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O-Zone: Anticipation in the air

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chris from Section 437:
Why doesn't the league bring back a minor-league system like NFL Europe, but base it over here? There are plenty of markets like Orlando that could support a minor-league team.
John: I admit I dismissed this sort of question for a long, long time with a response that went something like, "The NFL already has a minor league; it's called 'college football.''' There's also the reality that NFL Europe failed in part because teams did not want to send players there and put them at risk of offseason injury. Teams preferred instead to have young, developing players in their own offseason programs in the spring. All of that said, I see a greater need now than any time in the last 20 years for a minor-league, developmental system. Scouts, coaches and general managers talk more and more leading to each year's draft about the difference between the college and professional games. Spread offenses have made the transition to the NFL tougher for quarterbacks and linemen and it has made evaluation tougher. Is that enough of a factor to make the expense of a minor league worthwhile? Would a minor league work in terms of attendance and costs? I don't know –and in fact, I sort of doubt it – but the on-field need appears to exist.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
You talked about the five-to-seven players that would contribute to the team being better in 2015; it really is just math. If you think of it as 22 starters not counting special teams, if the team got better by more than 20 percent just by these additions – not counting returning young players being better – it is easy to see the exciting opportunity to improve our win-loss record.
John: I was told there would be no math.
Karl from Chesterfield, MO:
John, can you give us any updates on the indoor training facility? I believe not having one hampers our team overall in regards to preparing for upcoming games. You know Duval has lots of thunderstorms.
John: There is an indoor facility of pretty significant scope and coolness in the Shipyards Proposal. I'd be surprised if there is movement on an indoor training facility either way until something is known on the Shipyards.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Hi, John. No argument, but you did say, "I believe the league probably WILL eventually move to 18 regular-season games." Your words, sir. My words did sound more conclusive, so I'm sorry for that. On the idea of an 18-game schedule, my idea would be for the NFL to increase offseason activity for the new draft picks and free agency for evaluation, so the two extra games that are lost from the preseason don't hurt as bad.
John: Increasing offseason activity is fine, though I imagine that would be a tough sell when it comes to approval by the NFL Players Association. Still, no matter how much practice and training time you add, reducing preseason games from four to two is going to make it very difficult if not impossible to get starters and front-line players prepared AND get young players trying to make rosters enough time to be properly evaluated. I'm not saying this will be enough to prevent the league from moving to 18 games. I'm just saying it will make doing those two things difficult. Speaking of evaluation, I guess I need to go somewhere and reevaluate what "probably" means.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
John, we shouldn't underestimate the impact the London series has on the ability of the team to offer such outstanding game-day experience and value for the price of season tickets. I wonder what the price of season tickets would have to be to offset the lost revenue from not playing a game in London and instead playing it here?
John: It would have to be a lot more expensive – and yes, the London series fits into the equation in terms of local revenue, fan experience and stability in Jacksonville. Look, this whole concept of the London game being key to the financial stability of the franchise and therefore good for the Jaguars in Jacksonville isn't as hard as people are making it. But it is unusual and different and I know from personal experience people sometimes recoil at those two things.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
With Stephen Morris and Jeff Tuel battling for the practice-squad spot, how do you see Bortles getting time during the preseason to get comfortable with the offense in live action?
John: I learned long ago not to assume sarcasm and facetiousness, so I'll assume – perhaps incorrectly – that you're serious with this question. I anticipate Blake Bortles getting the normal repetitions for a starting quarterback next preseason, which means something along the lines of a couple of series in the preseason opener, a quarter and a half or in the second game of the preseason, a little more than a half in Preseason Week 3 and a series or two at the most in the preseason finale.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
Open-toe sandals … socks or no socks?
John: If you have a keen sense of style and coolness – and care about such things – no socks. I prefer socks.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
O-Man, I think Carter from Orange Park is spot on. Blake Bortles was not that bad last year and the Peyton Manning rookie year comparison is very valid. Not only did Peyton throw 28 interceptions his rookie season, but that's with coming into the league with many more college starts under his belt versus what Blake had at UCF. I think it's going to take 50-to-75 starts for Blake before Dave and Gus can really decide whether he's "The Man." Patience is a virtue. You agree?
John: There's no question the Jaguars must have patience with Bortles, but there's also no question they generally like what they have seen so far. I hesitate to bring Manning too much into the Bortles conversation, though. Manning is one of the all-time greats and played at a very high level from the end of his rookie season forward. Those are tough things to do. Bortles will develop at his own pace, and as of June 2015, the Jaguars generally speaking are pleased with that pace.
Nasty Nate from Bloomington, IN:
Your condescending tone towards numerous questions posted in the O-Zone is beyond me. Shows what kind of a "true" fan you are. Think I'll just stick to listening to what the guys on NFL Network have to say.
John: Not to be overly condescending here, Nate, but I'm not a "fan," true or otherwise. That's not the job. As far as my tone, I do at times admit that I dip into being condescending with the questions involving concern over national media's perception of Jacksonville and the Jaguars. This is because I don't care about such things and I hope by being condescending it might help readers be bothered about it a bit less. If other answers are perceived as condescending to the readers, that's not the intent and I think most regular readers get that the O-Zone is a mix of information, attempts at humor with varying degrees of success and me stumbling around with equally varying degrees of competence. That's how I see it, anyway. I have no idea what the guys at NFL Network think about it.
Terrence from Laurel, MD:
While Blake Bortles' progress this season will ultimately determine the success or failure of 2015, who would you consider the second-most critical player on the team? I know the obvious answers would be Luke Joeckel or Julius Thomas, but I believe it's T.J. Yeldon. If he can gain 4- to 4.5-yards-per-carry, I believe this will take the offense to another level and help keep the defense fresh.
John: Yeldon is key, but I'd have to package his development/performance with that of the offensive line. It's clear the Jaguars want a significantly improved running offense this season. Yeldon can be a big part of that and he looked good enough in organized team activities and minicamp to make you feel good about his future. The offensive line obviously must improve and do its part as well. A running game still largely depends on the offensive line however good the running back might be.
Bartholemew from Mandarin:
Don't know if you caught the new HBO show 'Ballers' this past weekend but, once again, Jacksonville was the butt of another joke. One of the characters, an NFL football player, was upset about the prospect of playing for "sorry-ass Jacksonville," a place where "NFL careers go to die." I realize this is a fictional show but these constant put-downs of our fair city and our team have become tiresome. What say you?
John: There's no question they're tiresome, whether they come from national media or fictionalized pay television. Win and it goes away. Don't win and it will continue. (Sorry if that was condescending).
Jensen from Nacogdoches, TX:
John, if you could time travel, when and where would you go?
John: I'd fast forward a day and get my rear end to Tinseltown. I can't wait to see "Ted 2."

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