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O-Zone: Mother knows best

JACKSONVILLE – Spooky time.

Let's get to it … Jess from Castle Rock, CO:
Drew from Buford: "People: please wait until he has performed 'well' for at least a few games in a row or a season ..." Blake Bortles played extremely well in 2015 (his first full season at quarterback) with no running game, a porous offensive line and a defense that couldn't keep the team in a game. Now, the team has one of the best defenses, a top running game and the offensive line is protecting him. As long as the coaching staff keeps the handcuffs off him and puts together a balanced game plan, Bortles will continue to show he has the ability to be a top quarterback. The one area that could use improvement is wide receiver – and that will only help Bortles be that much better. Hopefully, Dede Westbrook will provide that impact. How does that sound to you, O-Man?
John: How does that sound to me? Like you believe more strongly in Bortles than many people do – and that's fine. I do have to disagree with one of your points, though – and that's that Bortles played "extremely well" in 2015. He did compile impressive statistics that season – and you're correct that the team around him was not on the level of this year's team. But it's tough to say he played extremely well that season; in fact, I would argue he has played better in multiple games this season than in any game in 2015. And he ended that season needing to make dramatic improvements in several areas, which he did not do entering 2016. I will say, though, that I don't believe the book is written on Bortles' career in Jacksonville to the extent that many of his critics seem to believe. He has had his two best career games in the last five games. He has played well enough to get the Jaguars to 4-3. If he matches his Baltimore/Indianapolis performances in four or five of these last nine games, could that be enough for him to have a real chance to be the quarterback here next season? Many believe that's a ridiculous question. It's not.
MrPadre from Kingsland, GA:
John, what is Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone's current contract status and do you have any inclination as to the chances of him being extended? If so … is this ever done during the season or generally is it an offseason type of thing? One fer Marrone.
John: The contracts of Jaguars Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin, Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell all reportedly run through 2019. I wouldn't expect any of the three to be extended by owner Shad Khan during the season. It's something that easily can be addressed following the season and there's no hurry. We're seven games into this. It's fair to be a full season into a head coach's tenure before talking extension.
Daniel from Urbandale, IA:
That Houston team doesn't look anything like the team we played in Week 1. What do you think the Jags would need to do to stifle that high-powered offense?
John: Pressure the quarterback.
Steve from Upper Tract, WV:
Can success come too quickly? With that in mind, when was the last time we were two games over .500?
John: No, success can't come too quickly for the Jaguars. This is the right time. The answer to your second question is 2010. The Jaguars were 8-6 after a loss to the Colts that December and 8-7 a week later. They finished 8-8.
Chad from EverBank:
What makes the streets of Arlington so mean? If a timid kid like me can walk them freely as a young lad, were they really mean at all?
John: I walked those streets of Arlington as a kid, too. I've got my scars, but I made it through, brother.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
I just want to give one fer former Jaguars tight end Zach Miller, who's lucky to still have both his legs and whose career is in serious jeopardy. It reminds you how dangerous this game can be and what these guys put on the line to play it.
John: Miller, who played for the Jaguars from 2009-2012 underwent what the Bears called successful "urgent vascular surgery" Sunday to repair a "torn popliteal artery." Reports Sunday were that the surgery was necessary to save his left leg. I covered Miller for two seasons – 2011 and 2012 – and he always carried himself with professionalism and class. From where I sat, he's a good guy. So, one fer Miller? Yes. Absolutely.
Richard from Lincoln, RI:
Without question the Telvin Smith extension was THE right move!!!!!! No question mark here!!!!
John: OK.
Sid from Sidsonville:
Is there a better team in the AFC than Houston?
John: You mean the 3-4 Texans?
Marcus from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars haven't arrived, but they have obviously improved a great deal and have taken a giant step in the building process that started when they cleaned house a few years ago. When that happened, the team (and you) stressed they would build through the draft and that that was the best way to build a lasting contender. While they do have a lot of young talent and have hit big recently in the draft, would you say that this is a team that was built through the draft or not? The offense certainly is, but this defense – which is the cornerstone of the team – doesn't seem to be built the same way. Seven out of the 11 defensive starters are free agents or trade acquisitions.
John: This right now is not a team that was "built through the draft" – and in fact, the Jaguars have built this defense to a remarkable degree through free agency. Now, there are good signs of the draft having a chance to be the team's foundation a few years down the road. Leonard Fournette. Cam Robinson. Brandon Linder. Allen Robinson. Jalen Ramsey. Myles Jack. Dante Fowler Jr. Yannick Ngakoue. Telvin Smith. All of those players clearly qualify as good draft selections at this point. But would the Jaguars without free agency feel remotely as good about this season as they do right now? Of course not.
Mike from Section 238:
Last year, defensive coordinator Todd Wash was the problem and this year he's a genius. My wife says I need to get smarter. Are there some Cliff Notes or something he can lend to me? I don't think I'd like for her to acquire new free-agent talent.
John: I'll ask.
Ethan from Wampum, PA:
Do you think Deshaun Watson is doing anything to change the mold of what NFL teams look for in a college quarterback? There are others similar to him in that they aren't "traditional pocket passers" - all with varying degrees of success - guys like Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton. Do you think this helps someone like Lamar Jackson of Louisville in that they may someday become the norm? Or do you think general managers and coaches will always pursue the Tom Bradys, Mannings and Matt Staffords? The track record is fairly evident for a lot of these guys, historically. But why is it that drafting guys like Carson Wentz and Jared Goff is such an "NFL-ready lock," while guys like Cam Newton still have to prove everyone wrong from Day One?
John: General managers typically lean toward traditional pocket passers not because they're "NFL-ready locks," because history shows the ability to win from the pocket trumps all else when it comes to the quarterback position. There also is the general belief that quarterbacks that stay in the pocket and deliver the ball from there take fewer hits over the course of their career and therefore are more reliable for the short and long term than those who depend on mobility to be effective. Watson is certainly having enough early success that teams will study what he is doing, though over time he – like most quarterbacks – probably will have to succeed from the pocket in order to succeed long term.
Robert from Manassas, VA:
When do you think the Jags get their next 10-sack game? This Sunday is a good candidate.
John: I doubt the Jaguars will get another 10-sack game this season. But hey – I doubted they would get 10 sacks against Houston and Indianapolis, too.
Aiden from Jacksonville:
The Texans lost a very close one to the Seahawks away. The Titans struggled in Cleveland last week, but those games happen to good teams. The AFC South is very close and the team's records make these teams seem worse than they really are. My question: Which team in the AFC South do you think has what it takes to stay consistent and take the division at the end?
John: All three teams have flaws and all three teams have enough strengths to be over .500 at the end of the season. I like the Jaguars to win the division if they stay healthy and if Marcell Dareus' addition helps the run defense. In light of all of that, I guess my answer is… the Jaguars.
Little O-Zone from Jacksonville:
DAD!!! When the Jags make the playoffs, can I skip classes and go to the game?????? Some father/son time will do you some good!!
John: Ask your mother.

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