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In praise of the screen

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Let's get to it . . . Steve from Jacksonville:
I'd like some clarification on something. Do good teams take what they want on offense (in other words establish an identity and make the defenses stop them) or should they be opportunistic and take what the defense "gives" them? I think the former may take some time but is clearly a sign of strength and the latter a recipe for disaster. You don't go far by being so-so at everything. It seems like fans can't decide. We're a running team that is either stupid for not sticking to that – or for NOT sticking to that.
John: It's not quite so simple as taking what you want. The NFL has become a league of match-ups and what that means is the quarterback – i.e., the offense – is most often best served calling the right play to beat the defense that is on the field.
Ralph from Wise, VA:
I've read your response about the wide receivers in which you said they will get better as the quarterback gets better. I'm no expert and don't claim to be, but yesterday I saw the wide receivers run the wrong routes at least three time. Twice you could tell by Gabbert's body language and the third when he threw the ball outside while Shorts cut inside. He pointed this out to Shorts. It doesn't matter if Manning is the quarterback: If a wide receiver cannot read the defense and make the proper adjustments on his routes then the quarterback cannot make the wide receiver look better. Your thoughts.
John: My thoughts are that with the exception of Mike Thomas, I'm not inclined to write a whole lot defending the wide receivers right now.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Is it common for NFL teams to not start practices until Wednesday? I see that the Jaguars tend to take that approach and it seems odd that Tuesday couldn't be used as a practice day.
John: Players must have a day off each week during the regular season. On a normal schedule – i.e., Sunday game one week and Sunday game the next – Tuesday is almost always that day for all teams.
Jake from Harrisonburg, VA:
One of my friends just said that the Colts need to trade for Tebow. I'm still speechless.
John: He's not a very good friend.
Matt from Amarillo, TX:
When a quarterback spikes the ball, does that count as an incompletion?
John: Yes.
Hogfish from Mayport, FL:
Am I crazy to see a similarity between the Jags of today and the Lions of last year? Dominant young defensive tackles, a dynamic quarterback learning the position, depth coming out of the draft. Next draft, I hope we get a Calvin Johnson-type wide receiver, and I do not think it is unreasonable that we could be contending in the very near future. Teams in the past have shown measured improvement for a couple of years, followed by a "coming out party" that makes people wonder where they came from. They came from years of responsible, reasonable player acquisition and tempered expectations. So John, am I crazy?
John: Not at all – and I hope the Jaguars get a Calvin Johnson-type wide receiver, too.
Jeremy from Navarre, FL:
I don't get why Thomas would say that Gabbert needs to keep working so they get the timing down. He's the one who's had plenty of footballs bounce off of his hands, numbers or anywhere else close to his torso. I don't really care if you expected the ball or if it's in a perfect place or not. If it's near you catch the darn thing. And the fact remains that there a LOT of Gabbert's passes that are right on the money!
John: In this case, I'd say timing and chemistry are code for getting used to one another. Thomas has been productive this season and I think he'll get better as he gets more used to playing with Gabbert, who throws a different ball than McCown or Garrard.
Jack from Jacksonville:
They said Garrard couldn't hit the open receiver. Now they're saying the receivers aren't getting open for Gabbert. Which statement is true?
John: I don't know that one negates the other.
Andy from Saint Johns, FL:
In all your years of being a sports writer, what is the most outrageous, far-fetched, outlandish statement a coach has ever said about their team? I mean a statement that is a complete 180 degrees from reality. One where you scratch your head and kinda smirk and say "did he just say that?" Something where 99 percent see it one way, but the coach sees it the other one percent?
John: Tony Dungy said the Colts could still win the Super Bowl after 44-17.
Bruce from Jacksonville:
Bruce from Jacksonville Do the dropped passes have anything to do with how Gabbert throws the ball? I've read before the receivers have an adjustment period with different styles of ball delivery and speed.
John: In this case, I believe it might. I also believe the receivers better get used to it. Gabbert's going to be throwing passes here for a while.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
I have this awful premonition that the Colts are going to wind up with the No. 1 selection in next year's NFL draft and they will certainly pick Andrew Luck. Would that be a nightmare come true for the Jaguars or what??? Would I be considered a disloyal Jaguar fan if I pulled for the Jags to lose to the Colts when we play them – just to keep the Colts from getting in position to draft Luck?
John: I still don't think they'll get the opportunity. The Colts started the season playing poorly, but they have played very well against the Steelers and Buccaneers the last two weeks. Contrary to popular belief, there is talent on that team and I don't think they'll quit on the season.
Brock from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
You know what I like about low points? It makes the high points that much better. I think we're heading in the right direction. We still need some play makers at a certain position, but getting Gabbert experience is the most important thing this year. I liked last week's game plan (pass, pass, pass, and then pass some more). That is what will give Gabbert the needed experience. Do you think we can see similar game plans the rest of the year?
John: At times. One misconception about the game plan Sunday was that the Jaguars went into the game passing for the sake of passing. The belief was that against the Saints' defense there would passing opportunities and that ground-and-pound didn't give them as good a chance to win as passing. That won't be the case against every team, but I doubt, too, that you'll see the run-dominated game plans to the extent you did early in the season.
Michael from Jacksonville:
What are some differences in the Jags ineffective WR screen versus the Colts red zone trap-passing? They seem similar in execution.
John: They are similar, but I'm not sure it's fair to call the Jaguars' wide receiver screen ineffective. At least not this week. I was on record early in the season that I didn't particularly like the play and thought it was more effective in college. But it worked quite well for the Jaguars this last weekend, so once again, maybe I'm wrong.
Eddie from Atlanta, GA:
Stafford, Freeman, Newton, Fitzpatrick, Dalton and Gabbert are all progressing quickly. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning, Roethlisberger, Romo, McNabb and Brady are all struggling. Are we watching the future of the NFL? Seems like in two years, the landscape will be very, very different.
John: Certainly, we're watching the future of the NFL, but Manning's hurt, not struggling, and I think most quarterbacks would love to struggle like Brady.
Hank from Toms River, NJ:
Just a comment really. We have spent a lot of draft picks on the offensive and defensive lines over the last couple of years and I know they are young units but they are getting pushed around way too much on both sides. The last time we had dominant defensive tackles is when Del Rio inherited them from Coughlin. And he has a dominant D-Line again. Coincidence?
John: It's not a coincidence that Coughlin has a dominant defensive line, but I'd dispute the idea that the lines are getting pushed around. The offensive line allowed a sack or two too many Sunday, but overall, the group didn't play badly. And I'd certainly dispute that the Jaguars don't have dominant defensive tackles.
Raymond from Titusville, FL:
Our beloved Jags are 1-3. Still in a growing process. Why do fans get mad about that when high-caliber teams, like the 1-3 Eagles, have a top QB and WR?
John: Fans don't and shouldn't take solace in other teams struggling. They want their own teams to succeed and even when there are reasons they are struggling – and transition to a young player at the quarterback position is as legitimate a reason as there is – they're going to keep wanting that.

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