JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Dave from Duval:
Blake Bortles had one of the worst stretches for a quarterback I've ever seen in any level of football last year. This is a fact that most observers of the team agree with. How could a professional general manager put all of his eggs into the basket that is Blake Bortles and not have a backup plan? The only way any of it makes sense is that Dave Caldwell is too proud and doesn't want to admit that this very well could go from bad to worse.
John: A couple of thoughts on your thoughts. One is while I agree Bortles struggled mightily – very mightily – last season, your statement that he had one of the worst stretches at any level of football is more an observation and opinion than "fact." And while Bortles' bad stretch last year was by any measure bad, I can't say it marked a historic low point in the sports' annals. As for your second statement, I can't disagree that Caldwell believes in Bortles. Caldwell drafted Bortles in 2014 and never has wavered in his support. But Caldwell wasn't the only person who decided on the team's direction entering 2017. Jaguars Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin, Head Coach Doug Marrone and Caldwell decided that. That's not to say Caldwell doesn't have influence on decisions, but to paint the Jaguars' quarterbacking direction this season as Caldwell being stubborn and prideful at the very least doesn't reveal the entire picture.
Bill from Folkston, GA:
I am not sure if you can answer this question. However, based on your experience in covering the NFL, I would love to know if you think Blake Bortles can improve to the point of being able to lead this team to victories or if he is destined to be let go at the end of the season. Also, I have seen your predictions of a seven- or eight-win season and I agree. Do you think that is really possible with Bortles as the quarterback?
John: I think it will be difficult for Bortles to improve to the point of leading this team to a .500 season. I think that because he has yet in three seasons to eliminate the game-turning mistakes from his game. If he can improve in that area and improve his overall decision-making, then, yes, the Jaguars can win with him at quarterback. That's a big ask, though not an impossible one. Can the Jaguars win seven or eight games this season with Bortles at quarterback? Yes, but again – mistakes must be reduced.
Nick from Phoenix, AZ:
There are quite a few websites and/or reporters that fans can follow to learn how the team is doing in training camp. However – especially, regarding No. 5 – some lean (almost always) negative while others seem more ... impartial. Fans are gonna fan, of course! Keeping track of Blake Bortles' interceptions is important due to the stigma of last season. I have even seen Ryan O'Halloran's (much-appreciated) stat lines. To put things into better perspective for us fans, what would you guess Blake's touchdown-interception ratio to be over the last week? Thanks!
John: I don't breathlessly track practice statistics because they frankly can be misleading. While Bortles' five interceptions on Saturday night were a good measure of his struggles that night, to say that he threw five or six touchdowns on Tuesday – which I believe he did – doesn't really reflect too much because the Jaguars were working a lot of red-zone offense that day. I think Bortles had six total interceptions over the first six practices, and I think he had a lot more touchdowns than that. I think there were times Monday following the Saturday practice that he seemed to be a little cautious, and I think that's normal. I think except for Saturday he for the most part has looked good more often than bad, and I think the team hopes that can continue to be the case.
James from Jacksonville:
Do you think Luke Bowanko could be our starter at center again? And if so, do you think that this may help the line?
John: I think Brandon Linder is the Jaguars' starting center, and I think people waiting for him not to be the starting center will have a long wait.
Will from Riverside:
Dear Ombudsman: We get it. Decision-making is of most importance, and Blake obviously makes bad ones. But without proper mechanics and arm strength to go with it, even a good decision can turn bad. The NFL is a game of inches and microseconds. Sure, Drake may look like he is throwing better now, because he is thinking about it. It's not second nature, and at this level, it must be. Why is this so hard to understand?
John: Drake has to get better. I think we all get that.
Bill from Hammock, FL:
In your opinion, does Branden Albert retire if Gus is still the coach with veterans' days off, etc.? I think Marrone's tough camp saved the organization $9-to-18 million in cap space.
John: I think you're overthinking this one, though I don't think you're alone. Albert retired after one padded night practice. It was a physical practice, but it wasn't so physical that the veterans were sobbing in their SUVs afterward. This is a tough camp, but let's keep it in perspective: the weather is relatively cool and there are no two-a-day practices. This isn't the Junction Boys; players won't be sneaking out in the middle of the night. All signs point to Albert deciding that after nine seasons he didn't want to play football anymore. It happens. It's not that complicated.
Zach from Keystone Heights, FL:
Had Albert stayed, do you think Cam Robinson would have been backup learning all season? Or was he a starter somewhere for you no matter what?
John: I think Robinson would have started at guard had Albert started at tackle.
Jaginator from (formerly of Section 124):
Let's imagine two teams want to improve the run and "impose their will" on opponents. Team A spends a high-second-rounder on a running back in Year 1. They sign one of the biggest free-agent running backs available in Year 2. And they spend the No. 4 overall pick on a running back in Year 3. Team B takes a different approach. They spend a high-second-rounder on an offensive lineman in Year 1. They sign one of the biggest free-agent offensive linemen available in Year 2. And they spend the No. 4 overall pick on an offensive lineman in Year 3. Which team do you think is most likely to end up with the better running attack at the end of those three years?
John: I understand your point and I philosophically agree that building a dominant running game is best done by building a dominant offensive line. The question, then, revolves around the quality of players available. I'm all for taking, say, an offensive lineman No. 4 overall providing there is an offensive lineman worthy of being selected at No. 4 overall. That's not always the case.
Mike from Egan, MN:
I know there's much ado about Blake and Branden, but I've been reading some rumblings that Jason Myers has been shanking kicks … what have you seen? Are we going to see the Myers of old this season, or has he looked better?
John: I have seen Myers miss a couple of kicks I thought he should have made in camp thus far. This is not meant to imply that I have watched every kick he has attempted in training camp, or that his training camp has been a bevy of shanks and nothing else.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
John, you're probably swamped with questions about Branden "The Flake" Albert so I'll try and break the monotony by asking how Myles Jack had looked at Mike? Does he seem confident or flustered? Should we move Poz back to the middle?
John: Jack looks neither confident not flustered, and the best I can tell you is it's too early to know how he'll play in the middle. His teammates and coaches have spoken positively of the move. There's nothing yet to indicate it will be a negative. How will it play out once the Jaguars start playing games and without the experience of Paul Posluszny in the middle? That will be the test. It's something that may be difficult to discern from just watching the game because it will be about teammates' confidence in him and how they react when he's getting them into position, etc. My guess is he won't be quite as good this early as Posluszny, but there's no reason to think he won't get good at it quickly.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
There is no better way to motivate an offensive lineman than a bloody nose and being told this position is wide open!! This is not a disaster folks. It's our best chance at really getting better quick. #GO CAM WE LOVE YA
O-Zone: Bloody that nose
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Dave from Duval: