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O-Zone: Picking up the tab

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
C'mon man … listen to what you said: "It wasn't as bad as eight sacks make it sound." How not bad can it be when your quarterback gets toasted eight times?? You're reaching, bruh.
John: This was a common refrain in the O-Zone in the last day or so – and understandably so. But trust me: I don't need to re-read or re-listen to what I said, and I thought pretty carefully about it before saying/writing it. No, the offensive line is not yet perfect. Not close. Yes, the group needs to play better. But in the last couple of weeks it actually has played better. Good enough to win? No. Good enough to see potential and see progress? Yes. I don't want to hammer on this all week because Blake Bortles is getting criticized enough, but he needs to start seeing things better and his decision-making needs to improve. That doesn't mean it's all on him and it doesn't mean he's a bust. It means he's a young quarterback going through the things young quarterback do, and he's doing it with an enormous amount of youth around him. That's a scary combination and we're seeing why.
Kyle from Green Cove Springs, FL:
So John … I noticed that Aaron Colvin was covering the X receiver a lot in this game against Baltimore. Is this a sign that Gus is getting Aaron experience covering No. 1 wide outs for next season? Or was it just a platoon rotation at cornerback?
John: I would be surprised if Aaron Colvin's not starting at cornerback next season.
Keith from Jacksonville:
After about the third time you somewhat defend the offensive I just flat out stopped reading. I'm probably the 50th e-mailer complaining about this and you will probably have already deleted this by now, but what game were you watching?! Go back and watch our center get manhandled off the line of scrimmage constantly. The line got worked and played pathetic. Also the NO. 2 OVERALL PICK IN THE 2013 DRAFT got worked AGAIN. Just stop.
John: And so it goes. This was a pretty common theme. The offensive line wasn't great. But it's not a lost cause and it wasn't pathetic. Few agree with that, and that's OK. Being agreed with isn't all it's made out to be.
David from Jacksonville:
Do you think we need to draft the best offensive linemen in the draft, then a couple more later on? Maybe some free-agent offensive linemen? I think David Caldwell needs to get competition there. It was grossly overlooked this year. Blake Bortles: 46 sacks, two games not played with two games left. Protect Bortles or watch him turn into David Carr.
John: I don't think the Jaguars will take an offensive lineman early in the draft, although I do think there could be competition drafted later at a couple of spots. Right tackle perhaps. Maybe left guard. But the offensive line was not overlooked this past offseason. Not even close. The Jaguars signed Zane Beadles as a free agent. They drafted Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko. They pursued Alex Mack in free agency. They had Luke Joeckel – a Top 10 selection in the draft – moving to left tackle. Say what you want about how it has performed. Say what you want about its future. But to say it wasn't addressed is inaccurate.
Gary from Jacksonville Beach:
John, so you say Bortles being sacked eight times is not really that bad since he was responsible for half of them himself. You are telling me four sacks is acceptable for an offensive line? Really.
John: Nope. Never said that. Never said it wasn't that bad … never said four was acceptable. Next!
Mark from Middletown, NJ:
Hey, Zone … do you think it would be accurate to say the top two needs of the Jags this offseason are gonna be a safety and a tackle, because if so what were we doing in 2013 when we drafted a tackle and a safety No. 2 overall and No. 33 overall? I mean … are those guys ever gonna pay off?
John: I don't think it's accurate to say the top two offseason needs are going to be tackle and safety. Check that: I do think free safety could be a need, but Johnathan Cyprien plays strong safety not free safety. And left tackle is not going to be a top need this offseason.
Zac from Orange Park, FL:
What is your prediction on the future of both CS3 and Marcedes as Jaguars? A couple of negative plays from those guys over the past few weeks that really changed the game. Not what you're looking for from your veteran leaders.
John: I have said for the last several weeks I think there's a good chance Cecil Shorts III won't re-sign with the Jaguars. Marcedes Lewis is a different situation because he's not a free agent. Right now, I'm leaning to thinking Lewis will be back with the team, but I also think a pass-receiving tight end will be a priority in the draft and/or free agency.
Tom from Virginia Beach, VA:
It seems the Jags are playing good first halves and not so much the second half. It appears that other teams are making adjustments and the Jags are not. Is this an accurate assessment?
John: That's a common argument. And it's easy to see why. As much as the offense has struggled in the first half recently it has really struggled in the second half. I tend to think youth and the difficulty of having young players adjust on the fly is a reason, but that's a flimsy-feeling answer right now.
Jeremy from Andover, KS:
"Ran from phantom pressure." I'm not comparing Bortles to Gabbert but I can tell you it's not good when the same description is used of both.
John: No, running from phantom pressure is not what you want. Bortles needs to get better in the pocket. There's no reason to think he won't do that.
Dennis from Palm Coast, FL:
The Jaguars played better against the Ravens than I expected. Bortles needs to get rid of the ball quicker. His comprehension of the situation and his reaction seem a little slow. Do you think that will improve significantly by the first game next season?
John: There might not be a more important question for this team. I think it will. It must.
Mark from Weirsdale, FL:
The mantra for quarterback is you play whoever gives you the best chance to win. My observation has been that earlier in the season when we could not pass block or run the ball at all, that Bortles' ability to pull rabbits out of a hat and make plays with his feet gave us the best chance to win. Recently, we have some running game and better, if not good pass-blocking. My uninitiated eyes tell me that Chad Henne gives us the best chance to win in the last part of this season, and would have in the last few games. Bortles just needs more time to figure out the game. What am I missing John?
John: Realistically? Not much. Bortles' play-making ability and ability to extend plays did help when he first entered the game. Now, he's going through a phase in which he's struggling to learn when and where to throw the ball. Would Henne be better in those areas? Perhaps, and it's quite plausible that that's why coaches leaned toward playing Henne at the start of this season. It's also quite plausible that that's why they played Henne over Bortles and why they wanted Bortles to not play this season. But once you played Bortles, you don't go back. He's the quarterback until he's not. That's how it is.
Aaron from Duval:
The most frustrating thing is we have picked in the Top 10 since my son was born and there isn't a single drafted player you could contend is top 5 to 10 at their position. Just by rule of averages you'd have to hit on at least one pick drafting that high. We have heard draft and develop for almost a decade but when all of our draft never develops it gets so tiring. I know signing a bunch of free agents is not the way to build, but don't we have to have a good draft class eventually? You can't hold the current regime responsible for the previous drafts, but their first draft is starting to look all too similar to the other huge misses we've become used to.
John: This is an understandable sentiment, and as you said, David Caldwell and this regime had nothing to do with the draft classes before 2013 and 2014. The 2013 class doesn't yet have a Pro Bowl-type guy, and many fans and observers want to give up on Luke Joeckel and Johnathan Cyprien. It's too soon to do that, but in a world of quick-trigger judgments, that's a point people don't like to hear. This year's draft class thus far looks pretty good. If Blake Bortles develops, it could be exceptional. It's way too early to tell on that, so stay tuned. "Stay tuned" is tiring to hear but it's as accurate as I can be.
John from St. Augustine, FL:
Obvious which position group buys you lunch. Always heard the O-line ate well.
John: (Yawn).

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