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O-Zone: A lotta love

JACKSONVILLE – Last day for looking back on the Browns. I'll miss this, gotta admit. More than a little.

Let's get to it … Ty from Duval:
That was a team win over the Browns Sunday. I really enjoyed watching a Jaguars game, the whole game, for the first time in a very long time. I really love the quotes after the game … still hungry, still have something to prove. I also loved the players acknowledging the fan base standing by them. All the positive energy is manifesting into positive outcomes.
John: People love winning. As they should. Winning is fun and winning covers many, many flaws. The Jaguars still have flaws, but you know what? We'll talk about those in later O-Zones and later questions. There is time for all of that. For this question, I'll focus on something you noted late in your email and that's the players acknowledging the fans. First, the fans were raucous and energetic on Sunday. Talking to players, there was a real energy throughout the game – and in the fourth quarter – that they appreciated. Second, I've had three different players – Sen'Derrick Marks, Telvin Smith and Denard Robinson – since the end of the game bring up how much they appreciated it and how much the support meant to them. I've often said that there is a huge portion of this fan base that is just waiting for something positive. You saw it at times in the offseason at open practices and you saw it again Sunday in the fourth quarter. Something special is possible here. The Jaguars have to do a lot more than win one game, but the hints of it are real. As the team improves, it's going to grow.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
"We are the champions, my friend … and we'll keep on fighting 'til the end....duhhh duh duhhhhh …" Well, not quite, but, damn, it feels good....
John: Victories are cool. People like them.
Ryan from Orlando, FL:
Good thing nobody told the Jags that their only winnable game left was the Titans at home. #ThatsWhyTheyPlayTheGames
John: That was a hot topic last week, wasn't it – how the Jaguars only had one more chance to win this season, and how that game was at home against Tennessee on some distant date? I suppose I kinda, sorta let that topic slip my mind because I learned long ago not to look at four- or six-game stretches and try to predict specific victories and losses during it. The NFL changes too much week to week and within reason, most teams can beat any other team on a given day. But no, as it turned out, the Titans at home was not the Jaguars' sole winnable game. That wasn't the case last week and it's not the case this week. Let the games happen. Nothing is written in stone at this point.
Peter from St. Johns and Section 242:
So, I try to find the O-Zone late Sunday night and end up in a parallel universe. No anger, no despair, and not one call for any firings. I was so disoriented I had to take the "Way Back" machine to a week ago. Is this what winning does to the O-Zone? Is this something I should get used to?
John: You're all right. Sit down. Breathe. Good, good …
Keith from Jacksonville and Section 436:
Very thankful for the win, but to play Devil's Advocate … Am I the only one who is really concerned that Bortles may be a bust? Yeah, the win makes everything better, but three picks? If we had lost, BB would have been roasted. With the win, should we be concerned?
John: Blake Bortles has started four NFL games. His team has played significantly better with him in the lineup than before he started playing. If that was all we could say positive about Bortles, that would be enough to show that he's not going to be a bust. The fact that he has shown many, many other traits you want to see from a young quarterback is gravy. He's not going to be a bust. He's a rookie figuring it out. It takes time.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Before the draft, the word on Bortles was he might have the highest upside of last year's quarterbacks, but he was in need of a lot of refinement. Although he has progressed faster than the coaches expected, it would appear that the assessment of him was pretty much spot on. Although you want to see fewer interceptions, I'm not overly concerned at this point. As long as we can see improvement as he plays through the season and – more importantly – next year, I'm just thrilled we have a guy who looks like he might have the potential to be a star.
John: Yep.
John from Jacksonville:
I knew they could do it. I hope that winning feeling permeates their whole being. B2 was below average, but that Defense was number one! We should have been in the mix for Percy Harvin. Another missed Free Agent opportunity.
John: Let's see … Seahawks have a talented player they want gone enough they feel compelled to trade him … Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley is close with staff in Seattle … let's just say that's probably not a formula that ends up with that player playing for the Jaguars.
Christopher from Philadelphia, PA:
Over/under 25 interceptions for Blake Bortles at the end of the year?
John: Under, but just barely.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
The thing I like most about Bortles is his swagger. When he threw the interceptions he didn't just shrug and walk off the field. There was some visual frustration, but as a fan you love to see that. He's not satisfied making mistakes, and those mistakes don't seem to rattle him like you expect they would.
John: That's what players like about him, too. Bortles threw two interceptions in the first half Sunday and one of them looked like it was his fault. He threw another in the second half that cost his team points. Following the two in the first half, he engineered a lightning-quick drive that gave the Jaguars the lead. Following the one in the second half, he stayed composed and continued to lead the offense. Teammates say it's remarkable how Bortles doesn't allow past mistakes to rattle him, how he continues to lead and be calm whatever the circumstance. Big, if true – really, really big.
Gregory from Jacksonville:
This was how it was supposed to be. This is what we signed up for....
John: This is what the Jaguars worked toward. This was better. This is what it takes time to build. This is what it won't look like every week, at least not for a while. This is what felt good this week, though …
Mike from Jacksonville:
John: No, but there's a significantly better chance of that than 0-16.
James from St. Petersburg, FL:
Did Telvin Smith have a breakout game? I think the defense bailed out Blake's three-interception, one-touchdown performance. I'll take it any way I can get it.
John: Telvin Smith had a big game. If he never does it again, it's a fluke. If he does it quite a bit, it's a breakout game.
John from Savannah, GA:
Safe to say that this was the defense that fans (and Gus) were expecting from the beginning of the season?
John: It's a lot closer than it was at the beginning of the season, yes.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Two questions... One, do you think Bortles' confidence will grow even after he struggled, because he knows that he doesn't have to be the hero? Two, with the Jaguars having shown they're willing to cut guys who don't perform, is there any risk for Gerhart if Denard keeps playing well and Storm proves to be a capable backup? Thanks for all your hard work...making it through the first six weeks was difficult as a fan, and I'm sure it was even worse for you because you had to feel the wrath.
John: Two answers … one, I think Bortles' confidence will grow because he's a confident guy who will learn from mistakes and not worry about every interception. Confidence just doesn't seem to be an issue for the guy. Two, I don't see Gerhart getting released. He has dealt with a foot injury his first five games and even with that, showed some good things as a third-down back. I don't know that he's going to be the Bell Cow back that some thought before the season, but he has value.
Tym from the Southside:
Joeckel manhandled the edge on both of those end-zone runs. Count me in as one for more weak-side rushing.
John: Joeckel has run-blocked well this season. He has adapted in that area more quickly and more completely than he has as a pass blocker, though there's little indication he won't be very good pass blocker, too.
Mike from Tallahassee, FL:
So now we love Gus and Dave, right?
John: Pretty much, yes.

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