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O-Zone: Shabby chic, mostly

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Bob from Sumter, SC

Just an observation ... several quarterbacks have come into the league the last few years – like David Carr, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston – and had more success quicker than Blake Bortles. They seem to have leveled off and not been bad, but not been great. Bortles struggled early but showed improvement last year. Contrary to the national media narrative, I'm not sure I would take any of them over Bortles for this team right now given his size, durability and leadership.

The seemingly constant analysis, reanalysis, over-analysis, comparisons and recomparisons makes it difficult at times to accurately assess Bortles. Some of this difficulty no doubt is because it’s difficult to know what is a trend and what is not without the benefit of history and perspective. If Bortles continues the improvement he made late last season and last postseason, then it’s possible history will judge his rough 2016 season as an outlier and see Bortles as having otherwise made steady progress early in his career. If he falters next season, it’s equally possible history will judge the end of ’17 and last season’s postseason as the outliers. The same is certainly true of Carr and Mariota, each of whom struggled last season for a variety of reasons. I do know Bortles has been deeper in the postseason than any of the quarterbacks you mentioned, just as all three of the other quarterbacks have at times had stretches and performances that would rank them ahead of Bortles in other areas. The answer to this question is that there’s no definitive answer to this question. Bortles may well be the right quarterback for this franchise right now. I suspect we’ll have a clearer idea whether that is the case next season. I do know the team thinks he’s right guy. We’ll find out if that’s correct soon enough.

Steven from Dillsburg, PA

John O, the King of all Funk, I have to admit that initially the ads made me angry. However, I now believe I have gotten used to them. Most of all my hope is that you are getting a good cut of the revenue from the advertising. You certainly deserve it.

Guess what, Steven?

Jeff from Jacksonville

How much of an uptick in onside kick attempts do you think there will be this season? Sounds like the new rule has made this a lot more worth it. Also, usually when a veteran player is released and some time goes by without anyone signing him, that means he’s not worth the money he’s asking for/talent level doesn’t justify using the roster spot. If no other teams want to sign him, why would the Jags?

Your first question is intriguing. The new kickoff rules at first glance seem to encourage onside kicks because of the open space that will be left when the receiving team lines up eight close to the ball and three deep near its end zone. But while that new alignment might be tempting to special teams coaches, head coaches typically are conservative by nature with most embracing chance – and risk – slowly and reluctantly. Considering that aversion, I expect the onside kick to continue to be used as a surprise tactic throughout most of games and a necessary one near the end of them. As far as teams signing well-known veteran players, there indeed often is a disconnect between the actions of teams and desires of fans. Fans understandably love familiar names and want their teams to sign those familiar names when they are available. The reality is most players who are available are available for a reason; difference-making upgrades are harder to find late in the offseason than most observers realize.

Dan from Jacksonville

I'm King of the household when things go wrong ... my wife is Queen all the other times... is that the same with you?

Is there any other way?

Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

John, Marcedes Lewis was considered one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Of our current complement of tight ends, who do you see taking up the banner of blocking tight end? I do believe it's an integral part of our run game. Go Jags!

The Jaguars are confident Austin Seferian-Jenkins can block well. I don’t know if it’s reasonable to think he will be an elite blocker on the level of Lewis in his prime. But it is reasonable to think he will be functional in this area and be close to Lewis’ level in recent seasons. If that’s the case, the move has a chance to be a major upgrade because of Seferian-Jenkins’ increased effectiveness as a downfield receiver.

Braddock from Jacksonville

Obviously we lost some nationally-known talent at wide receivers this offseason. My question is do you think there was a conversation with Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and some of the leftovers to let them know that this is their opportunity to shine. I think both of those guys have a bright future in the league. However, other than Keenan McCardell do you think that took place?

It’s likely something Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell has mentioned to the wide receiver, though it’s unlikely he called them “leftovers” when he did it. I doubt the conversation has taken place beyond that, but such a conversation isn’t necessary. These are professional football players. They know opportunity when they see it.

Ralph from Jacksonville

John, I am not troubled by the ads. Why? Because more ads mean more revenue attributable to the O-Zone. More revenues attributable to the O-Zone surely means more money to he who created and maintains the O-Zone. Amirite?

Ah … sweet, innocent, naïve Ralph … Stay gold, young man. Stay gold.

Tommy from Pensacola, FL

John, do you foresee any notable names that might not make it out of training camp this year?

Notable names mean drafted players, former high-profile free-agent signees or big contributors. Considering that, some notable names that need big training camps to make the roster include: wide receiver/punt returner Rashad Greene Sr., defensive tackle Michael Bennett and wide receiver/punt returner Jaydon Mickens. The Jaguars are loaded at these positions; making the roster won’t be easy.

Randy from Duval

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Younger.

Brian from Jacksonville

Big John: please reset the Jags’ schedule with dates moving forward until preseason.

The Jaguars have two voluntary organized team activities remaining this week (Thursday and Friday), then have their final four OTAs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of next week. The final on-field work of the offseason program is the three-day mandatory minicamp June 12-14. Rookies and first-year veterans report for training camp on July 18, with quarterbacks reporting July 20. Veterans report July 25 and the first practice of training camp is July 26.

Brodie from Pensacola, FL

You mentioned that the new kickoff rules would require five players on each side of the ball, therefore preventing the kickoff team from stacking one side of the field. I haven't seen anywhere discussing how this plays in if the kicker wants to kick off from one side of the field or the other. Maybe I am confusing college football, but I believe kickers may choose where along the yard line they want to kick off from, within the hashes. If that is correct, how will that affect how many players on each side of the ball?

Kickers can kick off from anywhere within the hashmarks. Because the hashmarks are closer together in the middle of the field in the NFL in college, this will further prevent the kicking team from choosing to stack one side of the field or the other.

Steven from Jacksonville

This new site absolutely sucks! You can't find anything on this new site. Where are the podcast shows like Jaguars Thursday with Boselli and Lageman? As I said, you can't find a darn thing and it is frustrating!

MidMayhottakes

Rene from Puerto Rico

Hi, John. I don’t have a question. I just wanted to say I fell out my chair when I read your response to the question about Mr. Frenette. You are the king of all funk; the rest are just imitators.

Thank you for the kind words, though I’m not sure I understand why you fell out of your chair. This implies something funny – and I assure you Florida Times-Union sports columnist Gene Frenette is no laughing matter. He is as I mentioned early this week known for his athleticism, mastery of words and abilities as a backyard farmer. Less known are his vision as a social-media pioneer (Twitter, 140-character era), his past status as one of Jacksonville’s finest amateur boxers (late 1970s, bantamweight) and his keen eye for interior decorating (shabby chic mostly, though not exclusively). There indeed is more to Gene Frenette than meets the eye, and it shouldn’t be overlooked that for the past three-and-half decades we have been reading and living near a special talent and – more importantly – a special person.

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