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O-Zone: Just... walk... away

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ben from Indianapolis, IN:
Help me out, O-man: Am I becoming too critical? As I watched the highlight of Bortles' 45-yard hookup with A-Rob, I couldn't help but think it was a poorly thrown ball. I definitely think he made the right decision with the offside flag already thrown and A-Rob finding space behind the secondary, but feel that his poor throw was masked by the poor secondary coverage and A-Rob's fantastic play that helped turn what in my mind was a would-be pick into a highlight-reel play. I can't help but think that a well-thrown ball would have resulted in an at least an easy catch if not a touchdown for A-Rob. Am I expecting too much?
John: Yeah, Ben, you are being too critical – and you might be expecting just a bit too much. There's no question Blake Bortles' deep pass to Allen Robinson in the first quarter Thursday could have been thrown better. Had it been thrown perfectly it likely would have been a touchdown – and perhaps a pretty easy touchdown at that. At the same time, not every NFL deep pass is perfectly thrown. Quarterbacks throughout the league overthrow or underthrow open receivers downfield all of the time. Bortles gave Robinson a chance to make the play – and Robinson's body of work is fast proving that giving him a chance to make the play is a proper approach. Bottom line on this one: Sure, Bortles could have thrown the pass better, but it's probably not a wise thing to criticize 45-yard gains that set up touchdowns. There was a time not long ago when such things didn't happen very often around these parts.
Nels from Jacksonville:
First preseason game, a lot of new young players, no game planning, a lot of positive things happened in the first quarter. I am optimistic.
John: As well you should be.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
Is there anything bad to say about the first two drives of the first preseason game of the season? It's early, but I'm buying into the hype like no other. #stealtheshow #DTWD #Duuuuvvvaaaalllllll
John: There wasn't much to dislike about the first two offensive series. Bortles threw effectively. Robinson was Robinson – and that's a good thing for this offense. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon ran effectively. The offensive line played far better than most observers expected considering it played without Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Linder. Pretty much the only hiccup offensively early was the dropped touchdown by tight end Julius Thomas. Bortles took the blame afterward because he said the two had a miscommunication and he could have thrown the ball higher. From the press box, it looked like a low throw that could have been caught. Either way, one drop doesn't diminish a very impressive start for the offense.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O-man, it was great to see our new young guys out there for the first time this year. It looked to me that they played hard even though it was a preseason game and didn't matter(?) A lot of guys looked really good, but Marqise Lee really stood out from the stands. What say you, O-man?
John: I say we saw Thursday why Lee's health is an important storyline for this team. His speed, athleticism and quickness are things the Jaguars don't otherwise have on offense. Actually, his speed, athleticism and quickness are things a lot of teams don't have on offense. If he's healthy he has a chance to be special. That's something you hear often around the Jaguars. We saw why again on Thursday.
Jeremy from Bossier City, LA:
It's preseason, but the special teams look the same as they did last year and the year before under Mike Mallory ... not good. I was surprised he wasn't replaced after last season. Do we have to wait for another poor year of special teams before we get a better coach in that area?
John: Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley addressed the kickoff coverage after Friday's game. He said while giving up returns of 51 and 84 yards was disappointing, the team really hadn't worked much on kick coverage yet in training camp. The special teams actually improved pretty significantly last season, and Mallory is a very good special teams coach. When teams turn over personnel the way the Jaguars have done the past three seasons it makes a special teams coordinator's job very difficult. Mallory's not going anywhere. Nor should he be.
Chris from Mandarin:
Not a question, but an observation. It is interesting in your post-game article and O-Zone response you state Bortles' 6-for-7 passing stats, but omit mentioning the sole drop was by Julius Thomas for what would have been a touchdown. Any reason for omitting this information? Particularly, when Bortles would have otherwise been 100 percent for completions on the night, which is unheard of.
John: I mentioned Thomas' drop in some stories and didn't mention it in others. There was no reason or ulterior motive for this decision – and it may, in fact, be overstating it to call it a decision. I write four or five stories in a short period of time after a game. I write many of these stories at the same time. Sometimes in the fury to produce content for my keenly observant readers I omit a statistic. I'll make every effort to improve on this area moving forward.
Doug from Jacksonville:
John: Twelve is too many, but really? That's your only takeaway?
Jason from Rochester, MN:
The scoreboard was unfortunate, but Blake Bortles was efficient and the first-team offense played well. Marqise Lee showed flashes of his ability and Myles Jack had plays where he stuck out on the field. All in all, I'm rather pleased by the performance in our first preseason game.
John: There was plenty about which to be pleased. The Jaguars have a lot of areas that need to improve coming out of the Jets game. There were defensive lapses, penalties and a quite a few mistakes. But that's to be expected in a preseason opener. Overall, the team obviously is faster and more talented defensively. Overall, the Year Three offensive core players – Robinson, Allen Hurns and Bortles – look faster and better than they did a year ago. Those are signs of an improved team, and those were good, important things to see Thursday.
Charles from Midlothian, VA and Section35:
O-man: the improvements to the club level are amazing – oh, and I think Dave Caldwell has done just as good a job with the team. My only concern right now is the depth isn't as good as it could be. But I would MUCH rather worry about depth than the starters. Those guys look as good as my new club level seats. Remember when we had the worst wide receiver corps in the league ? Yeah … good times – ones I'm hoping never to return to.
John: Free agency has made depth rare in the NFL. It's simply difficult to have a starting-quality player as a backup under the current system. Still, the Jaguars' depth is significantly better than in recent seasons. Marqise Lee, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Colvin, Myles Jack, T.J. Yeldon/Chris Ivory, Rashad Greene … there are good players at a lot of positions who potentially won't technically be starters. That couldn't have been said a year or two ago.
Christopher from Phoenix, AZ:
John, if our issues at strong safety persist do you think at some point Telvin Smith could be an option? He is the prototypical strong safety.
John: This isn't a ridiculous notion on paper, but Smith is entering his third NFL season as a weak-side linebacker. It's a tough "ask" to move him to a different level of the defense and learn a new position.
Ryan from Durham, NC:
Doesn't it make more sense to just move Brandon Linder to left guard and play Tyler Shatley at center and be done with it? I'm sorry, John. I'm a simple, straightforward kind of guy.
John: I've gotten more than a few versions of this question in recent days, with people trying to solve what they see as a pressing offensive-line issue by moving Linder from center. I suppose I don't see the crisis or the logic. First, the team likes the right side of the line and it likes Linder on the right side. Second, until Kelvin Beachum begins practicing and playing, we won't really know the state of the left side. As far as moving Linder to guard and Shatley to center, I don't know if that's very straightforward at all. If you're assuming you're "fixing" left guard by moving Linder there then you're sort of assuming that you're weakening the center position. I don't know if that fixes much of anything.
Zach from Genoa City:
Unnecessary roughness on a long snapper!? That Carson Tinker guy is a baaaaaad man.
John: When wise people see Carson Tinker coming their way, they go another way. I can't put it much more clearly.

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