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O-Zone: Opportunities

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Andy from Saint Johns, FL:
John, I recently read the O-Zone for the first time since last season when we were out of the playoff race in mid-October. I have really not paid attention this whole offseason except for the draft. I got my preseason magazines, but haven't read them; my season tickets came last week and I haven't even opened them. I am at an all-time low with excitement for this coming season. John, can you answer this email with something that gets me excited for this upcoming season? Is there any hope? I'll check back the rest of the week to see if you respond.
John: Andy, thanks for the update. It certainly infused sunshine. Still, I doubt my answer will excite you much. That's because like many fans you understandably are beyond the point that offseason words and predictions have meaning. All that will excite that faction of fans is winning, and that can't happen until the regular-season games begin. I believe we will see at least the beginning of that excitement this season, because I believe the core of this team has reached a stage of their careers – the fourth NFL season for many of those players – that they can be expected to carry a team and begin winning consistently. I also believe the team will respond to the disciplined approach of Head Coach Doug Marrone; if the Jaguars can get some success early in the season, I believe this team has a chance to move in a positive direction. Now, it's just as true that much of what I am writing depends on the play of quarterback Blake Bortles. For many observers, that is a concern because Bortles has yet to show he is a franchise quarterback. As with the team overall, nothing I can say or write about Bortles will excite many people because they have heard and read many things before that have not come to fruition. So, the hope is that a relatively young quarterback and a lot of other players keep growing up and mesh with some quality newcomers. If that happens, then the results can be positive. I can't control whether that gives you hope or not, but it does make me think this could be a better season than the Jaguars have had recently. Oh, and welcome back. All of us here at missed you very much.
Ron from Jacksonville:
I've held my optimism in check the past few years, but I really feel good about this year's team. I see the Jags starting the season 4-0. Am I just a hopeless dreamer?
John: Andy, meet Ron … Ron, meet Andy.
Hippy from Fleming Island, FL:
We will have a beautiful 150 inches of bright and new projection big screen at our undisclosed bar to fully enjoy the away games this year! Game of Thrones looks sweet, but can't compare to Week 1. #skittleydoo
John: #Skittleydoo
Sebastian from Austin, TX:
Hey John, as a follow-up question to Glen from Orange Park's question, if they let Bortles play out the fifth year of his rookie contract after a season with 3,350 yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 60 percent completions and we win nine games with a strong ground game and defense ... do the Jaguars draft a quarterback in the first or second round of next year's draft, which is expected to have a great crop of quarterbacks?
John: I not unexpectedly received a slew of follow-up questions to Glen from Orange Park's recent question about just what it will take for the Jaguars to commit to Bortles long-term after this season. The best answer I have is that the answer may not be based on statistics as much as feel: if the Jaguars see Bortles making the right decisions and showing the right things to make you think he's developing into a winning quarterback, then I think they will re-sign him. If they don't, then I think they will pursue a quarterback next offseason. That probably would be in the draft. The above numbers would make that a tough decision and would probably mean the Jaguars needing to decide just how much they covet one of the quarterbacks available. They would probably need to covet him a lot, which would probably mean trading up in the first round to get one. You don't want to draft "a quarterback;" you want to draft a guy you believe is the guy.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
One of the things that makes Queen great is how widely the sound of their music varies. This was due to every single member of the original band being a composer and the band playing music by all of them. In fact, all four of them are in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. A collection of talent such as that is not mirrored anywhere in this age's music industry.
John: Hey, one fer Brian May! And Freddie Mercury! And Roger Taylor! And John Deacon!
Richard from Southside:
Good day, Zone! Doug Marrone has coached two years with the Bills, and four years at Syracuse, while never having a better-than-average season. The thoughts when Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio coached here were playoffs or bust; that seems too far removed. Would an average season really bring satisfaction to a fan base after a decade of losing? Can Coughlin's winning influence inspire Marrone and this culture to be greater than average? After so long, do you feel a fan base deserves to win? The stats show the Jags have not produced since we let go TC and JDR; it almost feels like bringing TC back is a way for redemption. Thoughts?
John: An average season won't satisfy fans, nor should it. As for Marrone, circumstances don't always allow success. Still, remember: Marrone had the Bills moving in the right direction. He was not fired from that position. He chose to leave. He also doesn't need Coughlin or anyone else to inspire him to want to win and to know that the expectations around here must exceed recent results.
Bob from Jacksonville:
With the addition of Leonard Fournette and two fullbacks this year, our running game should show a definite improvement. It stands to reason our run-pass option should improve as well. Throughout Blake's career I have found myself talking to myself after a play-action pass, saying "It sure didn't seem like Blake tried to sell the run." Have you noticed this or is it just me?
John: Selling the play-action pass is an area where many young quarterbacks fall short. I don't consider Bortles one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in this area, but neither do I think he's horrible. I actually would put it pretty low in areas he needs to improve. But yes … he could do a better job in this area. The play-action should be a more prominent part of the Jaguars' offense this season, but the quarterback does have to sell the play fake.
Rob from Kansas City, MO:
Ah, tennis. I enjoyed tennis, playing and watching. Unfortunately, I think the closest tennis ever came to being "cool" in the US was the Agassi/Sampras rivalry, which was awesome. The Williams sisters made a good run at making the sport "cool," too. Which rivalries do you think have helped tennis the most up to this point?
John: You're showing your age, Rob. Tennis was phenomenally cool in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s when John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert helped make the sport significant in this country. I doubt the sport ever will return to that level of prominence in the United States, because I doubt the country's junior system will consistently produce Grand Slam contenders on the men's side. As for rivalries helping the sport, my perspective is different than most people in the United States, because I consider this a tennis golden age. Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal is perhaps the best rivalry in the history of the sport, and Novak Djokovic-Nadal/Djokovic-Federer are terrific, too. They haven't helped the sport in the United States much, but in terms of the quality of the game, they're off the charts.
David from Duval:
In the pass-happy league that the NFL has become, it's apparent that the rule changes have helped quarterbacks. The fact that Chad Henne has a 58/63 touchdown/interception ratio in this era and the Jags re-signed him and said, "Yes, this is who we want to play quarterback if Blake Bortles goes down" just completely blows my mind. What a wasted roster spot. The quarterback mentoring doesn't hold up anymore. He sure couldn't mentor Bortles into playing better last year. And when a game starts with Chad Steven Henne under center, his career record is 18-35! I'm just sick to death of watching this franchise fumble and bumble decision after decision since 2000. Here's to hoping that one way or another Henne does not attempt a pass this season. When the Jags do part ways with Henne, he is done in the league. No one is dumb enough to sign him except us. Take that to the bank. And may God have mercy on his soul.
John: I'm sorry your mind is blown. That can be disconcerting. As for Henne, there's nothing at all wrong with him as a backup quarterback. And if he Henne weren't the backup here, he would have opportunities to be a backup somewhere else.

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