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O-Zone: Big-time analysis

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Clayton from Gambier, OH:
Through several series with the first-team offense, we've seen success from the short, intermediate and long passing routes, a solid ground game and a quarterback really looking the part. Wouldn't it be a disappointment if this offense is not ranked Top 10 in the league?
John: I imagine there will be people disappointed with the Jaguars' offense this season if it doesn't break most of the all-time NFL passing/rushing records and average 45 points per game. It's the nature of fans to have high expectations and to be disappointed – and indeed, very angry – when those expectations are not met. I kid … but do I? Whatever … where this offense is ranked in the NFL when this season ends isn't important. We saw last season this offense improve significantly in terms of producing statistics – and that offense finished the season still needing to grow a lot to be a winning offense. What this offense needs to be is more efficient, more effective running, more mistake-free and better at making game-turning and momentum-changing plays when it matters. It also needs to be able to dictate games and situations, something it didn't do very often last season. Entering the preseason, I was unsure how the offense would be in those areas. I'm still unsure because we're not into the regular season yet, but I feel much more optimistic about the offense than I did two weeks ago. Much, much more.
Pradeep from Bangalore, India:
Hi John, what are the chances that we see the Jaguars using Wildcat plays with Denard Robinson this season? After all D-Rob had played as quarterback in college football and will add new dimension to our exciting young offense. Any thoughts??
John: I don't think you will see that often if at all.
Johnny from East Palatka, FL:
I can deal with the Jaguars outright losing a game, but when the officiating is this poor, it's very difficult to watch a game with any equanimity. And please spare us the "preseason for refs, too" nonsense. Poor officiating may well cost a team a victory, and possibly (for instance) a playoff berth, or home-field playoff games. If terrible officiating cost the Jags a win or two, Gus Bradley may well be fired – and that's likewise unacceptable. I don't care if the game gets slowed down or any other nonsense; the game is being compromised by bad referees.
John: You're very upset over the officiating Saturday. I get it. I just can't get real worked up about preseason officiating or preseason penalties. I do know the officials are really emphasizing coaches staying off the field this season and they certainly called it enough on Saturday night. I imagine coaches will adjust to this because it's really not an overly difficult rule to which to adhere. I also know I got a lot of tweets and emails about the officiating Saturday. Maybe it was OK. Maybe it wasn't. I do know the Jaguars need to reduce the penalties and I'm sure it will be an emphasis this week. Bradley's teams usually aren't overly penalized, so I have every reason to believe the area will improve.
Jon from Ocala, FL:
Hey O, for all the flack Luke Joeckel has received from fans and media this offseason, I think it's time to give him some due. He is earning the job.
John: Hey, one fer Joeckel – and yes, he has played well in the first two preseason games. That's not nearly as unusual as many fans believe because Joeckel actually played pretty well most of last season until the regular-season finale. But you're right: considering what he has been through … yes, give him his due. He deserves it. I said throughout the offseason leaving Joeckel at left tackle and putting Kelvin Beachum at left guard made sense. I still don't know if it will happen, but it's looking a little more reasonable by the week. Still, my guess is Joeckel kicks into guard. He has looked good there in practice and I think his run-blocking could make him an asset there.
Marc from US Assure Clubs:
I know it is only preseason, but I wish Gus would yell at the refs when they make bad calls. I want to see some of that fire and passion and anger protecting our boys.
John: OK.
David from Broward County, FL:
O-Man, at the groundbreaking for the new practice facility/amphitheater, Jaguars President Mark Lamping is quoted as saying this is another step towards making the Jaguars a sustainable, stable, successful NFL team. Words matter in life especially with high-profile business leaders like Lamping. So does he not believe that the Jags right now are in fact, a sustainable, stable successful NFL team? I certainly do believe they are and have been since shortly after Mr. Khan bought the team. The successful part will take sustained winning on the field. But as for the rest of it, it was cemented when he hired Caldwell and began this rebuilding. Now with all the great investments in The 'Bank like the locker rooms, video boards and the new club seats, I just thought it to be very odd wording from Mr. Lamping. What do you think?
John: It wasn't odd wording at all – and in fact, the wording was very much in keeping with what the Jaguars have done since Lamping and Shad Khan took over the Jaguars early in 2012. Lamping was talking about the Jaguars' business model, which depends on the team's ability to generate enough local revenue to be competitive in the NFL. Local revenue is critical to every team's sustainability, and when Khan/Lamping took over the Jaguars were among the league's lowest in this area. The London initiative helped in this area, but an amphitheater that brings in local revenue? You're never done looking for ways to increase local revenue in this era of the NFL, but as Lamping said, what's going to be built outside the South end zone absolutely is another step in the right direction in that area for this franchise.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
Dear John, Going on vacation. Should I send several questions to "fill in" while I'm gone?
John: No. I wasn't going to answer them anyway.
Brian from Dunwoody, GA:
I do have to say I really like what I've seen from Bortles in these two preseason games. He has looked quicker and more in control. His pocket movement is even better. It definitely seems like he may have taken another step on the very tall set of stairs that is his potential.
John: Your eyes do not deceive you. Preseason isn't always the best gauge of regular-season success, but Bortles looks miles better than last preseason. He also looks more sure of himself, more confident, more poised. He looks a lot more the part of big-time NFL quarterback than he did at any point last season. I said throughout the offseason that Bortles had a lot of growing and maturing to do – and that the step he needed to take in Year Three was a lot more difficult than the one he took in Year Two. That remains the case, but he looks much better early in the preseason than I anticipated. So far, there is nothing to indicate that he can't make the jump he so needs to make.
George from Savannah, GA:
Are you guys watching practice and reporting back to us smoking something? This is far worse than we as fans expected after all the hoopla about our defense and an improved passing attack! Bortles had no time, but also had a poor game. Not what we and I'm sure Shad anticipated this preseason.
John: Are you serious, Clark?
Stephen from Jacksonville:
We're halfway through the preseason and so far the defense looks much faster. The run defense looks like it can be very good this season and the third-down pass rush looks significantly improved. What are your thoughts on those two areas (run and third-down defense)? At this point, do you think the Jaguars can be a middle-tier defense in 2016? Would such an improvement be enough to make the Jaguars a realistic playoff contender?
John: I think the Jaguars can be a very good run defense this seasn, particularly if Roy Miller is healthy. As far as the pass rush, I think it will be better than last season though I do not think it will be dominant. Remember, it wouldn't have had to have been dominant last season for the Jaguars to have won three or four more games. It just needed to not be a liability. I don't think the pass rush will be a liability this season. Considering the strides I believe the offense can make … yes, I think the Jaguars can be a playoff contender this season.
Brett from Canton, MS:
My main thought after watching these first two preseason games is that I REALLY REALLY hope that Blake Bortles stays healthy all season.
John: Yes. That's important.

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