O-Zone: Ice cream man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jon from Apple Valley, CO:
Hey O, I am hopeful for Blake Bortles. I have always been a supporter even when he wasn't doing well. I just hope he doesn't go back to trying to force throws because of how big the next games are. That is one area I'm not sure he's improved yet, forcing throws when the pressure is on.
John: I obviously can't say for certain this won't occur; no one can. But if it does happen, Bortles won't be the only quarterback to make such a mistake. Bortles has improved dramatically in recent months, and it's not insignificant that he has had two of his best career games the last two weeks. It's also not insignificant that one of those games came in the biggest game of his career to date. Still, it's also fair to remember in the coming weeks that even the greatest of quarterbacks makes the occasional error. They throw into coverage. They force throws. They throw interceptions. I saw Peyton Manning throw 49 touchdowns in a season, win four Most Valuable Player Awards, win a Super Bowl and lead some of the most remarkable comebacks in NFL history. I also saw him throw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, force a pass or two – and I once saw him throw six interceptions in a game. Bottom line: Let's not grade Bortles so harshly and precisely that we lose all perspective. Bortles can play well and be worthy of being the quarterback moving forward without being perfect. If you're looking for a quarterback to be perfect – in pressure situations or otherwise – you're to have a long, unhappy frustrating wait.
Clay from Jacksonville:
I'm a long-time fan. I have a copy of my ticket to the first game hanging on my office wall. I'm beginning to feel like I'm the only one who thinks this whole "respect" thing is way overblown. Are we the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Jacksonville Rodney Dangerfields? I see analysts showing the Jaguars love every time I watch NFL shows. We're getting respect. Analysts almost drool over our defense. I say we try to get over this respect thing and just go out there and focus on winning.
John: Fair point.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
Last March-July I thought we were going to be at least a .500 team. Then August came. The practice against the Bucs was especially disheartening as they seemed to really look down their noses at us as perennial losers and they were the ascending darlings of Hard Knocks. After 13 games … well let's just say the Jags lead the league with 47 sacks (among many other categories) and the Bucs are dead last with 17!
John: I can't say I had a great feeling about this team in late August, either. The offensive line was struggling and there was the whole Bortles-earning-his-position storyline. But I never got a pessimistic feeling from the practices against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in fact there was a moment late in one those practices when I wondered if maybe we weren't seeing something positive. This was during the Tuesday session, when multiple fights broke out near the end. Watching the scene from the end of the field, I wondered if perhaps we weren't seeing signs that the Jaguars were tired of being pushed around. I can't rightly say I knew then this was going to be a different Jaguars team, but this version of the Jaguars certainly doesn't lack confidence and it doesn't mind pushing back. Not in the least.
Rob from Jacksonville:
I read an article that said Jermey Parnell was playing at a Pro Bowl level and Patrick Omameh was one of the toughest left guards in the league! Have they been playing THAT well this year?
John: Parnell has played very well when healthy – and because the Jaguars lead the league in rushing, it stands to reason some member of the offensive line must be doing OK. I doubt he will make the Pro Bowl, but is he playing well enough to deserve consideration? Sure. Omameh has played well this season when healthy, too. How tough is he? Hell, he plays offensive line in the NFL. I don't know many guys who do that without being tough.
Jeremy from Newport, RI:
X-Factors ... I believe as we move into the playoffs that if we see some plays above the Xs and Os from Myles Jack and Dante Fowler Jr. that they could really solidify how good this team is right now. Jack has been solid but he hasn't really had a stand-out game where he had a big impact. The same seems true of Fowler. He flashed earlier in the season but has been relatively quiet lately. I think these guys are X-Factors and could really push the Jags toward a Super Bowl. Thoughts?
John: I think flash plays happen when they happen – and if you try to force them you wind up making a lot of mistakes not playing within yourself. I also think you're underestimating Jack's impact on this defense. He has a fumble return for a touchdown this season, is in his first season calling an NFL defense and he has been much more than solid. Fowler also has a fumble return for a touchdown, very nearly had another and has 6.5 sacks. Are they capable of more flash plays? Certainly. But the first thing you want on defense is 11 guys doing their jobs. If this defense does that, the turnovers/sacks/touchdowns will follow.
Keithen from Jacksonville:
So why didn't Michael Bennett get suspended after trying to take out Brandon Linder's knee? Also, what happens when a player is ejected during the last two minutes of a game … does it carry over to next game at all? Finally, what must happen around the league in the last three weeks for the Jags to be the number one seed in the AFC? As always #DTWD
John: Bennett wasn't suspended because the league determined Bennett wasn't trying to take out Linder's knee (offered without comment). No, an ejection doesn't carry over to the next game – unless the league determines that something happened egregious enough to suspend the player the following week. For the Jaguars to be the No. 1 seed a few things need to happen: the Jaguars must win the rest of their games, the Steelers must beat the Patriots Sunday and the Steelers must lose their final two games.
Danielfrom Jersey City, NJ:
O-man - this is certainly already a historic season/turnaround for the Jaguars. If we can win this out, how would it stack up from an NFL-wide turnaround?
John: The Jaguars, if they win their remaining three games, would be in a multi-team tie for the third biggest turnaround in NFL history. The 1999 Colts went 13-3 after going 3-13 in 1998 and the 2008 Dolphins went 11-5 after going 1-15 in 2007. Three teams have had nine-game turnarounds: the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10 in 2003 and 15-1 in 2004), the 1999 St. Louis Rams (3-13 in 1998 and 12-4 in 1999) and the 1963 Oakland Raiders (1-13 in 1962 and 10-4 in 1963. The Jaguars went 3-13 last season and can finish 12-4 this season.
Dave from St. Louis, MO:
Isn't the beauty of losing players to free agency the compensation guidelines? We've been waiting a long time to reach the point where we can sign fewer free agents and let our rookies sign elsewhere, so you can start getting compensatory selections. Obviously, you don't want to lose All-Pro level players, but potentially secondary level players who might get big contracts like Colvin and Lee surely would help that cause? I believe the compensatory picks will be for the next offseason (not this upcoming one) as this upcoming one will be based on last year's free agent plus/minus situation, is that correct?
John: You're correct that the 2018 compensatory selections are based on 2017 free agency. But while receiving compensatory selections indeed is a benefit of losing players in free agency, I wouldn't call it a "beauty." Losing veterans as free agents usually isn't something that is good for a team. And while a fourth- or fifth-round selection would be nice, it wouldn't make up for losing players such as Aaron Colvin or Marqise Lee.
William from Wilson, NC:
John, I've been a Jags fan for a long, long time. Did I make some bets with friends the Jags would lose certain easy games? Yes, because until this year that was the trend; I knew my team and the combination of them not knowing the team and me wanting easy money was just too enticing. I kind of feel bad as a fan, but then I remember the delicious ice cream that the 10 bucks bought me and it subsides. I know it is all speculation and experience matters, and this team doesn't have that experience, but what do you realistically think the chances are that this team could make it to the big game? #DTWD #Sacksonville
John: Why? Do you want more ice cream?

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