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O-Zone: A few days to reflect

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Neptune Beach, FL:
John, the progression of this offense from last year to now is minimal at best. Actually ... I could make a better argument that they have regressed more than progressed. The O-Line is awful, the receivers can't catch and I'm burning my Marcedes Lewis jersey as we speak. Start the free agency/NFL Draft talk, please!!!
John: Certainly you could make the argument that the Jaguars' offense regressed this season. In terms of production and statistics that's true – and those are fair measures of an offense. But you must look a little deeper and try to see what the Jaguars were doing in terms of building for the future. The offense struggled with a lot of veterans on the field last season and it struggled a bit more with an inordinate number of rookies on the field this season. Those rookies included a center, a quarterback and three receivers much of the season, so struggling was expected. And yeah … we'll start free agency and draft talk soon. Not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, Brian … soon.
Geoff from Orlando and Section 423:
A poor season ends. But the future seems brighter. Can't wait for the draft – A Jaguars Haiku
John: Gesundheit.
Rob from Jacksonville Section 114 again for 2015:
Season summary: they are who we thought they were. Bring on 2015. WE ARE JAGUARS!
John: You are perhaps implying that this team played and lost games in a lot of the same ways a lot this season and … yeah, they did, didn't they? The offense struggled and the defense played well a whole lot and they couldn't quite finish games. That was true throughout the season and it was true again Sunday against Houston. I see that as a logical thing to happen for a team with a veteran defense and with an offense playing a lot of young players. That shouldn't happen as much next season.
Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
O Man … The season has ended. All the "youth" you spoke so much about on offense is no longer an excuse. The jury is improve in 2015 the Jags must replace Joeckel at LT... he is poor.
John: The "youth" wasn't an excuse; it was "real" no matter how many "quotation marks" we put "around" it. And I get that the Joeckel Conversation is just beginning for the offseason, but I just don't see that conversation ending with a new left tackle next season.
David from Jacksonville:
I know that Gus is a strong-willed guy and I really do think that his positivity is what holds this group together sometimes. How long can it go on, though? How much can a guy take? Going 7-25 over your first two seasons is horrible, regardless of the roster. Not to mention finishing with a worse record than last year – it has to take a toll on a man's mental strength.
John: I worry about many things. I worry about money. I worry about the football season back slide. I worry about remembering how to change wiper blades the next time that becomes an issue. I don't worry about Gus Bradley's mental strength.
Jim from Jacksonville:
I know J.J. Watt is a great player, but there were several plays where Luke Joeckel's effort looked half-hearted.
John: When a player struggles, it can look half-hearted. Joeckel struggled at times on Sunday. But he wasn't not trying.
Mike from Eagan, MN:
Oh man, O-Zone!!!! I really hope Jedd gets the chance to shine as a head coach!! Anywhere! Other than here! That trick play shows how ready he is!! Fair winds and seas abeam!
John: I'm sensing sarcasm, but I'm not sure (Text me if I'm "warm").
Sid from Pittsburgh, PA:
Joeckel, is he with this team next year? It does not appear he is capable of playing in this league and it has been painfully obvious all year long.
John: Yes, Joeckel is absolutely with the team next year, and while he had plays this season where he looked overwhelmed he most certainly did not appear incapable of playing in the NFL. He has to gain strength and his technique must improve. He is aware of this and it will be his focus in the offseason. We'll have a multitude – or at least several months' worth – of O-Zones to address this, but suffice to say the Jaguars won't be trying to replace Joeckel at left tackle this offseason.
LeRoy from the Beaches:
Losing stinks, but you know: there was a chance for us to win....Still a loss, but it's nice to be in the game at the end instead of it "being over" in the first half. Progress. I'll take it.
John: Yeah, there's truth in that. The Jaguars by any measure had many, many more games like Sunday's – games against competing teams in which they had a chance to win – than last season. That's progress by any measure. At the same time, as I wrote in Sunday's View From The O-Zone, the time that approach is OK is not just coming to an end; it is absolutely done.
Michael from Jacksonville:
Do you see the Jags targeting a tight end in the first round this year? Marcedes Lewis is not elite and Clay Harbor is average but not great.
John: No. I do not see the Jaguars drafting a tight end in the first round. I see them trying to address it in free agency, and if there's not a player there who's an upgrade I see them addressing it in the draft. But the Jaguars are selecting No. 3. They won't take a tight end that early.
Darqueeze from The Bank:
Hey Zone! Randy Gregory or Leonard Williams? I think Gregory has more upside.
John: I think Leonard Williams is really, really good. Really good.
Kyle from Davenport, IA:
I think part of the reason you don't see general managers rebuilding like Dave isn't that they don't believe it works, but rather that they know it will take some time and a lot of losses: something they don't trust their owner to give them. Shad is what makes this possible.
John: Yes.
Chris from Philadelphia, PA:
Despite Marqise Lee's "progress," this game showed why I am concerned about his long-term prospects. He catches the ball with his body, rarely making first contact with the ball with his hands. You can get away with that in college because coverages aren't incredibly tight. In the NFL, coverages are too tight; receivers must catch the ball while simultaneously getting hit. There's rarely an opportunity to double clutch a catch. I'm not sure how easy it is to learn how to become a "hands catcher." Thoughts?
John: I think you're right that Lee ideally would catch the ball with hands a bit more. That's something on which he almost certainly will focus this offseason and beyond. But even using his current style he showed significant playmaking ability this season – flashes and stretches where he showed he could beat NFL defensive backs and make plays. Those are tools not every receiver possesses and gives him a chance to develop as he improves in needed areas.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Please help me again understand how we can say that most of the offensive pieces are in place when they couldn't even get a first down Sunday.
John: They have to get better. They have to upgrade right tackle, and the rookie quarterback has to improve. The offensive line has to improve. The offensive line as a whole must improve. That should happen with experience. That's the explanation, though likely not the one you want.
Evan from Tallahassee, FL:
You know, the people who said we'd have seven or eight wins this year might have been optimistic, but they weren't that far off. With just marginal improvement over the ineptitude on offense and special teams this team wins probably three or four more games. Am I right or am I just drinking too much Kool-Aid from Dave and Gus?
John: I'm not going to spend a lot of time breaking down how close the Jaguars were to .500. They weren't realistically very close to .500 this season. They also sure weren't close to a playoff team and that's the ultimate goal. What I have said most of the season and what will continue to be true is that the Jaguars were better this season than last season. Clearly. With the exception of a couple of games early and a couple of games right around the bye, this team was competitive for pretty significant stretches of pretty much every game. They rarely looked overmatched on defense, which certainly wasn't the case last season. They have reached the point where they know what they want to do defensively and for the most part this season they did it pretty well. They must improve on offense, and that needs to happen next season. And the Jaguars need to show the same improvement from this season to next season as they did last season to this season. If they do, these close losses will turn into victories and people will see the progress. If not …
William from Section 423:
So, Zone... What happens now?
John: Now, we take a few days to reflect, celebrate the New Year and then, what else? On to the Senior Bowl, then the combine, then Pro Days, then …

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