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O-Zone: Sneak peek

Posted Jul 30, 2013

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it . . .

Robert from Moorpark, CA:
What did you see in Cecil last year during training camp that made you believe he'd be the maestro he is now?
John: I can’t take credit for being too far out front on Shorts last year during training camp. People who watched Shorts at that time saw a player with athletic ability who clearly had taken a step forward as a route runner, and who seemed to have embraced the coaching of Jerry Sullivan, then in his first season with the Jaguars but absolutely a well-respected coaching veteran. Yes, I had written early in Shorts’ rookie training camp in 2011 that I thought he would be the best receiver on the roster by the end of that season, but that was a year early and it took Shorts a year to develop, so I won’t position myself as all-seeing when it comes to his career. Still, it has been interesting to watch his maturation, a process that in retrospect has been remarkably rapid for a player from a Division III school.
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
Way to rock the pick visor, O-Man! #moodachay!
John: #Moodachay
James from Orange Park, FL:
Let me guess: "It's football; players get hurt." But, what the heck?! By the Jaguars’ fourth practice, some major players are going down with ACLs around the league and now Gabbert has an ankle sprain. I thought the reduction of practice written into the CBA was supposed to reduce injuries. This is crazy to me.
John: I just don’t understand people not understanding injuries in football. This is not a knock on you, James. Each year during training camp, media makes a big deal of the rash of injuries around training camps and acts as if it’s something unique. It’s just not. The Jaguars actually have been remarkably injury-free this training camp, to the point where if you have a rooting interest in this team you’re worried about jinxing it. Even the Gabbert injury Monday seems to be minor. As for reducing injuries or preventing them, Gabbert’s incident for example occurred on a play on which guard Uche Nwaneri was pushed back into the quarterback during a pass play. The only way to be sure that such a play wouldn’t happen would be to not practice at all. These are large human beings doing physical things in a relatively small space. Major players are going to get injured every training camp and a lot of those are going to be serious injuries. Yes, it’s football. Players are going to get hurt. There’s just nothing crazy about it.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Normally, I would agree with your response to Joseph from Yukon, OK. But from what I understand, Blaine Mane is fumbling and throwing picks, too, so let’s not make this a Robinson-only thing. Can't hurt to give the kid 5-10 reps a day. How the hell is he supposed to get better at that position if he gets no practice at it? Not saying he will be, but Brady was R6, remember?
John: You’re entitled to your opinion, and Robinson indeed got three reps at quarterback from the Wildcat formation Monday. That’s fine, and that’s about right. He’s an option. He’s a weapon. But it just does not appear that he’s a full-time NFL quarterback.
Jay from Camp Lejeune, NC:
John-O, just got back from Afghanistan in time for my daughter to be born. Now, I'm laying here typing with one hand while she sleeps on my chest. Can life get any better than this?
John: It doesn’t sound like it. Enjoy.
Ray from Jacksonville:
Hmmm, the Jaguars used the farther fields on the weekday when about 1,000 or so came to watch. They used the closer fields on the weekend days when more than 2,000 people attended. Those scoundrels.
John: Yeah, well . . . they’re sneaky that way.
Bobby from Bellingham, WA:
In your response to Bo, you stated, "The offensive line is shaping up as follows: Eugene Monroe at left tackle, Will Rackley at left guard, Brad Meester at center, Uche Nwaneri at right guard and Luke Joeckel at right tackle." You also stated that depth was an issue? If final cuts were tomorrow, who do you see on today’s roster that would make the team as depth? Why say depth is an issue; just because our depth is first and second year players?
John: I say depth is an issue because Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said it at the beginning of camp, and also because while the team has a pretty clear idea of starters, the depth is far less clear. Cameron Bradfield would seem to have a chance to be the backup at right and left tackle, and Mike Brewster would seem to have a chance to be depth on the interior along with Jason Spitz. But the three of those players are very much “would-seem-to” guys, and I wouldn’t call the roster spots written in stone.
Robert from Richmond:
You weren't covering the team, but we were seeing the same questions when the team drafted Matt Jones that we are seeing now about Denard Robinson? Matt Jones had "freakish speed," you know . . .
John: I know. I also know Matt Jones was a first-round selection. The Jaguars took Robinson in the fifth round, which means you can watch what the team will do with his speed without worrying if he’s a bust. It’s impossible for Robinson to be a bust. He may not make it, but a fifth-round draft pick can’t be a “bust.”
Matt from Jacksonville:
To be an offensive weapon, don’t you have to hold on to the football? Denard Robinson is having a real ugly start to camp. Maybe instead of trying to learn all of these different positions he should focus on the basics.
John: Denard Robinson was as much a fifth-round draft pick as he was an offensive weapon. What I mean is while the designation of “OW” got quite a bit of offseason attention, he is still a young player who entered the NFL without a true position. While it will be intriguing to see how Robinson will fit in, if he was a bonafide, can’t-miss, change-the-dynamic-of-a-team player he might have been taken, oh, I don’t know, sometime in the first four rounds. Robinson will get time to develop, and with work he has a chance to improve. He ran three plays from the Wildcat formation Monday, for example, and looked better throughout practice than he did on Sunday. We’re four days into camp. Give it time.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
I’m curious as to what you think will carry more weight with the coaches evaluating players on the bubble: looking good in training camp, or producing in preseason games?
John: It’s a combination, with a slight nod given to producing in preseason games. I have to preface that by saying you can’t judge everything on preseason. For example, there are almost always wide receivers who put up huge numbers late in preseason games who get cut from rosters. These moves often spark shock and brief outrage from fans overlooking that the numbers often were posted against defensive backs who also were released from their respective teams. That’s why it’s dangerous to say that preseason production is everything.
David from De Burg:
Would it be too mean to say that I almost want Matt Scott to take the quarterback position? Or is that not mean enough for your taste?
John: It’s not mean, because you can want for anything you like. I wouldn’t hold your breath, though. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne have split the vast majority of significant repetitions in the first four days of practice, and there’s no indication that’s going to change. With each day that passes on which that’s the case, the less likely Matt Scott or Mike Kafka get enough repetitions to compete for the job.
Ryan from Duville:
Mike Brown looked good in the training camp highlights. How are his ball skills? Does he catch everything that hits his hands or does he have tendency to drop passes that should be caught? I think he could be a guy that develops into a great receiver in a year or two.
John: He drops a few, but just about every receiver drops a few. Brown looked very good in the offseason and more significantly, he has followed that by looking good in camp. How he performs in preseason games will be very important, but if Brown plays as well the next three weeks as he has the last four days, then he will be difficult to keep off the roster.
Michael from Jackson de Ville, FL:
#Moodachay? More like Mooda plaid shorts back to the closet. Seriously though, any insight as to why for a couple plays it appeared Henne was lining up as a receiver with Denard Robinson throwing the ball? Thought it was interesting.
John: Robinson was working from the Wildcat formation. When teams run plays from the Wildcat, the quarterback often splits wide. And back off the shorts. #Moodachay.
Nick from London, England:
Despite "checking out," we all know John from Napa took a look at O-Zone again to see if his comment was posted, don't we? And now he knows that we know. How silly does he feel today? #moodachay
John: #Moodachay.

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