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O-Zone: Shades of gray

PHOENIX – As we prepare to head home from the 2015 NFL Annual Meeting, here's this.

Let's get to it … Jeremy from Andover, KS:
I think we need to pull the reigns back. We keep saying the roster has improved, but that's not technically true. The roster simply has become younger with potential. That potential is not guaranteed to end in All-Pro players. Do we all hope they become awesome? Of course! But to claim the Jags are better overall is untrue. And to forecast an 8-8 season is quite frankly a lofty goal set on high, inflated hopes and probably unrealistic based on the team's proven performance up to this point. We should see legitimate improvement this year and if we do, then I say we can get our hopes up for the following seasons. But, until then, we need to curb the high expectations.
John: I'm all for measured expectations, and I in fact have received more than my share of emails complaining that I have dampened fans' optimism this offseason. I also agree 8-8 remains a lofty goal and would represent significant improvement, though I do see it as far more attainable this season than last. But to say the Jaguars aren't an improved roster is to ignore a couple of things. One is that there is every reason to expect Year One and Year Two players to improve in Year Two and Year Three. And specifically, the 2014 rookie class performed more than well last season to expect improvement. Also, the addition of Jermey Parnell at right tackle, Julius Thomas at tight end and Jared Odrick at defensive end do represent upgrades. Will all of that mean a better record? Probably. Does it mean the roster has improved? Absolutely.
Ronnie from Qunicy, FL:
What do we call the guy who sold you a sixer and a Chick-O-Stick at the Gas and Sip the other night? A nickname perhaps?
John: I just call him my Beacon in the Night and be done with it.
William from Section 231:
I know that Gus says it was their decision to finally play Bortles during the Indy game and I believe him. But how much did the crowd chanting, "We want Bortles" and unfortunately booing Chad Henne influence that decision?
John: None.
Jacob from Westchester, NY:
What is the timetable for Sen'Derrick Marks' return?
John: There's not really a hard, fast timetable. The Jaguars haven't ruled out the possibility of him returning for Week 1 of the regular season. Other players have returned from late-season anterior-cruciate-ligament tears to play Week 1 of the following season, so that's not an absurd possibility. Realistically, I'd expect Marks to barely play or not play at all during the preseason and to be a question mark as the regular season approaches. I also expect it will be a few weeks into the season before he is close to full strength. But that's a guess. Returns from ACL tears vary from player to player and it's not unreasonable to think Marks could return faster than that scenario.
Camron from Orlando, FL:
Hey O-Man, obviously Chad Henne isn't going to be around much longer. I wouldn't be surprised if he hung it up after this season, to be honest. So would it make sense to sign someone now who has a good deal of upside to a two-year deal and keep him around longer depending on his work here? The first to come to mind is Tyler Wilson for me. Any others that might be in black and teal soon?
John: I'm not sure "obviously" means what you think it means, and I'd actually be shocked if Henne retired after this season. He's making good money and quality backup quarterbacks make good money playing for years. Why would he retire and walk away from that? I wouldn't.
Andrew from Washington, DC:
What are your thoughts on trading for Eagles guard Evan Mathis? I've read the Eagles are making a last-ditch effort to unload his contract via trade and could be picked up for as little as a fifth-rounder. I see only upside, as he's still one of the best interior offensive linemen – even at age 33 – and his contract expires after the 2016 season. He's a perfect zone-blocking scheme fit and could serve as a mentor to Linder and performance pressure to Beadles.
John: My thoughts are that there's not a tremendous amount of upside to acquiring a 33-year-old offensive linemen. Trading for one is giving up equity for an aging player, and that's a risky way to build a developing roster. I also don't know that Linder needs a mentor, but that really wasn't the point of your email, I don't think.
Richard from Duval:
If Justin Blackmon comes back and Robinson starts as the second wide receiver, doesn't that mean Lee has to play the slot?
John: No. Lee is allowed to start and Blackmon is allowed to play the slot. Look, as much as people want to fight this, I'm not making this up, and it's really not my idea. The Jaguars like Lee and Robinson on the outside. That's where they envision them, and I'd be surprised at this point if they're not starting there next season.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
Weighing in on player's off-field behaviors here, let's not forget who is actually responsible for these players' actions. Team X bears no responsibility for what Player Y did at his house or at a bar. If our justice system clears them to play then take it up with them, don't try to force punishments on the franchises or the league.
John: Yeah, that's always been my thought, too. But we seem to be in an age when that approach doesn't work anymore. The masses demand punishment and they demand it fast. Waiting on the justice system's process to play out unfortunately is no longer an option, it seems.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
Kind of like in the movie Better Off Dead, when Lane skis the K-12 with only one ski, have you ever witnessed an athlete overcome a terrible injury to have great success?
John: "This mountain is pure snow."
Joel from Hamilton, OH:
Just wanted to say I really like your question-and-answer sessions; I find them to be enlightening. Anyway, being a Jags fan since childhood in Southern Ohio, I get a lot of people asking why that is. I'm hoping that the team will eventually improve so that people don't bug me about that anymore. My question is, how long do you think it will be until people stop hating on my Jags?
John: I have no idea how long your silly, misguided fans will hate on the Jaguars. I think beginning this season there's a good chance the Jaguars will start improving at a rate that they'll have less legitimate reason to make you feel bad about your loyalty.
TC from Greensboro, NC:
With Blake having his passing camp out West any idea on who all is attending?
John: My understanding is that Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Clay Harbor, Julius Thomas and Marcel Jensen were there. Allen Robinson is still rehabilitating the foot injury from last season.
Vincent from Bristol, CT:
Why would you not give up a second- or third-round pick to get Adrian Peterson? Please explain this. Is it his age, contract length or something else? I ask only because I believe he is better than any running back we have and would instantly boost our offense even if short-term.
John: Many reasons. Age and contract length are among them, and remember: if you trade for Peterson, you trade for his contract. That also could mean having to renegotiate his contract. He also hasn't played football in a year, and to give up equity and renegotiate to obtain that … well, it's just not a simple "get," is all.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
With all these comments about going 8-8 or whatever, given three main factors – parity, injuries and luck (not Andrew), isn't it fair to say a team that an average NFL team can as easily go 6-10 as they could go 10-6 or anywhere in between? The question really isn't how many wins you think we can get, but are we at least average now?
John: First answer: Yes, pretty much. Second answer: If the Jaguars aren't there yet, they're getting a whole lot closer.
Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL:
Why is the NFL considered a not for profit? Not a good image maker when people find this out.
John: The league office itself is not-for-profit; teams very much are for profit. I think a lot of people knew this already and have known it for a while, haven't they?
Adam from Richmond, KY:
A long time ago you made a promise that as long as the fans avoided a blackout, you would deliver us a O-Zone everyday as a way to reward us. Any thoughts on the increased workload for the foreseeable future?
John: My first thought is maybe we should all talk about the gray area between reward and punishment.

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