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O-Zone: Stand up eight

JACKSONVILLE – There’s no making sense of Sunday. I won’t try.

We’re a football community here in the O-Zone, a forum for fun. It’s not the place for a diatribe on guns, or for speculation on what causes people to do what a person did at the Jacksonville Landing Sunday afternoon.

Three people died Sunday at the Landing, which is less than two miles from TIAA Bank Field. That doesn’t make it a “Jaguars event,” but it certainly makes it something that seems very real to many reading this.

No, there’s no making sense of Sunday – and even if it were possible, I sure couldn’t do it.

It goes without saying that no one expects to go to a Madden Tournament expecting to be shot, to be injured, or to die. Yes, these things happen in the times in which we live; it goes without saying that saying that sort of thing doesn’t help, either.

So, what will we do here? In the O-Zone? At jaguars.com? We’ll cover the events here at TIAA Bank Field Monday. We’ll talk football. We’ll do an O-Zone Monday. And another Tuesday.

But know that we’ll do so with Sunday on our minds.

Let’s get to it …

Renee from My County

My prayers are with all the victims and with my fellow citizens. I’m very saddened.

You are not alone.

Tony from Perryville, AR

Hey, John: First may I say there were definitely highs and lows Saturday. But I think this team will be very good again. Second, it sucks to lose a starter at the beginning once again. I also think it sucks for the Falcons player who put the hit on Jaguars wide receiver Lee because it didn’t seem intentional. I feel like the future of tackling is going to be somewhat of a crapshoot. Am I mistaken? I’m sure players will adapt, but the road ahead looks to be a tough one, especially for defenses with a reputation like ours. #DTWD Go Jags!

You absolutely can say there were highs and lows in the Jaguars’ 17-6 Preseason Week 3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Saturday. You can start with the highs of a potentially great defense, and you can spend some time on what appears to be an intriguing multi-back offense. But as you mention, you also must spend time on what appears to be a serious knee injury sustained by wide receiver Marqise Lee. I agree that the hit didn’t seem intentionally low – and the reality is the current tackling rules seem to encourage low hits as opposed to high ones. And while the thought here is that the Jaguars have the depth at receiver to sustain the injury, the thought here also is you’re right that tackling right now has far too much of a crapshoot feel. As Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey said after Saturday’s game, players aren’t sure exactly how to tackle. Whether the rules are correct or plausible or fair or whatever, it’s a problem if players aren’t sure how to play the game under the rules.

John from Jagstown

So, another thing I like about Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is that he never sells out his receivers, but twice in the postgame – and also Freddy T on TV – made it sound like the second interception was more on the route rather than the pass?

Shhh. That would indicate that not everything that ails the Jaguars is Bortles’ fault and we all know everything that ails the Jaguars is Bortles’ fault.

Don from Norfolk, VA

I just read your article on Bortles talking about one of his interceptions in the Falcons game. He said, "The one down in the red zone, you can’t do that. You’ve got to get at least get three points out of there. It’s tough to throw an interception there on the two or the three or wherever he caught that ball. So, we’ve just got to make better decisions as far as taking care of it.” I couldn't help but notice that he used "you and we" instead of "I" in his comments. I wonder if Blake getting tired of taking ownership of his bad decisions?

You’re overthinking it a bit. Players talking at postgame press conferences are doing so in the heat of the moment, trying to answer questions as best they can. They’re often not choosing their words particularly carefully or thinking about the nuanced difference between “we” and “you” and “I.” Bortles is smart enough to realize interceptions are often a team thing rather than a “wide receiver” or a “quarterback” thing, and his comments usually reflect as much.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

I think Bortles has matured and developed as a quarterback. His accuracy has improved and is evident. He has better pocket presence and awareness. He changed his arm angle to deliver the pass to fullback Tommy Bohannon with pressure in his face. He is making better decisions and minimizing mistakes. The interception came on a tipped pass and you will get those with every quarterback. He can make plays with his legs that most quarterbacks can't make. Bortles is definitely an asset and has come a long way from two seasons ago. Great decision to stick with him, I can't say everyone would have done the same.

Hey, one fer Bortles …

Ray from Jacksonville

John: How bad does it have to get? Bortles is a liability. Please don’t say he led the team to the AFC Championship Game. He rode the defense to that game. Two awful interceptions (the guy that tipped the first on was right in his line of sight), and those weren’t even his worst throws (can’t use word “passes” as it applies to him). Does Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin no longer hate the “callous disregard for the ball?” Bortles attempted two throws of more than 15 yards. One was intercepted in the red zone and the other should have been. Should a fifth-year quarterback try a back-handed shotput to a covered back? He is awful. The backup threw the ball on time and where it needed to be.

… and one not fer Bortles.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, should wide receiver Dede Westbrook have made a little more effort to prevent that second interception? That one didn’t look like a terrible throw to me.

Yeah, probably – though it still didn’t look like a great throw. Like most negative plays in football, an interception often is the result of many things rather than one. But it’s easier to blame one guy, and it’s really easy to blame the guy throwing the pass.

Brian from Gainesville, FL

Big O, former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor commented during the broadcast of the game against the Falcons that a receiver was at least partly to blame for Blake’s second interception. Taylor’s point was that the receiver that defender was covering was a decoy and that by turning around when he shouldn’t have, he drew the eyes of the defender to Blake and thus the interception. What are your thoughts on this? I’m not saying it somehow exonerates Blake, but if valid it’s a good example of just how much football is a team game.

Yes, it is.

Paul from Jacksonville

So many worries, John. Blake threw picks. Left tackle Cam Robinson isn't blocking like he should. If last season taught me anything, it was to never get sent to a Turkish prison. Wait, no. It taught me that the preseason means little other than whatever injuries occur (sending good thoughts Lee's way right now.) Bortles will be fine. Cam will be fine, or Head Coach Doug Marrone and Company will figure something out. As long as this defense stays healthy, there's no one in the league this team can't play with.

You have the proper perspective on the preseason. Not that there aren’t concerns. Of course there are concerns. If there were no concerns this team would go 16-0 with sixteen double-digit victories and a 200-yard-per-game total-yardage advantage – and with apologies to Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson’s 16-0 prediction, neither of the aforementioned is going to happen. On the list of concerns, I would put Robinson’s struggles above a couple of interceptions by Bortles. He needs to get his footwork and positioning issues worked out. As for Bortles, remember: interceptions always look bad on the quarterback, but there is often more to them than originally seems.

Pedal Bin from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

John, I like many UK Jags am trying to comprehend the news of the shootings at The Landing. I visited The Landing when I was lucky enough to come to Jacksonville last year. I met fellow Jags fans there, went to the restaurants there, just sat there and watched the world go past having a cold drink. Just terrible news and such a senseless act. I do not know what to say and I know there is nothing I can say to those that have lost a loved one or have a love one recovering in hospital that will make them feel better or take the pain away. I cannot begin to imagine the loss they feel. There is nothing I can do to offer any help but feel like I should be doing something. All I can do is say just how heartbroken I am at hearing the news. We are thinking of you all. One thing the struck me when I visited was the pride shown by the locals in Jacksonville. I am sure you will all stay strong and will bounce back from this although the road may be long and at times there will be barriers in the road that will feel you will never get past. But you will. Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Well said.

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