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O-Zone: You never know

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Jacksonville:
In pretty much every move they've made this offseason (drafting Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson and a fullback and adding more high-priced free agents to their defense in Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye) and said (ideally he'd only throw 25 passes a game), the Jaguars appear to be doing everything they can to take the pressure off Blake Bortles. To make everything as "easy" for him as they can. So my question is: if you have to give a running back 20 carries a game, limit your quarterback to 25 passes a game, and have a Top 5 defense … do you really have a franchise quarterback? I'd say no. What say you? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: There are a couple of ways to see this issue. One is that the Jaguars' offseason moves made sense whatever the level of quarterback play, and that's true. Were they not supposed to try to improve the defense and the running game? Would a team with an elite quarterback say, "Nah, let's be as average on defense and in the running game as humanly possible?" Of course not. At the same time, the Jaguars' offseason approach does have a feel of not being sure Bortles and the passing offense can carry the team in the way quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady carry teams. But quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson – and even Brady to a degree – depended on elite defenses early in their careers until they developed into better quarterbacks. It's possible for a quarterback to grow from non-elite to elite. Still, for right now the answer to your question is: No, Bortles is not yet a franchise quarterback. That's obvious. Can he develop into one? That process must start in 2017.
David from Daytona, FL:
I began to read the piece on the defense and it caused me to choke on what I don't know in any case the defense was not good enough to be considered middle of the road they let far too many games we were winning in the 2nd half get away just like the super bowl made me sick! One of the reasons I did not renew my season ticket and there were others. So the Jaguars did the one thing that could make me regret that decision that's right hired TC and I do regret it now so my question is Coach Dougy fresh start going to get after guys Like TC did in our glory days? I recall once TC was asked what more could the defense have done after shutting out the other team he said something like our defense didn't score any points did they? The following week the defense shut the other team out and scored some points.! Oh to have that higher level of expectation again where greatness is born and Super Bowls are in the head lights and multiple members of this team are invited to probowl and it's normal.
John: I began to read this email and I started doing that and then I reread the first and then I reread it again and kept to figure out something about punctuation and then I think was the second sentence and then I around a little and then I stopped!
Chris from Jacksonville:
Do you think Dede Westbrook can become a real threat to the wide receivers if he catches on quickly? His speed makes him a real threat to start.
John: I think Westbrook's talent gives him a real opportunity to make an impact as a rookie, and perhaps to develop into a major contributor – and perhaps a starter – after that. I answer a bit cautiously for a couple of reasons. First: while Westbrook is a talent, he also is a rookie wide receiver who was projected outside the first round and who lacks big-time NFL size, so expecting him to be a "real threat" as a rookie to start over any of three fourth-year veterans such as Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson or Marqise Lee is a very big ask. The second is that while he certainly is talented, he projects best as a slot receiver rather than a starting outside receiver. If Westbrook progresses enough to become the Jaguars' primary slot receiver this season and makes an impact there, that would qualify as a really good rookie season.
JT from Jacksonville:
I'm all for smash-mouth football, but the idea that we need to use the option and keep the score low bothers me. If we stay scared of using Blake, then what is the point of keeping him? We have plenty of weapons around him now that Leonard Fournette doesn't need to be the main focus. Hope this coaching staff uses our weapons right. Too much talent on both sides of the ball to keep losing the way that we have.
John: The Jaguars to my knowledge have not said they are scared of using Bortles, nor have they said they want to keep scores low and play entirely smash-mouth, ball-control, clock-draining offense. They have indicated by words and actions this offseason that they want to run better – and they believe that running better will help Bortles and the defense. The Jaguars would very much like Bortles to throw fewer times than he has in recent seasons, but remember: Bortles threw 625 passes last season. That was the third-highest total in the NFL. That's too many. The Jaguars want to control down-and-distance far better than they have in recent seasons, but that doesn't mean Bortles won't be allowed to throw.
Paul from Jacksonville:
I get the feeling from some fans that because Tom Coughlin is emphasizing physicality that the Jaguars will be a "three-and-a-half-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" kind of team. Coughlin does believe in balance and physical play, but he also has had some extremely prolific offenses. I don't see Doug Marrone wanting to be the kind of guy whose team is always playing to scores of 20 or 21, either. These guys are smart and know what the modern NFL game demands. The biggest question is the quarterback and what Marrone/Coughlin will do to tailor their plans to Blake's strengths.
John: Yes.
Steve from Fernandina Beach, FL:
After reading "Where they stand: Defense," the good news is that the starters should be much improved. The bad news is that across the board, the depth seems pretty shallow. What do you think?
John: I'd call it "unknown" news as opposed to bad for right now. The Jaguars overhauled a lot of depth in the offseason. That depth in a lot of cases is young, and in some other cases it is largely unknown. A lot of that depth is going to have to play roles on special teams. Does young and unfamiliar mean shallow? Not necessarily, and there was probably nothing wrong with changing some of the Jaguars' defensive depth.
Matt from Bartow, FL:
Hypothetical: You have the opportunity to trade Blake Bortles and next year's first-round pick for Kirk Cousins. Cousins also agrees to a new contract: four years/$80 million, $25 million guaranteed. Do you make the deal?
John: No.
Aaron from White Hall, AR:
I know people are back and forth on the Fournette selection, but I think a lot of people will be happy when second down comes up and it's second-and-6 compared to last year when it was second-and-13. To me, that will help Blake – or any other quarterback, for that matter – make better decisions.
John: If the Jaguars face significantly more second-and-6 situations because of Fournette, that alone will make it a worthwhile selection.
George from Longview:
John, we keep talking about Cam Robinson at left tackle or left guard. Do you see him competing at right tackle, and possibly moving Parnell inside? Here's hoping our best five offensive linemen come together quickly.
John: I wouldn't rule that scenario out, but I would rank it well behind Robinson playing left tackle or guard.
Tommy from Fernandina Beach, FL:
O-man, how are you assuming that Albert will beat Robinson in the left-tackle competition? Is it simply due to playing time and experience in the NFL? How can Cam then get the experience of the tackle position by moving him inside? That really doesn't make much sense to me; those two positions are so different.
John: I am assuming Albert will be the left tackle because he has been a quality left tackle in the NFL for a long time. The Jaguars clearly believed strongly in Albert as an NFL left tackle because they opted to trade for him – and to part ways with Kelvin Beachum. I believe they believe in Robinson as a left tackle, too, but it simply makes sense to start an NFL veteran who has played at a high level professionally at the position over a rookie who has played at a high level collegiately at the position. This is what I am assuming and why. I could be wrong. It has happened before, and odder things certainly have happened.

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