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O-Zone: Lunch meeting

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Jacksonville:
I can honestly say after watching the preseason games – all of them so far since I have the NFL Network – that there are a LOT of teams running basic offense and defense that are nowhere close to the progress the Jaguars have made. I can see discipline and solid play from our team where others are struggling right now. And the Manziel-ites should be glad we don't have that Dog-and-Pony show HERE. He looked horrible in both games and Blake Bortles looks like a seasoned veteran comparing the two. No doubt we got the better pick. Am I seeing something in other teams, with a few exceptions, that we are playing that are not as far along as the Jaguars are? Does this mean a great start to the season?
John: What you see is that the Jaguars have moved significant steps forward since this time last year, and even since the midway point of last season. And yes, this team is clearly more competitive against other teams' first units and in one-on-one preseason situations than the past few seasons. That is as it should be and it's what Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley expected to happen. Does it mean a great start to the season? I can't promise that. What I can tell you is the Jaguars will be better in the first half of the season than the last, which means they'll be competitive and they'll show growth. That's the idea during this building process, which is still in its relatively early stages.
Ryan from Toronto, Canada:
Count me as one in favor of letting Blake sit and learn a bit more. It seems to my untrained eyes like he isn't leading his receivers and that often balls are a bit short or behind them, which against a good (or a first-string) defense will result in quite a few picks.
John: I guess I just don't know about this latest thread about Bortles' short balls or his accuracy. He has been throwing a lot every day in practice in the offseason and training camp, and I just haven't seen anything to make me think his style will lead to an undue amount of interceptions. That being said, he's going to sit for at least a while because Chad Henne's going to start the season.
Tom from St. Augustine, FL:
Have you asked Blake about a good deal on that Ford Truck now that he is an Audi man?
John: No, I'm too busy securing my own lucrative "auto deal." This has entailed wheeling and dealing and working the phones, charming local high-end automobile dealers into providing me luxury transportation in exchange for being associated with my appealing name and image. Things are going awesome. I'm waiting on calls.
Chris from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I feel as though the "black cloud" that hovered over this team is now gone. The daily barrage of negativity and relocation rumors from the national media is gone, too. Or am I just living in a magical world of rainbows and unicorns?
John: I honestly haven't focused much on the so-called "black cloud" in the three years-plus since my return. That could be because I never much worried about the negativity or rumors, figuring that sort of thing would go away with success and stability. Or it could be that I have enough to worry about finding a legitimate reason to get out of bed in the morning. That being said, there certainly is a new direction and new feeling around this franchise that only the stubborn among us could fail to see.
Brian from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I am in Denver for business. Listening to the local sports channel (FM94.1 Mile High Sports - The Irv and Joe Show). Both agreed that the Jaguars are a team on the rise and they expect them to surprise a lot of people. They are not going to roll over anymore. It's nice to hear, but the secret is getting out!
John: Irv and Joe are all in? Well, well, well … I guess the black cloud really is going away.
Dude from Jacksonville:
What if Bortles goes on the IR for a sprained tongue?
John: I'll glue my head to the carpet and video myself yelling, "Heeeeeeeere comes Santeeeee Clause!!!!"
Chris from Omaha, NE:
During the Jags' last game, Jon Gruden made a good point regarding Blake Bortles. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, practice time is limited and the starting quarterback has to take all of the snaps to get ready week in and week out for each team. The backup only usually get snaps as the scout team and they are not running our offense. It seems as though it would be hard for Bortles to truly progress once preseason is over in this situations. Your thoughts?? Thanks for all you do!
John: Jon Gruden knows far more than I do about what it takes for a quarterback to be ready for a season and to improve. Still, in the decade and a half I covered the league before the new 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement I didn't see too many backup quarterbacks getting significant repetitions with the first team – certainly not enough to have those repetitions be the basis for making a quarterback change. My guess is that Bortles' first start likely will come because of an injury. Injuries, after all, are not so uncommon at the quarterback position that it couldn't happen. I also believe a lot of what the Jaguars will judge Bortles on is his grasp of the offense and his ability to make throws against the first-team defense. Bortles can show the first in meeting rooms and the second on the field during practice with the backups.
Carrie from Cantonment, FL and Section 116:
My husband likes you.
John: If I had a nickel …
David from Oviedo, FL:
If you were a betting man, who would you guess was the fastest Jaguar player? While we're at it, who would you bet could bench the most weight?
John: I'd guess Marqise Lee on the speed and I'd guess Roy Miller on the bench. I'd also guess both would sort of snicker if they saw me doing anything that resembled a sprint or a bench-press repetition.
Matthew from Midlothian, VA:
You've talked about how during the preseason teams play vanilla offenses and defenses. What about special teams? The Jags' special teams looked great the last two games so are they playing against vanilla special teams plays too?
John: No. It's a lot harder to vanilla down or strawberry-raspberry-surprise up special teams schemes. The Jaguars' special teams improved a great deal last season, and at first glance, they're playing well so far this season.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
I stopped counting at 32 times when I went back to see exactly how many different ways you have managed to say: "Bortles will start when Dave and primarily Gus feel he is ready to start." I love the fan interest. It is a great change. Isn't this just a great "problem" to have?
John: It was 33 times, and yes, that problem doesn't stink.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
At this point who do you think will be the linebackers on the roster opening day?
John: Paul Posluszny, LaRoy Reynolds, Geno Hayes, Dekoda Watson, Nate Stupar and Telvin Smith.
John from Jacksonville:
I was thinking more about Bortles' level of play during the first two preseason games and realized there is still a key focus that needs worked on. With the nine drives he led in those two games, there were no touchdowns. Instead, there were three field goals, four punts, and two ended due to halftime. As impressive as he is in moving the ball down the field and his pass precision, I want to see him seal the deal in his drives with touchdowns. Granted, Chad Henne didn't perform much better but this is what needs to happen for either quarterback to legitimately claim starter status, in my opinion. The very good news is that Bortles doesn't appear to make careless mistakes.
John: Oh, is that all you want? For a rookie quarterback in his first two games to be efficient in the red zone? What you want is what every quarterback wants and what every coach wants from every quarterback – i.e., the ability to finish drives. Bortles will get there, but be forewarned: it's often the last stage of development for a young quarterback and offense. It's almost never the first.
Kevrae from Shantytown, 'Merica:
When can we expect Clay Harbor to return? I could probably do a little reading and find out myself, but I'm also wondering if he'll be able to jump right back in as a No. 2 tight end or will he have to break the rust and ease his way back into game shape?
John: Harbor is shooting to return from an ankle injury by the regular-season opener. He is out of the boot and says he's making good progress, so that goal may be attainable. Yes, he'll jump right back in as the No. 2 tight end even if he's a bit rusty.
Scott from Honolulu, HI:
Tell Blake to keep threading the needle, I'll take the risk of a few interceptions for the throws he's making. It shows confidence and fearlessness, two critical elements to be an elite NFL quarterback.
John: All right. We hitting Sbarro's at the Avenues on the off day. I'll pass it along then.

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