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O-Zone: Working Class Dog

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … James from Socorro, NM:
Every year since 2005 (except last year), a team with a record of 4-12 or worse has made the playoffs the following year. That would include the Redskins, Jets, Raiders, Jaguars, Titans and Bucs. Why not Jacksonville?
John: One reason is even with the offseason free-agent signings, the Jaguars are still a bit young – and with a young team, there are going to be some maddening hiccups. When I say this, I don't mean overwhelmingly, cripplingly young – as was the case last season – but this is still not yet a grizzled, veteran roster. That's partly because the quarterback is still in Year Two. I think the Jaguars will be significantly improved, but I still anticipate moments where it's evident the team is learning to play and win together. That's why it's tough for me to predict playoffs. Still, out of all of the teams that struggled last season, are the odds fairly good at least one will have a dramatic turnaround? Sure. Can that be Jacksonville? OK ... sure, why not?
Mike from Jacksonville:
Take it to the bank: we need Chad Henne. Right, O-Man?
John: True, and the nice thing about that statement is the Jaguars happen to have … Chad Henne! He's the backup quarterback, and anyone who thought anything different wasn't seeing the same things the Jaguars have been seeing.
Ken from Jacksonville:
Not to dwell on the negative, but it looks like in the worst-case scenario, Henne could be very productive with this new-and-improved offense. That's a nice luxury.
John: Hey, one fer Henne! Actually, counting Mike from Jacksonville … two fer Henne!
Andrew from Jacksonville:
I don't have as keen an eye for mechanics, but Blake Bortles' game awareness sure looks improved. Loved seeing him go through his progression and hit his second read (A. Robinson) to convert a long third down. And even though the pass was high and incomplete, I thought he showed a lot of maturity on the last play of that series – "feeling" the rush behind him, keeping his eyes downfield and climbing the pocket to keep the play alive and get a throw off. Encouraging stuff from our young leader.
John: It's absolutely encouraging stuff. I don't know that Bortles will ever be among the league leaders in completion percentage. I think he's going to be aggressive and take chances, which means there will be good and not-so-good with that. All of that said, he has improved greatly and I'm far from alone in thinking his future could be bright. More importantly for the purposes of this email, you are not wrong. His pocket awareness and vision was good Friday. It all looked improved. There are still steps to be taken and tests to be passed. Defenses are far more complex in the regular season than in the preseason, which we saw first-hand last season when Bortles shone in the preseason and struggled in the regular season. But that's for another time. What we saw Friday was progress. Now, we need to keep seeing it as the process continues.
Brandon from Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson AZ:
Recently lost my father to heart failure. He was the guy that got me into football at a young age. We would always watch the draft together and talk about how our teams were looking. He was a Dolphins fan and me a Jaguars fan, so we would always poke fun at one another. He would always joke about the Jags moving to LA and I would always talk about the Jags ending Dan Marino's career. This will be my first season without him and knowing this past draft was our last draft together feels strange. Watching football now just feels strange, but I keep remembering the good times; that keeps pushing me to watch games and dig deeper into football more than I have these last few months.
John: Football matters. Don't ever tell me it doesn't. Keep remembering the good times. RIP, dad.
Eric from New York, NY:
My question turns to the wide array of significant injuries occurring league wide. Even as I write this, Phil Loadholt of the Vikings has just been confirmed to have an Achilles tear and is done for the year. I understand the necessity of the preseason to evaluate talent from top to bottom in live-game situations, and I know injuries are major aspect of the game. But does the league really still believe four preseason games is more valuable than reducing them to two (or three) and having all 32 teams getting to the regular season with the best probability of having the healthiest roster possible? And if you see a change coming, when?
John: I don't see a change coming in the next year or two, though I'm on record saying I think it will happen in the next decade or so. I'm not a fan of that idea, but that's OK; I'm used to things happening I don't much like. The issue I have with it is I don't see reducing the number of preseason games reducing injuries. Teams already often keep established players out of the preseason opener and preseason finale, which means teams are determining playing time for front-line guys based on what those players need to do to prepare. If you reduce the preseason, teams are still going to play front-line players enough to prepare for the regular season. Because of the nature of football, players are still going to sustain injuries during that preparation time. Therefore, the only real change will come in the time teams have to evaluate players deeper on the roster. Fans won't miss that time, but people selecting rosters absolutely will.
Jim from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I saw a very impressive A.J. Cann Friday. It seemed at times he was able to hold two people back. Although he was playing against second-teamers, what did you think of his performance? Should Shane Beadles be looking over his shoulder? Thanks.
John: I honestly can't say I had time to analyze Cann's performance Friday in detail. I know you're one of many people impressed with how he played, and I know the Jaguars liked how he played in the scrimmage the previous week. Cann has all the earmarks of a good, young player, and as I've said repeatedly in recent weeks, I think he has a very real chance to start by early in the season. As for your final question, I have no idea who Shane Beadles is, but Cann indeed seems to be pushing this guy Zane Beadles.
Marc from Jacksonville and Section 239:
I sit at the 20-yard line, south end, and had a great view of Martavis Bryant beating Davon House. I felt sick. I knew logically I shouldn't jump to conclusions after one play, but it still cast a pall over all the other wonderful things our team did. Anyway, I finally got a chance to study the replay and it appears Martavis pushes off hard causing Davon to briefly stumble to one hand before quickly recovering and giving chase. Not to make excuses, but it seems more of a fluke rather than a lack of skill on Davon's part. Yes, he has to keep his feet, but I now see this as something he will simply learn from. Am I being unrealistically optimistic?
John: If you're going to go into "pall mode" every time a cornerback gets beat for a touchdown – or every time an NFL-player doesn't win on a play – you're going to live through some dark times. You don't want it happening every game, but all teams have players who can win on occasion. That said, glad you're feeling better.
Ty from Jack town:
I think our general manager is building a team and franchise around this city. By that I mean, this is a working-class city. We have a bunch of hard-ass, working-class guys. A working-class senior writer, a working-class coach. Sure, none of you make working-class wages, but that's the beauty. Only parents can teach work ethic. I'm sure your son is starting his path to a very productive life. Congrats, sir.
John: Your email is a tornado of thoughts. I'll respond with a tornado of my own. Right now, I just want my son to navigate to class every day and text back when I text him way too often; I'll worry about work ethic and productivity later. The Jaguars' roster does seem to be made up of hard-working, working-class guys and Gus Bradley indeed no doubt is a working-class guy. Me? Well, Rick Springfield did say once, "I'm like a working-class dog and I just get by." He sang that on "Love is Alright Tonight" off the 1981 Working Class Dog album that contained the standard "Jessie's Girl." I know this because my friend Tony Nolan played Working Class Dog pretty much non-stop when we were driving around Sin City summer of '83. So, working class dog? Working-class guy? Sure. Why not? As for my working-class wages … well, the bosses read the O-Zone now and again (or so I tell myself in my dark times) and complaining about money is unbecoming … so maybe my wages are best left undiscussed.

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