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O-Zone: The ride begins

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from New Hampshire:
Blake Bortles was not perfect by any means Sunday. But I'm glad he's starting next week. The entire energy of the team changed when he came into the game.
John: We'll start here because you have to start with Bortles in this Monday O-Zone. He entered the game at halftime against Indianapolis, and in case you missed it, he indeed has been named the Jaguars' starting quarterback – for the San Diego game Sunday and beyond. The Bortles Era indeed has begun, and most Jaguars observers are glad he's starting. There will perhaps be debate about why the coaches waited "so long," but while Bortles indeed gave the Jaguars a lift, there were examples, too, of why the coaches were waiting. Bortles made mistakes. He threw two interceptions and it's clear this will be a work in progress. There will be more mistakes and it's possible – even probable – that fans will experience some frustration with him before he develops into a polished, consistent quarterback. But, yes, the energy changed Sunday and he indeed is the guy now. That means the debate can end and the process of growing and building around him at last can fully begin.
Micah from Chicago, IL:
Is the Henne era over? Can I open my eyes?
John: Yes.
Jarred from Las Vegas, NV:
I am glad the Jags finally got the quarterback situation figured out. Now they can focus on fixing this defense. They did not show improvement Sunday.
John: This is pretty spot on, and it would be naive to say it's not a concern. While the defense was very good in the first half of the first game against Philadelphia, it has struggled mightily in 10 quarters since. It is a mystery to many involved, too. The Jaguars added Red Bryant, Ziggy Hood and Chris Clemons on the defensive front and Dekoda Watson at linebacker. I didn't have the impression that these players would make this Jaguars' defense the stuff of legends, but I expected that they would give the unit a chance to be more consistently good in the way it was good last year. That meant getting the run stopped and swarming to the quarterback. It meant fighting and scrapping and keeping the team in games. It meant playing consistently and minimizing errors. The Jaguars missed 21 tackles with double-digit mental errors against Washington a week ago, and while the coaches have yet to review video, the performance in the first half didn't look any better Sunday. The logic entering the season was that this defense would be good enough to keep the Jaguars in more games than last season – and keep the team more competitive – as the offense learned on the fly. That logic hasn't held up.
Kyle from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Blake Bortles: 14-24 for 223 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. I don't think there are many rookies who can come in with a 30-point deficit playing against division rivals who can make plays like Blake did. He made rookie mistakes, sure, but the kid has moxie! Is it safe to say bye-bye, Henne?
John: Bortles does have moxie. He has the confidence, boldness and aura of a big-time quarterback. He also seems to have the decision-making ability and talent to make all the other stuff matter. As far as saying "bye-bye, Henne" … as the starter, yes. But there are far worse backups in the NFL than Henne. He is well-respected in the Jaguars' locker room and this team is in no hurry to see him go.
Lewis from Section 408:
OK, John: Blake's in. Now let's talk defense. We all thought with what we had and the additions in the offseason that they would be able to keep us in games with a chance to win. Except for the first half of the Eagles game they are horrible. So please don't say they got gassed in the first half. They made regular substitutions and that shouldn't be a problem. So what's up?
John: The coaches are going to spend some time trying to figure that out this week. Bradley was asked after the game Sunday if he planned to take over defensive play-calling duties. He said no. He also discussed the first drive of the game, one on which the Colts drove the length of the field for a field goal. He said he was pleased with the calls and that overall he wouldn't have changed much. He also said he could understand it if it was a matter of there being a bunch of plays the players weren't capable of making, but he said that wasn't the case, either – that he felt the players were talented enough to make the plays that weren't being made. Bottom line is the coaches know this is a concern, and there's going to be a focus. That's not a satisfying answer after a performance such as Sunday's, but that's where things lie.
Marciano from Shoals:
Upset to say that although I am pleased to see the direction that Bortles took the offense in the second half, I find that it has me questioning the coaching staff. It seems obvious the better player was not permitted the opportunity to play. It makes me wonder how many other mistakes are being made that the fans don't know about.
John: There certainly are going to be questions about the Jaguars waiting to play Bortles. That's understandable. But remember: in the big picture, the Jaguars sat Bortles for two and a half games, not two and a half years. Remember, too, this is a phenomenally young offense that remains a phenomenally young offense. That's what happens when you essentially overhaul an entire offense in one offseason. The Jaguars were concerned with adding a rookie quarterback to that already young mix, and you saw in the second half why. Bortles threw two second-half interceptions and had a couple of other plays that made you wonder what he was seeing. I say that not as a criticism, but to say that those things will happen. There probably will be games this season when fans wonder why Bortles is playing, and why the Jaguars drafted him. That's the way of life for a team with a young quarterback, and it's the Jaguars' way of life now.
Ryan from Toronto, Canada:
Honestly, aside from the garbage-time touchdown, I wasn't that impressed with Bortles. Then again, I don't think Peyton Manning would have looked any better being saddled with that much lack of talent around him.
John: I'm as cautious when doling out post-game praise as anyone. I believe strongly that in the NFL things aren't as good or as bad as they first seem. But it's hard to be anything but impressed with Bortles' early body of work. I'm not putting him in Canton, or even punching Pro Bowl tickets, but for a rookie he is impressive. He's certainly impressive enough to offer hope. And I disagree with the lack-of-talent comment offensively as a blanket statement. The line is struggling, but one thing that stood out to me Sunday was rookie wide receiver Allen Robinson. I have pretty low expectations for rookie wide receivers, but he continuously has the look of a big-time player in the making.
Billy from Melbourne, FL:
John: Has this team really improved?
John: It seemed to a little in the second half, although I can't honestly say the Colts were playing on all cylinders at that point. Offensively, no question the Jaguars were better in the second half. Defensively, they were a little better, but the Colts weren't exactly playing with urgency. As for improvement, Bortles is in. He's the guy now. That gave the Jaguars a lift on Sunday. We'll see if it lasts.
Clint from British Columbia:
What's the deal with Aaron Colvin? Is he eligible to participate this season? Do you think he will? If so at what point?
John: Colvin, a rookie cornerback, is on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He appears to be improving from the anterior cruciate ligament tear he sustained at the Senior Bowl. He can theoretically began practicing six weeks into the season then play shortly after that. I'd guess we'll see him sometime in the second half of the season.
Bernard from Tucson, AZ:
Now this is a loss I can live with. Not only because we started playing Blake Bortles, but because his entry into the game changed everything. The team started playing better - like they realized that the whole field and playbook is now open for use. I can see the light at the end of the darkness...
John: We said all along the choice for the Jaguars was Bortles' obvious talent and raw ability versus Henne's experience and knowledge of the offense. A strength of Henne's was he wasn't going to put the team into bad spots with interceptions and mistakes. Bortles' strength is that he's going to make plays and do some spectacular things, though his inexperience will lead to errors. We saw that in the second half, when Bortles alternated the spectacular (two touchdowns and a few exciting first-down producing plays) with a few rookie mistakes (he called the pass that was intercepted for a Pick Six "stupid"). I wrote from the preseason on that I understood the coaches' concern, and I did. I also wrote that I would like to see Bortles. Now, it's Bortles' time. We're going to see some spectacular and we're going to see some mistakes. This season will be about whittling away the latter. Hold on for the ride.

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