JACKSONVILLE – Black Friday O-Zone.
Let's get to it … Al from Orange Park, FL:
From a competitive, win-the-division standpoint what is your take on the 2016 London game? I like it. The Jags know how to "do" that trip, and I do believe that we've developed enough London fans for it to be a "home" crowd. Still need to field the better team, but those little "edges" can't hurt.
John: I won't be dishonest and say I believe London is already an enormous advantage for the Jaguars, but I do believe it's moving in that direction. And while I guess I prefer division games at EverBank Field, I understand the necessity for high-profile London match-ups. I do believe the Jaguars are closer to finding the ideal travel routine for the London trip, and there is no question it was a more pro-Jaguars crowd in October than the past two seasons. Was that why the result was better? I'm not sure about that. The Bills weren't as good this season as the 49ers or Cowboys the past two seasons, and the Jaguars got a ton of breaks early in that game. The best thing would be for teams to start believing the Jaguars have an advantage. That would be a big edge, whether it was actually true or not.
Dan from Cary:
Thanks for posting the mistake-free football article. However, I don't expect Blake Bortles to play mistake-free. I'm a professional, one of the top in my field, and I make mistakes daily. I'm also not faced with making a complex decision in less than three seconds in the face of a 300-pound charging defensive end while millions watch. Not only that, I don't have my every freaking move dissected on the national stage after a performance.
John: Yeah, when I wrote this week about Bortles moving toward playing mistake-free it was a relative term. No quarterback plays mistake-free, and the Jaguars don't expect that to happen with Bortles. He needs to play better. He needs to work toward making fewer errors while still playing his aggressive style. Over time, that should result in a quarterback who gives his team a chance to win far more often than not.
Daniel from Lake Mills, WI:
Is Blake Bortles starting to look like the franchise quarterback that everyone knows he can be?
John: Yes, he's early in the process, but he's starting to look like that.
Cory from Frankfort, NY:
Two-part question. One, in Gus Bradley's defensive scheme what position is the least valued? Two, what players on the defensive side of the ball on our team do you see us re-signing based on the fact they are solid and maybe not superstars but reliable and maybe make a play or two that's huge in a season?
John: I don't know that one position stands out as being valued less than the others. Certainly Leo defensive end, free safety, weak-side linebacker and cornerback are important because plays must be made – but as we have seen from the Jaguars in recent seasons, a deficiency at any position hurts. As far as your second question, if you're talking about players who are free agents after this season, I don't know that any fit the description. If you're talking about players in general who fit the description … maybe Tyson Alualu, Abry Jones, Dan Skuta … players along those lines.
Brenton from Ukiah:
John: Yeah, I was going to make up the answer anyway.
Corey from Orange Park, FL:
How many interceptions had Bortles thrown at this time last year? I don't know for sure, but I feel like it has gotten significantly better. That also being said, why the slight nod to Winston? I can't say I disagree; I'm just genuinely curious. And on that note, Rivers or Brees?
John: Entering the final week of November last season, Bortles had thrown 15 interceptions in nine games. The slight nod to Winston when discussing ceilings for Bortles-Winston earlier this week wasn't particularly scientific or analytical – and it may not be correct. It just appears to me that Winston has a rare combination of arm strength, poise, mobility, strength. I think both he and Bortles have a chance to be very, very good. I think Winston's ceiling may be a touch higher, but I also think the difference is pretty negligible. And on your final note … Brees, but again, only by a nod.
Eric from Flowery Branch, GA:
You know just as well as I know that Telvin Smith won't get voted into the Pro Bowl. Outside linebackers from 3-4 defenses always get the vote. It's the high-sack tweeners that always get the nod. Been that way for years now.
John: You're right, and I imagine that could hold Smith back for a time. At the same time, there are exceptions to every rule and Smith has statistics on his side that will enable a case to be made. He's a big tackle-for-loss guy and is a very exciting player to watch. At some point, if he continues to play well I believe he has a chance.
MikeB from Jacksonville:
I really like that Blake is an aggressive passer and takes chances down the field. In this aspect he reminds me of Brett Favre. Didn't Favre throw lots of interceptions because he took chances?
Phillip from Bay Area, CA:
Cyprien has been playing well these past weeks. I see what we all envisioned when drafting him. Do you think his ceiling for growth can take him to elite status?
John: I'm not sure about Cyprien's ceiling, to be honest. I think it's high and I think he can really help this defense if he plays to his potential. As far as elite status, can we at least let him play at this level for a few weeks more to make sure he's pretty good?
Phil from Boynton Beach, FL:
Happy Thanksgiving! When Luke Bowanko lost the starting job to Wis, Gus spoke very highly of Luke's versatility and labeled him the "sixth" O linemen. What has changed since then as he has not sniffed the field and has been inactive in a few games?
John: The Jaguars have remained pretty healthy on the offensive line, and they moved rookie A.J. Cann into the starting lineup at guard when Brandon Linder was hurt. Also, Stefen Wisniewksi has remained healthy, and center would still be Bowanko's most likely position.
Lou from Athens, GA:
John: there is no real surprise, just like last week, where Rivers is going to put the ball: into the hands of his tight end and Woodhead out of the backfield. What adjustments are we going to make, specifically with covering TE's?
John: I could tell you. Of course, I'd also have to …
Kevin from Jacksonville and Section 104:
Earlier in the year people were complaining that the Jags didn't go out and get a No. 1 receiver, but now it seems A-Rob has changed that. Do you think that Hurns and Robinson can be our Thunder and Lightning 2.0 going forward?
John: I think they have a real chance to be really, really good – better than they already are. I'm still curious to see how Marqise Lee and Rashad Greene fit into this offense. The Jaguars clearly have two very good, high-level receivers – and Greene looks like a really good fit in the slot, as does Bryan Walters – but they still could use a take-the-top-off-the-defense receiver. Marqise Lee has the ability to be that guy, but where does he fit? Can he stay healthy? What's his ceiling? All things as yet unanswered.
Sam from Orlando, FL:
Could you elaborate on your thinking? In this day and age of pass heavy football, how will anyone break Tomlinson's record of 28 rushing touchdowns.
John: Trends change. It's not hard to imagine a team – think San Francisco and Seattle in recent seasons – having enough goal-line situations to approach and beat that record. Besides, I always think records will be broken. Eventually.
Henry from Section 215:
No question; I just wanted to vent on how RIDICULOUS this is that they're taking one of our home division rivalry games away next year. I've tried hard to accept the positives of having a "home" game in London every year, but this is going TOO FAR if you ask me. Of course, fans' opinions on this whole London thing matter not, but John, how far are they going to go in stripping us loyal fans of meaningful games for the sake of "expanding the brand?"
John: You're only seeing part of the issue, and perhaps not the biggest part. The importance of London above anything else is stabilizing the team financially. The Jaguars have grown stronger and are more stable in Jacksonville because of the London home game. The stronger they grow there, the stronger the franchise becomes overall.
Antony from Columbia:
Zone, I'm shocked that I'm not seeing and hearing people mention Coach Sully's name. When he came in, there was much talk about how he had the reputation of being possibly the best wide receivers coach in the game. Now, with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns performing much better than the pre-draft experts predicted, I rarely hear his name. Can we get one fer Coach Sully?
John: I'm sorry you're shocked. Shock can be … well, shocking. But hey … one for Jerry Sullivan!