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Making real strides

Let's get to it . . . David from Jacksonville:
Same story, O-Man: Hot start, then give up 20 unanswered. We know what to expect by now. I love seeing Daryl Smith out there. It just seems our defense plays better with him in the game. Oh, and seeing Poz go down scared me; what's the status with him? He is a hell of a player.
John: First, the game: I thought the same thing you did at first, that it was the same story. But a closer look at this game tells you it's really a different story in a significant way. Yes, the Jaguars started well, then gave up 20 unanswered points, but at that point, they stopped the slide. That was significant, because this has been a team all year that has not handled adversity well. They too often have allowed one play to turn into a one-sided deluge of bad plays, and that has turned a lot of winnable games ugly in the wrong direction. On Sunday, they had every chance to fall apart and didn't. Instead, the defense got a couple of stops and gave the offense the chance to tie the game. It didn't happen, but to reverse momentum and get back in the game against a team as good as New England was impressive. As for your final questions: one, Smith helped; two, Paul Posluszny was ready to reenter the game had New England gotten the ball back.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
I think I like that Shipman guy . . .
John: This email confused me . . .
Al from Orange Park, FL:
. . . oops, Shipley . . .
John: . . . and then it didn't.
Mark from Waverly, IA:
You've gotta hand it to the Redskins. They were eviscerated in the media after the draft for "wasting" a pick on Kirk Cousins. Now, they'll be laughing all the way to the bank. Someone will offer them a substantial amount for him, which will allow them to recoup some of the picks they gave up for RGIII. Picks aren't always about what the player can do for you now, but what they can do for you in the future.
John: I agree. Every now and again, a team hits on a quarterback and allows him to play just enough that teams covet him enough to offer draft picks. It appears the Redskins have that situation in Kirk Cousins. But I don't know that it's going to happen as fast as many seem to believe. RGIII has shown a tendency to get hurt this season, and his style of play suggests that that tendency may continue. It stands to reason the Redskins would want to keep Cousins around for a while. Why part ways with a guy who has shown he can come in and play effectively when you know you will be looking for another guy who can do the same if you release him?
John from Ramsey, NJ:
Henne proved again he is no better than a backup. It's also great to see the defense play so much better with Smith back in the lineup. My big concern coming out of this game is the condition of Cecil Shorts. I'm hoping he didn't suffer another serious concussion. What are you hearing on your side?
John: I'll start by addressing your thought on Henne. While I'm on record saying I'm not sure he's the necessarily the answer long-term, I don't know that he proved he was no better than a backup Sunday. He threw for 348 yards and got the Jaguars in position to tie late in the game. He didn't win, but he's still working behind a struggling line with pretty limited resources overall. And yes, Smith did make a difference. That's how it works with elite players. As for Shorts, I expect we'll hear more from Mularkey later on Monday. My first thought is I doubt he would play in the final game of the season, but that's purely speculation. We'll see.
Otto from PVD, FL:
Pats vs. Jags . . . pride is a great motivator . . . way to go Jaguars.
John: Yes, it is.
Jerrell from Columbia, SC:
John: This team . . . what? So, Shorts has a concussion. Are you supposed to sit every player who gets a concussion until . . . until when? Shorts was cleared to play, and he said he was symptom-free. This is football. When's too soon for him to play? Next week? Next year? And this was a case where I don't believe one concussion necessarily had anything to do with another. I'm not playing doctor here, but the shot Shorts took Sunday likely would have given him a concussion whether he had a concussion two weeks ago or never.
Ian from Lancaster, OH:
There are reports that the Vikings are parting ways with Percy Harvin after this season. Instead of wasting a roster spot on Tebow, why don't we bring him in? We need a solid return man and he can be an option for Gabbert next year in the offense. A lot more value there than with Tebow, and he's an ex-Gator so that crowd will be satisfied!
John: Harvin undoubtedly would help any team in multiple ways when healthy. That hasn't always been the case, and that will be something to consider for whatever team he's with next season, including potentially the Vikings.
Scott from Wichita, KS:
If this franchise brings in Tebow, then I question its commitment to winning. I'm baffled at the questions concerning him in this column . . . completely baffled. Do these folks even watch football?
John: Yes, they watch, and Tebow has had enough success to get people excited. He's also a very polarizing figure, popular with some fans and detested by others. I'm not baffled by Tebow questions anymore. I'm just sitting back waiting to see what happens next.
Rucker from New York, NY:
I'm shocked by these Tebow reports. How can anyone say what free agent decisions will be made, when nobody knows who our general manager will be heading into the 2013 season?
John: That's a good question.
Josh from Orlando, FL:
O, if all of these reports of Khan forcing Tebow and hiring a GM ok with it are true, it must mean he really is about the bottom line and not winning. I don't want anything to do with that. Please tell us that it's not true and just interwebz rumors.
John: There are many, many reports. A lot of Jaguars fans seem to want Tebow. Others seem to not want him. He is a polarizing figure.
Andrew from Panama City Beach, FL:
I don't know if the ESPN reports are true, however it is a "virtual certainty" that we have something to talk about in the O-Zone during the off season.
John: Indeed we will.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
The upside of what could happen with Tim Tebow is worth all the risk. It may not work out but the curious question is what happens if it does? Was that playoff game against the Steelers a fluke? The biggest game of his career? If it does work out, watch out, it will be a wild ride!
John: Indeed it would.
Brad from Jacksonville:
All Tebow has done, every time he's played, is win games - in Denver, at Florida, and at Nease. With the state this team is in, why not start him next year?
John: You don't bring a player in with the idea of, "With the state of the team, why not?" You bring him in if you believe he can help you win and if he's a guy the people running the team believe has a chance to develop into a starting quarterback.
Tucker from New York, NY:
I take back anything bad I've ever said about Blackmon. Any thoughts on a solid, concise nickname we can chant in the stadium when he makes a clutch play?
John: You know, I started thinking the same thing about midway through the fourth quarter – not about the nickname; that will take care of itself – but about Blackmon's progress. Like many, I was skeptical about him at midseason, even when Mike Mularkey praised him. Then, I stepped back and remembered the many rookie receivers who have struggled in the NFL and I started looking for signs in Blackmon. What I wanted to see were signs that a young player was improving, and starting to get it. I also wanted to see Blackmon showing that he was difficult to cover in at least one or two situations. That way, he would have something to build on and something teams would have to stop, and therefore force defenses to play him a certain way. At that point, a receiver can start to build his game based on his strengths and improving his weaknesses. Blackmon has shown those things, and shown progress. Because of that, I think he can make real strides next season and be a must-stop receiver.

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