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O-Zone: Once in a lifetime

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Marc from Oceanway, FL:
Hey O: Am I an idiot or something? I listen to Blake Bortles explain how he is improving, along with the confidence he has in himself, in [offensive coordinator] Nate [Hackett], in the system, and in his refined mechanics. It all sounds so genuine and believable. It makes me excited for the upcoming season … again! What is wrong with me?
John: You're not an idiot – at least not because of your belief in Bortles. The offseason is about optimism and fresh starts – and Bortles has had enough success that it's not unreasonable to think he could improve. Remember, too: the Jaguars this offseason could have drafted or pursued another quarterback, and they believed enough in Bortles to continue with him as the starting quarterback. That doesn't guarantee Bortles anything for the long term, but it shows a measure of belief that he can play at a winning level. In the case of Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, there was no tie to Bortles; it stands to reason Coughlin sees something in Bortles. Those are all factors that make you think Bortles could develop and improve. It's also not unreasonable to think he could struggle again. I wish I had a better, more definitive answer, but the reality is Bortles is the Jaguars' great unknown entering the 2017 season – and the reality, too, is we won't have any idea how to assess his progress until that season begins. All we can do between now and then is speculate, project and discuss – and we undoubtedly will do just that.
Lance from Jacksonville:
Why is it OK for someone getting paid millions of dollars to miss work but for anyone working a 9-to-5 for far less can't even be one-minute late? These missing players need to grow up and do their job. We were 3-13 last year! There are no days off for losing teams!
John: This link might help.
Jordan from Joplin:
You're starting a team from scratch and can take any defensive player in the NFL to be on your team. Who would you want?
John: J.J. Watt – and I don't disagree with some who believe he's a little overrated. That's because some analysts worship his every move and rate him as inventing defensive football. He didn't invent defensive football, but he's still a once-in-a-generation guy. And when healthy, he still is the NFL's best defensive player.
Justin from Hampton, VA:
I remember not too long ago when the 49ers were in our position. Stocking up on top 10 talent for years until they got Jim Harbaugh, who turned that organization around in one year. Do you think we'll be able to do the same? It's overdue!
John: The situations are in fact similar. A key for the 49ers of the Harbaugh Era was that Alex Smith turned into a productive quarterback under Harbaugh after struggling beforehand. If Bortles improves similarly, then yes … there are pieces here for a turnaround. I don't know that I realistically see three consecutive seasons of 11-plus victories, because that's a turnaround of historic scale, but I do expect improvement in the .500 range.
Chris from Norfolk, VA:
How much of the offense will be new and how do you see Bortles and Brandon Allen's preseason snaps?
John: The terminology is new, and I expect a much heavier emphasis on the run with more sets featuring the fullback. As far as preseason repetitions, I expect Bortles to get what starting quarterbacks usually get – about a quarter in the first game, more in the second, into the second half in the third and none in the finale. I imagine Allen will get more than he did last preseason, with that number depending largely upon how he and Chad Henne perform during the offseason and training camp.
Emory from Jacksonville Beach:
I've attended Jags training camps since the first one. When it comes to organization, Tom Coughlin's was a coaches' dream. Will Coughlin give advice to the coaching staff on how preseason practices will be conducted?
John: If Head Coach Doug Marrone asks, Coughlin will advise in that area, but remember: Marrone has been a head coach two seasons in the NFL and four seasons at Syracuse University. He has his own approach and has consulted with many coaches – including Coughlin – about many things. I imagine Marrone's practices will be disciplined, fast and strenuous – and sure, there likely will be a hint of Coughlin if for no other reason than Marrone and Coughlin share many of the same beliefs and philosophies.
Justin from Hampton, VA:
I respect Poz, one of our best players over the last couple of seasons, but moving him to the strong side sounds like a setup for an epic fail. He couldn't cover in the middle, and I doubt he'll be able to cover on the strong side as well. I noticed we're working out a lot of linebackers, too. Maybe I'm not the only one seeing the end of an era. I wouldn't be shocked if we cut him this offseason. You have to agree, O-man.
John: No, I don't.
Bryan from Tampa, FL:
How do you feel about the Jaguars traveling to Foxborough for joint training camp practices? Do you think it could benefit the Jags to observe "The Patriot Way," or will that not really be on display in such an environment?
John: It will be on display, though it's not realistic to think a team can take another team's entire system and implement it based on a few days of observation. Also: while I haven't checked on it, I don't think the Patriots will let Tom Brady join the Jaguars and begin playing quarterback for them -- and that's really the part of the Patriot Way that would most benefit any team.
D-Frame from Jacksonville:
John: Man, I'm a Jags fan and I'm ready for not just improvement but a winning season what all will it take?
John: Few giveaways, particularly from the quarterback. Better pass rush, particularly in key situations. More takeaways, which will happen with better pass rush. Better running game, particularly late in games.
John from Mexico, NY:
O, do you really think firing Gus Bradley was the answer to our slump? I'm from New York and am familiar with both Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone; I feel the team would have benefited most with all three coaches on board. I know T.C. had great luck with the Giants over the years but was often questioned on his lack of consistency. D.M. has head-coaching experience but was lackluster at best even at Syracuse University. I know Gus was great in his stint at Seattle but obviously struggled at the helm. I feel he just got a bad shake. Under the eyes of Coughlin and the help from Coach DM he could've done better. How bout #oneforgus.
John: I'm fine with one fer Gus Bradley, but it was time for a new direction. Many believe he's an awful coach. Despite his record, I don't agree with that. But whatever you think of Bradley's abilities as a coach, a coach can only lose for so long before players stop believing in the message. It was time for a change late last season, and the change was made. Now, players will get another message, Marrone's message. Players will hear it so long as they believe it gives them a chance to succeed personally and as a team. Right now, they're hearing it.
Ernest from South Side Jacksonville:
Hey O, I have two questions for you. First, do you think we will see some two-back sets on offense? Secondly, have we reached the point where good but not great players will finally get cut from a Jags roster that normally gets other teams' second-string options in the offseason? Oh – and we finally have a wide receiver corps that is deep, and a wide-receiver coach that I think is not scared to get in their face after dropped passes.
John: Ernest, a few responses for you. I believe you'll see a lot of two-back sets if by two backs you mean a running back and a fullback; I doubt you'll see much two-running back stuff. Secondly, I suppose some good players will get released this preseason, but the Jaguars have released some good players in recent seasons, too – particularly last season. Oh, and former wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan was one of the most respected receivers coaches in the NFL; he wasn't scared of any players.
David from Orlando, FL:
"And you may ask yourself, how do I work this? And you may ask yourself, where is that large automobile? And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house! And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife!" Do you ever worry that trying to make sense of every illogical or unintelligible question, day after day, year after year, will cause mental illness?
John: My God, what have I done?

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