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O-Zone: All smiles

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

BJK from St. Augustine, FL

Tired of hearing we were just a whistle away from Super Bowl, etc., etc. Last year’s schedule was the easiest in the NFL. Why isn’t that ever taken into consideration? This year we had to play with the big boys along with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck being healthy. We weren’t so great last year. The stars were aligned.

I’m constantly amazed at people’s need to discount the Jaguars’ accomplishments last season, but hey … I like a good discount as much as the next guy. As for your question, I’m intrigued by the implication that no one ever talks about these topics. I get many emails talking about how easy the Jaguars’ schedule was last season, and I’ve discussed it often. And there are those with the perception that somehow the Jaguars’ AFC South title and run to the AFC Championship Game is lessened by their schedule last season or even what has happened this season. But while that’s perception, it’s not reality. Here’s reality: only two games separate a last-place schedule and a first-place schedule; 14 games are identical. And while Watson and Luck indeed were hurt last season, the Jaguars’ defensive line dominated those matchups to the point it’s fair to believe the Jaguars would have won those games. But whatever … you don’t fluke your way to division titles or conference championship games in this league. The Jaguars won two postseason games – including a game against the Steelers on the road – and they won multiple regular-season games against teams that would have been in the playoff chase had they not lost to the Jaguars. The Jaguars were good last season. How good? Good enough to make the AFC Championship Game and win the AFC South. Yes, the Jaguars had things go right for them. But guess what? Most successful teams in this league do.

Kyan from Le Mars

Telvin Smith's unsportsmanlike penalty makes no sense to me. These grown men can knock each other around, talk smack all game, but as soon as you point at someone it warrants a penalty. Can NFL players really not handle the taunting of a little point, but can handle all the rest that goes on, on the field?

Them’s the rules.

Jerry from Hero, FL

I like Blake Bortles a lot. I like the way he handles the media and criticism he is constantly hit with. I like how tough he plays the position and he seems like a hell of a nice guy. I believe you are correct that the Jags will move on from him. Looking in my crystal ball, I can see him going to one of three teams and having a relatively long career. The three teams are the Packers, Steelers and Patriots. All three teams have established upper-tier quarterbacks. Bortles is still young enough to play behind these guys, then replace them when they retire and take over the starting job on a good team and have a successful career. I hope he doesn’t insist on going to a mediocre team just to start and spend two or three years playing poorly and then be out of the league. What are your thoughts, John?

I don’t discount the idea that Bortles could go somewhere and be a very good backup for a long time, though it’s hard to see him at this point being accurate enough in the mid-to-short-range passing game to be elite. As for where he might go next, your scenarios make sense – though I don’t know that anyone has a real feel for that yet.

Alejandro from Mexico City

Let's do some math. Bortles (21)+ 1rd QB (6) =27 millions. 1rd (6)+ Foles/Bridgewater (20)+ release Bortles (16.5)=42.5 millions. 1rd (6) + Kessler /cheap backup (1)+release Bortles (16.5) =23.5 millions. And Bridgewater/Foles (20) + Kessler or same price backup(1)+release Bortles(16.5) =37.5 millions. Maybe isn't the time to move on from Bortles (at least this year). I'd continue with Blake and draft Haskins or the best available quarterback in the second round. Next year you can draft a starter in a better class and you have a wonderful backup in the worst case.

I was told there would be no math.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Remember when fans around here said we should have tanked the Week 17 game against the Colts in 2011 so the Jags could draft Luck? According to many football observers, Luck was the surest thing to come out of college since John Elway. Nobody can predict the future. You must to do your homework, trust it – and if you need a quarterback you get one and hope it works out. I get the hesitation about reaching for a pick on a quarterback, but it isn't any more damaging than misses at other positions in the top half of the first round. Whether your bust is a quarterback, a defensive end, or a left tackle, it's still a thrown-away pick and you still have a need to fill. The Jaguars could use better quarterback play. They should probably draft one, preferably high in the draft where the probability of success is higher. It's not that hard.

The talk late in the 2011 season among Jaguars fans wasn’t much about tanking to get the No. 1 overall selection; the Jaguars finished 5-11 and the Colts finished 2-14, so just losing to the Colts in Week 17 wouldn’t have “earned” the Jaguars the first selection anyway. The talk that year was more about tanking to keep the Colts from being able to select Luck. That in retrospect was unnecessary; while the Colts have been successful with Luck it’s not as if he has shown any particular mastery over this franchise. As far as whether to select a quarterback in the coming offseason, I understand that we’re going to analyze this to the point of over-analysis in the coming weeks. But the reality is this: whatever the experts’ opinions on this draft class, the Jaguars only need one quarterback. Finding him is tricky, but that’s the case in every draft.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Bortles seems humble enough to be willing to stay next season as a backup and whatever is asked. Do you see that as a possible scenario? A lot of $ invested, players seem to respect him, talent comes through on occasion.

Of course it’s a possible scenario. Bortles is on the roster, and he would be a capable backup. I don’t consider it a likely one. Sometimes, it’s time to move on.

Jakob from Hawthorne

Remember when Tim Tebow was 7-1 his first year as a starter, maybe some are being too quick to bash Taven Bryan over Lamar Jackson?

Fair.

Mark from Archer, FL

Everyone needs to relax. If memory serves me correctly, the 2017 draft class was not considered an amazing quarterback class: Good, but there were no quarterbacks who were considered to be a sure lock or a No. 1 prospect. How are those quarterbacks looking now? The bottom line is very often you can never know how good a quarterback will be in the NFL until they start playing. The Jags might just get a QB who ends up being really good.

Your memory serves correctly. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were the two top-rated quarterbacks that season, but in January they weren’t considered dead-solid locks to be selected No. 1 and 2 overall. They both “rose” in the offseason, and the demand for quarterbacks caused the Rams and Eagles to trade up to those positions to take them. There was skepticism at the time and both teams were considered by some to have reached. So far, they both look like good selections.

Jason from Duval

With Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert returning to school it leaves basically no first round caliber quarterbacks available in this draft. The remaining guys come with pretty huge question marks. Do you think free agency might be a safer bet to find our guy?

Minimally.

Larry from Duncan, OK

Is there any chance that, next season the Jaguars offensive scheme will eventually move away from the concept of "Hey diddle diddle, let's run up the middle?” It would be nice to see them bring in a Mike Leach-type as offensive coordinator. Adding to you and Sexton's man crush of Blake, Bortles could run an air-raid type of offense. Then you guys could open the morning show with, "We told you so!"

People hear what they want to hear and read what they want to read. I don’t expect that to change. As for your question … it remains to be seen what direction the Jaguars go for offensive coordinator. But it’s a lot easier to get away from “hey diddle, diddle, let’s run up the middle” when your offensive line isn’t constantly saying “fee, fo, fum fi … here comes an unblocked guy.”

Michael from Ocala, FL

John, you were just handed the keys to organization from Shad. What are some of the first things you do?

Ask for a raise. Wait for the raise to “kick in.” Smile.

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