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O-Zone: Hypothetically

JACKSONVILLE – Happy Thanksgiving. Or whatever.

Let’s get to it …

Mason from Palm Bay, FL

John, you said in Monday's O-Zone that the biggest issue on this team has been injuries. Wow, how much Kool-Aid have you drank? Please don't kid yourself: Blake is the underlying issue.

A reminder of how this works: People ask me questions; I answer based on what people want to hear, but what I see, hear and believe. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles isn’t playing well; I’ve written that often. The Jaguars also have a serious decision regarding whether to move forward with him at quarterback after the season; I’ve written that often and I’ve also written that I think the team could make a change at the position in the offseason. Still, the reality is that this offensive approach worked last season well enough to be ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense and it was working adequately enough this season through the first five games to be ranked ninth in the NFL in total offense. It was around Week 5 that the offense’s injuries mounted to the point that it couldn’t function as it had previously. Bortles isn’t a quarterback who can raise the level of an otherwise dysfunctional offense; that has been stated and proven pretty much beyond doubt. But was he and this offense good enough to win – and contend for the playoffs – without the slew of injuries sustained this season? Yes; that also has been proven pretty much beyond doubt. If people choose not to remember or accept that, I can’t control it. It doesn’t make it untrue.

RAS from Jacksonville

Hey, O: Could it be that the Jags don't want to put backup quarterback Cody Kessler in because it would cause people to think that they made a bad decision to stay with Bortles? It might have shown that it might have sparked the offense. Would they have lost any more games they have already lost (in a row)? Really? Now, season lost!

People are overthinking this. Rightly or wrongly, the Jaguars are playing Bortles because they believe he gives them the best chance to win. Remember: we’re only a week removed from Bortles playing well enough to win a couple of consecutive weeks. If Bortles shows a similar hesitancy to go downfield as he did Sunday against Pittsburgh – or if he throws a couple of avoidable interceptions – I can see them going to Kessler. I think we’re closer to that than we were early in the season. But I don’t think we’re there yet.

Tony from St. Louis, MO

If Kessler can't do better than 104 yards why is he on the team?

To be the backup quarterback.

Ken from Vero Beach, FL

John, I asked this question once before and I would still like an answer. Why would a team draft a first-round quarterback if they don't like his footwork, his throwing motion, his decision-making and his downfield ability and insist on making him a pocket quarterback? I always thought first-round quarterbacks already had these tools.

The Jaguars liked Bortles’ potential when they selected him No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft and believed he was the best quarterback in either that draft or the 2015 NFL Draft. They believed he would develop.

Tucker from Nashville, TN

It doesn't matter if we draft Top 5. The Jaguars can't draft: 2013 Luke Joeckel, bust; 2014 Blake Bortles, bust; 2015, Dante Fowler Jr., bust. Three years of Top 5 picks that were waisted. Thank God Jalen Ramsey fell to us in 2016.

OK. #waisted

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

After having a great year last season the Jaguars drank their own juice and lived the good life in the offseason.

I could buy that theory perhaps a little if the team had struggled to start the season, or if even the Jaguars had looked remotely complacent to start the season. They didn’t. They were 3-1 with a victory over the New England Patriots before injuries took a toll on the offense. They appeared at minimum on the way to a competitive season before the loss to Kansas City, which is where injuries truly reached the point of being too much to overcome.

Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

John: defensive tackle Malik Jackson, end Calais Campbell and linebacker Telvin Smith don't seem to be having the type of seasons they had last year. Any thoughts?

You’re right about Jackson and Smith, though not about Campbell.

Ryan from Looking Forward to the Draft

John - is Marrone's comment about not replacing players unless that replacement is better a tacit admission that the current roster simply doesn't have enough playmakers to win in the modern NFL? I mean honestly, how else do you explain six straight losses?

I don’t know if it’s a “tacit admission” of anything. It’s simply Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone saying that the team is not going to replace starters with players the coaches and front office believe aren’t as good.

The Other Michael from Middleburg, FL

This season hurts for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason for me personally is Bortles. I've been a Blake Bortles fan since Day 1. His is the only Jaguars jersey I've ever owned. I bought one for my son, too, who wore "5" on his flag football team for Blake. I've celebrated his good games and defended his bad games. But watching the Steelers game I had to admit to myself ... it's over. As much as I wanted him to be "The Guy," he isn't and he won't be. The most-heartbreaking thing about the remainder of this season is I'll probably be watching his last games in a Jaguars uniform. This just ... hurts. So ... one more fer Blake. Thanks for the memories.

Hey … one fer Blake.

Ben from Jacksonville

John, I have been a season-ticket holder since the team’s inception and last week’s game is the first one I missed on purpose. This is the most disappointing season I can remember. I truly believe all the goodwill the Jaguars accumulated last year will be out the window if they do not address the quarterback position this year. Do you think Jaguars Owner Shad Khan knows this and will make sure a quarterback is drafted in the first round next year?

I will preface this by saying this isn’t something Khan is likely to address publicly, certainly not before the 2019 NFL Draft. I also doubt such a conversation would have taken place yet – if indeed it takes place at all. Finally, Khan since taking over as owner in 2012 has been clear and consistent about allowing his football decision-makers make football decisions. I do think there’s a good chance the Jaguars select a quarterback in the first round in April.

Dave from Dallas, TX

Hey, Mr. O: Said it before, but: at Buffalo, keep it simple for BB5. Use hurry up/no huddle, go vanilla and let him throw first down. He’s not as bad as your correspondents say, just needs less time to think. Thoughts?

Sure.

Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL

Fournette played great for second game in a row. Do you think it’s time that you and everyone else who thought he was good or just OK or a bust should eat their words and hang their heads in shame?

Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette played OK against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10 in his first game back from a hamstring issue, unless you believe that 2.2 yards a carry is great. I thought he played much better against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday. I never said or believed that Fournette was a bust. I think and have said he is good. I also have said he has a significant way to go to be great. That’s still very much the case.

Matt

Just when I thought Keelan Cole was going to step up, he has completely disappeared. With a case of the drops at that. After losing Marqise Lee, you needed someone to step up and it seems no one wants that role. Dede Westbrook has been good in stretches, but we have nothing consistent. Why do you think Cole has had such a sophomore slump?

I thought Cole would have a good season – in the 800-to-900-yard range with six or seven touchdowns. He had drop issues as a rookie, and early on last season it looked as if the game was too big for him. I thought a year of experience would eliminate a lot of that. Why has it happened? Sometimes, the game really is too big for a player. Cole is at the point where he needs to again show that’s not his issue.

Jeff from Orange Park, FL

Hypothetical since there's not much else to talk about, do you think if Cody Kessler started every game this season but with a 100 percent healthy offense, the Jaguars record would be much different?

I think the Jaguars’ record would be much better this season if the offense was 100 percent healthy no matter who was playing quarterback.

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