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Saving money on scouting

Game-day O-Zone. Lucas Oil Stadium.

Let's get to it . . . Jack from Jacksonville:
Has the option offense ever been used successfully in the NFL? Why is it so hard to translate from college to the pro game?
John: It has not worked successfully in the NFL for any length of time. There's a simple reason: A quarterback running the option has a high risk of injury. In other words, run the option and you get your quarterback killed. Defensive players in the NFL are bigger, stronger and faster than they are in college. Once defenders prepare for the option, it's very difficult for it to work in the NFL.
Ant from Columbia, SC:
I generally agree that one player cannot change a franchise, so my comment is not a disagreement. Your statement, though, did make me think about how different of a team the Colts were when they had a healthy Bob Sanders compared to when he was out. As an outsider, I was amazed at how they went from the worst run defense in the league, to a defense that stopped some of the top running games in the league in the playoffs. Did it seem like a completely different defense to you when he played the year the Colts won the Super Bowl?
John: Sanders had a huge impact. Anthony McFarland also began playing better at defensive tackle, and Rob Morris moved into the lineup at outside linebacker. The Colts that post-season also played three teams – Kansas City, Baltimore and Chicago – that were relatively one-dimensional. But without question Sanders was the major element. He missed 12 games that season and when he played the Colts' defense was much better. Sanders has been criticized and even ridiculed by some for his inability to stay healthy, but when he played he was as good a safety as there has been in the last decade and a half.
Jeremiah from Atlantic Beach, FL:
You constantly say that it doesn't matter where they go to school. You correct, it doesn't matter. Some big school players hit, some big school players miss. Same goes for small schools. I just think you minimize risk, as the Jaguars GM says is his job to do, by not drafting 50 percent of your players from small schools. Take players from anywhere, I'm fine with that. I just think your odds increase if you take players, more often than not, that have played in a higher division. Not arguing with you, just stating an opinion (and as Pete knows, I'm entitled to my wrong opinion!)
John: I'm not arguing, either. People looking at the small-school big-school thing are looking at it from a perspective that the Jaguars don't consider. Personnel people grade a player based on their ability to make an NFL roster and contribute. School size has nothing to do with it. You minimize risk by drafting the player at each spot who you believe is the best available player and not trying to fill needs.
Tristian from Crystal River, FL:
Continually pointing out that Cam Newton's Panthers are 2-6 in reply to the comparisons between him and Gabbert is a copout. It's obvious he's a far better QB than Gabbert right now, so what point are you trying to make? The Panthers don't have the defense that the Jaguars have, and Cam doesn't play linebacker. If your argument was only that it doesn't matter because QBs develop at different rates, fine. But to wave the question away by saying Cam's team is also 2-6 is either irrelevant or purposely misleading.
John: Take a breath. If you're referring to an answer late thisweek, I merely pointed out to a reader who was making a point that a quarterback can immediately turn around a franchise that the Panthers are 2-6. Newton's playing well, better than I expected, and he is putting up better numbers in a different offense than Gabbert. He was the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft, and so far he's playing like it.
Kharri from Coatesville, PA:
No one has mentioned Terrell Owens working out without a shirt as a reason they want him. Stop bringing it up.
John: I'm going to go very slowly here. The reference to Terrell Owens without a shirt was a sarcastic way of saying that just because he worked out and looked in good shape on the NFL Network does not mean he is still capable of playing at a high level in the NFL. The reference to Terrell Owens working out without a shirt did not imply that the readers had actually mentioned this is as a reason for wanting him. It was merely a different way of saying something that has been repeated many times in the O-Zone and what should be obvious right now – that if 32 teams are not signing him there might be a reason. And I'll say this even more slowly: lighten up. The NFL is supposed to be fun, and this forum is, too.
John from Winterville, NC:
I don't think some fans quite get the job Gene Smith had when he took over in 2009. As of right now we only have nine players on this 53-man roster that were here prior to his arrival. Of all the players Smith decided not to keep in one way or another over his three off-seasons, most are not in the league any more. The ones that are left in the NFL have had very little impact on their new teams. So basically Smith had to find 44 new players for this team in three off-seasons. He has hit on most of his free-agent signings. Outside of Kampman (injury), he hasn't wasted the team's money. He has done fairly well in three drafts finding quite a few starters or key backups. If fans want to blame Gene for fifth-to-seventh picks not panning out or a few guys having injury issues, then they need to take a better look. I challenge them to find a single team in the NFL that hasn't had those same issues. Fans just need to take deep breath and realize how much better this roster will look as Blaine gains experience.
John: Yep.
Justin from Jacksonville:
I know you don't want to say so I'll say it for you. Luck will never, never be as good as Manning was.
John: Why wouldn't I want to say it? Manning is one of the best of a handful of players to play the position. The chances of Luck being better are obviously small.
James from Jacksonville:
I think it is undisputed that the Jaguars won't win a Super Bowl until a game-changing wide receiver and left end are drafted. Justin Blackmon is the only game-changing player at either of those positions in the upcoming draft. Thus, if they don't draft Blackmon they have not really taken a step forward because although they might draft a very good player you cannot win without wide receiver and left end.
John: Wow. You have saved the Jaguars and most likely a lot of teams around the NFL a fortune in scouting dollars and time. You are to be commended.
Phillip from Navarre:
Do you agree with the many NFL analysts that say that Andy Dalton is more "pro ready" than Gabbert? I've always seen it as both are playing decent, but Dalton has far more offensive talent around him.
John: The readers of this site have spent far more time pondering the Andy Dalton question than I have. Dalton played four seasons and spent five seasons in college whereas Gabbert spent three seasons at Missouri and started two seasons. There could be credence to the idea that Dalton was more pro-ready. The bottom line is the Jaguars have Gabbert and he needs time – and more pertinently, some help from the skill positions to develop.
Mike from Kissimmee, FL:
Dwight Lowery is becoming one of my favorite players on the Jaguars roster. He has the fierce competitive spirit out there on the field. When he nearly misses an interception you can see the fire in his eyes. He doesn't tackle people, he hits them. While we are on the subject of safeties, how much better do the Jaguars corners (Cox and Mathis) look now that they have talented people behind them? I haven't heard much Mathis hate this year.
John: Lowery has indeed played well and is making an impact. Regarding the cornerbacks, the safeties absolutely have helped this season. There was a lot of hate toward Mathis early in the season, and that has waned since the game he had against the Ravens. A lot of people saw in that game what had been true most of the season – that Mathis had been playing much better than people realized.
Loftur from Columbus, OH:
A team absolutely should have the right to rest their starters if they have earned a playoff spot. If I was a coach for a team that had clinched home field advantage and the league would mandate me to play my starters for the game, I would have my quarterback take a knee on every play and tell the defense to allow the other team to score without putting up a fight. I bet that's what the fans would like to see for the money they spent.
John: That's a little extreme, but that's the problem with the league trying to mandate who plays and who doesn't. Teams have a right to handle the end of the season how they choose if they have clinched their playoff positioning. The idea is to win the Super Bowl and teams can do what they need to do to put themselves in the best position to do that.

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