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O-Zone: Out of my basement

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jacques from Gotebo, OK:
John, I'm happy with what Blake Bortles has been doing last year and this offseason. But I think he has bigtime potential ... what does he have to do to make that happen?
John: He must keep improving in the areas that make a winning quarterback – efficiency, consistency, accuracy, pre-snap decision-making, interception reduction, etc. He has clearly shown the big-time potential of which you speak. He has leadership. He has a knack for big plays. He likes pressure situations. He's comfortable late in games. Teammates believe in him. What's next? He needs to improve his pocket awareness and he needs to improve on third downs. He needs to help the offense not have so many consecutive three-and-out series. It indeed appears he's on his way to improving a lot of the necessary areas. If that's the case, the future for this franchise is very bright.
Mark from Banner Elk:
I agree with Jerell … offense looks good, defense still sucks! Where was the self-proclaimed Assasin, Dante Fowler Jr.? Malik "the $90 million man" Jackson, Poz … the secondary was a joke! May be a bit early and I hope I'm wrong but looks like same 'ol, same 'ol to me … just with a lot more expensive payroll.
John: It's not "a bit" early; it's absolutely, unequivocally, phenomenally early because it's the … wait for it … first preseason game. The first-team defense on Thursday essentially allowed one bad drive by allowing two huge plays that were essentially the same play – and while there was the familiar sight of a receiver running open in the middle of the field that's an area I expect to improve. Remember, too, that the Jaguars' defense on Thursday was playing without free safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Jalen Ramsey – two players expected to play somewhat critical roles this season. A final thing to remember: this is the NFL. Teams are going to score points. Look, this is a young, new defense. All of that talk about it not being a finished product early in the season? All of that talk about needing some time to together and time for the young core players to develop? That talk was for a reason: because it's not going to be a finished product early in the season – and because it's going to take some time to come together and for the young core players to develop. This defense absolutely will be improved – and soon. As for reaching an elite level … that part's going to take some time. (Hint: it probably won't happen before next Saturday.)
Jay from Gainesville, FL:
Seriously! If Marqise Lee can stay healthy, I feel like he would be a better complement to A-Rob. Not to take anything away from Allen Hurns … but can you see Lee taking over No. 2 WR by the end of the season? If healthy, of course!
John: So much of this topic involves consistency, health and reliability that it's impossible to answer your question without discussing them. Yes, if Lee is healthy he would be a worthy complement to A-Rob. Considering his talent, if he is consistent and healthy he absolutely has the potential to be an elite receiver. That potential never has been questioned. It's why he was considered a possible first-round selection. If he remains healthy this season, the Jaguars will have to figure out a way to work him prominently in the offense – and that likely would mean a lot of three-receiver sets with Hurns in the slot. That's why Hurns has been working in the slot a lot this offseason and training camp – because the Jaguars know that's a potentially devastating combination. They also know Lee needs to be on the field if healthy. If healthy, Lee could change a lot about how the Jaguars' wide receivers are viewed and how the trio is used. So far in his career, he hasn't been healthy enough to be a significant factor. We'll see if that changes.
Darius from New Milford, NJ:
Over/under on Myles Jack being the fulltime starter by Game 4 ... I'm taking the under ... Poz got seriously targeted (and exposed) on those two passes in which he didn't bump and couldn't keep up in pass coverage on "not-obvious" passing downs. Jack looked good, albeit against "backups" in coverage and run defense. Is Poz good enough in run defense and command of the defense to hold onto his starting job for long? I know it's only the preseason opener but it got me excited ... and I'm ok with that.
John: I agree that Jack will be in the lineup with a key role very quickly, but while it is vogue to blame Paul Posluszny for all that ails the Jaguars' pass defense in the middle of the field, what is vogue is not always accurate. Such was the case Thursday. Don't look for Posluszny to be a reserve any time soon.
Kyle from Iowa City, IA:
Maybe it was just me, but Luke Joeckel seemed to play some pretty good football at left tackle Thursday. Maybe this competition is real after all.
John: Joeckel did play well Thursday. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley spoke extensively of Joeckel's physicality against the Jets and Bradley also said Joeckel did a better job handling speed to power from the opposing pass rushers. The left-tackle situation still must play itself out and much of it depends on Kelvin Beachum's health. I still believe Beachum will be the starter, but until he's on the field it feels more fluid than would otherwise be the case.
Jon from Chapel Hill, NC:
John, how did you think Dante Fowler Jr. looked in the preseason game? In the wired piece I think he may have been surprised at the size, strength and skill of NFL tackles. I would expect that but wanted your opinion of how he "did?"
John: I thought Fowler did OK in the time he played Thursday and I think he'll get a lot better as time goes on. Bradley on Friday said Fowler was extremely hyped up for the game, which makes sense because it was his first NFL game after missing his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Once Fowler relaxes and plays his game, I expect him to be much more effective.
Karl from Minneapolis, MN:
Is it safe to assume the Jaguars will be spending some extra time working on kickoff coverages this week?
John: I'm sure they'll spend some time on it. They had spent next to no time on it in training camp thus far, so it stands to reason the area will get some work.
Brian from Duval County:
I think highly of T.J Yeldon. I think he will be getting more touches then Chris Ivory this season.
John: I'm not so sure – and that's not to say anything against Yeldon, who indeed looked very good on Thursday. The fact is both players looked very good against the Jets in different ways—with Ivory running with power and Yeldon showing the vision and ability to glide for yards that made him the team's second-round draft selection 2015. The Jaguars envisioned a two-headed, share-the-repetitions approach with Ivory and Yeldon entering the season. That vision seemed very possible on Thursday.
Robert from West Milton, FL:
(Going to fan here) I'm starting to think we are over paying Julius Thomas. I got it: it's the first preseason game and the pass wasn't perfect but when you're making $40 million, you should be able to make that catch – couple that with injuries as well. Peyton Manning made him looks way better than he really is.
John: There's no reason to make the case that a high-profile, highly-coveted free agent is overpaid because by definition pretty much all high-profile, highly-coveted free agents are overpaid. It's almost impossible for them to "live up" to their contracts. What you're looking for in unrestricted free agency are players who improve your roster, make you harder to defend or attack and raise your talent level. Thomas fits that description, but either way, it seems you're being a bit hard on Thomas. He caught five touchdown passes in 12 games last season and his presence unquestionably makes the Jaguars' offense better. I've said since his 2015 signing that it would be hard to "live up" to his expectations because it's hard to catch 12 touchdown passes in a season as he did twice with Denver. If he catches seven or eight in a season in Jacksonville that's a really good season. And yeah – Manning made Thomas look better. Manning's an all-time great quarterback and that's what all-timers at that position do.
Chris from Palm Beach, FL:
Hearns v. Hagler, Leonard v. Duran, Frazier v. Ali and Tyson v. Holmes. Can not wait to add Tinker versus Shadrick to the list.
John: You're kidding, but I would pay to see that. I feel quite sure I'm not alone.
Jerell's Mom from Columbia, SC:
Just so you know, the correct hashtag for my son is #MoveOutOfTheDamnBasementJerell.
John: Noted.

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