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O-Zone: Reality check

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jerry from Blountville:
I saw your recent response to a question about Bortles. I'm optimistic that he showed improvement last season. I think having continuity within the same offensive system is setting him up with the opportunity to continue to improve, and lead us in the future. Being close to the team, how do you feel about this statement?
John: I think the Jaguars pretty much share your thoughts, and I think that's a major reason this offseason they elected to move forward with Blake Bortles as their starting quarterback. Remember: the Jaguars in a very real sense must evaluate Bortles based on his development over the past calendar year. That makes sense as the team's primary evaluation window because that's essentially how long Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin has been with the organization, and it's how long Head Coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have been running the team, the offense, etc. What Bortles has done during that time is far and away more pertinent to how he fits into the future of the organization than what he did in his first three NFL seasons. Within that context, Bortles improved dramatically and it's not at all unreasonable to believe he will continue to improve moving forward.
Justin from Virginia Beach, VA:
John, I like your comment about having two "starting" running backs in this heaving run offense. Any chance of a Round 1 pick for Derrius Guice? Pairing him with Leonard Fournette will be an official one-two violent punch.
John: I doubt the Jaguars will take a running back in Round 1, though I've said several times this offseason that I haven't completely ruled out the possibility. As for the Jaguars' run offense, I never considered it heaving. I did consider my college roommate heaving once. Actually, we both were heaving one night. I haven't been a particularly big "gin" guy since.
Rob from Pace, FL:
John, the national media are not talking about Jacksonville having any interest in taking a quarterback in this year's draft. Are you getting the same vibe?
John: I have said repeatedly since the Jaguars re-signed Bortles to a contract extension in late February that I didn't believe they would select a quarterback in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. I believe they could take one in the later rounds.
Shawn from the Mean Streets of Arlington:
I don't know who the JAGS will pick in the upcoming draft and neither do you. Or J.P. "Ice Cream Man" Shadrick, for that matter ... and the new unis will be cool. You will like them. Agreed?
John: I absolutely don't know who the Jaguars will draft, though it's possible – and even likely – that Shadrick knows. As far as the new uniforms go, they're cool. I like them. I have no idea if fans will like them. I imagine some will like them. And some won't. Like is the case with … well, everything.
Nate from St. Petersburg, FL:
Hey John: Mandy's paranoid rant a couple of days ago made me reflect on my own irrational fears. I liken it to before I had kids in the sense that I was carefree and not stressed about much because I had nothing to really fear losing. Now that I'm a father, I'm terrified of something happening to them all the time. I get the same sense with this year's Jaguars: when we were terrible, I wasn't overly upset with losing or disappointed because it was par for the course. Now that we're expected to do well, if we lose a handful of one-score games, I may be inclined to tie a cinderblock around my ankles and jump into the Gulf of Mexico. Damn these first-world problems ... how do you handle them?
John: Not particularly well.
Kyle from Green Cove Springs, FL:
There are quite a few options and directions we can go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The beauty this year is we're not drafting early enough to really have an idea of who the pick will be. It all comes down to the draft board and who's available at that time. Initially, I thought we would go tight end or quarterback in Round 1, but after signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul, I think offensive line or wide receiver will be the selection. I have a hard time believing it will be a wide receiver because I truly believe the front office likes what we have. However, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley seems more and more likely to fall and that makes for an intriguing pick. Here's my mock of the first three picks: Round 1, Connor Williams, tackle, Texas; Round 2, Mike Gesicki, tight end, Penn St.; Round 3 (trade up), Kyle Lauletta, quarterback, Richmond. I know you don't think quarterback will be selected as early, but I really don't like much of the back-end quarterbacks other than Luke Falk. At least the Jags draft a quarterback in my scenario who has a lot of upside in case things turn sour with Bortles. Thoughts?
John: I would be intrigued by Ridley if he is available at the end of the first round – and I absolutely believe the Jaguars will strongly consider selecting a wide receiver early; while they like the current receivers, the reality is Donte Moncrief isn't likely to be around for the long-term after signing a one-year deal as an unrestricted free agent. I also continue to believe tight end and offensive line are the two most likely positions in Round 1 and Round 2. I do believe there's a chance the Jaguars take a quarterback somewhere in the draft – and I believe there's a chance they sign a veteran released by another team after draft. But aside from injury, there's not a whole lot of concern about "things turning sour" with Bortles. If that were a major concern, they would select a quarterback earlier or they would have approached their offseason far differently.
Jags Fan 818:
Hey, Zone: For years I have followed up on players coming into the draft, players who came here for visits, etc. I read as much as I could about them. This year has not been the case. The emotional rollercoaster of losing players was disheartening. I couldn't get excited with the free agency like I did last year. I re-watched several games we played last year and it sunk in. We still have most of our core players. Defense is still strong and offense has gotten better. It's strange not being in the Top 5 selection for the draft, but then hey, we were 1 of 4 teams to make it the championship game. So even though this is unfamiliar territory, Coughlin and Company know what they're doing. Go Jags.
John: The season is supposed to be the most interesting, emotional time of season – not the offseason. Welcome back to the competitive side of the National Football League.
Tommy from Pensacola, FL:
John, a few years back the NFL adopted a rule about the ball carrier lowering his head when engaging a defensive player. A big fuss was made of this in the offseason and I can't recall ever seeing the call made on the field. Do you expect this new rule to follow suit?
John: I don't subscribe to the idea that the new leading-with-the-helmet rule will dominate the NFL landscape next season because I believe – perhaps overly optimistically – that the league will find wording to allow officials to call the rule in a way that won't completely disrupt the game. But I do think the NFL will have to call it relatively often for it to be effective and I can't imagine it not being controversial when it is called. So, no: I don't expect this rule to go away quietly – and I do expect it to be a thing.
Papdoc from Saint Augustine, FL:
A question not about the Jaguars but about the 49ers. While Jimmy Garoppolo did have a great mentor and also flashes in the last five games, all players are pros. I would like to ask – in your opinion –how long will it take for other teams to find schemes that disrupt the talk of the town. Five games doesn't make a Pro Bowler or money. I like the guy, but he's no Tom Brady. JUST SAYING.
John: I anticipate there will be a time this season when the league's defensive coordinators and therefore defenses "catch up" to Garoppolo. I expect there to be a time when the same thing happens to Deshaun Watson of the Texans. I expect that because that usually happens with young quarterbacks who have some quick success. They key for both quarterbacks will be how they adapt to the adjustments defenses make against them. Stay tuned.
David from Orlando, FL:
Johnny-O, who wins a head-to-head matchup between the 1999 and 2017 Jaguars?
John: The 2017 Jaguars would win, obviously. The players on the 1999 team are retired.

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