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O-Zone: Tighten up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Sam from Orlando, FL:
People have Marqise Lee pegged as our No. 2? Anyone see this guy play in college? He was a mock draft Top 10 pick before his final year and for two years was one of college football's biggest playmakers.
John: You make a good point. It's understandable people have downplayed Lee and pigeon-holed him at No. 2; he has, after all, had a slow start to his Jaguars career because of injuries, "rookieness" and all of the other reasons that often lead to slow starts. And college production/stardom doesn't always translate to the NFL. At the same time, I will say this: we saw a few glimpses of Lee on Sunday that were really, really impressive. There was athleticism, quickness, body control and receiver instinct that was … well, really, really impressive – star-level impressive. It's wa-a-a-ay too early to say that Lee is going to be a star or if he's going to be a No. 1 receiver. But if he stays healthy …
Moshe from Mexico City, Mexico:
Hi John, what about the Pats' defense? They are best in the league in sacks per game and interceptions.
John: The Patriots' defense is good – if not statistically, then in reality. With Bill Belichick involved a defense usually isn't going to be a liability. The unit doesn't get the recognition the Patriots' offense gets because Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski don't play defense. But it's not surprising that the Patriots would rank at the top of the league in sacks per game and interceptions. They had had big leads in the first two games, and when teams have big leads there are a lot more opportunities for sacks and interceptions than when they don't.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
Wow, did you see the article in the Boston paper? Really? Our stadium is in a strip mall? No respect.
John: I did see it. I suppose there are those who find the writer's approach humorous, though it's not really an approach to newspapering I'm particularly big on. That's OK; a lot of people don't buy my act, either. As I've stated often, I tend not to get worked up about what writers or national media say about the Jaguars, because writers and national media rarely have any remote knowledge of what they are discussing when discussing the Jaguars. This article sort of illustrates why I feel that way.
Alan from Jacksonville:
I love games like this week's Patriots matchup. For us, it's essentially a free roll. Everyone expects us to lose big so if we can manage to play them close or – heaven forbid – pull off an upset, it's huge. It's winnable games like with Carolina that seem to make us play tight and bring out our worst. Do you think facing an overwhelming favorite like the Patriots make it easier for Bortles and gang to loosen up go for broke? Say these two teams played each other 10 times, how many, if any, wins would the Jags get?
John: I get your point and from a public-perception standpoint I suppose it does indeed seem like a free roll. But games aren't seen that way by NFL players because NFL players don't enter games with the idea that the opponent is inherently better. I know that's a hard concept to grasp, but they just don't. As far as playing loose or going for broke, I don't get the sense that this is a play-fast-and-loose-and-gamble-at-every-turn game for the Jaguars. The Jaguars are 1-1 and have played well for one week. I get the sense that this team wants to put together a second consecutive good game and see what doing that means against a really good team. As for how the Jaguars and Patriots would fare if the teams played 10 times, I think it's safe to say any team with an elite quarterback (Brady) is going to win more games than it loses against a team with a developing quarterback (Bortles), but I don't think it would be a sweep and I don't think it would be 9-1, Patriots.
Roger from DUUVALLL!!:
I'm ready to see Julius Thomas play! Is there any chance that the Jags are "sandbagging" his return so the Pats won't game plan against him and throw him in last minute? Seems like that would be a huge advantage if so. Or is that just reaching for the stars?
John: No, the Jaguars are not sandbagging Julius Thomas. He won't play Sunday.
Daniel from Windsor Heights, IA:
I was extremely excited by the win last week, that said, do you think it will even be close at half time? Patriots look scary good...
John: They're good, and I think the Jaguars will compete – and yes, I think it will be close at halftime.
Ryan from Largo:
You witnessed the Jim Mora "Playoffs" rant?! Did you know right then that you were witnessing a moment of brilliance that would live on forever?
John: Not really. I knew it was unusual, but you don't normally anticipate something being remembered on an iconic scale.
Tommy from Pensacola, FL:
O-Zone, in the spring there was a lot of talk about how much A.J. Cann impressed the coaches and would push for playing time if not a starting spot. But he has been inactive. Did he regress? Other guys just outshine him? Coaches giving him as much time to develop as possible? Just seems like he was a blip on the radar and now nothing.
John: A.J. Cann has been fine and there is no indication that he's not destined to be a starter at some point in the future. He's a rookie third-round offensive lineman and ideally, rookie offensive linemen don't have to start unless they're knock-your-socks off ready – as was the case with Brandon Linder last season. I expect Cann to be active this week if Linder is inactive. I expect Tyler Shatley to start for Linder, but that's more because Shatley has been really impressive this offseason, preseason and training camp than it is anything Cann has or hasn't done.
Mike from Mikesville:
Mr O, do you see the use of Corey Grant as a nice option to be used as a Darren Sproles in our system? Not that we can compare him at that level yet. But I feel the possibility is there. And wanted your thoughts as to why we haven't seen much of him or try to explore his talent in that role. Thx.
John: Grant has game-changing speed, but remember: Sproles came in to the NFL having played an extensive role in college. Grant played relatively sparingly in college, and isn't quite as natural a receiver/quick-twitch returner as Sproles. The Jaguars will work to get Grant touches, but he's probably not going to have a double-digit touch game early on.
John from Fort Myers, FL:
John, with Linder dinged, why isn't Bowanko being talked about as the starter for Sunday? When he lost out on the starting job, you and others reported that Gus considered him the backup for either center or guard, or even right tackle. I like that we have competition along the line, but has this guy fallen to the bottom of the depth chart after darn near being the starting center?
John: I've gotten a version of this question several times this week, and perhaps those reporting on the team haven't made it clear enough that the Jaguars really think highly of Tyler Shatley. Yes, Bradley did say that he considered Bowanko the sixth offensive linemen. He said this after Stefen Wisniewski won the starting job over Bowanko. Very soon after that, he said roughly the same thing about Shatley. In this case, Shatley has worked at the right guard position and took a lot of reps there in the preseason. This is not an indictment of Bowanko or Cann. The Jaguars think Shatley is good.
Austin from Jacksonville:
Would you say if the Jaguars pulled out a win on Sunday that it would be our biggest victory since the Pittsburgh playoff game? It would definitely shock the NFL landscape.
John: Yes. Yes.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
I really want to be positive. I want to be hopeful, but as Sunday gets closer I get more and more sure that Sunday will be a brutal massacre. I knew when the schedule was released this week would be hard to be optimistic about, but the way captain deflation is playing, the way New England can now cheat through any game they want without any risk of punishment I feel like the only thing we can do this Sunday is sleep till Monday. I can only hope that New England runs up the score and as the go in for their 70th point Brady accidentally grabs a properly inflated ball and he breaks a nail. He would have to miss at least four weeks to stop crying about it even after the ball boys are fired and the Jaguars lose six draft picks for pointing and laughing.
John: Boy, you're just a big bowl of mess right now, Logan. Tighten up. It's almost game day.

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