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O-Zone: Three steps behind

JACKSONVILLE – Full-disclosure time …

I leave this morning to take my son, Jacob, to college. He will attend Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and I will attend freshman orientation through Sunday morning.

It's obviously an important time for our family and it means I will miss the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers Friday. It also means the next three O-Zones will be written from North Carolina.

The decision to miss the game wasn't taken lightly. It's the first Jaguars game I will have missed in five seasons with jaguars.com, and the first time in 28 seasons covering high school, college or professional football that I have not been available to cover the happenings on game day.

But family calls – and in this case, I must answer.

Brian Sexton and J.P. Shadrick will provide text stories for jaguars.com over the next few days, and I will continue to write the O-Zone.

I mention this not because readers have an intense or even a casual interest in my family's goings on; rather, I mention it so readers and writers will know the context of the O-Zone Saturday and Sunday following the Pittsburgh game. I'll be watching/listening to the game, but I won't be there – and I didn't want to mislead anyone who cared enough to care about such things.

Enjoy the game and thanks for reading.

Let's get to it … Adam from Jacksonville:
If you were Dave Caldwell, would you make a call to the Jets and dangle Chad Henne out there to see what they may be willing to give you? There aren't a whole lot of options for them right now, so you might get a little more for him than what he may normally be worth. What say you, young wise O?
John: No, I would not do this if I were David Caldwell. Absolutely, positively not. If I were David Caldwell I would rest a lot easier than a lot of general managers, secure in the knowledge that if something happens to my starting quarterback I have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
Kyle from Parsippany, NJ:
What do you think about some of these joint practices teams like the Giants and Bengals are having? Is there anything gained by practicing against another team?
John: I'm not a huge joint-practices guy, though there's nothing inherently wrong with them if timing and scheduling works out. Many teams prefer to have joint practices against teams they're playing in the preseason; that can make travel and logistics easier. It also pretty much has to be done in the first two weeks of preseason, so timing can be difficult. Also, you often want to be sure you're practicing against a team that has relatively the same practice schedule and approach you do. If all of that works out, there can be some benefits. But I don't know that you gain enough from them to worry too much if your team doesn't have them.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
Let's be real here: Football isn't just a job that players work from July-Decemberish, and then spend the rest of the year on vacation. It is a lifestyle they have to follow. On top of otherworldly talent they have to train their bodies and their minds year-round to compete against these other athletes. Structured nutrition plans, two-a-day workouts, studying tape … these are all daily activities of the best players in this league. If it was easy to run a 4.4 40 then everyone would do it.
John: There's a lot of truth in what you say. There's certainly an element of "luck of the draw" to playing in the NFL. It's safe to say I, for instance, could have worked really, really hard and eaten really, really well and still probably not morphed into an NFL or NBA player (though I did score 16 points against Hilliard in my senior year when I "caught fire" from 14 feet in the first half …) But while physical gifts are often needed, they're almost never enough to last long in the NFL. It is a full-time job, and it's not an easy one, which is why I don't pay too, too much attention when people talk about NFL players not working enough.
Garrett from Fairbanks, AK:
Do players get paid differently during the preseason vs. the regular season or is every game the same? What about being a healthy scratch for the regular season? Do you only get paid if you're active game day? Thanks!
John: Players get paid their base salary during the regular season, and get paid bonuses and certain workout expenses during the offseason and preseason. The regular-season pay is based on being on the 53-man roster. If you're on it, you get paid; if you're not, you don't. Whether you are active or inactive has nothing to do with it.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
How much has the transition of college programs to spread-offense football hurt the left tackle position, if at all?
John: It's difficult to quantify, of course, because there are no statistics to back it up. There's no question that many scouts believe it has made it more difficult to scout the position; there simply are fewer teams in college that play professional-style offenses, so it's harder to know how a left tackle will adapt to blocking for more conventional drops. It also stands to reason it has made the transition more difficult. If you never have done something in a certain way, it's going to take time to learn how to do it. That's a tricky thing when you're learning how to do it against the best players in the world.
Mike from Las Vegas, NV:
John, it is common knowledge that Boselli was one of the best left tackles in the NFL. What made him that good? I'm sure it was his footwork and ability to keep pass rushers away from the quarterback, but do you think he was helped by the fact that the quarterback he was protecting was Mark Brunell? Typically, the left tackle protects the blind side of a quarterback and since Brunell was a lefty, he was able to see/feel the pressure coming from that side. So I'm curious if during that time our right tackle was having a difficult time protecting the "blind side?" Your insightful thoughts?
John: The Jaguars' right tackle during much of Boselli's career was Leon Searcy, a v-e-e-e-e-e-e-ry good player in his own right. He did not have a difficult time protecting the blind side. I do get questions now and then wondering if Boselli had it easier because Brunell was left-handed. Left-handed, right-handed, whatever … Boselli' one of the best left tackles I've ever seen and one of the best to ever play the position.
PK from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
A response you made recently referenced Boselli amongst the other 90-00's great left tackles. With Boselli being the only one of the bunch not in the Hall of Fame, it made me wonder if you could pick two Jaguars to enshrine, who would you put your support behind?
John: Boselli and Fred Taylor.
Cliff from Everywhere with Helicopter:
The note from Mark in Jax regarding his son Sebastian brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. Just proves that for every bad actor who dominates the headlines there are plenty of NFL players who understand their status in the community and try to do the right thing.
John: Yes.
Mark from High Springs:
Geno Smith, Cam Newton, the Texans and the Redskins, it seems like everyone is fighting in training camp this season. Apart from a scuffle in OTAs, I think we've been relatively clear of any of these types of disturbances. Do you think that might have something to do with the bottomless wellspring of positivity from our head coach, and the atmosphere that he creates?
John: Gus Bradley's atmosphere doesn't hurt, I suppose, but the best way to avoid camp fights is to make it clear fighting in camp isn't tolerated. That doesn't eliminate them completely, but it sure doesn't hurt.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
I may have asked this question before, but with it being announced that Steve Smith will retire after this season it gives us a better idea of his career totals. Do you consider him a candidate to make it in the Hall of Fame?
John: I think he has been really, really good. I think he'll have a tough time making the Hall of Fame because he has played in an era in which there have been a lot of dynamic, productive receivers who generally are considered better than Smith. But would I have a problem if he got in? Absolutely not. He was a unique, special talent and made his team a lot better on a consistent basis.
Andy from St. Johns, FL:
O-Zone, I wanted to start an O-Zone Fan Club. Any advice? #OZTWD
John: Yes. Don't ask my family to join. The weird thing about this orientation thing is how I can't stay in the same room and how I'm being asked to walk three steps behind at all times.

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