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O-Zone: Back to the 'Bank

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Marcus from Jacksonville:
I know expectations among fans range from one end of the spectrum to the other, and I know fans have the right to expect whatever they expect from the team. I also know those expectations change drastically during the offseason, training camp and preseason. But what do you believe is a reasonable expectation for the Jaguars this season now that the offseason is finished, pads are on and one game has been played?
John: The only way I can answer this is to tell you what I expect for this team. Whether that's reasonable or not, I have no idea. I see the Jaguars having a good chance to win four more games than last season, and I think they have a real chance at three or four more victories that aren't in doubt in the final minutes. That's not to say they can't do better than that, but I consider that a reasonable expectation. Based on that, I think 9-7 is a possibility. I think somewhere in the eight-victory range is realistic depending on three things: 1, how Blake Bortles improves; 2, overall team health; 3, how quickly the defense – particularly the young, core players – gains experience and begins playing to its potential. I think overall you're going to see a team that by the end of the season looks very much like the Team on the Rise that many analysts are projecting. I don't know that it will look like that Team on the Rise in the first month of the season, which is why I'm projecting eight victories and not more. I firmly believe this team is improving and on the rise. What I don't know is how quickly it will look like that.
David from Sweden:
Hey O! Is it really a given that Brad Nortman will be the punter for this season? Ryan Quigley looked good against the Jets and has punted on a high level in this league before! Thoughts?
John: Barring something absolutely unexpected, Nortman will be the punter this season.
Brian from Round Rock, TX:
It was cool seeing Brandon Linder and Allen Hurns smile real big when talking about the good showing of the running game against the Jets. I get the feeling that players really feed off of a strong running game. Why do you think that is?
John: A couple of reasons. One is players know how much easier it is to throw when the running game is performing well. It makes it easier to pass protect and it opens up intermediate routes. Running well also allows a team to control clock, and makes the offense much more dangerous near the end zone and late in games. There's also a psychological factor that comes into play. When a team can run effectively it has the feeling of being able to dictate how the game is played – and when a team can't stop the run, there's a helpless feeling that comes along with that. You don't have to dominate an opponent running to win in the NFL, but if you can, you're very difficult to beat.
George from Jacksonville:
O-Man, in your opinion what area is our weakest link on this team? I hear everyone bashing the defense because of our first preseason game. Yes, we got burned in the middle twice! Glad it was in preseason because it "means we can adjust without it costing us!" I actually think the defense did well and held their own. Anyway didn't mean to rant after my question … then again, yes I did.
John: I thought long and hard about this question. My first thought is I still truly believe experience is the weakest link because it's going to take some time for the young, core defensive players to learn enough to play to their potential. But I know that's not the answer you're seeking, so I'll say "offensive line." This didn't look like a weakness against the Jets. Still, there are enough unknowns on the left side of that group that until we see the unit play during the regular season it must remain an area of concern.
David from Grand Island:
Will this finally be the season I can look at everyone who's doubted me and say "told you so" about the Jaguars being a good team again?
John: There's a much better chance for that than there has been in a long time. I have little doubt there will be stretches this season when the Jaguars look vastly improved. I do wonder how consistent they will be throughout the course of the season and I firmly believe they will be really good in 2017. That doesn't mean they won't be good in 2016. It means there are lot of questions to be answered and a lot of development to happen for that to be the case.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
I think you're getting a little carefree with your use of the word "veteran." Like "...second-year veteran Marqise Lee..." in one of last week's articles. Two seasons does not a veteran make. Especially two seasons not fully served, so to speak. Maybe let's reserve the use of that word for guys like Poz, who have been around for a while and have more than 1.5 seasons of active pro experience?
John: Thank you for your help and input; it's truly special and meaningful to me. But using veteran in this case is not meant to describe whether or not Lee is seasoned player or a cagey veteran. It is simply to identify and measure his experience. So, Lee indeed is a third-year NFL veteran – and in this case, under the rules of the NFL, two seasons actually does a veteran make.
Damian from Appleton, WI:
Do you think Dave Caldwell has done better than any other GM to bring talent to this team?
John: I assume you're asking if Caldwell has brought more talent to Jacksonville than any other general manager in franchise history. Otherwise you're essentially asking if Caldwell is the best general manager ever in the NFL – and that's probably a bit of a reach. How much talent Caldwell has brought to Jacksonville can't yet accurately be judged against past general managers. It appears Caldwell has done a remarkable job, and it appears many of the players he has brought to Jacksonville not only have the chance to be Pro Bowl players but to win a lot of games. Until they actually perform and win those games it's hard to say they're as good or better than players brought in by general managers such as Tom Coughlin and James Harris. Those general managers brought in players that led this team to the postseason. Caldwell's players haven't had time to do that yet.
Sherm from Windsor:
I have not seen anybody talk about Brandon Allen. He played half of the football game against the Jets. I thought that he played fairly well considering the Jets had a lot of pressure. What did you think about his first game in the preseason? How much do we see him in the next few preseason games?
John: We've discussed Brandon Allen here in the O-Zone and Head Coach Gus Bradley discussed his performance against the Jets when speaking to the media Sunday. Allen looked good for a rookie playing his first NFL game, and Bradley clearly liked what he saw. Allen's performance wasn't a surprise because he looked good throughout organized team activities/minicamp and training camp. I expect you'll see Allen play a lot Saturday and sparingly if at all in Preseason Week 3. I then imagine he'll play at least a half and maybe more in the preseason finale.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
Last year Ryan Davis was incapable of playing the edge rusher role. What has changed now?
John: Davis was a reserve Leo pass rusher last year who played a lot as an interior rusher in passing situations; he played sparingly as an edge rusher. He is playing Otto linebacker this season, a role where he is dropping in coverage – and a role where he also could move over and occasionally rush the passer off the edge. That means he again will play sparingly as an edge rusher. So, I guess a lot has changed in that he is playing a new position. And not a lot has changed in the sense that he won't be one of the team's primary edge pass rushers.
Anthony from New York, NY:
What's the story with Jamal Robinson? Will he make the team? What are the Jaguars' feelings about him going forward?
John: Robinson is a wide receiver with big-time size and the Jaguars like his potential. He's a real possibility for the practice squad, though it's difficult to project him making the 53-man roster this season.
Rob from Brunswick, GA:
What are you most looking forward to about returning to The 'Bank for the preseason home opener aside from the game itself?
John: Hangin' with Frenette.

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