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O-Zone: Just not funny

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … James from Jacksonville:
With Blake looking so bad and the front office seemingly content with not bringing in any competition, do you think any of this had to do with Branden Albert's decision to retire? I mean … $18 million reasons to stay and fight it out, but nope. … He just retires without any warning.
John: No, I do not think Blake Bortles had anything to do with Branden Albert retiring. I got many emails asking this same question; no matter how many ways it was worded, the answer didn't change. While I understand how it could look that way from afar, to think that a player would walk away from $9 or $18 million because a quarterback struggled in a practice – or because of any one particular player – is to completely misunderstand the logic and reality of the NFL. Why do I think Albert retired? I think Albert is 32, and realized in the last few days that his full heart, desire, etc. wasn't into football anymore. I also think he may have realized that the rust of early training camp may have been a little more than rust and very hard to just brush off. When those last two things are true, it's very difficult to play in the NFL.
Jeff from Orange Park, FL:
Huh, wait what?
John: Yeah, that got out of hand in a hurry.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
You kept saying for weeks and weeks that Branden Albert's non-participation in voluntary work was a non-issue until it became an issue. I would say that it has now become an issue, but I'm curious to see if you believe the contract dispute and his sudden retirement are linked, or if they are two separate issues.
John: I don't think Albert retired because of a contract issue. I think Albert retired because he realized he didn't want to play or because he didn't think he could play at a high level anymore. And I think maybe in retrospect not being in organized team activities may have been as much about not wanting to be in OTAs as it was about his contract, but that last part is just a theory.
Jagsfan69 from Jacksonville:
Hi, John. Albert retiring comes as a bit of a surprise. My question: Will the NFL grant the Jaguars any compensatory picks in the 2018 NFL Draft? A few have said Miami would be on the hook for one of their 2018 picks. I don't think that's right. A deal is a deal ... right?
John: Albert retiring indeed was a surprise, but no: the Jaguars won't receive any compensation from the NFL. Compensatory selections don't work that way. The Jaguars will recoup from Miami the 2018 draft selection they acquired in the trade for Albert providing Albert doesn't play in three or more games for the Jaguars this season.
Joshua from Jacksonville:
So after coming to Jax and sitting out voluntary workouts hoping for more money Branden Albert retires right after camp starts. Bizarre. I didn't like him to begin with, but this has to hurt. What do you think the Jags will do – if anything?
John: I don't know that what Albert did is really so bizarre. He played nine years in the NFL, and apparently while beginning a 10th discovered that the motivation or the skill to play a 10th was no longer there. Upon that discovery, he decided to retire. If that's Albert's story – and I have no reason to believe otherwise – that sounds strikingly normal and understandable to me. As for what the Jaguars will do, I expect they will explore options in free agency and/or waivers during preseason. They might even acquire a player via one of those routes. But I don't expect them to acquire a starting-level player that way. Front-line contributors aren't often found in early August. There are exceptions, but that's the rule.
Jeff from Orange, CA:
Do you expect Cam Robinson to get above average playing time in preseason to better get up to speed with the team and if so, how much more?
John: I think Robinson will get a little more preseason playing time than your normal starter. Whereas a normal starter might get a series or two in Preseason Week 1, a quarter or so in Preseason Week 2 and a little more than a half in Week 3, I would guess Robinson somewhere along the line might get a couple of series beyond that. I would think a few other potential offensive-line starters also might get a few more series than "normal" because the Jaguars are trying to figure out the best five offensive linemen. But overall, I expect any increase in preseason playing time for Robinson or other front-line offensive linemen to be minimal. Either Robinson is capable or not; he won't be playing into the fourth quarter throughout the preseason just because he's a rookie.
Dave from Duval:
How has Brandon Allen looked so far in? Has he made Chad Henne expendable yet?
John: OK. No.
Jaginator from (formerly of) Section124:
Do you still want to tell me about how the Jags have improved their offensive line from last year??
John: The Jaguars originally addressed their offensive line by trading for Albert and selecting Robinson in the 2017 NFL Draft. I believed that would mean 40 percent of the line changing because I believed Albert would start at left tackle with Robinson playing guard. Now, it appears the Jaguars will have changed 20 percent of their line with Robinson playing tackle. That obviously is a different equation. It means the offensive linemen on the team such as Jermey Parnell, A.J. Cann, Brandon Linder and perhaps Patrick Omameh must improve from last season. That's not impossible, but it's a lot harder to explain than the previous equation.
Rick from Jacksonville:
So do we get our seventh-round draft pick back now?
John: Yes. Almost certainly.
Rhonda from Jacksonville:
Ah, the start of a new year. Hope springs eternal for an NFL fan in July, August and September but by October reality sets in. Let's hope it's a new reality and we're not talking about the draft. It's hard being a Jags fan: Like being married to a bad woman. They say they won't do it again. We'll see. Can a Jaguar change his spots? #don'tbreakmyheartagain
John: #DTWD
GPP from Savannah:
John, the decision by Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone to not have competition at only one position – quarterback – may be the worst decision this team has again made. This from two respected coaches who strongly believe in competition.
John: While I agree that there has not been significant competition at the quarterback position, I would disagree it is the only Jaguars position at which there isn't much competition. Most positions on the team enter camp with the starters pretty much decided and something unexpected and unusual needing to happen to change it. That's the case at quarterback, and linebacker, and cornerback, and wide receiver, and …
John from Daytona, FL:
I'm a bit of an optimist, John: Four practices, three decent ones from Bortles. If it was the regular season, we would be 3-1 and maybe in first in the division. Why is everyone worried?
John: Because.
Mike from Middleburg:
Mr. O. Who do you think could wind up the first franchise tag in years that are on our roster now?
John: I doubt the Jaguars will use the franchise tag in the coming offseason. They have cap space and seem to be of a mind to lock up worthy young players to long-term deals. I would say wide receiver Allen Robinson would be the most likely candidate if the franchise tag indeed were to be used.
Mike from Jacksonville:
The Jags are not in the real world. Mechanics will not fix Blake Bortles. He does not have an NFL caliber arm. Velocity is very important with the tight coverages in the league. Plain and simple, he does not have it. What say O'Man?
John: I say while Bortles' arm strength may not be otherworldly, it's plenty strong enough to play competently or better in the NFL. I also believe he generally speaking is accurate enough to play competently or at a high level in the NFL. The major issues with Bortles are decision-making and turnovers, which in a very real way are really close to one overriding issue. He has 34 interceptions in the last two seasons and 11 lost fumbles. A lot of those have come at bad times, and have led to momentum-crushing, game-turning touchdowns for the opposition. If you reduce those, then Bortles' arm strength and accuracy get discussed a lot less. I don't know if he will reduce those or not, but I do it's the key issue for this team entering the season.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Well, I guess Cam Robinson is the starting left tackle now. It would be pretty hilarious if Julius Thomas goes on to have a 10-touchdown, Pro Bowl-type season.
John: I wouldn't LOL at that.

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