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O-Zone: Smashing success

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Matt from Minneapolis, MN:
The way I see it, the Jaguars volunteered to give up home games to play in London. This means the NFL can profit off these games. Should they be rewarding the Jaguars by giving them big-time games against teams like the Packers in Jacksonville as opposed to taking them away?
John: Don't take this the wrong way, Matt, but the NFL and the Jaguars don't see it the way you see it. Yes, the Jaguars volunteered to give up a game a season in EverBank Field to play at Wembley Stadium. But they didn't do it as a sacrifice; rather, they did it to improve their local revenue and broaden their international fan base. These are benefits for the Jaguars. So while some fans feel it's a bad thing, to the franchise in the long run it's very much a good thing. Therefore, the league doesn't have that much reason to "reward" the Jaguars for playing in London.
Vishwa from Jacksonville:
Even if God is playing against my team, I want my team to win handsomely. I don't care who they play. Just win, baby! How does it matter if Aaron Rodgers throws the greatest touchdown in the history of NFL if that touchdown beats the Jags? I would be bummed more that the Jags lost than having witnessed the greatest touchdown pass in history.
John: This makes perfect sense.
Dave from Section 410:
Can we put this small/big market think to rest? The population of Jacksonville is artificially large because the city incorporates the entire county of DUUUVAAL. If you took the entire state of Oklahoma and called it Tulsa, Tulsa would still be a small city. Jacksonville's population density (number of people per square mile) is number 276 of 295. That's comparable to Montgomery, AL, and Chattanooga, TN. Wayne Weaver and his group are magicians to get an NFL team here. Until we have the history of teams like Green Bay and Buffalo or a spike in population growth it will remain so. Embrace what it is and quit writing in that we're something we're not. Drop mic.
John: I'll pick up that mic (here you go, David) and congratulate you on a pretty good point. My family moved to Jacksonville when I was in the third grade, which was in time to study Duval County and Jacksonville at St. Andrew's Episcopal Day School over on Lone Star Road. Being far more concerned with my football cards, my Big Jim Rescue Rig and my crush on the brown-haired girl with the sparkling brown eyes who had no interest in me, I remember few details about what we studied. I do remember enough to know Jacksonville has a lot of land and not quite as many people as big cities. What that means is, yes, it's a small market. Very small. Can the NFL work here? Yes, the past two decades have shown that. But are creative thinking and creative approaches needed? Yes, the past two decades have shown that and that remains true.
Nellie Ann from Windermere, FL:
I did some research. Since 2010, six teams went from five wins to the playoffs the following year if you count Houston last year who improved seven wins but narrowly missed the playoffs. In light of that, it's likely two teams with five or fewer wins last year will push for nine-plus wins and the playoffs. With drastic improvement of the roster and a mediocre division, I don't see why the Jaguars couldn't be in that mix. Even the Colts are one quarterback injury away from being very average at best.
John: The Jaguars absolutely could be in that mix. I've said often this offseason I think there's a chance this team could push for .500 – and if you can push for .500, you can push a game or two beyond with a break or two. I'm conservative by nature, and the conservative-by-nature guy in me thinks a six- or seven-victory improvement is very difficult. A more reasonable goal would be a four-or-five-victory improvement. That would be significant and a very positive sign.
David from Duval:
Never mind the fact that we can see Aaron Rodgers nearly every week on our huge HD televisions. We want to see him come to EverBank Field and witness him live in all his glory. We could even do a promotion where three lucky fans get to assist him in putting his jock strap on pregame.
John: I'll run it by the higher-ups.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, you said something a while back like "I feel Blaine Gabbert would have been a decent QB if he was just afforded a few years of starting in the NFL." Why do you believe so strongly in the idea that experience makes players better? There are players that are just bad at football, no matter how many reps they get. I find it hard to believe there are cut players out there, and a general manager thinking, "Man, if someone would have just given him another 3-5 years, he could have been a Pro Bowler." That said here's hoping our second- and third-year players improve. Thanks! Go Jags!
John: I love that you read, Bill, but that's not exactly what I said. What I said – and what I have said often – is when I watched Gabbert I always had the idea he could have been better had there been some place where he could have gotten a few years experience playing more football. When I watched him, he looked like a quarterback that hadn't played enough – and once you get to the NFL, there's not a whole lot of time at the quarterback position to play, learn and improve from that experience. So, yes, I always thought maybe Gabbert could have been better with experience. I don't think this is true of all players. Not at all. But I did think that about Gabbert. I don't know that he could have been a Pro Bowl selection, but I think perhaps he could have been better if he had somewhere to get that game mileage. He didn't, so …
Chris from Heath, TX:
I could be wrong, but it seems to me the training-camp battles concerning the offensive line are being discussed too rigidly. If both Wisniewski and Bowanko perform well in the preseason, but neither Beadles nor Cann impress, I can easily see Bowanko starting at center with Wisniewski sliding over to left guard. In the event that Bowanko gets injured, Wisniewski could slide back over to center and Cann/Beadles could enter at left guard. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Wisniewski played guard quite a bit early in his tenure in Oakland. Thoughts?
John: You may be wrong for all I know, but you may be right (You may be wrong, but you may be right …)
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O'man, why is it so difficult for fans to understand that there are "home" fans in London and more to come? Having Jags fans in New Jersey, Jax, London, and worldwide is an amazing problem to have no matter who we are playing, nor where we are playing! Go Jags and their fans no matter where we are!
John: Why is it hard to understand? Because it's new, and because this approach of having a consistent presence overseas hasn't really been done before. New things are always hard to understand. Over time, fans will get it. And over time, what seemed like a novel, scary idea won't seem so weird and frightening.
Paul from Jacksonville:
If the NFL could eventually garner enough popularity to support, for example, an AFC/NFC Europe that wasn't a training league but two actual divisions consisting of four teams each, spread across Europe's most populous cities, then I think the logistics become more manageable. It's going to take time.
John: I agree. There's no doubt that if you had multiple teams in Europe it would make more sense logistically. The issue is growing the popularity to that point and that's going to take time. If indeed it happens.
Brian from Orange Park, FL:
Of course you don't understand the fans point of view about losing a home game to London. You have the privilege of seeing every game, in person, no matter where they play. And you get paid big bucks to do it. My hero...
John: A few thoughts. One, I suppose you and I have different definitions of the word, "big," but that's OK. Two, I think it's unfair and utterly incorrect to say I don't understand the fans' point of view about losing a home game to London. I absolutely understand it's difficult. I have said I don't grasp the emphasis on which game is lost because I never cared about the opponent as much as I cared about the team for which I rooted. There's no question I would have been bothered about missing a chance to see my team play. Absolutely. As far as me being your hero, there's a big world out there with lots of hero options; aim higher. Much higher.
Brian from Staten Island, NY:
Goes shopping and smashes canned goods for a discount #shadricksightings
John: And off we go …

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