O-Zone: Stay focused

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Ponte Vedra, FL:
It's nice to see an article about Blake Bortles and the bar being raised for 2018. Unlike some Jag followers, I've known from the day Blake was drafted that he would develop into the franchise quarterback the Jags have been looking for. Do you agree that Blake will have a breakout season in 2018?
John: You're referring to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles saying in his first 2018 offseason media availability that the bar has been raised for 2018. He said this Tuesday referring to expectations around the organization, but yeah … he absolutely could have been talking about expectations around him. I don't know for certain that Bortles will develop into the "Franchise Quarterback" the Jaguars have been seeking, because many fans define "Franchise Quarterback" in different ways – and because he hasn't yet done so. I do know for sure that the Jaguars believe strongly he improved in 2018, particularly in the second half of the season and postseason. I also know for sure that there is a belief within the organization that the improvement can continue, and that the Jaguars can win in the postseason with Bortles. As for your last question, I'm always a little fuzzy on what "breakout" means. In Bortles' case, he sort of broke out in 2015 statistically, then regressed. He then sort of broke out in 2017 in terms of winning and postseason success, but he didn't do it in a way that dazzled all observers. I believe Bortles will continue to improve and I believe the Jaguars will be competitive this season. I believe he will be a better player in clutch situations than he was last season. If that's breaking out, so be it.
Dylan from Aurora:
I agree with you that the Jags should take offensive line at No. 29. Assuming all the o-line prospects except Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson are on the board at No. 29, who would you take? Tackle Connor Williams of Texas? Tackle Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame? Another? Curious to get your thoughts.
John: I don't pretend to have a deep, detailed knowledge of every offensive lineman available in the 2018 NFL draft. I do love Nelson, but who doesn't? I like the idea of McGlinchey, because I like what I've seen in my limited look at him. Many also believe is the second-best offensive lineman available. It's never a bad thing to have two young tackles who you believe are starters for the foreseeable future. I also like the physicality of guard Will Hernandez of Texas-El Paso; it seems he would be a logical fit for how this team wants to play.
Jags Fan 818:
Hey, Zone. What's up with the hot dogs?!? You put mustard, or slaw or chili and cheese! Go Jags!
John: Yes. And ketchup. Absolutely.
Mason from Palm Bay, FL:
Record wise, were our current uniforms the worst in franchise history?
John: This is a tricky question because while the Jaguars' uniforms changed at times before 2013, the latest rendition of the uniform marked far and away the most extreme change in franchise history. Still, the Jaguars were 25-55 from 2013-2017, so "record-wise" it indeed was a dark time. But that dark time also included an AFC South title and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game this past season, so it wasn't as if it was all darkness and despair. But here's a reminder for the uninitiated: while uniforms are cool, and while some people like (and dislike) them, they don't decide the game. The Jaguars' results over the past five years – and particularly this past season – pretty much proved that. They also tend to look better if the team is winning. This past season also proved that – for some people, anyway.
Julio from Southern Cal:
If one of the Top 4 quarterbacks or Derrius Guice drops to 29, do you make the pick?
John: I would be tempted by Guice and I have said throughout the offseason that the Jaguars' commitment to the running game could tempt them to take a running back earlier than some believe. Still, it would be difficult to take a running back in Round 1 two consecutive seasons. As far as one of the quarterbacks slipping, it would depend on the value I had on the player. If I thought he were a franchise-changing quarterback, I would make the selection. So yeah … I would probably make the selection.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
We had a long stretch of football where the Jaguars could go multiple games in a row without tallying a sack, and sometimes no player with double digits in sacks for the season. All of a sudden, Dante Fowler Jr. is "just a backup." Some people are fanning out of control, John.
John: Wait for it …
Tucker from Nashville, TN:
John, we lost value as soon as we drafted Dante Fowler Jr. over Leonard Williams. The Jags didn't pick up Fowler's option. We are not going to pay him because that money is going to Yannick Ngakoue. We either trade Fowler Jr. or let him walk next year.
John: I see this topic isn't going away quickly. A couple of thoughts: First, the deadline hasn't passed for the Jaguars to pick up Fowler's option for 2019; it's May 3. Second, yes: there is a possibility that the Jaguars could allow Fowler to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2018 season. But that's not a done deal – and whatever happens following 2018, the value Fowler brings for this franchise is significant enough to keep him on the roster.
Mason from Palm Bay, FL:
Took me a full day to really understand how selfless this comment was by Poz: "I'd rather retire a year early than a year late." He's basically saying he would rather pass up on millions of dollars than let his teammates down. There have been very few, if any, players that would make that same decision. What an honor it has been to root for this guy.
John: There certainly was an element to this story of Posluszny passing up a couple of million dollars; he without question walked away from at least that when he retired. But I think more difficult for Posluszny was walking away from the life he has known for 20 years, a life he wasn't emotionally ready to leave. He truly loved everything about being an NFL player; it in a very real sense has been his identity. He also emphasized in his retirement speech Monday that he understandably fears not being able to find the camaraderie and purpose in another profession he had playing football. Stopping doing a thing you love that much obviously isn't easy – and Posluszny didn't have to retire. He chose to walk away because he didn't want to play if he couldn't live up to his standard. It admittedly almost sounds corny, but it's not corny if you know Posluszny. And no … I don't know that that many players would have made the same decision.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
The O-Zone has always been the Zone of the Free, ketchup your hot dog if you please!
John: Solidarnosc!!!
Biff from Jacksonville:
Poz raised that bar to a considerable height, didn't he? After watching Telvin Smith's honest and heartfelt speech, I don't want to let Poz down either! We'd better all up our game. #WWPozDo
John: The relationship between Posluszny and Telvin is one of the coolest stories around the Jaguars in recent memory. Monday cemented it forever in the history of this team – and it assured few who saw it will ever forget it. And that was very cool.
Steven from Duval:
Twenty years ago Poz would've been a Hall of Fame middle linebacker. He deserved more Pro Bowls and recognition than he received nationally, but to see the affect he has had on Telvin Smith and us fans has been nothing short of amazing. The man is a great player but a better man. I know we have some past greats waiting to get in the Pride, but I think this one time we should just skip the red tape and honor Poz this year. He has meant so much more than just a player through all these losing seasons. Can it happen? #pozpride
John: I doubt it will happen this season, and I don't really believe it should happen this season. An honor such as the Pride of the Jaguars is best awarded with some time for those doing the deciding to gain perspective and get away from the immediacy of a career and the emotion of retirement. I do believe that Posluszny would be deserving of the Pride. I believe there are a lot of players so deserving and I think it will take a few years for Posluszny to be honored. If it indeed happens.
Dave from DUUUVAL:
Dear John, "Be where our butt is!"
John: I wasn't sure Head Coach Doug Marrone could find a new, entertaining way of saying the Jaguars needed to be focused on the right things this offseason. He could. And did.

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