NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Game-day O-Zone. Titans Day.
Let's get to it … Gamble from Washington, DC:
While many fellow Jaguars fans still have their pitchforks and torches ready, isn't 2015 a success because the Jaguars found their quarterback? Barring injury, Blake Bortles will set the team's passing touchdowns record – and he's doing it with two (and maybe three) second-year receivers who are lighting it up. It's not perfect, but shouldn't we be stoked to have found a quarterback?
John: The Jaguars absolutely should be excited about the future – and having found a quarterback would be the biggest reason. I'm not ready to say Blake Bortles absolutely, positively has arrived yet. He still needs to play better in the red zone, and he still needs to figure out a way to at least reduce the key backbreaking errors. I believe he is on his way to doing that, but if he's not, then he's clearly not the guy. Time will tell on that front. But if you go with the assumption that the improvement he has shown this season in a whole lot of areas will lead to improvement in a few more key areas, then absolutely the Jaguars have found their quarterback. That's positively stoke-worthy.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
Is too much blame for the lack of pass rush placed on the Jaguars' current LEOs? The team has clearly shown Sen'Derrick Marks makes the pass rush better. Why is it generally thought that a pass rush must be built from the outside to inside? Do the Jaguars need another dominant interior pass rusher more than they need a dominant LEO?
John: The focus generally has been on the Leo position because it has underperformed – and because Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley has been pretty open about that fact this season. There's no question the loss of Sen'Derrick Marks has hurt; he is an interior pass rusher of unusual ability and effectiveness. That loss and the decline in sacks/impact from Chris Clemons have been the primary differences between what was a good (not great) pass rush last season and a struggling one this season.
Paul from Jacksonville:
It's understandable that fans figure if a starter is not producing then giving the guys behind that starter a chance makes sense. It's also understandable that the starters got where they are based on performance and that the next bodies in line aren't an improvement. Clem and Branch are what they are - help is not on the way right now.
John: Yeah, pretty much everything involved in this issue is understandable. What's mostly understandable is your final sentence. If there were solutions to the Jaguars' pass rush on the roster, they would have been tried. If the Jaguars' pass rush with four down linemen is going to improve it's probably going to be done with Clemons and Andre Branch playing the majority of the Leo snaps with a little Chris Smith and Ryan Davis mixed in. Maybe the latter two will play a bit more the rest of the way. Maybe they'll get a bit of pressure. But it's unlikely the rush is going to get significantly better. There's just no evidence to suggest it. We'll see.
Brian from Round Rock, Texas:
Daniel Since Day One's question mentioned that "lots and lots of people are talking about replacing David Caldwell." I suspect that these are a shockingly small number of people who are VERY active on social media and probably have multiple user names each. I suspect these people are of questionable quality in every way. I also think they should be ignored and not seen as representative of the Jags fan base.
John: People can represent whatever they want in whatever size they want. Whatever they represent, and whatever their numbers, they're going to be disappointed if they believe Caldwell isn't going to be the general manager next year/season.
Kyle from Ohio:
Do you think we will get to a point where free agency is virtually gone? What I mean is the salary cap will continue to rise and rise as revenue does. I wonder if we will get to a point where teams can pretty much always keep their own free agents each year.
John: No. I don't believe we'll reach that point. The salaries of all players and the salary structure of all teams will rise along with revenue and the cap – as has been the case since free agency began. Free agency also will continue to play out as it has since it began – with most teams re-signing the vast majority of their good players, and with many teams over or right at the salary cap. Teams with money will overspend for players who – generally speaking – aren't as good as the players who re-signed with their former teams. There will be exceptions, but they will be comparatively rare.
Wayne from Orlando, FL:
Hey John, do you think it's a crazy idea that the Jags should trade away some draft picks to get some immediate impact players on defense? I think it would be a good move being that we already have core receivers, a running back and a quarterback for the future. Your thoughts, sir.
John: It's not a crazy idea in theory. The problem is putting it into action, and it's pretty much an insurmountable problem when it comes to doing things your way. In order to trade, you must have a trading partner, and you must consider what that team would want in return to part ways with "immediate impact players." Are they going to want one first-round draft selection? Will they want your entire draft? Would anything be enough in exchange for a true impact player? Teams are very, very reluctant to part ways with elite players because the draft is an uncertain proposition. You also must consider the age of the player for whom you're trading. Do you trade first-round picks for aging players who can give you a year or two? Either way, while this is a nice Sunday O-Zone conversation, it's for discussion only. The Jaguars are committed to building through the draft (it's how they acquired those core players you mentioned, remember) and committed they shall remain.
Caleb from Davie, FL:
Here's a revelation. Stop comparing the Jags to 2013 and start comparing them to the rest of the teams in 2015. Compared to the rest of the NFL, we're still one of the worst teams. No one cares about 2013; we care about 2015. Thanks, bye.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
My heart tells me Marqise Lee would beat Denard Robinson in a 40-yard dash. But their combine says Marqise was at 4.44 (first attempt was 4.5!) and Denard at 4.32. These stats aside, what say you Sir O of Zone?
John: I say Denard Robinson would win it. But if Marqise heard I said that, I'd tell him I picked him. That's how I roll.
Brad from Miami, FL:
There are many things that Blake Bortles does well, but throwing a fade is definitely not one of them. Not a knock on Blake, but there are very few quarterback-wide receiver connections that can pull off a successful fade route. I've always had a nagging suspicion that offensive coordinators call fade routes because there's low risk and no one will fault them for it. Why do you think the Jags will call even MORE fade routes when they haven't been working?
John: First, I don't completely disagree with your theory about why coordinators like the fade – and I also never have been the route's biggest fan. However, it does make sense for the Jaguars for a couple of very fundamental reasons. Julius Thomas and Allen Robinson. Those players have the skill set to be good at the fade route, Robinson in particular. Maybe I've just got a stubborn streak, but when I see Robinson, I see a player who should be catching a bunch of fade touchdowns and I don't think it's a thing the Jaguars can ignore or try to stop developing.
Roy 16 from New York:
Will Dante Fowler officially be considered a rookie in the NFL next season as he has not played a game yet, regarding awards, etc.?
John: No, he will be a second-year veteran. He doesn't get to be eligible for rookie awards, etc., but he does accrue a season toward free agency. That's not a terrific deal for the team, but it's a positive for the player.
Kyle from Palm Harbor, FL:
Zone, I thought this was it, this was the season. Turns out it's just soup and sandwich at a coffee shop.
John: Yeah, I never thought this was THE season. I thought this was a season in which the Jaguars would improve, and so far that has happened.
Dwayne from Jacksonville:
You said Fred Taylor's talent was rare. When he finished his career, I said, "Well Done." P.S., It's rough when people expect a senior writer to be able to predict the quality of the draft class we've not picked yet.
John: Yeah, I'm good. I ain't that good.