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Taking the over

Let's get to it . . . Phil from Fort Collins, CO:
I understand about players getting the majority of their money via signing bonus. Many, including yourself, say a contract is a contract and therefore the player has little leverage for renegotiation. I also believe this, BUT if a contract is a contract, why would it be OK for a team to break the contract no matter how much money the player received in a signing bonus? It's still a contract, isn't it?
John: Yes, but in the case of the NFL, the contract is signed under a collectively bargained agreement between players and owners that allows this current system. The reason it allows this system is it would be unrealistic for teams to keep every player it signs for the duration of the contract. That would create the ridiculous situation of being unable to cut underachieving players and move on with better players. Under the salary cap system, it also would be financially impossible to pay every player for the duration of the contract. Remember, players WANT signing bonuses. They want the money up front. This is a high-risk, high-reward game and the more you get up front, the more you can minimize the risk in a very risky profession. Whatever players and fans may say about the system being one-sided, the fact is the signing bonus is the player's protection. To think there could be system that wouldn't allow teams to cut players is simply unrealistic and naïve.
Skip from Mayport, FL:
WOW MJD is back. That's a great thing. Three questions: Will he be the same player he was last year? Will he be better than he was last year? Will he never be the same player he has been?
John: Three answers. We'll see. We'll see. We'll see.
James from Bossier City, LA:
I would love to see Jennings go for 100 yards and a few touchdowns this coming Sunday. If that were to happen, would he be able to keep the starting job over MJD?
John: For a week, perhaps, but Maurice Jones-Drew is the starting running back in this offense. His run with the twos won't last too long.
Chris from Columbus, GA:
Has Mathis lost his starting cornerback position? If so, I do not understand why he would not be starting opposite of Ross if Cox cannot start because isn't he a better cover corner than Middleton?
John: Rashean Mathis is still returning from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his season last year. He has been practicing, but still isn't ready to go full for as long as it would take to be the starting cornerback. This is common with his injury, and it will likely take a few weeks for him to reach full capacity. As a result, the Jaguars are starting him off as the nickel corner.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Do you expect teams to attack Mathis?
John: Absolutely. This is no secret. You're always going to test a guy coming off of an injury until he makes you realize you shouldn't.
Verne from Des Moines, IA:
Jonathan from Lawrence, KS: I am an official and the question from Trace absolutely offended me. As an official I view myself as a part of the game. . . . It is an absolute slap in the face to even suggest that I or any other official would intentionally try to miss a call. John: I agree. Say what you want about any referee, but most of the ones I have known have been passionate to the point of maybe being a little overboard about it. Ive not known any that I thought would miss a call on purpose." John, I've always wondered, if these guys were getting paid off to blow calls by the bookies and gambling houses. Or, if they're just stupid and or blind. I guess we've ruled 2 of the 3 out for most of them. At least HALF of them are clearly BLIND. Now, I'm not math major, but what percentage does that leave for the last option??
John: Congratulations on your perfection. It seems you're enjoying it.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
People laughed last year when I predicted our defense would be a top 10 defense. Our offense is vastly improved this year like our defense was last year. Gabbert is developing nicely, our offensive line is stronger and our receiving corps is night-and-day different. Even our coaching, especially on the offensive side of the ball is much improved. With all of the improvements, if we stay healthy, is a top 15 offensive ranking out of the question?
John: It's not out of the question, although I'll continue to say the offense could have some rough patches in the beginning. While Gabbert has shown improvement, and while Justin Blackmon has the look of a star, and while Maurice Jones-Drew is back, things are different in the regular season and getting a new offense up to speed will take time. People get tired of hearing this, but if the Jaguars show over the final eight games that there are pieces in place that make you know growth is happening, then that's what you're looking for this season. And by the end of the season? Yeah, I'd say the offense could have the look of a Top-15 offense.
Andrew from St. Augustine, FL:
I am concerned about Cox's injury. It's been a while and a hamstring injury to a cornerback can be devastating. Plus, teams tended to pick on Middleton during the preseason...
John: Your concern is understandable. While Cox appears to be improving, it doesn't sound as if he's going to play – and you don't like to be entering the regular season without your top cornerbacks.
Keith from Summerville, SC:
If I see the "Captain" logo on MJD's shoulder this coming Sunday I'm going to be very disappointed. He has done nothing for the team this preseason and is the only player not "All In." His preseason has been all about self and his gigantic ego. Who do you see as the team's captains, John?
John: The Jaguars voted on captains Monday. They will be quarterback Blaine Gabbert and center Brad Meester on offense, linebackers Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny on defense and fullback Montell Owens on special teams.
Lionel from Duval, FL:
MJD brought up an interesting point during his press conference. He mentioned the Giants averaging 120 yards per game on the ground during the playoffs. They were one of the league's worst running teams during the regular season. I would wager that successful teams in the postseason tend to find balance in their offenses. What do you think?
John: Yes, successful offenses in the postseason usually find a way to run. To offer the other side of the argument, there is a school of thought right now that even the best running backs don't make as much of a difference in the running game as offensive lines. Many running games also are based off the offense first loosening up the defense with a strong passing game. Jones-Drew is very valuable to the Jaguars and is paid as such, but overall within the NFL there are many who consider the position to be devalued. Jones-Drew understandably disagrees with this. It would be odd if he felt otherwise.
Steve from Denver, CO:
O - Speaking of patronizing, how about the headline of the year: "Mularky likes the Jaguars 53-man roster."
John: I wrote that headline. Thanks for the honor! FYI, there's an 'e' in Mularkey.
Laurie from Neptune Beach, FL:
Would it do any good to point out to Mike from St. Mary's that a Really Good guard can potentially become a backup if there are two other guards on the team that are also Really Good. He probably won't get it, but it might be worth a shot. On second thought, there's no way he'll get it.
John: Laurie, I get it and as we all know: I'm an idiot.
Clyde from Sanford, FL:
Do you think MJD ,who said it's about money, came back knowing he wouldn't start for a couple games and figured his current salary reflects 14 games not 16 games?
John: No.
John from section 213:
If the Jaguars were to hold a team arm wrestling tournament, who would go farther? Greg Jones or Eben Britton?
John: I'd guess Jones. Britton might start to win, then he would look at Jones and realize how ridiculous and dangerous angering Jones is, and then he would stop. Britton's momma didn't raise no fool.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Jonathan, I don't really care how passionate you are about the game and how much you feel like you're part of it. Neither are excuses for miffing calls the way these replacements have. Just because the mistake was not on purpose doesn't mean it doesn't alter the integrity and fairness of the game. Nothing personal, but I care much more about the integrity of the game than your feelings, Mr. Jonathan.
John: Tudor, you're missing the point of this discussion. No one's saying the replacement refs are perfect, and no one's saying there are no mistakes. At issue was an email that asked me what incentive the replacement referees had to not miss calls. Jonathan and other referees understandably took offense to the idea that officials might not care enough to "try" to do their best. And actually, by calling him out, you sort of were getting personal.
Michael from Orange Park, FL:
The way Blackmon is playing, I think he goes over 80 catches easy. Over/under.
John: I'll take the over, though not by much. Eighty receptions means five catches a game every game. He's certainly capable, but that's a tough get for a rookie – even for a special one.

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