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O-Zone: Path to hope

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Marc from US Sad Club:
Hi John, I know this is a difficult question, but given your experience with the league – along with what you have seen so far – what do you think is Blake Bortles' ceiling?
John: The question indeed is difficult because Bortles' ceiling largely depends on his ability to fix his mechanics issues – and on his ability to improve his decision-making. He made real progress in the mechanics area between his rookie season and second season, and he seems to have regressed there this season. The odd part is the mechanics seemed OK during the offseason and early in preseason – and then they seemed to go away in a hurry. Can they be fixed? Considering his improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, you would think so. As far as his decision-making, that's tougher – and in my opinion it has been the bigger concern this season. The area has been a real issue throughout his career – not all of the time, but at a lot of crucial times. Time and experience can be major factors in improving decision-making and ability to read/see the field. Some quarterbacks eventually get it. Some don't. If Bortles improves these two areas, his ceiling is very high. He is gutsy, confident and a very good leader. He has shown he can make winning plays. He can lead a productive offense. If you can do those things, you can win in this league. If he doesn't improve these things, then the ceiling is what you're seeing now – and that ceiling clearly isn't good enough.
Art from Drexel Hill:
At this point in the season what do you see as our biggest need – besides wins?
John: I'll assume you're not asking about quarterback because goodness knows we've discussed the position enough. Beyond that? Dominant run blocking. The offensive line has pass blocked well this season. It generally speaking has not run-blocked nearly as well.
Christian from Titusville, FL:
Hi John, I know you dismissed the question today about Philip Rivers, but if Dallas does keep Dak Prescott and Tony Romo doesn't want to remain a backup, what do you think in terms of draft picks, etc. it would take to get him? I realize that might not be the Jags' line of thinking for the future, but could you humor me?
John: I would guess it would take a second- or third-round selection to trade for Romo. One issue is that the Cowboys theoretically could – out of respect for him – allow Romo to have input into where he wants to be traded, which would then get into the question of whether he wanted to go to the Jaguars or go to a team he perceived to be closer to contending.
Scott from Daytona Beach, FL:
Geez, let's give BB5 a little break here. I know he's struggling; you can see it in every game. But everyone on that side of the ball is struggling - dropped passes, no running game and poor play-calling. It's on everyone— not just the quarterback.
John: You're right. Quarterback is magnified because it typically has far more influence on the game than any other position, but there's no question that Blake Bortles is far from the only part of the Jaguars struggling right now.
Jason from Jacksonville:
John, on the O & O show Tuesday night, you seemed inclined to agree with the thought that if the Jags are 2-12, why not put Brandon Allen in for the last two weeks to find out what we have in him and to see how the team responds to him as the quarterback? Is this the only scenario, outside of injury, you could see Allen getting a chance to start this season? Would 3-11 be reason enough to give him a chance?
John: I'll clarify this: While I indeed said on 1010XL Tuesday that I agreed that putting Brandon Allen in in the final two weeks or so of the season might make sense, I did not mean to imply that I believed that would happen. First, I don't believe the Jaguars will be 2-12 at that point – and I tend to believe that Bortles will play well enough in the next few weeks that this won't be quite the hot-fire issue in a month that it is now. Either way, I'll be surprised if it happens. I'm not sensing any leaning toward starting Brandon Allen at any point this season. We'll see if that changes.
Jay from Duval:
Will having losing records year after year have an impact on keeping key free agents such as Telvin, A-Rob and Linder?
John: It won't help, but it's hard to accurately predict that until after the season. Once players and agents know the direction a franchise is taking, it's a lot easier to get an idea how negotiations may go.
Mason from Palm Bay, FL:
Gus made a comment about the ideal passes Blake throws a game being less than 30. Could we see Nathaniel Hackett looking to run the ball more in unconventional situations, such as second- and third- and long? I don't know how we could cut 20 passes off Blake's total Sunday if we didn't try that.
John: The more sought-after scenario is for the Jaguars to be in fewer second- and third-and-long situations. That would go a long way toward accomplishing the objective.
David from Broward County:
O-Man, earlier in the season when Bortles' struggles began, I suggested to you that Bortles didn't work hard enough in the offseason on his footwork/mechanics. You said you didn't think that was the case. Now it has been reported that in the offseason before the 2015 season, Bortles spent six weeks training with the private quarterbacks coach. He made great strides of improvement in these areas in 2015. It was also reported that in the offseason before the 2016 season, Bortles spent less than a week, maybe two or three days with the private quarterback coach. In 2016 he has regressed big league. He has not taken his footwork/mechanics issues seriously enough. We still have seven games to go and see if he can right the ship, but clearly Bortles needs to dedicate himself to fixing these issues in the next offseason (maybe more than six weeks with quarterbacks coach) or he may not even have a future as a backup quarterback. He will have to do this the rest of his career as well to keep these issues at bay. What do you think about this now?
John: I think I'd be surprised if Bortles didn't spend a lot of time this offseason working with his quarterbacks coach, Adam Dedeaux.
Matt from Fernandina Beach and Section 132:
Being realistic, barring a miracle this is going to be another losing season and changes are coming. John, for those of us who have been through at least two unsuccessful rebuilds now, what is a realistic expectation after this season? Are we talking another four years, or are there enough pieces in place to make it quicker? Do we draft a quarterback or try and sign one to skip the line? Do you think Khan goes with an established winner at head coach if there is a change? We have put in a lot of time, and I am tired. I am curious what your thoughts are if you were to speculate.
John: I don't yet know what the end of the season will bring, and I don't know what Jaguars Owner Shad Khan's thoughts will be at that point. I've never much cared about the "established-winner" thing as a head coach, because there's no guarantee that past success will dictate future success – or that past struggles mean a coach won't succeed. What do the Jaguars do at quarterback? You decide whether or not you believe Bortles is the guy. If you believe he is, you get to work on fixing the ongoing, well-chronicled issues. If you don't, you get to work figuring out what's available in the draft, free-agency or trade and get to work upgrading the spot as much as possible. As far as realistic expectations for the future? No, I don't think we're talking four more years until this team contends, and that's true no matter what occurs at season's end.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Blake did not spend as much time with Tom House this past offseason as he did the previous offseason. If he spends even MORE time this coming offseason working on his mechanics than he did in 2015, he could see a lot of improvement. That does not even account for the steady improvement that he could accomplish by continuing to put in as much time in all future offseasons. Pair his measured improvement with any significant upgrade to the running game and the pass rush, and we start to look WAYYYY better. I'm not saying I believe this will happen (I don't), but there is a path to success with Bortles, and it's not that far-fetched. One fer hope!
John: Absolutely. Hope is cool. People like it.

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