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O-Zone: A long, long wait

JACKSONVILLE – Ah, a little antagonistic bye-week Saturday here in the 'Zone.

Let's get to it … Bill from Jacksonville:
John, when Dave and Gus took over it was said there was a three-year plan in place. It has been intimated that by Year 3 the Jaguars would be competing for and/or making the playoffs. A little more than halfway through the process, what do you see that makes you think next season the Jaguars will compete for and/or make the playoffs?
John: This is a hard thing to see at this point, without question. And there are reasons to think the Jaguars wouldn't be there next season – a 1-9 record this season chief among them. But since you asked, here goes … I see the Jaguars improving, and I see them significantly closer to beating good teams than they were a year ago. If they improve similarly next season, I think there's a reasonable chance the Jaguars could compete to be .500. The reason I think there's a reasonable chance of that is the offense has moved efficiently at times this season – particularly between the 20s – and the ability to finish drives should increase as young players gain experience. A little improvement in finishing goes a long way because that improvement means points and points can push game scenarios in your favor and help a lot of areas. I'm not going to predict the playoffs next season because we're a long way from that time, but I do expect a more mature team in Year 3, and a more mature team should get better results.
Geoffrey from Orlando, FL:
I agree with Jason: why draft at all? Because it's guaranteed we can't afford them past three years. Why not just binge on players that weren't wanted elsewhere so we can continuously be the oldest team in the league? But why stop there? Why don't we start making offers to retirees, because if they were good enough for 15 years, they should still be good right? Then we can pay pennies on the dollar and field the most experienced team in the league, which will pretty much mean that we win the Super Bowl, like, EVERY year. Who needs potential? I'd rather be better two years ago than two years from now.
John: Shad Khan … hire this man!!!
Holger from London, England:
The fans are right a lot of the time. The fans did not like the pick of Tyson Alualu, Reggie Williams, Bryan Anger, Matt Jones, Reggie Nelson, etc., and they were right. The fans did not understand why the team sends Monroe away, lets Mathis and Daryl Smith and Terrance Knighton walk. This team would be so much better had it resigned their veterans.
John: Of course fans are right sometimes, though to say "fans" thought this or thought this does raise the question of just what that means. How many fans does it take for "fans" to think something? One? Eight? Forty thousand? And how is that determined? Internet poll? Mob scene outside the 'Bank? And think of the ramifications if the team did everything fans wanted. Paying Maurice Jones-Drew two offseasons ago. Drafting a certain quarterback from a certain nearby school a few years back. No one ever has said fans aren't right sometimes, but you can't run an NFL franchise by popular vote. As to your second point, I like Monroe, Mathis, Smith and Knighton – as people and players – but would the Jaguars really be all that much better with them? I mean, those guys did play here in 2012, right?
Dave from Jacksonville:
Mike Pettine has six wins with the Browns thus far in his first year as head coach. Gus Bradley has five total wins thus far into his SECOND year. Hard for me to believe that the Browns are loaded with Hall-of-Fame talent. No question that between the two, Gus would win a press conference duel hands-down. However, I'd prefer better coaching to produce more wins. By the way, I'd really like to read your response, but am sure you can't post this because it's not "all in" with Bradley.
John: First, if you really don't believe the Browns have a more talented, mature, developed roster than the Jaguars at this point I'm not sure we can find much common ground. But I guess what really strikes me is the part where you say "am sure you can't post this because it's not 'all in' with Bradley." … Dave, I gotta say, that take's boring, baby … just, plain boring.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
What do you think the Jags will do with Cecil Shorts III in the offseason? Does it depend on Justin Blackmon's status with the team?
John: I think the last six weeks will help dictate this. If Shorts plays his way into having a chance to make a lot of money elsewhere, the Jaguars probably won't re-sign him. If Shorts is seeking a contract with fewer guarantees and more incentives, then perhaps he stays in Jacksonville. Either way, I don't think Blackmon's status has anything to do with anything the Jaguars do. If he plays for the Jaguars again, great, but they won't base plans on him.
Saif from Washington, DC:
Are there any long-term drawbacks of starting a rookie quarterback too early? For example, could Blake Bortles now be in a mindset where he simply wants to "not mess up" and thus not take risks? Or perhaps even faulty footwork and mechanics start to become permanent?
John: If Blake Bortles' struggles the last two months causes "permanent damage," it's safe to say he's not quite the player the Jaguars thought he was when they drafted him.
Cliff from Orange Park, FL:
As I see it, the glass is filling up fast. Lost in this 1-9 scenario is the Jags got a tough road from the schedule-maker. Two opening road games, a West Coast trip and a trip to London. Not to mention that seven of the losses are to teams that are pushing for the playoffs and a few that look to make deep runs in them. I like the way the team has competed in all but a couple of games. Please, John, tell me my optimism will be rewarded because last Sunday I hit rock bottom.
John: I agree, and I made the case long before the season that the Jaguars could be better this season and not have as many victories as last season. I won't say I thought that would happen, necessarily, but in Year 2 I thought it was a possibility. It certainly became a possibility when the Jaguars opted to skew so young on the offensive side of the ball. Yes, the Jaguars have improved this season for all of the reasons I cite so often – which are the same reasons people are tired of hearing. I believe your optimism will be rewarded, but we'll have to wait to see if we're right.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
The United States, since 2007, has gone into and (by most accounts) has come out of the Great Recession, while going through two presidential elections. The Jaguars, since 2007, have gone into a streak of losing seasons, while changing head coach and GM two times each. How in the name of red tape is it taking this long???
John: Well, the biggest reason is because the plan from 2008-2012 proved unsuccessful. And because the plan beginning in 2013 was to start over and build from scratch. Starting over and building from scratch is different than simply changing regimes and using a lot of established, high-level players as the foundation. The Jaguars didn't have a lot of high-level, established players in January of 2013. They have drafted two classes of players since then and are developing those players. That takes time. It hasn't taken seven years. It has taken two years so far and we'll see how much longer it takes.
Austin from Athens, GA:
Dekoda Watson was a surprise cut. Don't even try to convince me otherwise. Yes, he was playing poorly, but no one thought he would lose his spot. It starts with accountability. Be bold Mr. Oehser! I want a name. A tangible name from the Jaguars' 53-man roster that you think is in jeopardy if play does not improve.
John: Dekoda Watson had been signed to play the Otto linebacker position and had started there twice. I don't think the cut was that surprising. As for other players in jeopardy, no name jumps out at the level of Watson. The popular player to discuss in this vein lately has been Ace Sanders, but while punt returner certainly will be an offseason discussion, I don't see anything happening there before the offseason. Marqise Lee could have been an option at punt returner, but he'll take on an increased role as a receiver in the absence of Allen Robinson. That certainly solidifies Sanders' role for now.
Cole from Jacksonville:
I know this is an unreasonable hypothetical question, but I nonetheless would like your opinion. Put Tony Boselli at left tackle with this same offensive line, same quarterback, and same circumstances injury-wise that Joeckel has faced so far. I think Boselli still handles his business and Bortles stays upright much more. Do you agree? I only ask because it's becoming painful to watch Joeckel get pushed around and beat every game; yet I still want to root for him.
John: If you're waiting for a player to enter the NFL and play left tackle on a level that Tony Boselli played left tackle when he entered the NFL you'll be waiting a long, long time.

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