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O-Zone: A lot of lost juice

JACKSONVILLE – Look-ahead Wednesday with a side of leftover anger …

Let's get to it … Sam from Denver, CO:
How has the team progressed compared to how you thought they would be progressing at this point? Obviously, the 1-3 record with two winnable games that were lost and a blowout isn't ideal … at the same time, 1-3 is where a lot of people/fans expected us to be after four games – and it's impossible to say that the team doesn't look improved over last year. Basically, do you feel better or worse about the outlook of the season than you did a month ago?
John: This is a tricky question, but perhaps no better place to start a Look-Ahead Wednesday than with a little trickery. On a big-picture level, the offense in many ways is ahead of where I anticipated. With a new coordinator and a young offense, I anticipated hiccups and some early struggles. Those have happened, particularly in the red zone, but the skill-position players are showing good signs. Quarterback Blake Bortles also is showing good signs, and he's a lot better than last season. Those are all important things, as is the obvious improvement of the offensive line. From a short-term perspective, the loss to Indianapolis is difficult to swallow. There are a lot of things to indicate that the Jaguars outplayed the Colts in that game only to lose because of mistakes and penalties – and in the long-term, that could be a matter of the Jaguars being a young team close to breaking through. That's the hope, anyway. Stay tuned.
Brad from Jacksonville:
We got Tampa Bay Sunday. All is still good. Wait a minute … isn't Tampa Bay saying the same thing about us?!?
John: Yes.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, the common refrain from the team and media that covers it is "the team is just so young" and "no team has ever tried to build a team the way Dave and Gus are." Maybe, just maybe, no NFL team has ever been (re)built this way because of what we're witnessing now. Your thoughts? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: That's a legitimate question, Bill. It's legitimate because of a few things. One is that David Caldwell talked at the end of last season about perhaps skewing too young on offense last season, and another is that the team is still experiencing a lot of issues from playing a lot of youth. The missed field goals, a penalty for running out of bounds covering a punt, an interference penalty … all were mistakes Sunday committed by rookies. Add to that a young offensive line with a group of skill players that are young … all of that combined could be cited as a reason for an improving offense not quite being ready to close out games. The Jaguars believed and still believe that the best way to turn a very barren roster situation into a long-term winner was to skew very young, then draft and develop talent to become a strong core. The danger of that obviously is bearing out now: when that youth takes time to learn to win, the results are frustrating, close losses that could have and should have been victories. There are signs of improvement, particularly on offense. Those signs haven't yet produced victories, and right now we're at the point where that has become very frustrating. Is it about to turn? That could decide whether the approach worked.
Vince from Titletown, USA:
It's okay to lose as long as you're watching game film and getting better … right? I mean, winning isn't the only thing is it?
John: No. And no one at the Jaguars ever said it was.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
The Jags are still looking like a team without the talent to play above 500. Is help on the way, or do we need to start looking to next year for any talent to win games? The Jags need a true No. 1 wide receiver with speed.
John: There's truth in what you say. I don't know that the Jaguars right now are absolutely a team with the talent to play above .500. I do believe they're a team with the talent to get close to .500; they gave one away last week and that will hurt in that quest. I also absolutely believe the Jaguars are a team that has young talent that looks like it is developing into a group that can play above .500 in the very near future. As far as needing a true No. 1 receiver with speed … yeah, the Jaguars need more speed on the field at that position. It's functioning well now, but deep speed is always a plus.
Blues Man from Jacksonville:
I realize this offense is young, but I am more than perplexed with our inability to produce touchdowns. The Colts have given up 27-plus points per game, but regardless, this team can't muster but one touchdown. The excuses and Bradley's rah-rah, we-got-spirit jargon is more than used up. Why aren't the Jags improving?
John: The producing touchdowns thing is frustrating, but perhaps not as perplexing as you might think. Red-zone offense is usually the last thing that comes around for a young offense. It's also the last thing that comes around for a young quarterback. The first step for a young offense is to start moving consistently. The Jaguars are clearly doing that better than they did last season. The next step is the more important step; that's scoring in the red zone. The Jaguars are not doing that yet. Until they do, these offensive struggles will continue.
Stan from Jacksonville:
Yes, IF we win in Tampa. So far this team has no idea how to win. If we lose to Tampa do you believe Gus gets fired?
John: No.
Tim from Jacksonville:
Hey O, considering what this team has done in the last three years and the players' attitudes and reactions to interviews over the past few week of this season, I am growing concerned over the morale of the veterans and players that seem to be pulling their weight. Do you think we are going to start to hear about some guys asking to be traded or shipped out of here??
John: Absolutely not.
Logan from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Three years Dave has had this team and not a single blue-chip player on the roster. Why shouldn't he be on the hot seat?
John: Because the roster is better than it was when he took over, and because a lot of the players he has drafted have shown improvement in difficult circumstances. And because it's too early to tell if a number of the players he has drafted are going to be "blue-chip" or not.
Scott from Jacksonville:
I'm going to phrase my comment a bit unconventionally and leave the bashing aside. My main worry with the Jaguars is that the culture being ingrained is a losing one. We are pretty much viewed as the laughingstock of the NFL, and the weakest team in the league over the last several years. That really strikes at the fan base, and it alienates people like my 14-year old son who has been to almost every home game since he was five-years old. He only knows the Jaguars to be a bad team, and he really can't ever imagine a scenario when the Jaguars will ever be winners. I just hope this culture gets turned around. If Bradley/Caldwell get fired next year, then we start all over on a new rebuild with more multiple losing seasons.
John: Your question has merit – a lot of merit, actually. The Jaguars have lost so much that there are certainly young fans who only have experienced difficult times – and older fans who feel it has been way too long since the team won consistently. There's no arguing that – just as there is no arguing that the results thus far this season have further tested the patience of many loyal fans. A perusal of my emails reveals all of that to be very, very true. The Jaguars are aware of this, and the results on the field so far this season are not a matter of the team being dim to the importance of winning or unaware that fans are tired of losing. Everyone is tired of losing. The loss to the Colts was particularly disturbing to some because of the perception that the Colts should have been beatable without Andrew Luck. The reality is that the Jaguars believe this young roster is close to showing production from this process. Playoff production? I don't know about that. But tangible improvement? Yes, that's the belief – and if it happens, then the culture that concerns you should improve in time.
Keith from Jacksonville and Section 436:
When will you ever get angry at the team? Yeah, you empathize with our frustration but why you don't ever go off Hacker- or Prosser-style? That doesn't make you look good. Besides, whomever the Jaguars do hire will be expected to go to the playoffs next year. No more excuses for the new coach and GM.
John: Your point lost a staggering amount of juice with your second question.

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