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O-Zone: Unfiltered

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Thomas from Jacksonville:
As the season draws to a close, it appears our primary problem area is the offensive line. In that area, what do you see as the strategy involving free agency and the draft for the upcoming offseason?
John: We've covered this a lot in the last few weeks, and I suppose we'll cover it a lot in the coming months. That's cool. It's what we do here. So, here goes again: The offensive line indeed must improve, so while that doesn't mean there will be a major overhaul, the area certainly will be addressed. Right tackle likely will be the priority in terms of finding a starter, and I expect to see at least one veteran brought in to provide competition/depth elsewhere on the line. Free agency is a serious option at right tackle, with the primary issue what it always is in free agency – is what is available truly an upgrade and truly a player who will help the cause? If not, a better option is draft. Remember, there is a difference between adding a player and improving an area; before you make changes, you need to make sure it's an upgrade.
Scott from Section 245 and Row KK:
SHORTS IS AWFUL!!!! I think he has always been this bad and it just sticks out more cause of how much better are wideouts are now...tracy also can't return punts stop dancing and just run!
John: First, Shorts is not awful. If you watched the Jaguars in 2012 and 2013, you know this. He's having a rough year, it is true. And he's not a No. 1 receiver, but he can be a very good player as a No. 2 or No. 3. As for your second point, I could address it significantly better if the Jaguars had a player named Tracy.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
On the Thursday Night Football telecast Phil Simms gave a pretty good analysis of Blake Bortles' throwing motion. He talked about the mechanics which keep him from spinning the ball tightly on a pass. Simms thought Blake can fix it in offseason. What are the restrictions on him working with the coaching staff in the offseason? If he hires a QB "guru" are there any NFL restrictions with that?
John: NFL players can't work with members of their coaching staff from the end of the season until the beginning of the offseason program, which is in mid-April. There are no NFL restrictions on players working on their own or with gurus outside their organization.
George from Drummonds, TN:
Very cool, John, very cool … "Why is Chad Henne still a captain for the offense?" John: Because he's a respected, veteran leader on a team – and especially an offense – with few such players.
John: I sense an odd tone in your email, so perhaps I should clarify my comment. When I said Chad Henne is a captain because he's a respected, veteran leader on a team with few such players, it wasn't an insult to the other players on the team. It was simply to point out this is a young team – particularly on offense – and on a team so young leaders are at a premium.
Billy from Murphy, NC:
I have heard almost everyone say that if Bortles improves his mechanics and footwork, then the sky is the limit for him. We saw in the preseason he can improve these areas, and everyone was impressed with how well he threw the ball during the preseason. Why hasn't he been able to retain that work throughout the year? I mean, if he can make progress, but can't retain what he has learned, is that something to be worried about?
John: Maintaining mechanics during the regular season is a concern for all quarterbacks whatever the experience level. The typical pattern is that quarterbacks work on them in the offseason, then maintain them as best as they can through the season. As quarterbacks gain experience and those improved mechanics become more ingrained in their muscle memory they should maintain longer into the season. That's the theory, and each quarterback is different. I covered Peyton Manning for 10 seasons and watched him win the Most Valuable Player Award four times. I also saw him work on mechanics each offseason and most days after practice during that entire time. It's an ongoing process.
Jerry from Tamarac, FL:
We all have heard of teams failing to identify the right free agents for their team and grossly overspending. Are there certain positions where it is inherently easier to distinguish successful free agents for their own team?
John: I've never sensed that there is a higher percentage of free agent busts or successes based on position. And busts are pretty common everywhere for many reasons. A lot of it comes from free agents by definition being older players and older players by definition being more susceptible to slowing down and being injured. Free agents are also usually available for a reason, meaning their teams opted to not retain them FOR A REASON. That reason usually is that they weren't good – and therefore not as valuable – as other players on their team. The bottom line: obtaining a player through free agency is not close to being a fool-proof way or obtaining players, or even a very safe one.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
John, what's the over-under on the percentage of successful break-the-bank deals in the NFL? My history tells me it's under 40 percent of the time ... and with the Jags it's like 15 percent .We got Poz – wasn't exactly a break-the-bank guy either – and then we got … uhm … that one guy? Or that other dude? Can we count you? I don't like this game anymore. Free agents are bad. We need to keep getting talent in the draft ... !@#%@#!$^
John: Free agents are indeed scary stuff. The Jaguars signed Keenan McCardell as a free agent and Leon Searcy as well. Those two were critical to the early success of the franchise. Posluszny has been very productive, too. As far as any other Jaguars free agents belonging in that group … Mike Peterson, Sen'Derrick Marks? The list is pretty short, for reasons detailed in the previous questions.
Dave from Jacksonville:
O-Zone, Toby Gerhart has not received a lot of love this season for his play. He has underperformed based on his free-agent contract. But he was injured on opening day and the offensive line has been a work in progress at best from Day One. Since taking over for Denard Robinson two weeks ago he is healthy and has run the ball hard and strong and I believe how General Manager Dave Caldwell hoped he would all along. He's averaged 4.2-plus-yards per carry the last two games, which is pretty good. I think it's a combination of his health and the offensive line's improvement over time. What do you think, O?
John: I think Gerhart has played well in the last two weeks, and appears more confident and comfortable as a runner. Gerhart played through a foot/ankle injury early in the season, and considering the feet and ankle are pretty important for a runner it's probably not a reach to think that could have been a factor in his early struggles. A couple of weeks ago, it was fair to wonder if Gerhart fit into the Jaguars' future. Now, it's fair to say he might not only be a factor in the future, but a strength.
Strnbker from Dothan, AL:
I spent some time watching Lee when Todman broke through the line for his touchdown. Lee is one very, very fast person. As Todman broke through the line, Lee was seven yards behind him. When Todman had run 17 more yards Lee was holding at five yards behind him to block if needed. Then when Todman reached the 12-yard line a defender started coming near and Lee sped up to ward him off. Dude is seriously fast.
John: He is indeed fast and – far more importantly – he is learning to control and use that speed to his advantage. Speed for a receiver is only a commodity if the receiver can use it to get open. That requires route-running and feel for the game. Lee is showing signs of learning how to do the former and gaining the latter. Package those things with speed and you've got something special.
Holger from London:
I am reading a lot what a good game Bortles had. I missed the game and am looking at his stats and that makes it difficult for me to believe he made such a nice progress. Can you describe what exactly it was that's stood out?
John: It isn't easy to see progress in his statistics. He made clutch throws in the passing game, and made timely plays with his legs. He also led two critical drives when the Jaguars needed them at the end of the first half and start of the second. He wasn't remotely perfect, but he was better than he had been.
Haaris from Jacksonville:
Do my questions even reach your inbox?
John: No.

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