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O-Zone: Experience is key

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chris from Downtown London:
O Man, did I hear right? Five interceptions in the first practice with one returned for touchdown? Wow, it's as if nothing has changed for years – it's as if it's not going to change after another year. I predict with the same quarterback we will get the same results, the same poor suffering fans and the same O Man downplaying Bortles' poor quality. Thank God we will have another top-five pick next year in a draft class expected to be strong at quarterback. In better news, only 14 months until a season of hope begins!
John: Wow. A BIG reaction from across the pond, and you know I mean "BIG" because I used CAPITAL letters. And indeed: The inbox unsurprisingly remains stuffed with Bortles questions, angst and anger. That's to be expected in the wake of the five-interception clunker of a practice as Bortles turned in Saturday. But while I have been as pointed as anyone about the need for Bortles to dramatically improve – and while I have long said it's Bortles' decision-making rather than his accuracy that is the major concern – we should remember that Saturday was one practice. He has not in his Jaguars career rolled out a slew of five-interception practices, and he hasn't had five-interception games. He finished last season playing better than he started it, and throughout his career he has had plenty of games and days far better than Saturday. This is not to say Bortles is a Pro Bowl quarterback, but it is to suggest that Saturday probably is an outlier. Still, there's no question the storyline for the coming week(s) is set. The pressure on Bortles already was intense. It's only going to be more intense after Saturday.
Chris from Downtown London:
O Man, I just had a thought: Surely the five interceptions were due to our beast of a defense and newfound pass rush???
John: Well …
David from Maplewood, NJ:
John, let the Blake bashing begin. I know that he hasn't been good enough yet in his career but I also think I know that one training-camp practice in July does not mean the end of the world. Sure, if he is bad this year you may hear about Saturday night being a telling sign, but it's just as likely that three months from now no one will even remember it.
John: Oh, I imagine people will remember Saturday's practice for a while. You don't see five interceptions from a quarterback in practice that often – particularly from a quarterback scrutinized to the degree that Bortles is being scrutinized right now. So, in that sense I can't tell you Saturday wasn't notable – or that it wasn't a bit concerning. But I do agree that the night must be kept in perspective. If he plays well moving forward, Saturday will be remembered as a blip. If not …
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Hi, Mr. O: I for one am not "overly concerned" about Blake's interceptions on Day 3 because it was Day 3. Also, because it is Blake and he's not suddenly Brady/Rodgers/Brees just because he went to California. He'll have more bad practices. For sure it wasn't a great look and if he throws 5 picks in a real game I'm sure my disposition will change greatly.
John: Yeah, five interceptions in a game wouldn't be good.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, it seems here we go again with BB. Hopefully TC will help David Caldwell see the light and admit he was wrong with his first-round draft pick in 2014.This year it appears that we have a team that will be competitive in the NFL. By waiting for Blake to somehow overnight improve his mechanics and more importantly his decision making is not happening. The Jags need to make a change now before it gets worse. Whether that be Brandon Allen/Chad Henne or pick up a backup off another roster. An old saying I heard years ago seems to apply here. "The worst thing about being wrong, is staying wrong."
John: This is one of many, many emails I've received suggesting the Jaguars change quarterbacks because of Saturday night's practice. It's not the first slew of emails I've received making such a suggestion, and I assume it won't be the last. If the Jaguars didn't change quarterbacks in the offseason, they're not going to change based on one practice – nor should they. That's probably the best place to leave this topic for now.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
Shirley, I absolutely got pumped by Doug Marrone's responses about Blake's Saturday performance. "We gotta get that crap out of there" and my favorite not direct quote - if he needs a pep talk at this point, then we're in trouble ... good stuff from an old crony.
John: I've had some readers say they don't like Marrone's press conferences. I like his approach because I think he's legitimately trying to answer questions pretty much as best he can. He also has been up front about things he doesn't want to answer at certain times. He occasionally also is pretty entertaining. He certainly wasn't trying to entertain the other night discussing Bortles, but he was pretty up front about what he saw and yeah – it was good stuff.
Richard from Orange Park, FL:
Has Brandon Allen taken any snaps with the number ones?
John: No, and I wouldn't anticipate that any time soon.
Stephen from Glorieta:
Predictions are worthless. That's why they play the game. I like it that way ... much more exciting. I predict the Jags will play every game this season and will try to win them all.
John: OK.
Larz from Jacksonville:
I love seeing Dante Fowler Jr. blow by on a speed rush, but doing it on Branden Albert doesn't impress me. Albert is clearly just going through the motions. He clearly doesn't want to play here.
John: Albert needs to perform better than he did the other night in the Jaguars' first practice. I thought he looked slow off the ball on one of Fowler's edge rushes in one-on-one pass-blocking work. I don't know that it's fair to say he was going through the motions, though. I haven't gotten the idea listening to Albert that that's the case. Still, I did get the idea watching him in pads Saturday that rust must be shaken off. Quickly.
Donald from Orange Park, FL:
Do you think Jacksonville can be a Top 5 offense given the weapons we have? Thanks.
John: Top 5? No, but I think the Jaguars can be improved offensively in 2017 and I think the weapons give the offense a chance to score a lot more meaningful points than it did in the last two seasons. I doubt the "Top 5" part because Top 5 offenses operate with remarkable consistency; they put together multiple long drives per game and make the offense look efficient and easy at times. The Jaguars have made offense look hard – really, really hard – in recent seasons, and that was even true in 2015 when the team produced some impressive passing statistics. Going from what we have seen in recent seasons to high-level efficiency is a big jump. Now, I do believe this can be an efficient, effective offense that can use the threat of the run to be effective in the play-action passing game. If that can lead to being better on third downs, then the offense and the team can improve dramatically. That would be a really good step in the right direction.
Thurman from Southbound Brook, NJ:
John, how do you feel about the Jags this year? And do you think there's a shot to go to the playoffs?
John: I think the Jaguars will be better than last season, and I think that gives them a realistic chance to go 7-9. I'm conservative by nature, so I have difficulty predicting more than a four-game improvement for a team that went 3-13 last season. Still, if you can win seven games there's a chance you can win nine … so, sure, there's a shot for the playoffs. But I can't predict playoffs for a team that went 3-13 the previous season. That's too lofty for this conservative old hack.
Keith from St. Augustine, FL:
Let's see what Brandon Allen can do. How has he looked? Put Hume in with the ones for a practice or two. What's the definition of insanity?
John: Look, I'm as big a fan of David Hume as the next guy. I long have believed the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher is somewhat overlooked and underrated in the pantheon of great thinkers. And I, like Hume, am a big believer that there is no such thing as innate knowledge and that all human reasoning is derived from experience. I mean, who could think otherwise? Ammiright? But I do not for one second believe that he is the answer to the Jaguars' quarterback issue. To believe otherwise … well, that indeed would be insane.

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