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O-Zone: The master plan

JACKSONVILLE – First day of veteran minicamp. The end of the offseason program draws near …

Let's get to it … David from Macclenny, FL:
Are there no chances for walk-on players or do they all have to be chosen ahead of time?
John: The NFL and the Jaguars sort of have walk-on players and sort of don't. They don't have walk-ons, per se, but the collegiate free-agent process is extensive and certainly serves as an opportunity for undrafted players to get noticed by the NFL. Teams usually sign 10-to-20 free agents after each draft and they often sign at least that many more on a "tryout" basis for rookie camp and minicamp. Those players aren't technically walk-ons, but there is a lot of opportunity for college players at all levels to at least get a two-or-three day look by an NFL team.
James from the Westside:
"John: Yeah, but what if he gets married?" Please tell me you didn't take your wife's name in the marriage!!!
John: Wait. What?
Jack from Los Angeles, CA:
Who do you think will be the Top 5 most improved players from last year?
John: Luke Joeckel, Dwayne Gratz, Johnathan Cyprien, Denard Robinson and LaRoy Reynolds. All were rookies last season, and players usually take their biggest jump entering their second season. There are others who could improve, but these are my five.
Hunter from Orlando, FL:
Do some people not realize Stephen Colbert is making jokes while simultaneously playing a character that he is actually making fun of? Satire, anyone? Ironically, some of the responses to this would be perfect skits themselves on the Colbert Report....the Colbert Fisaco!!!!
John: Irony can be very ironic.
John from Jacksonville:
I live in Mandarin. Will I be able to see the new video boards from my roof top? Also, you know a team is getting better when some of the better players from the previous season are either released or potential bubble players. That must say a lot about the quantity and quality talent that have been acquired since last season.
John: Not knowing how the height of your house I can't accurately answer your first question. I suppose if you have a really, really tall house with, say, a really, really tall tower, then you're probably in business. As for your second point, there's no question the Jaguars have improved their depth, particularly across the defensive front. It will be significantly harder to make the team at that position, which is indeed a telltale sign of significant improvement.
John from Jacksonville:
I don't understand the hesitation on getting in the mix for hosting a future Super Bowl. They select cities a few years out. If we wait until everything is in place to make it more attractive, what we have will be outdated by the time the game comes here. For example, our largest video boards will be more average by then because other stadiums will be competing to better ours and each other each year. The time is now to put together a most attractive package that the decision makers can't refuse.
John: My sense is this Super Bowl theme is far more of a topic among readers than in the Jaguars' organization right now. There probably would need to be further, significant upgrades to the stadium and the city before Jacksonville and EverBank Field were perceived as an attractive Super Bowl host. Now, supposing the Shipyards were developed and a few other big-time amenities added … well, that's a topic for a future time.
Duran from Rapid City, SD:
People getting upset about Stephen Colbert poking fun at our attendance issues? We only averaged 89.2 percent attendance all of last year. As my Dad used to say, "Sometimes you gotta call an ugly baby--well an ugly baby."
John: I'm on record saying I wasn't much worried about Colbert's jabs, but I don't know that I'm on board with your email, either. That's because percentage of seats sold really isn't the most accurate measure of this fan base. EverBank Field, remember, is one of the NFL's largest stadiums, so 89.2 percent of that is no embarrassment. The Jaguars without question want to improve attendance, and the size of the local market is a constant challenge, but filling 89.2 percent of EverBank Field … well, there are uglier babies out there I guess is all I'm saying.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
If we see the improvement with both Henne and Bortles happen and consistently continue, do you see the possibility of friendly competition helping to help Blake be better prepared for when he takes over the offense? (Also, you didn't answer my other question about riding in a vehicle driven by Shadrick.)
John: Well, there's no question if Henne and Bortles each improve it will help both players. That's the nature of any competition, and it would be true of this one as well. And although I don't know how you measure such a thing, the more Henne pushes him, the better prepared Bortles will be when he emerges as the starter. (I didn't answer your other question because I don't like to think about scary things).
Shannon from Brunswick, GA:
I have a jacket, ball cap miniature football and keychain with the original jaguar logo that looks like the automobile maker's logo. Do you think they could be collector's items and worth something one day? Just curious.
John: Sure, although I have no idea how much. A lot of memorabilia is worth something; most memorabilia is worth a whole lot more to the people who own it than it would be to anyone else. I'd probably advise you to enjoy the items and the memories they bring you rather than trying to parlay your belongings into cash money.
John from Jacksonville:
I've been reading the angst of some fans over who starts over who and theme of your replies, which makes lots of sense. I choose not to worry about who starts and who doesn't on defense. The thought of having more depth brings confidence our defense will go into the fourth quarter fresher – and just as able to shut down the opposing offense as in the first quarter. I would rather see the opposing offense licking their wounds and not their chops.
John: That indeed has been my theme when asked about who's starting on defense. I'm not saying it's a complete non-issue. If Paul Posluszny were suddenly not starting at middle linebacker, or if Johnathan Cyprien or Dwayne Gratz weren't in the lineup in the secondary, that would be news. But on the defensive front, who's starting and who's playing as a backup isn't as pressing. I expect Red Bryant, Roy Miller, Sen'Derrick Marks and Chris Clemons to start, but Tyson Alualu, Ziggy Hood, Abry Jones and Jason Babin/Andre Branch/someone else/some other combination will play enough that there will be games many fans may not know who's starting and who's playing as a reserve. The Jaguars didn't sign players such as Hood, Bryant and Clemons with the idea of cutting other players; they signed them to get deeper on the defensive front.
Rey from Orlando, FL:
What would you consider a successful season this upcoming year? I mean, wins would be nice, but what would you personally like to see from the team as the season goes on?
John: I differ than many people on this issue. There are many fans who will judge this area by victories and losses, and I don't think you can do that this season. The Jaguars were uncompetitive in well more than half of their games last year, and they won a large percentage of games in which they competed. That means they were probably closer to being 2-14 than they were, say, 6-10. That's why I continue to say this team can be very, very improved and not be a 9-7 team. What I want to see, then – and what I think would mean a successful season – is for the Jaguars to be competitive in the vast majority of their games. That would show they are getting on equal footing with more teams and it would mean that with another offseason or two we could start talking about winning records and loftier season-ending expectations.
Seth from Omaha, NE:
The new video boards are gonna be visible for a long ways outside of the stadium. So I wonder, will the screens be showing the whole game? If so, and even if not, the Jags could easily have hands down the best, and most unique, tailgating environment in the league. Are there going to be primo party spots outside the stadium with unobstructed views of the new screens? And could this have an effect on ticket sales? Maybe another reason to consider covering the stadium?
John: You may be overthinking this a bit, Seth. The video boards will be cool, but I don't know that there's going to be a massive problem with people trying to tailgate outside the stadium and watch the game on the videoboards to save a buck … wait! #shadricksighting!

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