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They must protect themselves

Let's get to it . . . Daniel from Summit, NJ:
Do you think Blackmon has the talent to recover from all the missed practices prior to the regular season?
John: Does he have the talent? Yes. The issue for Blackmon now won't be talent. It will be learning the offense, getting into shape and doing it at a pace that allows him to stay healthy. The mental challenge will be as big as the physical in the next few weeks for Blackmon.
Tony from Jackson, TN:
Did Gene Smith cave due to troubles in the passing game? Seems like this deal could have gotten done a while back. Now Blackmon is behind the curve. Help us understand what changed. His contract is no different than any of the other first-rounders.
John: The contract is different than other first-rounders. While the Jaguars would have liked to have given Blackmon less overall money than the No. 5 slot called for – after all, had the DUI happened before he was drafted his draft stock would have fallen – in the end they settled on giving Blackmon about 60 percent of the signing bonus the No. 5 selection normally would have received. By deferring about $4.8 million, the Jaguar protect themselves at least to that extent should Blackmon be suspended again. Now, provided Blackmon stays clear of trouble, he will receive $18.5 million. It's on him to do what's expected, and more than that, it's on him to get to work. It would be disingenuous here to say that he has gotten off to anything better than a rocky start in a little over three months. He has a lot to prove. It's time to start.
Clyde from Sanford, FL:
Do you expect the offensive line number 1's to play at least a half this Friday or just play as long as Blaine Gabbert is under center?
John: I'd expect the offensive line starters who are healthy to play a few series – into the second quarter, perhaps – and that's about what I'd expect Gabbert to play.
Chuck from TN:
Who do you think will be the offensive and defensive MVP for the Jags this coming year? Who will be the most improved? We are all hoping that would be BG.
John: Call me crazy, but I still sort of believe Maurice Jones-Drew will wind up being the offensive Most Valuable Player. I think the passing offense will be vastly improved, but I perhaps naively believe Jones-Drew will get into camp and have a productive season. I would think his touchdowns improve with the improvement of the passing game, and while he may not match the 1,606 yards rushing from last season I still believe he could be very productive as a runner and receiver. The way Paul Posluszny is playing in camp and the way he played last season, he has a very good chance to be the defensive MVP. I would be surprised if Gabbert isn't the most improved player. He certainly has been in camp and there's every chance that will carry into the season.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
While one good scrimmage is encouraging, I think Friday night's preseason game against a powerhouse team will give a better indication of where the team actually stands. What say you, Mr. O-man??
John: Well, sure. Playing another team is always a better indication than a scrimmage. The notable thing about the scrimmage is there were things you wanted to see and you indeed saw them. That's not franchise-turning stuff, but it's a step. This is as good a time as any to throw out the annual caution against reading too much into preseason, and I'll brace myself for the requisite e-mails reminding me I said that last year and the team indeed struggled. However, just because the Jaguars went 5-11 after a rough preseason last season doesn't change the fact that the scores of preseason games mean little when it comes to the regular season. Watch for how these guys play. Watch the results when the starters are in the game. Remember to keep anything you see in perspective. That's the best preseason primer I can offer.
Mike from Orange Park, FL:
Gee, John, you act like these holdouts are just normal NFL contract negotiation stuff. You're forgetting that if the Jags sign Mojo and Blackmon, the national media will suddenly descend on the team, stop reporting what it reads and actually realize that Gabbert's not a camp-less rookie anymore and other improvements have been made. The national media will then verify the worth of the Jaguars' existence, and consequently all their fans, the city of Jacksonville and the South in general. My life's incomplete without that recognition, so stop acting like the Jaguars or Jags fans can survive without these two players. Get them signed so we can look ourselves in the mirror while reading!
John: The Jaguars have signed Blackmon. Sounds like you're halfway to heaven.
Joe from Antioch, CA:
For the past week of training camp on ESPN and NFL Network, have yet to see anything on JAGS training camp, but have seen so much of the Jets and Broncos. There is 32 teams, right?
John: Yes, there are. And NFL Network is at Jaguars Training Camp today.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Going on the assumption that Jones-Drew is smart enough to know that the Jags are not going to budge on the contract, is it possible that he just does not want to participate in camp just to avoid the drudgery and wear and tear? Before you delete this in disgust, I've lost count of how many veterans have bemoaned long camps. Many of them would find whatever excuses they could in order to NOT participate in camp (or in a good chunk of it anyway). I'm thinking of guys like Michael Strahan, Bruce Smith and I've even heard Mr. Lageman comment on this a few times. Thoughts?
John: There's no question that under normal circumstances veterans like to avoid wear and tear, and under normal circumstances, there are cases when that's wise. However, considering this is a new coaching staff and a new scheme, there's little question the benefit to Jones-Drew being in camp would outweigh the benefits of staying away. Besides, the wear and tear training camp takes on players' bodies these days isn't near what it was before the new CBA. I think it's safe to say Jones-Drew's trying to make a point. He doesn't need much more motivation than that.
JD from Rancho Cucamonga, CA:
Sure, there are Gault and Hayes, but how about throwing some love to Cris Collinsworth. He is erroneously labeled as a possession receiver when he was one of the better deep threats of his generation. I could be wrong, but I believe he was a sprinting state champion in Florida. But your point is understood and is the same with Collinsworth.
John: I don't know that Collinsworth needs love in the O-Zone. He does a pretty good job on that front on his own, but I've always thought that as a player Collinsworth indeed was overlooked on a lot of fronts. First, he was indeed a deep threat and a lot more than a possession guy. Second, he was just, plain better than a lot of people remember. And yes, he was a state high school sprint champion.
Rashon from Nashville, TN:
Hey, John. Love your swag. I bet you were a chick magnet back in the day, huh?
John: Well, if by magnet you mean that weird thing that happens when you turn the magnet around . . .
Paul from Jacksonville:
When Byron Leftwich played for us, one of the oft-repeated knocks on him by the fans was that he wasn't mobile enough - that he just stood there and held the ball too long, taking hits. Now we complain about "happy feet" and looking jittery in the pocket. The thing that I see with Gabbert is that when he does line up his throws correctly, he is capable of making tight, accurate, beautiful throws like no Jaguars quarterback since Brunell.
John: This is an oft-misunderstood concept, and because of that misunderstanding, fans will undoubtedly continue to criticize Gabbert. Different quarterbacks look different in the pocket, and different quarterbacks move and protect themselves in the pocket differently. Perhaps most pertinently when it comes to Gabbert, quarterbacks in the modern era are trained to NOT take direct hits. Watch carefully the next time you see Eli or Peyton Manning play, or Tom Brady. They rarely "stand in" in the face of a fierce rush and throw while being hit in the teeth. In fact, all can often be seen throwing, then ducking away from the rush. Their long-term health is critical to their respective franchises. A primary area of focus this offseason for Gabbert has been his pocket mechanics and as those improve, he will look better in the pocket. But there are still going to be times he throws and avoids the full-on, smashmouth rush. That doesn't mean jitters. That means protecting himself, and in today's NFL, it's what you want quarterbacks doing.

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