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O-Zone: Remembering Jim

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ryan from Apopka, FL:
How cool are you Mr. O, that Blake enjoys "hanging out" with you during his day? So, you going to go hang out with him at 7 a.m. at the gym and do some squats?
John: You're referring to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' appearance on LIVE Wednesday afternoon with J.P. Shadrick and me. A few thoughts on this. First, although Bortles indeed referred to hanging out with us, I don't recall him saying he enjoyed it. Second, the only squats I do these days I don't do with weights. Finally, there was one cool person in the studio that day. I'll leave it up to the reader to decide for him or herself who that might have been.
John from Saint Augustine, FL:
Your response to the "best sporting event I ever attended" question would make a good Bob Dylan song.
John: You know what else would make a good Bob Dylan song? Visions of Johanna. Never mind, that was a "great" Dylan song.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I read the article regarding Chris Clemons not showing up to the OTA last year (he did not call) and this year (he does call) and the coach is not very happy. Some of the players interviewed saw no problem with that. What would happen if 25 percent of the roster decided to be a Clemons?
John: Then you'd have about 20 players behaving well within league rules – and 20 players who are evidently good enough and secure enough to be productive doing so.
Matt from Jacksonville:
When evaluating final roster decisions, how do coaches weigh the value of players competing for the last few roster spots? For instance: Two players are competing for the same spot. One is a physically mature veteran and a known quantity who likely reached or is near his ceiling. The other is a rookie or second-year player with intriguing potential. All else being equal, the veteran probably makes the better backup at this point in time, but you think there is a real risk that the younger player gets snatched by another team if you put him on the practice squad. Which player makes the final roster?
John: That's a dilemma that general managers do face at times, and sometimes it comes down to gut feeling or an assistant coach/personnel assistant/head coach making a strong case one way or the other. Sometimes, too, salary cap comes into play with the younger player being a more affordable, sensible alternative. In the end, there's no hard, fast rule but younger players these days usually win out over pricier, older veterans. There are exceptions, but more often than not, it's a young man's game, particularly at roster cut-down time.
A.J. from Jacksonville:
No question … just a moment of thanks. You really touched a nerve talking about all of the local Jacksonville talent (high school) in your response to Kyle from Ohio. Particularly growing up and watching all of that greatness as an athlete myself. You touched on James Collins, but there was also Micah Ross, who went on to play for the Jags briefly. There was Marcel Martin, Gary Andersen and a host of Coach Bernard Wilkes' thoroughbreds coming through the program then. And Andre Cooper was joined for a while by Jeremy Hyatt as well. All of those guys were a part of Jacksonville's sports history prior to the Jags. Thanks for remembering those special times along with the rest of us.
John: You're welcome. Most writers I know who spent time on the high school beat have fond memories of athletes they covered at the time. I remember Hyatt, Ross and Martin well and covering Bernard Wilkes at Ribault was always special. I remember, too, covering Fred Weary and Sam Cowart at Mandarin and an Orange Park High School football team that came within a breath of playing in the state championship game. I also … well, the list of names of coaches and players I enjoyed covering and remember fondly is too long and self-indulgent to be of interest to many O-Zone readers, but yeah … I enjoyed the answer, too.
Sunil from Jacksonville:
Love your answer to Kyle from Ohio! are sooooo #DTWD. I love it! Duuuuuval!
John: #DTWD
Josh from Jacksonville Beach and Section 106:
Andre Cooper and Jeremy Hyatt were really fun to watch! On the field and the court!
John: Agreed.
Kevin from Jacksonville and Section 436:
O-Man, you have disgraced your coverage of the Jaguars for Seminole fans everywhere. 31-31 was in 1994 in Tallahassee, not the Swamp. And even the year before it was Ward to Dunn 78 yards in the Swamp. How could you miss those??
John: Yeah, I know. I botched that one. That happens when you get old. The 31-31 game was at Doak Campbell – and seeing as it was the only game I ever covered there, it was a silly error on my part. I remember well the Warrick Dunn game at the Swamp, too. The moments before that play were as loud as I ever have heard a stadium – matched, perhaps, only by the noise at the RCA Dome when the Colts were rallying to beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game following the 2006 season. Considering the Swamp is outside, I'll give the nod to the Swamp that day. It was something you don't forget.
Bob from Jacksonville:
The 31-31 game was at Doak, not the Swamp. I remember because I hid in the bathroom after and wouldn't come out for hours.
John: And it was still the strangest game I ever covered. It was a tie that felt like a devastating loss for one team and an exhilarating victory for another. Just a weird, weird day.
Steven from Denver, CO:
Did Blake play quarterback only in high school and in college? Shouldn't he have had instruction in quarterback fundamentals? He's been getting pro coaching for almost a year; shouldn't he be further along in his progress?
John: I don't know what the terms "should have" or "shouldn't have" mean on this topic. Bortles played quarterback in high school and college, and he certainly had coaching. But there is a significant difference in the skill set and fundamentals needed to be successful at the NFL level and the college/high school level. It's typically not possible to get by on athleticism, savvy or even ability in the NFL. Your fundamentals and footwork must be solid because the ball must be out more quickly and must arrive more accurately than at any other level. And while he has been getting "pro coaching" for nearly a year, there is a limited amount of time available in the regular season for any player to focus on fundamentals; the regular season is about game planning and preparation. Bortles is doing what he can to improve his fundamentals and he is taking advantage of the time available to do that – and he's actually doing about as much toward that as could be expected. Remember, too, that Bortles is not uncommon among young NFL quarterbacks in needing work on fundamentals and footwork. He is more open and honest about it than most, so it gets discussed more.
Cameron from Ottawa, Canada:
John: 'Sup.
Jordan from Leesburg, FL:
What is your opinion of what everybody is saying of Bortles' "new" self, referring to the way he is throwing and how he has improved?
John: My opinion is that what everyone is saying – from Bortles to Head Coach Gus Bradley to Jaguars teammates – is very good to hear for Jaguars fans. It's what you wanted to hear early in OTAs and it's what you expected to hear considering Bortles was very up front and candid about his need to improve this offseason. If you heard anything else early in OTAs other than that he had improved, it would be unusual enough to be cause for alarm. It's also fairly self-evident that while all of these things are terrific the only thing that counts is if you see these improvements throughout the regular season. On that front, obviously only time will tell.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Hi John, last Thursday, the Bold City Brigade lost a member. He had been battling cancer, and they found a blood clot in his lungs. He passed away while they were trying to break it up. He was one of the kindest people I've ever met, and every out-of-town fan had a place to crash for a game with him. His name was Jimi and I'm so glad I got to know him. On Saturday, I celebrated my 40th birthday and was overwhelmed by the genuine love of my friends from BCB and the Teal Street Hooligans. It was a great time. I know fan bases around the world have a kinship and camaraderie that joins them, but that doesn't make what we have here any less special. This team, as the focal point of what brought us together, has changed our lives. It's amazing and I'm really grateful for it.
John: Thank you for sharing this. Well said. Rest in peace, Jim. #DTWD

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