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O-Zone: Cheese, please

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Dan from Rincon, GA:
Three games, three blowouts. The Jags seem to have a Jekyll and Hyde persona. Which do you think will show in New York?
John: I've gotten a lot of variations on the Jekyll and Hyde question – and "consistency" indeed has been a consistent topic around the Jaguars this week. I understand the concept on one level because the Jaguars looked good in Weeks 1 and 3 and lost by a wide margin in Week 2. Still, there's part of me that doesn't see the Jaguars as being all that inconsistent this season. They have started all three games playing very good defense; they have yet to allow a first-half touchdown. They were OK offensively in Week 1 and got big plays defensively to extend the lead. They struggled offensively in Week 2 and never got those big plays defensively; after a while, the defense wore down and Tennessee pulled away for a 37-16 victory that looked easier than the game felt. The one outlier game in that sense has been Baltimore, when the offense hit big plays in the first half and created such a margin that everything was a feeding frenzy after that. I think the Jaguars' defense will show in New York because I've seen nothing to indicate it won't show; that part of the team is remarkably consistent for it being so early in the season. What of the offense? Will the Jaguars hit enough big plays and score enough to get the leads they need? That may be the week-to-week question that goes a long way toward determining most games this season – and the season as a whole.
Jim from Phoenix, AZ:
J, you silly goose!
John: I have no words.
Edward from Los Angeles, CA:
Are we good? Asking for a friend.
John: Tell your "friend" that, yeah … the Jaguars just might be good. They have played three games and there seems little question this defense is at least "good." It's hard to call it "great" because the last quarter and a half against Tennessee must count, but the unit has turned in 10 stifling quarters. It's hard to do that if you're not at least good. Is the offense good? We'll see. But are the Jaguars better? Is this team going to have a chance to be competitive against most teams on its schedule? Yes, there's a good chance it's at least that good.
Hank from Toms River, NJ:
Sbarro's is not a good example of Jersey pizza. Try Route 3 Pizzaria on Route 3 West.
John: I'll see what I can do about getting to Route 3. But nothing ever, ever, ever, ever will be as good as Sbarro's.
Jess from Castle Rock, CO:
John, you continue to make statements that Blake Bortles probably won't do this or that. A recent one to David from Maplewood, New Jersey, was that Blake probably won't repeat his four-touchdown performance. Everyone wants to focus on last year and completely ignore 2015, where Blake set five franchise records and was second in the league in touchdowns to Tom Brady. Just two years ago he threw two touchdowns in six games, three in two games, four in two games, and five in one game. He has shown the ability to be the franchise quarterback. Protect him as the O-Line did in Games 1 and 3, and have a balanced game plan and he – and the team – can be as good as they've shown themselves to be. Bortles has shown the skills and ability to be among the best quarterbacks in the league. The college football mentality of so many fans is mind-boggling and you seem, at times, to feed their short-sightedness.
John: I was as impressed as anyone by Bortles' performance against the Ravens. He deserved and received credit for that game, which on many levels was the best of his NFL career. But what I have said often this week is that Bortles probably won't repeat that performance every week – and indeed he probably won't throw four touchdowns with no interceptions. It's the last part of that sentence that's most notable. Bortles threw no interceptions while throwing four touchdowns – and did so in a victory. Bortles indeed has thrown for a lot of touchdowns in several games, but he usually has done that in losses. And he used to routinely mix in a heart-breaking interception or two. What's intriguing is Bortles is reducing the interceptions. He has two in three games this season and two in five games with Doug Marrone as head coach. He has just three in the last seven games. That's a huge reduction from his first two and a half seasons. Maybe it's a trend. If so, that's a major step in his development.
Chris from Norfolk, VA:
It's funny to see us lose our heads over Blake Bortles' one game of awesome. I come back down to earth when I remember Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers play like this nine out of 10 games. It really puts it in perspective for the younger fans.
John: There's no question Jaguars fans are enthusiastic about Bortles' performance against Baltimore – and with reason. He looked better in that game than he ever has looked in three previous NFL seasons. And there's also no question Brady and Rodgers play at or near at that level every week. But guess what? Brady and Rodgers are two of the best quarterbacks ever to play. They are a rare standard and no quarterbacks play at their level every week. Here's what's significant about Bortles, though: he legitimately had a good game Sunday. The game came during a stretch in which he has dramatically reduced his interceptions. He also appears to be getting more comfortable in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's offense. It's reasonable to not "trust" that Bortles will play every week as he did against Baltimore; he hasn't played remotely well enough consistently to trust that. But if you're looking for signs that maybe – just maybe – Bortles is capable of playing at a higher level than he has reached in the past, then perhaps Sunday's victory over Baltimore is such a sign.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
Marcedes Lewis used to be the go-to guy for David Garrard if memory serves – to the tune of 10 touchdowns. Do we have that Marcedes back? Or was that a one-time thing?
John: Lewis showed last week he can be a factor in the offense. He's big, athletic and for the first time in a long time the Jaguars found a way to effectively use him as a major matchup advantage. Is one standout game a sign that he's "back?" His 10-touchdown season came in 2010. That's seven seasons ago – and that's a lifetime in the NFL. But consider the Jaguars' situation offensively: a run-oriented attack, the need for a red-zone target with wide receiver Allen Robinson lost for the season, the lack of another obvious target at the tight end position … yes, there's a strong possibility Lewis could have his biggest role in quite some time.
Tony from Richmond, VA:
Do you think with T.J. Yeldon now being a healthy scratch in this loaded backfield that the team would look to move him via trade? Not that he doesn't have the talent but as coach said, there's just no room for him on the active roster come game-day.
John: There's a tendency among observers to suggest any player not in the starting lineup or playing a front-line role should be immediately traded. This tendency overlooks a far more prominent NFL tendency – that players at all positions become injured at various points in the season. The cool thing about not trading good players is you still are able to play them when other players get injured. And injuries tend to happen at running back relatively regularly.
Sage from Wisetown:
How will David Caldwell's evaluations for a quarterback in next year's class be different than when he was evaluating Bortles? You know, so he won't make the same mistake twice? After all, Sam Darnold has a problem throwing interceptions.
John: It seems you're assuming a few things, none of which may be correct – that the Jaguars will be looking for a quarterback, that they will be in a position to take Darnold and that Caldwell would be the sole evaluator/decision-maker. Remember, Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin has final say over football decisions. Either way, let's wait a few more weeks and see how this season plays out before we make assumptions about the team's priorities in the offseason.
Chervon from the Beach, USA:
So, say a fan like me eats cheese at the same time of every game, and the Jags score on that drive, should I keep eating cheese at that time every game? Also, when planning a great tasting cheese, I make sure to use the smelly kind. May I say? I LIKE YOUR AWESOME PINK SHIRTS! Yes, I know, very Cheesy ;)
John: Yes. If you begin eating cheese, keep eating cheese. That's a good motto whether the Jaguars are scoring or not.

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