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O-Zone: Carrying the load

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it... Brian from New Hampshire:
I agree with you that we are starting to see the core develop. My question is, "Has a team ever found six core players in one draft?" It looks like the Jaguars 2014-2015 is a really big win so far.
John: There have been some very, very good drafts throughout NFL history – Pittsburgh Steelers 1974 and San Francisco 49ers 1981 come immediately to mind – but to mention them with the 2014 Jaguars draft would be to compare that class with some of the legendary classes in NFL history. We're not there yet, and I don't know that it's realistic to think all six of the players from that class that are starting to look really good – Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith, Aaron Colvin and Brandon Linder – will be elite-level "core" players. But all do look like they have a chance to be good, and to perhaps eventually be core players. That's a start.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, it does not seem we have the proper personnel to impart a real Leo D. Would it not be better for us to use various blitzing packages for the second half of the season? I know there is a risk/reward issue but when they work, boy, do they work.
John: I don't think you'll see the Jaguars abandon their Leo-based defense. That's their scheme, and their personnel dictates that they continue to run it. All the same, I don't think there's any question you will see the Jaguars use more and various blitzes moving forward. There indeed is risk. And I don't believe for a minute that Head Coach Gus Bradley loves the idea of blitzing as a foundation of the defense. But the first seven games have shown they need to take those risks to pressure the quarterback effectively.
Eric from Yulee, FL:
I understand players needed some time off during the bye to heal and relax, but I was wondering if they used this opportunity to get some extra game-planning in for the Jets. Do players normally stay around and lift in the weight room or watch film? Also, if they choose to hang around can they have any one-on-one time with the coaches in the meeting rooms or on the field or is that banned by the Collective Bargaining Agreement or unreasonable due to the fact that perhaps the coaches may have taken the week off as well?
John: The CBA mandates that players have four days off over the bye. If the team's game the following week is on Sunday, two of those days off must be Saturday and Sunday. The Jaguars last week were off Thursday through Sunday, with players spending Tuesday and some of Wednesday in meetings and conditioning. Coaches spent time looking ahead to the Jets game, but players were not involved in that.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
If the 2014 draft were redone knowing what we know today, do you think Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr or Blake Bortles would have dropped out of the Top 5 picks? I'd be shocked if any of them did, with all three of them looking like legitimate Top 15 quarterbacks in the very near future.
John: You never know how every team is going to think, so I wouldn't say all three would have gone in the Top 5. But is it safe to say all would have gone in the top half of the first round and perhaps the Top 10? Judging by the results and the potential all three have shown … yeah, that sounds right.
Kai from the Keebler Tree:
Game commentators say an elite quarterback has to be able to make all the throws. I have also read in some of the national media reports that the Jags have to cater the offense because Blake Bortles cannot make all of the throws. What are the throws is he unable to make? Can he develop to make whatever throws he is lacking?
John: I wouldn't say Bortles has the strongest arm in the NFL. I would say I haven't seen a whole lot of cases where arm strength – or the inability to make a throw – has been a huge issue. I also would say he has improved his decision-making and pace of decision-making to the point where he's making more throws consistently than he did last season. We haven't seen Bortles throw many screens or many deep down and outs or comeback routes, so maybe those need more work, but there's nothing physically about Bortles to indicate he can't make those throws.
John from Jacksonville:
When the quarterback signals a player to go in motion why don't referees call the false start if they are still moving? More times than not they don't call the false start. Aren't they supposed to be set (still) prior to the ball being snapped (hiked)? Or is that the notorious (bogus) Good No Call, the announcers always talk about?
John: You're allowed to have one player in motion before the snap if that player is not moving toward the line of scrimmage. I kid you not.
Dave from Duval:
O- In analyzing Blake's crucial pick-sixes, I see defenders getting good breaks and jumping the route on most of them. He's not staring the receivers down. His windup and release are definitely quicker this year, but still with pick-six results. Why does he not pump fake more like the elite quarterbacks I see? The few times he does it's usually successful.
John: Bortles has thrown three pick-sixes this season, and I don't know that there's a real trend to be found therein. Josh Norman made a nice break on the ball on Bortles' pick-six against Carolina, but Bortles would be the first to tell you he stared down the receiver and took way too long on the throw. That throw was kind of an outlier for Bortles this season. The pick-six against Buffalo last Sunday was a long pass down the middle on which wide receiver Allen Robinson was contacted, so it really wasn't a matter of a defender making a good break. On the third pick-six – against Houston – Bortles and tight end Julius Thomas has a miscommunication and Texans safety Andre Hal made an easy catch and scored on an easy touchdown. Of those three plays, a pump fake might have worked on the first one – against Carolina – but probably not the others.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
Although the NFL trade deadline isn't always active do you see the Jaguars making any moves?
John: I sort of doubt it, because being active at the trade line often means giving up future draft selections for older players. You do that at your own peril, but if there was a pass rusher or a potential core player available … well, possible but I doubt it.
Ryan from Duval:
I knew Marqise Lee wasn't serious about his job like the Allens back when he went back to school instead of working on his craft. School will still be there free when he's too old or physically can't play anymore. Why would you not work on your craft, which obviously can get better, and stay in shape during your first offseason?
John: So, finishing school and keeping a promise made to your parents now counts against you? Got it. Look, Lee was in Jacksonville for the VOLUNTARY offseason program – and when he played this season, he showed no signs of not having taken things seriously in the offseason. He played well and looked comfortable in the offense. Remember, too: Lee has a soft-tissue injury. I'm not doctor, but I'm not sure that staying in Jacksonville and running routes unsupervised would have done much to prevent that.
Al from Gainesville, FL:
Heard of Chromecast? I watched the Jags' London game on big screen television with no problems. Think the NFL will do more of these? Or do the network contracts get in the way?
John: I'm a decidedly non-tech-savvy sportswriter who proudly pats myself on the back when I remember my Netflix password, so I'm not going to try to make the O-Zone Technology Central. I do feel confident streaming is the future, and can't imagine the NFL wants to be behind when it comes to the future.
Jedi Master Adam from Jedi Praxeum, Yavin:
Hey John … greetings from a galaxy far, far away. With all the talk about Davon House and Dwayne Gratz, it got me to thinking about how Aaron Colvin has looked. He had a really good game against Buffalo, but does he appear to be developing into a playmaker at corner? As maligned as the defense has been this season, it DOES have some serious potential. With Dante Fowler Jr.s return and I would assume a greater emphasis on the defense next draft and free agency, does Colvin look like a big part of that defense?
John: Colvin absolutely looks like a big part of the defense going forward. Remember, he missed the first 10 games of last season while rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament, so he essentially is still a rookie. Thirteen games into his NFL career, he leads the Jaguars with three sacks and is starting at corner and moving inside to nickel in passing situations. That's a huge load and one at which he is excelling.

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