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O-Zone: One strong bond

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … David from Oviedo, FL:
O-man – In Blake Bortles' initial training camp, he needed a lot of work, especially with his footwork and learning to throw with his body. As you were watching him throw one wounded duck after another, did it ever cross your mind that the Jags may have made the wrong decision on this kid?
John: Not really – or at least no more so than with any rookie in any training camp. First, I don't recall Bortles being nearly as bad during the 2014 Training Camp as you seem to remember – though he's clearly better now. He had a few rough practices and I had the same thoughts I do with most rookies: "He has a long way to go – like most rookies." He was pretty up front from the beginning that he didn't consider himself a great practice player, and remember: the Jaguars drafted him with the idea that he was going to need time to develop. Remember, too, that Bortles had a very, very good scrimmage at EverBank Field as a rookie. That was only a week or so into that first training camp. Once you saw that scrimmage, you figured Bortles had something special. You wondered how long it would take to hone the rough edges, but you knew he had something.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Wow, a criticism of "DUUUUUVALLLLLLLLL" this early, huh? Usually don't get that raging debate until after camp.
John: It's indeed shaping up to be a big year.
Nate from York, PA:
I know it probably won't happen – at least in the foreseeable future – but I think the NFL should consider doing with the Pro Bowl what Major League Baseball does with the All-Star game. The conference that wins, that conference's team gets home field in the following year's Super Bowl. It would give the players more incentive to play. Just my opinion. DUUUVALLL!
John: There are a few reasons this won't happen, with a couple perhaps a touch more obvious than the other. One is that the quality-of-play issue in the Pro Bowl stems from players wanting to protect themselves from injury. That's a financial, career-driven decision – and a wise one – and possible home-field advantage for a future game wouldn't significantly override that. Another is that the game is no longer a conference-versus-conference event. The final reason, is the most damning when it comes to your idea and it trumps all of the other reasons – that being the whole neutral-site nature of the Super Bowl means there's really not a, um … home team.
Thrill from The 'Ville:
Hypothetically, let's say the Jaguars start the season 5-0 and crush every opponent. Then Bortles goes down with a season-ending injury combined with a few other key injuries and they finish with 11 straight losses. Should the coach be fired for 5-11? Silly, I know, but although you are what the record says you are, the record taken in a vacuum is not enough to pass judgement on the coach. C'mon, people: let the season play out, then evaluate! Why do so many need a CONCRETE number? Let's wait to see what actually happens, please. Also, I have used caps and exclamations, so you know I'm serious.
John: Wow! You ARE serious – and you're correct. We spend so much time and so many days each offseason breaking down and pre-evaluating the coming season that it's easy to forget that an NFL season truly is a grueling, long, week-to-week affair. Things happen each week that not only dramatically affect the week-to-week storylines, but the season-long one as well. That's the reason Jaguars Owner Shad Khan has indicated he will not be an owner who makes quick-trigger, in-season decisions – and that he won't be an owner who assigns set numbers of necessary victories before the season. So, SERIOUSLY!! … yes, this will play out and all will be evaluated in a sensible, professional way … which is pretty much what you'd expect from Khan after nearly five years 'round these parts.
Darrick from Jacksonville:
Just to put it out there: Is there any chance that Mr. Khan played the, "Hey-I-paid-for-an-NFL-franchise-too" card and that's why the NFL Network is giving us so much love?
John: No. National recognition – even from the NFL Network – comes when teams do things that merit national recognition. The Jaguars' offense last season improved enough to merit a sniff of that recognition this offseason, and the drafting of Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey along with the free-agent acquisitions were high-profile enough that the Jaguars have become an easy choice as a Team On The Rise. Here's the thing about all of that "merited" offseason recognition, though. It's cool and fun, but it won't continue during the season without winning. That's the next step.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
My friends and I were debating the quality of the Steelers' offensive line the other day. I am of the opinion that based on their running game last year their offensive line is pretty good. I think they get a bad reputation because Big Ben takes a lot of hits. However, I believe Ben being a big guy who extends plays, combined with their deep passing game, results in a lot of hits that aren't the lines fault. Ben holds the ball too long and has to wait longer for deep routes to develop. I think Bortles is very similar to Ben and we have an explosive deep passing game. Do you think the offensive line here will always be considered "a problem" simply because Bortles is going to get a hit a lot no matter how well they play?
John: I do believe that will be an issue, and it was certainly an issue the last two seasons. That's not to say the offense has been good enough the past two seasons, but it's absolutely to say that not every sack allowed the past two seasons has been the fault of the offensive line.
Ivan from Duval:
Do you think we could get O-Zone readers together and teach them a basic statistics class so they can learn that two events happening are random and not a pattern that means people need to be fired?
John: You could teach the class, and people could come – but that doesn't mean they would believe it. And it sure wouldn't mean people would believe it when something bad happens to something about which they feel passionately. This applies not just to O-Zone readers regarding injuries, but to … well, pretty much everyone. Anywhere. Anytime.
KC from Jacksonville:
I am not angry, John. I simply refuse to get my hopes up for another season of disappointment. The Jags have set a standard for being a mediocre-to-poor football organization. Those standards don't become fact overnight; they are earned over time. The same can be said for turning around that perception. It won't happen this season, and until we see at least one season of marked improvement, there is no point in expecting anything more. On another note, one battle that intrigues me in camp is Marqise Lee vs. Rashad Greene for starting wide receiver in the slot. Am I right in the perception that this will actually be the battle? For some reason, I don't feel that Marqise Lee should be competing, at least not currently, with either of the Alans for playing time outside. What are your thoughts?
John: One of my thoughts is I can't control your expectations, and the other thought is that you're destined for disappointment in camp. Your feelings aside, you are indeed incorrect about Marqise Lee and Rashad Greene competing for the slot receiver position. Lee is expected to play a role as an outside receiver, and I expect Allen Hurns to play some slot in packages that allow Lee to do so.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
It just really feels like some good things are going to happen this season, doesn't it?
John: Not if you ask K.C.
Bonnie from Jacksonville:
Why do you give Adam (Alan) from St. Johns, FL so much space on the O-Zone? I'm sure you receive hundreds of questions, but he seems to have his question – which are actually nothing but complaints and whining – addressed every other day. If I want to read complaints and whining from naysayers I go straight to the comments section. #DTWD
John: The answer is simple, Bonnie. Alan and I have a bond. It's deep, emotional and built on mutual respect, admiration – and yes … I'll say it … love. When you come across someone with whom you are in constant, daily lockstep – a kindred spirit, if you will – it's a rare thing in this cruel world of ours. And when it happens, sometimes you let your respect and admiration of that person run amok and cause you to act against your better judgement. And yeah, maybe you answer a few more of that person's questions than you do other deserving reader/questioners. But, Bonnie, while perhaps I let my fondness of Alan – nay, my absolute awe of his football knowledge – sway my judgement, know this to be true: if giving Alan too much O-Zone space is wrong … well, if that's wrong, then I don't want to be right.

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