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O-Zone: Labor of love

JACKSONVILLE – One more day to Look-Ahead Wednesday.

Let's get to it … Keith from Palatka, FL:
Telvin Smith's brother dying transcends football. Our heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to the young man. God bless you, Telvin.
John: Indeed.
TC from Kingsland, GA and Section 114:
I am already past this week. I want to be the first email for next week. These guys suck, Bortles can't play, a minus-14 turnover ratio and no pass rush. What do we have to do to fix this?
John: Get better quarterback play, reduce giveaways, force more takeaways and rush the passer better … yeah, pretty much all of the above. That's the easy answer – and on a serious note, a lot of the issues holding the Jaguars back right now feel interrelated. Bortles' struggles have contributed to the turnover ratio, and the turnovers combined with Bortles' struggles have caused the Jaguars to seemingly always be behind early and playing from behind throughout games. That has hurt the Jaguars' ability to run and to rush the passer – and it's hard to win when those things are consistently bad. It's not that the Jaguars would be great in these areas under normal circumstances, but constantly playing from behind strangles both sides of the ball. How to fix it? Play better early in games. Get faster starts. Get a lead. Rush the passer given the opportunity. It's a simple formula – and a lot of it comes down to playing better early in games.
Alex from Waco, TX:
Hey O-Zone, can Blake throw a spiral? An actual spiral? Dead serious: I've never seen a pro quarterback throw an uglier ball in my life.
John: This is a legitimate question, and no doubt the ball comes out of Bortles' hands in a … well, unorthodox way. That doesn't mean he can't be effective. There have been plenty of successful quarterbacks who have thrown an "ugly ball" with plenty of effectiveness. The issue is when it routinely affects accuracy. I don't know if Bortles' spiral is what negatively affects his accuracy or if the two issues are coincidental. It does seem his throws are often very off the mark and that they're at least a little off the mark a lot more often than that. Bortles on Sunday completed a lot of passes, but receivers also had to dive for a lot of passes, which makes the process more difficult than necessary and lowers the percentages of success. It also doesn't help the receivers' ability to run after the catch. To answer your question, though: yes, Bortles can throw a spiral. He just hasn't done it much lately.
Aaron from Chantilly:
John, I hope Bortles can go mistake-free for the next seven games … this quarterback thing is really draining.
John: It's not realistic to think Bortles will be mistake-free for the final seven games. Can he make enough big plays and be consistent enough to negate some of his mistakes? That is the bigger question that he must answer.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Who would have guessed at the end of last season that Jason Myers would be the lone bright spot this season?
John: It's incorrect to call Myers the only bright spot. Telvin Smith. Marqise Lee. Paul Posluszny. Yannick Ngakoue. Jalen Ramsey. Brad Nortman. All have been pretty consistently bright this season … but yeah, Myers has played well, too.
Nathan from Broomfield, CO:
I don't get it, John. Blake looks like a Pro Bowler sometimes and other times he looks … well, just sad. I hope he figures out his mistakes or we are in for another quarterback hunt!
John: True.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, Dave Caldwell has done a good job of assembling a nice group of talent. I'll leave the subject of why that talent cannot seem to find ways to win to another conversation. My question: how at risk is this team of losing its quality players at the first chance those players have a chance to go? How unlikely is it that other quality players will want to come here?
John: When you're losing and you've lost for a long time it does increase the risk that players will leave and that free agents won't want to sign with the team. You combat that by winning and creating a strong culture where players want to play. That culture seemed very strong for three years under Head Coach Gus Bradley. With frustration mounting at 2-7, I don't know that it feels as strong now. Will that feel differently after the season? Will it take a change to make that feeling happen again? We'll see.
Darius from New Milford, NJ:
Week by week, the light on Bortles' inefficiencies shines brighter and brighter. After Sunday's game it's blinding, John. How much longer?
John: A while.
Jessie from Kissimmee, FL:
John, we are getting close to December and the games are close to becoming meaningless. If the team does not win in November, do you see the Jags letting Gus go and seeing what they have with Doug Marrone?
John: No.
Aaron from Milroy, PA:
Why can't it be time to give up on Bortles? I guarantee you if Chad Henne or Brandon Allen started since the beginning of the season we would be 5-4 right now. That's saying something. Give up now and move on from the scrub and see what we got in Allen. 2015 was a fluke. Garbage time stats made us believers.
John: I understand the sentiment for removing Blake Bortles from the lineup. I don't agree with it and I don't believe it's going to happen, but considering the Jaguars are 2-7 with Bortles making a lot of key mistakes it's not a ridiculous notion. Where I would take issue with your email is your guarantee. While Bortles is indeed struggling I think it's a reach to think that Henne or Allen over nine games is absolutely, without-question a more viable option. I don't think that's remotely the case.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
Johnny, just when I thought your O-Zone would always keep me around I have to give up at this point and move on. I'm ending this chapter now – and until Gus and Bortles are gone, I won't be starting another. I hope the O-Zone is still going strong when that day comes. Cheers.
John: I'm responding, but will he read it? If he does read it, will he ever forgive himself? Ah, life's eternal questions …
Dalton from UCF:
Myles Jack, a linebacker, outran Lamar Miller – one of the best running backs in the NFL – to save a touchdown. WOW!
John: Myles Jack is fast. His future appears bright.
Brent from Gainesville, FL:
There is definitely talent on this team. When we "rebuild," it won't be anywhere close to the complete gutting we did a few years back. Whoever takes the team over next year will have work to do but they'll have some nice pieces to work with.
John: I don't know what the direction of the team will be in the offseason, but you're right and I've said it often this season: this is a far better roster now than four years ago. I don't know how long it will take until the Jaguars win consistently, but it doesn't have to take three or four years.
Brad from Sanford, FL:
Given the preseason expectations set out by Shad Khan, is there a chance he makes a coaching change following next week's loss to the Lions, which would guarantee another season without a winning record?
John: I learned a long time ago never to say "there's no chance." Khan's a human being, and human beings have minds that can change. That said, Khan long has stated that he doesn't believe in midseason NFL coaching changes. He reiterated that stance after the Jaguars' loss to Tennessee two weeks ago. Given the ugly nature of that loss – and it was among the uglier losses I have witnessed in 22 seasons covering the NFL – if Khan didn't alter his stance on midseason coaching changes after that game, I can't imagine a scenario under which he would alter it.
Tim from Jacksonville:
Please, John. Please, please, please make it stop. It's gotten way too painful to care about this team anymore. Will it ever turn around?
John: Yes.
David from Jacksonville:
What does, "We believe in these guys" mean, Johnny? Belief that – despite all evidence to this point – that these guys are going to play disciplined, well-coached football for an entire game?
John: Yes, that's what Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley means when he says he believes in the players. He also means that he believes this team is capable of a second-half run.
Michael from Jacksonville:
Yes to all the frustration. Nothing will change until the offseason. I am a rookie season-ticket holder and may not renew. BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU? You, The Great Satirist, have trudged through the mire of fans' crap; you have gone on air sounding like a 70's era classic rock DJ whilst fighting a flu/pneumonia/plague! You labor for us, St. Zone, and for that I am grateful! ONE FER ST. ZONE! And? #DTWD
John: Nah on sainthood, but as far as #DTWD? Yeah. No doubt.

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