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O-Zone: Of squids and squirrels

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Adam from Section 124:
One of my best daily chuckles comes from the dreamers who complain about the Jags not getting respect from the national media. The Jags have won 14 games in the last FOUR YEARS. And we expect the national media to shower us in respect? How much respect does the rest of the NFL have right now for the Raiders? Or the Titans? Or the Browns? Like every other Jag fan, I'm wildly optimistic our fortunes will improve this year. But I'm not stupid. And I don't expect any national-media types to pull out their crystal ball and predict a massive turnaround for our team.
John: You have the right perspective on what typically earns national recognition: improvement and winning. Still, the Jaguars actually do get a decent level of "respect" from national media considering their record over the last four seasons. You're not going to see the Jaguars make the top of best-position-group or most-talented-roster lists, but national writers and analysts who are paying attention do make comments and tweet that they believe this franchise is building a solid talent foundation. That indeed appears to be the case. When it starts playing out on the field, you'll read and hear that more.
Gabe from Washington, D.C.:
What would happen if Blake Bortles and Chad Henne both got injured in the same game? Would it be Denard's time to shine at QB? You can't activate a player from the practice squad mid-game, can you?
John: No, you cannot activate a quarterback or any other player from the practice squad during a game. That means that in your scenario, Denard Robinson indeed would be the quarterback, a position he played at the University of Michigan.
Scott from Baltimore, MD:
If the bid to include American football in the Olympics goes through, how could they modify the game to allow teams to play at least half a dozen contests in just over two weeks?
John: I frankly don't see how they could. Football is a once-a-week sport – or at the most, once every five or six days. And that's only one issue standing in the way of football in the Olympics. There's the issue of the dramatic competitive imbalance considering the United States is the only nation that plays the sport on anything close to the best level. There also is the matter of injury risk and timing: would NFL teams allow their players to compete in this physical, high-contact sport in late July or August every four seasons? I suppose the Olympics could theoretically hold a three-weekend, eight-team playoff if scheduling was the only issue, but overall it just seems like an idea that needn't be heavily pursued.
Justin from Madisonville, LA:
There has been a lot of talk about Blake Bortles' mechanics, but I'm more concerned about his ability to read coverages. It seems like he hesitated a lot last year. Do you think he has improved in this area or is this something that just gets better with more game action?
John: We'll see. Ability to read coverages is very difficult to assess during OTAs. The defenses and offenses are too familiar with what the other side is doing, and the situation is too controlled to read much into the results. I expect Bortles to improve in this area over time. Experience and time spent learning offenses and defenses usually means improvement reading coverages.
Justin from Madisonville, Louisiana:
Why overpay for House when he has proven so little? I know they are betting on upside, but it just seemed like it would have been wiser to spend that money to get Blake Bortles more weapons. Thomas is not enough; why not go out and get an outside wide receiver given we don't know if Lee can be counted on (not saying he can't we just don't know)?
John: The Jaguars guaranteed cornerback Davon House $10 million. That's a lot, but you're going to spend a lot in free agency. And if you're going to get young, ascending players, you have to project a bit, too. That means not every player will pan out, but if the Jaguars hit on a high percentage of their unrestricted free agents this offseason, they will improve. As far as not getting Bortles more weapons, there is a point where you have to be smart in free agency and gauge what you're thinking of doing against what you already have on your roster. The Jaguars pursued Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb because they thought he could be a significant improvement in the slot over what was on their roster. They didn't feel the same about other outside-receiver free agents because they like Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. When building a roster, you have to believe in your draft selections until they show you reason to do otherwise. If you don't, then you wind up signing free agents and drafting players over each other at every position.
Kent from Jacksonville:
All this talk about Marqise Lee … it's the offseason, people. Temper expectations until at least training camp. That said, Allen Robinson looks like a beast so far. Who cares if he doesn't have top-end speed? He looks like he's figuring out how to use his frame to outwork an opponent for the ball. That, I am getting excited about …
John: You're not alone.
Jerry from Section 240:
As a long-time season-ticket holder, I believe the least the NFL could do for our fan base is schedule Game 3 of the preseason as a home game for Jacksonville. It is the only preseason game worth watching and would partially make up for the "home" game in London.
John: The Jaguars no doubt will play at home in Week 3 of preseasons in some seasons, and they will be on the road for Week 3 in other preseasons. I can't see there being any traction for solidifying the schedule so that they're always at home Preseason Week 3. That's because while the premise of your question seems to be that the London Game is a punishment for which there need to be reparations, the league doesn't see it that way. In fact, Jaguars ownership wants the London game right now because it helps local revenue and helps build the team's fan base internationally. The league sees it more as a benefit than punishment, so there would be no need to do anything to "make up" for anything.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
Do you have an update on Neal Sterling? Does he look like a WR or a TE? Does he look like he will make the team?
John: There's not much of an update on Neal Sterling yet, mostly because he's only been on an NFL field for a few weeks in a non-contact situation. Realistically, it will be into training camp and probably well beyond before there's anything close to a real verdict on Sterling, who absolutely has the athletic ability to play in the NFL. Right now, he is playing wide receiver, though tight end could be an option if he adds size and bulk or if he looks like he would be a better fit there. I imagine he will be on the team in some capacity next season because you figure bare minimum he will get time to develop.
Frederic from Orlando, FL:
Who do you think will have the bigger impact in 2015? A-Rob or Allen Hurns?
John: Robinson. That's not a knock on Hurns, but I expect Robinson to be the Jaguars' top receiver this season.
Ivan from Hollywood, FL:
I see the play of the offensive line as being key to knowing where the franchise is going. If they play well, it would be reasonable to expect an improved offense. If they play well and the offense still struggles …
John: I'd be surprised if the offensive line plays well and the offense doesn't improve along with it. If the line plays well, the protection will be better and the run game will be improved. It's hard not to improve offensively overall when those things improve.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, cleared to play. Justin Blackmon still suspended. In my opinion, the NFL has lost all its moral integrity and sense of true justice on account of this.
John: I certainly understand your feelings on this. An issue in this case lies in how the league deals with different issues. Rice and Peterson were suspended under the personal-conduct policy, which until recently was more vague than the substance-abuse policy under which Blackmon was suspended. The NFL revised/updated the personal-conduct policy in December, and I imagine you'll see clearer, more-uniform discipline in that area moving forward. Remember, too, that we know little about Blackmon's off-field circumstances during the time he has served his indefinite suspension. It's difficult to call the league unfair when we don't have enough facts to compare Blackmon's situation to others.
Emiel from Jacksonville:
What's your favorite word?
John: Squirrel, but only if it's pronounced to rhyme with "squid" in the first syllable and a long "el" in the last syllable with the accent on the second syllable. A friend of mine used to say it that way and I though it was the greatest.

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