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O-Zone: No question at all

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brandon from Jacksonville:
After that awful performance by Blake Bortles Sunday, how confident are you that he is really the future of this team?
John: I'm no more or less confident than I was before. While the NFL because of its one-game-a-week format is a league given to sweeping weekly judgments after each game, the reality – particularly for young players – is that one game or even a stretch of a few games is often not an accurate measure of a player. Bortles had a bad game Sunday. He has had a couple in succession. He may have a few more. I'm not going to play the game of comparing him to other quarterbacks who have struggled as rookie in the past before excelling, but there are plenty of examples. The Jaguars are still a phenomenally young offense around Bortles. Those players need to grow. They need to become reliable. That may not happen in a month and it may not happen this season. Bortles needs to become more reliable. That, too, may not happen in a month and it may not happen this season. All of that means there almost certainly will be some more games like Sunday's. That will mean more angry emails. But nothing – and I mean nothing – that has happened in recent weeks makes me think Bortles can't be very, very good.
Geoff from Orlando, FL:
You can't win a game when your quarterback throws two pick sixes and commits a fumble in enemy territory.
John: No, you cannot.
Jeremy from Andover, KS:
Last week was Bortles' worst game yet ... until this week. He's starting to look lost and tentative a lot more than earlier in the season. What gives?
John: He's a rookie trying to figure out the NFL with a young offense around him. It can take time. He's also going through growing pains at the most high-profile position in the sport. Remember last year? Safety Johnathan Cyprien really struggled in the first half of the season and got better after the bye. A lot better. People noticed him struggling, but it wasn't a weekly sky-is-falling issue because he wasn't the quarterback. Bortles is the quarterback, so there's teeth-gnashing and consternation. A lot of it. It's a process.
Frank from Knoxville, TN:
Until this quarterback stops showing a callous disregard for the football we will not take the next step. Don't give me the mistakes and not finishing. You cannot give the other team touchdowns. Blake, and I love him, is doing more harm than good lately.
John: It was a tough game, but there's still a strong case that the Jaguars are better with Bortles in the lineup than without. Teams have had to respect Bortles' passing ability – and his running ability – which in turn has helped the Jaguars' overall running game. The team overall also has been significantly better in his five starts than it was before. The offense has done a better job converting third downs, and even on Sunday the offense moved efficiently except for the turnovers. That's progress from early in the season, and Bortles has a lot to do with that. Yes, he must stop with the turnovers, but he still overall appears to be doing more good than harm. A lot more, actually.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Blake reminds me of when Gabbert was here. What you say, O man?
John: I say no.
Corey from Orange Park, FL:
How did J.T. Thomas play overall in place for Poz?
John: At first glance it appeared J.T. Thomas played well in his first start at middle linebacker, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said as much after the game.
David Maplewood, NJ:
John, it doesn't mean he can't still be special, but there is really no argument. Blake is the reason we lost today. Absolutely. Is he just having a bad stretch, or have the last two teams started to pick up his tendencies and he just hasn't yet adjusted? If the answer is 'B' do we need to be concerned about his limitations making him defensible?
John: Yes, Bortles struggled Sunday, but let's keep perspective on this. Young quarterbacks have bad games. They have bad stretches. They throw interceptions that go the other way. Yes, also without question, the last two teams have defended Bortles differently. It appears they are playing multiple defenders back in coverage, challenging the Jaguars to beat them on the ground and assuming Bortles will make mistakes throwing into coverage. That's a process for all young quarterbacks. It's tougher for Bortles to make adjustments because he has young receivers who aren't getting open as consistently as would be ideal, and he also has a young line that is still learning to pass block as a unit consistently. Overall, he hasn't yet adjusted because he is a first-year player who needs more time to mature, which not incidentally is sort of what we all knew he was going to be before the season began.
Jo from Jacksonville:
Is he the answer?
John: Time will tell, but what we've seen so far doesn't indicate that he's not.
Redmond from Jacksonville:
Today's game looked like the team was regressing. Blake, another two interception game … offensive line gave up pressure … Joeckel particularly didn't look good, then got injured and we found out Toby really isn't good at all; he fooled our general manager to give him 10 mill and made Caldwell/Bradley think he was a bell cow back. We have a lot to fix not even including the defense.
John: Regressing? The Jaguars obviously have a long way to go, but they dominated the Dolphins statistically for a half, moved effectively on offense and didn't allow a first down defensively until three minutes remained in the half. The Dolphins have not played like a bad team in the first half of the season. I agree with a lot of what you say. Gerhart is struggling and Joeckel needs to improve. I don't think anyone will be surprised if a move or two is made on the offensive line in the offseason, also though I think Joeckel will still be very good. But to say it was an overall regression? This team has played at a very high level defensively for four weeks and has been pretty effective between the 20s offensively at times in the last three weeks. That's a significant step forward for a team that didn't do those things a whole lot last season – or early this season, for that matter.
Marlin from Newberry, FL:
When are we going to see some growth out of Bortles? When will he stop making these stupid mistakes? This year? Next year? Sooner rather than later would be nice.
John: Sooner would be nice. I think you'll see improvement the second half of the season. I don't know the specific date.
Mike from West Des Moines, IA:
This team is playing great defense and running the football. How many people would have said that a month ago? Eliminate the turnovers and you can compete with most teams in the league that way.
John: Yes, you can.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
I watch the Jags stay in these games early and I see some improvement. The next improvement that will come with experience will be maintaining it through four quarters (I hope). When I watch the struggles on offense, I have to remind myself that there are a lot of rookie seasons happening. If you include that Joeckel has not played a full season yet, our quarterback, three-fifths of the offensive line and three-fifths of the receiving corps are rookies. That's a lot of growing up that has to happen. I try to remember all this when watching the offense sputter, because all the growing up together will pay off in the long run.
John: I agree and I suppose I have a different definition of sputter. I see an offense that is moving the ball well between the 20s a lot right now and struggling in the red zone. That's a big difference from an offense early in the season that was plagued by three-and-outs. Considering the youth on offense, I'd expect the three-and-outs. It's the efficiency that's encouraging. If this group can keep moving between the 20s, then eventually it will start finishing … and then ya got sumpin, pahdnah! Then ya got sumpin!
Chad from Pensacola, FL:
Allen Robinson has some real special qualities. He's going to be a force in this league.
John: I tend to agree. As readers of the O-Zone know, I have pretty low expectations for rookie wide receivers. It's why I'm not surprised Marqise Lee is struggling and why I'm also not overly concerned that Allen Hurns has been inconsistent. It also makes me very optimistic that Robinson has a chance to be good for a long time. He is emerging as the team's most reliable receiver, and his knack for being able to make catches while being defended and to make them past the chains on third downs bodes very well for his future.
Alan from Jacksonville:
I know Blake Bortles is a rookie and he will have bad games but he seems to be getting to many bad ones and not enough good. If this trend continues will he remain the starting quarterback?
John: Yes.

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