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O-Zone: Inferno

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jim from Middleburg, FL:
Sir, all of this talk about the offensive line being terrible this year is wrong. Why predict failure before the line has played a single down against another team? You can't evaluate any player until he goes one on one against another team. The only offensive line issue I can see is maybe depth as injuries occur. Thanks. #DTWD!
John: The talk and concern about the Jaguars' offensive line is understandable – and it's hard to say it's unjustified. It was a weak area last season and the team absolutely allowed too many sacks over the last two seasons. There also is a perception that – unlike many other areas of the roster – the team didn't do enough to address it in the offseason. A month before the regular season the story of the line pretty much is as follows: the right side/center look fine and the left side remains uncertain because of the uncertainty surrounding Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum. It remains an unknown a month before the regular season because Beachum has yet to practice on a full-contact basis and the team is counting on him to improve one of the two positions on the left side. Because of those factors – and because there is a perception that most other glaring weaknesses have been improved – there is the expected angst over what is perceived to be a lingering loose thread. The reality is people aren't going to stop worrying about the offensive line until that unit proves it's no longer a worry. So, until Beachum starts practicing and until Joeckel settles into whatever position he's going to play people are going to predict failure. And that's OK. Predictions don't matter. What matters is how the line plays come September 11.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
If Beachum isn't ready Week One, which left tackle/left guard combination do you think we'll see? LT Wells/LG Joeckel or LT Joeckel/LG Bernadeau?
John: If Beachum isn't ready to start Week 1, I think Joeckel will start at left tackle with Tyler Shatley at left guard and Brandon Linder at center.
Scott from Jacksonville:
We know Dante Fowler Jr. looks like the real deal so far with his pass rush but how is he looking against the run so far?
John: He has looked good when given the opportunity, though in reality it's as difficult to gauge run defense as run offense until the regular season begins. I expect Fowler to be fine against the run. As good as Fowler appears to be as a pass rusher, he is not a one-dimensional player.
Chris from Phoenix, AZ:
John I'm kind of concerned our defense requires Johnathan Cyprien to cover the tight ends on passing plays. When we drafted Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack I thought our issues covering the tight end were over. I'm starting to feel like I was wrong.
John: There has been a lot of angst over this issue in recent days, presumably because Cyprien was covering Julius Thomas when the latter scored on a touchdown pass in the scrimmage on Friday. Remember, what happens in a scrimmage – and even how a defense or offense approach a scrimmage – is not always indicative of how a team will approach a regular-season game. Will Cyprien cover tight ends at times this season? Sure. He's a safety and he has to cover at times. Remember, Jack is still playing with the second-team defense – and I don't expect Jalen Ramsey to cover tight ends too much. He's playing cornerback and will therefore draw top-level receivers more often than not. I do expect Jack to cover tight ends when he's playing in passing situations, which I expect to be most of the time sooner rather than later.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
John, I need your help understanding something. In the unofficial depth chart, Joeckel and Beachum are listed as co-starters at left tackle. That makes perfect sense as they are battling for the starting job. However, in your update from Monday's practice, you mentioned that Joeckel worked exclusively at the left guard position, even though Beachum was not participating. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems like Joeckel is pretty well cemented at guard if he's not even getting left-tackle reps when his competition is on the sideline. Is there a reason they're approaching it this way or is there something I'm missing?
John: First, Joeckel isn't working exclusively at guard. There have been days where he has worked mostly at guard with the first team, which makes sense considering he never has played guard before this season. He knows what do at left tackle. He is comfortable lining up there. He has muscle memory and play recall from which to draw. Regardless of what people think of how he has played at left tackle, if he plays the position there won't be much of a learning curve for him. Because he has taken comparatively fewer repetitions of any kind at guard, it makes sense for the Jaguars to work him extensively – even exclusively some days – at guard because this is the time when he must learn and gain muscle memory/play recall at that spot. I believe Beachum will play left tackle when healthy, but I believe Joeckel will be the left tackle in games until that happens. We'll see.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
I keep hearing that Blake Bortles is not a "good" practice player. Does that even make sense? In practice wouldn't you consider the coverage to be a little lax compared to game situations? Anyhow, one would think he would be slightly more accurate in practice than he shows. Your take and should we be concerned?
John: Yes, it makes sense to say Bortles is not a great practice player – partly because Bortles himself has said as much. Some players play better when it matters. Some players need heightened competition to bring out their best. Perhaps Bortles is such a player. I don't know how that will play out over Bortles' career, but there has seemed to be some truth to him being a better game player than practice player in his first two-plus seasons. At the same time, I don't know if it's all that big of a concern. He wasn't a standout practice player last season or in training camp and he managed to improve significantly during the regular season. He needs to make similar improvement this season. I don't know if that will happen because the improvement he needs to make is much more difficult than what he had to do last season. But I am pretty sure that if he doesn't do it it won't be because he isn't a great practice player.
Kevin from Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada:
What are your thoughts on Bill Barnwell's (ESPN) story on the development of Blake Bortles? For me, I compare it to enjoying a nice camp fire and then having someone walk over and dump a big bucket of cold water on it …
John: I read the story, and though I didn't immerse myself in every statistic he offered Barnwell seemed to have tried to be as objective as possible with the story. The reality is because the Jaguars trailed a lot last season a lot of Bortles' statistics were compiled late in games with the team trailing. Some analysts have offered this as evidence against Bortles while others have made the point that many quarterbacks' team trail in the fourth quarter and that things quarterbacks do in that situation aren't necessarily a negative. Look, people are going to criticize and question Bortles because he is not a finished product yet. He needs to improve in a lot of areas this season – as I've written this offseason on far more than one occasion. There's no reason to think he won't make those improvements. He certainly has shown the capacity to work on weaknesses and improve. If he does so, he'll emerge as an elite quarterback. If he doesn't, he won't be. Time will tell.
David from Durban, South Africa:
Is it just me, or is the silver lining of Kelvin Beachum winning the left-tackle spot that Luke Joeckel adds a great deal of athleticism to the left-guard spot? I know Tyler Shatley being pushed back ruined that run where he was pulling but his quickness flashed in that pulling play he ran. Surely, that is the best possible scenario – significantly upgrading both spots?
John: First, though I expect Beachum will start at left tackle when he healthy enough to do so, he really hasn't won anything – because he hasn't been on the field enough to do so. As far as Joeckel adding athleticism at left guard … yes, I think that will be the case. I also think Joeckel will have some hiccups at guard early (if that indeed is where he plays), but I continue to think he can adapt to the position and be an upgrade over last year's starter, Zane Beadles. If it follows that Beachum is an upgrade over Joeckel then that should made the left side of the line better.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
The Storm is Coming! Great commercial. … It really sums up the hype for this season. Dante looks like a monster! I predict he gets 35 sacks this year...MONSTER!!! DANTE'S INFERNO! WHOOOOOOOO!!!!!
John: #DTWD

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