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O-Zone: Misplaced chips

Posted Aug 23, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Kevin from Jacksonville:
I know you have said Chad Henne is the starter, but we have all seen that same tired old brand of football from Henne and Blaine Gabbert long enough. This is a new team, new head coach, new general manager – and time for a new quarterback. It's time for Bortles to take the helm. There is no question he gives us best chance to win, and should be named starter tomorrow!!
John: Wow!!! Exclamation points!! I got a lot of emails similar to this after the game Friday, and there were a lot of passionate arguments and a lot of exclamation points to be found – as if by sheer force of will and enthusiasm and words people truly believed they could change the Jaguars’ plans. That’s not the case, because while many believe “no question he (Bortles) gives the Jaguars the best chance to win,” the decision-makers don’t yet see it that way. As for the first line of your email, yes, I have said Henne will start. But that’s not important. Gus Bradley also has said Henne will start, and if you’re trying to figure out who will start, that indeed is really important.
Mikey from Jacksonville:
Hi, John … can I bring you to Show and Tell?
John: Why? Did your classmates mistreat you?
Scott from Aurora, IL:
Didn't know that Andre Branch played safety... Could be a thing.
John: The interception Branch made dropping into coverage in the first quarter Friday was impressive stuff. I’m not usually big on defensive ends in pass coverage because it takes them away from why they’re on the field – to rush the passer – but Branch showed strikingly natural hands and made the play look strikingly routine. A thing? Nah, but it was cool.
Kent from Jacksonville:
Allen Hurns looks like the real deal. He really does. And I know this is a recurring theme, but Blake Bortles looks real good. Any chance he gets a shot to start the last preseason game? In the spirit of competition and all.
John: Allen Hurns does look like the real deal. Really. And yes, Blake Bortles does look good. I expect he may well get a chance to start Preseason Week 4, though Bradley said that hasn’t been discussed yet. But if he does start, don’t get too excited, though; it won’t be in the interest of trying to see if he will start the regular-season opener. That’s not happening.
Phil from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Johnny O, I have been there with the team saying, “Sit Blake. Don't rush him. Henne can do this.” I have officially joined the bandwagon after one two-minute series by Bortles and a thoroughly forgettable two quarters of hanging Chad. Am I crazy?
John: No, you’re not crazy. You’re excited and you think what you’ve been seeing is pretty awesome. And you’re right. For the long-term of this franchise, it’s *really* awesome. But the team has a plan here. That plan is to start Bortles when team officials believe he’s ready. The excitement of fans is terrific and it’s warranted, but it’s not going to force the Jaguars to stray from the plan.
Sid from Pittsburgh, PA:
I think we have found a franchise quarterback. #TeamBlake
John: It looks like that eventually will be the case. Not today. Not tomorrow. But someday.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
The best part is we may be witnessing our young new quarterback outperform the expectations of coaches who already believed in him! Our future looks a little brighter.
John: Yes, Bortles has outperformed even the coaches’ expectations, but take a few deep breaths. That’s not changing the coaches’ game plan. At least not yet. I still say Bortles starts at some point this season and it may be sooner than I originally thought, but I still don’t see it in September.
Daniel from Section 146 Since Day One:
Every time I hear about Caldwell's great plan, I think of Monroe/Joeckel. Last year, the great plan was a great offensive line. The plan changed and the line sucks. They may be better than last year, but the team will never be highly successful until the offensive line gets fixed, again... I hope he's got a new plan for that.
John: Offensive lines don’t become great overnight, Daniel. I wish for your sake they did, though. It would be cool.
Lance from Jacksonville:
I'm loving the future. I hate waiting, but that's tough I suppose.
John: I get that the wait is difficult, but if there’s an overriding storyline to the preseason it’s that the Jaguars appear to have a quarterback with very real potential to be very good. Maybe even very, very, very good. That trumps all else and could make whatever wait there is a little more bearable.
Jose from Tallahassee, FL:
A lot was made of Blake Bortles not throwing a nice, tight spiral ... actually not even a good spiral … early in the offseason. I noticed during the games that his passes are looking pretty good. What is attributed to him progressing from his wobbly passes to nice spirals?
John: Better footwork and better use of lower body.
Jared from O’Town:
We've all seen the Jaguars locker room and it looks amazing. Do the visitors’ locker rooms look as nice, or do they look more like a junior high school’s would with 20 years of paint on rusted metal soaked in the smell of a profoundly strong combination of Right Guard and Brut?
John: The correct answer is somewhere in between. The visitors’ locker rooms are as they always have been – fine and functional, but certainly not on the scale of the Jaguars locker rooms. Which is as it should be.
Princefigs from Jacksonville:
That round table doesn’t seem too round at all.
John: Wait. What?
Al from Orange Park, FL:
My understanding was that Bowanko needed "development," but was hopefully the center of the future. Could he be ready to be the starter now?
John: We’ll see. He played center Friday coming off of what apparently was a comparatively minor ankle sprain. You get the idea the Jaguars would love to see him seriously compete for time and maybe even to start. I’d be surprised if Bowanko doesn’t start at center sometime this season, though perhaps not the opener.
Frank from Knoxville, TN:
What do you think of the theory floating around that the Jags will start Bortles once they have been eliminated from playoff contention regardless of whether that is Game 9 or 16? That makes the most sense to me since they aren't quite playoff-ready and there's no reason to put Blake in to gain experience until they're not trying to get into the playoffs. I personally think that's the best way to approach it.
John: It’s certainly a possibility, and if the Jaguars indeed get eliminated from playoff contention it wouldn’t be surprising if that scenario plays out. One thing to remember is the Jaguars aren’t assuming they will be eliminated from the postseason at any point this season. That’s not their thinking going into the season. Another thing to remember: there isn’t a plan written down in super-secret invisible ink and tucked away in a secret door in Gus Bradley’s desk just waiting to be decoded at the proper time. The Jaguars will continue to monitor Bortles’ progress and will continue to judge the team to see when he should start. There’s no set plan, and it will happen when it happens.
John from Jacksonville:
Will Mr. Khan have any say on who the starter will be at quarterback? Oh, that black cloud hasn't dissipated yet. Maybe if the Jaguars go 8-0 the first half of the season. The focus has to be winning, every season not: oh let’s let someone get acclimated to the environment and collect a game check every week and play next year. That just doesn't make sense.
John: Khan obviously could have say if he wanted, but he lets David Caldwell and Gus Bradley make football decisions. Having established that, there will be no Saturday night phone call from Khan to Gus Bradley on the eve of the season-opener mandating a starter. And of course the focus is winning. The Jaguars want to win as much as possible in the short-term and long-term, too, which is why they spend a lot of time focused on developing players.
Austin from Atlanta, GA:
You say Roy Miller. I’ll go Jacques McClendon. Didn't he bench some obscene amount while at Tennessee?
John: Yes, and you’re right. I would go with McClendon, too.
David from The ‘ Burg:
During my month-long vacation, I got my 8-going-on-9 year-old brother to call the Jaguars the Swaguars; Jaguars Swag = Swaguars. Are you proud of me?
John: That’s pretty cool what you did, but no.
Gino from Jacksonville:
You are well-respected, Mr. O-Zone, but you might be wrong that Henne is starting the season. I'm putting all my chips on Bortles!!!
John: Careful where you put those chips, Gino. I’m not well-respected, but in this case, I’m also not wrong.

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