Saturday bye-week O-Zone.
Let's get to it . . .
John from Jacksonville:
Here is why the Jaguars' defense should be ranked No. 1 (not No. 7) in the NFL. The Jaguars' defense is only allowing 44 yards per game more than the team ranked No. 1. Our 32nd-ranked offense and early special teams woes have easily contributed to those additional 44 yards per game due to low production, bad field position, turnovers, etc. The teams with the higher-ranked defenses have more productive offenses resulting in more help to their defenses. This validates the drastic improvement in only one season managed by Smith/Del Rio/Tucker/Cullen, etc. They should be recognized for this accomplishment (as well as the defensive players, of course). Case closed.
John: The improvement has been marked. You obviously can break such statistics down any way you want, and an argument can be made that a better offense would mean a better ranking for the defense. The bottom line for the defense in this era of the NFL is whether it's giving you a chance to win with a reasonable amount of production from the offense. The Jaguars' defense certainly is doing that.
Chris from Houston, TX:
My wife just had a baby girl yesterday. The baby's first outfit was a pink Jaguars onesie! She never looked happier. If she still loves the Jags, the rest of us should, too. Despite how pathetic the offense has been. Go Jags!!!
John: Your daughter is unbeaten. Here's hoping she stays that way. Congratulations.
Levi from Bloomington, IN:
You know what? I really don't get the Gabbert bashers. The kid just turned 22, and with no receivers he actually has done a pretty good job. He's shown he can be a good quarterback. He just needs to do it on a consistent basis, which is gained with time and experience. Anyone remember the Bengals game? Our bright-eyed rookie went up against one of the best defenses in the NFL and did pretty well: 15/28, 221 yards, a touchdown and no picks. He did just as well as Dalton, if not better, who had 179 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. Oh yeah, he also has some pretty decent receivers. So lay off the kid for a while and enjoy the show! Oh, I just got my tickets for the Colts vs. Jags game, so I'll be loud for us in Indy, go Jags!
John: I understand the Gabbert bashers. People look around the league and they see other teams with rookie quarterbacks and those rookie quarterbacks put up better numbers. It's logical to look at Gabbert and wonder why he's not doing the same. That's not ignorant and it's understandable. What is frustrating at times is when people ask why he's not doing the same and then can't accept that there are reasons that don't add up to him being a bust. The truth is Gabbert is not playing at an elite level. The other side of it is he is not playing nearly as poorly as his numbers indicate. He is being held back by a receiving corps not playing as well as expected. Those things are known. What's not known is how long it will take for the receiving corps to improve and how Gabbert will develop once it will happen. But to say for sure he can't develop? That's where ignorance and lack of reason come in.
Jack from Jacksonville:
I think it's kind of funny how the wide receivers are awful for Gabbert but it was Garrard's fault they weren't catching the ball in the preseason. This season was over before it started. I guess somebody had to be the fall guy.
John: What I find funny is how nobody has come up with an answer for this: Why would the Jaguars have released Garrard if he truly gave them a better chance to win? They obviously saw something that led them to believe it wouldn't work. I get the frustration with losing, but some of the Garrard emails have an undertone that somehow the Jaguars out of spite or stubbornness opted to release him with the idea of intentionally sacrificing a playoff season for . . . for . . . for what is what I can't figure out.
Josh from Harrisburg, PA:
Your word for the day is "Cucumber." Please us it in a sentence.
John: I have some thoughts on what you can do with that "cucumber."
Jeff from San Diego, CA:
I'm getting so tired of all the negativity brought to the O-zone everyday. So, I ask you John, instead of pointing out everything that's wrong with the Jags, what are some good or pleasant surprises that this team has accomplished this year? What makes you excited for the future?
John: I weary of the negativity, too, though at 2-6 it's hard to be rosy and positive. What are good things and pleasant surprises? Everything, really, but the passing offense. That's what's so frustrating. The defense is playing well. I would say better than expected, but the Jaguars firmly believed once they made the moves they made in free agency that the defense would be dramatically improved and it has been. The linebacker group is among the best 4-3 units in the NFL, and the defensive tackles are what they were expected to be. The offensive line has run-blocked well, particularly considering they are doing so against defenses that know the Jaguars can't do much to hurt them in the passing game. Josh Scobee's season speaks for itself. As far as surprises, I guess I'd say I'm surprised the defense is this good. I'm not a believer that free agency is the best way to build a franchise and I've seen many more cases when it doesn't work out than when it does. Without question, this has been as close to a seamless transition for a free-ageny heavy defense as you can imagine. Gabbert hasn't been perfect or even close, but for a rookie quarterback, he has played well enough to be .500. The bottom line on this season: no one around the Jaguars believed the receiving corps – and you can throw the backs and tight ends into the group – would struggle as they have. It hasn't cost them every game, but it certainly has been the difference between being 4-4 or 5-3 at the break and 2-6.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
To Steve from Woodbine, is it really a weird standard? Plenty of people do work on vacation or off days: teachers, doctors, senior editors to name a few. Why not football players?
John: It just doesn't work that way.
Kharii from Coatesville, PA:
You're beginning to get very sarcastic with your answers, and that's not necessarily a good way to get people to support the team. People are presenting facts (such as the ones about the offensive line), and you consistently disregard them and counter facts with your opinion. That doesn't work.
John: "Facts" aren't always what they seem. Some "facts" people are presenting say the offensive line is playing poorly. Other facts indicate the line is playing well. Some people try to cite facts that left tackle Eugene Monroe, the fans' favorite whipping boy on the line, is playing poorly when he actually is playing well. I try to talk to different people whose opinion I respect about these matters, and for example, those people say the offensive line is playing better than the "facts" indicate. I also don't disregard the readers' opinion. I continually say the fans are entitled to their opinion. I assume they write and ask questions to hear the answers as best I can give. After a while, when I get an overabundance of emails saying that these answers are ridiculous, yes, I sometimes get a little more sarcastic than might be ideal.
Bryce from Algona, IA:
Do you honestly see Gene Smith being here next year and if not, how much of a blow will that be to this franchise?
John: I believe and hope he will be, and if he wasn't, I believe the blow would be significant.
Cliff from Jacksonville:
You. Do. Not. Get. Paid. Enough.
John: You. Are. Right. Tell. Wayne. Weaver.
Silly Max from Tuscon, AZ:
Players may not practice on their own when they have days off, but I know of a certain Senior Writer who works eight days a week, putting his typing fingers on the line every day to ensure the Jaguar fans are the most updated fans in the league. We've never seen a Senior Editor take the cuticle-abuse that our Senior Writer currently takes.
John: Dad. When. Did. You. Move. To. Arizona?
Brad from Hampton, VA:
Me and a couple guys at work were having a discussion today and I'm curious on your input. Knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time and draft any of the quarterbacks currently starting in the league now, who would it be and why?
John: Aaron Rodgers. He is young and still developing. It appears he may be capable of taking the passing game to levels not previously reached.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I've always reserved the right to be wrong. What's it like to be omniscient?
John: I'm not sure.