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O-Zone: We knew him all too well

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Ryan from Boone, NC:
It seems we have an unusually high number of rookies – particularly from the later rounds – with a chance to be long-term contributors. Is this because of a lack of quality veterans, a product of Bradley's competition mantra, or did we really draft that well? We've come a long way from only being able to find a starter in the third round by drafting a punter. Finally, where is McCray in relation to the other late-round defensive backs and what are his chances of starting by season's end?
John: Referencing your first question, yes, yes and yes – the rookies have a chance to contribute because of a lack of depth, because of Bradley's focus on competition and because at first glance, the Jaguars drafted well. Don't forget, too – the Jaguars drafted five defensive backs in April for the simple reason that they were rebuilding that area. That should give a player such as Josh Evans – and yes, someone such as McCray – more opportunity to work into the rotation than on a team with a more-established secondary.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
ESPN Classic does not broadcast replays of NFL games. I suspect Gator is not being entirely truthful in his emails.
John: That's what tipped you off? The NFL/ESPN Classic part?
Robert from Point Grey:
Did you know that the NFL had a higher rating on Luke Joeckel (95.3) than last year's second overall pick, Robert Griffin (95)? FWIW, Griffin cost the Redskins three first-round picks and a second-rounder.
John: Interesting email, and the research is appreciated. At the same time, I am always skeptical of ratings that separate players by tenths of a point, particularly ones that are listed in general fashion as being by "the NFL." Teams have their own rankings on players, and matter more than whatever list the league is throwing out. Still, that's not to diminish your point – Joeckel is a very highly-regarded player and the Jaguars didn't give up draft selections to move up to get him. He may well end up being a superior player to Griffin, though being an offensive tackle and not a quarterback he likely will never get the same recognition.
Tucker from Jacksonville:
As far as Blackmon's development and the Gabbert/Henne debate, I remember how in JB's first preseason game, he was on fire and he and Gab seemed to have perfect chemistry. However, the preseason is different than regular season, which showed when the rookie Blackmon struggled early on, especially compared to the now-veteran Shorts. His development later on was a result of experience with the fast pace of the real game. While Henne's more aggressive attack was surely a catalyst in the process, I don't think that Henne was what truly brought out the best in JB and I don't see Blackmon's development linking them as a duo. Ya feel me?
John: Yeah, I feel ya! In fact, I think I wrote that – if not verbatim, pretty darned close. Blackmon broke out and gained some confidence with the Houston game last season, but – as I wrote as recently as . . . last week!! – I don't think his development and increased productivity was all about Henne.
Tim from Jacksonville:
The odds are against Denard Robinson becoming a star in the NFL. The odds are against any rookie becoming a star in the NFL. He has to show more than potential. So far, he hasn't played a single down. That doesn't mean I'm not a big fan of Robinson. I love the guy. I hope he does become a star. But the odds are not with him. That has nothing to do with him being a JAGUAR.
John: Absolutely. One of the traits of the Dead Zone is overanalyzing and fleshing out a point beyond the level it actually needs to be fleshed. There's no doubt Robinson has to show more than potential. Remember, though, he was a fifth-round selection. That means a lot of smart football people DON'T believe he will be a star. That matters not a bit, of course, but it does reflect that the odds are against him. The Jaguars took a calculated – and minimal risk – on a player who doesn't have a true position. There's a chance it could pay off big. If it doesn't, it hasn't cost the Jaguars much at all. That's smart drafting.
Zach from Ponte Vedra, FL:
With all this talk about Monroe and Joeckel, and the fact that Luke was the highest-rated guy in this draft, a question came to my mind. Who was/is the better prospect coming out of college between the two?
John: You have to go with Joeckel, though not by as much as many might think. Monroe was very highly rated – in the Top 5 by many – until he slipped a bit on draft day. He was considered an absolute steal for the Jaguars at No. 8 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Joeckel was the highest-rated player by many in a draft that was considered notably weak in teams of "superstar" quality. It's difficult to compare prospects in different draft classes, and Monroe has four years age and experience on Joeckel, but Joeckel was probably the better prospect coming out of college by a hair.
Greg from Memphis, TN:
Mr. O, since the Jags went to the playoffs three out of the first four seasons they were in existence, what's to say that any given year, ANY team including this year's Jaguars, can't come out and make it to the playoffs? If an expansion team formed from scratch can do it, why is it not likely in your eyes?
John: First, let's clarify that I never said it wouldn't happen. I said it wasn't likely. The Jaguars went 5-11 in 2011 and 2-14 last season. They have a new coaching staff and it will be a very young roster. It's also a roster that will be learning new offensive and defensive schemes, as well as becoming accustomed to one another. None of those factors makes it impossible to win. As far as your question, remember: the Jaguars went 4-12 in their first season and were 4-7 in their second season before they became a contender. It takes times. It's possible the Jaguars could contend for the postseason, but to sit here in the wake of 2-14 and say it's likely?" No, it's hard to call it that.
John from Tampa, FL:
MENSA has an app? Sweet! I is gonna get the smart!
John: Oh, there are no question. I thinked we all is.
Dustin from Duval:
The Jaguars haven't had a productive second tight end since Zach Miller, and he couldn't stay healthy. Who do you see on the Jags' roster who could come in and be that productive second tight end? I'm leaning towards Ryan Otten. He's a big, athletic guy, and he's got above-average hands.
John: I liked Zach Miller a lot. He was a great guy with a lot of talent, but I don't know that you could say he was particularly productive during his Jaguars career. That was mostly because of injuries. Still, your point is taken – that it has been a loooooong time since the team had a productive second tight end. I also think Otten has ability and could be that guy. He showed some athleticism in the offseason program. We'll know a lot more in a few weeks when the pads go on in training camp, but don't overlook Isaiah Stanback. He has looked good in the offseason, and could play a role.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
I don't really count the first year against Gabbert as a failure. I think Blaine haters conveniently forgot that No. 11 was drafted as a development quarterback and Gene never planned on him starting in 2011. Things happen, but it should hardly be held against a 21-year-old junior at the time. Again, I bring up Eli Manning. Look at his first three years, and what he has become.
John: A lot of people "count" Gabbert's first season and a lot of others don't. I guess the thing to remember here is the Jaguars' coaches and general manager aren't looking at Gabbert that way. He has a clean slate, and they're judging and evaluating based on what happens from here out. All of the things you mentioned are correct. The plan wasn't to play him as a rookie. He was young. Eli Manning did struggle initially, too. All of that could matter a great deal or it could matter not at all. It all depends upon what Gabbert does next.
Gator from Gainesville Section My Couch:
Well Ozehr all good things must come to an end. After reading "Embarrassed by that other Gator fan who hates the Jags" (name really rolls off the tongue) comment Sunday, and coincidently the expiration of my free 30-day AOL trial, my questions will come to an end. I can tell you though, and please pass on to "Embarrassed", now I know how Caesar, William Wallace and Jeremy Foley felt. Now "embarrassed" knows how Brutus, Robert the Bruce and Spurrier felt. Enjoy your pool and team void of a true "15", I'll be sitting in front of my window unit on the couch cheering on His team(s).
John: Farewell, Gator, I would say we hardly knew ye, but in retrospect, I'd say maybe we got to know ye plenty well enough.

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