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O-Zone: Post-Christmas blues

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, and Section 215:
"... eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head, back-out-of-the-pocket-and-scramble-every-which-way approach …" After reading this description of Manziel, I immediately thought of Fran Tarkenton. Do you think Tarkenton's style would still be effective in today's NFL?
John: I think we're going to find out, because you're right – from this chair, at least, they're very, very similar in style. I obviously didn't cover Tarkenton and watched him only later in his career, but the footage I've seen shows a player who – much like Manziel – tended to scramble by instinct and to try to out-quick and out-maneuver and out-feel the pass rush. I think today's athletes being bigger, stronger and faster than in Tarkenton's era could mean Manziel taking a significant number of hits unless he amends his style. But we shall see.
Beer Guy from Jacksonville:
It seems the Jaguars have given up on Blaine Gabbert. Do you get the sense he'll be released at the end of the season?
John: First, the Jaguars like a lot about Gabbert's approach in the second half of the season. If Henne were to have been injured over the last month or so, the feeling is that Gabbert would have played well. As for Gabbert's future, I think the Jaguars would rather trade him, but barring that, I think he'll be released before next season. Exactly when that occurs remains to be seen.
John from Jacksonville:
I struggle to reconcile the significance around editorials in recent weeks repeating how exceptional the team is for still playing hard or how special for players like MJD not wanting to shut it down for the season. First, other not-so good-teams play hard each week (for example, Tennessee beat us last Sunday on our field). Second, all players should continue to play out the season unless they have injury that seriously affects their performance. I don't mean to be an end-of-season complainer but why does this team and there players get so much glory when they aren't really doing anything different than other teams/players in the same situation?
John: Because while all players and teams "should" play hard at the end of the season, not all teams "do," and they certainly don't all play hard with a sense of purpose and a sense that they're wanting to play hard because of the coach and the direction of the franchise. I don't know that the Jaguars have gotten "glory" for this, but is it worth mentioning when writing or discussing this team? Certainly.
John from Jacksonville:
Bah, Humbug! No egg nog. 0-8 Doesn't explain it either! Can the Jaguars take a closer look at Free-Agency this time? There needs to be more transparency with the GM and the HC and the Owner. People have been fired for better records. I thought the mantra was, "What can you do for me now?" in the NFL. What a disaster. Maybe we'll spike the egg nog.
John: I'm all for spiked egg nog. In fact, I'm already looking forward to next Christmas in that vein. In another vein, I would challenge you to find an NFL team more transparent than the Jaguars.
Josh from Savannah, GA:
Fast forward to draft day and try to answer this one: both the quarterback and defensive end that David Caldwell and Gus Bradley have rated as top of their positions, as well as equally rated, respectively, are available. Which one would you guess is taken?
John: You're asking, essentially, "If all things are equal do you take quarterback or defensive end." If all things are equal, you always take the quarterback.
Maggie from Annapolis, MD:
Loved your video Christmas mailbag. Made me realized: "Not even if released" turned out to be the best Christmas gift. It made me smile all over again. Thanks for the memories.
John: That line always makes me smile, too. Who knew GMs could be so darned funny?
Mark from Archer, FL:
Everyone says Peyton Manning is the MVP this year and the best quarterback of the year. With all the excellent receivers around him he should have put up those kinds of numbers. Personally I think someone like Tom Brady, who is winning games mostly without any big-name proven receivers should get the nod for best quarterback. So my question to you is who in your opinion has been the best quarterback this year based on what they have to work with?
John: Peyton Manning has a very real chance to throw 54 or 55 touchdown passes and throw for more yards in a season than any quarterback in NFL history. Unless you believe he is playing with the best receiving corps in the history of the NFL, then it's difficult to say anyone "should have" put up those kinds of numbers. I think Manning is the best quarterback this year.
Eric from Boston, MA:
What are your key match-ups to keep an out for during the game this Sunday?
John: Colts linebacker Robert Mathis versus anyone trying to block him followed by the Jaguars' defense being smart and disciplined against Donald Brown.
Garrison from Baton Rouge, LA:
I say MJD needs to lose 15 pounds and prove he can really accelerate and get at least some more of that breakaway speed back or we let him walk. Andre Williams out of Boston College could be that power back to compliment Jordan Todman in the foreseeable future.
John: Your scenario doesn't happen in the NFL. That's because you're asking a player to drop 15 pounds and get his breakaway speed back not only at a relatively advanced age for NFL running backs, but also between now and the beginning of the free-agency period. That's not when players regain speed. That's done – if it can be done – later in the offseason and perhaps in the May and June minicamp and OTA period. If the Jaguars want Jones-Drew back they'll pursue him based on what they saw this season and what they project for next season not on anything he proves before free agency begins.
David from Kingsland, GA:
How much does the 16-game schedule and extended travel affect these young guys? Aren't most used to playing 12 games a year and traveling much more locally from their college days? Is this something that factors in or are these guys good enough athletes that it's only a minor difference?
John: It's a difference. How major/minor it is depends on the player, most rookies with whom I spoke this season said they hit the so-called "Rookie Wall" around the bye. That's about 12 games into the season, if you count training camp, preseason and the regular season. Ace Sanders and Johnathan Cyprien, for example, said they felt stronger and surer of themselves after that week off. That's a good sign that they had the stamina to push through. Most second-year players deal with the length of season far better than rookies and there's no reason to think that won't be the case for this season's rookie class.
Dean from Rochester, NY:
Not to be a bah humbug – and I thought the pass to Meester was a nice touch for his last home game – but in the true spirit of doing what is best for the team, putting best players in positions to make plays, was Meester really the right player for that play? I understand the defense would never suspect it, but what if he dropped the ball? We would all be saying that it was a failed gimmick to give him a chance at a pass that should have been given to a guy who practices day in and out catching passes. Now it wasn't dropped, and got a first down, so we don't necessarily say that, but from a purely technical game calling perspective, was that wise?
John: Dean, overthinking things can sometimes sap all the fun out of a situation. This might be such an occurrence.
Steve from Elk River, MN:
I don't follow the websites that rate all NFL players every week. But how is Eric Fisher doing for the Chiefs? He was the only player drafted higher than Luke Joeckel. The Chiefs turned things around and are in the playoff mix.
John: Thanks for the draft update and for filling me in on the Chiefs' season. Fisher is rated pretty low by Pro Football Focus in his rookie season. He's the worst-rated lineman on the Chiefs. Joeckel also was rated negatively, so there's probably not much difference in how they were being graded. That's not uncommon. Rookies are often rated pretty low as they find their way. I'd expect Joeckel to grade out much higher next season.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
Do you think next year's backup quarterback is on the team this year?
John: If I had to go with a gut, I'd say, "Yes," but this is one of those questions that's almost impossible to answer before the offseason. I'd say there's a chance Chad Henne is on the Jaguars' roster next year and there is a chance that he is backing up a rookie quarterback. There's also a chance for many other scenarios to play out at the quarterback position. Those are issues for the offseason and a lot of moving parts have to stop moving before we know much more.
Robert from Orange Park, FL:
All right John, I will hold all offseason questions until around 4:00 pm on Sunday.
John: Thanks.
Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX:
So how disappointed was the family with your Christmas gifts? Or have they stopped with their expectations years ago?
John: My family was happy with their Christmas gifts. It was when I came home the following night that their disappointment kicked back in.

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