JACKSONVILLE – Happy fourth.
Let's get to it … Brian from Duval County:
Before the Duval hype train gets carried too far … are there any concerns you might have for the defense?
John: Without question there are plenty of legitimate concerns for the Jaguars' defense entering this season – and pretty much all have to do with the unknown. The unit ranked 24th in the NFL in yards allowed last season and struggled to pressure the quarterback on third downs. Until the unit proves on the field it is improved, there absolutely will be questions. The most obvious questions involve continuity, experience and pass rush. This will be a unit playing with a slew of newly-acquired players. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson, linebacker Myles Jack, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue … that's a lot of newness before you even get to defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who will be playing next season in the NFL for the first time. Also, a lot of the players on whom this defense eventually will depend – Jack, Fowler, Ramsey and perhaps Ngakoue – essentially are rookies. That's a lot of inexperience, particularly in the pass rush. It doesn't mean this defense can't be successful, but anytime that's the case, it's a concern.
Eddie from Jacksonville:
Hey, "O:" As a follow-up to Scott from Fernandina Beach … since teams sometimes use the short passing game like a long handoff, would you say the key play for having an effective running game is third-and-short?
John: Effective running on third-and-short is key for an effective running game – or, at least it's part of the key. The best way to put it may be that teams need to be able to run when they need to run. That means running late in games when protecting a lead, running well near the end zone and running effectively in short-yardage situations when it means maintaining possession. It also means running well enough to make teams adjust their defense to defend the run, which in turn opens up opportunities for the passing game. That's the Jaguars' first objective with the running game this season – to get to the point where they can run when they need to run. If they do that, the offensive efficiency the team needs to attain this season could follow.
Dave from Section 149:
O-man, what are the benefits for Brandon Allen being on the active roster as a third-stringer versus the practice squad? Is there any additional meeting or game-planning he would have access to if not on the practice squad? We are talking about taking away a roster spot from another position. It is not a decision to be taken lightly in my opinion. What more would he gain from being active on game day?
John: There is little difference for a quarterback between being on the active roster and the practice squad. The player either way will be a part of meetings, practices, etc., with the main difference that a practice-squad quarterback isn't available on game day. The main difference for the player would be financial, with the practice-squad player receiving a practice-squad salary and a player on the 53-man roster receiving his weekly base salary. So, in that sense – yeah, for Allen, there most definitely is a big difference.
Bill from Lake Wales, FL:
What if ... we drafted Manziel instead of Bortles?
John: It would be different.
Marty from Jacksonville:
Speaking of being a fan "since Day One," I was at Colt Fever Night!
John: I didn't go to Colts Fever Night, when more than 50,000 people packed the Gator Bowl in August 1979 in an effort to show then-Baltimore Colts Owner Bob Irsay that Jacksonville indeed was an NFL city. But while I wasn't there, anyone in Jacksonville at the time remembers well the fervor and the hope around the event – and I do remember my friend, Matt Corey, wearing a "Jacksonville Colts" T-Shirt afterward. The shirts were a novelty, and that's how many viewed the city's effort to get an NFL team for a long, long time. It's easy after two decades of the Jaguars being in Jacksonville to forget that this was not always an NFL town. It's also easy to forget the monstrous effort getting the team took – and the monstrous odds that were overcome in the process. It was one of the most remarkable sports stories of the last few decades and if you were there on Colt Fever Night … yeah, you were definitely there "Since Day One."
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
So, with the Pro Bowl being in Orlando this season, do you think the NFL could start taking bids for cities to host the event like it does for the Super Bowl? I always have said they should host the event at the site of the Super Bowl and have it kind of be the opening event for Super Bowl week. Speaking of hosting the Super Bowl, does every city submit a bid to host the Super Bowl every year? I wonder when Jacksonville will get a chance to show off its renovations and improvements to the world.
John: I honestly have little feel for the direction/future of the Pro Bowl, and I don't know that the league does, either. There in recent years has been an odd surge of people wanting to "fix" the game, which essentially is impossible because you're not going to get all-out, no-holds-barred-effort in a postseason all-star game in which players rightfully want to protect themselves from injury. It seems the league is searching for answers and kind of hoping solutions present themselves – and that's OK, because it's not really a tragedy for the game not to be perfect. As for the Super Bowl, cities submit bids for different years, but it's absolutely not something every city does every year. There usually are only a handful of cities bidding each year. Don't spend a lot of time waiting for Jacksonville to host it again anytime soon, though. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan is on record saying he doesn't think the city's infrastructure is set up for successfully hosting the game. He likes the idea of potentially hosting an event such as the NFL Draft once the amphitheater improvements are complete – and that indeed is an idea that makes a lot of sense.
William (really Christian) from Titusville, FL:
Hey O, I just wanted to hear you say once that my contributions are "really nothing."
John: William, I don't have time for this. I mean everybody's got to live their life – and God knows, I've got to live mine.
Chad from EverBank:
Is there an age limit for the kids that grab the kickoff tee at the beginning of the game? I've wanted to do it for many years. I've pleaded with my parents, but I think they think I'm joking. I envision myself on the sideline, waiting for my opportunity to run onto the field of glory. I'm not sure if I'd run a full sprint, slide and grab the tee, then jump back up and finish running to the other sideline – or, would I take the slow approach, milk the time for all the refs would allow me? My parents don't seem to want to help me. You got any leverage you can use to help me fulfill a dream? I turn 43 this year.
John: You sound like you'd be perfect. I'll see what I can do.
Tony from Milton, AR:
John, just how does a signing bonus work? I recall hearing something in the past about a player getting so many sacks and gaining a bonus ... is that how it works? By performance? Or is it completely different?
John: A signing bonus is money paid to a player upon signing. A player also can receive workout bonuses and reporting bonuses, as well as incentive-based bonuses as decided upon during contract negotiations. The bonuses to which you are referring are incentive-based bonuses.
Brad from Miami, FL:
O-Mayne! With Timofey "worst center in the NBA" Mozgov signing a new, fully guaranteed contract for a bigger salary than Philip Rivers, some NFL players are probably regretting their choice of sport. Who do you think the best basketball player on the Jags is?
John: This often is the subject of debate among players, many of whom fancy themselves basketball talents of stunning levels. I'd guess Allen Robinson is pretty high on the list, though I'm sure I'm leaving out many candidates.
Armand from Jacksonville Beach:
John, please take a moment and say a special thank you to those that gave their all so we can have our 4th of July in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Joe from Corning, NY:
John, you look like a healthy eater. What would you rather have a 15-hour smoked pork butt or a 15-hour smoked brisket? I like 'em both. I think I might smoke both.
John: You're deep into Shadrick's area of expertise now. I'll probably defer to him.