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Dangerous combination

Last day for Bills talk.

Let's get to it . . . Tommy from Jacksonville:
Different quarterback, same issues. I guess we can't really just blame him anymore? Here is what I see: Bad offensive line play and inconsistent receivers. Bad tackling on defense and cornerbacks that aren't that good. Your thoughts, sir?
John: At 2-10, nothing looks good. And in the NFL, when things go wrong, they tend to snowball, particularly late in games and late in seasons. When you can't run or stop the run, you fall behind and when you fall behind, it's harder to pass block well. When you make mistakes at critical times, and when you don't come back well from adverse situations, you fall behind and one bad thing leads to another. When one player struggles on run defense, guys get out of their lanes, try to do too much, and big plays happen. That has happened too often to the Jaguars this season and it happened Sunday. As for your first question, about not blaming Blaine Gabbert anymore – you're right. Things look better when the quarterback plays well, but that's far from the only position that has to get better.
Cathy from Jacksonville:
At the beginning of the season I thought we might be a position or two away from fulfilling all our needs. Now, I wonder if we need to start over in multiple positions. If you were the new general manager next year, what positions would you prioritize for drafting/free agent acquisitions?
John: First off, no one knows the general manager situation for next season, except perhaps Shad Khan. But hypothetically, if a quarterback is available that you think can be a franchise guy, you take him. That's not any sort of crystal ball into Henne/Gabbert; it's just the truth. After that: defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback, but that's theoretical. There's a lot of roster evaluation to be done, and after that – in free agency, particularly – you have to see what's available. When you're 2-10, it stands to reason that there will be a whole lot of evaluation going on.
Michael from Kentwood, MI:
I do believe all current signs point to me being right about Luck. Now, more important - can Gabbert really be the guy or are we back to drafting another quarterback high again? I'd rather not go back a few more years again.
John: So, you were the one who went all-in and said Luck might be good? And you're not running a team?
Jody from Fort Pierce, FL:
Uh oh – is this the Henne Miami got rid of? Gabbert wins one game and Henne wins one game. Gabbert gets rattled and sacked, Henne gets rattled and sacked. Is there more to this than just two quarterbacks?? Perhaps the other 10 guys on the field? Hhmm . . .
John: There has been a lot of criticism coming out of the woodwork regarding Henne in the last few days, but we're a bit early for that. Henne was 18 of 41 with at least four drops on Sunday. He had some bad throws, but remember: the conditions were very difficult Sunday and neither quarterback played all that well. Since Henne entered the game against Houston a few weeks back, this essentially has been a seven-game evaluation period, and while Sunday was tough, we still need to see all seven games.
Alton from Melbourne, FL:
This is a rant and not a question! I don't like the end-zone reception rules. As a receiver catching the ball outside of the end zone, all that is required for a touchdown is the ball breaking the "plane" and then you can just let go of the ball and it's still considered a score; but if you catch the ball in the end zone, get both feet down and an elbow while being tackled by a defender, roll over and lose the ball – that's not considered a TD?! The NFL needs to address that rule because it is ridiculous!
John: The rule is a constant source of frustration and misunderstanding for fans – and that's never good. This is another of many rules the NFL has implemented as a way of trying to eliminate as much judgment/interpretation as possible, with the idea of just saying that a receiver has to possess the ball the entire time and leave nothing to an official's "gut feeling." The problem is the two situations you mention seem to contradict themselves, which is confusing. I don't see the NFL changing the rule in the short-term, though. The desire to take the judgment out of the hands of officials as much as possible is pretty strong.
Skip from Jacksonville:
No pop, no sizzle, no snap, no intensity, no SWAGER, no win. I don't know where they were Sunday, but they did not have their heads in that game. Maybe the rain and cold got to them.
John: As I've written often, I'm not a big "sizzle and snap" guy. For the most part, teams that play well look like they're intense and fired up, and teams that don't, do not. Against Houston, the quarterback started playing well and . . . voila! The team looked really intense and there was energy and excitement to spare. The Jaguars didn't play nearly well enough on Sunday to win and it was a game they should have won – or at least a game in which they should have competed better than they did. When that happens, things look flat, but the loss and how they played -- that's what was disappointing.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL and Section 115:
Here's an idea. I think the Jaguars need to go 0-4 in the 2013 preseason.
John: If they do, it won't mean any more than if they went 4-0.
Joel from Atlanta, GA:
I saw a defense on Sunday that looked slow, not because of a lack of passion or effort but a lack of speed. You covered some below-average run defenses that were seemingly transformed with the addition of one player. Could one player make that big of an impact for this team or is the problem more severe?
John: I assuming you're referring to Bob Sanders with the Colts in 2006. He indeed reentered the lineup in the postseason that season and helped a struggling run defense get much better. That team also won the Super Bowl, so Sanders' return is etched in the memory of many. But the Colts that season also were struggling from the same things that ail most teams that are struggling against the run – filling gaps incorrectly and a tendency for players to try to do too much. That's what happened to the Jaguars Sunday. This was a team, after all, that had played well against Chris Johnson and Tennessee the week before, and that played well against Darren McFadden and Oakland earlier this season. Against Johnson, the Jaguars didn't look particularly slow because they played their assignments well and kept him contained. Against the Bills, the Jaguars did a decent job keeping the backs contained early, and then as the game got away from the team, the defense looked less and less impressive. That happens because defenders start trying to do a bit much, get out of lanes, duck inside to make tackles and have the back cut back around them for a long gain. It's a natural tendency, but one that often allows big plays. The point of your question, though, is, "Is the absence of Daryl Smith that big of a deal?" Yes, it's a big deal. He would help. But to say they're a Top 10 defense without him isn't the case.
John from Jacksonville:
I noticed that some local sportswriters and sportscasters have started a "Tebow watch" this week. Can we turn the Ozone into a Tebow-free zone for 8-10 days?
John: Not if I answer this question.
Josh from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
In a fit of rage I threw away the jersey I was wearing yesterday... At least I still have you O-man. Been a long year.
John: I threw away the shirt I wore Sunday, too. Coffee and tears are a bad mix.
Cathy from Jacksonville:
How injured is Mike Brewster? Is he that much better than Britton to come back into Sunday's game with a cast on his hand?!
John: He sustained a broken hand. He is a starter, and a when a starter can play effectively through injury without risk of further injury, you try to let him do it if possible.
Jerry from Jacksonville:
Stop the run, run the ball. Where art thou? At least we can still kick and punt.
John: That was maybe the most disturbing thing about the loss to the Bills. The Jaguars couldn't run effectively – not even enough to establish the threat of the run that is necessary to open up play-action passing. Defensively, while they were able to limit the Bills for a while early, once the Jaguars got behind there were too many defensive players trying to do too much late and the result was the kind of long, gashing runs that make things look really bad. The combination of that isn't good.

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