Charles Soileau from Atlanta:
John, I'll give you a few weeks to get to know the team and the franchise before I ask questions about the draft. It's the second biggest thing on my mind next to the new CBA. Will we have a new CBA before the current one expires?
John: Thanks for the patience. That's my primary objective in the coming days and weeks – to get up to speed on the team and the details of its draft approach as quickly as possible. Until then, I may stay away from some questions I don't feel qualified yet to answer in the detail jaguars.com readers expect, but I don't anticipate the process taking long. I plan to speak to a lot of Jaguars personnel extensively at the Scouting Combine and believe the quality of coverage and O-Zone answers will go up significantly at that time. As for a new CBA before the current one expires, my gut is that will be tough to get it done before March 3. At the same time, I'd be surprised if games or even training camp days are missed. A huge issue is the possibility of losing OTAs and mini-camps. The best teams take advantage of that time better than others, and it will be interesting to see how losing that planning and preparation time hurts some franchise.
Nick from Aarhus, Denmark:
Welcome, I am excited to follow you here. What is the one question you were hoping to get for your first blog?
John: This one.
Sonny Thigpen from Jacksonville, Fl.:
Do you prefer drafting for need or best available player?
John: Ah, the Best Available Player question. As you might expect, if there was a question that overwhelmed the in-box, that was it. I'm a BAP guy through and through. It has been my experience that the worst mistakes teams make is drafting need over best available player. You can fill the depth chart on draft day all you want, but if that guy can't help you the following season or ever, what's the point? The Colts – yes, there's the first reference – have stayed away from drafting a left tackle in recent years despite a perceived need in that area, primarily because it's hard to find a franchise player at the position outside the Top 10 and if you don't get a franchise player at left tackle, you're better off waiting because there's not much difference between the end of the first round and the second or third rounds. That's it on this topic for now. Have a feeling we'll have plenty of time to kick this around, but now you know: the O-Zone is decidedly pro BAP.
Kevin Weaver from Jacksonville, FL:
Hey John! Welcome to jaguars.com. I'm Kevin, 23, my birthday is February 15th. You could possibly make my life by posting my question first on you're new Q&A.
John: Sorry to disappoint you. You're fourth. Happy birthday.
Danny from Jax:
I was really hoping for "Dear John" as the title.
John: We strongly considered "Dear John," and there was much support in that area. We eventually decided there was a bit too much of a sad connotation and perhaps a bit too obvious. As I mentioned to my new boss, Dan Edwards, maybe we can use Dear John when my readers tire of my schtick and run me out of town.
Xander from Jacksonville:
What is your view of the AFC South? Are we still one of the tougher divisions or are we on a downward spiral?
John: The perceived strength of the division may rise and fall based on what happens with the Houston Texans. As long as Manning is in his prime – which he is – the Colts will be contenders, and if their injury issues this past season were a one-year blip, then there's little reason to think they're not a 10-to-12 victory team. The Jaguars this season showed signs of being a team on the rise, and they're no longer a young team. They're now a veteran team, and after leading the AFC South in December, they will have a chance to push for the title again. Tennessee has the look of being a year away, which means new Texans Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips could be the key to the strength of the division next season. If he indeed can improve the Texans' defense, then the South could be as good a division as there is in the NFL. To be honest, I've never been big into Strongest Division breakdowns. Usually, it changes year to year and even month to month. Halfway through the season, the AFC South looked strong, and in December, a few losing streaks made it look weak. The truth is usually somewhere in between.
Phillip from Palm Coast:
Have you had a chance to look ahead to the combine? What are some areas we can look forward to you covering?
John: jaguars.com will provide extensive coverage at the combine. It's still in the planning stages, but I'll be in Indianapolis throughout, talking to coaches. I'll also be covering the main four media access days when players and coaches from around the league are available. Jeff Lageman will be talking to a lot of the coaches and providing video upon their return to Jacksonville. As I've mentioned, I'm looking forward to the combine. It will be my first chance to meet extensively with the people who form the foundation and direction of the organization, and the hope is that I stop sounding like a fool shortly thereafter.
