SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Game Day O-Zone.
Let's get to it …
Nick from Kingsland, GA:
Since Blake Bortles has really started turning it on in the second half of this season I noticed he hasn't said "I" at all. It's all been, "WE'VE been playing better … THEY'VE been making unbelievable plays." Then, I started thinking a little about the past couple of years when he has struggled and recalled a bunch of "I need to play better" and "I need to make better decisions." I love a team player that will own up to things he needs to do better when things aren't going well, but also can't stop talking about the high level of play from the team when things are going well. He already has been given some one fers for his level of play as of late, but one fer Blake with his off-field leadership as well!
John: I've said often in recent weeks that Jaguars players believed in Bortles long before media, observers or most Jaguars fans believed in him. Part of the reason for that is players saw him practicing at a high level this season; they therefore understood that although he had a few glaring errors at the end of games, he was a major reason – and perhaps the primary reason – that the Jaguars were functioning offensively much of the season. But the other reason for the belief is the reason you cited. Bortles always has handled himself well in and out of the locker room, and he understands a lot of things involved with the quarterback position. Teammates have always wanted him to perform well, and always have wanted to believe in him. He's playing well enough this season for that to happen. So, one fer Bortles' off-field leadership? It's realistically probably closer to 53.
Todd from Frederick, MD:
Hi, John. With an outside chance at the No. 2 seed, do you see Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone changing the lineup against the 'Niners should the Rams beat the Titans in the early game?
John from Nowheresville:
Mr. O! I believe the Jags can win it all this year based on how they are playing in December. I think there have been three significant events to help along the way. One, Blake Bortles was told he had to win the starting quarterback job to start the year; two, Jason Myers was replaced after missing kicks; and, Leonard Fournette was benched during the season in an important game. It started in training camp, but those three things showed that the players are held accountable. Make no mistake: no one is above the team. Can't wait to see a run through the playoffs! Go Jags! #DTWD
John: I also would say the signings of defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church were significant – and that the development of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and linebacker Myles Jack darned sure has been significant. Don't overlook the slew of other players playing at a high level, either; none of the off-field, foundation, culture stuff matters much if players aren't making plays. Still, your point is correct: Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone has made it clear from Day One that the best players are going to play and that team is going to come first – and mostly, you better perform and not have your actions do anything to hurt the idea of winning. Those things would have been clear without the events you cite, but generally speaking the three events pretty much fit the pattern.
Jags fan 818 from Jacksonville:
Hey, Zone. Gotta give credit when credit is due. Kudos to Jadeveon Clowney for turning a bad situation around and making it good! More money out of his pocket, but a very thoughtful thing he did! We won't forget the remark come next year, though! Go Jaguars! Can't wait to see the cap and t-shirts!!!
John: Yep, one fer Clowney. And one fer the fans. And one fer Bortles. This is all supposed to be fun, remember. And Trashgate made this week a lot more fun.
Trevor from Texas Country:
Does Cam Robinson really have what it takes to be the starter of the future? Clowney seemed to have his way last Sunday even though he didn't get a sack and was definitely the better player that day. I understand he is a rookie and has some maturing to do as every rookie does. Being the man at left tackle is one of the harder jobs in the NFL, but I have my doubts with his quickness. He gets beat often by quicker edge rushers like Ingram and Clowney.
John: Robinson does have what it takes to be a starting left tackle in the NFL – and eventually a very good one. He's a rookie and has played a lot this season with ankle issue. Remember, too: A lot of veterans get beat by Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney. Robinson is a very young NFL rookie and has some improving to do. But there's little question around this team that he will do just that.
Rob from Janesville, WI:
I got accused of being a bandwagon fan yesterday! I didn't know if I should be offended or honored! I retold him the horrors of watching Blaine Gabbert, Matt Jones, Justin Blackmon's ordeal, 2-14 season, and the terrible drafts under Gene Smith. It made me realize how far this team really has come and how much fun this season really is.
Brosher from Jacksonville:
So who's a better receiver, Keelan Cole or Dede Westbrook?
John: It looks like both rookies have a chance to be really good, with Cole showing a remarkable ability to get open deep and make plays on the ball – and Westbrook showing an ability to get open in tight space and also to make plays on the ball. Bottom line: receivers don't often develop into anything close to their full potential in their first season or two. In the case of these two players, one (Cole) has played 14 NFL games and the other (Westbrook) has played five. The better receiver? To be determined …
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
Seen delivering trash cans to NRG Stadium in Houston. #shadricksighting
John: I can vouch for this.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
What a difference a year can make. Last year, we were ruining the Titans playoff hopes on Christmas Eve. This year, we are securing our seeding. Do you see the success we are having as sustainable year to year – or are we a one-hit wonder this year and is this merely a fluke?
John: It's hard enough to predict week-to-week outcomes in the NFL, much less year-to-year outcomes. But there's nothing about the Jaguars to indicate they can't be successful in the coming few seasons. The only major players not under contract for next season are cornerback Aaron Colvin, wide receiver Allen Robinson and wide receiver Marqise Lee. I doubt Colvin will return, and I expect either Lee or wide receiver Allen Hurns not to return. But every NFL team – no matter how successful undergoes offseason change. The elements are in place for long-term success. That's particularly true of what we're seeing much of this season from Bortles. The most consistent character trait of year-to-year successful teams is consistent, high-level performance at quarterback. The Jaguars can maintain a certain level of their success even if Bortles isn't as good as he's been in recent weeks, but his performance recently sure makes winning a lot easier.
Scott from Satsuma, CA:
Big O: If our "D" keeps its pace and our quarterback stays solid like he has the last six or seven games, is it fair to say the team' chances of playing Super Bowl Sunday is 60 percent?
John: No. The chances are 61.35 percent. C'mon, Scott … keep up. It's playoff time.
One from Playa del Carmen, Mexico:
One fer David Caldwell. Bortles' ascension suddenly raises Caldwell's draft history from 'impressive' to 'outstanding'...
John: It certainly changes the narrative, doesn't it? It's often said that it's difficult if not impossible to accurately judge a draft class before Year 4 or so. It turns out there's a reason that's often said.
Steve from Upper Tract, WI:
My son has ridiculed me for many years because I watch every minute of every Jaguars game. He often asked me why do I watch every minute of every game when they are so terrible? My response was always the same. In order for me to fully appreciate the success this team will have one day I must endure every minute of its misery. And now finally I get to enjoy pro football again. It's been awhile!
John: I hope you ridiculed your son and made him feel small. I'm a big believer in this approach. It's good parenting because it builds character, and it sure is fun.
Jags Fan from 818 from Jacksonville:
Hey Zone ... #DTWD means ... Duval To Win Division. Go Jags!