Casey from St. Augustine, FL:
ALL of us Jags fans are sick of ESPN smashing our team. Am I wrong to assume that since ESPN is a business, and business exists to make money, that it is absolutely in the best interest of ESPN to get a team in LA? AND that ESPN has decided THAT team should be OUR team?...I HATE THAT!!
John: You're not wrong to be sick of ESPN bashing the Jaguars. ESPN does, but so do a lot of national entities. As I've often said, the bashing stems from journalistic laziness and from Jacksonville's status as an easy target. Throwing out a Jaguars-to-LA joke because most people outside Jacksonville think that makes sense on an intrinsic level is far easier – and to some, more entertaining – than taking a few sentences or paragraphs to explain why Shad Khan is committed to Jacksonville or that the Jaguars have a stronger season-ticket base than a lot of other teams or why there's a logical explanation for the tarps. I'm the wrong person to ask, though, if you want to hear an answer about ESPN having an agenda or an interest in getting the team to Los Angeles because my experience is things don't work that way. ESPN is a business on a large enough scale that getting the Jaguars to Los Angeles isn't going to be much more than a blip on the bottom line – if it's even a blip at all. To think that the higher-ups at ESPN are calling in their NFL writers and staff and prodding them to bash Jacksonville – well, it's just not realistic.
Jerry from Tamarac, FL:
A lot has been made of Knighton's incident but when I get on I-95 in Miami if he has his thumb out I'm not going to be able to see him until I get to the Jacksonville exit, right?
John: I assume somewhere in there is a question about Knighton's weight. When we spoke to him last week, he looked good. He didn't look small. He's not a small person. But he did look significantly lighter than he did last training camp and looks like he's doing a good job keeping his weight under control. Considering he has been limited in what he can do working out, that's a good sign. Overall, Knighton has been one of the more impressive stories of the off-season. Yes, he made a mistake that is keeping him out of organized team activities, but since early April, he looks like a guy who is focused on being 100 percent and as fit as possible for the 2012 season. Right now, his outlook is as good as can be expected.
Roger from Cherryville, NC:
With regard to Maurice Jones-Drew and his contract, is it possible to add or pay him a "special" bonus for his terrific season without all this new contract hassle? If it wasn't in his contract, can he be rewarded outside the contract?
John: Sure, but you would still have to have it count against the salary cap, and I don't see why you would want to do that. You paid Jones-Drew for last season last season. But probably the biggest reason you don't do it is it would set a dangerous precedent. If you give Jones-Drew a bonus for a terrific season outside his contract, where do you stop? Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith had good seasons, too. So did Josh Scobee. The Jaguars' offensive line blocked for Jones-Drew. Where's the special bonus for their efforts? You pay a player what you agreed to pay him. There are too many moving parts to add unexpected bonuses in after the fact.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Except for the fumbles and the dropped passes, Blaine Gabbert outplayed Newton and Dalton last year and should have won both games. He had a wow play every game. You need 3-4 of those wow plays a game and you got something.
John: I don't know that I'd say Gabbert outplayed Newton or Dalton in either game, but you're right that the difference wasn't significant – and without question the Jaguars should have won both games. You don't have to look hard to remember impressive plays from Gabbert last season. What he needs, obviously, is consistency and overall improvement from the offense. I may institute a no Gabbert week coming up here soon. Not that I don't like talking about him. It may just be time for a break.
Andrew from Orange Park, FL:
With position group do you foresee having the best competition for a starting role in training camp?
John: There's not really a position on the Jaguars where there's a great deal of mystery entering training camp and that's not usual in the NFL these days. People love to talk position battles, but they're usually pretty obvious because of how teams have to build their rosters. At defensive end, a question entering camp will be how quickly Andre Branch develops into an every-down player. If it takes some time, I'd say Austen Lane will start at one end with Branch playing in passing situations. Obviously, we're watching Aaron Kampman there, too. I'm also going to be watching how the receiver position plays out. Right now, I'd say the top six are Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon, Mike Thomas, Lee Evans, Cecil Shorts III and Brian Robiskie with all six making the team, but that's a spot that could be fluid.
Gary from Broken Arrow, OK:
When NFL.com or any of the other talking heads make predictions (rankings), how many report after the season on their accuracy? I would guess not many. That would really be newsworthy, though.
John: Some do, others don't and there's really no reason to do so. Predictions aren't news and there are no ramifications to being inaccurate. Predictions are fun and they're done to draw viewers and fill air time and to give readers something to read during a long off-season. You know why they're popular? Because people get sooooooo worked up over them. With rare exceptions, I read them when they're pointed out to me by O-Zone readers or when I stumble upon one – often accidentally on my twitter timeline. On occasion I make it to the end, but usually I lose interest.
Paul from Farnhamville, IA:
Vic used to always say its players not plays, and it seems there is some disrespect for coaching in the NFL. To me it is very important that you have the best coaching staff you can get, and I believe the Jaguars have done so. Do you see Mularkey having an outstanding first year like a Jim Harbaugh last year? I believe we have the roster to have similar success.
John: I can't speak for my predecessor as to exactly what he meant by "players not plays," but my interpretation is that players are indeed more important than exactly what plays are called or what offensive scheme is used. But coaches absolutely make a difference, and my guess is that my predecessor wouldn't tell you Chuck Noll and Tom Coughlin meant nothing to the success of the teams he covered. Head coaches can make a huge difference in setting proper long- and short-term tone for organizations, and assistants can make a huge difference in ensuring players are working on proper fundamentals and are properly prepared. You would think NFL players could do those things on their own. The truth is many can't, and that's where coaching can indeed make a difference. I think the Jaguars will be better-coached this season. Will it match San Francisco last season? Maybe, maybe not, but I think you'll see strides in the right direction.
Brian from Greenwood, IN:
So why don't we ever hear about Daryl Smith? It is not a stretch to call him the greatest Jaguar LB ever. Plus...my wife thinks he is kind of good looking. Do a story about D. Smith!!!!!
John: It's not a stretch at all to call him the greatest Jaguars linebacker ever. Smith doesn't get the publicity he probably should primarily because he doesn't particularly seek it out. He's always cordial, but could really do without doing interviews. Fear not. We'll be writing about Smith on jaguars.com soon.
John from Gloucestershire, England:
I was watching a TV quiz today which asked the question "which is the most populated city in Florida? Miami. Orlando or Jacksonville? The answer surprised me-Jacksonville. Why then is Jacksonville labeled as a 'small market' team? Please explain.
John: Jacksonville in 1968 consolidated with Duval County, a move that made the city the largest in size and population in the state of Florida. However, the Greater Jacksonville Metropolitan area is not as large as Orlando or Miami, and certainly there are not as many people in the Northeast Florida area than there are in Miami. I took Jacksonville history from Mrs. Poindexter at St. Andrews in the third grade, so I can also fill you in on Cowford and Wacca Pilatka and the Timicua people, too. Pop me an email if you're interested in knowing more about the Mocoma in the 16th century or the Saturiwa or Jean Ribault arriving in 1562. Or, like me, you can just go to Wikipedia.
The Saturiwa and Jean Ribault
Casey from St. Augustine, FL: