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O-Zone: Home-field edge

ATLANTA – Game-day O-Zone. Preseason Week 4. Chris from Crestview, FL:
John, why does the Jags' coaching staff have such faith in Luke Joeckel? For the last few years we've heard he was a good tackle – apparently so good that a second-tier free agent can take his place. Now we hear he's going to be a good offensive guard. I've never seen an offensive guard get pancaked three times in a game at a professional level. To say he's better than a street free agent is hard for fans to take. Blake Bortles set the record for most hits ever, and he didn't start the first few games of his career.
John: The staff has faith in Joeckel because the belief is while his bad plays are glaringly bad, his good is actually pretty good. A couple of thoughts on your other thoughts … One, whatever fans think, Joeckel is a better at guard than a street free agent. The other, Kelvin Beachum was in no way a "second-tier" free agent. If not for his torn anterior cruciate ligament he would have been a very coveted player in free agency this past offseason.
David from Orlando, FL:
Do we know if Kelvin Beachum was able to get out of bed Monday morning?
John: Yes.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Bring in a veteran quarterback for backup? Cut Chad Henne? If we did, he'd be scooped up right away and the team that got him would say thanks. Wouldn't surprise me if Henne would rank in the Top 10 of backup quarterbacks in the league.
John: If Henne were playing for another team and got released, he would be exactly the type quarterback a team in need of a veteran backup would sign immediately. The reason is a little difficult to explain and you have to examine the subtleties. I'll try to do it here. The reason you would sign a player such as Henne as a veteran backup is because he's a … veteran backup.
Greg from Section122 and Jacksonville:
While I agree that Green Bay is not the whole season, I think it will be important to get a gauge on where this team really is in terms of progress. I also have a really bad feeling this game could be the one that gets ugly if things go bad for us early. For me personally, I'm not so much worried about winning as at least showing we can compete with the elite teams.
John: OK.
Mark from High Springs:
Gus has always emphasized competition. There really wasn't one at left tackle, and I'm fine with that. The situation and timing called for letting Beachum do what he does best, rather than try to fit him into the left-guard position with no experience. My question: has there really been competition between Joeckel and Mackenzy Bernadeau for left guard? I'm sure we'll see a lot of Mackenzy Thursday and he'll likely look great against Atlanta's twos. But we'll never know how Bernadeau would have fared against Geno Atkins. Luke may be an improvement over Beadles, but has he really "won" the role of left guard based on his performance in practice alone? From all that you've seen, what's your honest assessment?
John: My honest assessment is I'd be surprised if anything happens this season to show Joeckel's not the best left guard on the roster. That's not to say he will play perfectly, and I anticipate some "uh-oh" plays." His "uh-oh" plays tend to be ugly, so we'll probably revisit this topic a lot. I think the Jaguars are in a decent situation in terms of depth because Joeckel can move to either tackle in the event of an injury to Jeremy Parnell or Beachum – and I believe Chris Reed has shown signs of playing well at guard. As far as whether or not Joeckel "won" the position, I suppose he won left guard as much as Beachum won the left-tackle job. At some point you pick the lineup you trust, and that's what the coaches have done.
Chris from Orlando, FL:
With Joeckel being put at left guard, do you think he will be seeing action Thursday night since Sunday he did not look good at all?
John: No. I'd be in favor of Joeckel playing Thursday because I think Joeckel needs left guard repetitions. But according to Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, Joeckel won't play Thursday. I understand it because the coaches believe they've seen enough to like Joeckel at guard – and because of the injury risk. I'd still play him, but that's why it's not happening.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Joeckel was moved to guard because Beachum is better. I noticed that Beachum only has one backup but Joeckel has three. Are these backups interchangeable for those two positions?
John: Not really. The Jaguars haven't said this officially, but I expect Joeckel to be the backup left and right tackle – at least until Josh Wells returns. The players listed on the depth chart at backup guard – Bernadeau, Tyler Shatley and Chris Reed – are essentially guards.
Jason from Jacksonville:
One for Joeckel! I am sure he is disappointed but I am blown away by his attitude. My guess is he moves on after this year, but I wish him nothing but the best. He probably has not lived up to his draft status but has done nothing but work hard and do what was asked of him. Pulling for Luke …
John: Hey … one fer Joeckel!!
Ross from Jacksonville:
With Myles Jack getting most of his reps at the Mike, doesn't this speak to how much the coaches think of his football IQ and mental ability? His physical ability is rare, but combine that with smarts ...
John: Jack took reps pretty much exclusively at middle linebacker until he began working at weak-side linebacker this week. He will play weak-side against the Falcons Thursday – and he is expected to play there a lot. And yes – Jack is a high-football IQ. Here's the deal on Jack thus far: he has been with the Jaguars a little more than a month and he has looked very good at times. He has spent that time learning the middle of the defense and I expect he will be the Jaguars' middle linebacker relatively soon – not this season, but soon. I expect he will play a lot at weak-side linebacker and in nickel situations early this season. There is nothing to indicate he's not going to be very, very good very soon – and nothing to indicate he won't be better than that after that.
David from Broward County, FL:
O-Man, Joeckel is the starting left guard and Johnathan Cyprien is the starting strong safety for 2016. They are at best average to slightly above average at their respective positions. At worst, they are very capable of consistent below-average play. For the Jags to go where they need to go, they need better from these positions. Neither of these players will be on the Jags' roster for 2017. The four-year failed experiment with these two players will end, and the Jags will thankfully move on. What do you think? #GOJAGS #DTWD
John: I understand the tendency to look at Joeckel and Cyprien as "failed experiments," but the reality is while they haven't lived up to their draft statuses they have at worst been "OK" players. It remains to be seen how Joeckel will be at guard and it also remains to be seen how Cyprien will fare at strong safety alongside Tashaun Gipson. Do I believe these players will be back? If I had to guess now, I'd say "probably not," but I don't have to guess now and there's a long season in front of us for this to play out.
David from Oviedo, FL:
Johnny-O, I watched a show on Peyton Manning the other day and it blew me away at just how intricate and deep his knowledge of the game goes. It's scary that while Bortles is still learning the "basic math" of the playbook and getting a rhythm with his receivers, he will face quarterbacks who are mastering a calculus-level understanding of the game. With that logic, it makes sense that this team should have greater success against a team one-to-three years in a system than, say, a team like Green Bay that has worked out all the kinks, and perfected its art. Thoughts?
John: Quarterbacks with an intricate knowledge of their playbook and the ability to control the game at the line of scrimmage make life very difficult for opponents. Bortles is working to get there, and will get closer with every game he plays. The Jaguars face two such quarterbacks in the first two weeks of the season. It's the biggest reason those first two games look worrisome.
Mark from Archer, FL:
O-Man, since you are the Jags writer and everything do you get, like, the premium spot in the press box at home games? If not, that should change. EverBank Field is your home turf. You should be treated like the Godfather of the press at home games.
John: They keep letting me into the games when I show my pass. So far. I'll take that.

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