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O-Zone: Ramblin' man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Donny from Heathrow:
Season-ticket holder from Day One, I drive up from the Orlando area for every home game, and I'll be the first to admit I am blessed to be able to afford to do this. It doesn't matter when you actually become a true Jag fan, which is something you can't always control. The difference is whether or not you spend money to go to the games. It's professional football; it's about the money. If you absolutely cannot afford to go, have to work Sundays, or just live too far away – that's understandable. However, if you choose to play golf, go fishing – whatever that costs money – instead of paying to be at the games on Sundays, while definitely a fan, you're not at the same level of Jag fandom as those of us who do. That's what Brian from Nocatee should understand. I don't want to be anywhere else on Sundays but the 'Bank (went to church Saturday night). Your thoughts?
John: I guess I'm not much for ranking fan level – partly because I don't know how to do it and partly because I don't know that's it's necessary to rate one fan as more passionate than another. The other part is different people have different financial situations, and I've had enough different ones that I try not to judge those of others. But I realize some people are compelled to do such things, so here goes: while there's nothing inherently wrong with playing golf or fishing … a financial commitment, a presence at the games … yeah, I suppose those things indeed might separate levels of "fandom."
Gabe from Washington, DC:
As someone who was too young to really remember even the pre-Leftwich Jaguars all that well, I had never heard of Colts Fever Night. Do you have any other stories from the years leading up to Jacksonville getting the team?
John: To go over the entire lead-up would take more time and space than is appropriate for this forum. As for stories, I don't have all that many because I experienced much of the lead-up to the city getting the team similarly to most people – as an observer who hoped Jacksonville would get a team while seriously, seriously doubting it would ever happen. This was throughout the late 1970s, the entire 1980s and the early 1990s. I didn't start working at the Florida Times-Union until 1988, and didn't have much to do with its NFL coverage until 1994 – after the team had been awarded. Still, like any Jacksonville resident, I remember the high-point moments. I remember the time in summer 1993 when Touchdown Jacksonville! rescinded its expansion bid because the city couldn't agree on a way to make necessary improvements to the old Gator Bowl. I remember December 1, 1993, when the NFL announced it had awarded the franchise to Jacksonville. I remember the absolute euphoria and disbelief that it was for real. I also remember that all of that came in the wake of a decade and a half of disappointment/frustration/ridicule with the city having had discussions with not only the Colts, but with other NFL teams. Most people nationally – and in Jacksonville as well – figured the city never would get a team. This assumption held pretty much until the league announced Jacksonville as the franchise. I also remember my friend and colleague at the Times-Union, Pete Prisco, had been covering the team's pursuit for a half a decade and was one of the few members of the media who believed the team had a chance. He wrote it and said it consistently – and was often ridiculed and doubted while doing so. He was right. That wasn't where his inability to ever believe he is incorrect began, but in retrospect it almost certainly didn't help matters.
Bob from Sumter, SC:
I get the sense that this season will determine if the organization sees Telvin Smith as a core player of the future. What parts of his game do you think need to grow for that to happen?
John: Consistency. Smith because of his speed and athleticism he has a knack for making the big, eye-catching play. He needs to be more consistent with fewer mental errors. That's his next step.
Cdub from St. Augustine, FL:
Davon House, Prince Amukamara, Jalen Ramsey all competing for the starting outside cornerback spots (once Aaron Colvin comes back and takes over slot/nickel duties). What does the starting outside corner duo look like post-Colvin suspension? Also, will we finally see some effective dime sub-packages?!?!?!?!?!?!!
John: I'd say House and Ramsey are the starting corners after Colvin returns, which means the Jaguars' cornerback position will be as strong as it has been in recent memory. Yes, the dime packages should be more effective. You need more than good starters to win in the NFL; you also need depth. It appears the Jaguars are developing that for the first time in a while.
Doug from Jacksonville:
My grandmother never misses an opportunity to tell me I am a great disappointment. I am assuming you can relate. What would you say the biggest disappointment is for the Jags since you have been back … so in the last four-to-five years?
John: The careers of Justin Blackmon and Blaine Gabbert. When you get next to nothing from early first-round is selections it's disappointing – and very difficult to overcome.
David from Ada, OK:
John, technically "Slow Hand" did tell me what happens after midnight, because J.J. Cale has a harder time selling albums than Clapton, not to mention getting on the radio. I don't care if he did sell Clapton "Cocaine." Donny needs to remember, the eternal Thompson gunner is still wandering through the night. Now it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fight...
John: Talkin' about the man.
Ron from Jacksonville:
I wonder about Myles Jack or Telvin Smith as pass rushers. It seems like guys who can run like that would be mismatches for offensive linemen. Do you see there being packages where one of them is going after the passer on obvious passing downs on a regular basis?
John: Likely not. Smith has been effective blitzing at times in his first two seasons, and I would imagine you would see both he and Jack used as blitzers relatively often. But it's unlikely they would be featured as regular pass rushers. Their speed probably is best used in coverage and chasing where they're off bigger, more-powerful offensive linemen and can play in space.
Steve from Gatlinburg, TN:
I have read yet another article that contends Gus Bradley was brought to Jacksonville to create a team with a bone-crushing defense – a la Seattle. I think the general manager and owner are much smarter than that. I think David Caldwell and Shad Khan recognized that it would be a young team with a need to develop, and they brought in a coach they thought could do that. Bringing Bradley him to Jax was all about an enthusiastic leader and coach who could have the most positive impact on a young team and its development. Do you have any thoughts on this topic?
John: The answer is probably a little of both, but there's no question Bradley's hiring was more about him being a developmental coach who could lead and create a culture during a difficult rebuilding process than anything else. Bradley without question knows defense and he understands Seattle's system; I believe you'll start seeing this being a better defensive team now that the talent on that unit has improved. But more than a particular side of the ball, a head coach's job in the NFL is to manage the big picture and the overall team. In Bradley's case, that indeed was about having a positive impact and assisting development.
Jesse from Hilton Head, SC:
It's awesome to see undrafted players or late-round draft picks turn out to be great players in this league. Scouts devalue them because they aren't fast enough, tall enough, quick enough, etc. Special players have something that can't be judged by the human eye, which is so much more vital to greatness: Instincts, will, passion, desire, the list could go on … Shout out to the underdogs and everyone who wakes up every day and gets better.
John: Undrafted free agents are indeed cool stories, but before we bash scouts too much history does tell us that first-round selections have a better chance of being Pro Bowl selections – and that overall players selected in early rounds have a much better chance of being long-term contributors than late-round players. There are measurable and traits that lead to success more often than not. Undrafted free-agent rookies usually don't turn into stars, and there's a legitimate reason it's a relatively rare story. Which is why it's so cool when it happens.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brazil:
When Finnish Jaguars fans are asking about favorite Molly Hatchet songs, that's truly #DTWD. Local music ties this franchise together; remember "Turn it up!" in the third quarter? And "Duuuuuvvvaall!" is a party chant. Look: if it's time for leaving, will we hope you'll understand?
John: I honestly am probably the wrong guy to ask about this. I'm just trying to make a living and doing the best I can.

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