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O-Zone: Credit where it's due

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Glen from Lake City, FL:
OK, John, as Director of O-Zone Fan Wish Personnel, you need to sign us a new O-line and start Bortles. If you don't do this, we may have to evaluate your position as we make final cuts...
John: I can't control the Bortles Thing. I'm on record saying I'd probably start him, but I'm also on record saying I wouldn't trust myself with the decision. There are minds wiser than mine who believe Henne is the right guy to start, and if those reasons are based on his experience and the youth around him, I get it … I do. As for the offensive line, I believe someone wrote throughout the offseason this was going to be a work-in-progress early in the season. I believe that someone was me, and I'll stick with that. This line is yoooooooooung – as in, yooooooooooung. There are a lot of new faces in new places. That was true even before they spent training camp looking for a starting center. Well, it appears they now have their right guard/center combination: Brandon Linder at right guard and Luke Bowanko at center. That means two rookies starting in the interior and a guy with five starts at left tackle (Luke Joeckel). Add to that starting right tackle Austin Pasztor being out to start the season … and, yeah, there are going to be some rough spots early. But remember the big picture: this is early in the rebuild for this team. Look for progress up front offensively. That's what's important. If the Jaguars have even four of their five offensive linemen in place for the future and what we see this year are the first steps of that group coming together, then that's a significant step to be taking.
Seth from Omaha, NE:
When discussing the quarterback issue, I'd like to remind everyone of the huge difference between Gabbert in the preseason, and in the regular season. Now, Gabbert never …
John: You wrote more. You made good points. But it's my column and the point I want to make by cutting you off is that we need to stop comparing Bortles to Gabbert. I don't know how much I know, but I know I know that.
Dwayne from Jacksonville:
"Great job dealing with these idiots" - I think he was referring to Boselli, Shadrick and Prisco …
John: I just read back over the question. Yeah, I get it now.
Lance from Jacksonville:
Is it 2015 yet?
John: Goodness, no, and that's a good thing. Your question implies dread about what's to come, and for longstanding fans of this team, I don't see why that would be the case. Is this a playoff team this season? I long have said I doubt that to be the case. I've long said 8-8 would be a lofty goal for this team, and by "lofty" I meant very, very difficult to attain. This is Year Two of the build. This is a team that needed to overhaul the roster significantly. This was not a team with four or five Pro Bowl selections last season or the season before. You know what this team is now? It's a team showing significant signs of progress. It's a team with what appears to be three or four good, young wide receivers, and if two of those guys indeed turn out to be good then you're in good shape. It's a team that seems to be establishing a solid defense and that is perhaps on the verge of establishing an identity. It's also a team that appears to have a guy who might, might, might just be a special quarterback in the future. Wish for 2015? No, Lance, I don't think so. I'm going to watch this team this season and watch a team that might be developing something solid that can last for a while. That makes 2014 pretty fascinating.
Steve from Jacksonville:
I know it's far-fetched considering the much larger financial investment (and enormous egos) involved in the NFL management selections, but could you ever see an NFL team adopting the system of many Europe (and the Seattle Sounders of MLS) Soccer clubs where fans elect to keep or fire a General Manager? I couldn't begin to imaging how much press this would bring. Like I said, far-fetched but who knows?
John: No. Absolutely not.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
What is your current projection on how many and which wide receivers make the final 53? Does Ace count toward that 53 for the first four weeks?
John: Ace Sanders doesn't count toward the roster for the first four weeks. I haven't nailed down my entire 53, but I'd say the Jaguars keep six wide receivers – Cecil Shorts III, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Tandon Doss and Mike Brown.
Bill from Ocean Springs, MS:
Do you get tired of replying to the same 'Play Bortles!" comments? My guess is "not," as it generates comments and keeps reader interest high...btw, do you think if Bortles was the starter you'd start getting 'Play Henne!" comments?
John: I don't get tired of replying to the same questions at times, because so far people don't get tired of asking questions. People wonder about this issue, and that's understandable. It has nothing to do with generating comments, and in fact, the O-Zone generates a lot of comments whether there is a quarterback debate or not. And yes, I suppose there would be "Play Henne" comments, though not as many – at least not until Bortles' first interception.
Cory from Madison, WI:
Why would you publicly say a player has NO chance of winning a job when the present starter is nothing special? The No. 3 overall pick should absolutely have an opportunity to take the job from a career backup. I mean, third-round Russell Wilson was able to for crying out loud. I'd rather him be given the job based on merit than him be given it midseason because of how incompetent Henne is, or next year just because. So very tired of all of the nonsensical excuses. Play him. He gives us the best chance to win. They gave the job to Gabbert last year based on performance in practice. That was a bad decision, too.
John: #DTWD
Jonathan Section 215:
I'm all about how great Blake Bortles is going to be, but am one fer the coaching staff letting him learn this year. Give him time to learn the offense, work on his feet, and make better decisions with the ball while watching the O-line jell from the bench is a good idea.
John: That's great, but try telling that to Cory.
John from Savannah, GA:
This roster still needs help. If anything, Thursday proved if injuries start to take a toll – as has happened in the not-so-distant past – things could get ugly in a hurry.
John: Well, yeah, John. Your scenario describes … oh, pretty much most if not all of the teams in the NFL. A slew of injuries at one position can significantly damage most NFL teams. Now, as for your first point – that the Jaguars' roster still needs help … well, of course, it does. It takes time to gather 22 legitimate NFL starters and takes more time than that to draft and develop depth behind that. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell, remember, started drafting players here in 2013. That means the players he has drafted are rookies and second-year players. Rookies and second-year players typically are not fully-developed players and they are certainly not experienced depth. The roster stocking is not yet full. It won't be full by the end of this season. But it is an improved roster and it's a team that should be more competitive this season than it was last season. That could make this a cool season to watch.
Gary from Wesley Chapel, FL:
It seems this website has been 'getting better every day'. Great job by everyone involved. Thank you. The thing to work on for today is to get Shad to spring for a 'Round' Table. I appreciate the content, but if you insist on calling the segment 'Jags of the Round Table'... something tells me there will be a custom-made table unveiled during the season.
John: You had me at 'getting better every day.' And honestly, while I do indeed get credit – perhaps because of my boyish good looks, angular build and impish charm – there are people who deserve as much credit as I for the content of this site. They're hard-working, diligent people who often put in upwards of nine hours a day, but who don't receive the due/recognition they deserve. This bothers me to my core, because not only are they critical to our mission at, I consider them close friends – confidants … spiritual guideposts, if you will. Without them – and I mean this sincerely – this website is nothing, and I'm not much more. And you know what? It's time for this injustice – this disregard for the hard work, talent, sacrifice and very human decency of these people – to end. Someone needs to recognize them. Indeed, someone needs to end this darkness, to hold them up to the light, to praise them. And I'd be just the guy to do it. If I could only remember their names.

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