrick from Cooper City, FL:
Hey, O-Zone! Happy New Year!
John: We'll see.

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