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O-Zone: The joy of Duval

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steve from Jacksonville:
Are the Jags' rookies signing their first contracts sooner than usual? It sure seems that way.
John: The Jaguars as of Friday have signed five of their eight rookies from the 2015 NFL Draft class, and they in all likelihood will get their entire draft class signed relatively soon. I would be sort of surprised at this rate if it's not done in the next couple of weeks. That's not unusual compared to the past couple of offseasons, but it is significantly quicker than teams used to get their draft classes signed. Before the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, it was rare for any rookie to sign much before training camp and beyond rare to have an entire draft class signed before August. That was one negative of the old CBA; another was that salaries at the top of the draft often crippled franchises for years. When the owners and the players negotiated the rookie wage scale into effect in 2011 it limited the need for negotiations and pretty much ended the need for holdouts along with it. It was a rare instance when everyone involved saw a problem and solved it to the benefit of everyone involved. Now, there are no more ridiculous franchise-crippling Top 5 rookie contracts and almost no ridiculous, development-delaying rookie holdouts, either.
David from the Island:
Having Dante Fowler Jr. suffer a significant injury is bad news for sure. Hopefully, he makes a speedy and full recovery. If so, it'll be like having two first-rounders next year.
John: I've heard this theory, and I suppose I get it in a glass half-full way … so, sure, getting Fowler on the field in 2016 will be like having a second first-round draft selection. But there's really not a positive to it. Fowler loses a year on the field, he's one year closer to free agency if it comes to that, and he has to spend a year rehabilitating rather than playing. There's every chance he can return the same and play at a high level, but in the meantime it just plain stinks.
Aaron from Fairfax, VA:
O-Zone, while Dante Fowler Jr. is on the mend does he attend regular non-physical activities such film room meetings, defense game-planning through the course of the year? Will he be coming to the stadium to review the playbook with his coaches?
John: Yes.
Keith from Summerville, SC:
Your answer to Steve from Hudson, Florida, was the most perfect answer that could have ever been made. I salute you.
John: Oh … oh, oh, oh, oh.
Dave from Section 115 and Grafton, VA:
No question, just a round of applause for "We can't rewind, we've gone too far."
John: Oh … oh, oh, oh, oh.
Brian from Mandarin, FL:
John, which positional competition are you most looking forward to watching play out in spring training? I am thinking center. Steve Wisniewski seems to have the current edge in experience and familiarity with Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson. Luke Bowanko should compete well, but may need another year in the weight room and learning to win. This battle should play out again next year if Steve does indeed start. Thanks, I am just looking forward to overall better line play with our additional talent and coaching experience on staff.
John: It's Stefen Wisniewski, but it's an honest mistake. Center indeed will be a training camp battle to watch, but it's far from the only one. Others include left guard (A.J. Cann/Zane Beadles), free safety (Sergio Brown/James Sample), cornerback (Demetrius McCray/Devon House/Aaron Colvin/Dwayne Gratz), Leo (Chris Clemons/Andre Branch). Some of those battles will be different than others and some will be for playing time and supplementary roles rather than starting jobs, but the roster as a whole is far more competitive.
Tuti from Irmo:
What's an ACL? Will Dante Fowler Jr. ever play again?
John: An ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, and while there are people in the world who believe everyone knows this, I am on record that I do not mind spelling it out. A lot. The ACL is a critical stabilizing knee ligament and tearing it essentially ends a football player's season. There was a time that it also potentially meant the end of a player's career/full effectiveness. That's no longer the case, and although it is still a difficult, taxing rehabilitation process, it is quite common now for a player to return to full effectiveness. So, yes, Fowler almost certainly will play again and it's quite likely he will play very, very well.
Brandon from Duval:
John, first concert...September 2, 1995 .. Boyz II Men at the Coliseum and then went to the first Jag game against the Oilers the next day and watched them sing the national anthem. I'll never forget it. #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Steve from Denver, CO:
O- If you had to select the two Jags that need to show the most improvement from last year would you select Luke and Bortles?
John: I'd hesitate to stop at two, because the Jaguars are building through the draft. When you do that, your drafted players must improve from Years One to Two and Years Two to Three, because rookies typically don't play at maximum ability. But if I had to pick just two … yeah, Luke Joeckel and Blake Bortles … those would be the guys.
Camron from Orlando, FL:
I wasn't thrilled to hear Fowler's name so early. There were a handful of other players I wanted to see in Duval this year instead of him; however, after his injury I changed my mind. Fowler's attitude about the injury is something that few have, and it separates the elite from the great. I have complete confidence he's going to work his arse off to come back, play at a high level, and be a perennial 10-sack guy.
John: You need a lot more than a good attitude, of course. And Fowler will have to recapture explosiveness while also learning the NFL game. That said, you're right: if attitude, desire, work ethic and effort can lead to full recovery and a great career, then Fowler certainly appears to have a chance.
Branson from Charlotte, NC:
Hasn't Denard Robinson earned more than five carries a game in a complementary role? T.J. Yeldon is a great back but Denard's proven himself.
John: I'm sure there will be games in which Robinson gets more than five carries next season, and there also probably will be games in which he gets less. I'm sure he'll have opportunities to contribute as a returner and as a receiver. I'd guess Robinson next season has more the role for which he was drafted than he did as a rookie, and it's quite possible that his contribution will be significant.
John from Ramsey, NC:
How much will the Jags victory over the Patriots be due to the improvement in the Jags vs. Brady not playing? I would hate to see our victories discounted.
John: There's no such thing as a discounted victory.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Why is it Ryan Davis never gets mentioned as the outside Leo? I always hear about him rushing from inside. He should be given that chance; he was the best pass rusher on the team to me when he was in the game.
John: This is not a knock on Davis; he has been strikingly effective for a player signed as an undrafted free agent. But the reason he never gets mentioned as the outside Leo because he doesn't really play there a lot. You hear about him rushing from the inside, because that's where he has been effective. He has been strikingly effective there, and I don't know that there's a rush to take him away from there and put him somewhere else.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I'm going to unite Clay, St. Johns, Flagler, Nassau fans and boycott one game … See how many Duvals will fill the stadium.
John: Toward what end, Ed? Seriously: toward what end? As has been discussed here many times, the "Duval" chant is not at its heart about where a fan resides in body nearly as much as it is about where that person resides in spirit. It's also not about divisiveness; rather it's a chant of inclusion, of pride. Is there some "us-against-them" in it? Yeah, there's that, too. As such I have met and heard from Jaguars fans nationwide and worldwide who love to chant "Duval" and say "DTWD" as a badge of pride for being from North Florida. Why not chant "North Florida?" Why not chant, "St. Johns?" Why not chant, "Julington Creek?" Because frankly, "North Florida" and those other things don't sound nearly as cool and don't roll off the tongue quite like, "Duuuuuvalll." C,mon … say it, Ed! Join in! Succumb to the pleasure! You can do it! Let it become you. "Duuuuuvalll." Let it wash over you; bask in it. "Duuuuuvalll!" Yes, Ed! You can do it. "Duuuuuvalll." "Duuuuuvalll." "Duuuuuvalll." Oh, the joy. Oh, the joy. Oh the joy.

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