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Judging too harshly

Let's get to it . . . Tony from Palm Coast, FL:
With Schaub going down for the season, this really gives us a chance for the playoffs. Do you agree?
John: It hurts the Texans, certainly. As I've written often, though, the Jaguars need to string together a few victories before I start talking post-season in a serious tone. Schaub being out will hurt Houston, but the Texans are still 7-3 and the Jaguars are 3-6. Assuming the Texans lose four of their final six – and there's no reason to believe they'll necessarily do that – the Jaguars still have to win six of their final seven games to catch them. It can be done, but the first step remains the Jaguars showing they can establish a winning streak. So far, that hasn't happened.
Matt from Orlando, FL:
That 16-play, 86-yard TD drive in the third quarter was a thing of beauty, eh John?
John: For a team that has had trouble putting extended drives together and finishing with touchdowns, it sure was nice to see. The most encouraging part was turning a third down in the red zone into a touchdown pass. Young quarterbacks struggle in the red zone more than anywhere else on the field and learning how to get points on a shrunken field is an important process.
Tom from Fort Myers, FL:
Ok, so I get where people are coming from saying we need a defensive end, but Mincey has played well all year, Chick has played well and we have a lot of other guys applying pressure. So, why is it such a big deal when we have people who can fill the role and be productive? Please tell me where the issue is.
John: It's important because you still want that guy for whom offenses have to game plan – i.e,, double team or commit a tight end or a running back to block in passing situations. That takes receivers out of the pattern and limits what an offense can do. That said, there's no question pass rusher is not as glaring a need as many thought before the season. The Jaguars' pass rush has improved markedly in the last two seasons. Mincey is a huge reason.
Mike from Mill Valley, CA:
With the Jaguars running so frequently on first down, I was thinking that first down might be a good time for play-action passes. If the Jags can fool the defense, it might give Gabbert a few more opportunities to throw the ball down field. Do you agree?
John: I do. You'd like to see more play action passes to let Gabbert throw without the defense teeing off on him in an obvious passing situation. The worry there is that with the passing game struggling, a first-down incompletion puts you in 2nd-and-10 and that's tough to pick up with a run-dominated offense. That's the problem with having one area struggling so much. It limits options at every down-and-distance situation. Still, you can't call plays based on fear of incompletions.
Jack from Jacksonville:
After watching that offensive abomination Sunday do you still think the Colts will squeeze out a win this year? I know their team is not purposely tanking this season but their front office did nothing to help them when Manning went down. Curtis Painter? Dan Orlovsky? Kerry Collins? Are you kidding me?
John: At this point, I don't know that the Colts will win. My guess is they won't – or at the least, they'll enter the final two games of the season needing to win to avoid being 0-16. I thought early in the season there was too much talent and pride for them to not win four or five games. For a few weeks in October, when they pushed the Steelers, Buccaneers and Chiefs deep into the fourth quarter, it seemed they played hard with the sort of veteran effort that teams often show with their superstar out. When they didn't get a victory there, it seemed to sap their spirit. There's still a chance they will win because it's the NFL and when you have players such as Freeney, Mathis and Reggie Wayne there's a chance to make enough plays to squeeze out an upset, but I'm with you: it doesn't look promising.
Moshe from Mexico City, Mexico:
Check the unbalanced offense the Broncos played – eight passing plays with 55 rushing plays. I never saw something like that, but I like it. I really hope the Jaguars could run like they did when we won 44-17 versus the Colts. That can help Gabbert.
John: Credit the Broncos for winning doing that. A victory is a victory in the NFL. But it won't work in the long term. At some point you have to make plays in the passing game and at some point running your quarterback as much as Denver is will wear him down and get him hurt.
Chris from Osan AB, South Korea:
You might have had this question a lot already but how can a team challenge a 12-men-on-the-field penalty and not any other penalty like a holding penalty? If the referees missed it, then, oh well. They miss potential penalties all the time. I don't get it.
John: The spirit of the replay rule is to review clear-cut calls and correct obvious objective mistakes – i.e., whether or not a player fumbled, had possession, was in bounds or not, etc. In that sense, the 12-men-on-the-field situation is easily correctable whereas holding is more of a judgment call.
Jonathan from Lawrence, KS:
My problem with the end of the year resting is that is messes with the integrity of the playoffs. If you lay down for one team and not another and the team you lay down makes the playoffs over the team you did not lay down for, then you are messing with the integrity of the game. For example, see the Colts of 2009 basically letting the Jets into the post-season when they did not deserve it. If the final game has no playoff implications then you should absolutely have every right to rest whoever you want. But to intentionally tank a game with major playoff implications is wrong in every sense and can only damage the game.
John: That is the issue, and it is unfortunate when a team makes the playoffs that way. The problem as always is one of enforcement and motivation. A team that has clinched its postseason seeding at the end of a season is only obligated to worry about its own ultimate goal and that's the Super Bowl. The team that is left out of the playoffs unfairly in this scenario had its chances early in the season to control its own destiny and at some point lost games to cost itself a chance at the post-season. It's frustrating and perhaps unfair, but in the end, not preventable.
Richard from Starke, FL:
What was the knock against Paul Posluszny? Pass coverage?
John: That was one of them. There were also whispers about durability. In this case, it appears each knock was unfair. He has played nearly every play for the Jaguars and is significantly better in pass coverage than many believe. His biggest issue with Buffalo seemed to be that a new staff that didn't draft him came in and Posluszny thereafter didn't fit what the Bills were doing – i.e., a 3-4 defensive scheme. That happens sometimes in the NFL. Credit the Jaguars for seeing that Posluszny would fit in the 4-3.
John from Jacksonville:
OK, after seeing your response today, I have to ask. Why would you indicate you are not sure you consider the Jags defense a Top 5 best defense yet? They are ranked 4th (of course, the silly yards allowed ranking), they have some remarkable stats such as 3 and outs, and should be given more credit than defenses like Houston and Pittsburgh because those other defenses have the added benefit of offenses that put together drives and don't punt a lot. So, I think we are witnessing something very special this year in our defense and should be a strong consideration of No. 1 overall.
John: I'm probably a bit guilty of judging too harshly what I see most often. When you see something every week you see the flaws, and there are times when the Jaguars could get off the field a bit more consistently in big situations and when big-time passing offenses move the ball effectively. But you know what? That's true of even the best defenses in the NFL these days. The Jaguars are a very, very good defense, and they may be one that merits being in the Top 5.
Clay from Jacksonville:
Two quick words in response to the claim that Gene Smith, "hasn't wasted the team's money" in free agency - Matt. Turk. I have never seen a punter lose a game until the Panthers game.
John: You're right. Turk was a bust. When I talk about wasted money in free agency, I'm typically thinking of long-term free-agent signings with huge bonuses with multi-year contracts. But yes, for the short term, Turk didn't work out.

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