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O-Zone: Simple man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jim from St. Augustine, FL:
OK, what's the REAL take on Blake Bortles?? He has shown some signs all along that he could be really good. He did some awesome stuff his first season despite being thrown to the wolves with no help on the ground and a weak offensive line. Is it really that surprising that all the sacks, running for his life with the whole offense on his shoulders and all the bad press finally got to him? I heard one commentator this year say this was like his real rookie year now that he has a running game and offensive line. If we get rid of him, will we be sorry if he does really well somewhere else and beats us a few times? Just thinkin!
John: This is a valid point – and although it's not something most fans and observers take seriously, it indeed is something to consider in the Blake Bortles Conversation. Bortles as you note had difficult circumstances early in his career, including three different offensive coordinators and an offense that asked him to pass far more than was ideal – and this season he in a very real sense is playing as you would want a rookie to play given the circumstance; not making mistakes, being smart with the ball, not taking a lot of chances, etc. Does that mean he's at Square One with a chance to improve and progress? Perhaps. I believe Bortles has played relatively well in recent weeks. He obviously played well against Baltimore in his four-touchdown, no-interception game and I thought he got little help from receivers a week later in the loss to the Jets. He wasn't asked to do much against Pittsburgh, but aside from a missed throw to open wide receiver Marqise Lee, he again did what he was asked to do. I don't know what the future holds for Bortles after this season. I do know he's the starting quarterback for this franchise right now, and I have no sense that's going to change unless he starts making catastrophic mistakes – and I haven't seen him trending toward that. Will he develop enough the rest of the season to change the perception people have of him? Or to change his future with the team? It frankly seems like a reach, but I believe he will get at least the next 11 games.
Big on Blake from Philly:
How's this for a nickname? Tropical Swarm.
John: Sure.
Al from Coldwater, OH:
Even if we win this Sunday, I still find it hard to get excited about this team. When the way to win is by "limiting the number of times Bortles throws the ball," you know you have a major problem on your team. I know there is nothing to do now, but I'm still mad that the front office did so little to even create minor competition at the most important spot on the team. Unless you are the Patriots, your windows of relevance in the NFL are small and I hate to feel ours will be blown by having Bortles waste time this year and then having to break in a rookie next year.
John: I'm sorry you're mad. Madness can be … well, maddening. I'm starting to find it a bit fascinating, though, that people continue to focus on what is not going on with this team rather than what is going on. The Jaguars are 3-2 and a couple of plays from being 4-1. They have improved markedly and remarkably from last season. They lead the AFC South and have a good enough defense/running game that making a serious push for a winning record or even a postseason spot doesn't seem remotely ridiculous. Still, a dominant conversation among observers seems focused on dissatisfaction over Bortles with a focus on an idea that there was some dramatically better alternative this past offseason that the team – perhaps out of ignorance, stubbornness or a burning desire to not win – brazenly chose to ignore. Could the quarterback play/passing game be better? Sure. Are the Jaguars running an offense that protects Bortles? Sure. Is a lot of that by design? Sure. But I can tell you people around the Jaguars aren't walking around saying, "Boy, I'd be a lot more excited if we had that (INSERT QUARTERBACK AVAILABLE THIS PAST OFFSEASON HERE) guy playing quarterback." I understand fans' frustration and I understand fans believing to their core there were better options out there. I can tell you it's not something the team regrets and it's not a topic. As for your excitement level, the Jaguars lead the NFL in sack, takeaways and rushing. They have won three games by 21 or more points. They lead the AFC South. What are those things? Dull? Boring? If so, give me a big dose of dull and boring. Please.
Ken from Ashton, WV:
What are we going to do about a field-goal kicker?
John: The Jaguars have a field-goal kicker: Jason Myers.
Jay from Greenville, SC:
11-5 and playoffs? I think that sounds pretty fair, no?
John: Sure.
Johnny from DC:
Not meaning to be critical, but is there some reasonable explanation for the drop off in production from Allen Hurns? Was he a flash in the pan after all?
John: Hurns missed five games last season with an injury. He has 18 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns this season with the Jaguars throwing far less than the season in which he had 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns (2015). The dramatic reduction in opportunities is as good an explanation as any.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
I have a feeling this might be a "break-out" game where James O'Shaugnessy gets some action. This matchup strikes me as a good way to use a tight end. Especially an unknown one. the Rams ain't no joke.
John: Hey, one fer Shaughnessy!
Anthony from Madison, WI:
You answer joke questions or questions with jokes all the time. I don't feel like (even if it's pure conjecture) talking about trades that won't happen is a waste of your time in this forum, but I could see not wanting to say "it would be interesting if we acquired Manning" because by 2 p.m. you'd see an article titled: "Are the Jags trying to acquire Manning?" with a quote from your local O-Man saying it would be interesting.
John: That's not why I don't usually avoid trade questions in this forum. The reason I avoid them is there's rarely anything to add of any merit or substance when discussing trade scenarios. And while an argument could be made there merit or substance are always rare in this forum, I do at times try to discuss topics that at least dip toes in reality. The answer to most trade questions is "Sure, that sounds like an interesting trade. Would one of the teams be interested? And at what price?" The bottom line is the NFL unlike Major League Baseball, the NHL or the NBA is not really a trade-friendly league. While trades happen, they rarely have season-changing impact because unlike other sports one player typically does not tip the balance of a team or a season. The most obvious exceptions are elite, in-their-prime quarterbacks – and those players are rarely traded.
Answer my #@$!:
Were you a wunderkind?
John: What?
Marlin from Newberry, FL:
O, mighty O, Leonard Fournette is on pace to rush for nearly 1,500 yards this year, which is outstanding for a rookie. Before his career is over, I fully expect him to eclipse Maurice Jones-Drew's franchise record of 1,606 total yards rushing in a single season. I also expect him to finish his career second on the Jaguars' all-time rushing list behind a certain Hall-of-Fame-worthy running back. Do you think that Fournette can eclipse 1,606 this year? And do you think he will ever catch Mighty Fred? It seems to me like Fournette runs a little too much like MJD – seeking contact – and this will limit the number of productive seasons in his career to catch Taylor.
John: I wouldn't be surprised at all if Fournette sets the Jaguars' all-time single-season rushing record. He certainly is talented enough to set any number of franchise rushing records. That's a significant statement for a franchise for which Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor played. Health and longevity are more often than not the factors that separate the careers of elite running-back talents, and I expect those factors to define Fournette. The way this team uses him, I do expect him to break the single-season record in the next few years. That same factor along with his running style probably will make it difficult to play at a high level long enough to challenge many all-time records – franchise or otherwise.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brasil:
Marcus Aurelius making the early-season O-Zone? Brilliant! He also wrote, "You will soon die, and you are not yet simple..." If he knew the O-Zone would he know that's not (always) true?
John: A day without sunshine is like … night!

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