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O-Zone: Forever friends

FOXBORO, Mass. – Let's get to it … Gary from White Plains, NY:
Why – specifically – is Brandon Allen not getting a chance to start? What – specifically – separates Blake Bortles from Allen?
John: I have been asked this – or something close to this – a few times in recent days and weeks, with some readers actually getting quite upset over the issue. Readers getting upset is, well … upsetting (for them, at least). I have hesitated to answer this because I imagine what people want to hear is that Bortles has more of a cannon arm than Allen – or they at least want to hear something tangible such as, "Yes, here is the physical reason he should be starting … he grades up here while all others grade down here." That's generally not how things work. It's not necessarily a physical trait as much as a feeling coaches have from assessing all players involved in a competition. The bottom line is that while Bortles' flaws have been picked apart, and while every training-camp interception and touchdown are (over?)analyzed, he also simply is the best quarterback in camp. A lot of this isn't evident to the naked eye, but is shown in meetings and in an overall understanding and ability to run the offense. While he has made bad throws, he also is making a lot of big-time NFL throws. Does he have a "stronger arm" than Allen? I'd say they're in the same range. But he is more experienced, understands the offense better and is making throws looking off the defense, coming off receivers and throwing into tight windows. He also is doing it against the Jaguars' first-team defense. Does he look better than Allen right now? In my opinion: Yes, and I would say Bortles deserves to be the starter. And remember: the coaches are around these guys every day. So is Tom Coughlin. They have a vested interest in the Jaguars being as good as possible. If they believed Bortles shouldn't be starting, he wouldn't be starting.
Bob from Sumter, SC:
You wrote that the Jaguars need to not look overmatched and to look like they belong. Has that been your impression of the Jaguars versus the Patriots?
John: The last time these teams were on the field together, in 2015? The Jaguars were absolutely overmatched. This week? Not nearly as much.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
Is the big hit on Fournette an indication of what he is going to have to put up with on a weekly basis? I don't think any running back is having even a good season getting hit behind the line of scrimmage like what was happening last year and looking like might happen again this year.
John: Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette took a hit behind the line of scrimmage on Friday that went viral. It's not an indictment of the entire offensive line – nor is it a precursor of Fournette getting hit behind the line of scrimmage all season. Fournette got hit hard. For a loss. Behind the line of scrimmage. It happens. It hasn't been the norm, nor is there any indication that it will be norm. C'mon, Kenny. C'mo-o-o-o-o-on.
Travis from St. Louis, MO:
I just watched the video of Fournette getting blown up behind the line of scrimmage. Was that with starting offensive linemen and has this happened often? Because if so, that seems a bit concerning, or am I reading too much into one play?
John: (/Pounds head repeatedly on desk. /Checks for swelling. /Pounds more)
Sal from New Jersey:
I think there's a need for Blake Bortles to play in the first preseason game. In fact, he needs a whole quarter of play to get his game-time decisions and instincts under control.
John: Bortles will play in the preseason opener. I don't know if it will be the entire quarter or two series, but he will play.
Dave from Duval:
Big Brother really had something with his statement about the arrogance of the organization. Everyone puts on a face and a farce like we haven't been one the worst teams in the NFL in the last 17 years. This organization needs a little success – just a little – before they pump out slogans like "All In" and "I Want More." It's like the organization – and the marketing department, especially – don't have any clue of where this fan base is at this time.
John: No one around the Jaguars is unaware that the team has struggled far too much for far too long – and everyone in the organization understands that the idea is to improve. It's obvious the team needs success. The job of the marketing department is to promote the team in a positive way, and the job of football executives is to make decisions they think will help the team. The football executives aren't going to sign players and say things like, "Gee, we wonder if this will work." The marketing department isn't going to pump out slogans based on losing. The Jaguars are just trying to run a professional sports franchise and trying to get the franchise turned around. That turnaround hasn't happened. That's unfortunate, but it doesn't reflect arrogance – and it certainly doesn't mean the team isn't aware of reality.
Mike from Atlanta, FL:
I wonder how the offensive line, particularly the left side, will protect Bortles. If decision-making is his biggest flaw, pressure will only exacerbate the bad decision-making. We have a rookie left tackle and kind of an emergency situation at left guard. This seems like a recipe for disaster. Maybe we will see Marcedes Lewis helping often on the left side. How do you think the left side of the line will hold up in pass protection?
John: I think Cam Robinson will have rookie moments at left tackle, but I expect him to play well this season for the most part. He has shown all the signs of being good quickly. Patrick Omameh at left guard isn't as much of an emergency situation as people believe; the Jaguars clearly have an element of trust in him or they would have moved more strongly at guard in the offseason. I think the left side of the line will protect well enough to allow Bortles to function. They did that last season for the most part, and I don't see the left side having gotten worse since last season. This line actually pass-blocked OK last season; it's run-blocking that needs to make major steps.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Marqise Lee is the one who earned himself the nickname the Albino Tiger (given to him by his own coach, not a fan). It might be time to stop painting him with that brush, but maybe not.
John: You go, girl.
Mike from St. Marys, GA:
What's up with Mychal Rivera? He should've passed Ben Koyack on the depth chart by now, right? Or has he been injured or something?
John: Yes, Rivera has missed much of the last week with an undisclosed injury.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Hi, just curious, when will the Jags have to disclose injuries by league rules?
John: The week of the regular-season opener. Not coincidentally, I expect that to be when the Jaguars will disclose injury information.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I'm a bit curious about Jalen Ramsey's core surgery. I believe it took place mid-June. Now I fear he will not be ready to start opening day. Why did the medical staff wait until mid-June to perform this operation?
John: I have heard nothing to indicate Ramsey won't start Week 1. His operation was performed in mid-June because that's when the issue arose.
Kyle from Jacksonville:
Hey bOzo - Your condescending answers to fan questions don't gain readers. FYI: Let's just remember how excited you were about this team last year... you're not exactly Nostradamus.
John: My answer under normal circumstances would be that if you read my answers throughout the 2016 offseason, you might recall that I was one of the few people covering this team who did not expect the Jaguars' offense to be highly explosive – and that I was one of the few people covering this team who believed and wrote that Blake Bortles had a lot of difficult work/improving to do before reaching a level that would make the offense efficient. I also recall thinking and writing that I didn't think the Jaguars were a playoff favorite last season despite many fans and national (and local) media thinking the team would have a winning record and make the playoffs. That would be my answer under normal circumstances, but I don't want to be … what's the word you used? Condescending? That's it. I don't want to be that. Oh, and I didn't go to Notre Dame – though they begged and begged and begged. And begged. I went to Florida. And what in the world does that have to do with anything anyway?
Red from Jacksonville:
Oehser, I wanna be your best friend. Will you be my best friend?
John: No. Kyle is my best friend.

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