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O-Zone: Those were the days

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Working remotely, Day 1.

Let's get to it … Dave from Duval:
I definitely agree with you that Blake Bortles is making steady progress. After watching the scrimmage Saturday, I came away realizing I had no plays where I thought he was just awful – and he had no turnovers. Combine that with a couple of beautiful touchdown throws and another great long pass that was dropped … I was impressed with his progress compared to last season. If he continues to improve I think he's going to be all right. And if he's all right, the Jags franchise is likely to be all right for the next decade!
John: I agree with you, which isn't surprising considering you agreed with me in the first place. I could reflect on how awesome and agreeable this is, but I'll instead make the point that this – Bortles' development – indeed is the long-term story within the more obvious short-term story this season. The short-term story involves how the team's young players will mesh with the new unrestricted free agents and what that will mean for the team's 2015 record. The long-term story is more Bortles-centric. The quarterback's development is the key. If he's good, everything else is that much easier - you can build around it and sustain long-term success. Bortles isn't there yet. But as you say, if he continues to develop as it appears he has developed in the last few months, then the long-term future indeed could be bright.
Clarence from Section 409:
Congratulations on your son attending college. Family is very important and you were right not to attend the game. This would also be a good time to let the "streak" end … no nobler of a cause.
John: Nah. Missing the game's enough.
Pete from Lee Center, NY:
Professor O, can you clarify what a few football terms are that I keep hearing - "four core" as it relates to special teams and "walk-through practice?" How is it different from a normal practice? Thanks as always for the education!
John: A four-core special teams player is a player who can play on kickoff coverage, punt coverage, kickoff return and punt returns. Four-core players are important because there are only 53 players on the roster, so once you get 22 starters, three specialists and a couple of backups, roster spots get pretty valuable. The more players you have who can play all four special teams well the better. A walk-through practice is what it sounds like: players and coaches walk through plays and situations without contact and without going full speed.
Rocco from Jacksonville:
You're getting a lot of mileage out of "leg talent" - I like that. By the way, is the Culligan commercial back again?
John: I sort of know what you're talking about, but not really.
Redmon from Jacksonville:
I recently asked Jaguars beat writer Mike Kaye if he believed Toby Gerhart has outperformed Pierce, Grant, or Storm throughout training camp. His answer was no. Do you agree with his assessment? If not why?
John: I can't honestly say I've kept a camp scorecard on Pierce-versus-Gerhart-versus-Johnson-versus-Grant. Did Gerhart outperform those players in the scrimmage the other night? I don't know that he outperformed Pierce, but it looked like he outperformed Grant. Johnson had a long run, but I believe it was against reserves whereas Gerhart was working a lot against the ones. I think overall Pierce has looked very good in camp, but I certainly think Gerhart has been as good or better than Grant and/or Johnson. One thing to remember, Gerhart's role this season probably isn't going to be solely as a runner. He's going to play some H-back and be used as a receiver out of the backfield, so it's not a case where a "winner" is going to be decided based on practice-yards-per-carry.
Jonathan from Section 122:
I really liked the 10 Things article. Your last entry about winning is definitely the most important but not as it pertains to the final score. I want our starters to beat their starters. After they come out of the game I don't care what the score is. Whadaya think?
John: I think that's what Jaguars fans should want to see. It's not time to panic if they don't see it. This is the first preseason game, after all. But seeing it would be a pretty good sign.
Josh from Fernandina Beach and Fort Lauderdale, FL:
O-Man, first, congrats on the Father-Son academic orientation trip. Last, is there any way you can provide some added insight relative to the injuries on Yeldon and Odrick? All the best.
John: Well, it's a father-mother-son thing, too … but thank you. As for the insight, running back T.J. Yeldon has a sprained finger and defensive end Jared Odrick has knee soreness. They won't play against the Steelers, but I get the idea they would play if it were the regular season.
Ivan from Hollywood, FL:
Why is the depth chart unofficial? Team officials released it, right?
John: Yes, but it is put together by media relations and is ABSOLUTELY NOT reflective of anything remotely official … absolutely. Officially. Really.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
Gus Bradley quote: "With our offense we'll probably see a lot of eight-man fronts..." Seeing a lot of eight-man fronts is the sign of a bad offense. It shows they do not fear being beaten by the passing offense. So is it too late to get another offensive coordinator?
John: I understand that people like to take a quote and interpret it to mean what they want it to mean; I'm a sportswriter, after all. I've seen some stuff. But I think maybe, just maybe, what Gus Bradley might have maybe meant when he said that quote was that the Jaguars plan to be a strong enough running offense to force teams to play eight-man fronts … and then after that, they might be able to see a lot of man coverage and utilize play action. Do you think maybe, just maybe, that's what he meant? Maybe?
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I guess my concern is the past three years under Dave and Gus we are always building for the future. However, don't we risk the now by not going after vets with maybe 2-4 good years left? At some point we need wins now.
John: I understand this being a "concern" the last couple of years; although David Caldwell and Gus Bradley clearly had a building plan, it's logical people would have wondered about the lack of veterans on the roster. But the Jaguars signed at least seven veteran free agents this offseason who could and likely will play a significant role this season. I don't really see how the Jaguars are risking the now this season; they're pretty much going after it the best way possible. Besides, why get veterans if you don't believe they're better than your younger players? Especially when you now have quite a few veterans around the roster?
Tommy from Pensacola, FL:
Let's not kid ourselves: we know you don't work 40-hour work weeks, 50 weeks a year. You're obviously not accounting for mandatory naps, "working" lunches, and the occasional doctors' appointments that turn into a three-over back nine at Deerwood. Let's call it a 60-hour work week.
John: I don't play golf, but if you want to call what I do a 60-hour week … hey, who has two thumbs and isn't stopping you? THIS GUY!!!
Ryan from Tampa, FL:
John, some of these videos of Luke Joeckel in practice have been very concerning. Getting absolutely dominated by Ryan Davis. Furthermore, he struggled early in the scrimmage on Saturday. If he continues to struggle in the preseason games, does Josh Wells or Brennan Williams have any shot to take that left tackle spot? Thanks!
John: I did see one video in which Joeckel was beaten by Davis pretty badly. He did struggle early in the scrimmage. If he plays like that every game, every series, every whatever … sure, he could be replaced. I think you could probably find stretches like that for every Jaguars offensive lineman this camp – OK, maybe not Brandon Linder -- and for a whole lot of other players on the roster. Look, this Joeckel thing will play out. The Jaguars believe he has been better this training camp than last year and believe he will improve. If they're wrong, we'll know soon enough. Stay tuned.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Boselli and the other great offensive tackles you mentioned played in the 90s when there were a few dominant defensive ends but not the scheming defenses of today that are singularly focused on pressuring the quarterback.
John: Defenses schemed and focused on pressuring quarterbacks in the 90s, too.
Raymo from Jacksonville:
What made Boselli good? He was the baddest man on the field. He was nearly seven-feet tall with a helmet on. Weighed 310 and moved like a cat. On top of that, he had that OL nastiness. Yeah, Searcy being on the other side helped, but 71 was no doubt the best I've ever seen.
John: Yeah, my personal distrust of him aside, he was that good. (Even if he did play before coaching and blitzing were invented …)

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