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O-Zone: The only solution

HOUSTON, Texas – Let's get to it … Dane from Jacksonville:
John, you always seem very tempered and cautious with your evaluation of Blake Bortles. You aren't this way with a lot of other players on the team – i.e., A-Rob, Telvin Smith, Brandon Linder. Your hesitancy is somewhat concerning to me. I understand he's still learning and makes a few too many mistakes, but do you feel there's a chance he could ultimately NOT be the guy? Myself and most other fans are in agreement he's going to be, and probably already is, the best quarterback that ever has played for the Jaguars. Would you kinda, sorta agree?
John: I don't think there's any question Blake Bortles is the Jaguars' quarterback of the future. The reasons I'm more tempered and cautious with Bortles than other players center around quarterback being a different, more complicated position than the others – and the fact that Bortles still clearly has developing to do before he becomes the best quarterback to play for the Jaguars. He has some winning – a lot of winning, actually – to do and he must reduce the interceptions. He also must improve his accuracy and decision-making, and needs to improve those things entering next season. Bortles appears on his way to being elite, but being on the way and being there are two different things.
Ron from Orlando, FL:
Year 'whatever into rebuilding we are' the defense should be much further along than this. Clearly Telvin's a stud, Colvin has a chance and Marks is exceptional, but besides that the cupboard is looking bare. After hearing about being Year 3 into a rebuild (although we're really in Year 6 or 7), there should be more talent on the defense. There needs to be significant spending and drafting on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason.
John: A couple of thoughts on your thoughts. One, if you're listing good players on the Jaguars' defense and leave out Roy Miller then you have an incomplete list. That list also should at least include Jared Odrick, Paul Posluszny, Tyson Alualu and Davon House. It still could include Johnathan Cyprien, though the Jaguars need to get a free safety alongside so that Cyprien can play a truer strong-safety role. Two, you can be frustrated with seven or eight years of struggling on the field, but to call this the seventh year of a rebuild when David Caldwell and Gus Bradley clearly began rebuilding, redrafting and redeveloping the roster in 2013 is categorically incorrect. It'd be great if there was more young talent on the defensive side of the ball. It would be awesome if the Jaguars could have drafted three players in the first, second and third rounds of every draft. They cannot, and they have focused mostly on offense in their first three seasons drafting. There is a good chance the defense will feature two first-round, Top 10 selections next season – Dante Fowler Jr. and a Top 10 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. That should add two good young players, and I'd be surprised if the Jaguars don't go defense in Rounds 2 and 3 in the coming offseason, too. As far as building the defense, that's a good start.
Tom from Katy, TX:
Other than the W-L record – and I understand that's the most important thing – there is a lot synching up for this entire organization - starting with Wayne Weaver. What a tremendous find in Mr. Khan, whose vision is rare. His hiring of Dave and Gus was spot on. They are great talent evaluators and teachers, respectively. They are building the right way for long-term success. Dave found our quarterback and is putting other pieces in place year after year. I'm glad Khan is sticking to his plan of patience, allowing the foundation to be strong. The topic of continuity that has been discussed in this forum is more important than people realize. Change at the top is not always the right answer; in fact, I think it forces a team to pause progress in most cases. The winning record/playoffs are coming. John, can you see it?
John: I can see it. You can see it. A lot of people see it. Ron perhaps is not one of those people.
Steve from Jacksonville:
So, Bradley will be a lame-duck coach next season like Chuck Pagano this year, so come November or December next year Bradley will need an extension or if not - the writing will be on the wall.
John: I suppose so. Look, we can dig in and burrow down on this topic all we want, but here's the bottom line: Gus Bradley is entering the final year of his contract and I see no reason Shad Khan won't continue to evaluate him as he has evaluated everything the past few years. If there is acceptable progress and improvement with real evidence that that will continue, then I believe Khan will keep this group together. As I have said many times, the Jaguars have improved about as much as they can under this regime without a significant difference in the record.
Bruce from Owensboro, KY:
I feel like after the season is over there will be some information come out about Chris Clemons. I know he's older, but his production drop off was much more than I anticipated this season. He got a veteran day off every week and why was he always listed on the injury report (not injury related)? Can you give any insight into this without invading his privacy?
John: There's no "inside story" regarding Chris Clemons. He did not practice on Wednesdays this season because as an older player the Jaguars hoped to reduce wear, tear and fatigue. It's a fairly common practice around the NFL with older players. When a player misses a practice for any reason he must be listed on the injury report. Because Clemons was not injured he is listed as "not injury related."
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
As you have mentioned many times, the best players don't normally hit free agency because they are either retained or stay with their current team unless the Jaguars overpay such player – and that's not even guaranteed. So, now the Jags are desperate and going away from their philosophy and will try to overpay someone? With that in mind, how confident are you about the Jags' defense next year with an actual rookie defensive end, an older version of Sen'Derrick Marks that has been injured for two years and additional rookies? Do you really think this team or a lame duck coach will win nine or 10 and be in a playoff race next year?
John: The Jaguars signed eight unrestricted free agents last offseason, and that list included a high-profile, high-priced signing in tight end Julius Thomas. The Jaguars also pursued safety Devin McCourty and wide receiver Randall Cobb, so it's not as if their philosophy has been Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Sign High-Dollar Free Agents. Their philosophy has been to pursue players than can help them and that make sense. If they pursue such players and they sign elsewhere, the Jaguars' approach has been to be smart and not sign the next guy on the list just for the sake of signing that player. As far as the Jaguars' defense, remember: this was not an awful defense much of the season; rather, it was a defense that struggled to rush the passer and lacked speed and playmaking ability at the back end at times. As far as what next season will hold, let's let this offseason play out and see where we stand in a few months.
Sean from Jacksonville:
I understand why a lot of people want to overspend in free agency to get our 'D' right, but are people not realizing that it's almost time to re-sign Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns?
John: The Jaguars have enough cap room to sign unrestricted free agents this offseason and still re-sign the players in question.
Mike from Creekside:
O-Man, do all these people demanding high-priced free agents remember last year when they whined about missing on Ndamukong Suh and DeMarco Murray? They might have turned our Jags around like the teams they ended up with. Cracking open the checkbook is not always the solution. Nothing Shad Khan or David Caldwell have done so far tells me spending money is an issue to be concerned about (except maybe the senior writer's salary).
John: The Jaguars will spend this offseason when and where it makes sense, and if that means spending big for a high-profile, impact player then that's what they will do. They won't spend willy-nilly or stupid – at least not intentionally.
Paul from Jacksonville:
When I see our defense, I see a group that would struggle to pressure the quarterback regardless of scheme. I'm not sure what I think about Bob Babich as a coordinator, but I don't see where anyone coming in would have had markedly different results over 16 games. Many people fans, media, bloggers with delusions of grandeur have been down on this team this year. But I think that crowd is discounting significant (and in some cases outstanding) improvements in many areas. This isn't Madden. There's no formula, and I believe we're closer than many think to having the team we've longed for these many years.
John: But … but … but … fire someone!! Blame someone!!! Aaaarrgghhh!!

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