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O-Zone: For now and always

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chris from Orlando, FL:
John, if Blake wins the AFC Championship and get the Jags to the Super Bowl and wins the Super Bowl and wins both games with no picks or turnovers, do the Jags sign him to a franchise offer this year or does he have to play out next year?
John: So, you're saying that all Blake Bortles needs to do to be signed to a long-term contract is win the Super Bowl and play four perfect postseason games with no turnovers? Is that all? Would you like him to fly through the air like Superman and deliver a baby, too? What's a shame and categorically unfair to Bortles is that you're expressing a sentiment that many people seem to believe – that he must play perfectly for Jaguars to retain him as their quarterback next season. Bortles hasn't played perfectly this season, and he didn't play perfectly against the Steelers last week. But overall, he has played well this season – and he has played very well in a lot of games. That includes the Divisional Playoff victory over Pittsburgh, but that was far from the only game in which that has been the case. I believe Bortles will be the Jaguars' quarterback next season because of many things. One major reason is Jaguars coaches and players believe strongly in the guy. They like the guy. They respect the guy. That matters, and considering what this team has accomplished this season, I think it's going to be really hard to go a different direction at the position this offseason. I doubt that will mean signing him to a long-term deal yet, but there's time for that next season or after next season – or even after that.
Jeff from Orange Park, FL:
Taking the Jaguars to win Sunday seems to imply that Bortles will have a good game, since it seems unlikely the team could pull off the upset without getting a good game from him. What gives you the confidence that we get good Blake Sunday?
John: Bortles has played well far more often than not this season. The incidents of "Bad Blake" as often as not have been because of dropped passes or inconsistency around him. He has played pretty well pretty consistently over the last two months of the season, with the notable exceptions being the regular-season finale and the first half of the Buffalo playoff game. Weather was a factor in both of those games. I don't expect weather to be much of a factor Sunday, so I think Bortles will at least play OK.
Joshua from Savannah, GA:
Steve Young, whom I respect very much, had the nerve to refer to the Jaguars' defense as "pretty good, maybe even above average." Really? A defense that remains near or at the top of every statistical category is "maybe above average?" I care little what the national opinion is, and indeed a large number of opinions regarding this team nationally have been laughable at best this past week. This one, though, might be at the top of the list. #DTWD
John: Sometimes, national media gets it wrong. Sometimes local guys get it wrong. Sometimes, even the great O-Zone gets it it wrong. (Yes, kids …'tis true). In this case, Steve Young got it wrong.
Jonathan from Charleston, SC:
O-Man, seems like the media and talking heads have not grasped the fact that these aren't the same Jags of seasons past. I don't believe any of them really have seen much about the Jags until this past weekend against the Steelers. If we win Sunday, maybe they'll actually do some research before opening their mouths in regards to the Jags. Heck, one radio talking head (Bruce Murray) thought Jacksonville was in South Florida.
John: And sometimes Bruce Murray gets it wrong … whoa, whoa, whoa … wait … The Bruce Murray?
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
I imagine after seeing the Steelers throw three long touchdown bombs against the Jags, Tom Brady will be throwing deep to Brandin Cooks more than once Sunday. What can the Jags do different to make sure they are not successful this week? Is it on the safeties to give help deep?
John: This is an understandable concern, but it may not be a merited one. The Jaguars gave up some long touchdowns against Pittsburgh, but only one could really be categorized as a breakdown or mistake by the defense – the long pass down the middle of the field to wide receiver Martavis Bryant at the end of the first half. Three others – two by Antonio Brown and one by Le'Veon Bell – were great throws and catches by an All-Pro quarterback and skill players. Cornerback A.J. Bouye had great coverage on Brown's two plays and linebacker Telvin Smith had great coverage on Bell's touchdown. My point: the three long touchdowns were not because the safeties didn't help or because the Jaguars erred. They were because the Steelers executed. How to prevent them? Cover as you did Sunday. Make the play when it's there. It's a game of inches. Be an inch or two better. That's what often decides championship games.
Michael from Middleburg, FL:
I took your advice from Tuesday's O-Zone and told me wife she can- ... her response was to ask me to buy her a Jalen Ramsey jersey. I'm not quite sure what exactly that means, but I think it means #DTWD!
John: Good! Good for you. Keep telling her she can— I'm sure it will keep going swimmingly.
Tom from St. John's, FL:
Big O, I hope this comment is as valid Monday morning as I think it is today. The magnificent jobs that people like Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, etc. have turned in are acknowledged. But in the euphoria of this team's progress, have we overlooked the continuing contribution of a guy named Malik? Seems he has been a constant almost silent stabilizing part of this team.
John: I couldn't agree more that Malik Jackson is a major reason the Jaguars are playing in the AFC Championship Game Sunday. But I don't know that it's right to say he's overlooked; this is a player, after all, who has been named to the Pro Bowl. As far Jackson being silent, I don't know … I mean, have you heard his interviews lately? The guy's a lot of things, but he ain't quiet.
Winston C. from St. Johns, FL:
"What they called the Divisional Round is over. I expect that the AFC Championship is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of the season. Upon it depends our own football life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Belichick knows that he will have to break us in Foxborough or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all the NFL may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including Jacksonville, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted game planning. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if Jacksonville and its Jaguars last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"
John: A fan with free time can be a beautiful thing.
Saif from Washington, DC:
The Jags have been so far under the cap that they applied for an exemption for not spending enough almost a decade ago. This explains why we have had a lot of money to spend in free agency. Do you think that this is sustainable? I feel like we spend quite a bit on free agency to patch up our holes, but may be getting used to always having the money to pay for it. Thoughts?
John: What happened a decade ago in free agency has little-to-no effect on what has happened in the last two or three offseasons. The Jaguars did go relatively quiet in free agency in the 2012 and 2013 offseasons, which helped them be under the cap enough to have big money and cap space to use in the past two offseasons. And yes … they have used that space phenomenally wisely to acquire high-priced and phenomenally productive players such as safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson, defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive tackle Malik Jackson. That's a huge amount of spending and no … you can't expect to be able to maintain that level of spending. But you know what? You shouldn't have to maintain that level. You should be able to draft and develop and fill the occasional need with a free agent. That's the ideal approach and the Jaguars should be able to take something close to that approach moving forward.
Patsy from AR:
Which state are the Jacksonville Jaguars from?
John: Duval, baby.

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