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O-Zone: Easy calls

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Josh from Pensacola, FL:
I keep reading on other sites that most of Blake Bortles' touchdowns in 2015 came in "garbage time." Is that actually true? I know some of them had to, but we were in a lot of games that season, too.
John: The touchdowns-in-garbage-time theme with Bortles is one of those things that has been repeated so much it's now accepted as gospel without a thought that it might not be absolutely true. It is true many of Bortles' touchdowns that season came late in games. In some cases – as with three second-half touchdown passes in a late-season loss to the Saints, for example – the touchdowns came with the game out of hand. In other cases – as with his five-touchdown performance in a loss at Tennessee – the Jaguars were close enough throughout that the touchdowns can't correctly be discounted. The great majority of Bortles' career touchdown passes have come with the Jaguars trailing, but you know what? The Jaguars have trailed in most games during his career – and Bortles isn't completely to blame for that. I personally don't care that much about Bortles' touchdowns total from 2015, and never did. I thought he showed flashes that season, but that overall he needed to improve in several key areas last season. He didn't improve enough, and he enters 2017 still needing to make the same improvements. Focus on whether the Jaguars are converting third- and manageable situations next season. Keep an eye on whether Bortles is managing the pocket better than in his first few seasons. Look to see if he is putting the ball where his receivers can catch it and defenders can't. Check if he is avoiding interceptions on early downs and in third-and-manageables. If he is doing those things, he will improve – and the guess here is that will lead to a better touchdown-interception ratio and a lot more victories.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Pro Football Focus (everyone's favorite source) ranks our offensive line as 13th in the league. Is that how you see it?
John: I can't rank it that high. Yet.
John from Mexico, NY:
After signing multi-million dollar contracts, players should be responsible enough on their own to put in place their own protections. Looking at past cases where players file bankruptcy because they have spent more money than I'll ever make in my life, you would think someone might be warned. Furthermore, how come the NFL has literally gotten so out of hand that players are warranted making hundreds of millions for playing a game? I love football but I believe that type of money could be better spent.
John: It's an easy and common reaction to see a once-wealthy player go bankrupt and say, "How could that happen? Did they not learn from others' experience?" The reality is there are many factors pulling very young people in a lot of directions, and young people don't always learn from others' mistakes. I'm not suggesting people cry for players who lose money, but neither do I think the situations merit derision or ridicule. As for the money players make, I don't consider NFL player salaries "out of hand." This is a country in which people are allowed to make what the market will bear. The market dictates that some professional athletes get paid a princely – nay, kingly – amount of money. Could it be "better-spent?" I suppose, but sports are big business and the people who are the best at that business make a lot of money. It doesn't sit well with some people, and it doesn't seem fair. But hey … life ain't always fair these days. I can't remember a time that it was.
Jim from Madison, WI:
Johnny-O, the Jaguars have been terrible and awful … actually they have been terrawful the last six seasons. Nothing will change this season with Blaine Bortles at the helm. Sorry, I misspelled Blake Bortles. When will we start talking in this column about the 2018 NFL Draft? I put the over/under at Week 8 of the season.
John: OK.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
Whatever bet you lost to Shadrick must have been a big one. Is it hard to stomach being so nice for so long?
John: It doesn't take losing a bet to realize that J.P. Shadrick is a fine, upstanding member of the staff and he deserves – nay, commands – our respect. I'd appreciate it in the future if our readers remember this.
Cliff from Everywhere with a Helicopter:
For what it's worth, the guitar riff in The Alarm's "Rescue Me" is one of the greatest in rock history. Look it up, kiddies. I'm sure it's on the YouTube.
John: If a man can't change a world these days, I still believe a man can change his own destiny.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I am beginning to wonder if Branden Albert will be the starting left tackle. We need to win NOW and Albert doesn't seem to get it. All he has done so far is prove to the new regime that he is lazy (showed up out of shape) and unprepared (had not spent much time in the playbook). His lack of preparation coupled with non-communication went over like a lead balloon with Coughlin and Marrone. He looks more like a player that is ready to retire than one who is ready to compete with a hungry and talented rookie - Cam Robinson. Do you think Albert will be ready when training camp starts? If not, do you think he will beat out Robinson for left tackle? If he loses the competition for left tackle do you think he will still be on the team?
John: Albert actually does get it. He is a 10-year NFL veteran and his job isn't to get ready or be shape or even show up for voluntary offseason activities. His job is to be prepared and in shape when the Jaguars play real games next season, and if he does that, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone will like him fine. I think Albert will be ready when training camp starts, and I think he will be the starting left tackle. If he loses the competition, then yeah … it's a possibility he wouldn't be around. I don't see that scenario taking place.
Andrew from Mattoon, IL:
Q: "Are we not men?"
John: Of course we're not. We are Devo.
Zain from Jamlando:
What if rookie contracts were shorter, but had team options at a pay raise – like first-round picks, or teams had a Bird rights-like clause similar to the NBA? Thinking three-year contracts across the board, plus top-15 positional average option for an additional year or two. Seems like that would be better for the average player, palatable for teams, although worse for sub-par players.
John: I get the idea that teams and the NFL Players Association like the current system when it comes to rookies. It solved two major issues – ludicrous rookie salaries and rookie holdouts – and drafted players are eligible to renegotiate contracts after three seasons. I don't know that there is a perfect system, but this is pretty palpable compared to the previous one.
Scott from Brooklyn, NY:
I must say that J.P. Shadrick is a fine, upstanding member of the staff and he deserves – nay, commands – our respect. I'd appreciate it in the future if our readers remember this.
John: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Brian from Orlando, FL:
I am just a fan-n-the-attic (fanatic) and I am yelling down the access door to ask this question. If a player signs a $20 million contract and receives a $10 million dollar signing bonus does he get $30 million in total?
John: Not necessarily. While there are many factors such as workout bonuses, incentives and the like that ultimately determine how a player is paid, NFL players usually sign contracts in which they receive an up-front signing bonus and a yearly salary over the life of that contract. If the contract calls for a $10 million signing bonus and four years of the player earning $5 million a season, that generally would be reported as a "$30 million contract." The player definitely would receive the $10 million signing bonus and almost definitely would play the first season and receive that $5 million. Because NFL contracts aren't guaranteed, the player would then need to be on the roster each of the final three seasons to receive the $5 million salary for each season. It's quite often the case that NFL players are released before the end of their contracts. Hence, the importance in the NFL of signing bonuses and big money in the early years of contracts. It is in that part of the contract where a players' financial security can be found.
Ron from Jacksonville:
Big O, from a lifelong Vikings fan, it is still offensive pass interference.
John: You're right. Pearson pushed off – and incidentally, Mel Gray didn't catch the #$%^*&@ pass, either.

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