Game-day O-Zone. Let's get to it . . .
Micah from London:
So rules have changed to open up the passing attack (no jamming receivers, no aggressive tackling, can't touch the quarterback), but do you personally think that's a good thing?
John: It's not a simple answer. Has it changed the game for the better? In a lot of ways, on the field, it has not. I can't say part of me doesn't miss some of the bigger hits at times, and I can certainly see the point of view of defensive players who believe they're not allowed to play the game as they were taught to play. But the reality is it's not "no-aggressive tackling." It's an effort to limit dangerous hits on defenseless players. Considering what we've learned in recent years about the toll the game takes on the body – particularly concussions – I don't see how the league can't try to do what it can to protect players. Fans and players may not like some of the current rules, but I believe over the course of time the players will adjust to the rules and the thing that many people love about the sport – the chance for a violent, "Oh, Wow" hit – will remain a big part of the game. As for the no-jamming receivers stuff, I was a huge fan of the NFL in the early 70s when I was a kid and would be a fan no matter the rules, so I'm probably not a good person to ask. The reality: the league has become wildly popular as it has opened up the game, so I don't see it changing.
Justin from Newbury Park, CA:
I have been a Jaguars fan since I was nine, ever since the Jaguars went undefeated to every team in the NFL except the Titans and we lost to them in the AFC Championship Game. We could never get it back together. Yes, we had a great year in '07, but that translated into four years of mediocrity. What do we have to do to get past that?
John: At this point, I don't think it's about getting past 2007 or the last three years. It's about not losing sight of the big-picture goal. The Jaguars hit bottom in a lot of ways in 2008 and the past two years have been about rebuilding from that. The first step is to build a base, and then to add to that base. The biggest step is the acquisition of a quarterback, and the most frustrating step can be waiting for that quarterback to develop. Everything you hear is that Blaine Gabbert can be that guy and that he has the mindset to develop quickly. What's that saying? Sometimes, it's darkest just before the light. I see brighter days ahead. I hesitate to say be patient, because people are tired of hearing it, but . . .
Jonathon from Lawrence, KS:
I have a question about Los Angeles. I made a point in an argument with friends today that Jacksonville moving to Los Angeles makes no sense because the NFL would have to realign divisions. My friends disagreed with me. So I am wondering, how much of a factor will division setup be in determining who moves to Los Angeles? This seems to me like it would be a very important issue. It would make zero sense for a team playing in LA to be in anything but the West division of its conference. Or am I just being hopeful that this little obstacle could keep Jacksonville away from LA?
John: Location of the team won't play a huge role, I don't think, because whatever team moves to Los Angeles will do so because of its individual factors – lease agreement with its current stadium, etc. The biggest obstacle keeping the Jaguars from moving to Los Angeles is Wayne Weaver. It's his team, and he has said many times the he has no desire to move to Los Angeles. He will sell eventually, and when he does, his goal is to sell it to someone committed to keeping the team in Jacksonville. The bottom line, though, remains the same: if the team is going to work here long-term, the fans must support it. That means buying tickets.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
How can we possibly use the Pro Bowl as a metric for a players success when it is one giant popularity contest? Wouldn't the All-Pro team be a better metric?
John: The Pro Bowl isn't a great gauge, but it's not terrible. Most Pro Bowl players aren't terrible. They're just not always the most deserving. All-Pro is absolutely a better gauge because fewer players make it and it's not open to as many voters. It's also typically voted on by a select group of writers who spend time researching the process and it's certainly the bigger honor.
Brian from Long Island, NY:
I was wondering: Dirk does the offensive play-calling; who does the defensive play calling?
John: Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. He has taken on a bigger role this season, and that role included calling the defense on game day.
Brett from Ocoee, FL:
Ask Tyson Alualu or Jeremy Mincey if Kampman has been pointless. I'd bet that they would tell you that their time learning from him has been invaluable and judging by the production of those two players, I'd say Kampman's impact has been felt by opposing offensive lines, quarterbacks, and running backs, even when he's not on the field. High-character guys who lead the team are force multipliers. They make everyone play better.
John: I asked Alualu and Terrance Knighton about Kampman this week and was struck by exactly what you said – and more. Each talked about Kampman's impact on them, and about his value when he's on the field. I have witnessed Kampman's leadership in the locker room a bit, but to hear Knighton and Alualu tell it, Kampman will help them immeasurably when he returns to the field, too. You hear a lot around the Jaguars about past free agents who didn't work out and how they hurt the franchise. Whether Kampman plays again or not – and there's no indication he won't – you won't hear him talked about in a negative way when he's done playing.
Bonnie from Jacksonville:
But I did send a comment.....Thanks for the posting.
John: You're welcome. And believe me, the O-Zone has nothing against female readers or questions. Quite the contrary.
Tom from Jacksonville:
Is Alualu playing hurt? He is getting pushed all over the field. Maybe he is too small for the position and that is why he was a surprise early round pick.
John: He is playing through a knee injury. That's why he has been on the injury report every week this season. He is not too small for his position, nor has he been getting pushed all over the field this season – certainly not on an every-down basis. Alualu may not be playing as well every down as he was early in the preseason, but he's not playing poorly. Somehow that has become a theme. It's incorrect.
Michael from Atlanta, GA:
Just what I think is a correction: other teams' percentages of success go up greatly when drafting a receiver in the first round. The Jaguars have drafted Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and our biggest bust ever, R.J. Soward, in the first round. I would say our success decreases greatly when drafting receivers in the first round.
John: You don't want a big-time receiver because you missed on first-rounders in the past? That's like saying if you miss on two or three first-round quarterbacks you'd pass on a player you think is the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady because you have bad luck. Trust your scouting. If you think a player is an elite, play-making receiver – or any position – you take him. You can't avoid future potential because you're worried about past mistakes.
Clif from Bethesda, MD:
I think whole "Have I been heard?" and "You have been heard" thing is getting overplayed. Not saying just it's you because people write in asking if they have been heard. Let's get some new material here.
Roger from Jacksonville:
Twice now I've noticed Gabbert using the phrase, "trust me" in an answer. Does he say that a lot? I like it. It shows confidence and accountability. Let's hope he can back it up.
John: I haven't noticed him saying that, but I haven't been watching for it, either. Let's just say this about Gabbert: When it comes to approach, he's doing fine. He's a rookie, so he's not going to dominate the locker room or be able to tell every other player what to do. A rookie quarterback has to walk something of a line between leading and respecting those around him. You can't be too overbearing before you've done something to back it up. The veteran players like Gabbert and they like his approach. They believe he's going to develop into a very, very good quarterback and they're willing to be relatively patient while he learns.