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O-Zone: Whee

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Justin from South Florida:
Perhaps I'm seeing this differently from other fans, but I see Blake Bortles in the third step of a four-step maturation process. The first, he was wild with the football and inconsistent. The second, he overcorrected on the chances he took, and seemed overall very conservative with the football while learning to make better decisions. He's in the third stage - where making better decisions is routine, and he's more comfortable challenging defense. The fourth stage – if we get there – is a guy who is making decisions and consistently beating defenses. Overall, I'm pretty confident he gets there. Agree or no?
John: I'm not sure I agree exactly with your stages, and I'm not sure Bortles is as far along in the maturation process as you seem to believe. But there could be some truth to your theory that Bortles is still growing as a quarterback – despite many people having already written him off. Bortles is working with his third offensive coordinator – Nathaniel Hackett – in four seasons, and he now is about a season into working with Hackett. It's more accurate to say he's seven games into working with Hackett, with Hackett running a lot of former coordinator Greg Olson's system in the last nine games last season. However you calculate the time, Bortles is still developing in Hackett's system. And he has shown some signs of growth in that system. He has played well in at least three games this season, and has played undeniably well twice in the last five games. He also reportedly is improving his ability to get the Jaguars in and out of the right plays at the line of scrimmage. I do see Bortles making strides this season. It's not smooth, dramatic process each week, but it nonetheless has been progress. Can he continue that progress in the second half of the season? Can he make enough progress to be the Jaguars' quarterback next season? Both of those questions remain unanswered, but it's a storyline that could get interesting in the coming weeks.
Nathan from Fort Belvoir, Virginia:
Generally speaking, do players communicate with their agents throughout the season?
John: Yes.
Big on Blake from Philly:
Couple questions. 1) I notice Dede Westbrook hasn't been activated yet; when does that typically happen if he's going to suit up this weekend? 2) With Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson hitting injured reserve the same day, it makes the Jags' divisional challenges that much easier. Will Blake rise to the task of leading this team to the postseason? I believe he has the team running well enough in all other areas to showcase his talents and nose for winning.
John: Couple answers. 1) Activating Westbrook could happen as late as Saturday, which is often the day that teams make in-season roster moves involving practice-squad players and other players practicing with the team. And that's why there is no urgency to make a move sooner in this case: Westbrook was practicing this week with the team anyway. 2) While the absence of Luck and Watson does weaken the Colts and Texans, respectively, the Jaguars still have a significant challenge in Tennessee. Will Bortles rise to the task? Well, I said I had a "couple answers." I don't have that one.
Scott from Palatka, FL:
He went down to dinner in his Sunday best.
John: Don't forget: he also rubbed the pot roast all over his chest.
John from Ponte Vedra, FL:
The Silver Platter has just been delivered to the Jaguars.
John: I got some version of this email quite a bit Thursday and Friday in the wake of the news that Watson had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament – and was therefore out for the rest of the season. But while Watson's injury undoubtedly hurts the Texans, it seems to me that many Jaguars fans are living on a bit of bravado on this one. The Tennessee Titans – not the Texans – are the team tied with the Jaguars atop the AFC South. The Titans and not the Texans are the team that beat the Jaguars by 21 points in Week 2. The Titans match up very well against the Jaguars and the Week 2 result has a very real chance of making the regular-season finale – Jaguars at Tennessee – really important. The Jaguars in no way have clear sailing to the AFC South title. They're in the hunt and they have a chance, but it's a tough road. The Titans were the biggest obstacle before Watson's injury and they remain that way.
Howard from Homestead, FL:
I would not wish injury on anyone. That being said, Watson's injury makes me feel like this has become a "now-or-never" season for winning our division. Am I off?
John: Yes, you are off. What if the Jaguars finish second in the AFC South this season? Does that mean they will never win the division? Does it mean they can't win it next season? This is a young team with a good percentage of core players under contract through at least 2018. Yes, they should be focusing on wining the AFC South this season, but they should focus on that next season, too. And the season after that. And …
Dave from Los Angeles, CA:
The only thing left standing between the Jags and a division title is Marcus Mariota. Here we go.
John: Oh, is that all?
Pete from Jacksonville:
If getting out with an early lead to take advantage of the defensive pass rush is so critical to the success of this team, why defer after winning the coin toss?
John: The reason teams defer is they believe they can hold the other team scoreless on the opening series, then get the ball to start the second half. Possession to start the second half is the key part of the equation here. It means a team can gain a huge advantage if they manage the game well around halftime. Say, a team gets the ball late in the second quarter and scores a touchdown with less than 30 seconds in the half – therefore leaving the other team little time to score. That team that deferred would then get the ball to start the second half and therefore theoretically be able score 14 points and hold possession for a long time while the other team's offense has little or no time of possession around the half.
Sharon formerly from Jacksonville:
What's with the weird noises that play when I'm on this site? It's VERY distracting. PLEASE make it stop!
John: Shadrick feels this way all the time – whether he's on the site or not.
Brian from Jacksonville:
This defense often has been nearly impossible to move the ball on in seven games. Looking forward, is there an offense that we should be worried about facing in January? Not even the mighty Tom Brady puts my faith in this defense to the limit.
John: Nine games remain in the season, and the Jaguars have a lot of winning to do before they worry about January. But if this defense stops the run and gets teams into passing situations there aren't any offenses against which it can't play well.
Nathan since '01:
John, I cannot find ANYTHING on Allen Robinson on THIS website. Horrible! It even asked, "Did you mean, 'Alan Robinson?' " Who the heck is Alan Robinson? And what is that awful noise? Being a Jags fan has been hard enough. Now I can't even enjoy following them on their own web page? #TheIronBank
John: Put down the bottle and use the search box at the top of the home … wait. Hold on. Oh my … what is that noise???!!!!
Done from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Everyone likes Andy Dalton he is a very good quarterback and he has done it a long time. He has a lot of good years left. This week he just needs to get down. Do not try to run from these guys or try to force a ball in coverage. Just go down or face the fact there is no place to hide. Just cover up like it's a bear attack. Stay away from the bat cave and your mother calling you to dinner. Be safe out there!
John: WHAT IS THAT NOISE!!?!!?!?!
Jerry from Jacksonville:
Now Derek Carr is under fire ... it's a tough league isn't it, Zone? Maybe by the end of the year, Blake will have been the right pick ... at least for a few weeks. Or, of course until Jimmy G wins a couple games.
John: Pretty much.
Kyan from Le Mars, IA:
Bleacher Report had a top 100 players midyear and the results were awesome!! Jags had a ton of players in it and two in the top 10 with Campbell and Ramsey!! #DTWD This wasn't really a question but who cares the roster has improved so much!!
John: The Jaguars' roster absolutely has improved. And if you didn't believe it by watching the games – indeed, if watching and enjoying the team and the way it's playing wasn't enough – why … now, Bleacher Report has said it! Wheeeeeee!!!!!

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