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O-Zone: "Props" to the man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Don from Richmond, KY:
I liked Al's question recently, but hoped for a more specific answer. Do you think Gabbert will have another opportunity to be this team's "guy," or is it a foregone conclusion that his best chance to be "the guy" is to move on?
John: Never say never in the NFL. Because the sport is about performance, and because there are injuries, surprising things happen. Gabbert has a year remaining on his contract, and it appears that for now, he will return and compete. If the Jaguars draft a quarterback and re-sign Chad Henne, that dynamic could change and lead to Gabbert not being here. But that's the future. The present is that he is here. So, yes, there's a chance Gabbert will get an opportunity to surprise people and become the guy. But it's a real long shot.
Kenney from Jacksonville:
It seems the Jags have been looking to draft a "premier pass rusher" fer a long time now. What, in your estimation, has been the key to missing on that guy with the recent string of high draft picks?
John: The key in the Jaguars missing on that guy is the same reason many, many teams miss on pass rushers – that's that they are extremely hard to scout. Whereas the things that corners and left tackles, for example, do in college to allow them to succeed are much the same as the things that lead to success in the NFL, the NFL is a different game for pass rushers. Simply being big and fast and strong doesn't mean you will be successful rushing the passer in the NFL. You must master details, hand placement and pass-rushing techniques and not all players are able to that. But I don't know that it is right to say the Jaguars "keep missing on that guy." They drafted Derrick Harvey No. 8 overall in 2008. Since then, they haven't taken a pass rusher in the first round.
Ron from Jacksonville:
They should move the coverage team on kickoffs forward to the 50 and only let them start forward once the ball passes. This would give them less field to pick up speed before meeting a blocker but still allow the play to keep some semblance of its nuts and bolts. How do you think that would work out? Good compromise?
John: The NFL did something in the spirit of this before the 2011 season, moving kickoffs from the 30 to the 35. The move marked a seismic shift in philosophy. For many years, the league had made rules to make the game more exciting, and kickoff rules reflected that. Kickoffs were moved from the 40-yard-line to the 35 in 1974 to reduce touchbacks and moved from the 35 to the 30 in 1994 for the same reason. The return to the 35 was made for safety by reducing the number of returns – as well as to slow the coverage teams and lessen the impact of collisions on returns. Your proposal is in that same vein, and would dramatically change kickoffs to the point most would be touchbacks or practically-unreturnanle directional kicks. That eventually could be an option, I suppose, but the first step would probably be an intermediate move of kickoffs back to the 40.
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
O-man, I am from South Dakota not South Carolina. Fix this, would you please. Confusing as it may be.... Dakota IS from South Dakota. Twice now you had me from SC.
John: What?
Redmond from Jacksonville:
So I guess fans should be happy about Alualu's career? OK, he is a starter and decent against the run and nonexistent against the pass. Shouldn't we expect more Top 10 pick or is that asking too much?
John: Sigh. I knew better than to answer the question about Alualu Wednesday. Look, Alualu hasn't played to the level to be expected of a No. 10 selection. Injuries have been a huge reason for that, but whatever … That topic has been done to death. The question on Wednesday was whether he had improved and played well in 2013. My answer was that he had. Should you be happy? Should you have expected more? I have no idea. I can't control or worry about your expectations or happiness. Alualu is a good player. He helped the Jaguars this past season. They were better with him than they would have been without him and that probably will be the case next season. That's it. That's the reality. If that doesn't make you happy, so be it.
Todd from Jacksonville:
Hypothetically, if they were to do away with the PAT attempts, would you see that devaluing a kicker? Or are they valued based on their field-goal ability, and it's just assumed they can kick PATs?
John: The removal of the PAT wouldn't change the value of kickers either way.
Carlos from Mexico City, Mexico:
Time for your pick in the Super Bowl, O-Man … what do you think? Who wins and how/why?
John: I think Seattle wins, 24-21, because I think the Seahawks will be able to rush Peyton Manning with four down linemen enough to slow the Broncos' passing offense. In that vein, I see it similarly to the New York Giants' Super Bowl victories over Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I just don't get this whole safety thing. If we are going for safety, we should immediately ban boxing, MMA, pro wrestling, hockey, NASCAR, and all X Games events such as skateboarding. It's a sport – it's a sport with violent contact. I am not condoning needless injuries but I think the lawsuits are making the NFL lose its nerve. What's next? Having a boxer sue because his nose got broken? Sorry for the rant.
John: There are some people who feel the same way. Actually, there are many people who feel the same way. People in charge of things are paid to look behind feelings to a big picture and try to solve issues. That's the role of leaders and it's why they have more pressure and often make more than regular folks like . . . well, like me. Roger Goodell has been entrusted by the owners to lead, direct and protect the game, and in this case, it's protect it by trying to make it somewhat safer. That's his charge, and saying, "Well, other sports do this or this" is not what good leaders do.
Steve from Orlando, FL:
I was not worried when then Jags signed up to play four home games in London; in fact I made the trip last season and hope to again next season, but for some reason the Roar sending members over to London to celebrate the Super Bowl with UK fans concerns me. There is no real reason I can see to spend the money to do this. This does seem to be an inordinate focus on London. As a season-ticket holder these kinds of actions are starting to make me nervous. Why do the Jaguars feel the need to do this if moving isn't a better than 50-50 proposition?
John: Just as I wouldn't worry about the four home games, I wouldn't worry about this. The ROAR and a couple of Jaguars players are merely attending the NFL U.K. Super Bowl party – The Super Bash – being held at Indigo2 at the O2 Arena. It's simply a continuation of the team's effort to establish an international presence in London.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Whoever our quarterback is in 2014, with a receiving group of Blackmon, Sanders and Shorts and a pass-catching tight end to be named later, that should allow for some success passing the football.
John: Yes, it should.
Joseph from Statesboro, GA:
Who's to say if they re-signed Knighton, he has the season he had? I think not being re-signed was a wakeup call for him, and he turned it up a notch in Denver. That may not have happened had he stayed here.
John: There's something to this theory. There are elements such as scheme fit and circumstance, too. The Broncos, because of the presence of Manning, lead a lot more than the Jaguars did when Knighton was here, and playing defense with a lead is different than not playing with a lead. But that's a small difference. Knighton seems much more motivated and consistent in Denver, and you know what? Good for him. He's a good guy and I'm happy to see him doing well.
Bo from Dresden, NC :
I have another theory about players' "gravitating" to Gus at the Senior Bowl … they want a job!
John: Sure, they do. The people writing about this were making the point is players were gravitating more toward Bradley than other coaches who had coached the Senior Bowl in recent years. It's the difference that makes the difference.
Stebo from Duval:
No question. I just want to give you proper respect. The kids call it "props," for the titles of your O-Zones. They regularly keep me laughing well after the content has been read. Thanks for being awesome!
John: It's not a problem.

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