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O-Zone: A phone call away

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Cody from Boston, MA:
Why do you feel fans want Brandon Allen trying out for a starting role? I think the majority of people are hoping he turns into a TB12 situation. I would rather put my hopes on BB5 getting a "B" grade year than hoping to find a man I can't stop hearing about.
John: The answer revolves a simple, elusive concept: hope. Fans want Allen to get a chance to work with the first team because they believe – rightly or wrongly – that that they have seen enough from Blake Bortles to know he is not the right quarterback. They hope that maybe, maybe Allen – a sixth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft – is the right quarterback. It's understandable that fans feel that way this offseason. And Bortles struggled enough at times last season that fans have every right to feel that way. Fans see Tom Brady (TB12), Dak Prescott and some other examples of late-drafted quarterbacks and understandably wonder if perhaps a similar late-draft success story could happen in Jacksonville. As of right now, Allen is the Jaguars' third-team quarterback. That's his status because Jaguars coaches and decision-makers believe that Bortles is the best quarterback on this roster followed by Chad Henne followed by Allen. They believe this based on practices, meetings and everything else they have seen from all three players in extensive time spent around them. That doesn't mean nothing can ever change on this front. All three will play in the preseason. Perhaps Allen will play so well during his opportunity that coaches change their stance on this matter. Perhaps Bortles will play poorly. Perhaps there will be injury. Many things can happen in the NFL, but for now Bortles is the starting quarterback with Henne as the backup and Allen No. 3. It would be an upset if that changes.
Sheriff Buford T. Justine from The Fringe:
Nice job of trying to let Jag fans down easy, O Man. Bortles is who he is: a turnover-prone quarterback who is inaccurate, throws too many ducks and can't read defenses well enough to audible to a play that can hit for a big gain or touchdown. Other than that, he's a fine NFL quarterback.
John: That's a fair assessment based on three seasons. I can tell you that there have been some positive signs during camp on this front. Bortles has looked off defenders at times. He has shown signs of things veterans show – making the right throws in situations in which he previously made wrong throws. That doesn't mean it automatically will translate to regular-season situations. That doesn't mean the five interceptions last Saturday weren't disturbing. It means there have been some good signs.
Julio from Oak Hills:
What's wrong with Calais Campbell? Why is he not practicing? Should this be a concern?
John: Campbell has been out much of training camp with an undisclosed injury. I have heard or seen nothing to indicate it's a major concern. I really don't care if Campbell plays a preseason snap. I don't think the Jaguars deep down care that much if he does, either. If he's healthy for the regular season – and there's no reason to think that won't be the case – he will be fine.
Brett from Jacksonville:
Is one of the bigger benefits of practicing with other teams on special teams? I imagine it's hard to practice special teams coverage alone, because obviously you don't have two special teams on a roster.
John: The main benefits of practicing against other teams are going against different schemes than what your team runs – and going against players who don't know your tendencies. After months of offseason work and a week or so of padded work, a player such as Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye knows what to expect from a player such as wide receiver Allen Robinson – and vice versa. The Jaguars have worked against themselves for months. Now, beginning Monday in New England, players get to see if what has been working against teammates will work against different players using different approaches. And if it doesn't, they must figure out how to adjust or fail. As for special teams, teams typically can get work done in that area if they so choose – especially in training camp. The roster numbers are more than adequate this time of the NFL year to have two sets of special teams.
Neal from New Jersey:
Hey, John: I'm really excited for the season. Who do you think will step up their game and be the most improved player this year? I think it would be free safety Tashaun Gipson, who will lead us in picks. Also, how have the free agents looked so far? I know that Calais has been destroying, but how about the others?
John: Gipson is a good choice when projecting the Jaguars' most-improved player. He seems motivated, and Head Coach Doug Marrone this week sounded optimistic that Gipson would have a chance to have a good season. I also think right tackle Jermey Parnell has a chance to be improved this season. The consensus around the Jaguars is he was pretty good at the end of last season once he got healthy. As for the free agents, it would hard to look better than Bouye thus far. He's drawing raves, and deservedly so.
Edward from Los Angeles, CA:
What exactly is a co-starter? Does that designate an open competition, or is it more like "cupcakes for everyone?"
John: It means coaches aren't yet ready to name a starter at a certain position. Players don't get cupcakes in the NFL.
Dave form Glass Half Empty:
John, should we be concerned? Our third- and fourth-round draft picks are currently fourth on the depth chart at their positions. Not sure how you make a team as the fourth-string anything. Our first and second corners are both on the PUP list. How can you be first team if you are technically not on the team yet? What is the latest on Calais? When do we panic? When do we come off the ledge? When is the team required to file an injury report?
John: Panic not. The Jaguars' coaches want young players to earn positions. That's why running back Leonard Fournette (Round 1) and left tackle Cam Robinson (Round 2) are listed as co-starters, and it's why wide receiver Dede Westbrook (Round 4) and defensive end Dawuane Smoot (Round 3) are listed down on the depth chart. All will be on the roster this season. I wouldn't worry much about cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey or Aaron Colvin yet either, though I might be if the regular season weren't … OVER A MONTH AWAY. And yes, that's the same reason you shouldn't worry about Campbell – and you can tell I'm serious about all of this because I used CAPITAL LETTERS. Relax. Get off the ledge. I don't know what the Jaguars' record will be this season, but training camp on the health front is going fine.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
I know that this isn't exactly the hot topic of the week, but have the Jags ever hosted the Seahawks before?
John: The Jaguars and Seahawks have played four times in Jacksonville – 1995 (Seahawks, 47-30), 1996 (Jaguars, 20-13), 2000 (Seahawks, 28-21) and 2005 (Jaguars, 26-14).
Bob from Sumter, SC:
Any observations so far regarding James Sample? Are Sample and Wilson competing for one roster spot?
John: Sample has been running with the reserves and is listed fourth team on the Jaguars' unofficial depth chart. Wilson is listed with the second team.
Patrick from Neptune Beach, FL:
John, it's interesting to see James Sample as the fourth-string strong safety. Can't be easy to come back after what is essentially two years away from the game.
John: True.
David from Orlando, FL:
Senior O - I just read your "Expertly Speaking" article and it reminded me of a question I've been meaning to ask. When it's time to draft a quarterback, wouldn't it make sense if we hire a quarterback scout, preferably a successful and highly-opinionated former NFL quarterback? I know you can't get Ron Jaworski or Trent Dilfer, but someone like that who knows what it takes to succeed in this league. Since the position is of such great importance and making the wrong decision can set back the entire organization for years, doesn't it make sense to optimize your chances of picking the right guy by not having a "generalist" make the decision, but a former quarterback expertly speaking?
John: Playing quarterback in the NFL means you were good enough to play quarterback in the NFL. That's an impressive accomplishment that might make you wealthy for the rest of your days. It doesn't necessarily make you an expert in scouting and projecting the careers of future quarterbacks, and I wouldn't invest much time or money in hiring former quarterback to help me scout future ones.
Bob from Jacksonville:
Dear Mr. O: When teams have mixed practices such as the Jags have with the Patriots next week, do the head coaches ever talk with one another?
John: Yes.

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