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O-Zone: Almost here

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steve from Denver, CO:
O, you keep saying the Jaguars' offensive line play has improved (pass protection does seem better), but I'm concerned our run game doesn't look good. Our run game went for 1,214 yards last year not counting Blake's 400-plus rushing yards. How many yards per game do you think we will average this season from our running backs and improved offensive line?
John: I don't know, but I do share your belief that the run offense is key – and I think the Jaguars' run offense will perform much better this season. During the first two games of the preseason, it appeared the Jaguars could run effectively enough to get themselves into good down-and-distance situations. That's the first thing you're looking for from a running game. The next steps are being able to run on short-yardage and late in games to protect the lead and drain clock. I liked what I saw from the first two preseason games enough to think it will translate into the Jaguars being better this season. Remember a few things about the run game. One is that for the Jaguars this season, pass protection was the first step; that was an area that had to improve and the Jaguars focused on that area in a big way this past offseason. Two is that an offensive line typically needs time together to gel as a run-blocking unit, so this is an area where the Jaguars could improve with time. Three is that it's difficult to establish a dominant run offense in preseason because the first-team offense doesn't play an entire game; good run teams typically get better as the game continues. As far as the average for the season, I have no idea and don't really worry about it much. The statistics don't matter a whole lot; being able to run when it's necessary … that matters.
Eric from Scranton, PA:
Some will say the Jaguars' offensive line is improved, but isn't it often said that good quarterbacks make their offensive line look better as well? Just look at some of the lines Peyton Manning played behind. In the Jags' case, one of the glaring signs I see of Blake Bortles getting better is the improved play of the offensive line. Please, correct me if I'm wrong. Also, if you could give me directions on how to get back onto the Freeway from here, that'd be great. Thanks.
John: The Jaguars' offensive line indeed appeared better in the preseason. And while an offensive line absolutely can look better if a quarterback plays with awareness and ability to avoid the rush, it would be a disservice to the line to say Bortles is the biggest reason it looked better in the preseason. For the most part, he had more time in the preseason than he did last season and the pocket seemed stable. Generally speaking, though, all of these things do go hand in hand. You're not going to have good quarterback play without the offensive line doing its job and vice versa. And don't forget: receivers getting open at the right times helps, too. That's how it works in a team sport.
Aaron from Chehalis, WA:
I was surprised to hear the Jaguars are planning on starting Davon House and Aaron Colvin on the outside and then move Aaron Colvin into nickel and have Dwayne Gratz come in on the outside in nickel situations. That leaves Demetrius McCray the odd man out. He seemed to really come on last year and looked like a budding star. Do Bradley and company really feel like he's the fourth best cornerback on the roster right now?
John: It's not quite as simple as that. There will be games in which the matchups dictate that McCray is the third corner into the game, but for the most part … yes, Gratz earned the third position over McCray and Colvin/House will start on the outside.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
What has McCray done – or I say hasn't done – to fall from starter to fourth cornerback? Also, why is this team hell bent on not giving Ryan Davis a fair shake at starting Leo? Classic Jags.
John: We pretty much covered the McCray/Gratz/cornerback topic in the first previous question, and although we've discussed Ryan Davis' role in the defense quite a bit here in the last few months, there's nothing wrong with explaining it again. The Jaguars like Davis. Very much. He has excelled in his role as an inside pass rush in recent seasons and all indications are he is very good in that role. As far as a "starting Leo," the Jaguars believe there are other players better suited to that role in terms of holding the point in running situations and beating tackles in pass-rushing situations. Davis is very effective in his role. Why risk putting him in one where he wouldn't be as good? Is it Classic Jags to put a player in the position to succeed?
Sam from San Marco, FL:
Coach Bradley is looking like the poker player with the winning hand, trying not to crack a smile.
John: #DTWD
Cory from Madison, WI:
I think fans get too caught up with their teams' defense giving up an occasional big play. Those things are going to happen. It isn't a problem if that team's offense is also making big plays of its own. That's what this team needs.
John: Yep. This isn't college football. All teams are going to have success. The best ones figure a way to minimize their opponent's big plays – and they also figure out a way to have an elite quarterback.
Jim from Jacksonville:
After watching the Pats-Steelers game Thursday I became a little worried about our upcoming game against them. Gronkowski seems unstoppable. Who would be his matchup from the Jags defense? Telvin Smith?
John: Let's worry about the next two first, Jim.
Herbert from MidState Office Supply Accountz Receevable:
Do you think Dave Caldwell was smiling to himself a little after Scobee shanked those first two field goals Thursday?
John: Absolutely not. I get the joke, and I get fans are still thinking about Scobee. I also get that there are Jaguars fans who are happy Josh Scobee missed those field goals for the Steelers and not the Jaguars. But for Caldwell, the decision to trade Josh Scobee never really was very much about Scobee. It was about how much they team thinks of Jason Myers' potential. The Jaguars like Scobee very much, and I assure you no one around here was rooting for him to fail Thursday.
Steve from Stevensville, MD:
I am wearing my Jags Santa hat on Sunday. I'm feeling optimistic this season!
John: Krimma.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
My dad says that Thunder and Lightning was the best wide receiving tandem in NFL history. I don't disagree, but I do recognize that I don't have enough knowledge in my limited years watching the NFL to know for myself. What are your thoughts?
John: I think they certainly deserve consideration. Many NFL observers who tend to overlook things associated with the Jaguars would recoil at that notion, but if you really look at what Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith accomplished they must be considered.
Wayne from Jacksonville to West Palm Beach:
I just bet $100 to win $35,000 on the Jags to the Super Bowl. See you Sunday, John. You can find me in the pool in a short bathing suit, IPA in hand, screaming Super Bowl-bound and "Duuuuuvaaaaal." And you know what I'll buy when we win? Season-pool tickets. #DWTD
John: #DTWD
Nimrod from Toronto, Canada:
Allen Robinson will have over 100 yards receiving and one touchdown ...Yeldon will score two touchdowns (one on a long run and the other on a screen pass) … Myers hits a field from 54 yards and another from 47 … BortlesKombat will finish with a QB rating of 112 and the jags win 27-14...BOOK IT.
John: #DTWD
Ray from Jacksonville:
If the offense has a three-and-out on the first series in the first game, replacements are called for. We should fire the coaches and get new ones who will sternly tell the players to win. We need to fire all the players and get Cap Capi back along with all the big-name free agents that are available. Then, of course, we need to put in a new offensive scheme. This can all be done by the second series, right?
John: If not, we need to figure out what's wrong with the senior writer.
Ray from Jacksonville:
John: Other than adding players to the practice squad were there any roster changes after the cut to 53? If not, that would be a good sign for the franchise.
John: The Jaguars did not add any players released by others teams, and that indeed is something that could be a good sign for the franchise. Honestly, I'm a little tired of talking about good signs, building and offseason for now. It's almost game day. Let's see what this team is really all about.

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