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O-Zone: Common ground

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
Do you think if the Jaguars had more of a running threat this would open up the passing game some for Blake Bortles? Also, as a second part to the question, why has the running back position been so devalued? It would seem to me that if a team had a good running game with a featured running back the quarterback would be much more effective in general.
John: Sure, if the Jaguars' running game was more effective it would help everything offensively. That's true of any part of the team. A better passing game helps the running game, and vice versa; and indeed, the Jaguars ran a tad better last week than they had the first three games, so we'll see if that continues. As for the devaluing thing, it really is the position that has been devalued more than the entire concept of running the football. That's because there is a general belief that running well depends more on the offensive line and downfield blockers than the back. There are exceptions to this. Elite runners are still valued. But in general there is a feeling that a lot of runners are pretty much interchangeable parts.
Jerry from Nottingham, UK:
When a player such as Winston Guy gets cut does his salary just stop? Or does he have a contract that has to be paid up?
John: In the case of Winston Guy, the salary does just stop. For a vested veteran – a player with four or more years of experience – a salary is often guaranteed if he is on the roster at the start of the season. A vested veteran can collect his entire salary upon release once in his career. Guy, being a third-year veteran, was not vested.
John from Orlando, FL:
"Bill Clinton has better odds of being re-elected president of the United States of America than the Jaguars do winning a game." "There are high school JV teams better than the Jaguars." "The Jaguars couldn't beat the girl scouts" How are we as fans supposed to support a team that has this kind of reputation?
John: By knowing that it won't have that kind of a reputation forever, I suppose. And by knowing that it won't have that reputation very much longer. Look, I get that it's tough. And I get that it has been tough for a while. To say otherwise would be to minimize it, and I won't do that. But I do believe you're starting to see the beginnings of the way out of this, particularly with Blake Bortles. Stay tuned.
Doug from Section 118 and Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Storm Johnson might be active this weekend. Bortles knows him well … will he see his first regular season snap this weekend?
John: Yes, from what Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said this week there is a good possibility Johnson will play Sunday. It has nothing to do with Bortles knowing him. It more than likely has to do with the Jaguars wanting to continue to figure out the right personnel and combinations at the running back position.
Jason from Jacksonville:
This may be a sore spot for some people, but I read up on Justin Blackmon, and he's doing good in the voluntary program. If he's reinstated, do the Jaguars cut him? Or does he work his way back into the starting lineup?
John: Cut him? Goodness gracious, no. The Jaguars retained the rights to Blackmon for the simplest of reasons – that if he can get his off-field situation in order he is a very, very, very good wide receiver. He perhaps is a great wide receiver. If he is reinstated, certainly I'd expect him to be playing for the Jaguars and if he plays for the Jaguars, yeah, I'd say he starts.
Catherine from Jacksonville:
John, I see "college football fan" written all over so many of the emails you receive. It has been 20 years. Will there ever come a time when the majority of Jags fans understand the difference between the college football world and the NFL world?
John: I don't see "college football fan" written nearly as much as "tired football fan." Jaguars fans are tired of losing, as they should be. And no, I don't think the majority of any fan base will become accustomed to losing. They will be impatient and they'll want to win now. As they should.
Chris from Daytona Beach, FL:
Will you describe the nature of the Otto position? What makes the position so unique/difficult? Also, will you evaluate Dekoda Watson's performance so far this year?
John: The Otto linebacker is a player with a strong-side linebacker skill set who can play on the edge and also be a pass rusher when needed. I don't know that it's incredibly unique as much as just a player asked to do that role within the Jaguars' scheme. Watson hasn't played as well as expected. If he had, he would be starting over J.T. Thomas at the Otto.
Barry from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Can you explain the Cover 3 defense? As our defensive backs have been getting lit up so far this year, do you anticipate a move away from Cover 3 to something else? Cover 2 perhaps?
John: Cover 3 is zone defense with two cornerbacks covering thirds of the field with a safety covering the deep middle. The other safety and a linebacker then cover some of the shorter areas of the field. As often is the case, I don't know that simply snapping your fingers and moving from Cover 3 to Cover 2 – two corners playing tighter on receivers with two safeties covering the deep middle – is going to solve all problems. First, the Jaguars don't run just Cover 3. They run a variety of schemes. Second, the Jaguars' pass-defense issues so far this season haven't stemmed from coverage nearly as often as players not executing within the coverages.
Dave from Oviedo, FL:
O-man, I think one area where Bortles will make a big difference is free agency. The clock is now ticking; our window of opportunity has opened. Do you think the Jags will be spending big in free agency next year or is that not really Gus Bradley's style?
John: I think you're right that Bortles will make a difference in free agency. It may not mean free agents lining up and holding deli tickets for the chance to play here, but will a skill position player or two be more likely to listen to the Jaguars' pitch? Over time, will a defensive player or two think harder about Jacksonville than otherwise might have been the case? If Bortles indeed ends up being special, yes, that's entirely conceivable. And while it's perhaps too early to talk about windows of opportunity, yes, I think the Jaguars will spend bigger next offseason than the last two. It's not so much whether it's Bradley's style or not as much as it fitting with David Caldwell's general plan since taking over.
Dakoda from Dupree, SD:
Bortles can extend a play as well as the elite quarterbacks. Probably better than quite a few of them. Movement to buy more time is a huge quality for a quarterback. Last week, it looked like he needed it. How do you feel the offensive line plays this Sunday?
John: You say it looked like Bortles needed to buy time last week; I suppose that's true, but that's probably going to be the case for a while. Bortles' pocket presence is a strength and it's supposed to help all phases of the offense. I would expect the line to play about as it did Sunday, perhaps a little better. Not only is Austin Pasztor back, the Chargers' front is really, really good and the Steelers' pass rush hasn't been consistently dominant yet.
David from Gainesville, FL:
Think how amazing our receiving corps would be if we get Justin Blackmon back.
John: It sure wouldn't hurt.
Ken from Jacksonville:
Serious question here. Why is playing left tackle so hard? To me it seems so simple. Keep the other from getting to your quarterback, or make a hole for the running back to run through. What am I missing?
John: You're missing that you're as often as not playing the other team's best pass rusher, and that it can take time when doing that to go from being very good most of the time to being consistently really good a larger percentage of the time.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
O, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were free agents in their prime, and obviously the Seattle brass believed they offer greater value than Red and Clemons. I believe if you "Google" Seattle's defense you'll see they're pretty good, and with a few searches for starting rosters of winning teams you would also quickly realize any notion that an abundance of rookies carrying a team is a fairy tale.
John: You're right. That's why drafting and developing takes time. Sounds like we've found some nice common ground.

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