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O-Zone: Up to nothing

BALTIMORE, Md.— Game-day O-Zone.

Let's get to it … Zac from Orange Park, FL:
While we have been underperforming, I like the talent on this team. Dave Caldwell has done well drafting, especially in the middle rounds. That's something that was sorely missed for a long time here.
John: There's indeed a lot to like about the young talent on this team, and I agree that Caldwell for the most part has drafted well. I'm just not sure I go along with the "underperforming" narrative. Underperforming implies the Jaguars without question should be winning more. While they "could" be winning more, I don't know that "should" is correct. The Jaguars have improved to the point where they're competitive and they've been very close in many games with a young team. Young players often take time to develop into winning players, and I see the Jaguars moving toward that. Right now, the Jaguars aren't winning as much as people want, but without a consistent pass rush and with a young offense, they're overall not performing much differently than I would have imagined.
Jorge from Edmonton, Alberta:
You drive a Toyota? I will never question you, or your knowledge, again. You da man!
John: I don't drive a Toyota. I don't believe your second sentence. And yeah – no doubt!
Jake from State Farm:
Hey, O … just wondering what you think is going to happen with Luke Bowanko? I was very impressed with him last year and was kinda disappointed when he lost the starting job. He showed a lot of promise. I sense he isn't big enough to be a guard and lacks the strength to play tackle, so what's the end game here?
John: I don't know that we know Bowanko's end game yet. He is close to being a starting center, and the Jaguars like him as a backup along the offensive line. Backup swing player could well be his role for a while. In an ideal world not all of your good players start. That's called depth.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-man, I'm not sure what the stats say, but my eyes tell me "pick plays" (receivers "accidentally" running into cornerbacks to free up a teammate) are on the rise. It seems like a 50-50 proposition on whether you can get away with it or not (unless you're the Patriots, then it's closer to a 90 percent success rate). Do you think it's a big enough league concern that it may require some rule changes?
John: If the league were to address the "concern" it likely would be a renewed emphasis on the tactic rather than a rules change. But I don't know that you'll see a big outcry over this. Pick plays help the offense, and the league isn't often in a hurry to curtail scoring.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
It is good to see the offense having more production. But while people are excited about this and say "just wait for the future!!!," history shows that doesn't work. Defense was the best part of our team last year and we said the same thing because our defense this year was going to be AWESOME. History has not shown this team can be consistently successful in successive years. Perhaps this time they break that pattern. I hope so, because if we go by our historical trend, next year the offense will struggle and the defense will be Top 10 again.
John: The predominance of youth on the offense gives the Jaguars a legitimate chance to break the trend of which you speak.
John from Jacksonville:
Just curious, Zone ... Does a guy like Ace Sanders need to be on a roster to serve his league suspension or do these weeks count and someone could sign him and play him after 10 weeks?
John: At Sanders' point in the NFL's substance-abuse program, the weeks in a season count whether or not he is on a roster.
Rabbit from Jacksonville:
What year has been the most difficult for you to cover as Senior Writer since you were hired with the Jaguars? What year has been easiest?
John: The 2012 season with Mike Mularkey as head coach was the least enjoyable because of the overwhelming feeling that a whole lot had to change. As far as enjoyable, that's tough for this reason: the Jaguars are a very good organization for someone in my position. They allow the freedom to cover the team and to interact with fans in a way that makes the job enjoyable pretty much every year – even 2012. I have enjoyed my five seasons at more than I have enjoyed any previous time covering the NFL. I imagine covering the team when it wins will be even more enjoyable, particularly if I can do something about The Shadrick Situation.
Josh from Grand Island, NE:
O, what are the chances we can use the intro to Billy Joel's "Allentown" in some capacity when the Allens made a great play at home games?
John: Let's see, Hurns and Robinson are young folks who seem to have a sense of what is "cool" among other young folks … yeah, I'm sure they would get hyped up for a little Billy Joel.
Dane from Jacksonville:
I love the Classic Jags videos that have been posted. Great stuff.
John: Thanks. I put a lot of time and energy into that. It's nice to be acknowledged.
Michael from Orange Park, FL:
I do not like the gold jerseys ... would have gone with the teal ... but I'm not TNF.
John: I've seen the gold jerseys up close. I've actually had one on. It was Blake Bortles' No. 5 jersey, and I thought it looked cool – not on me, but … you know, generally speaking.
Fred from Naples, FL:
Do you ever see us being able to play on Thanksgiving Day? I understand that the Lions and the Cowboys are the two staples that play every year; but that still leaves some options for others to participate.
John: It's very possible the Jaguars could play a road game at Detroit or Dallas on Thanksgiving. Or they could play host to the Thanksgiving night game. I don't see that happening in the next year or two, but as the team begins to win – and as the profile of a few of these young-and-rising stars goes up – absolutely it's a possibility.
Aaron from Chehalis, WA:
I think I figured out why I'm so frustrated with this team this year. For the last three years the team has been so bad they pretty much needed several big plays to swing their way to have a chance on any given Sunday. I pretty much expected the team to lose; if they won, it was a nice surprise. This year is different. The team is clearly improved and for the first time in a long time I actually believe that the team has a chance to win almost every game they play. Only they aren't, and that's what's frustrating.
John: Absolutely, that's frustrating. Close is frustrating. That's where the Jaguars are in their development.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, it seems some fans want Bortles to be Big Ben or Brett Favre, but without the unique things that made those quarterbacks who they are/were. Blake's fumbles are often cited, but Big Ben fumbles ... a lot. It's because he improvises, and it's one of the best aspects of his game. Favre has the second-most touchdowns in NFL history; he also has the most interceptions. Improvising and fumbling and throwing interceptions come with the territory when you have quarterbacks like Big Ben, Brett Favre ... and hopefully Blake Bortles. Would you agree?
John: I do agree – to an extent. There is going to be a bit of a risk when you have players who improvise and extend plays, but a quarterback can't approach turnovers with a laissez-faire attitude. During my first year covering the Colts in 2001, Peyton Manning threw 21 interceptions, with six returned for touchdowns. Jim Mora's "playoff" rant came after a game in which Manning threw two pick-sixes. The school of thought was when you threw as much as Manning did, interceptions were part of the deal. When Tony Dungy arrived as head coach the following season, he and then-quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell emphasized to Manning you could run a high-power offense without a slew of interceptions. Manning threw 19 interceptions in 2002, but 10 the year after that – his first Most Valuable Player season – and had four consecutive seasons with 10 or fewer interceptions. Bortles always may be a risk-taker, but interceptions and fumbles don't have to be a dominant part of his game.
Chis from Crestview, FL:
John, some of the best quarterbacks instinctively know the down and risk. When it's fourth down, with a minute left, you hold the ball, run around like a crazy person and generally do whatever to win. First down in field-goal range, you toss that puppy out of bounds when the clock gets to three in your head. I know the game's fast, but that seems to be the thing Bortles needs to get better at. Thoughts?
John: I think it's a thing Bortles needs to get better at.
Josh from Fernandina Beach, FL:
What up, O?
John: Nuttin'.

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