JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Stephen from Jacksonville:
I am 100 percent certain General Manager David Caldwell did everything he could to improve the Jaguars this offseason. However, there's always room for improvement at the NFL level. Where do you see the biggest remaining question marks on the current, post-draft roster? Which position groups stand out as the strongest and weakest? Where could additional talent and depth be most needed in the early part of the 2016 season?
John: The issue with the Jaguars entering the 2016 regular season probably won't be talent. Now, when people read that they may well say, "Whoa! O-Zone is saying it's built!!! Just like Gus! It's built again!! " They may even use exclamation points or capital letters to make the point. But I'm not saying "it's built." What I'm saying is there won't be any glaring areas of talent weakness on the roster – at least not as glaring as in past seasons. The issues will be the development of that talent, the time needed for that talent to come together and the time needed for rookies and other young talent to mature. Playing at a high level in the NFL isn't always something that happens immediately – even for the most talented of players. In fact, even the most talented players usually do not play at a high level immediately. And many of the perceived "holes" that people inevitably will note following the first loss of the season may just be players developing at a normal NFL pace.
Richard from St. Augustine:
Before the 2014 draft many mock drafts had the Jaguars drafting Johnny Manziel with the third pick. What a destructive mistake to the team that would have been. Please comment.
Erik from Mayo:
Greetings, John … I was curious: In the second round of the draft when the Jags moved up two spots with the Ravens trade, would the Jags let the Ravens know who they were going to pick beforehand?
John: They could have done so in theory, but it honestly probably wouldn't come up during the trade discussions. There's not much point in general managers asking that question for a couple of reasons. One is that general managers are more concerned about their own draft – and if a general manager desperately wants a player he's not going to trade out of a selection, anyway. The other is general managers aren't obligated to answer or be honest, anyway. In the case you're referencing, it probably didn't need to be brought up. It didn't take insider information to figure the Jaguars were probably trading up for Myles Jack.
Austin from Jacksonville:
How can anyone still believe that Blake Bortles is a question mark!?!
John: I'm not sure what you're referencing, though I'm sure there are those out there who question whether Bortles will develop into an elite quarterback. I don't consider Bortles remotely a question mark for this team, and I believe he's on his way to being at minimum a very good quarterback. But I also believe he has work to do and developing to do before he is considered elite. The good news about Bortles is a lot of the really difficult quarterback things – a knack for the big play, ability to extend plays, leadership, work ethic – he already has showed. The things he needs – better decision-making, fewer turnovers, better awareness at the line of scrimmage, better efficiency – are "experience" stuff and should come in time. There's no doubt he's focused on improving. There's no doubt he's capable of improving. There's no doubt the organization believes he will be elite. There's no doubt he can be elite. He just has to work to get there.
Tim from St. Petersburg, FL:
O-man … The backup quarterback question the other day got me thinking. What does the backup quarterback do during the season? Is it like the Vice President, whose main job is to inquire daily about the health of the President?
John: A backup quarterback does pretty much the same thing as a starting quarterback. Meetings, practices, preparation, film study. The difference is he doesn't do much in practice unless there's no scout-team quarterback and he doesn't do much in games unless the starter gets hurt or unless the game is decided one way or the other. So, it's sort of the same job – without the fun of playing, without the pressure of playing … and, of course, usually at a lower salary.
Kyle from Ohio:
I've been seeing mixed reports on Kelvin Beachum. I thought I saw some experts say he would probably miss the first four games of the season, but he acts like he is ready to go right now. It sounds like you actually spoke to Beachum, so do you think this is just confidence/positive thinking on his part, or do you think he really may be close to returning? Obviously, the sooner he can return without high risk of re-injury the better as it would be nice for the team to see if he is our long term left tackle.
John: The reason it sounded like I spoke to Beachum was because … wait for it … I spoke to Beachum! That doesn't mean he or anyone else knows the exact timeframe for a return, though. With an anterior cruciate ligament – or any type of serious injury, for that matter – there's often a lot of projection by those close to the situation and guesstimation based on those projections for those discussing the situation. I have no idea the identity of the experts or where they got their timeframe, but the only thing I have heard is that Beachum has a chance to participate in training camp with a good chance to play Week 1. He absolutely believes he's playing Week 1. As for more specifics we'll just have to wait. Medical science is not scripted television and returns from injuries such as torn ACLs often vary player to player.
Preston from Oakville, CT:
O-Man, I read the interview with Beachum. It was a great read and his confidence is clear: He thinks he will be the starting left tackle. The best part about that is that if he is not that indicates Luke Joeckel has stepped his game up as well. The most interesting thing about this team is going to be watching position battles in the preseason to see which players take their game to the next level. Any position battles/players in particular that you are looking forward to watching in camp this year?
John: Beachum-Joeckel certainly is a training-camp competition to watch – provided Beachum is healthy enough in training camp for the battle to take place. There are people who say they'll be watching the center position, but I'm saying that will be Brandon Linder pretty much from the start. But honestly, what I'm anticipating more than training camp battles are how certain roles play out and how some key players develop. T.J. Yeldon/Chris Ivory playing time. Marqise Lee's role in the offense. How the defensive line rotation shakes out. Where Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey fit. How Tashaun Gipson's presence helps Johnathan Cyprien. Whether or not Blake Bortles continues to ascend. Those are some primary training camp storylines.
Andrew from Sampson, FL:
It appears the contract signings are occurring much quicker this year. I know the rookie wage scale is mostly the reason. The contracts – while not cookie cutter – they do have some variables. It has not been a week and teams have signed whole draft classes. Why do you think the speed of contract signings is different this year?
John: It's mainly a function of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and the accompanying rookie wage scale having been in place for five years now. Both agents and teams have realized more and more each year that with few exceptions there's little reason for extended negotiations. The process has gotten closer and closer to cookie cutter – and as time has gone on both sides have gotten more comfortable with the process. As a result, the process has gotten quicker and easier each offseason.
Mike from Jacksonville:
Would you be in favor of the NFL increasing the 53-man roster to 54 with the one spot reserved for a quarterback with less than five years experience? This would allow for development of a young quarterback in a quarterback-driven league – without denying another position a spot on the roster or risk having them taken from the practice squad. I know you have the Commish friended on Facebook, so can you make this happen?
John: Your idea isn't bad, but it would probably get some resistance. Fifty-three roster spots are enough to field a roster and have a spot for a developmental quarterback. Plus, owners typically aren't in a rush to expand rosters. That adds salaries and therefore costs, and despite the perception of some that they're playing with monopoly money owners typically don't love moves that add $500,000 or so in annual expenses.
Colton from Emporia, KS:
Hey Ozone! Thanks for always being there. You give this 16-year old something to look forward to everyday. School sucks; I want to be in the NFL.
John: Stay in school. And just say no.
O-Zone: Words to live by
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Stephen from Jacksonville: