Look Ahead Wednesday. At last.
Let's get to it . . . Scott from Jacksonville:
I'm a season-ticket holder and read your column every day. I enjoy your insight and I understand your points regarding Gabbert. To look long-term, how much time is it appropriate to give Gabbert before he can be called a "bust?" At some point, there has to be an expiration date on when a quarterback's mistakes can be written off.
John: You don't write a player off until you see a player not improving or developing. We're not there on Gabbert, and although I've gotten another pretty extensive round of these "Is-Gabbert-a-Bust?" emails this week, something should be made clear: despite the statistics, Sunday was not a game that restarted the clock ticking on Gabbert. Yes, the statistics were bad, but from talking to people who would know, Gabbert wasn't missing open receivers and he wasn't misreading defenses and he wasn't getting rid of the ball too quickly because of pressure. Mike Mularkey referred to a couple of plays on which he could have had more patience with a route as it came open, but those were not gargantuan mistakes that should be seen as any sort of a setback.
Jesse from Hilton Head, SC:
Seemed the Texans out-schemed the Jags. They opened the game with more screen passes than the Jags will probably run all year. Also, I think it's time to see some of our rookie linebackers get some playing time. Your thoughts?
John: My thoughts are you seemed to watch the game very closely.
Sal from New Jersey Section Couch:
Where's the pass rush, man? Try to emphasize that more in the locker room, if you can.
John: I'll pass it along, but from this view, the main issue with the pass rush isn't as much the rush as it is the run defense. The Jaguars are 31st in run defense, and when you're not stopping the run you're in a lot of 3rd-and-2 and 3rd-and-3s. When you're in a lot of third and short – or when you're not reaching third down at all – it severely limits the amount of pass-rush opportunities. That doesn't mean two sacks in two games is acceptable, but there have been instances when the team got good rush on passers and forced quick throws. You need to get home on that, but my sense is the rush is doing a decent job when given the opportunity. It's up to the overall run defense to get into more obvious passing situations.
Tim from Jacksonville:
Just watched Lagevision. Please tell me the Colts do not have a J. J. Watt. Is J. J. Watt really that much better than Jared Allen?
John: I wish I could help you, but the Colts have Robert Mathis. He was J.J. Watt-good for a long time and he's still very, very good. Watt is probably pretty comparable to Allen right now, and he certainly had a big game Sunday, but Mathis offers very little respite. Can the Jaguars get him blocked? Sure, but I can't tell you the Colts don't have talent at the spot.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Why is everyone on New York's side regarding the kneel play? It's a 60-minute game, not a 59.5 minute game. If Tampa was down 24 I would understand the frustration, but they were down one possession. This is football, not Eli's beauty pageant. What's wrong with going after the ball, if you still have a shot? You're paid millions of dollars a year and you have two rings; be a man and take the hit. Any given Sunday, life is a contact sport.
John: It was bush league, and put players at undue risk to injury. It put Manning at risk and put the offensive line at risk for no benefit. Just about any veteran will tell you it's something you don't do.
Darrell from Jacksonville:
Is there anybody who agrees with me that this team's shot of staying in this town revolves around a change at the GM position and bringing Tim Tebow down as our starter? Yea, I said it. Pontificate all you want, but is there any way we're not better the last two seasons with him and everyone knows what the marketability would be. He won a division and a playoff game against the Steelers.
John: Sure, there probably are people who agree with you. They'd probably be pretty vocal about it, too. Volume doesn't make you correct. Look, Shad Khan is invested in this team and this town and is committed to building the community as well as the franchise. If you want to believe that trading for a backup quarterback will have more of an impact on the team's long-term franchise than Khan's commitment I probably can't change your mind, but it doesn't make you right.
Mark from Charleston, SC:
We may be onto something with this cheerleader out-of-sync idea. Can you send me game film of them, so I can review? Also if my wife were to ask, deny everything.
John: Your secret's safe with me.
Ben from Orlando, FL:
Hey John, love your work and I still feel good about the overall direction of this franchise. That said, we seem to never discuss the competitive disadvantage that comes from having $28 million in cap space. The Texans had something like $25M more talent on the field Sunday than we did and that's before you factor in our four injured starters. At times I wonder if that talent gap is surmountable. We've known from Day One we have depth issues at certain positions (OT, OG, OLB) and all the money in the world to address them. I'm just a fan, but I know being one twisted ankle away from Guy Whimper is poor planning. I feel like the GM would just as soon spend all the money he's allowed to acquire talent to help him retain his job. What's your take?
John: The Jaguars have cap space, but that's mostly because the salary cap is flat. The cap space will roll over to next season, and that space will be needed to re-sign players currently on the roster. If you use the cap space this season, you will be forced to release players for cap reasons when re-signing players next offseason. The Jaguars actually spend fairly significantly, as Jason La Canfora noted in this recent article. Finally, you simply can't manage the cap if you're spending big money for depth. You need to draft and develop your depth.
Nick from Jacksonville:
This groin injury to Daryl Smith has me worried. With it likely he will miss yet another game, how worried should we be that this is a longer-term injury than is being reported? I remember the Fred Taylor groin injury and how little was made of it throughout that season and we all know what it did for Freddy's image as well as the team's performance. Am I just being paranoid?
John: It has me worried, too. I really haven't seen a duration reported, but my sense is it could be more than just another week.
Bill from Jacksonville:
I think you're confused about what fans mean when they mention depth. John Estes and Jason Spitz are just guys. Will Rackley is a second-year player who was average, at best, as a rookie. Eben Britton was drafted to be this team's RT for the next 10 years, and had to be moved inside because an undrafted Cameron Bradfield beat him out. Depth isn't simply players carried on a roster; it's talented players that can step in and replace the production of a starter on ours or other NFL teams.
John: I appreciate the email, but I'm not confused by what fans mean when they mention depth. When I write this column, I don't attempt to answer questions based on the fan's perception. I try to explain the Jaguars' point of view on matters as best I can and provide as much of a detached, unemotional explanation as possible. Your view is that Estes and Spitz are just guys. You have a right to that view, and I'm not sure either player is headed to the Pro Bowl, but I just don't know that it's right to say that those players aren't comparable to the backup linemen on most NFL teams. You say depth is talented players than can replace the production of a starter. That's ideal, but again, I don't know that you find a lot of NFL teams with that sort of depth across the board.
Derick from Christmas, FL:
Why do the Jaguars rookies nearly always perform worse than their fellow rookies? If Blackmon had been drafted by the Rams, for example, he'd have two touchdowns and well over a hundred yards receiving right now?
John: Would he really?
Teko from Jacksonville:
What's up with Gabbert not throwing the ball to Blackmon at least 15 times a game??????? He reminds me so much of Jimmy Smith with his great hands!!!!! Just throw the ball at him and he will catch it 9-10 times.
John: Gabbert targeted Blackmon four times, and on those passes he didn't appear to be open. I believe Blackmon will be very good, but he does need to be at least a little open. It often takes time to adjust to the NFL as a receiver, and it appears Blackmon is going through that process. The receivers that make it adjust to the speed of the game, and find ways to get open consistently. That's Blackmon's next step.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
Every power ranking out this week has the Jags ranked dead last in the NFL except one: the ESPN ranking. So please adjust your ranking to properly reflect that the Jags are the worst team in the NFL (by a wide margin). We are not better than the Raiders. Seriously, get it together.
John: If you want to put the Jaguars last, do your own ranking. It will mean as much mine.