JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Dane from Jacksonville:
Now that Bortles is firing on all cylinders, how much emphasis will the front office put on maintaining Nate Hackett as the offensive coordinator? It could be special to keep Bortles in the same system and build on what he has started.
John: This is a good point and a pertinent topic, though I don't know how much the Jaguars actually can emphasize this. Nathaniel Hackett is the Jaguars' offensive coordinator and I expect that to remain the case next season; Bortles has grown this season and appears to be growing more comfortable with Hackett's offense and what Hackett asks him to do by the week. Hackett also must be given credit for coordinating an offense that's sixth in the NFL – with a rookie running back, three inexperienced wide receivers and a quarterback who until recently was considered by many a lost cause. The only way I see Hackett not being the coordinator in the near future is if he gets a head-coaching opportunity. This could be in his future, though not likely this coming offseason. If that opportunity did arise for Hackett, though, the Jaguars couldn't do much about it – nor should they try to do anything about it. You can't block a coordinator from becoming a head coach, nor would a team wish to do so. When a guy earns that opportunity, he deserves to take it.
Alton from Orlando by Way of Jacksonville:
Hey O, DTWD means Duval till We Die ... I think
John: No. That's silly.
Jared from Banning, CA:
We faced Jimmy G already once this season and he had quite a bit of success against us. Of course that was Preseason Week 1. How much of our starting D was out that game and should we take any of that into account for this weekend?
John: A lot of the Jaguars' starting defense was out in Preseason Week 1. But even if the entire defense had played, it wouldn't have anything to do with Sunday's game. For one, Garoppolo was playing for the Patriots at the time. For another … it was Preseason Week 1 and we're in Regular Season Week 16 now. The difference in the situations is all the difference in the NFL world.
Robert from Fernandina Beach, FL:
If the Titans lose their game against the Rams before start of the Jags game, which would give the Jags the division title, do you sit many of your starters Sunday and the final game (two weeks rest) to heal for the playoffs?
John: I wouldn't sit starters or front-line players Sunday for the simple reason that the No. 1 and/or No. 2 seed will still be very much in play as of Sunday. And remember: if the Jaguars win in San Francisco Sunday, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will still be in play in the final week of the regular season. That's because if the Jaguars win Sunday, they will have passed or will still have a chance to pass the Patriots (No. 1 seed) and Steelers (No. 2 seed). For those reasons, I don't know much rest any Jaguars player will be getting during the regular season. It's fine to assume the Steelers and Patriots won't lose again in the regular season. And it's true those teams appear to have favorable schedules. But a favorable schedule guarantees nothing in the NFL, and you don't want to miss out on a chance at a higher seed because you assumed incorrectly.
John from Cocoa, FL:
Hey, Big O: Just wanted to say how great it is to be a Jaguar fan now. I have been a fan since their inauguration in 1994, and have been true to the teal through bad times – even when I had to move to Indianapolis for a few years for work. A Jaguars fan in rival Colt territory. I even sat in the Club section with my Jags jersey cheering for my team. Now, I am seeing the Jaguars like in 1998 when they went to the AFC Championship. Now Bortles is starting to look like Brunell. Our Front Four proved they can get to any quarterback. The entire team is playing AWESOME! IT'S GREAT TO BE A JAG FAN NOW! I'M LOVIN' IT!!
John: You had to move to Indianapolis for work? That sounds awful.
Chris from Mandarin:
The Jaguars have averaged 146.6 yards per game when Leonard Fournette plays this season (which is really, really good), but also average 158 yards on the ground when he does not. There was a fake punt by Corey Grant in one game that he played and one that he missed, so they really cancel each other out.What would have been another impactful option at the No. 4 draft slot for the Jaguars this season? It seems that since the blocking is better, it really doesn't matter who is running around out of the backfield.
John: The Jaguars are 10-4 with a chance to clinch the AFC South Sunday. Quarterback Blake Bortles is playing at a high level. Must we really play "Who Was Available Two Slots Later in the Draft?" The Jaguars' running game as a whole this season would not be nearly as effective without Fournette, nor would the offense as a whole be as effective. He has helped this team establish its identity. Will it be judged in future years as a perfect pick? I have no idea. Was it a damned impactful pick? Was it the right pick at the right time? Yes and yes.
Damian from Appleton, WI:
We have been seeing more Dawuane Smoot lately. Is this because Smoot is playing well or Dante Fowler Jr. falling off?
John: It's because Smoot is playing well – and Smoot's snaps have little to do with Fowler's because Smoot is more of a strong-side end while Fowler is more of a weak-side end. While Smoot's snaps have increased a bit, Fowler's percentages in recent games are pretty consistent with what they have been all seasons. Strong-side end Calais Campbell's have been down a tick in the last two weeks, which makes sense because he is a more veteran player and you'd like to get him rest when possible. The main reason Smoot is playing more is because he's a good player with a bright future. Look for his playing time to increase as time goes on.
Chris from Land of the Playoffs:
Oh: We in it, O-man. Have you ever covered a team that has had this many phases of the team play so well at various parts of a season and sometimes all at once?
John: Yes. I have covered five teams that have played in AFC Championship Games (two Jaguars teams, three Colts teams), two Colts teams that played in Super Bowls and one Colts that won a Super Bowl. I have seen teams play this well at various parts of a season and sometimes all at once. The 1999 Jaguars team I covered played at a high level in all phases for much of the regular season, and the 2006 Colts team that won the Super Bowl played at a high level for four postseason games. Here's the thing about this Jaguars team that gives it a chance to be special: its defense has played at an extraordinarily high level all seasons and seems capable of maintaining that. The offense in the last three weeks is increasingly showing signs of improving enough to give that defense leads. And if this defense gets leads there's no team in the NFL it can't shut down.
Steve from Atlanta, GA:
Does the rise of Jaydon Mickens, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook make both Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee expendable this offseason? Adding another rookie in the early rounds of the draft makes the wide receiver group young, ascending and affordable for the next three-to-four years.
John: This remains a great unknown – and I absolutely believe it remains an unknown. Westbrook, Mickens and Cole have played well and are undoubtedly part of the future. I'd say it's pretty obvious that at least one of Hurns, Lee and Allen Robinson won't return next season – and possibly two. I believe Robinson will be back. What will make sense financially between Lee and Hurns? I don't have a feel for that yet. I'm not sure the Jaguars do, either. Remember, too: the young trio of Mickens, Cole and Westbrook have looked good, but they have looked good for a few games – with Mickens looking good at receiver for one game. The potential is exciting, but it's still just potential.
Marc from Oceanway:
The Trashman cometh...
John: I thought Blake Bortles' comment about Jadeveon Clowney Wednesday would be the coolest thing I heard about him this week …
Todd from Oklahoma City, OK:
I just wanted to recognize Blake and his mom Suzy. I was recently deployed to the Middle East where I became very sick and diagnosed with cancer and was sent home early. Suzy heard of my situation and she and Blake sent me lots of Jag Swag and some encouraging words. They are a very thoughtful and caring family. The organization is lucky to have them on and off the field.
John: … and then I heard this.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Dane from Jacksonville: