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O-Zone: Man of character

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Mike from Atlanta, GA:

The Blake Bortles topic is probably never going to die. In the first three games of December 2017, Blake threw seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. In two of those games he threw over 300 yards. During that span, he averaged 10 yards per attempt. In those three games the offense scored 30, 30, and 45 points. In the playoffs, Blake threw three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had over eight yards per attempt against Pittsburgh and New England. Haters gonna hate.

John: It's perhaps also worth noting that in two games late last season in which Bortles didn’t play particularly well – at Tennessee in the regular-season finale and against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card playoff – weather/wind dramatically affected play. He also struggled at San Francisco, a game in which the Jaguars clinched the AFC South early in the game and struggled afterward. Bottom line: if Bortles plays as well moving forward as he did in the second half of last season and postseason, the Jaguars over the next couple of seasons will win a lot more games than they lose. He won’t be perfect. No NFL quarterback is. He might not reach “elite” status. But he’ll be good enough for this team to win – and maybe good enough to win over a lot of his haters. (OK, the last part is a stretch).

Don from San Antonio, TX:

When do all of the training camps start and are they open to the public? Also, where are they located?

John: NFL training camps begin in late July and are usually in the cities of the teams. Many of the dates are open to the public. The Jaguars’ training camp begins around the same time and will be held in Jacksonville with many dates open to the public. Specifics will be announced later. Training camp practices generally are the only practices open to the public, with organized team activities and minicamp practices typically closed.

John from Boynton Beach, FL:

Are the Jaguars now in their Super Bowl window? How long do you see it lasting and what would be your guess as to what would first cause them to slip out of it?

John: The Jaguars’ Super Bowl window – whatever that means – must be considered to have opened last season. Myles Jack, after all, wasn’t down. How long will it stay open? As long as the Jaguars maintain the core of a strong team and draft/develop well. I know it’s vogue to give a specific time frame, but the Jaguars’ objective here is to maintain a sustainable winner for the long term. Teams that draft well and develop can do that – and while an elite quarterback helps that greatly, teams can compete without that. The Baltimore Ravens, it seems, did it for a long time. But you know what? People too often try to look at the past to predict the future. The Jaguars got where they went last year by taking a slightly different approach to building and structuring contracts. The thought here is perhaps they can sustain their model longer than many believe, too. We’ll see.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:

Myles Jack: “Just the way I saw Poz do it.” Wow. Even after retirement, Poz still has an impact.

John: You’re referencing a quote from Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack when he made a surprise appearance on Jaguars.com Live this week. He was discussing his approach to offseason study as he prepares to move to middle linebacker full time in the wake of Paul Posluszny’s retirement. And yes … Posluszny certainly influenced Jack’s approach – and I imagine he will continue to do so. When motivated, young players are around veteran who do things the right way, they tend to acquire the right habits. Funny how life works that way.

Nick from Phoenix, AZ:

Are you more tenured than any active player on the team now?

John: Not that anyone should see things through the sad lens of my life, but yes.

Paul from Jacksonville:

If you’re the senior editor, then: 1) Who edits your stuff? Also, 2) Who’s been writing the editor’s notes in the last two columns?

John: Some guy. Him.

Brian from Greenwood, IN:

Imagine if Khan actually does end up buying Wembley. Red Sox v. Yankees, Dodgers v Giants … there could be a baseball series pretty much every weekend in London, with how long the baseball season lasts. That doesn't include Premier League, World Cup, concerts. On sports alone (and auto parts), the man is a genius.

John: I get emails all the time indicating that Jaguars Owner Shad Khan is smart. Well, he sure ain’t dim. People who measure they’re self-made net worth in billions usually aren’t.

Brian from Ponte Vedra, FL:

On paper, is this the most talented roster the Jaguars have had in a decade? Ever?

John: In a decade? Yes, that’s probably the case. Calling this the most talented Jaguars roster ever is trickier. The 1999 team was very talented on paper – with three Hall-of-Fame level talents in offensive tackle Tony Boselli, running back Fred Taylor and wide receiver Jimmy Smith playing in their respective primes. That team also had a slew of other front-line players such as offensive tackle Leon Searcy, wide receiver Keenan McCardell, quarterback Mark Brunell, linebacker Kevin Hardy, defensive end Tony Brackens, defensive tackle Gary Walker – and I’m leaving a lot of players out. It’s difficult without the benefit of perspective to compare such rosters. I will say this, though. This roster absolutely has a chance to be the best Jaguars roster ever. Considering the quality of the ’99 roster, that’s high praise.

Stud from Jacksonville:

So why'd you do it?

John: They made me.

Charles from DuuuvaLL:

Any insight on how undrafted rookie free agents are targeted by the Jags? I feel like we have been doing a good job of finding talented players that have been overlooked. Is it great scouting, good intel, dumb luck, some sort of sabermetrics by Tony Khan?

John: Undrafted rookies are scouted in the same way drafted players are scouted. They are then graded in the same way as drafted players. Toward the end of the draft, scouts and personnel officials spend hectic hours/minutes on the telephone with agents of players, recruiting the players they covet. There is scouting involved, and teams can and do offer signing bonuses to free agents they particularly covet. There’s a lot of fortune involved; realistically, if teams thought undrafted players were great they would draft those players. But the more work you do on undrafted free agency – and the more seriously teams take it – the better the chance of finding talented players there. The Jaguars have put in the work and reaped the benefits.

Armando from Vacaville, CA:

Would it be too biased to compare Tanner Lee with Matthew Stafford in terms of arm strength? Thinking about it, isn't he also similar to Matthew Stafford ... both INT machines though strong armed and dangerous when given time?

John: C’mon, Armando.

Braddock from Jacksonville:

As someone who walked out of the establishment where I was watching us draft Bortles in disgust, I am now a fan. Is he perfect? Absolutely not, but he also has heart for days and has seemed to rid himself of the woe-is-me body language that he displayed prior to last year. I think he grew a lot last year despite all the stats and fantasy numbers he lacked. We will win with him and he is still growing. My question is; are you tired of the Bortles hate yet? Byron Leftwich was a disaster and David Garrard was a great backup but his best year was 22 touchdowns/three interceptions picks and a loss in the divisional-title round. I think these people are missing the big picture. Do you agree?

John: If I were to grow tired of the Bortles hate, I suppose that would have happened long ago. I also suppose I would have grown tired of Dave Caldwell hate, and Marqise Lee hate, and Dante Fowler Jr. hate, just as I would have grown tired of offensive line hate. I should also note that I could have grown tired of Doug Marrone hate during the offseason after he was hired, because there were those who couldn’t understand why he had been hired after his offensive line had struggled at times in his two seasons coaching that area. Do I also have to be tired of Nate Hackett hate, which seems to come and go based on the outcome of the last game? Point being: if I’m going to get tired of hate while doing this column, I’m going to get really tired quite often. So, as for me? I choose to embrace those that hate and give them love in return. As anyone who truly knows and understands the O-Zone can attest, that’s just the kind of guy I am … a man of character … kind, forgiving, willing to embrace new ideas – you know, loving and giving. All that $#!#.

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