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O-Zone: Scoutin' on a Thursday

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Mike from Section 122 and Port Orange, FL

How come the Blake Bortles haters don’t seem to notice when Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes or the second-tier guys like Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Carson Wentz or Jared Goff don’t get protection or are sacked their teams don’t win – and they look bad throwing interceptions? Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last Sunday didn’t look good until he had better blocking. Bortles isn’t a superstar, but he wins when there is blocking for him and the run game. I like exciting games, but the league’s movement to appease the better world and put on a scoring fest is ruining the game.

It’s hard to have a conversation about Bortles when you mention Brady, Rodgers, Brees and the like in the same sentence; Bortles by any measure isn’t on those players’ level – nor is he on the level of the other quarterbacks you mention. But there is some truth in the point you make: Bortles played at a winning level more often than not last season and he was doing the same early this season before injuries took a substantial toll on the Jaguars’ offense. He wasn’t anywhere close to elite, but he was better last season and early this season than he has been in the last couple of months. Let’s make this clear … again: I believe the Jaguars must work diligently to upgrade the quarterback position sooner rather than later – i.e., the coming offseason. But I also believe the Jaguars would be in playoff contention – and above .500 – with Bortles at quarterback this season had injuries not taken away what the Jaguars wanted to do offensively. (Yes, you can believe both concepts are true). As for the league’s movement toward more passing and scoring, I don’t believe it has ruined the game yet. But the potential is there.

Frank from Memphis, TN

Irrelevant, but I would like to know: What is Big Ben’s record against the Jags?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 5-5 all-time versus the Jaguars – 5-3 in the regular season and 0-2 in the postseason.

Jerry Longtime Fan from Jacksonville

Oh, Mighty O: I'm ready to move on from Blake but want to remind others of the quarterbacks select from that year: Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garropolo, A.J. McCarron, Tom Savage. While I'd love to have Bridgewater or Garoppolo, they haven’t played much at all and the rest are busts. Hope this year’s crop is better.

OK.

Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL

Hi, John: I’ve assumed that some high-priced free agents would be leaving to free up salary-cap space to start signing some core players such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive Yannick Ngakoue. It’s way early, but at this point is that still the way to go or should the Jaguars use some of that $$$ towards quarterback, wide receiver or offensive line?

You’re going to see a few high-priced defensive free agents leave this offseason and I believe you’re going to see a few high-priced veterans stay. I believe re-signing Ramsey and Ngakoue will be priorities – though it remains to be seen if one of both is re-signed to a long-term deal this offseason. I would think Jack may be a priority, too – though the position of linebacker isn’t typically as high a priority as pass-rushing end or lockdown corner. I doubt that you will see premium free-agency money spent at more than one offensive position – if that – this offseason. I do believe the draft will be heavy, heavy, heavy – did we say “heavy?” – on that side of the ball.

Jim from Jacksonville

Are there potential “franchise quarterbacks” that would be available for the Jaguars in the first round of the next draft?

There are a few quarterbacks that some analysts believe will be first-round selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. A few: Will Grier of West Virginia, Justin Herbert of Oregon, Drew Lock of Missouri, Daniel Jones of Duke, Ryan Finley of North Carolina State and Clayton Thorson of Northwestern.

Ed from Winston-Salem, NC

With the success of the two-back set in New Orleans, why do you think we don't use T.J.  Yeldon and Leonard Fournette together? Sadly, I'm sure Yeldon will be gone after the season. I have a feeling we're gonna miss his versatility next season.

The Jaguars had a two-back package this season, but it was based around third-team running back Corey Grant being available – and using the speed of both Fournette and Grant to strain either edge of opposing defenses. Because Fournette and Grant were healthy at the same time only briefly – the first halves of victories over the New York Giants in Week 1 and the New York Jets in Week 4 – the package never got used in the regular season. I agree that Yeldon likely will sign elsewhere in the offseason – and I agree that the Jaguars will miss his versatility. The Jaguars’ challenge will be to find a back in the draft who can block on third downs and catch as effectively out of the backfield as Yeldon. It won’t be easy, but it should be doable.

Brian from Gainesville, FL

Big O, in a season in which even you say you believe the Jaguars will draft a quarterback in the first round in 2019, do you reckon the Jaguars will figure out a way to finish 6-10? Just enough to be below average and to also select outside the Top 10?

No.

Pedal Bin from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Oh Mighty ‘O’ / King of Funk, do you think Bortles is playing his last few games as the Jags’ starting quarterback? We have been racked with injuries all along the offensive line (not Blake’s fault) so Blake has had little time to throw. We have had virtually no running game and revolving door at the running-back position (also not Blake’s fault), our blocking tight ends either released or on injured reserve (not Blakes’s fault) and an offensive line seemingly incapable of making blocks for whoever is at running back that week (again not Blake’s fault). However, he has made a slew of bad throws, bad reads, missed open players and poor ball security (which are all Blake’s fault). Could you see the coaches giving Blake one more year behind a healthy offensive line – and hopefully fewer – injuries across the offense or do you feel that after five years the coaches have seen enough and have decided it is time to move on, no matter the final standing in the division?

I think a likely scenario is the Jaguars drafting a quarterback in the first round in the offseason and starting Bortles next season until the rookie quarterback is ready.

David from McAlester

I get that Blake us not awful and rookies can struggle, but the Chiefs or Rams would not be as good with Bortles and we'd be better with Mahomes or Goff, imo. No way to prove it, and I doubt we can draft a winner next year, but I would stand behind this statement. What say ye?

Of course. Who has said different?

Mike from Atlanta, GA

So how does one go about evaluating whether to move on from a quarterback? Does one have to assume what a quarterback would do if given sufficient time to throw to receivers who won't drop the ball – or make game-changing fumbles at critical moments late in the game? Bortles' accuracy really makes me wonder if he can ever improve that, but I am completely unsure what kind of quarterback he would be if surrounded by good players on offense. I'm not entirely certain we will ever know – especially if he goes on to be a career backup. It seems you must constantly guess what your quarterback is and will be in the future – and what other players will be in the future – and hope that you are improving your roster and not throwing out a quarterback who is good for a quarterback who isn't. What do you think?

Finding the right quarterback is the most important task for a franchise; all else pales in comparison. The factors you mention are what often makes finding the right quarterback the most difficult, maddening, frustrating and expensive process facing a franchise.

Will from Jacksonville

Looking for something to aim for, shoot at, something sort of on the bright side... Besides the division leaders at this point, you have the Chargers with seven wins, and the rest of the runners up for the final AFC wild-card spot are all at five wins!! So technically ...

Technically? Yes. Realistically, the Jaguars have lost six consecutive games and have found new ways to lose the last three games. Until they find a way not to lose, there’s really not much reason to talk about the postseason.

Josh from Lynchburg, VA

Colt McCoy is 10 times the quarterback Bortles is.

How was the rest of your Thanksgiving? Was your first NFL game cool?

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