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O-Zone: Shoody workmanship

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Chad from Jacksonville:
Could you give us the latest news on Jason Babin?
John: I believe I did this last week and the week before on that website for which I work, but hey, it's a slow time; I guess I can do it again. Babin underwent groin surgery in early June after not doing a whole lot on the field during the early portion of OTAs. He believes he will be ready for training camp, and the Jaguars believe he'll be the starter at the Leo position next season.
Alan from Jacksonville:
Hey, John – curious about the rules in place during the practices the last few weeks. You've mentioned once or twice reporters weren't allowed to report about certain things during practice. Can you elaborate? Formations? Groupings? Lineups? Are these rules new? Has this been the case in previous years? Maybe I'm wrong but it seems like the first time I've heard about it.
John: The rules for organized team activities practices and minicamp practices that were closed to the public were essentially that you couldn't write or discuss specifics about what you saw there. That meant formations, groupings, lineups, starters, depth charts and details of plays, etc. The reasoning was that the team was installing the offense and defense, and that the coaches were working with players for the first time. Therefore, there was a lot of experimenting and tweaking that the team didn't want made public. Those were this offseason's guidelines. They often change from year to year based on circumstance.
Scott from Chelsea, NY:
Since Lane didn't even manage to clear one team on the waiver wire, do you think there could have been a trade market out there for him? Maybe a conditional seventh-round pick should he make the team?
John: I think if there had been a trade market for Austen Lane the Jaguars likely would have, you know, traded Austen Lane.
Alan from Jacksonville:
Did anyone else who attended the public minicamp practice Thursday notice that Lance Kearse actually resembled a football player? I know he hasn't played football for nine years, but this guy can move and catch the ball. I imagine he can also probably be the one to "rebound" a ball thrown up for grabs given his basketball background. What are the chances a project like him can make the practice squad?
John: Slim. Kearse was not signed to the 90-man roster, and unless he is, he won't be in training camp.
Ray from Jacksonville:
Gabbert has not been fantastic, so that means he is worse than any available free-agent quarterback and has less potential than undrafted free-agent rookies. Is this the logic of most fans?
John: Most? No. Many? Yes.
Ken from Summerville:
In 1997, the Rams went 5-11. In 1998, they went 4-12. In 1999, they went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. Just because the Jags were bad last year doesn't mean this year can't be big. It's the NFL, the only league where a team can go from loser to winner in one season.
John: The Jaguars' record last season doesn't mean they can't have a big year this season. And absolutely, it's fine to have hope. Objectively speaking, though, it's hard to argue that the Jaguars are in line for a big season. There is a lot of developing to do, and they would seem to be a draft or two away from having the roster close to where they want it. But can it happen in the NFL? Can there be a turnaround? History says it can.
Tony from Jackson:
Does it concern you Gabbert going into his third year has not separated himself from the competition? He was in the running for the No. 1 pick the year he came out. A few quarterbacks in recent years had success the first year in the NFL in a new system so I do not buy into the "different-system" theory. Why hasn't he made that jump?
John: Well, since you don't buy into the new-system theory, you probably don't buy into the "Youngest Quarterback in the NFL" theory, or the "Time to Mature" theory, or the "Not Every Quarterback Develops at the Same Rate" theory. Or even, the "Struggling Offensive Line" theory or the "Receivers Struggled for a Lot of His Career" theory. A lot of the circumstances around his struggles appear to be changing. We'll see what that means for his development.
Randall from Waycross, GA:
As I sit here freshly retired from the military, I'm drinking single-malt scotch from a plastic cup and smoking a fine stogie and I want you to know one thing. My basset hound Gretchin and I have decided we like you and your column also.
John: I am not joking in the least when I say I appreciate that.
Jon from Durham, NC:
On the subject of signing rookies early versus waiting, how do these kids support themselves between leaving college and getting the first paycheck? I imagine many can take care of themselves, but there are probably many who don't have the means. Do teams offer housing or a stipend? I can't imagine a draft pick getting a second job while waiting for their bonus.
John: The unsigned draft picks are housed by the team while they are in town for the offseason, and the team provides transportation and a per diem for the period. They also can take out loans from their agents that they can pay back once a contract is signed. I also have gotten emails about what happens if a draft selection is injured while not under contract. Teams sign an agreement with the player that they will negotiate in good faith based on the players' draft positioning in the event of even a career-ending injury during the time they are unsigned.
Erickh from Treasure Valley, ID:
Hey J, what's something you like to say with tongue in cheek?
John: I with I could get my tongue out of my theek.
John from Section 105:
When's the last time you went to a football game not in any kind of work capacity, but just as a fan for fun?
John: November of 1995.
Nathan from Richmond, VA:
An article of yours – I believe it was a Coach Bradley quote — really crystallized the offseason for me. It was that OTAs were being used to prepare the players for training camp. This sets things up in a logical manner for me. While some people may think of OTAs as "practice without pads," all it really is is a chance to diminish the amount of knowledge you have to instill in training camp so you can spend more time honing skills. Yes, valuable work is being done now, but the real competition that comes from weeks of football practice is yet to come.
John: I'm glad you're crystallized. Something I tried to stress quite a bit in the Ozone in recent weeks is that's indeed the purpose of OTAs and the offseason. There is a certain amount of competition, and unquestionably Gus Bradley and David Caldwell drew some conclusions. Human nature is you judge what you see in that situation. But for the most part, OTAs and the offseason was far more about installing the offense and getting knowledge to the players so that they can be ready for training camp. That's when the vast majority of the position battles and roster evaluation will occur.
Ryan from Section 135:
If you had a big could call the column the Nos-zone.
John: If I wasn't fast . . .
Bill from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
John, is there such a thing in the NFL as "coaching them up?" Could you take an NFL team that won two or three games, and replace nothing but the head coach and win seven or eight games? Can a change in nothing but the head coach make that large of a difference in the NFL? And yes I'm asking this with Gus Bradley in mind. Go Jags!
John: Bill! Good question! The head coach can make a difference! I don't know how you know if a head coach can make a seven-or-eight-game difference, because things never happen in a vacuum. Players change, schemes change and opponents change, too. But can a coach change the culture and squeeze an extra touchdown or field goal out of a team? Can a coach instill belief and ensure that players are moving in the same direction 100 more often? And can those things make the difference in a few victories or losses? Yes, I believe a coach can do that.
Rick from Jacksonville:
You are a joke. You give your opinion and make it seem as if you are getting scoops from the coachers and the team. That's just shoody journalism. You are just a homer for Gabbert and hate Henne for some unreasonable reason. You are about as credible as Homer Simpson.
John: I resent the implication that I don't talk to the coachers. The coachers love me, and I respect the heck out of all of the coachers on the staff. As for my journalism, I'll do what I can to be less shoody. I detest shoodiness. Always have and always will.

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