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O-Zone: Bringing out the passion

JACKSONVILLE – Game-day – er, game-night – O-Zone.

Let's get to it … James from New York:
Hey, John … we have been talking about the playoffs for almost a month and I am finding it totally frustrating. Jeff (Lageman) said it best the other day on the radio that in '96 we were not even thinking playoffs until it was in our lap. No one else is talking about us and the playoffs; why are we? Can we just focus on improvement?
John: I'm sorry you're totally frustrated. Total frustration can be … well, totally frustrating. But seriously, take a breath, James. First off, the players and coaches around here aren't talking about the playoffs – we who follow and cover this team are talking/writing about it because talking/writing about this team is … wait for it, wait for it … our jobs! Also, I covered the Jaguars in 1996, and Pete Prisco and I talked/wrote playoff scenarios in the Florida Times-Union pretty much once the Jaguars turned their 4-7 start into about 6-7 or so. I'm sure one of us even asked Lageman about it, and I'll bet he might have said a word or two about it, too. The Jaguars' focus is just fine – no matter what people who cover the team opt to discuss.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
The refs missed a call that would have given us a loss; the Texans beat an undefeated team. It is like kissing your sister … not your sister – my sister. Anyways … cannot wait until Thursday.
John: I can understand being down about some things, but this? Yes, the referees may have missed a call Sunday, but you know what? Referees miss a lot of calls. Some go against your team and some don't; on Sunday, some went against the Jaguars and the last one didn't. As for your second "issue…" yeah, the Texans won Monday. So what? They're a game ahead of the Jaguars and the Jaguars have a game remaining against them. Go beat them.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, sorry about Sen'Derrick Marks on the injured reserve. My question revolves around his knee. He really wasn't back to full strength. Putting Adrian Peterson aside, it seems it takes a full 12-to-15 months to come back from an ACL injury. With that, I have not heard much about Dante Fowler Jr.'s progress. Realistically, will he be back at "full strength" for the regular season in 2016?
John: Marks wasn't back to full strength when he first returned, and while he was playing better and looking quicker by the week, he probably wouldn't have reached full strength this season. As far as Fowler goes, a couple of factors make his situation different than Marks. One is that Fowler is younger than Marks. Another is that Marks was trying to return nine months after his injury. Fowler was injured in early May 2015, so if he returns in early August 2016 he will be returning 15 months after the injury. That gives him a realistic chance to be very close to 100 percent.
Austin from Atlanta, GA:
Which is worse? Sen'Derrick Marks being put on the IR, or Chad Henne's mustache?
John: That's simply not funny. Marks being put on injured reserve is a serious matter that could hurt this team significantly as the season continues. Henne's mustache? OK, you may have a point.
James from Jacksonville:
John, I'm not one to start controversy, but that facemask on Blake Bortles at the end of the game was intentional. Dumervil thought the game clock ran out and could take a penalty-free shot at our quarterback. Serves him right. Ha!Ha! Ravens suck. We won!!
John: Yeah, I didn't get that feeling, but who knows? I do know the Jaguars are 3-6 and have a big game Thursday.
Keith from Summerville, SC:
How long did it take Tony Boselli to get good? One year? Two years? Even three years? Isn't it time to give up on the Joeckel experiment?
John: No, because Luke Joeckel isn't Tony Boselli – and I'm not sure there are many Tony Bosellis in the NFL right now. Also, Joeckel is playing better – and he actually has played pretty well over the last month.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
To Greg: "You are not going to make the playoffs on luck." Weren't you in Jax for the Atlanta game in '96?
John: You can make the argument that the Jaguars played a lot of good football late in the 1996 season to get into a position to get lucky. I think that's what Greg meant, but yeah … there's a lot of luck involved sometimes.
Kenney from Jacksonville:
This defense really needs a playmaking/disruptive safety. Too many plays are given up in the middle of the field. The secondary as a whole seems at times to have a lackadaisical (soft) flair to them. When corners are beat, they trot to the ball instead of running to possibly separate man and ball. Let's not get started on the 8-to-10 yard cushion they give receivers on every play. With no consistent pass rush wouldn't it be wise to have the corners play more bump coverage to disrupt the timing on pass plays?
John: I'm all for the cornerbacks playing closer to receivers. Playing as far off as they do is a reason they don't get more interceptions; of course, it's also a reason the secondary has allowed fewer deep balls than it was allowing … say … early last season. As far as a playmaking safety, without question you're right and it's something the team has tried to address on several occasions. This defense needs that, and its absence is second in importance only to a disruptive Leo pass rusher or two. The Jaguars need to find out if James Sample can be that sort of safety. If he can't, then no expense/effort can be spared this offseason to land one.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Chad from EverBank raised a good question, perhaps not specific to Luke Joeckel, but pertaining to roster management in general. Say you have an average left tackle or other premium position and the time is up to negotiate his contract. Given Chad's scenario, what route does general manager Johnny take?
John: You must take all renegotiations on a case-by-case basis, and you also must figure out a few things. One is whether you believe you can win with that player. If the player wants more than you believe you should pay, you must decide whether letting him go will cause you to lose games. Finally, you have to figure out if there are better options available through the draft or free agency. If so, it's easier to let a player go. If not, then that's where you as a general manager earn your keep.
Calvin from Allentown:
On the Jaguars' final drive, they had a false start with around 15 seconds left if I remember correctly. Why was there not a 10-second runoff in that case?
John: Twenty-five seconds remained when guard Zane Beadles was called for a false start. Blake Bortles had run out of bounds on the previous play. That meant the clock was stopped, and there's no runoff when the clock is stopped.
Greg from Atlanta, GA:
With Bortles and the Allens being second-year players and looking to be core guys for years to come, does David Caldwell have to start thinking about salary cap needed to sign them? Will it factor into any free-agency signings and releases this offseason?
John: The present and future salary cap factors into every free-agent signing and every negotiation. For David Caldwell to approach the cap any other way would be irresponsible.
Saif from Washington, DC:
Will Bortles be taking a refresher on his mechanics in the offseason? How long does it take for improved mechanics to become ingrained?
John: I anticipate Bortles will continue working on mechanics in the offseason as long as he plays in the NFL. Bortles' approach in this area has been high-profile because he has chosen to discuss it extensively publicly, but maintaining mechanics is an ongoing process for most NFL quarterbacks. That's particularly true of good quarterbacks.
Jason from Jacksonville:
Not to say I think we are going down the '96 road – unless we pick up Clyde Simmons and Natrone Means – but I wonder if the organization at this point knows what would happen. Do they know about 40,000 fans in the stadium at 1:00 a.m.? Do they realize how ready the fan base is for success and how wild this town and stadium would become? I know the fact that we still put close to 60,000 in the seats per game given recent history is beyond amazing. I sit in the North End Zone and that has become a shell of what it used to be noise wise. The stadium is more closed-in now. Will I get to hear the noise again and witness the pandemonium? It sure feels like we are on the road to that now. Maybe not this year, but it's coming.
John: Honestly, many people in the organization are very new to the team – certainly with no first-hand memories of the 1990s. They know that winning will bring out the passion of the fan base, but I doubt they know the degree to which it will happen. But I agree with you that it indeed will happen – and it will be fun to watch the people find out what you and I already know.

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