JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Lawrence from Omaha, NE:
John, can't the Jaguars' offense help provide pass rush? Everyone keeps talking about how hard it will be to replicate last year's 45 sacks, but most of that happened without the Jaguars ever having much of a lead, if any. If the offense can get points on the board and the team is ahead, shouldn't that create far more pass-rush opportunities for the defense?
John: Absolutely, and there's no question this is perhaps the major "X-Factor" with this year's pass rush. The Jaguars' total of 45 sacks was remarkable last season for several reasons. One was it was done without an elite, Pro Bowl "edge rusher." Another was that the number was such a marked improvement for an area that had struggled mightily for more than a few seasons. But I wrote throughout last season that the most impressive part of the sacks total was that so many came with the team trailing – and with the opponent not in obvious passing situations. Sacks are far easier to come by when you know the opponent must throw. The more obvious passing situations the Jaguars' offense can force upon the opponent this season, the better for the pass rush. There's no doubt about that.
Soren from Denmark:
Do you think it would be beneficial to give rookies days off? It goes without saying they need more on-field training than veterans, but giving them time off could possibly help decrease injuries like soft-tissue damage and stress fractures. They work hard trying to improve combine numbers and through extra rookie activities in the offseason.
John: This is a topic I expect will grow in importance and volume, because it increasingly has become an area of concern in recent seasons. You hear more and more talk about the wear and tear draftable players endure in the pre-draft process – and how that wear and tear potentially leads to injuries. By the time they finish their rookie seasons, they essentially have gone a year and a half since an extended time away from football and/or intensive training – camp before their final collegiate season, their final collegiate season, the pre-draft process, their first NFL offseason, their first NFL training camp and their first NFL regular season. All of those periods essentially run back to back. That in theory can lead to fatigue – and perhaps to injury. The Jaguars seemed to go through quite a bit of this in the 2014 offseason when Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee missed time with hamstring injuries, and resting young players in that situation is probably something you'll see happen more often.
Owen from Ellington, CT:
John, loving the Jags' chances this year! I recently moved from Jacksonville to Connecticut. Do you think that Bortles is the future of the NFL?
John: I think Bortles looks more and more like he could be a reason to believe very strongly in the Jaguars' future. I'd prefer to wait a few weeks or months to find out if that's true before entrusting him with the future of an entire league.
Sean from Fleming Island, FL:
Are you excited about next week's game against the Lions being on national television?
John: Not really, because how it is televised doesn't change anything about my life. Not to sound like a jaded old sports writer, but whether or not the game is nationally televised, I arrive at the game no earlier or later, and write and talk about the game the same way. I can assume by the circumstances and the match ups that many of the games I've covered in 20 years have been nationally televised, but I really couldn't tell you for certain which ones they were.
Mark from Green Bay, WI:
Ask Shad Khan for a round table. I'm sure he'd pony up the dough to keep his O-Zone happy. After all, you are the head PR promoter for the JAGS are you not?
John: Actually, I'm not … and trust me, the shape of the table for that segment – round, square, rectangular or banana-shaped – has so little impact on my happiness as to be beyond understanding.
Doug from Jacksonville:
Mr. Tekin is right … you are awesome. I have to say, though, if I would have had your fancy education and time and Pell grants, I could have been a fancy sportswriter, too! There is spellcheck now; you don't even need to know how to spell! Mr. Tekin is lucky no one had the time to learn his job, or had his education, because if anyone can be in the NFL then anyone can do his job, too.
John: Wait a monute … there's spell check now?
Doug from Jacksonville:
We hear of the one or two plays where Joeckel got worked or made to look terrible... I don't know how many plays he was on the field in the first preseason game but I assume more than two … 20 maybe? So the first preseason game he gave up a sack five percent of the plays he was in – and per Dave Thursday was getting worked when Blake scored a rushing TD to the side Joeckel was blocking.... I wonder if Pittsburgh is concerned Joeckel beat Harrison on all but one or two plays?
John: Joeckel actually played 29 plays against the Steelers, so the percentage is lower than that. But Joeckel and anyone else who follows the NFL would tell you that's not the point. The reality of the offensive line – particularly at left tackle – is you can play well for 99 plays and if the 100th is a bad sack or a holding penalty … well, they're not going to write about the 99 good plays in the newspaper. And they're not going to tweet about the 99 good plays, either. No, whoever "they" are are going to focus on the sacks allowed. Such is the life of a NFL left tackle, particularly one selected with the No. 2 overall selection.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
I have to hope that Mr. Tekin was being sarcastic. His assessment that "anyone" could do it is a stretch even at the college level outside of Division I … I know a LOT of guys in really good shape who are pretty athletic and strong, but none of them have the TALENT required to make an NFL team. These guys are very special; if they weren't they wouldn't be making millions to do what other people can't.
John: I'm sure he was being sarcastic. I think I'm sure. Maybe I'm sure. Whatever.
Shannon from Brunswick, GA:
I have to say that Blake's sense of humor is great. I think that shows that he is comfortable in the system. Cool, calm and collected. I like it.
John: Blake Bortles absolutely is calm, cool and collected. He's absolutely a funny guy. As I've said often, all of the locker-room stuff? The stuff that makes you a leader and makes you able to handle the off-field and mental challenges of the quarterback position? Bortles has all of those things, and all of those things are important. But none of it matters too much if he can't do the physical things required. He has improved on those areas dramatically in the last few months. Stay tuned.
Mike from Elberton:
O-man, the team's record the past two years in September and October is 1-15. For November and December it is 6-10. What do you make of that? Is it a reflection on the players, the schedule, the coaches, the weather? Or is it just a coincidence?
John: Neither record is all that good, so I'd say it's a reflection that the Jaguars haven't been all that good. The teams they have played in the second half of the season also haven't been quite as good as those they have played early in the season. That was particularly true in 2013.
Joe from Queenstown, New Zealand:
Hey O, so there seems to be quite the difference in Bortles this year. How much of this can be attributed to the new system? How much could the old system have made him look bad? Could a poor system really stop a top (rookie) QB from being a top (rookie) QB?
John: Bortles appears to like and be comfortable in this system, and there's no doubt that system and comfort matter for a quarterback. But considering his experience and the inexperience around him last season I can't in good conscience say that I think a different system last season would have produced dramatically different results.
James from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Here's the thing about Joeckel. Is he even close to being as bad as a lot of people think him to be? No. Not even close. He's just not what you'd hope to get from the second pick of the draft. If he'd been a second or third round pick, you wouldn't be getting all these emails complaining about him. People would complain about something else instead.
Dean from Brooklyn, NY:
O Man, who ya going to listen to on the plane to NY … Sinatra, Ramones, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Springsteen or NY Dolls?
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Lawrence from Omaha, NE: