JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frank from Knoxville, TN:
Hey, Zone … tough matchup this week against a division-leading foe. Good measuring-stick game. If the Jaguars can hang tight and be competitive for all four quarters, maybe the doubters of progress will start to come around. This is a game last year that Vegas would have pulled off the board because of the money going to the Bengals with a spread in the twenties. Know what I mean?
John: I do know what you mean, and in that respect I think this is an important game for this team. The Jaguars have played better in the last four weeks than the first four weeks. Anyone paying attention can see that. Most would agree that they have had legitimate chances to win four consecutive games, something that just wasn't true in the first half of the season. There is a real feeling among players that this team is close to breaking through and winning. Now, this game isn't a must-win situation. It's not a likely victory, either. The Bengals are good, and it's a tough "ask" to think the Jaguars go win. But considering the progress and overall solid play by most of the team the last month I would say it's important to go and be consistent. The Jaguars have played better in the last month. Now's the time not to take a step back.
Alan from Jacksonville:
O-Man, as long as we're drinking your Kool-Aid can you at least tell us what flavor it is? I can't quite place it.
John: (Yawn …)
Michael from Jackson de Ville:
What's your take on Cecil's play since returning from injury? All I've seen are near goal-line fumbles, not getting open, and shying away from passes once actually open. Is Cecil just getting re-acclimated to the game or do you think this is part of something larger? Doesn't bode well for him in a contract year.
John: Cecil Shorts III would be the first to tell you he needs to play better. He said as much following the loss to Miami Sunday. The fumble near the goal line against Tennessee hurt, and he hasn't been as productive as I thought he'd be. I haven't seen the shying-away from passes stuff. He had one play against San Diego when he didn't come back for what turned out to be an interception, but that was because of a hamstring injury on the previous play. Overall, he has shown flashes and the Jaguars are better with him in the game, but I don't think he's happy with his play since his return.
Tom from Jacksonville:
It appears that Blake's basic footwork has regressed back to pre-training camp form. His balls are floating, with little velocity. It allows defenders too much time to react. He needs to work on his basic. Please pass this on to the staff.
John from Savannah, GA:
It certainly seems that as we get to the end of each NFL season, for teams that are not in the postseason race or on the periphery of it, who wins or loses those last games is more a function of who has experienced less roster attrition. Am I far off base here?
John: You're not far off at all, but I wouldn't at all limit it to teams not in the postseason or on the periphery. Injuries dramatically affect the balance of power in the playoffs. That, and the level of play at the quarterback position, is usually the overriding factor in the postseason.
Cecil from St. Johns, FL:
I can understand rookie mistakes, and if an interception is made after BB throws it down the field 30 yards or so I understand that as well. I just don't understand the interceptions when the receiver is 5-10 yards away.
John: NFL defenders move much faster than college defenders. They're also generally better than college defenders. That often causes young quarterbacks to make mind-blowing mistakes.
Glen from Lake City, FL:
With our running game emerging the last two weeks, and Bortles' struggles, teams should start putting seven and eight defenders in the box again. In turn, shouldn't this allow Bortles and the receiving corps some better opportunities?
Jim from Meridian:
OK. We've beat the Bortles issue into the ground and a few weeks ago, we beat the "D" into the ground. If I'm not mistaken, counting the preseason, Scobee has had three field goals blocked. Should that be a concern as well?
Jason from Jacksonville Beach:
Would it be so bad to just let Bortles play his game and amass film for the offseason as well as gain in-game experience this year since there isn't much to play for record-wise at this point of the season?
John: I get a version of this question a lot, with the idea among some being that Bortles somehow isn't playing his game. Now, this is not me being a jerk – although I probably will do that later in the week or maybe even today – but what are the Jaguars supposed to do to let him play his game? Just let him drop back and throw every play? Put him in the shotgun and have him throw 50 yards downfield every other play? He's throwing a lot. He's rolling out a lot. The Jaguars are throwing more than they're running. He's playing. He's working the offense. He's learning as he goes. That's what he must do.
Daniel from Windsor Heights:
It seems the last two games that Bortles' picks have been when he tried to rifle a bullet into a receiver with a defender in front of them. It seemed if he would have simply lofted those passes higher and over the receiver/defender the worst result would have been that he overthrew his receiver but in at least some cases probably would have resulted in a catch. Did you see it that way as well?
John: Not really, particularly not against the Dolphins. On the first interception against Miami, the defender came off another receiver and stepped in front of a pass. While I thought at first glance it was a bad pass, everyone you talked to after the game said it was simply a good play by the defender. On the second, Bortles tried to throw a back-shoulder pass across the field. It was, as offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Monday, too far to try to throw the pass.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Everyone knows that a good running game is a quarterback's best friend. It forces the defense to be honest, it opens up the play book, it makes play action actually work, etc. But, it seems like the better the run game has been, the worse Bortles has been. What gives?
John: He's a rookie. He has made five NFL starts, and he has done so with a lot of young, moving parts around him. That explains many, many things.
Tim from Jacksonville and section 213:
If I'm the coach, I spend zero time talking about interceptions. As he learns, Blake's whole game will naturally improve, including interceptions. But if reducing interceptions becomes a focus then that is the wrong way to develop a rookie quarterback.
John: Interceptions need to come up in meetings, but if you're worried about the Jaguars overemphasizing the topic to the point where it gets in Bortles' head and hinders his development, I wouldn't sweat that. He's a confident guy. He's going through some hiccups right now. He's figuring it out. That's what we're seeing. As he figures out, what we see will look better.
Bobby from Draper, UT:
I must have used my words incorrectly. What I meant is I want to see Blake Bortles take control. I want to see him get a little emotional. Of course, I don't want him to start a fight; I just want him to show that he knows this is his team.
John: Bortles knows he's in control. He knows this is his team. He knows he's the leader. He knows he's the quarterback. His teammates – veterans and rookies alike – know this, too. This isn't an issue.
Ron from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Okay, I'm still new here, so, don't laugh, but what the heck is #DTWD??? I see you reply with it a lot, but it means nothing to someone new to the board. You may as well not even answer the question for the new people.
John: It means, "Duval 'Til We Die." It has become an unofficial rallying cry among some Jaguars fans, so sometimes I use it to respond to a questioner who is just all fired up about the whole concept of Jaguar fandom and what it means. Other times, I use it for random reasons. Mostly lately, I have come to use it to respond in somewhat ironic/sarcastic fashion to a fan who is just sort of out there and perhaps a tad irrational and just spouting things that have little basis in fact and makes you realize somewhat to your chagrin that there are "these kinds" of people in the world …
Scott from Jacksonville:
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Chad Henne is the better quarterback and should be starting, but unfortunately Gus and Dave have no idea what they are doing so the Jags are stuck being a D-Squad team. Bortles may be a great runner, which has been the reason why the Jags have been able to convert on third down more often, but the kid is a horrible passer.
John: … #DTWD …
John from Orlando, FL:
I think I am done having hope for the future. Bortles is a bust. No questions asked.
John: … #DTWD.
O-Zone: It takes all kinds
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frank from Knoxville, TN: