JACKSONVILLE – A pre-trimming-the-tree O-Zone …
Let's get to it … Trent from Fernandina Beach, FL:
So, I'm confused. Why would defensive end be a considerable draft position for the Jaguars in the first round? Don't we have young guys like Davis and Branch with Clemons adding pressure and Marks up the middle?
John: I'm sorry you're confused. Confusion can be … well, confusing. As I have written often in recent weeks – and as I'm sure we'll discuss, discuss and discuss in the coming weeks and months from now until the 2015 NFL Draft – you don't draft for the immediate in the NFL; you draft to add quality players and build your core. Yes, Chris Clemons has been a productive free-agent signing. Yes, Ryan Davis and Andre Branch have played well this season. Yes, Sen'Derrick Marks has had a Pro Bowl-level season, though he is a defensive tackle and not a defensive end. All of things are true and it's true the defensive line has been a strength of the team. It's just as true that the Jaguars could use a dominant pass-rushing end around which to build the foundation for the future and that's what the draft is ultimately about.
DUVAL DOOM from Jacksonville:
"Remember, though, the instances of any team dominating an opponent and playing as well as the Jaguars did in the second half on Sunday for a whole game are rare." Unless you're playing AGAINST the Jaguars. Then, it hasn't been all that rare, lol … Wait … not lol.
John: Ha. Yeah, I get the joke, but while that was true much of last season, it really hasn't been all that true this season. The Jaguars were dominated by the Redskins in Week 2 and the Colts in Week 3 – and maybe by Dallas in London. But for the most part, the Jaguars have had significant stretches outplaying their opponent in just about every game this season. I'm not saying they deserve a parade downtown for doing that. I'm just saying that has been the case more often than not.
Tym from the Southside:
Does Mrs. O-Zone have any idea that you have no idea what we're talking about?
John: Only in the sense that she reminds me daily.
Petersd from Jersey City, NJ:
Do offensive tackles typically start at right tackle and then perhaps move to left tackle as they improve or is there a distinction in their positions where that isn't the case?
John: Moving from left to right or right to left happens, though that's not the norm. At least it hasn't been. More often than not, a right tackle is a right tackle and a left tackle is a left tackle. That's because their skill sets are indeed pretty different. A right tackle often is more of a brawler and a run-blocker – and perhaps not quite as athletic – whereas a left tackle often is lighter on his feet, more athletic and a better pass-blocker. That long has been the case, though as the league gears more and more toward the pass that could be changing.
Ray from Jacksonville:
John: What John Elway did as a rookie has absolutely nothing to do with Bortles' prospects. They may have had similar stats, but the rules in place in 1983 made it far more difficult to complete passes than today's rules.
John: Thanks, Ray.
Ken from Gainesville, FL:
How does a team rehabilitate a player after they are injured or off the team – i.e., Luke Joeckel and Justin Blackmon. Who is responsible to see if their strength, speed, and endurance are where they should be? I was an athlete back in the day and very strong; however, if I was injured or out for even a month or two, my strength drastically went down. That's one complaint I hear: "Joeckel is strong enough." If he has been hurt, he can't be getting bigger and stronger. How do the coaches ensure these guys are maintaining or gaining strength? Blackmon undoubtedly has all the talent in the world, but has he been running, sprinting, lifting, eating healthy? Hope this makes sense.
John: It does make sense. Joeckel and Blackmon are dramatically different situations, so we'll address Joeckel first. He sustained a season-ending ankle injury in October of his 2013 rookie season. During the rest of his rookie season, he realistically could do very little strengthening while rehabilitating. While continuing to rehabilitate this past offseason, he also worked to strengthen and condition, but NFL players will pretty much unanimously tell you it's difficult to gain strength the way you want to when you're coming off a significant injury the previous season. It's one of the most overlooked elements of a player's development. I expect gaining strength and bulk will be a major focus for Joeckel this coming offseason, and in that respect, it's pretty important he remain healthy the rest of the season. The official offseason conditioning program begins in April and is monitored by the Jaguars' strength-and-conditioning staff. Before that begins, the strength staff can be on hand to ensure players train correctly, but can't run workouts. As far as Blackmon, that's more of an unknown. He has not been able to be around the facility since being suspended in 2013, so it's difficult to know what he has done. When and if he is reinstated, the strength-and-conditioning staff can work with him under the same rules as any other player.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
John, My short attention span got the better of me and I didn't watch the "ender" of the video mailbag. What was it?
Colin from Orlando, FL:
John, what has to happen Sunday against the Texans for the game not to be seen as a regression from the Giants game? A win? Close in the fourth quarter? A second week in a row with no turnovers from Blake?
John: These sorts of questions are difficult for a couple of reasons. One, when you ask how something will "be seen," you're trying to generalize a large number of people, and everyone sees things differently. Two, because the NFL is such a week-to-week league, I tend not to see players or teams as regressing and progressing week to week as much as over the long haul. I'd say the Jaguars need to be competitive the rest of the season, with Bortles continuing to see the field and showing at least marginal improvement. That would be a solid end to the season.
Bryan from Section 244:
Since I started watching you answer questions in the O-Zone Mailbag videos, I now can't help but "hear" your voice when I read the answers you give here in the column. Can't just be me, right?
John: Can you hear me now? Good.
Don Kind from the Ring:
Who would win if you and Shadrick got in a fight? Can I promote it?
John: If it was a fight to decide who gets the last Swedish meatball at the holiday party, there wouldn't be any doubt.
Steve from Section 124 and Jacksonville:
What's going on with Storm Johnson?
John: Johnson has been the odd-man out among Jaguars running backs in recent weeks, and it's not as much anything he is or isn't doing as circumstance. Denard Robinson is starting, and Toby Gerhart is the backup. Jordan Todman has emerged as one of the team's best special teams players, so if you're going to have three running backs active – as has been the Jaguars' norm – someone has to be inactive. That someone has been Johnson.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
If Luke Joeckel had not gotten hurt last season, and this season played out as it has, do you think there would be a greater likelihood that they would draft or sign a left tackle? I feel like he's getting a pass on his poor play because this is essentially his rookie season. I'm not saying that's wrong, I'm just wondering if things would be different if this truly was his second full year as an NFL player.
John: This answer almost certainly won't satisfy you, because your question assumes that Luke Joeckel has played poorly. That has become an assumption of many, but just because many believe it doesn't mean it's true. Has he been at an elite level? No. Has he for the most part been good? Yes, I would say he has. And you can't take the injury out of the equation because it certainly caused him to miss significant time in his development to date … but no, whether or not Joeckel played a full season or five games as a rookie, the Jaguars wouldn't be drafting or signing a left tackle this offseason.
Abe from Fairfield, CT:
Don't take it personally!
John: So you say.
Tim from Geoje-Si, South Korea:
In your opinion, is Ray Rice a consideration for the Jaguars, or is he considered "damaged goods?"
John: I believe he's damaged goods and believe he will be damaged goods for a lot of people. Some team will sign Ray Rice, I'm sure, but I doubt there will be high demand. One reason is because of the obvious off-field issues. Another is because he has been out of the league a year, which might worry some teams. And I doubt he will be much of a consideration for the Jaguars, but we'll see.
Colin from Orlando, FL:
Hey, John. In one of your answers this week, you implied that David Caldwell's plan is to be "sustainably good." Can we replace "sustainably" with "perpetually"?
John: Do what you want … I gotta put up the tree.