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A View from the O-Zone: Giving Thanks


JACKSONVILLE – This won't be the longest editorial ever written.

The reason is this is a Thanksgiving-based editorial. That means the theme is … giving thanks! And at 1-10, there isn't as much for which the Jaguars can be thankful as would be ideal.

That's the truth, painful though the truth may be.

But it's also true that even at 1-10, the Jaguars indeed can be thankful for some things. And really, those things aren't as hard to find as the cynics among us might believe.

That goes against the all-is-lost theme being kicked around in inboxes lately, but the reality is all is not lost. And just because the present isn't as bright as many hoped doesn't mean the future is automatically dim.

The Jaguars are a very, very young team very much building for the future. So, it's not surprising that many of the thanks-worthy things center on that area.

So, that being said, we can be pretty sure the Jaguars are giving thanks for …

1.Denard Robinson.A year ago, he was struggling to find a role. As late as this past offseason, observers wondered where he would fit – and if he did fit, how effective could he really be? As it turned out, he fit at running back, where he has surprised many by being very effective. How effective? Enough to be the Jaguars' best offensive player so far this season.

2.Brandon Linder/Luke Bowanko.The offensive line has struggled as a group, and the team needs more development from left tackle Luke Joeckel. More consistency is needed from Zane Beadles, too. But the interior rookie tandem of Linder and Bowanko has given the Jaguars two offensive linemen about whom they can feel secure moving forward.

3.Allen Robinson.The 1-10 record has made this season difficult, and playing a slew of inexperienced players has contributed mightily to that difficulty. But the rookie class for the most part looks promising, and the second-round receiver from Penn State is a big reason. He is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his foot, but when he played he showed consistency and reliability. You need a player like that at the position.

4.Blake Bortles' opportunity.Bortles is a rookie quarterback and very often this season he has played like it. But while he has struggled he also is gaining valuable experience. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley believes it important for Bortles to start getting a body of work, and to start learning from it. The learning most definitely has begun.

5.Chris Clemons.The free agent defensive end leads the Jaguars in sacks. He's probably not going to lead the league, but that wasn't what was expected. What was expected was that he would improve the Leo pass-rushing position and help improve the depth and production on the line. Consider those expectations met.

6.Sen'Derrick Marks.This editorial is understandably defense-heavy – and in particular, defensive front-heavy. No Jaguars defensive lineman has played better and no Jaguars defensive lineman has been more reliable than Marks. He may or may not go to the Pro Bowl this season, but if he doesn't, it won't be because he hasn't earned it on the field.

7.Roy Miller.Marks is the Jaguars' defensive tackle who gets the most credit, but talk to teammates on the defensive line, and they mention Miller just as quickly. The Jaguars' defense for the most part has been solid against the run this season, and Miller's ability to collapse blockers, take up space and create opportunities for linebackers has been a huge reason.

8.Telvin Smith.Smith could be more consistent. The rookie linebacker also could stand some more seasoning, and he could stand to miss fewer tackles. That's all true and it's all fine. You know what? He's young. He's learning. Mostly, he is a dynamic young player who absolutely has the look of a future impact player. It may take some more time, but Smith has the ability to be a difference-maker – and this team really needs those.

9.J.T. Thomas.The linebacking corps has been without its leader, Paul Posluszny, since Week 7. The group also had to overcome Dekoda Watson not working out at the Otto position, where Watson was expected to start this season. The impact of those losses has been minimal, and the defense has maintained a relatively high level. Thomas' experience and speed have been huge reasons.

10.Demetrius McCray.The secondary has struggled at times this season, with cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien not being as consistent as hoped. But the group still has fared well at times, and one reason is the development of McCray. The second-year veteran has emerged as the Jaguars' best cornerback and a potential impact player moving forward.

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