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O-Zone: A cool connection

Posted May 19, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Greg from Section 233 and Jacksonville:
John, The worm has turned for us, man (Willem Dafoe in Platoon). That was freaking awesome. A little success and this town is ready to explode. Gotta give it to the organization and the Bold City Brigade.
John: I got the same feeling at Jaguars 2014 rookie minicamp Friday and Saturday, and what was cool was a lot of people had that vibe. It was a story on local news and it was obvious enough that it caught traction nationally, too. It had the feeling perhaps not of a watershed moment, but at least as the start of something. And why not? The Jaguars had more than 6,000 people on Saturday for a rookie minicamp practice. Think about that: a rookie minicamp practice for a team that has won six games the past two seasons. Now, on the one hand it’s easy to attribute it to people wanting to see Blake Bortles because he’s the quarterback of the future, but there was nowhere near that sort of energy or crowd in the first few 2011 training camp practices when Blaine Gabbert – a Top 10 selection and then the designated quarterback of the future – made his debut in front of the fans. And that was in training camp. No, as much as the energy this past weekend at rookie minicamp was about the rookie class, it was more about fans wanting to be a part of what’s going on around this team. Has the worm turned? Maybe not completely, but it’s turning and if you didn’t believe it before it’s hard to not believe after Friday and Saturday.
Charlie from Jacksonville:
No question here, exactly. I have just downloaded the Jaguars Desk Site and am really impressed. It's a great way to connect with fans, and vice-versa. It almost looks like there's a plan in place here: build a team worth connecting with, and then provide its fans with maximum ways to connect. This is AWESOME.
John: There has been some talk of having someone on staff to answer fan questions every day, too. I’ll let you know when I hear more.
Sonny from Ponte Vedra, FL:
With the new video boards and other upgrades at the stadium, why wouldn't the Jags let fans come down to EverBank Field to watch away games of the team?
John: First, it would be more than “letting” fans into the stadium. There would have to be much the same logistical structure in terms of security and people working the game as at a home game. That’s a relatively small issue compared to the overriding fact that it’s against NFL rules. The league, because of its deals with television networks, doesn’t allow teams to show games at road games at home stadiums. Doing so would adversely affect ratings.
Jeremy from Jacksonville:
I know you said the Jags are high on Pasztor at right tackle, but does he have a legitimate shot to beat out Leon Searcy? Also, with Alualu's role changing a bit, how does Dick Jauron intend to split reps between him and Joel Smeenge?
John: These are legitimate questions. I’ll probably run them by Mike Maser and John Pease at the next minicamp.
Stevie from Cork, Ireland:
Cork, Ireland and Duval 'Till I Die #DTWD
John: Yes.
John from Jacksonville:
It's interesting to see the huge shift from the Henne/ Gabbert debate to it being all about Bortles. It will be interesting to watch how the quarterback competition unfolds in training camp and preseason and very interesting to see if Bortles beats Henne – or if Henne has a career season to give the coaches something else to think about next offseason. Also, the signing of Bortles surely helps the desire to improve the Jags paw print presence in the Orlando market.
John: It indeed will be interesting to see the Henne/Bortles conversation develop. Most fans and media at the rookie camp over the weekend seemed content to watch Bortles and think of him as the future, but that dynamic certainly will change as the season approaches. The team’s plan is absolutely to start Henne, but if Bortles surprises and is truly ready, the conversation will change and the plan could, too. Your point about the career year for Henne is a valid one, but right now the odds seem very much against something happening this season to prevent Bortles from starting in 2015. As for the presence in Orlando, Bortles certainly could be a piece of that puzzle. It will take more than simply him and Storm Johnson being on the roster, but if they play well and the Jaguars win, then yes, it stands to reason a significant, long-term interest in the Jaguars could grow in Orlando. There’s no reason that couldn’t or shouldn’t happen.
Todd from Section 4-something:
Are you kidding? I AM Queens Blvd.... errrrr, Bay Street!"
John: Errrrr … cool.
Will from Jacksonville:
If you believe Lee and Robinson are the Jaguars starting receivers for the future, can you explain why the Jaguars would resign Cecil Shorts III? Shorts is good enough to start in the NFL and would command starter's money. Why would the Jaguars pay starter's money for a backup receiver?
John: Sure, I can explain it in the best way there is to explain something – with very little effort and a whole lot of confidence. The Jaguars would re-sign Shorts because you need more than two quality receivers in the NFL. A third receiver is a backup in name only in today’s NFL – and really not even in name only anymore. I doubt the Jaguars will pay Shorts like a No. 1 receiver, but a long-term deal to keep a productive player makes sense.
Chuck from Summerville, SC:
Just bought season tickets. It’s a four-hour drive each way. If I buy you a beer can I stay at your house and drive home in the morning?
John: No, and don’t call anymore. I’m serious.
Tucker from New York, NY:
John, I'm confused. I've heard conflicting reports about Bortles' arm strength. Some people describe him as a "big-armed" quarterback, while others claim that arm strength is one of his major weaknesses. Which one is it, John? Does Bortles have a big arm, or a weak one?
John: I’m sorry you’re confused. Being confused can be … well, confusing. I don’t know that it’s accurate to call Bortles big-armed, but it’s equally incorrect to say it’s a weakness. My guess is people call him that because he is a big person of more-than-prototypical size for a quarterback. Either way, he has more than enough arm strength to play the position.
Mary from Jacksonville and Section 104:
WOW, John … 6,215 people at rookie minicamp. Everyone is pumped up for the regular season to start. I think this is the start of something big.
John: Could be.
Evan from Ocoee, FL:
Hey O-Man, the central theme surrounding Gus Bradley's head coaching philosophy is the emphasis on competition. What if Blake Bortles beats out Chad Henne during training camp?
John: Then, he would start, but the Jaguars don’t expect that to happen. It’s not that they don’t believe Bortles has talent. He does. There may be times between now and the regular season that he looks better in certain situations than Chad Henne. But the Jaguars’ belief – based on the experience and knowledge of the key decision-makers – is that Bortles probably won’t be ready to start immediately. It would be surprising if he proves them wrong, though pleasantly so.
Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach and Section 215:
It's ironic that someone from Houston would predict the Jags starting 0-5 this year. Nobody predicted the Texans would be 2-14 and be swept by the Jags last year. The famous physicist Niels Bohr once said, "Prediction is very difficult especially when it is about the future." I think he was a very smart man.
John: Niels Bohr was cool. I liked him.
Austin from Atlanta, GA:
Telvin Smith sure is an exciting guy isn't he? Easy to root for guys like him to succeed. What role do you picture him not only this year, but potentially a couple years down the line?
John: He is exciting, and he has the personality that does make it easy to cheer for him. He probably will start this season on special teams and playing a backup role at linebacker. The Jaguars would like to see him add bulk, and though he appears to have a frame to withstand that easily, adding significant size is something that often takes a year and a full offseason.
Mike from Tallahassee, FL:
Why do the coaches wear long sleeves even when it’s hot outside?
John: To prove their manhood to one another.
Justin from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
As Fan No. 6,215 please tell Coach Bradley that I'm sorry for missing the rookie practice on Saturday and that I will be better next time.
John: You’re forgiven, but on a serious note, anyone doubting the real, passionate and very cool connection that’s continuing to grow between this team and the fan base is ignoring reality.

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