Monday O'Zone. We're out of the bye and a day or two away from full-scale preparations for the Colts. Second half of the season is upon us. Break time is over.
Let's get to it . . . Ken from Jacksonville:
What contributes to a receiver (or a tight end) that was good enough to be drafted into the NFL, or even be a Pro Bowl player, suddenly not be able to do something as fundamental as catch the ball?
John: We've talked enough about the receivers – for the bye week, at least – but as for Marcedes Lewis, it's fair to say he's struggling. He has been a good enough player that you assume he won't struggle forever. Sometimes players go through rough stretches. It's frustrating, but it's probably about that simple.
Eddie from Orange Park, FL:
When will we get a good wide receiver? Or at least someone who can catch a ball?
John: The most significant upgrade almost certainly will come April 2012.
J.R. from Yulee, FL:
I have just recently got back into reading this column since the "other guy" left. He always said, "It's players, not plays." I agree. This is why I have a problem giving Mel Tucker so much credit. Last year everyone wanted him fired. This year, the defense improves because of new players or because of the defensive play calling?
John: I agree for the most part: coaching is usually given too much credit and too much blame. I wouldn't at all say that Mel Tucker is in any way the biggest reason for the defensive turnaround. I would say he deserves some credit for keeping things simple and running a scheme that has allowed a slew of new players to come together and have some success.
Nick from New York, NY:
You're too generous to these fans. It might be fair to look at Newton, Dalton, and Ponder and wonder what's up with Gabbert. But how another quarterback is performing is entirely irrelevant to an assessment of how Gabbert is performing.
John: You're right . . . I am a good guy.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
As a Jaguars fan I want everyone involved in the organization to be successful, but I don't understand the Gene Smith love affair. I give credit for the moves made in free agency this past off season, but also note that his draft picks have been less than average. I Love Tyson, Pot Roast and Monroe, but most of the others have been underachievers or non-factors. D'Anthony Smith, Larry Hart, Austen Lane, Scotty McGee, Eben Britton, Mike Thomas, Jarrett Dillard, Zach Miller, Tiquan Underwood. That's not even including the most recent class. Come on, you have to admit it, don't you? JAGS4LIFE
John: Smith, Lane, Miller and Britton aren't playing right now because of injuries. Some people blame general managers for injuries. I don't. Mike Thomas? I'm not sure he's Pro Bowl bound, but he by no means has been an underachiever. That leaves Hart, McGee, Dillard and Underwood. Take a look at any draft. You're going to have hits and misses. I've said it over and over again. I don't judge a general manager by running down draft selections pick by pick. You can pick apart any GM doing that. I look at the roster and see a more solid foundation than was there three years ago. It takes time and some people hate hearing that. I get it, but I believe a general manager's job is to have a system in place that's conducive over time to building a winning organization. I believe Smith has that in place. And it's not a love affair – just a belief that the guy knows what he's doing.
RJ from St. Augustine, FL:
I wanted to throw this out and see what comes back. We are only two years away for competing for a Super Bowl year in and year out. We have all the pieces in place. A strong foundation on defense (line, linebackers and now the secondary). A top-ranked special teams unit (we just had injured players come back). On offense we have one of the best running backs, a solid left tackle and a young promising quarterback who by the way is going to be outstanding. Just give him time. The only thing that needs improvement is the receiving corps which will be fixed in next year's draft. Please have patience. In two years we will be a staple in the playoffs. In Gene we trust.
John: Good eye.
Dean from Rochester, NY:
Here's a perspective the typical Jags fan might appreciate. The Bills were perpetually awful, right up until the moment they got pretty good.
John: Well-put. That's how it works.
Mark from Tulare, CA:
Being a Jags fan, I don't hear of other team's "rising" players whose careers are hampered or ended by injuries. D.A. Smith, Britton, Miller, Alualu, Kampman, Dillard, Cox etc. are all players who's careers are being jeopardized by injuries. I know injuries are part of the game, but in three years six of Gene's picks and a prized free agent have all struggled with them. I can understand the occasional injuries but it seems these guys can't stay healthy. Is this something that is the "norm" in the league or are the Jags getting a little bit of bad luck here too?
John: It's bad luck. Players get hurt. Some people blame general managers and personnel officials for that, although I don't agree.
Dustin from Jacksonville:
Too much sarcasm? Looks like some people (Kharii) feel they should be able to criticize the team, the players, the coaches and even the senior editor but how dare you disagree with a fan John? If they were running this team, we'd be undefeated. Unfortunately, they are entirely too busy to come and provide their expertise. Here's a thought, if a fan doesn't like your column, they get a full refund and we'll stop forcing them to read it.
John: Readers can voice whatever opinion they want, Kharii included.
Chris from Anderson:
Your comment, but some of the Garrard emails have an undertone that somehow the Jaguars out of spite or stubbornness opted to release him with the idea of intentionally sacrificing a playoff season for . . . for . . . for what is what I can' figure out." The answer is clear but no will say it. He was due 8 plus million and he had a back injury that required attention. They would not have released a 100 percent Garrard over Gabbert, It was a business decision and the right one because it saved them money and he is not playing because of the injury. To imply Gabbert as a rookie is better than Garrard healthy is silly. Overall, the Jags did what they had to do and it did cost them the playoffs however a healthy Garrard did not promise playoffs, they would have a chance and be better but it was not a for sure thing. Just wish you could stop putting Garrard down. How many NFL starts do you have?
John: I've said many times I have nothing against Garrard. He wasn't playing well in the preseason and there was no consensus that it would improve – or that he would play well enough in the regular season. I have no NFL starts, which is more than enough to listen and report what I hear. I keep on hearing about money being a factor, but it just doesn't add up. Why would a team that spent the sort of money it did in free agent cut a quarterback that it believed would be a difference in being a playoff team or not for 8 million?
Andy from St. Augustine, FL:
Please don't assume all fans that disagree with you are mindless drones that simply watch the NFL Network and ESPN. People don't want the Jags to sign Terrell Owens because "he worked out shirtless on the NFL Network." They want the Jags to sign him because he is a proven NFL WR who over the last 5 seasons has averaged 72 receptions / 1080 yards and 10 TDs per year. Granted, he's 38 years old and coming off a serious knee injury - but people have been saying he's too old for a few years and he has just kept proving them wrong. He also has shown the ability to come back from injury sooner than expected (came back to play for the Eagles in the Super Bowl when the prevailing thought around the league was that he was done for the year and should be put on injured reserve). With the state of our receiving corps, he simply could not be any worse than what we currently have and might help us to be a little more competitive.
John: I see your lips moving. What I keep hearing is, "I liked how he looked without a shirt."
Brett from Ocoee, FL:
Lauren must not remember Vic very well. Don't apologize, John. If a question keeps coming back (offensive line play) and no one accepts your answer, just brush it off with a healthy dose of sarcasm. That's what Vic ended up doing with the topic of BAP drafting. You're doing fine, John.
John: But . . . Lauwen hurt my feewings.