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O-Zone: Restin’ easy

Posted Jan 8, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it . . .

Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Can you clarify the loss-of-helmet rule? It seems to favor defense. Steelers running back Le'veon Bell had his touchdown versus the Ravens revoked because his helmet popped off. But then, in the Jags-Colts game, LaRoy Reynolds was allowed to go full blast at the returner and the play wasn't called dead. What gives?
John: The rule states that a play is dead if the “runner’s” helmet comes off. It makes no provision for it happening to another player. You’re right that the rule seems a bit incomplete. I don’t think we’ll reach a point where the NFL declares a play dead whenever any player loses a helmet. At the same time, there’s no way the powers-that-be want a situation such as Reynolds playing full-go with no helmet, so I could see some provision saying that a player without a helmet can no longer attempt to engage in the play.
Chris from St. Mary’s, FL:
When I look at the quarterbacks going into the draft I see a few that stick out and a few that are along the same lines of last year’s draft. What are the chances of the Jags going after an offensive lineman (such as Jake Matthews who played with Luke) in the first round to fill that need of protection and picking up a quarterback in the second or third rounds? There will still be talent still there.
John: I’d be surprised if the Jaguars select an offensive lineman in the first round. I expect them to take quarterback or pass rusher or maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe wide receiver.
Chad from Yulee, FL:
When will the teams be forced to spend the 90 percent floor of the salary cap? How does that actually work? Will teams like Jacksonville have to spend some of this year's unused cap space toward that goal or does it start in 2014? Can you give us a brief rundown of the new salary cap rules?
John: It’s tough to give a brief rundown of the cap rules, because by definition cap rules aren’t brief and they aren’t simple. The rule essentially is that teams have to spend to an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over two four-year periods – 2013-2016 and 2017-2020. There aren’t any specifics that force a team to spend a certain amount in any given season.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
I am constantly reading about the philosophy of not signing too many big-name players as a means of primary player acquisition, but was curious about the reasoning. Is it the cap-space worries, potential for prima-donna drama, or something I am missing? I am not questioning the mentality, as it is practiced by those much smarter than me. I am just curious about the cause and effects the philosophy has towards making a team better for the long haul.
John: It’s mainly about cap space, and to a lesser degree it is about age of the player and reality. The reality is unrestricted free agents more often than not are available for a reason. Their former teams found some reason to not re-sign them. That’s not always the case, but it is a lot of the time. The reality also is when you are signing unrestricted free agents you are signing older players who are comfortable in another system and who are because of their age more susceptible to injury. Those are two reasons many unrestricted free agents do not work out with their new teams. Mostly, though, it’s about cap space. Free agents are by their nature expensive players and if free-agency become your primary means of player acquisition, then you get in the habit of overpaying for older, unfamiliar players. At some point, it becomes a recipe for having an expensive, aging roster and a relatively short window for success.
Aaron from Palm Bay, FL:
Blaine has received a lot of criticism the last three years – which, unfortunately, he has earned. I'd like to say I've always rooted for him. He has handled everything with class, never complaining or blame others. A lot of players could learn a lesson from Blaine.
John: Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch put this in pretty good perspective recently when he said a lot of times when teams change quarterbacks at midseason they become a storyline. Fisch noted that because Gabbert handled the situation maturely and professionally, the Jaguars didn’t become a storyline. Fisch was right.
Angie from Tampa, FL:
What guys from free agency do you think are back next year?
John: The Jaguars’ most high-profile unrestricted free agents are quarterback Chad Henne, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, tight end Clay Harbor and cornerback Will Blackmon. And there’s actually a chance all four could return. Jones-Drew will be allowed to test free agency, but I’m still leaning toward him being back. I could be proven wrong there, but that remains my gut feeling. The Jaguars would like to re-sign Henne for the right price, and Harbor and Blackmon likely would be resigned for very reasonable, short-term contracts.
Erik from Malmo, Sweden:
I, too, would like to ask about college players. How is it possible that those athletes become celebrities? We Europeans probably will never understand but for us it’s like a player from the Championship becoming a star player without playing in the Premier League. How is that possible?
John: College football in the United States is wildly popular. In some regions, it’s nearly as popular as the NFL. Star players are very, very visible and that visibility sometimes trumps their true adaptability into the professional game. There was a guy recently who sort of defined the phenomenon. If only I could remember his name…
Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I'm all for keeping the Culligan ad, is there a way to remove the guy from it?
John: No way. He rocks.
James from Jacksonville:
I'm not opposed to drafting Manziel at all. But, anyone that wants to compare him to Russell Wilson needs to realize Wilson had already graduated from North Carolina State before he went and played his last year at Wisconsin. They may have similar skill sets, but maturity wise, Johnny in no way matches up to Wilson. Still, he's one exciting dude to watch. I just think he'd be better served by staying in college until he graduates.
John: I agree that I’d almost always prefer a player, particularly a quarterback, graduate college before joining the NFL. I’m also realistic enough to know it’s tough to ask a guy to do that if he’s told he’s NFL-ready. All of that said, I’m just not a big believer that we know for sure that Manziel is immature. I know that’s people’s perception, and maybe that perception is reality. But he has been out of high school three years and has been through a lot. He also has proven to be a very good player, a player of whom coaches speak highly in terms of worth ethic and approach. There’s a chance maybe he’s a rascally sort who likes to work hard and have a good time while he does it. I mean, no one questions J.P. Shadrick’s character, right? Am I right? Anyone?
Tommy from Jacksonville:
John, I'm excited. Let me tell you why. Blackmon might be back. But CSIII is definitely back next year. Mike Brown stepped up and showed some real flashes. How about Ace Sanders!? I see you, Ace!! And now there's rumors and speculation of the Jaguars wanting to address WR's in the draft. It's pure unbridled excitement in the youth and development of that group. Now I'm saying this group is Smith and McCardell 2.0, I'm just saying I'm excited. Do you feel it? I feel it.
John: I’m positively tingly.
Mike from Jacksonville:
Do the Jags have "any" players we can consider trade-bait for the upcoming draft?
John: Not likely. The Jaguars traded Eugene Monroe for a pair of draft selections last fall and that was really the only interest the team received for any veterans. If a team wasn’t interested in a player then it’s not likely there would be much interest now. Never say never, but it would be a surprise.
Shannon from Brunswick, GA:
I was wondering your impression of Aaron Murray? He has broken all kind of records and does not seem to get the respect that other college quarterbacks get. I guess it's because he is only 6'1" tall. I heard a television commentator say that as soon as he is interviewed by NFL teams his draft stock will rise because he is very smart and impressive. Your thoughts?
John: I’ve also heard that Murray is impressive, and he certainly performed like an NFL prospect while at Georgia. Like a lot of college quarterbacks, physical size is a concern. Also, Murray’s not expected to be ready to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine – though he said recently he plans to be ready for Georgia’s Pro Day. That’s a lot of moving parts and uncertainty for a player not considered a first-round lock anyway. From what I’ve seen, I think Murray has a chance to be a decent NFL quarterback. At least partly because of circumstances, he could be available on the third day of the draft.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Sleep in, or wake up early to get a head start on the day's nap?
John: Sleep. You can always nap when you wake up.

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