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Many paths to success

LookAhead Wednesday.

Let's get to it . . .
Adrian from Inglewood, CA:
I don't know if Henne is the long-term fixture at quarterback. I also don't know that Gabbert can't eventually develop into that guy, but I can tell you that with Henne at the controls I felt hope and that's something I hadn't felt in a long, long time.
John: This email captures the mood of an awful lot of readers right now, and that's understandable. We don't know the end game for Chad Henne in Jacksonville. As good as he has looked these last two weeks – and he's looked pretty darned good – it's still necessary to get a larger sample size to have a clear idea of what to expect going forward. At the same time, it's fair to have hope after what the offense has done these last two games. It had been a long time – too long – since the offense functioned like that. To see it makes you realize that the ability is there to have a competitive, functioning offense – and that overall, the team might not be as far away as many previously believed.
Aaron from Jacksonville:
Use. Correct. Punctuation.
John: will do
Seth from Jacksonville:
Do we have a true stretch-the-field wide receiver? I know Shorts has had some long-yardage plays, but is he considered our outside speed guy? Blackmon?
John: I don't know that Shorts is a true "stretch-the-field" wide receiver in the sense that you can just drop three steps, throw it long and expect him to get behind the cornerback on pure speed. Blackmon isn't that guy and doesn't appear to have the pure speed to be that; he was drafted because of his hands and body control far more than his size or speed. Then again, I'm not sure you have to have that pure speed receiver to be an efficient offense. Shorts has shown the ability to get behind the defense enough that you have to respect that, and that's what you need to start stretching the field. You also need a quarterback willing to throw downfield. If you have those things, defenses can't play jammed against the line of scrimmage.
Dave from Panama City, FL:
I don't recall ever hearing about so many players with concussions. Robinson having four concussions in one year seems unusual. Are there more concussions, has a concussion been redefined or is the focus created by the new rules making it look like there are more?
John: More the latter than anything else. It's possible there may be a few more concussions now than in the past, but we'll almost certainly never know that, because statistics weren't kept anywhere near the way they are now. The NFL has dramatically increased its focus on the area in the last five years. Robinson, for example, has had four incidents this season, and it's entirely possible some of those would have been overlooked in the past. It's also entirely possible he wouldn't have been placed on injured reserve after four in the past. More and more is being learned about the issue, and because there remain so many unknowns, teams and players are being far more cautious than before. It's possible concussions will be handled far differently in five or 10 years than now as more is known about their long-term effects, but for right now, this is where we are.
John from Jacksonville:
Since our wildcard playoff appearance in 2007, we are a combined 6-18 in the last six games of each season. After overcoming adversity early Sunday, I feel the Jaguars will finish strong. I don't understand those who prefer to finish weak for a higher draft pick. Finishing strong gives players and coaches something to build on instead of starting from scratch. One draft pick doesn't change a team. Do you think more people favor finishing strong in exchange for getting a later draft pick?
John: I get a lot more emails from people favoring finishing weak and getting the earlier draft selection, but that's probably because the draft has become more of a year-round topic than it was two or three decades ago. The draft, while important, typically isn't an immediate-impact proposition unless it involves a quick-impact quarterback such as Andrew Luck or RGIII. In this case, I agree with you that it's better for the Jaguars to finish these final six games strong, get a good assessment of what there is to build around and perhaps develop a few more players/position groups around which they can rely. That's more valuable than a few positions in the draft right now.
Brandon from Orlando, FL:
For the first time in a long time, since the Brunell era, our passing game is becoming the bread and butter of our offense. I like it. Are we witnessing a changing of the guard in philosophy?
John: Two weeks doesn't necessarily equal a change in philosophy, but we are witnessing what happens when an offense can move consistently. It's intriguing to think about what this offense might be if it can continue to pass well and incorporate that with an improved running game, the latter of which it seems logical will happen when/if Maurice Jones-Drew returns. I'm not ready to anoint this Jaguars' offense as one of the NFL's best, but it does look like it has a chance to start passing efficiently and that really needed to happen.
John from Jacksonville:
What is the logic in the NFL where there are strict rules keeping the quarterback safe on a live play but they look the other way on a dead play when a defender often gets a free shot at the quarterback? Doesn't it seem contradictory and somewhat stupid?
John: Yes. It also seems like something that will be addressed in the offseason. It's happened too often to the Jaguars this season, and it's the sort of thing the Competition Committee and league office typically will make moves to prevent becoming a trend.
Ron from Jacksonville:
The running game is still looking pedestrian. It's actually pretty exciting to think about how the offense will look with Mojo and Greg Jones. I hope it works out so this team has full participation in the off-season programs and can come together between now and next season.
John: The running game actually took a step forward last week. It wasn't dominant, but it was good enough that it got the offense in positive down-and-distance situations, and forced the defense to acknowledge the run. Wednesday's news that Jalen Parmele had to go on injured reserve doesn't help this area. Parmele ran hard and seemed to get the most out of a lot of plays. It would appear Rashad Jennings would move back into the starting lineup until Jones-Drew returns. He hasn't been productive enough in his five starts. He needs to play better.
Mitch from Fleming Island, FL:
With Shorts and Blackmon evolving into threats that defenses will have to plan for, just a quick reminder to fans that this is exactly how Laurent Robinson flourished with Dallas. Don't give up on him yet; he could break out for the Jags next year in the very possible same situation.
John: True. Laurent Robinson is on injured reserve, and because he sustained four concussions, it remains to be seen what the future holds. If he can return to health, you make a good point: he flourished in the third receiver role in Dallas, and theoretically could do the same in this offense.
George from London, Ontario:
The way I look at the Branch situation is that if he was in a position to make a significant impact this year he would have probably been a Top 20 pick, but his scouting report was that he'd need some polish; he was a high second-rounder, I think fans need to chill a bit.
John: Defensive ends often need time to develop. Jason Pierre-Paul registered his first sack in his 11th game.
Michael from Jacksonville:
Chad means "one who battles" or "warlike." Blaine means "thin" or "slender." One took seven sacks and never flinched. The other, well, he's not on the field any more. Just saying.
John: And apparently Michael means one likes "to put things in quotes."
Marcus from Jacksonville:
What do you think the current scenario is doing to Gabbert's confidence?
John: That's a legitimate question and while the answer is critical to Gabbert's future, more important is how he responds to this situation. It would be a little odd if Gabbert wasn't at least somewhat down and even discouraged. He's a competitor and a prideful guy and the offense is functioning better now than when he played. A lot of people are saying, "See, he was the problem!!!" and that has to hurt, too. Here's the other side of that: so what? Fans are going to say what they want. Media is going to say what it wants. Personnel people around the league are going to whisper what they want. None of that matters. What matters is how Gabbert responds. He's a talented guy who's still young and the end of his story hasn't been written yet. Will it be easy for him to regain the starting position? Not if Henne plays well, but this isn't about easy. This is about Gabbert working hard, continuing to progress and taking advantage of the opportunities that still likely will come his way. There's no rule that says that can't be a path to success.

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