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O-Zone: Dream team

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Andrew from San Diego, CA:
John, it seems like the coaches and players are happy with things and there is a sense we have some good players emerging as foundational pieces for the future. One name I haven't heard this about is Johnathan Cyprien. What does he need to do to be included in the conversation?
John: It's true that Johnathan Cyprien wasn't discussed a whole lot during OTAs and minicamps, but part of this is because there's not a whole lot to analyze about a strong safety during unpadded offseason work. Jaguars coaches said he appeared during the offseason to be playing faster and cleaner, which is about as much as a safety can do during that time. Cyprien needs to be improved this season. That is well-established. He knows it and the coaches know it. The belief among coaches is there's no reason he won't be. Stay tuned.
Duval Doom from Section 217:
Now that you're one of "us" I find myself reading O-Zone differently. Some of these people speak to you with such a lack of respect... They need to be taught a lesson...
John: Down boy.
Carter from Orange Park, FL:
John, in response to anyone who thinks Blake Bortles was bad last year, I would like to remind them that Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions during his rookie year on a much more talented team. If Bortles improves and progresses, his second and third seasons, he could turn out great. It's all about "getting better."
John: Agreed. The 1998 Colts on which Manning played as a rookie had significantly more talent offensively at wide receiver, tight end, running back and along the offensive line. By the end of that season, it had become apparent that Manning was "getting it." His statistics improved and things were beginning to click. While I don't think anyone – including Bortles – would say Bortles made those kinds of strides at the end of last season, Manning was considered much more pro-ready than Bortles entering the NFL. In that sense, it would have been very surprising had Bortles made similar strides. Bortles has put himself in position to make strides. He has worked in the offseason and appears to have improved as a result of that work. He has a bunch of important attributes such as confidence and poise that will give him a chance to start improving rapidly. Now, we'll see if that begins to happen.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
I understand Blake is our future, but if Henne outplays him during the preseason, could he still become our starter until Blake catches up? Must-win season for Bradley.
John: The Jaguars indeed must improve this season. In order for that to happen, a lot of positions must play well, but of course quarterback is the most important position. If Bortles is healthy, there's very, very little chance he won't be the quarterback as the Jaguars try to make that improvement happen.
Ed from Mooresville, NC:
Is Henne a lock for backup quarterback? If not how is the competition? Who will make the practice squad? Thanks, O-man.
John: Well, considering Stephen's got him in the starting lineup Week 1, I think Henne will at least be on the team. Seriously, Henne barring injury almost certainly will be the backup quarterback. As for who will make the practice squad between Stephen Morris and Jeff Tuel, stay tuned … THAT will be a competition.
Amari from Hartford:
Hey O, love the O-Zone, man. It gets me through work every morning. But one question: am I wrong for thinking we can go 8-8 this year? Because I honestly feel like as long as Blake plays at least decent we have enough pieces around him on both sides of the ball to compete and be a real dark horse.
John: I think the Jaguars can push for an 8-8 record this season. I've said often and I imagine I'll say again that I thought that would be really difficult for this team to do last season – and I think it's more likely this season. Because of the offseason moves, there are fewer deficient areas on this team, and there are enough weapons that yeah … if Bortles develops and the offensive line protects him, then a push for .500 isn't ridiculous.
Jake from Section 124:
Bleacher Report is giving the O-man a lot of respect. Shout out to the OTA guru.
John: Shout out to those guys who invented donut holes. No sense wasting good dough.
Rick from Chicago:
Looking back at the draft in which we took Blake Bortles, there were three quarterbacks it appeared we were also interested in: Johnny Football, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. Is it still a given that we chose the right guy? In preseason the so-called experts have rated Carr and Bridgewater ahead of Blake Bortles. Some of that could be the play of last year, but are they working of mechanics also? What are your thoughts.
John: Of course it's not a given that the Jaguars took the right guy. You don't know if a quarterback is The Guy after one year, and sometimes it takes far longer. And you know what? If Bortles throws for 48 touchdowns with no interceptions and Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr struggle next season, it still won't be a given that one was the right choice. Only time will tell whether the Jaguars made the right choice. David Caldwell knew Bortles needed time when he was selected, and they knew that if he played immediately, the early results probably wouldn't be ideal. They also believed he had potential to develop into a very special player. Bortles appears to have the tools, desire and work ethic to make good on that potential. Whether he will or not, we don't know. That's why we watch.
Mike from Woodbridge, VA:
I found your answer to the four (three, really) players you would keep healthy had you had special powers interesting because you picked two recently-signed free agents (one of which is a non-premium position at tight end with Julius Thomas, and a defensive tackle that is moving to left end (Jared Odrick). Does that mean that you feel the team is still void of talent despite three years of rebuilding? And why wouldn't you have picked the first-round draft pick Fowler? Do you doubt his ability to change the game?
John: Don't overthink it, Mike. I answered a question that I was asked about the four players I'd keep healthy if I had special powers. I picked four players whose presence I believe makes the Jaguars better than they were last year. It wasn't an indictment of any player not on the list. As for Fowler, he's already hurt. I assumed that my "special powers" didn't include time travel.
John from Spotsylvania, VA:
Many feel that repeating the same action expecting different results is the definition of insanity; yet, I ask what major changes have occurred to make this season's results different than the last few years? Please don't say the pool.
John: I hesitate to answer this question, because what's essentially needed to answer it is a recap of … oh, the Jaguars' entire offseason. They hired four new offensive coaches, including an offensive coordinator and an offensive line coach. They signed tight end Julius Thomas, right tackle Jermey Parnell, defensive end Jared Odrick among a slew of free agents. They drafted T.J. Yeldon and Dante Fowler Jr., though Fowler is injured and out for the season. Several young players showed signs during the offseason of being poised to take a significant step forward. I don't know the end game of any of these moves. No one knows for sure. I don't know if you'd classify them as major or not, but the Jaguars thought they were pretty significant.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Hi, John … In your response to Mr. Padre from Kingsland, Georgia, you stated that the NFL will increase the regular-season games by two. While I love that idea, that's a lot of strain on the current 53-man rosters. Will the NFL increase the roster limit to balance it out?
John: I didn't say the NFL "will" increase the regular season. I said the NFL probably would do so. And I don't love the idea at all, partly because of the injury issue. As for increasing the roster size, I suppose it might be expanded by a position or two per team. Mostly, though, it would mean signing more players off the street late in the season, which doesn't exactly make for a better game.
Ryan from Detroit, MI:
I've got to agree with Wayne from Atlanta - I was born and raised with the Jags and had to move north for work, but I know I can always come here to connect to me team. Thanks for all you do. #OZTWD #DTWD.
John: That's appreciated. To be fair, Wayne from Atlanta also mentioned those who I work with at – a group that includes a couple of video guys who admire me a great deal, J.P. Shadrick and Brian Sexton and another unforgettable guy whose name I don't recall. Wayne thought it was important to mention these valuable people. He's right, of course, though I prefer your approach.

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