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O-Zone: My dark emptiness

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frank from Knoxville, TN:
Hey, Zone … feels good to win, man. It feels even better to see the offense show signs of life. Blake didn't get lots of numbers, but I thought he controlled the game great after the slow start. The last two weeks show progress. Big props to Sen'Derrick Marks on his big bonus and looking forward to finishing strong next week at Houston.
John: You know what? That's a good point on Blake Bortles. His numbers weren't great Thursday, and it was odd looking at them after the game because it felt like they were better. It felt that way because Bortles made several plays that really mattered at key times, and because he ran smarter than last week. He made plays with his legs and – as you said – he really felt in control of the game. Coupled with a couple of good first halves the past two weeks … yeah, better.
Clayton from Gambier, OH:
Aaron Colvin's going to be the best defensive back on the Jaguars' roster by early next season.
John: … early next week. (*Fixed).
Joe from Altoona, PA:
Hey, O … Jags fan in Steeler Country, so I don't get to watch as many games as I'd like. But this team is looking like a team that has potential. Bortles looks sharp. He's making some rookie throws, but for the first time he looks like bona fide NFL quarterback. And smiling and laughing in the huddle … he's confident. Help from the rookie receivers and Toby Gerhart doesn't hurt, either. If we can be consistent running the football and improve the lines and the secondary, we'll be in play for a wild card next Christmas. GO JAGS!
John: Bortles is nothing if not confident – and yes, this team is starting to show potential. Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Aaron Colvin, Telvin Smith, Demetrius McCray, Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Brandon Linder … It's hard to argue that those players haven't shown in a very real sense that they are or that they likely will be very good – with Miller and Marks further along than the others, of course. There are a bunch of other players who still have a chance to develop and be very good, with Bortles most obvious among them. As far as your last point, no doubt the offensive line must improve, but the secondary actually has played OK this season. An upgrade at free safety is probably needed, but that group is starting to take shape, with Colvin, McCray and Johnathan Cyprien having a chance to form a pretty good core.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
After watching this game, I am happy. Forget about the draft position, because it was worth it to beat the Titans. Three things I learned from this game are that we must replace Cecil Shorts III, J.T. Thomas and Sam Young. Those are the three weak spots on the team and two of them are because of injury. (PAZ and POZ)
John: I would be surprised if any of the three players you mention are starting next season.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
I'll take gladly take it.
John: Winning is fun. People like it.
Brian from New Hampshire:
The offensive line was not perfect, but it showed potential Thursday. It also looks like this year's draft found more than a few core players.
John: The offensive line wasn't perfect Thursday, and it's not going to be perfect this season. You know what? It might not be perfect next season. I covered Jaguars lines that featured Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy and there were games that group struggled. Not to compare this line to that one, but you're going to have games in the NFL in which you struggle. Yes, Colvin, Lee, Bowanko, Robinson, Smith – it's still early in their careers, but from that group you may be seeing some core players.
Johnny from Tallahassee, FL:
Lee can absolutely fly. Watch him on Todman's touchdown run. It's beyond impressive.
John: I did watch, and it was impressive. What was more impressive was how Lee got open on several plays before that, particularly a 34-yard gain early in the second half. Lee has a long way to go before is an elite receiver, but with each passing week he looks better and more confident. As his confidence has grown, so, too, has his quickness, his aggressiveness and his playmaking ability. Lee informed me a few weeks ago that he had to learn early in the season what moves worked and what didn't, and that some of the things he did in college don't work in the NFL. He seems to be learning that quickly and increasingly playing with more confidence and enthusiasm. He was considered by many a first-round talent. He's starting to look the part.
Aaron from Chehalis:
Boy, winning feels good. It's amazing how it can shade what you think of a game. Win and the mistakes and poor play seem small, like it's not a big deal. Lose and those mistakes are magnified while the good plays can go unnoticed. I thought the line played much better this week and they seem to be improving. Cecil Shorts though, man the guy looks like he has very little confidence right now. What stood out to you tonight?
John: I agree with pretty much everything in your email. I thought the offensive line improved a but realistically it's a group with a long way to go. Blake Bortles' leadership, the continued veteran-level performances of the defense and the development of Aaron Colvin … all stood out.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Jags suck. Let's talk about that progress how they have progressively got worse.
John: Disclosure: This email was from early in the first quarter. Let's just say life with Jerell during a Jaguars game can be a bitter, angry place.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
The game is over … 10-0 nothing to the Jags feels like 20-0.
John: I got this email in the second quarter Thursday. I didn't completely disagree with this email.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Same ole sorry Jags.
John: There was actually a lot of these in the first and second quarters. With reason.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Hey, John, tell me again how good the line is … they have earned the team record in sacks allowed.
John: This was Jerell Part IV Thursday. I was tempted to ask Jerell to please tell me when I said the Jaguars' offensive line was good this season, and then I was tempted point out that I was actually quite critical of the offensive line at times this season and that my point in the last week has been that the line is not to blame for all of the sacks. I was going to mention all of this in a very well-thought out answer, but then I figured … nah.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Forget it all John … Go Jags.
John: This was Jerell around 11:20. Winning is fun. People like it.
Jake from Hamden, CT:
Blake didn't look all that great Thursday. Early, it looked like he wasn't able to drive off his right foot; maybe the injury or maybe the ole footwork issues …
John: Blake Bortles hasn't looked all that great all season. Rookie quarterbacks typically don't look great. As far as driving off his right foot – yes, that was the injured foot and it's safe to say it made it more difficult to drive the ball. That's something he needs to work on, injury or not, and he will.
Adam from Jacksonville:
Aaron Colvin, Telvin Smith, Marqise Lee, Chris Smith, and Blake Bortles all rookies, and all made plays above the Xs and Os tonight. Obviously it's easier to say now than it would've been last week, but this really could be a special rookie class.
John: Actually, I'm pretty sure I said it last week.
Jonathan from Virginia:
I can't tell if I'm excited about winning this game. On one hand I always love when the Jaguars win, especially against the hated Titans. However, there's a legitimate side of me that wishes we lost and were in the running for a higher draft pick. What do you think on that debate?
John: I think you play to win in the NFL, because history suggests that there is a negligible difference in the quality of player you're going to get at, say, No. 3 versus No. 5 in the NFL Draft. But!!!?? But!????!!!?!?!?!?! Sure, there are exceptions and theoretically it's always better to have an earlier pick, but NFL players don't play that way. Coaches don't coach that way, either.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
How about that play-calling! Do you think the Jags need to sign Jedd Fisch to an extension before the season ends?
John: I'm not sure. Let's wait until the first series against the Texans next week and base everything on one or two plays.
Jon from Jacksonville:
Why is Chad Henne still a captain for the offense?
John: Because he's a respected, veteran leader on a team – and especially an offense – with few such players.
Bruce from Gotham:
They did a nice job showing off EverBank Field tonight.
John: There's a lot to show off. In fact, it's hard to televise something from EverBank Field and not show it off.
Andy from Whimple, England:
It's 4.20 in the morning here. I'm wide awake and happy. Hope you have a great rest of the night and are happy, too.
John: It's 8:20 in the morning here. I'm half asleep, and didn't have all that great a night. I'm not happy, though that has nothing to do with the Jaguars and more to do with this dark, emptiness that haunts my soul.

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