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O-Zone: A good start

Posted Aug 11, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Paul from Lohrville, IA:
What is more impressive? The way the Jaguars looked on the field Friday, or the fact that Gus Bradley did not change? It was obvious to me that this team is a lot further ahead of where it was this time a year ago. But Gus' postgame speech was consistent.
John: I’ve stopped thinking there’s the slightest chance Gus Bradley will change. That doesn’t mean it’s not impressive, and it doesn’t mean it’s not important. It is indeed impressive and it is indeed important. His coaching philosophy is about focusing on improvement and competing rather than focusing solely on victories and losses – and at this point, there’s no reason to think he’s going to come off message.
Scott from Jacksonville:
To me, all this talk about Henne/Bortles being the problem/solution is secondary to the main problem, which is the individual strength of our interior offensive linemen. I understand it takes time to build chemistry between them, but at some point, it also takes natural skill and power, something Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and even Austin Pasztor seemed unable to demonstrate. I know it's a small sample, but they got pushed around, which is not a question of chemistry, but of ability, correct? Does it seem hard to imagine the Jaguars drafting anything other than a guard in the first round of next year's draft?
John: I would be absolutely stunned if the Jaguars drafted a guard in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. In fact, though I rarely say never, not only won’t they take a guard in the first round, I doubt they will take a guard in the first five rounds. The team drafted right guard Brandon Linder in the third round this past offseason and also signed left guard Zane Beadles as an unrestricted free agent. That’s supposed to take care of your front-line guard issues for a while. Now, if neither Mike Brewster nor Jacques McClendon emerge as an answer to the center question this season, could the Jaguars drafted a center in the second or third round next offseason? Yes, that’s conceivable. Finally, I wouldn’t throw Austin Pasztor into the same category as McClendon/Brewster. He’s starting at right tackle and there’s no indication the Jaguars don’t like that situation.
Beau from the Bud Zone:
I know it’s a little premature, but I don't think anybody will be talking about one of the Jaguars’ biggest needs being a pass rush for a very long time. Do you think the defense has the potential to be rated in the Top 5?
John: It is premature, and while the defensive line – and by extension, the pass rush – looked good Friday, let’s not draw comparisons to the 1985 Bears yet. But yes, this group is better and it appears to have the potential to keep the Jaguars in a lot of games this season. That’s more important than ranking in the Top 5.
Chris from Jacksonville:
Two things, O-man: Brewster's two bad snaps both hit Henne's hands. They may have been high and fast, but like a receiver, if it hits your hands you should catch it. You keep pointing out Bortles played against Tampa's twos and threes, but he also played with twos and threes so doesn't that balance out some?
John: Henne perhaps could have caught those snaps, but they would have been really good catches and it’s the center’s responsibility to make that an easy play by the quarterback. And yes, Bortles also played with the second-team offense, but the intent of noting the second-team defense – as well as pointing out that Tampa Bay blitzed him just once – was to note that Bortles was playing in a simpler situation against more vanilla defenses. All of that isn’t to denigrate Bortles as much as to point out that he’s not at an All-Pro level quite yet.
@D-Wizzle09 from Jacksonville:
So, 59,100 fans attended the Jags 1st preseason game? Wow; it was really exciting at EverBank Field Friday night. The energy was high and Bortles looks to be the real deal. We truly have something special brewing down here in Jagsonville!!!! #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Tom from Charleston, SC:
It was indeed an improved defense that took the field Friday. However, they continuously failed to seal the edges and turn runs inside. A team that has good speed in the backfield will exploit that. Also, Todman and Johnson appeared to stop their legs when the designed hole was not there. If they don't learn to bounce the play or pop a different hole the offense will be little better than last year. Your take?
John: My take is the defensive line did its job well, pursuing and keeping linemen off the linebackers. That made it easier for the linebackers to make plays. My take also is that the front seven should get better on the edge and turning runs back inside when Dekoda Watson gets on the field and as the season continues. The running game will be a work in progress for a little while, but I think you’ll see a different level of ability to break outside and change direction when Toby Gerhart gets in the game. He’s better in those areas than many realize.
Brian from Mandarin, FL:
My eyes tell me the offensive line pass protection is decent, and the run blocking needs work. The center position requires more time/competition. The backup offensive linemen are better than I thought. My heart tells me I am grateful for no injuries this week on the offensive line. This gives us a chance to improve, work things out and get better team blocking, to build a better run game and better passing.
John: Your eyes are pretty good, and your heart is, too.
Chris from Phoenix, AZ:
Where's the love for Telvin Smith? He is the one who put pressure on Josh McCown to force the bad throw on the interception and got up and made the block to get Guy into the end zone. He made other plays throughout the game. One fer Telvin Smith being a force this year.
John: My word, the better question would be, “Where isn’t the love for Telvin Smith?” Every time you ask anyone around the Jaguars about him, they speak highly. The media talks about him a lot and it’s usually to give him praise. Fans seem to ask about him a lot. It appears he’s going to be a really good player and he’s a likeable guy, but receiving “love” doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Before we start getting all excited about our "shut-down" defense, let's remember the Bucs’ offense was ranked dead last last year.
John: Yes, Jim, that’s true. What’s also true is the Jaguars appear significantly better on the defensive front than a year ago, and they appear likely to be better in the secondary. Those are significant steps in the right direction, and those steps can be seen after one preseason game. This is a building process that appears to be moving in the right direction. There are some people who might think it’s OK to be excited about that.
Isaiah from Jacksonville:
What defensive line/blitz packages seem to work most consistent in the Jaguars’ pass rush? What combination of players are they going to use or are they still testing different things throughout preseason?
John: We’re one game into the preseason, but the Jaguars’ third-down package of Chris Clemons, Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and Sen’Derrick Marks – a version of the lightning package – appeared effective on Friday. Put Chris Smith into that mix and you have an idea of the Jaguars’ best pass-rush unit. They’ll keep working different combinations, and there’s also talk of a four Leo package of Clemons, Branch, Davis and Smith.
Jonathan from Orange Park, FL:
Jaguars future looks really bright right now. #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Gary from Wesley Chapel, FL:
Living in the Tampa area, I was “forced” to watch the game on the Bucs broadcast. It gave me some perspective I wouldn't have had. At the beginning of the game they were emphasizing the fact there were 'major concerns' about the Tampa Bay O-line. Also during the game they repeated the fact that the Buccaneers were only utilizing a four-man rush, particularly while Bortles was in there. They did admit he looked very good for his first NFL action. Still it was great to see a glimpse of what is being built in Jacksonville. There is some exciting football in the Jaguars’ future and it's already starting.
John: The points you made are pretty spot on. The Buccaneers’ offense and offensive line is not elite, and Tampa Bay indeed blitzed Bortles just once. Bradley made a point to mention the latter in his next-day press conference. But you know what? The Jaguars weren’t going to win the Super Bowl the other night; they were looking to get the first parts of a foundation established. They did that, and now it’s time to take the next step.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
John the defensive line looked great early Friday. Nice pressure. The offensive line looked OK, but obviously two snaps over the quarterback’s head aren't good. What was the overall feeling and vibe over there?
John: The overall vibe was that Friday was a good start, and that it was only a start.

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