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O-Zone: Cat nip time

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Sam from Fernandina Beach, FL:
After watching the scrimmage Saturday, I'm extremely impressed with Blake Bortles. He throws well on the run, and has very good pocket presence. I'm probably not alone in wanting him to start Week 1. I know it's just a scrimmage, but I think Bortles showed real signs of growth and maturity.
John: Bortles indeed was impressive Saturday. Yes, he has shown real growth and maturity, and no, you're certainly not the only one asking questions about him starting Week 1. Bortles has looked good and has shown a lot of things you want to see in a guy who eventually is going to be the starting quarterback. That's what the Jaguars hoped to see. And it's OK for them to want to see more than just one scrimmage – and to make darned sure he's ready – before naming him the starter. That latter part is just what the Jaguars plan to do.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Who are the officials that are being used in practices and scrimmages? Are they NFL or pending NFL officials?
John: The officials who worked the scrimmage were the team of NFL referee John Parry. They worked Jaguars practice late in the week, then worked the scrimmage. The idea is for officials to be in each team's training camp a few days to review rules changes and emphasizes, and to give players and coaches feedback on how they're responding to rules in practice.
Tres from Lake Butler, FL:
I don't think people complaining about players "not sucking it up" understand the lengths the league is taking to protect players. This carries over to how injuries are handled. Gone are the Tom Coughlin days where you just "suck it up." Athletic trainers and coaching staffs are ensuring players stay absolutely as healthy as possible now – and preventing any long-term damage associated with sucking it up.
John: Teams indeed do more now to ensure long-term availability of players, and the Jaguars are proactive in the area. Players such as Roy Miller and Geno Hayes routinely get veterans days off, and Paul Polsuszny, Marcedes Lewis and Tyson Alualu often do, too. The idea is for players make it through an entire season, not prove to people how manly they are or how well they suffer through heat. It's not as if players are driving to EverBank Field in the morning and plotting ways to get out of practice and go to the Town Center that day. The team dictates these days off. It's part of trying to get as much of the team as possible through as much of the season as possible as healthy as possible.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
People keep talking about the rash of injuries the Jaguars have compared to other teams. It seems to us the Jaguars have more injuries because we, as fans, follow the team more closely. When you consider how many true impact injuries we have I don't think it's a stretch to say the Jags are one of the healthier teams in the NFL. Also can we stop hearing from the guy who wants the players to play through injuries for a meaningless, glorified, scripted (albeit awesome) practice?
John: The Jaguars indeed thus far have been relatively healthy, and it's important to remember that although Cecil Shorts III and Allen Robinson being out for an extended period isn't ideal, it's better than them being out for the entire season. As for the guy who wants players to play through injuries, I thought about not posting his emails, but I just couldn't do it. Sometimes lunacy is good reading.
Rick from Annandale:
Do you think there is a realistic chance the Jags may only keep five linebackers (Poz, Watson, Hayes, Reynolds, T. Smith), particularly given today's high usage of nickel and dime packages? If they keep six, who is your current leading candidate for who that sixth linebacker will be??
John: I think they will keep six linebackers, and I think the sixth linebacker will be Nate Stupar. He worked with the first team when Paul Posluszny had a veterans day off last week and he has been very, very solid during the offseason and training camp.
Scott from Jacksonville:
If the Jags are smart, Bortles won't see the field this year. If they rush him on the field this year for no reason other than to make a change at quarterback, they will be making the same mistake with Bortles as they did with Gabbert. This kid is too raw to consider starting at all this season, so stop trying to make up rumors that Bortles will even be close to being ready to start. It is unfair to Blake and extremely unfair to Henne, the Jags best player last season.
John: Wow. Your email escalated quickly, going from a relatively reasonable point to what sounded like an accusation that someone is making up rumors that Bortles is close to ready to start. I honestly haven't heard anyone within the team or close say anything of the kind. What I have heard people say and what I've seen is that Bortles has made strides since the offseason. That doesn't mean he's ready to start, but he may be closer than originally thought. That's good, but closer doesn't mean ready; it means closer. But your first point – that the Jaguars can't play Bortles early because of what happened with Gabbert – is one that needs to be addressed. Whatever the team does with Bortles must be done because of what Bortles can or can't do – not because of Gabbert.
From one Johnny O to another, is there any chance Blake starts Week 1, barring injury? Explanation: if he plays lights out with the twos while Henne struggles mightily with the ones, and his feet appear to be no concern, would he start – despite there being no competition?
John: Careful, Scott doesn't want any rumors getting started.
Wally from Duval Town:
The Jaguars' passing numbers have been so low over the past several seasons that if the team cracks 200 yards it seems to be a big deal. Is that an effect of the quarterback, wide receivers or offensive line? It would be nice to see some big chunks or run after catch.
John: The passing numbers have been low for a number of reasons, with all of the positions you mention playing a part. That's how football works: it's rarely one thing or another as much as it is a combination. The Jaguars this offseason made changes on the offensive line, drafted young wide receivers and drafted a young quarterback. At some point, that should help improve the passing game. How soon that happens depends on how quickly individuals develop and how quickly those individuals mesh within the offensive system.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Chad Henne. Batted passes. Sigh.
John: Yes, batted passes have followed Henne through a lot of his career. We'll probably talk about it a lot in the O-Zone while he is the Jaguars' starting quarterback. People will ask, "Why?" There's no statistical or hard, fast reason. There are theories. Do defenders read his eyes? Is his trajectory low? Is it something that just happens? He has been among the leaders in the category, so it's an issue, but it may not be one that ever has a satisfying answer.
Sherick from Jacksonville:
We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
John: Wherever you go, there you are.
Derek from Albuquerque, NM:
Just wanted to give a huge thanks to the whole team for offering the live coverage of the scrimmage. It's tough being so far from the team I love, but you guys make it feel like I never left Jacksonville! (Almost...still gotta see those videoboards in person). DTWD!
John: #DTWD
Lance from Jacksonville:
Judging by Saturday's scrimmage, this is gonna be a long year.
John: Yes, by all means – judge the entire season and building process on one scrimmage without the starting right guard, starting running back, three of the top four receivers and one of top two tight ends. This is a work in progress. No one around EverBank would tell you different, but it's also not right to judge the process solely on Saturday.
Austin from Atlanta, GA:
Say what you want about him looking comfortable. Chad looks like Chad, and I'm not saying that as a compliment.
John: Yes, by all means – judge the entire…
Tom from St. Augustine, FL:
I saw a video on the internet and every time I watched it, Bortles stuck his tongue out and threw off his back foot. I watched it several times and he did it each time. Can't we get this fixed?
John: I saw a video on the internet and every time I watched it, the cat would try to bat the little thing with cat nip at the end of a piece of string with his paw and fall off the back of the couch. I laughed every time.

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