Scott from Orlando, Fla:
I'll give you a fun question, why do you feel that thus far the Colts have only won one Super Bowl with Peyton Manning? Congratulations on stealing MJD's job and thank you for continuing this column. I like the new name.
John: Ah, the Manning question. I get the feeling we'll have plenty of time to discuss Manning in the O-Zone. I may disappoint you with many of the answers. I'm not a Manning apologist, but it's my belief he is the best quarterback in the NFL. It's not my belief he is solely to blame for the Colts' playoff losses, nor that it is necessary to assign "blame" to a quarterback for playoff losses or to call a career a disappointment for winning "only one" Super Bowl. Winning a Super Bowl is hard. Manning and the Colts won one and came close to winning another. Many quarterbacks and teams win none. These are not all my thoughts on the matter, but it's the first O-Zone, so it's a start.
RJ from Orange Park, Fla:
Welcome to the Jaguars! Is a new CBA going to be reached, or do I have to kill myself?
John: Suicide isn't the answer. I can't see games being missed, but if there are a few days without football, read. Maybe the O-Zone. Or better yet, Jags to Riches.
Adam from Jacksonville:
First, welcome! Never once got a question on "Ask Vic", so I feel the need to get started on day one with this column! What are your preliminary thoughts on our Jags? Thank you sir!
John: Congratulations. You made it. I am still forming thoughts and will continue to do so, but having covered the AFC South for AOL Fanhouse this season, I have at least a working knowledge of the team. My general thought is the Jaguars are headed in the right direction, and since Gene Smith took over as general manager, they are building the right way – stockpiling talent through the draft with an emphasis on BAP. That approach can frustrate fans on draft day, but building with BAP over the long run gives you more talent at more areas and you can never have enough good football players.
Thomas from Jacksonville, FL:
What position do you feel has the biggest impact on a game besides the QB and Why?
John: Pass-rushing defensive end. In the NFL, the majority of games are decided on big plays on drives in the final minutes. That means your odds of winning go up significantly if you have a quarterback who inspires confidence and can make plays in that situation, and if you have a pass rusher or pass rushers who can disrupt the opposing offense. It doesn't take a genius to know where I'm going with this and to know another dreaded Colts reference is coming. The Colts for the last decade haven't been what many perceive as an overpowering defense, but they have had two pass rushers – Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis – who are the equivalent of closers in baseball. The final two minutes are winning time, and that's when pass rushers matter.
Ricky from Miami, Fl:
I blacked out at Pete's bar last weekend
John: The off-season is hard on us all.
Sunil from Jacksonville:
Welcome home John. We are glad to have you here. How close do you think the Jags are to catching the Colts in the AFC south?
John: Very close. The Colts will always be a factor if Manning is quarterback. He gives teammates confidence they can win tight games late and that they will be well-prepared, and in a league as competitive as the NFL, those details can mean three or four victories a season. The Jaguars made significant strides this season, and as defensive end Aaron Kampman said recently, a key now is players believing it's their time to contend. That will be a big part of what next season is about.
Michael from Orlando:
John, welcome back to Jacksonville. I'm writing to express the sentiment of myself and a large percentage of the fan base in saying that while I'm disappointed that Vic has moved on from jaguars.com, I'm optimistic that you will do whatever you can to fill the void left in his wake. However, my question is, how do I know that I can trust you to not carry the team banner? One of the things that set Vic apart is he truly wrote what he thought, including where he thought the team should have done something different. I want to believe you will do that, but how can you show me that this will be the case?
John: The key word in your question is "show." I'll write and it's up to you to judge whether you believe what I write. I can tell you that Wayne Weaver believes a Web site writer must have credibility, and that he believes that's a huge reason for jaguars.com's success and a huge reason it means so much to its readers. Rick did a great job building that. My charge is to carry it on.