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O-Zone: Fan Appreciation Day

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bob from Sumter, SC:
The last few seasons you could pretty much write off several Jaguars games as reasonably unwinnable because the defense would be up against Philip Rivers or Drew Brees - guys who carved up the defense with the Jaguars not having enough talent to have a chance to stop them. This year, with an upgraded and more athletic defense, who knows on any given Sunday? If the ball bounces our way and the offense does as well as hoped, all 16 games could be winnable –and not just those games without an elite opposing quarterback. It's a long season, but it would be great if the Jags could beat Aaron Rodgers or Rivers or Andrew Luck early on - for a young team to know they can play with anyone and win.
John: There indeed is a feeling that the Jaguars could and even should be competitive in every game this season. And that absolutely is a difference between this Jaguars team and past versions. That's not to say the Jaguars will be in every game this season; even the best teams sometimes have a game or two where the score gets more one-sided than the level of talent would have indicated. But there aren't on paper any games in which it seems they are dramatically overmatched. As far as winning early in the season … yeah, that needs to happen. It's a tricky start with Green Bay/Rodgers in Week 1 and San Diego/Rivers in Week 2. I say "tricky" because anytime you're playing Rodgers it's difficult – and anytime an East Coast team plays on the West Coast, that's difficult, too. But it's not an insurmountable early schedule and I think the Jaguars have a very reasonable chance to win at least one of those first two games. I don't know that that would have been the case the past three or four seasons.
Jeremy from Jacksonville:
I recently watched a video on that website that is free. Blake Bortles highlights … I saw multiple times where he was encouraging his teammates, firing them up. He wasn't cursing at them and he wasn't yelling at them. I remember people saying they wanted a true leader. I think we have ours. I love free stuff. I love you, John.
John: I'm very uncomfortable right now.
Chris from Bethlehem, PA:
Hi John! I have not heard much said about Bjoern Werner. I was excited that we signed him because he was such a good 4-3 pass-rusher in college who was horribly misused in Indy. Is there any news on him? Does he have the potential to be in the rotation with Dante Fowler Jr. and Ryan Davis (or Jared Odrick)? The team does not have a lot of great non-rookie defensive-end depth so I have been really curious.
John: Werner has the potential to be in the defensive-end rotation, but he needs to perform well in the preseason and throughout training camp. Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue figure to both make the team and Otto linebackers Dan Skuta and Ryan Davis also figure to get repetitions at Leo on the outside rushing the passer. Will the Jaguars keep one more Leo pass rusher aside from Fowler and Ngakoue? Perhaps. If so, Werner would need to win that third position to be on the roster.
Dre from Atlanta, GA:
John, with all the excitement building this year, I am going out on an optimistic branch, coining the phrase, "Saxonville." That's how good the line will play! You heard it from Drekarr first.
John: Indeed we did. Or did we?
Ryan from Dearborn, MI:
O-man, as long as we're in the #Deadzone, let's talk fashion – specifically jerseys, of course. Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of that magical '96 season that saw the Jags run all the way to the AFC title game, any chance we can have a "throwback" jersey game for our alternate this year and bring back that classic original uniform?
John: I'm not expecting the Jaguars to use the original "classic" uniform this season, or to wear the teal version of the current uniform. I expect it to be the white and black jerseys again, with the "bold gold" uniform again used once, too.
Mike from Des Moines, IA:
When your receivers are Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas, the fade route should be a staple in the red zone. Will Bortles throw the fade route better this season?
John: That's a good question – and it's indeed an area Bortles needs to improve. I wouldn't put it up there with reducing interceptions or improving short accuracy in terms of critical areas, but you're right that the Jaguars' skill-position players – Robinson and Thomas in particular – are good fade-route receivers. That strength should be utilized better.
Bruce from Gotham, NY:
Mr. O, do you think the pressure and focus of getting the running game going could actually have a negative impact and cause the offense to regress? Also, if the offensive line does not gel quickly enough, opposing teams could easily make the offense one-dimensional and the pressure that some claim caused Blake's mistakes would still be there wouldn't it?
John: I don't think emphasizing the run will have a negative impact on the offense in 2016. It wasn't as if the team didn't try to run last season and the offense still passed effectively most of the season despite a lot of struggles in that area. Any improvement at all in the running game will help the pass because it will force defenses to play the run, which will create opportunities in the passing game. As far as the offensive line, absolutely … the quicker it gels the better for the offense. Improving the run will help pass protection, too. The fewer third and longs – and the more teams believe there is a chance you will run – the better for the pass protection.
Bill from Rochester, NY:
I was maybe seven years old at the time, playing some backyard football with my brother, when my dad came out back. He said the NFL recently added two new teams: the Jaguars and the Panthers. Being so young and not having a team, my brother and I decided we would like these new teams. I have no idea why, but being older, I had the privilege of choosing the Jaguars. 20 years later I'm still a huge fan #dayone. Thanks for reading.
John: Good choice.
Mark from Archer, FL:
O-Man, can we stop with the Day One-fan nonsense, please? Are people that insecure they must try to prove they are a bigger fan of the team than someone else? How is the 50-year-old man who has been a fan since whenever more of a fan than the seven-year old girl who loves the team so much she carries a Jaguars backpack to school every year? I am glad training camp is starting soon, because people are really harping on some strange stuff this deadzone.
John: People aren't talking about being a Day One fan out of insecurity or the desire to be "better" than someone else – at least, that hasn't been my sense. People like talking about fond memories, and they like talking about things about which they feel pride. On that subject, I was proud of something once. I think. No, that wasn't me.
Mark from Green Bay:
I have an official Riddell helmet, silver with the gold and black stretched-out jaguar on the side with a teal-and-white stripe running down the middle. Does that make me a Day One fan?
John: I'm not sure, but I'll check with Mark from Archer.
Mike from Middleburg, FL:
WHY NOT THIS YEAR, dude? Sorry, I feel better … it's off my chest. The wife and kids will stay at the dinner table WITH ME. Thanks so much MR O.
John: Why not this year? I indeed have gotten some version of this question quite a bit this offseason – and I've angered some fans by saying 11-5 or 12-4 isn't my expectation for this team. I say that because I think the offense still has some steps to take before it is an efficient, winning offense; I think those steps can be taken but it still has yet to happen. I also say that because I think the youth on defense – particularly Myles Jack, Dante Fowler Jr .and Jalen Ramsey – could need some time to grow and acclimate to the NFL before reaching their potential. By "some time," I mean the better part of a year; history suggests that even the best players need a year or so in the NFL before truly having game-changing, season-changing impact. All of that said, the talent on this team has improved and there are playmakers on the roster. When you have those things, you have the potential to start doing very good things.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
The fans of this column DO care and DO enjoy this column. Thanks O-Man.
John: And I appreciate both of you more than you'll ever know.

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