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O-Zone: Holiday time

JACKSONVILLE – Game-day O-Zone.

Let's get to it … Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
If Blake Bortles doesn't show significant improvement in the last weeks of this season, David Caldwell should draft another quarterback for several reasons. First, Bortles isn't looking like a franchise quarterback. Also, Bortles may win just enough that you draft too late to get a premier quarterback. Third and importantly, there is now a rookie pay scale, so it is economically possible to have two top-drafted quarterbacks on the roster. Fourth, if competition is good for every other position, why not quarterback? Finally, injuries happen, why not have a very good backup? With what I've seen from Bortles, I wonder how anyone could be convinced, and I don't want to be four years away from being competitive because there is no quarterback on the roster.
John: You list many good arguments, and I'm sure we'll hear many more between now and the draft. I'm sure of that because I doubt Bortles and the Jaguars' offense will play well enough over the last five weeks of the season to have doubters consider it "significant improvement." That's not to say he won't make progress, just that it's going to be difficult with the offensive youth to have the offense be the smooth-running machine that will convince people progress is being made. As sort of a side note, when I get emails like this I can't help but harken back to the offseason and preseason when the prevailing theme of the O-Zone inbox was to "Play The Kid And Let Him Make Mistakes And Let Him Learn This Year And We Don't Care What Happens …" Well, this is what learning looks like. This is what happens when you play a quarterback who's a year away from being ready to play. That last part is important to remember – that the Jaguars didn't consider Bortles ready this season. They believed he needed another year and another offseason to be ready to start, so from their point of view his struggles this season aren't surprising and don't change the conversation. The Jaguars thought last offseason that Bortles was the best quarterback prospect of that draft and the 2015 NFL Draft. I doubt anything has happened to change that perspective.
Andy from Indiana, PA:
I always get a laugh out of people who say, "I knew you wouldn't answer my question because..." Stop being so self-centered. Maybe he didn't answer it because he has 100 other questions to sort through and maybe, just maybe, your question sucked.
John: Yeah, maybe …
Duran from Rapid City, SD:
The play-calling has to change; it's too predictable. Plain and simple. The play calling doesn't cause anyone to "stay home."
John: You're right. When defenses don't believe you can pass downfield, they are able to play near the line of scrimmage. That gives everything – the run offense and pass offense – a tightened-up feeling. The Jaguars' offense needs to figure out a way to make teams believe they can pass. That may mean blocking better so pass plays have time to develop. It may mean just chucking it up and hoping, though I wouldn't recommend it. Whatever it is, it has to happen, and at this stage, it's fair to wonder if it will happen in the final five games.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
I believe over 50 percent of our plays need be to passes at least 15 yards downfield in the air. Anything else is poor rookie quarterback management. What is the worst that could happen, we lose?
John: I'll pass it along.
Rob from Fleming Island, FL:
Will the Jags staff get a chane to coach the Senior Bowl again?
John: I don't know what staff members get for coaching the Senior Bowl. It might well be a chane … or maybe a necklace or a bracelet. Or maybe a broach. I'll check into it.
Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
I like to be optimistic about our young offensive players. But outside of quarterback and Allen Robinson, how can you be so confident those players on offense will improve and not just be sub-par or average offensive players? I know there are no guarantees, but what makes you sure they will be better next year just because they gain more experience in another off season? I really think we need elite talent somewhere on offense and at this point I do not see that we have drafted any elite level talent.
John: Well, the truth is no one knows how the young offensive players eventually will develop. As you mentioned, there are no guarantees because we're dealing with real human beings here, and not video games. Still, everything you see in Luke Bowanko and particularly Brandon Linder indicates they will be good, and Allen Robinson has shown good signs, too. Allen Hurns has shown enough to make you think he will be a productive NFL receiver – maybe not a 1,000-yard guy, necessarily, but a productive player. If all of those guys work out, that's four good players from one draft class on one side of the ball, and that's not even mentioning Blake Bortles or Marqise Lee. Here's the bottom line: you say you need elite talent somewhere on offense and I agree. You say you haven't seen it and I say I've covered a few elite players in my day and they develop at different paces. Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor, Dwight Freeney … those players you knew were good immediately, though it took Freeney a half a season. Robert Mathis, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark … none of those players had anything close to standout rookie seasons and all went on to be elite players, so sometimes it takes time and sometimes it doesn't. That's not to say the Jaguars' young offensive players will be elite, but it is to say we don't know if they will be yet.
Wayne from Jacksonville:
I have been reading how bad our offensive line is, so I did some research. When you look at the top tackles and guards in the league, Joeckel has the perfect stature: 6'6 310ish.... What separates the best linemen from the Jags? Age! The top guys are 26-30 years old. So your adage of "give them time" is actually supported by data. Give it time -- it will come around. I still think we should pay a veteran to come in, though. #vindicated #happythanksgiving
John: I'll bet you I'll post this.
John from Jacksonville:
I see a lot of talk about Justin Blackmon possibly coming back by next season to help "save the team." Without real contact with him the last year or so, and with his struggles around his personal issues until recently, how do we know what shape he is in? Without practicing for a year, we don't even know if he has been in a gym, is 150 lbs overweight, or even cares about football any longer. Plus, there is the factor that he could easily fall backwards again, too. I think it's a long shot. Yes, what a great story it would be if he came back and had a 1,000 yard season but there are a LOT of hurdles to overcome yet.
John: I haven't written anything about Blackmon saving the team. The Jaguars have a lot of needs and areas they must improve – enough that no one player is going to "save the team." But there's no question that Blackmon would improve the Jaguars' wide receivers. As for his physical shape, and how he could fall backward and so on and so on … yes, it's a long shot and yes, there are a lot of unknowns. All of that said, I think there's a good chance Blackmon plays in the NFL next season and if he does, I think there's a good chance he plays for the Jaguars.
Jeremy from Miles City, MT:
Comparing our age to the Broncos and Patriots is laughable at best. On offense, I would be willing to bet that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have more experience than our entire offense combined, not counting Marcedes Lewis. If every rookie improves even marginally and we add a piece to this offense –plus, possibly, Blackmon – this offense will be good, if not very good next year.
John: I don't know how good the Jaguars' offense can be – good, great, OK? We'll see. But I agree with your premise that experience at the quarterback position, particularly experience on the level of Brady/Manning, matters a great deal. It also allows you to be young on "average" at a lot of positions, even on offense, and still be competitive. The Colts for years were one of the NFL's youngest rosters on average even as Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, etc., grew older because most of the backups and non-core players were very young. The team didn't feel young because it had experienced players at every position. The Jaguars are young in fact and young at quarterback – however you want to interpret things statistically.
Bob from ?????:
If the worst thing happens, who gets the first pick: Raiders or Jags?
John: Me having to spend the Christmas holidays with Gene Frenette has nothing to do with who gets the first pick.

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