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O-Zone: Gulf Coast naivety

Posted Feb 15, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Daniel from Johnston, IA:
You've answered a lot of questions about Manziel and even a few about Bortles. What's your take on Bridgewater? What do you like about him and what concerns you?
John: I like that he seems to be a good leader who inspires the confidence of his teammates, and I like that he seems to have NFL arm strength. I also like that he appears to be able to read the field and that he looks to throw before he runs. I like that of the three quarterbacks people discuss – Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater – he consistently has done the most NFL-looking things in college, and he has done so pretty consistently. I don’t like that he appears smallish and slight by NFL standards. Historically, that can be a significant drawback. I also don’t like that he doesn’t feel like a can’t-miss guy, but you don’t always get to draft a can’t-miss guy. They are incredibly rare.
James from Gainesville, FL:
John, if Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are on the draft board when the Jaguars pick at No. 3 overall, who would you pick to be your quarterback?
John: If I had to pick a quarterback at No. 3, I’d pick Bridgewater because of all of the things I listed in the previous question, and because I just logically believe Manziel’s style won’t translate to the NFL as much as his supporters believe. Then, I’d hold my breath because Manziel is really, really intriguing.
Christopher from Section 109:
O, would the second round be too early for us to take a running back given all of the other needs we have? I ask this because I love Tre Mason. He reminds me so much of Maurice Jones-Drew and I feel he is a very good prospect. Not to mention, he and Johnny Football would be a dangerous combo... lol.
John: One fer Tre Mason, but yes, right now the second round might be a round early.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
You might not want to open this can of worms in the O-Zone, but I heard an interesting thought about Michael Sam – that his draft stock could fall not because teams are afraid of drafting a gay player; rather, that teams are afraid of cutting a gay player. There would inevitably be thoughts and accusations from outsiders that sexual preference had something to do with him being cut, even if he deserved to be cut. I could see a team not wanting to deal with that potential headache and passing on him.
John: I don’t consider these particular worms overly unwieldy; and while there’s something to this theory, it overlooks one crucial element. I honestly don’t think Sam’s draft stock will fall much because of people being uncomfortable with his sexual orientation as much as teams being wary of the potential distractions. Most people who run NFL teams aren’t big on unnecessary storylines and white noise around the daily routine. If Sam’s draft stock indeed falls, I certainly think the distraction of potential reaction to situations would be among the reason. At the same time, for a team to release Michael Sam that team would have had to obtained Michael Sam, which means they were willing to deal with the very issues people would be accusing them of wanting to avoid.
Fumo from New Bedford, MA:
I was raised in a Patriot-loving home and I grew into a lover of the Jaguars because they drafted me in Madden when I was young. Now, does that make me the weirdo of the family?
John: That’s probably not what makes you the weirdo of the family.
Casey from Kingsville, TX:
If you believe Watkins is the guy at No. 3 then take him. It's not like you are placing all bets on him like Atlanta did when they traded up to get Julio Jones.
John: There is that, but mainly you just want to be sure he’s a change-the-game, win-you-a-handful-of-games receiver on the level of, say, Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. He may not be as good but you want him to have something close to that impact.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?
John: Without question.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
Considering Louis Delmas and Johnathan Cyprien went to same high school, where do you put the odds of Delmas coming to the Jags? How long do you think it took Cyprien to place that call once the news was announced?
John: Considering Delmas is 26, he’s a player who will be coveted in free agency. The early guess here is he’s a player the Jaguars would at least discuss, though they’re going to be prudent in how much they spend in free agency. Also, remember: they like the young players at safety and think highly of Josh Evans, so I wouldn’t say they’re desperate there. As far as Cyprien and Delmas going to the same high school, that doesn’t influence the “odds” of Delmas signing with the Jaguars either way.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I’ve said some stupid things in my life, but Michael Vick? You do need to tell that guy to hold his breath - for a long time.
John: Hey! One fer that guy holding his … now, wait … that’s not very nice.
Mike from Jacksonville:
John, I have no problem with the London thing; I really don't. But do they really have to pick our BEST home opponent on the schedule for it – a.k.a. San Francisco last year and Dallas this year? I mean, those are the biggest draws on the home slate and as a long time loyal season-ticket holder - who can't afford a huge trip overseas - I'd really like to see those. It doesn't seem fair to us; it’s almost like we're being punished. Can't they take Tennessee, Houston or Cleveland instead?
John: I hesitate to answer this, because it’s a hot-button issue that historically creates a lot of angry responses in the O-Zone. But hey, I’m a big man – or least a man who wishes he were in slightly better shape – so, I can handle it. First, I’m not big on the whole “best-game-of-the-schedule” thing. When I was a supporter of teams, I never much cared who my team was playing; if my team was involved, that was a good game and it didn’t matter if the opponent was popular or not. I understand many don’t share that view. Now that my opinion is out of the way, I’d say the London game usually will include a high-profile opponent. The league wants popular teams playing in that market to promote the league and the game internationally. That, after all, is the whole idea. And I don’t see the league scheduling division games over there. Teams would be reluctant to give up a home game in that scenario.
Royce from Jacksonville:
What are the chances Blaine Gabbert will be the starter if Henne is not resigned by the Jags? Blaine won the job last season.
John: I’d say the chances are greater that Gabbert will start if Henne isn’t re-signed, but I wouldn’t say they are good either way.
Bill from Jacksonville:
Which current or former NFL player did you think would have been a great NFL player who just never/hasn't panned out? And which player did you not think would succeed in the league, but has been very successful? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: Bill! Hello! I’ve seen so many players that it’s hard to pick just one in each scenario, and to answer your question I’ll stick to players I’ve covered – and I’d have to remove injuries from the equation. For instance, it appeared Michael Cheever and Tavian Banks were headed to very good careers for the Jaguars in the 1990s before injuries, and I really thought players such as Tony Boselli and Bob Sanders were headed to the Hall of Fame before injuries. I guess the player who surprised me most was Jimmy Smith. When I first met Smith in the spring of 1995, he had just signed with the Jaguars and was a guy trying to make an expansion team as a street free agent. He didn’t appear to have much confidence and it really took him about a year and a half to flourish. After that, of course, he was as good of a receiver as there was in the league for a while. As far as players who didn’t succeed, I guess I’d go with Anthony Gonzalez and Ed Johnson, who played for the Colts when I covered them. Gonzalez showed flashes of being a very good slot receiver, but never developed – although, again, injuries played a role. Johnson was a very good defensive tackle for a year, but was suspended. Although he returned, he never developed.
Kyle from Clearwater, FL:
John, I've done it. My fiancé has agreed to teal and gold for the wedding colors! I don't even think she knows that those are Jags colors.
John: Look at you … celebrating a victory not knowing you’ll never have another. It’s adorable, really.

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