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O-Zone: Good start

Posted Aug 7, 2017

FOXBORO, Mass. – Let’s get to it …

Stephen from Jacksonville:
You're right that there are no major surprises about the first depth chart of 2017, but I find it slightly interesting Marqise Lee is listed as the starting receiver opposite Allen Robinson. Does this say more about Lee's talent finally coming through, a drop off in Allen Hurns’ level of play – or simply that the Jaguars intend Hurns to only play in the slot receiver position this year? It’s probably nitpicking on my part, but does the listed order of the Jaguars’ top three receivers mean much at all? Also, with Lee and Hurns both having some health concerns, how important is it for the receiver depth chart to remain fluid, in regards to the roles everyone who is in the top six will be expected to play?
John: Lee being listed as the starter on the Jaguars’ first unofficial 2017 depth chart is significant because it reflects what has been going on throughout ‘17 Training camp – that Lee is running with the starters, and that he most likely will be a starting outside receiver in the regular season. It has nothing to do with Hurns’ level of play, which has not dropped off. It has to do with Lee being a big-time talent who earned a starting role with his play late last season – and his level of performance during the offseason and thus far in training camp. And I think it’s time to stop referring to Lee’s “health concerns.” He like very NFL player could be injured at any time, but he has gone long enough without having the stops and starts that plagued his first two seasons that people can stop painting him with that brush.
Scott from Vienna:
In a recent answer about Myles Jack, you said his experience at the middle-linebacker position might be an issue. I understand middle linebacker is considered the quarterback of the defense, but shouldn't playing with Poz and Telvin help him out?
John: Without question.
Ethan from Rhode Island:
Right before the Raiders game last season I remember thinking that with a 2-3 record it could very well be the Jags’ "last game" of the season. The result was ugly; at 2-4, the season wasn't really lost, but that was a huge punch in the gut to most fans’ hopes. Do you foresee a game of such magnitude this season? I would say Week 5 in Pittsburgh, and Week 7 in Indy, are probably the biggest games of the year. Though, again: the Jags need to win a bit beforehand to make them as important and exciting as they could be.
John: It’s difficult if not impossible to know a season’s biggest games before the season because – as you note – teams must win to make games important. I thought at the time last season the Chicago game was critical because the victory moved the Jaguars to 2-3 and meant that a victory over the Raiders the next week would get them to .500. I thought the Baltimore game earlier in the season would have and should have been huge had the Jaguars won … but they lost, so it’s not remembered as very big.
Josh from Jacksonville:
I would like to tell Scott that a free agent that cost the team $0 and loses them zero games or even hurts you for zero games cannot be your biggest free-agent bust.
John: And if you told him that you would be correct.
Dude from Dallas, TX:
Hey, Mr. O: Blake's "mechanics" problems are a diversion from the real issue. He's never going to be elite, so how can we win with him now? Better players around him helps. We also need to identify his strengths and play to them: Simplify our passing game, give him more intermediate throws, force vanilla defensive formations to make his reads easier, ban forced throws, up the tempo a lot ... go no huddle. What do you think? Oh – and what's it like, living Groundhog Day?
John: Your plan isn’t bad, and it’s one many teams would love to follow. Establishing the run game, and play good defense – most teams like that as Option No. 1. As for "Groundhog Day," it’s actually not bad. I always liked Andie McDowell.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
In years past, Bortles has been labeled as "bad at practicing." Reading all of the reports from offseason work this year, it seems as though that's not the case this time around. Is there truth to this?
John: For the most part, yes.
Steve from Madison, WI:
I understand everyone worrying about Bortles, but there is no doubt in my mind this team is going to be better this year. This defense is going to be good; if Bortles just cuts down on his interceptions and game-losing plays this team will win at least three-to-four more games. They lost nine games by seven points or less last year ... they were right there in every game even against good teams. No matter who's coaching or playing quarterback, this team is right on the cusp. One thing I will say: I don't believe adding Leonard Fournette will magically make them a better run team. It starts up front and they haven't done much to change that offensive line. Do you agree, O?
John: I long have believed that the run game in the NFL pretty much starts and ends with the play of the offensive line. But there are exceptions to that, and Fournette shows signs of being an exception. I don’t know that this offense is going to be a dominant, Top 5 running team, but I would be shocked if it’s not a much better running team this season than last season – and I would be very surprised if there aren’t at least five or six games when it runs very, very effectively.
Brad from O-Man’s Office Coach:
You are shrink to Jag Fans everywhere, allowing us to unload our frustrations and thoughts. Here's to hoping that this season doesn't require therapy but instead high-fives all around. #DrO
John: That wouldn’t suck.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I have been reading ad nauseam during the past months and even recently of people clamoring for Colin Kaepernick to become a Jaguar. Kaepernick had a good run when he was novel with the San Francisco 49ers, but defenses adjusted as they always do and stuffed him like a Thanksgiving turkey. When he regressed to the point that he could not win a quarterback battle against Blaine Gabbert, that should tell people all they need to know – that he is not a starting level NFL quarterback. "Kap" is a system quarterback and you would have to adjust your whole offense to his particular skill set (which as previously stated doesn't work well anymore in the NFL). Why would the Jaguars do that? Then, there is the elephant in the room fact that he protested by kneeling during the national anthem, which he had every right as a U.S. citizen to do. In a military town like Jacksonville, with its sense of patriotism, ticket buyers have every right to protest by not buying tickets in reaction to his protests. That makes him fit in Jacksonville like a sock on a rooster. Do you think Kaepernick would be a good fit for the Jaguars?
John: No, and kneeling has nothing to do with it.
Jordan from Palm Beach, FL:
I know traditionally you play your known starters sparingly through the first two preseason games and the last. Do you think it would be a good idea to play Bortles a little more to get additional "teal time" practice? The quarterback isn't as likely to get injured as a starting running back.
John: I think the playing time for Bortles and most of the Jaguars’ starters will be very traditional throughout the preseason.
Mark from Archer, FL:
John, I am getting annoyed with all these people saying Fournette cannot have the type of rookie season that Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys had last season. Elliot is not a better back than Fournette. Yes Elliot has a better offensive line. But Fournette is the kind of back that will make an average offensive line seem great because he can do so much more. I think that Fournette will lead the league in rushing next season. You heard it from me first: rushing title and Offensive Rookie of the Year – and at some point, he will be given slight consideration for MVP because of just how good he will be.
John: You go, girl.
Pauk from Duvsk:
There is no old Bortles. There is only Bortles. Hold me and pray.
John: The Jaguars play the Houston Texans in the 2017 regular-season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston on September 10.
Sandro from El Paso, TX:
Blake needs to improve decision making, we can all agree on that. But how is his throw looking? From all the tape I've seen it appears he isn't falling back to bad mechanics.
John: So far, so good.

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