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O-Zone: Sweet anticipation

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mason from Palm Bay, FL:
You typically ignore all of my questions, but I've got 99 days until the start of the season to keep asking some version of this. You said Blake was neither great nor awful at practice last Friday. Which is what you wrote before 2015 and 2016. Okay, so is that the standard of NFL quarterbacking? Is 2015 and 2016 acceptable? Are we just going to assume he's a bad practice player every year and limp our way into the season and finish with five wins? I'm not even sure what "not being a practice player" means when he doesn't look like a regular-season game player, either.
John: My answers about how Blake Bortles threw in practice Friday aren't meant to establish a standard of NFL quarterbacking, nor are they meant to provide grounds for whether or not his 2015 and 2016 seasons were acceptable. They were meant to say how he threw Friday – or at least, how I thought he threw. What's acceptable from Bortles? Not 2015. Or 2016. I don't have the answer on how much Bortles' practice performances translate to games, the definition of a practice player or how much Bortles' performances in 2017 organized team activities will have to do with his 2017 performance. I just know he has to be better, and I believe his decision-making next season will have more to do with his performance than the mechanical issues that are such a hot topic right now. As for my approach to your questions, I rarely ignore any question. I read every email sent to me, in fact. But I can't answer them all. How do I decide what questions make the cut? Sometimes it's just how the breeze is blowing when I read the question; I am, after all, a whimsical sort. Other times, I am sending a message about my perception of the emailer's value as a person by whether or not I answer. I've found it better to not to indicate when I am doing the latter. The fallout isn't always pretty.
Matthew from Jags4life:
Will you come to prom with me?
John: Lemme ask my mom.
Steve from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Why are the defensive players not participating ... the ones Smith is upset about? Are they injured? Most of them were here recently and I do not recall anything being said about them limited.
John: Before we go further here, I didn't hear Smith say he was upset about the Jaguars defensive players who aren't participating in OTAs. I heard him say he was upset the team wasn't further along in its progress. I have seen some people speculate he might be upset about players not participating. That speculation doesn't seem very realistic. And if Smith is upset about that, it's not particularly fair. The defensive players who aren't participating in practice – cornerback A.J. Bouye, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Aaron Colvin chief among them --- are out because of injuries. Most of them to my knowledge have been in meetings and at practice working on the side far more often than not.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
I get that it is hard to come back from a torn ACL, but that doesn't excuse bone-headed plays nor does it excuse Dante Fowler Jr. for only using one pass-rush move every single play. His one and only move is... SPRINT OFF THE EDGE AND HOPE HE IS FASTER THAN THE OFFENSIVE TACKLE. He has no spin move, no swim move and no combo of anything. He just tries to use pure speed and that works great in organized team activities when no one can hit you. But in a real game just sprinting off the edge every play will be successful all of one in 1,000,000 times. That's why he is currently a bust.
John: It has been well-established that Dante Fowler Jr. must improve his pass-rushing technique. It's also well-established that he needs to reduce avoidable penalties.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
I know that in the end we will see what we shall see, but do you think the young defensive ends with the addition of Calais Campbell and other defensive linemen will make the needed jump this season to at least be average at rushing the passer on third down? Do you think an average third-down pass rush would elevate the Jaguars from currently being a good defense into a great one?
John: Third-down pass rush absolutely holds the key to whether the Jaguars can be an elite defense this season. That's why I believe Campbell was the most important unrestricted free agent signed by the team this offseason. I do think his presence and the further development of Yannick Ngakoue will get the pass rush to at least an average level. I believe it needs to be great in must-pass-rush situations, and I do have serious doubts whether this group can be great. That's because when it comes to pass rushing, great means multiple players who can get consistent pass rush in late-game situations. I believe Campbell can do it. I think Ngakoue will get a step better in the area this season. Fowler is important in this equation, and he hasn't shown it yet. If he does, then the Jaguars can take another serious step toward greatness. If he doesn't, I wonder who gives them that step.
Justin from Hampton, VA:
Other than Leonard Fournette, who are you looking forward to seeing when the pads are on? My pick is Cam Robinson; we need a beast on that line.
John: Dede Westbrook. This team needs game-breaking players.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Two questions, Big-O. I like Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee, but when I watch A-Rob, he just looks like he has "it" out of the wide receiver position despite the dropped off production from last year, and the dependence on quality quarterback play. Do you see Robinson having another Pro Bowl year in 2017? And what are your thoughts on him becoming a NFL superstar?
John: Robinson can have a 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown season next season because he wasn't too far off those numbers last season in what by any measure was a very difficult season for the offense on a lot of fronts. I'd have to put Robinson as a Pro Bowl long shot not because he won't be productive, but because the Jaguars don't want to throw nearly as much as they did in 2015. That doesn't mean Robinson can't have a very productive season – maybe even a better season in some ways than 2015 – but his numbers may not be eye-catching enough to make the Pro Bowl at a very competitive position. As for him becoming a superstar … sure, I think he can get into the upper echelon of receivers. He has the skill set – and his range and ability to high point the ball is the sort of "above-the-Xs-and-Os" attribute a player needs to be special in the NFL for the long term. This is a big year for him on that front because he's had one down year. He doesn't want that to become a trend.
Zack from Jacksonville:
One of the biggest improvements I want to see under Doug Marrone is reduction of penalties. It seems like we always have not only the worst timing when it comes to penalties, but just extremely dumb penalties at that. I especially think of Fowler as I type this. Do you foresee an improvement? If so, what do you think Marrone can do that Bradley could not, in regards to getting the team to play smarter?
John: Marrone will emphasize the area, and players will have no room for doubt about what penalties are acceptable and what penalties are unacceptable. Marrone will make it clear in meetings, in team rules and in immediate ramifications for unacceptable penalties. And yes, Marrone will be quicker to reduce playing time for mistakes in this area than Gus Bradley was last season. Will Fowler get it? Will other players? If they don't, it won't be for a lack of emphasis.
Kevin from Fleming Island, FL:
Why are we rebuilding everything but the quarterback position, which is the most important of all? You know and I know how this will end up. I can't believe Tom Coughlin is going to accept this poor talent at quarterback that will drag the franchise down.
John: You're not nice.
Don from Jacksonville:
Hey, John: Do you think Gus Bradley will get another shot at head coach in the NFL? Why not?
John: I don't think it's out of the question. History shows many NFL head coaches who have lost many games have gotten another chance. I'm not saying Bradley "deserves" anything after his record in Jacksonville. I am saying it's a weird league.
Trevor from Deland, FL:
Hey Johnny. Just checking in on ya! I hope you have a great summer. See you at training camp! Peace!
John: Well, we'll look forward to that, Greg.

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