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O-Zone: A chance to compete

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Wyatt from Jacksonville:
Now that performance out of Blaine Gabbert was what I was expecting – for him to pick up where he left off in his last healthy game last year - the Oakland game. Did you see a similarity between the performance versus Oakland and the performance in the Jets preseason game for Gabbert?
John: What I saw Saturday was a lot more what I expected from Gabbert, too. He had his best stretch of his career last season shortly before he got hurt, and while it wasn't a Pro Bowl level during that stretch, it showed improvement. A lot of that got forgotten because as a whole, his season wasn't good. Last week was a struggle, but if you watched closely, you realized that there were three drops and that he only threw two poor passes -- one well over Mike Brown's head and one that bounced off Will Ta'ufo'ou hands for an interception. We can't get too excited over Gabbert. Just as last week was "just a preseason game" this week was "just a preseason game, too." But if you're looking for a sign that he can be productive and that the Jaguars' offense can be productive with him playing, the first three series certainly were that. Saturday showed hope at the quarterback position. It had been a while since the Jaguars had that.
Erik from Jagtown:
Where are the Gabbert haters at? chirp chirp
John: They're quieter this morning, to be sure, but let's be balanced here. Saturday was a good performance. It doesn't mean he's going to the Hall of Fame. It was something on which to build, but seeing as how there hasn't been a performance like that from him in three seasons, it's OK to wonder if that can be developed and improved upon.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
How serious is Gabbert's injury?
John: It's hard to say. The X-Rays on Gabbert's right thumb came back negative and Gus Bradley doesn't seem to think it's serious. Gabbert didn't sound unconcerned after the game, which is natural for a right-handed quarterback with a right thumb injury. It wouldn't surprise me if Gabbert didn't play again in the preseason. I still think he wins the starting quarterback job, and yes, I think Saturday night went a long way to solidifying that.
Zach from Elkhart, WI:
John, still seems like injuries are running rampant throughout the league more than usual. Is it just me or is it the fact that media is covering injuries more this year for some reason? Anyways thoughts, prayers, and best of wishes for players and families affected. #Moodachay
John: Players get hurt every year. This year, there do seem to be a few more torn anterior cruciate ligaments than past years. Some years it's ankles and strains that seem numerous. I still don't buy that there is an increase in injuries, though I don't have the statistics or the wherewithal to prove it. Twitter and the 24-7 news cycle bring these issues much more into the immediate consciousness than ever before, and I imagine that will continue to be the case. I anticipate emails next preseason talking about how there are more injuries than before, and I imagine I'll answer pretty similarly.
Jason from Jacksonville:
John: Maybe. People have been waiting for a quarterback to look good – really good – and for three series, and you have to say Gabbert did that. Is it the tipping point? My guess is it will be, but that's only a guess.
Ryan from Atlanta, GA:
Our defense looks hungry – very aggressive. I'm almost OK with the penalties (for now) just to see their tenacity. I'm much more confident after seeing their performance. What do you think?
John: I think the starters on this team – on both sides of the ball – have shown that if they're healthy, they will compete and do the things the coaching staff wants. The defense had a few touch drives early, but also made a big play – the Marcus Trufant interception – to keep the Jaguars in the game. On a young, building team, that's how you stay in games and win them.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
John, seeing the potential of Justin Blackmon just makes his off-the-field issues more frustrating. He reminds me of Michael Irvin the way he runs routes and uses his body and strength for position. Sure hope this kid gets it before it's too late.
John: He is talented. He has a chance to be special. And yes, he needs to "get it" off the field. The Jaguars think he has a chance to do that. Time will tell, but it's a major issue for the development of this franchise.
Nicholas from Fort Lee, VA:
Liked what I saw from Blackmon. So disappointing to know he won't play for the first four games.
John: Yes, it is. The offense has a chance to be productive if he, Cecil Shorts III, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis are on the field at the same time.
Bryan from Tampa, FL:
Watching this preseason game makes me realize a potential danger in the up-tempo offense. If it is ineffective, it gives the defense very little time to catch its breath before returning to the field.
John: Yes, that's the danger. But the Jaguars need to find a way to score points. For now, that's the priority on offense, and the defense will have figure out a way to deal with a few short breathers.
Jason from Rochester, NY:
So, man crush?
John: No more so than before.
Dane from Young Harris, GA:
In such a results-oriented business, why would a GM and coach purposely tank a season - and thereby risk their reputation, career, and livelihood - to put them in position to draft a college player? If I was in their position, I'd do everything possible to win now.
John: You're right. They wouldn't. And they would.
Matt from Manassas:
So can we expect the overreaction theater to chime with Cap's stat line in the 49er's game or the Tebow performance in the Patriots game to be on par with what would be said if Gabbert did the same? My guess is no.
John: Of course not. Just as many were quick to jump on Tebow's performance as evidence of what they believed about him, people will usually be quick to jump on Gabbert if he has a poor statistical game. Kaepernick naturally gets the benefit of the doubt because he played in the Super Bowl last year and Gabbert won't get the same until he has success. Your point is correct, that preseason statistics taken in a vacuum really don't mean much, but in the age of Twitter, we must analyze something.
Rick from Jacksonville:
Who would you consider the lead receiver behind Shorts and Blackmon at this point?
John: Ace Sanders.
Tiler from Greenville:
Are compensatory picks awarded (calculated) only for if a player signs somewhere else? If you draft a player in the first round and before the season starts he goes down with a career ending-injury, you lose a player and a pick. Although you don't know how the player would have panned out, the value is very high and it is now gone. Is there any compensation for that?
John: Good question. The answer is no. It's probably not fair because your scenario obviously sets a franchise back in a significant way, but that's the way it is.
Dave from Section 410 and Jacksonville:
After my LA Moodachay debacle with the maid I flew to Atlanta, thanks Brian.
John: That explains a lot. Thanks.
Christer from Copenhagen, Denmark:
This has been a loooong offseason. To be honest it started somewhere in October for me (and the Jaguars sadly). So long that I've skipped a few months of O-zone and most other NFL related sites. Even though I don't expect a complete turnaround in just one season I hope and pray for somewhere around 5-11 this season. Is that realistic? Has the team improved that much? So many glaring holes and so little time. Will the O-line give time for the QB? Will the D get to theirs? Will the receivers catch the ball and hold onto it? Will the D create turnovers and do proper tackles like when they ranked 6th? So many questions that you can't answer them all. Let's just say that I'm looking forward to the weekend where regular season begins. Getting married Saturday. Season starts Sunday. Perfect. Go Jaguars!
John: Yeah, too many questions, so we'll start with a few. Your projection of five victories or more? Realistic. Will the pass rush be improved? Yes, but perhaps not dramatically. We'll see how many glaring holes there are. Overall, the question you seem to be asking is will it take time? Yes, but progress is being made. That's a start.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Not bad. Not bad at all.
John: No, it wasn't. The Jaguars weren't perfect Saturday. Not even close. They had too many penalties and turnovers, and the team probably isn't as deep as you'd like. That's to be expected on a rebuilding team. The Jaguars will need to stay healthy, but Saturday gave a glimpse that if they can do that – if they can stay healthy – they have a chance to compete with a lot of teams.

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