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O-Zone: Color him rosy

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Hey, Johnny! How's it going? Just a thought, but if that was "targeting" last week could our DBs do that every game please?   WOOOOOOOO!
John: This is in reference to New York Giants wide receivers Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. saying this week that Jaguars defensive backs were targeting Beckham Jr. in a preseason game Saturday. I'm usually not one to dismiss these things out of hand, but I'm kinda, sorta dismissing this thing out of hand.
Jerome from Jacksonville:
Looking at the depth chart I saw something that left me dumbfounded. Bryan Walters was not on it. Why is no one respecting this guy? He has been the most consistent wide receiver on the team. Yeah, he may be a little slow but if you get the ball next to him it is a completion. Tell me am I on the Kool-Aid – or am I right to think he should be in the slot?
John: Walters is on the depth chart on I know this because I … well … looked at the depth chart on Still, you're probably right that he's overlooked and disrespected. And I'm probably more than a little guilty of not including him enough when discussing wide receivers. He has played very well and could be a factor in terms of the top five or six receivers on this team. We may get a little better idea about this Friday.
Myles from Jacksonville:
When will Julius Thomas be back?
John: The hope is he will return for the regular-season opener. So far, there has been nothing to indicate that won't happen.
Rob from Section 122:
I consider myself a knowledgeable football fan. But I never understood why tight ends or fullbacks have to report eligible before the play. Shouldn't the defense look at the offense and just know who's eligible, and who's on the field and where?
John: Not all tight ends and fullbacks must report eligible; just defensive players or offensive linemen who line up at those spots. It's mainly to eliminate confusion and promote fairness. Skill players wear numbers in the single digits, 20s, 30s, 40s and 80s. Defenders know players wearing those numbers are eligible receivers. When a player not wearing one of those numbers is eligible the defense has the right to know. If they didn't, you'd see all varieties of silliness with coaches stacking the line and trying to fool the defense with tomfoolery. And no one – and I do mean no one – likes to be fooled, especially not with tomfoolery.
Joel from Jacksonville:
After watching Jeff Lageman's film breakdown of the Jaguars' third-down run play against the Giants, I'm really encouraged about the team's ability to convert third-and-short situations. The power run-blocking by Brandon Linder, Jermey Parnell, Marcedes Lewis and Tyson Alualu was a thing of beauty. What excites me is what options open up as teams load up to stop the right-side power run. Imagine Julius Thomas or Clay Harbor slipping behind the linebacker or strong safety who is focused on stopping the run - could see some third-and-short plays turn into 25-yard pass completions! Is this just dreaming or a possible reality?
John: Sure, it's possible – and that's absolutely the side benefit of having a dominant running game. Teams do have to stack the line against it, and that does allow play-action. What you've described is a microcosm of what Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley sees for the offense this season. Three successful plays against the Giants the other night doesn't mean the Jaguars are going to dominate every opponent on the ground, but this team now does seem capable of running the ball. If opponents believe that's true, it will make the passing offense that much better.
Dennis from Orange Park, FL:
Since we have two quality kickers, what's the chance of trading one instead of just cutting one, even if that means keeping him on the 53-man roster for a week or so?
John: Probably slim. Yes, the Jaguars have two quality kickers, but if a team is going to trade for one of those players they have to believe there's a marked difference between what's available in free agency and those kickers. They have to believe that marked difference is worth giving up a draft selection. It's not unreasonable to think it will happen, but it's rare.
Clarence from Section 409 and Fort Worth, TX via Jacksonville:
The recovery time projected for Fowler's ACL would mean he could possibly play in December. Since the injury and recovery time is similar to Colvin's is there a chance that Fowler might be able to play in a game or two in December?
John: This isn't going to happen. Yes, Aaron Colvin returned to play in November of last season after rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury, but he sustained his ACL in mid-January; Dante Fowler Jr. sustained his torn ACL in early May. That three-and-half-month difference is huge. While there is a shot Fowler could play in December it would be an extremely long shot. The benefit of having him for a game or two would not be worth the risk. As it stands, Fowler will have 16 months between the injury and his first regular-season game. The hope is that amount of time will allow him to return at as close to full strength as possible.
Dave from Jacksonville:
Who is this Marcus (or is it Markee) Lee again? The name is familiar but I can't quite place it. Didn't he play football at one time in the past?
John: (Yawn)
Tim from Jacksonville:
Do you think we'll see at some point the coaches deciding they've seen enough of the field-goal unit this preseason, and decide to go for it, because you know, it's preseason?
John: Blake Bortles' touchdown run in the preseason opener came on, you know, fourth-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 4.
Steve from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Why all the concern over the lack of a pass rush when we are rushing four down linemen with no blitzes against five-to-seven defenders? I watch the replays of the Giants game and that is what I saw. Why would anyone expect sacks?
John: The reason for the concern is several-fold. One is it's 2015 in the day of 24/7 Internet/social media, so people are going to be concerned and complain about things. Two, the Jaguars did in fact blitz some against the Giants and still didn't have a sack. Three – and perhaps most legitimately -- even aside from the lack of sacks there also was a lack of pressure at times. Even if you don't get the sack you have to disrupt the quarterback's rhythm. I think the Jaguars will be OK in this area during the regular season – in part because the pass rush was fine last regular season after a quiet preseason – but the concern absolutely is understandable.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-man, I know the starters are supposed to get their most extensive playing time in the third preseason game, but we are a young team that can't afford losing front-line talent for the year. Any talk of the Jags cutting down on the playing time of starters, and erring on the side of caution?
John: No.
John from Jacksonville:
Over the years, it appears fans better understand preseason based on what I read on the O-Zone from season to season. This season, it has been entertaining reading consistently how you bring back to Earth the overly optimistic comments and talk off the ledge the overly pessimistic comments - both to bring everyone more neutral where they should be at this point while things play out before the regular season.
John: I agree that most readers seem to get what's important in preseason and what's not. As far as trying to keep a perspective on the preseason, it indeed is a daily task at times. I guess I've been around the NFL long enough to know that the giddiness or pessimism of a preseason fades quickly in the regular season. Shoot, as recently as last season the giddiness of a dominant first half in the regular-season opener faded in the final five minutes of that game in Philadelphia. When I watch this team, I am surprised by how much further ahead the offense is compared to what I expected. This makes me cautiously optimistic that the strides that appear to have been taken by Blake Bortles and the offensive line are real. I also know this remains a young team that has to take more steps before I start clearing the January calendar.
Robert from Jacksonville:
O, I don't want to hear about how improved Bortles looks after two preseason games; they are meaningless and predict nothing about how he will do in the regular season. Also, after two preseason games the defensive line has gotten no pressure at all. Surely this is a sign the defensive line is garbage and will be terrible all year. Trades, cuts, free agents … go get them all. Thanks for the daily fix.
John: And thank you for your unbridled, boyish optimistic outlook on life.

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