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Pumping people up

MOBILE, Ala. -- Let's get to it . . . Ron from Asheville, NC:
I found one thing very notable from your interview with David Caldwell. He mentioned he will build through the draft, and only build through free agency when he has to. Should we interpret that as saying the Jags won't be busy chasing after free agents this March? This seems like a different philosophy than Gene Smith, who relied on free agency to build the team in addition to the draft.
John: If Caldwell can execute the philosophy, it would indeed be a departure. Caldwell's focus will be building through the draft and relying on free agency when needed, but, really, that was Smith's goal, too. The more you miss on players in the draft, the more you must supplement holes on the roster with free agents. When Smith took over there were many holes in the roster, and there remained many holes. Hence, free agency was utilized more than was ideal.
David from Gainesville, FL:
So, since there seem to be no premium players that jump out for the No. 2 spot in the draft, do you think the Jags might simply not turn in their draft card in their slot and simply wait until a few other teams pick? Why give the extra dollars of a No. 2 pick to a player who isn't as special as a "normal" No. 2 pick?
John: A few years ago, that might actually have been an idea worth considering. That was when the top selections could cost astronomical, cap-crippling signing bonus. Now, with rookie contracts slotted and the bonuses far more reasonable under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there's a lot less incentive to pass on a player you like early in the draft, even if the player isn't a guaranteed megastar.
Mike from Mill Valley, CA:
I thought it was great when Bradley said he and Caldwell would start by watching tape separately. Is it common for different members of an organization to do their evaluations separately and then compare? It seems like a good way for the organization to avoid 'groupthink.'
John: That, or maybe Bradley is already tired of Caldwell's "shtick."
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Marcedes Lewis has dropped at least five touchdown passes in the last two years. Some of the catches could have been caught by most soccer players. That is not a little problem; that is a huge problem. I know you're friends with him, so please stop taking his side by saying he blocks good.
John: He does block good and he's not my friend. I have no motivation or desire to be friends with players. Besides, I have plenty of friends. You can ask both of them.
Duran from Rapid City, SD:
Without the evaluation of our current roster from the new regime, what exactly is the overall goal from the Senior Bowl?
John: The Senior Bowl is best used as a tool, one of many in the pre-draft process. It's a chance to watch players compete against other top players, and a chance to get a start on the pre-draft interviews. Not having evaluated the current roster really doesn't have anything to do with this week's event one way or the other.
Schnel from Jamaica:
With the Jaguars' coaching staff choosing to stay with the 4-3 defensive scheme, will there be a change in their priority for the draft or analysis of players in the Senior Bowl?
John: I don't know that there will be a change in strategy, because the Jaguars really haven't formulated draft strategy yet. Certainly, the selection at No. 2 and on through the draft will be based on choosing players the team believes will fit in and play well in Bradley's version of a 4-3 defense.
Carl from Jacksonville:
Caldwell says he's a "primarily needs-based" drafter? Can you elaborate on this for us? Vic taught us it was always best to go Best Available Player, and I have come to agree with your BAP/Needs hybrid, where you draft based on need when the differences in grades is negligible. Hearing Caldwell is more needs-based scares me...
John: It shouldn't. The reality is it's very, very difficult to truly draft Best Available Player – and the reality, too, is that the Jaguars' draft philosophy was never purely Best Available Player. That's because players often have very similar grades, and teams pick based on needs from that group. If the NFL were played in a vacuum, you could pick pure BAP, and there are times – when your roster is built and high-functioning – that you potentially could draft best available player. What Caldwell discussed this week was actually more what you refer to as the BAP/needs hybrid. Bill Polian used to refer to it as an axis with need on one axis and best available player on the other, and you pick the player that scores best on that axis. As with anything, theories are fine, but at some point, plans have to be executed, and when Caldwell executes the draft, it sounds as if it will be more about draft management, selecting players at positions of need early and leaning toward best available player late.
Will from Jacksonville:
Can you tell us who else interviewed for the coordinator positions? Why would Bradley tell us initially that it would be a slow process and then make a very quick decision? The only logical reason is that the other potential coordinator candidates on his list weren't interested.
John: It's not the only logical reason. In fact, it's not the most logical reason. When new head coaches take over, they often do so equipped with a list of coaches they want for each position. Bradley knew Bob Babich and Jedd Fisch well and quite likely had had each in mind for a long time should he get an NFL job. Because Fisch was in college, there was no way he wouldn't be available, and because Babich was a position coach, it stood to reason he would be available, too. Bradley didn't get the job last Wednesday and say to himself, "I better get on Google and start figuring this thing out." When he met with Dave Caldwell, he undoubtedly discussed these two men extensively, and began executing the plan immediately. Besides, Bradley indeed is taking his time in the process. There are still staff positions open, and he's still working to fill those positions.
Spence from Utah:
With Blackmon & Shorts III stepping up, is there a chance we drop Robinson? His contract is way too expensive for his worth. Not to mention we could pick up a third wide receiver in the draft for much cheaper.
John: Robinson sustained four concussions last season, so there is a bit of uncertainty surrounding his future, but outside of that, I don't see why Robinson wouldn't be on the roster next season. He played well as a third receiver in Dallas, and if that's his role here, perhaps he could flourish again. Besides, after Blackmon and Shorts, this is not a roster teeming with obvious elite receivers. Let's see how it plays out before we go releasing players who have had double-digit touchdown seasons.
Dave from Ada, OK:
I've seen reports that we've hired DeWayne Walker as Special Teams coordinator, and I've also seen more recent reports that we are interviewing Tim McDonald. Any insight, or nothing official yet?
John: This.
Dave from Cranston, RI:
Do you think the pressure of Blaine kind of being the so-called savior of the franchise and having to be the guy early hurt him mentally? And do you think now with not as much pressure to be that guy he could turn in a better season?
John: It would have been hard for Gabbert not to feel pressure. He also has been saddled with a lot of change – three head coaches now, three coordinators, two general managers, two owners and so on. I think Gabbert will get a chance to show he deserves to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback. That's a projection, but that's my guess. What he does with that opportunity, well, we'll see what happens.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Are other NFL towns the same as Jacksonville when it comes to the offseason? A month ago, we were capping off the worst season in franchise history, and now many fans have forgotten about that and are excited again. It's almost like we live for the offseason, and the hope of a few people getting fired and hired. I like what I see in the direction of the team, and I like the new hires, but I'll wait to get excited until I see something exciting on the field.
John: This seems to be a popular topic right now, so I'll address it one more time. Is it OK to be excited? Why are people excited? Ozone, why are you pumping people up? I hear all these questions a lot, and they're all kind of central to this idea that somehow people are wrong to be enthusiastic about the changes that have gone on. Frankly, if you don't want to be excited, don't be. No one can control that. But if you do want to be excited, why not? This isn't the stock market. This isn't disease, or even politics, and it sure ain't life and death. It's fun, and if fans want to get excited about a couple of young, energetic, well-respected guys coming to Jacksonville and starting to put together something new, I don't know that there's anything wrong with that.

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