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O-Zone: Leave 'em laughing

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tom from Charleston, SC:
Are you ready to admit that this team has hit a wall with Blake Bortles at quarterback and that future improvement will be based on a new body behind center?
John: Your question seems to carry the premise that I have been reluctant to "admit" that Bortles' level of play is an issue. I therefore assume you either never have read this forum – or that you are unwilling or unable to understand what is written here. I began writing following the 2015 regular season – a time when most Jaguars fans and most people covering this team believed the offense/passing game was a team strength and that Bortles was an ascending, soon-to-be-elite quarterback – that he had major issues on which to improve. (I'll pause a minute to pat myself on the back … ouch … hurt my arm). Those issues included turnovers, decision-making, pocket presence and accuracy. I since then have continuously written and discussed these topics, and never have written or said he is close to being a franchise quarterback. I also have written and said often this season his issues – more accurately, the passing game overall – hurt the offense, and that the inability to make plays in the passing game is difficult to overcome. I suppose in that sense I have been "admitting" things all along about Bortles. As for your "wall" and the "future improvement" of this team, I do think the Jaguars in the future can have a more balanced offense – and therefore a better team – with more reliable quarterback play. But it's also worth noting that this team has proven itself capable of winning with its current makeup. The Jaguars have won three games this season in convincing fashion; they were a bad special teams play from winning another game and a dropped pass from winning yet another. This team is closer to 5-1 than 1-5 – so, I guess the answer to your question is that I'm not ready to "admit" this team can't win with Bortles at quarterback. The evidence suggests they can do so.
Andrew from Bloomington, IN:
What is the plausibility that the Jags gauge interest on an Amari Cooper trade? This would seem like a buy-low trade scenario that has possible high reward. Thoughts?
John: Did you really mean to say, "Amari Cooper?" The receiver from the Raiders? The really good one?
James from Phoenix, AZ:
I know it's a long shot and will probably never happen. However, I keep seeing more and more Colts fans clamoring for them to trade Andrew Luck and move on due to his injuries as well as the overall state of the team. If this were an option, what would be a good price to get him for and would you be willing to overpay for that type of quarterback talent. I think the Jags would become instant contenders and Leonard Fournette would love to not have as many stacked boxes. What do you say?
John: Did you really mean to say, "Andrew Luck?" The quarterback from the Colts? The really good one?
Etheric from Space:
It was announced the 2018 NFL Draft will be hosted by Dallas. So, what are the chances 2019 will be hosted by Jacksonville? PLEEEAASE?!
John: This is a tough question, and one I need to look into more moving forward. I thought when the NFL Draft moved from New York to Chicago that Jacksonville eventually would have a very good chance to host it. I thought that in large part because Jaguars Owner Shad Khan very much sees the draft as an ideal event for Jacksonville to host because of the Daily's Place Amphitheater. I can only assume it would seem more ideal once future plans for downtown Jacksonville are further developed. Still, the draft seemed to take on a different level of "bigness" in Philadelphia last spring and I assume Jerry Jones' involvement will only take the show – and crowd – to a bigger level. The bigness trend may hurt Jacksonville's chances. Still, if the draft remains something Khan wants for Jacksonville, the guess here is it will come here.
Richard from St. Augustine, FL:
O, Man: Is Keenan McCardell the problem or are the Jaguars wide receivers just average players without Allen Robinson?
John: Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell is not the problem with the Jaguars' wide receivers.
Jesse from Orlando, FL:
John, the situation surrounding Andrew Luck seems eerily similar to Peyton Manning's last year there. If Luck does cut ties with the Colts at the end of the year, do you think the Jags will pursue him?
John: I don't get the idea from afar that Luck's injury is career-threatening. If it's not, I can't imagine the Colts cutting ties with Luck. Colts Owner Jim Irsay knows well the value of a franchise quarterback. Not securing John Elway in 1984 set the franchise back years and securing Peyton Manning in 1998 changed its direction and history. The Colts remarkably were able to draft Andrew Luck in 2012 and they now have him under contract. Why would they let him go somewhere else?
Zach from Muskego:
Hey John, what kind of bourbon do you like?
John: The brown kind.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I am going to ask the obvious question. Has Blake played well enough so far to secure his starting position after the bye? How important is this game in Indy to that end? It is clear without AR15 this offense struggles, especially if they have to play catch-up football. You think Doug Marrone is even considering putting Chad Henne in? One last thing: if Blake is struggling with the pass, why not have him start doing more read-option plays? There were numerous times Sunday where nothing downfield was working and the defense was clearly queuing up on 27. Blake had huge gaps to run in, but missed passes in most cases. Just seems if he is a threat with his legs, let him loose and be that threat more often.
John: Wow. Many, many questions. Here are a few answers. I can't say Bortles has played all that well this season, but I don't see him not starting after the bye. He has minimized interceptions, and there is still a lot to be said for Bortles' ability to extend plays. The major issue for this offense right now is the ability to open up the offense by throwing downfield, and the issues there are as much about receivers not getting open and not making catches as about Bortles. I agree that the offense could benefit from Bortles using the read-option a bit more. At the same time, they had read options called Sunday against the Rams and Marrone said afterward Bortles made the right reads on the plays. If that's the case, then the only other way to get Bortles running more is to call plays designed for him to run – and I don't see that happening.
Dave from Los Angeles, CA:
I would predict we bring back Allen Robinson over Marqise Lee. Would be great to keep both, but will that be possible? General Manager David Caldwell already prioritized locking up Hurns first, which seems like a questionable decision at this point.
John: Yes, it's possible for the Jaguars to re-sign both Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Whether the Jaguars will want to do that is another question. The guess here is they likely will make a hard push to re-sign Robinson, and I would guess he either signs a long-term deal or receives the franchise tag next season. Regarding Lee, I imagine the market will determine interest on both sides and I see it as far less likely he will return. As for Hurns, you're missing the reality of his situation. Hurns re-signed a long-term deal before the 2016 season, but that essentially was a two-year contract with the team being able to release him following the 2017 season. I can't foresee Hurns being here next season given his current production. We'll see if that changes.
Alan from Jacksonville:
With Fournette's ankle injury, this might be a good time to sit him for a game with next week's bye coming. This would give him his best shot to come back healthy for the season's second half without battling a nagging injury. Then, bring in T.J. Yeldon, who I'm sure is champing at the bit to see some action. I guarantee if you give him the ball 20 times, he's getting 100 yards through sheer willpower.
John: What?
Travis from St. Louis, MO:
With all the injuries happening around the league, and with our team being relatively healthy, do you attribute that to the tough training camp in which there were five days in a row of padded practice? Do you see this as becoming a trend for our team in the future and possibly for other teams?
John: I attribute the Jaguars' being healthy mostly to good fortune – and no, I don't think you will see tougher training camps with more padded practices becoming a trend.
HaHa from Jagville:
You're a barrel of laughs, you know that Oehser?
John: Shut up.

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