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O-Zone: Aging gracefully

FOXBORO, Mass. – Let's get to it … Bill from Hawthorne Woods, IL:
I think most of us knew the Jaguars don't yet match up equally to the Patriots. Your articles seem to indicate there is a degree of mismatch there as well. My question ... how big of a gap do you sense? I'm sure less than there would have been last year. If these teams played in the regular season, would you expect a tight game or a blowout based on the last couple of days?
John: When a team doesn't "match up" with another, there is a "mismatch;" that's what "not matching up" means. Realistically, I would have been stunned if there weren't a degree of mismatch when the Jaguars and Patriots faced one another this week. How couldn't there be? The Patriots have been the NFL standard – or close to it – for a decade and a half; they won the Super Bowl last season and are favored to do so again. They have a quarterback considered one of the best in NFL history and a head coach in the same class. They have been doing things their way at a high level for a very long time. They have pedigree, talent, organization and continuity; winning and operating with efficiency is in their DNA. The Jaguars are striving to get there, but as Head Coach Doug Marrone said this week, they have work to do. They have a first-year head coach and went 3-13 last season. They haven't had a winning season since 2007. They have a quarterback trying to ascend to a level where he is considered a good, starting quarterback – and no one knows if he's going to get there. While the Jaguars have more talent than three or four years ago, it's not yet proven talent. It's also talent that will depend a lot on the aforementioned quarterback's development. It's not surprising that two weeks into training camp the Patriots look ahead of the Jaguars – well ahead at times. But yes, I think there's less of a gap than there would have been last season – and certainly less of a gap than there was in 2015 when the teams played. I would expect the Patriots to win if these teams played in the regular season and I doubt the Jaguars would have the ball in the final two minutes with a chance to take the lead. But the Jaguars are hardly the only team that would be in that situation this season. The Patriots are good. Really good.
George from Jacksonville:
Logan is right: the season is over. One play, one nice move by a pretty good defensive lineman, one hit on our rookie running back who popped right back up … it's time to pack the vans and sell the franchise. The season in fact is doomed.
John: I'll pass this along.
Tom from Jacksonville:
There is no hope for this season. The offensive line is worse than last year, if that's possible. There is no plan for quarterback. I guess the plan is to tank for a quarterback next draft. Tune in next year; maybe there will be hope then.
John: Have you been Facetiming with Logan?
Stephen from Jacksonville:
I've learned something: Us complaining to you – no matter how logical, how passionate, how obvious our arguments and complaints may be – doesn't do anything and won't magically make the Jaguars play better. The fact is, we're going to see subpar quarterback and offensive line play yet again this season. The Jaguars are what they are and there will be no hope for improvements until March and May 2018. So, I don't care anymore. Let Blake Bortles throw 50 interceptions, let the offensive line get thrown around and manhandled every week. Let's get this over with and let the games begin. Here's to eternal mediocrity and offseason success. Cheers!
John: Your first statement is obvious, and I'm not sure why anyone would think differently. Complaining to me in this forum has not, will not and should not affect the Jaguars' decision-making. This is not a forum designed for Shad Khan, Tom Coughlin and/or Doug Marrone to read and think, "Well, if Stephen thinks this then … let's listen to Stephen." I don't mean to be insulting, but that's not how professional sports work. As for your second statement about subpar quarterback and offensive line play … I honestly can't get a gauge for how Bortles will play this season; I like what I see some days and other days are a struggle. But I think the offensive line will play OK because I think the unit will pass block at least as well as it did last season and I think the run-blocking will improve. If that happens, it should be a decent offensive line. We'll see.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
Should we be concerned about the tight-end position? Mychal Rivera, correct me if I'm wrong, has not been practicing throughout training camp. We know what we have in Marcedes Lewis, but everyone else is a question mark. For a team that wants to run all day, we don't seem equipped to field heavy sets or play action effectively from them. Is there a tight end on the roster you think will surprise us? Do you see us addressing the position next offseason?
John: It's way too early to know what the Jaguars will do next offseason. It's not too early to say the Jaguars need Rivera to get healthy this season. They signed him in the offseason thinking he could be an all-around tight end capable of 45-to-50 receptions in the 600-to-700-yardish range. They would like him to be that. As for the Jaguars being able to run, tight ends Lewis, Ben Koyack and a fullback … that's a pretty heavy package.
J4 from Jacksonville:
Hi, John. The preseason is almost upon us. Soon, the regular season will be here. Until then, there will be much speculation, anxiety and general nervousness concerning certain position groups. Can you tell us which are of greatest concern? Center? Kicker? Safety? Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Shirley, you must know something that the rest of us don't. Stay safe.
John: I wouldn't put any of those three positions atop the list of greatest concerns for the Jaguars – center, in fact, might be the offensive line's most stable position and the Jaguars like their top four safeties. I would put cornerback depth high on the list of concerns, and it's still worth keeping an eye on various positions along the offensive line. And obviously, that Shirley thing …
Gamble from Brasilia, Brazil:
Tell the Sheriff to relax: if Blake keeps throwing ducks to the wrong team, he won't watch him for very long. And he'll see a new quarterback (attempt) to throw to Cats in teal this year and next. Isn't that why we're watching in 2017?
John: Sure.
Jared from O-Town:
Whatever the situation during training camp, is it safe to say that the staff will eventually have the best man behind center regardless of where they were drafted? Or is this a case where the Jaguars see this as the year Bortles makes his "last stand," so to speak? If they ride him out and he does well, then good for the team. If he doesn't, then one of those 2018 quarterbacks is suddenly within our reach come late April. Is this a valid approach?
John: Blake Bortles has to play well this season and has to show he is a quarterback capable of leading the Jaguars to a lot of victories. He has to be better than he has been so far in his career. If he's not, I don't think he will be the Jaguars' quarterback in 2018.
George from Jacksonville:
Dear Mr. bOzo, I like your condescending answers; they have kept me coming back every day since you began writing the O-Zone. You can even say something condescending to me. It might be the nicest thing anybody says today.
John: Shut up.
Attila from Dunakeszi, Hungary:
Hello, O! These days everybody is speculating about the number of wide receivers, running backs, tight ends on the final roster as there are never enough final spots. Do you think that a team will ever try to hand over for example the long-snapping duties to maybe a center or a backup lineman to create an extra spot in the 53? I know long snapper is not at all an easy job and does require some special skills, but do you think it would be possible?
John: It's certainly possible a position player could handle long-snapping duties, and it hasn't been that long that long snappers also had a role on offense or defense. Rich Griffith handled long-snapping duties for the 1990s Jaguars and also played tight end. The trend lately has gone entirely to specialized long snappers. While I don't anticipate a league-wide trend in the other direction, it's entirely possible a center would be good enough long snapping for a team to have that player do it.
Required from Jacksonville:
Senior writer? More like Senile Writer!
John: What?

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