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O-Zone: The Wisdom Plan

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, Blake Bortles has not gone 100 for 100 with 100 touchdowns thus far in preseason. And the defense has neither sacked the opposing quarterback 20 times nor intercepted 20 passes that were returned for touchdowns. Why are you lying to us about the progress of this team?
John: Your question is written with obvious (and appreciated) sarcasm, but your point is a correct one. I have gotten a strange dissatisfied sense from some readers with the preseason performance to date. This speaks to skyrocketing expectations about this team. The Jaguars through two preseason games have performed better than I expected – because I primarily focus on the starting and front-level players during preseason. The offense as a whole has looked much better than I anticipated, with Bortles, the wide receivers, the running game and the offensive line all looking very good. It's still the preseason, but this looks like a unit that can be more efficient and more effective than last season – and that can dictate to defenses how it wants to play. The offense was not at that level last season, so that's improvement. The first-team defense is coming together, and the group felt much better after the Buccaneers game than it did after the Jets game. The defense on Saturday played with the aggressiveness it expects – and it got good news when cornerback Jalen Ramsey showed he may be an impact, difference-maker as a rookie. Those are things that bode well for this franchise. I had been reluctant to say this team had a very real chance to get to eight or nine victories this season. No more.
John from Orange Park, FL:
Watching the defense, I don't see the level of communication and trust that I should see in a top defense. If I was Todd Wash, I would make the entire defense sit together and watch Super Bowl 48. Use that as a measuring stick. This is what it looks like, boys. Now go do it.
John: OK.
Duval Doom from Section 217:
So far, I think Blake Bortles and the offense look good. Man, Chad though … whew. The defense has disappointed me, but I recognize that disappointment comes from a place of unrealistic expectations.
John: I have been struck in the last week or so by the number of people disappointed in the defense. The first-team defense has been on the field for four possessions. It has allowed one touchdown and a missed field goal on two of the possessions – and has gotten off the field with a pressure and an interception on two others. The defense actually got off the field on the missed field-goal drive against Tampa Bay only to be aided by a silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on linebacker Telvin Smith. So, overall the defense has played … "OK," let's say. Remember, too: We are talking about a unit that didn't have Ramsey and Tashaun Gipson in the preseason opener – and about a unit that is featuring five/six/seven players new to the team and/or new to the NFL. I don't think there's any question this defense will start the season better than it was last season, and I also don't think there's any question it will be better as the season goes on. But if you're expecting dominant cohesion from this defense immediately … yes, then you're indeed setting yourself up for disappointment.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I felt like we dodged a bullet last year with Bortles not getting seriously injured considering the sacks and hits he took. Pass protection so far has been really good and the threat of a running game helps a lot. I know it's preseason but it's all we have for now.
John: The offensive line is a story that seems to have been overlooked thus far this preseason. Maybe people don't quite trust it yet. Maybe it's because it's still preseason. But through two preseason games the unit has done everything it has been asked to do. It looks good run-blocking and it has looked good pass-blocking. Kelvin Beachum also hasn't played yet, so it would be difficult for the line to have played better than it has so far.
Dylan from Valdosta, GA (in Oregon):
I wonder if you could touch on the aggression J. Ram and T. Smith both had as they threw their old college quarterback/teammate to the ground in the first quarter against the Bucs. It was exciting to see that physical style of play from a Jags team that really hasn't consistently played with much in a great many years – or really, ever. Keep up the good work and I'm sure we'll chat again soon.
John: The aggression was fine until Smith drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing Jameis Winston to the ground. That was when it went from being fine to being silly and hurtful. There has been a little too much of that in recent weeks– with Dante Fowler Jr. in fights in practice and the throwing of Winston the other night. The Jaguars' young players should be aggressive, but let's not be silly.
Sean from San Bernardino, CA:
Hey O-Dawg, recently I've heard and read a few remarks from media and other fans that "Blake Bortles is consistently bailed out of bad quarterback play by Allen Robinson's abilities." While I obviously disagree, do you think A-Rob makes Bortles look better at the quarterback position than he actually is?
John: This is A Thing People Say that has turned into A Thing More People Say. It's also one of those things that has a shred of truth but isn't nearly as accurate as many people believe. There indeed were times last season when I thought Bortles perhaps over-leaned on Robinson's playmaking abilities. That was an understandable instinct for a young quarterback because – guess what? Robinson has some really special game-changing abilities. It's not a silly instinct at all for a quarterback to rely on him. In that sense, I definitely think it was true that Robinson made Bortles look better than he played at times last season. At the same time, I don't think that is the case this preseason. Bortles overall has played well in the preseason; the second-quarter touchdown pass to Allen Hurns Saturday, for instance, was as good a play as Bortles has made in three NFL seasons. Look, Bortles is going to depend on Robinson. He's going to throw him 50-50 balls. He should do that, because it plays into the strength of a guy who might be the best player on the team right now. But that's not the only thing Bortles does, and indications early this preseason are that the Jaguars' quarterback is growing up in a hurry.
A little common sense:
If you believe that Chad Henne is a better option at quarterback than Denard Robinson – who could occasionally run the Wildcat – you're on psychedelic drugs or eating Shad's mustache oil.
John: That name you used as an intro … I don't think it means what you think it means.
Jared from O-Town:
What happens if Kelvin Beachum ends up being noticeably better at left tackle than Joeckel, but is tremendously better at left guard?
John: I think under your scenario the Jaguars would play Beachum at guard – partly because Joeckel has played so well at tackle already. But I think eventually what will happen is Beachum will play left tackle and Joeckel will play guard.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Did you observe any fixable errors by the defense on Saturday evening?
John: Yes, because you can fix throwing a guy to the ground after the whistle.
DimeJag:
I watched a few football games one time, so I know what good head coaching looks like … we should fire Gus now because I don't think he looks like a good head coach. I can take over and we would obviously be better because I watch football and listen to heavy metal … so I must be cooler than Gus!
John: Well put.
Rob from Jacksonville:
I know the bigger, stronger, faster explanation regarding the transition from college to the NFL. But it's interesting that players can be relatively injury free for two-to-four years in college then suffer a major injury days or weeks into their NFL career. Why so?
John: It's football. Big, strong, fast people run into one another at high speeds and contort their bodies in extreme ways. People get hurt doing these things and there isn't always an explanation.
Steve from Hudson, FL and Section 106:
I just visited family in Packerland. They asked me about the 9/11 game. I told them I thought the Jaguars will have something for the Packers this year. They didn't do their usual chuckle, even looked a little nervous. Is that a good sign or what?
John: It is if the Jaguars play well against the Packers. If they don't, it really doesn't matter.
Matt from Manhattan:
I was watching Jeopardy with a few friends the other night and the question was something along the lines of, "What does ACL stand for?" I impressed people. Thank you, John.
John: Your welcome – and congratulations on surrounding yourself with people less educated than yourself. This strategy has worked well for many people close to me over the years.

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