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O-Zone: Kith and kin

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it... Jay from Montreal, QC:
O, do you find it curious that Bortles' scrambles are diminishing and he hasn't had many designed carries? Sure, it's great that we have a quarterback who always looks to throw — better this than the opposite problem — but with Blake's size and speed, can't he be a Cam Newton-like dual threat? Adds another wrinkle to our O.
John: I actually don't find it curious that Blake Bortles' scrambles and designed runs are diminishing. I find it absolutely encouraging, and I find it one of the biggest reasons he has a chance to keep growing into an elite quarterback. You win games and do so long-term in the NFL by winning from the pocket. There are exceptions, but those exceptions are rare and often short-lived. Newton is having an exceptional year and perhaps he'll be able to play this style at a high level for long, long time. If so, he will stand out as one of the few players to do so. Also remember, while Bortles has size and speed, he doesn't have Newton's combination of size and speed. And that's OK. He's starting to show he can succeed from the pocket. That's the best news this franchise has had in a long time.
Skip from Nashville, TN:
Please explain why when a quarterback spikes the ball it is not intentional grounding. It is not outside of the box, past the line of scrimmage or in the direction of a receiver.
John: It's not intentional grounding because there is a rule that says it's not.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
So John, the only things I see that need improvement on defense are tackling, rushing the passer, covering receivers, shedding blocks, not over-pursuing, tackling, not committing 'dumb' penalties ... we get those few things figured out and still score six touchdowns a game on offense and I think we're in good shape!!
John: These are all fair points – this week. Look, the Jaguars' defense must improve. It has had issues all season and the struggles have been particularly noticeable the last two weeks, but it actually played serviceable defense most of the season before that – particularly against the run. And there are a few defensive players who have played well this season for the most part. Roy Miller, Telvin Smith, Jared Odrick, Paul Posluszny – Johnathan Cyprien/Davon House/Aaron Colvin at times in the secondary. The unit struggled against the run and struggled to tackle last week, but those haven't been season-long problems. I don't point this out to give the defense a "pass" for the last two weeks; rather, I point it out to say that there are pieces of this defense that have played OK. The pass rush issues have made getting off the field on third downs a big problem all season, and when you can't do that it makes everything look much, much worse.
Steve form Nashville, TN:
What are the odds that the Jaguars' first, second and third picks in the 2016 draft are on the defensive side of the ball?
John: Good.
Mac from Neptune Beach, FL:
Couldn't help notice that Chris Clemons is "probable" for something non-injury related? What's the deal with this guy? Does he just simply not care about football?
John: Chris Clemons cares about football. In the nearly two seasons he has played in Jacksonville, I have seen nothing to suggest otherwise. He has not been as effective on the field this season as last season. He also certainly has not been as effective here in Jacksonville as when he was when he was younger in Seattle. But none of that means he doesn't care about football. Clemons was on the injury report because league rules dictate if a player misses practice for any reason during the week he must appear on the injury report. Clemons did not practice on Wednesday because of what the Jaguars call a "veteran day off." This is not Clemons begging out of practice or being lazy. It's something many teams do with older players to preserve their bodies and keep them as fresh as possible.
If u love Gus so much why don't u marry him? (TC better coaching candidate)
John: I'm rubber … you're glue …
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
You claim the reason the defense is struggling is because of a lack of a pass rush. Last year, the pass rush was fine and the defense still sucked. Some fans, including yourself, believe this team is improving. There are individuals on this team that have improved, but not the team as a whole. All of that falls on coaching. Gus Bradley is not the right coach for this team. He either needs to go or Babich. I understand that you are not going to say anything negative about Bradley because you are employed by the Jaguars.
John: I'm not a "fan," but I suppose that's a topic for another day. The future of Babich and Bradley will be decided after the season, and with four games remaining, I don't know that anyone knows what the future holds there. As far as my "claim" about the pass rush, the run defense for the most part has been good this season – better than last season – and the Jaguars constantly struggle to get off the field on third downs. I just assumed maybe the pass rush had something to do with that. Either way, to say the team has not improved this season is incorrect. You may not believe it has improved enough. And you may not be satisfied. But it has improved. That would be true no matter where I was employed.
Jeremy from South Korea:
Say what you want about Bob Babich, but making a claim that he hasn't forgotten to coach doesn't guarantee he's a good defensive coordinator. His resume could suggest otherwise (being demoted from defensive coordinator to linebackers coach while with the Bears) and the results with the Jags' defense thus far could lead to the same conclusion. If anything, facts do not support Babich being a good NFL defensive coordinator (at least not yet).
John: I'll say the same thing about Babich as I would say about judging Gus Bradley's defenses over the first three seasons: this team has focused the last three offseasons on building the offense, using the vast majority of the premium draft selections on that side of the ball. During the first three seasons, the Jaguars have played good defense at times and they have struggled at times. Last year in particular the defense got a lot out of its talent for some extended stretches. This season, the unit has not played nearly as well. I think the defense will improve as the draft turns to that side of the ball, and coaching results often improve with talent, too.
Brandon from Augusta, GA:
While our record has been less than par the previous two season (4-12, 3-13), and while this year's a moderate improvement, we are on pace to set offensive records with a good amount of games left. I would rather take an offense with upside for years to come than a 7-9 record in Year Three with pedestrian talent. If you had to pick a side, would you agree?
John: Yes, but you could have had both this season, and you could have maybe had a little better record. That's what's understandably frustrating.
Bill from Melbourne, FL:
80's Alternative: REM or The Smithereens?
John: R.E.M. over pretty much everyone.
Bill from Folkston, GA:
I actually have a few questions for you. There has been talk that Demarco Murray is unhappy or doesn't fit the scheme in Philly; do you think the Jags would make another run at him? With the increased number of games being decided by poor officiating, do you think the NFL will now do something about it – make the officials full time jobs, or something. I have seen a few of these early draft predictions having us going with an offensive tackle; what do you think? Lastly, has there been any movement at all with Justin Blackmon?
John: No on Murray. No on an offensive tackle early. No on Blackmon. As far as full-time officials, I don't doubt the NFL would so something like that if there was evidence that it would help improve officiating. I just don't know that much evidence exists.
Rich from Section 235:
Hello, John. I just put in a shameless plug for the O-Zone while completing the most recent season-ticket holder survey. After the past couple of seasons and the questions the record has brought about, you've earned it.
John: Hey, one fer shameless plugs!
Steven from Duval:
I was looking at receiving stats this year and Allen Robinson is legitimately having at least the third-best season behind maybe Antonio brown and Julio Jones. In your opinion what are his chances of getting in the Pro Bowl? I hate complaining or even thinking about national attention but if he is snubbed I think it will be a huge slap in the face for Robinson and all Jag fans.
John: Robinson should make the Pro Bowl. He deserves it. At the same time, many players are overlooked for the Pro Bowl early in their careers because better-known players make it based on name recognition. When I covered the Colts, players such as Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Jeff Saturday missed the Pro Bowl on several occasions early in their careers for the same reason. None of this is to say Robinson won't make it. I think he has a better chance than I thought a few weeks ago, but if he doesn't make it it's probably more because of the system than it is about playing in a smaller market.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
"Are you serious, Clark?" It's that time of year again, hey Zone?
John: It's time for the warm embrace of kith and kin.

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