JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it...
Justin from Jacksonville:
Thursday night feels big for many reasons. This team has suffered from two recurring issues. It can't sustain positive momentum and it has shortcomings at home. You hate to say anything is "must-win" for a 3-9 team, but how important is Thursday in taking that next step toward where we want to be? Could this be a night – on national television against a division rival -- we look back at in five years and say, "We started to turn the corner?"
John: Probably not. Look, the game Thursday is important. No doubt. There is optimism among fans and energy that hasn't been felt in a while. This speaks to what I long have said and what many Jaguars fans and observers long have realized – that this town loves this team and will support it in a big way when it is competitive. In that vein, a victory would let fans see up close what they have seen on television in recent weeks – an improving team building its foundation. At the same time, in terms of the growth of this team, I wouldn't put this game above most others throughout the second half of the season. You want the Jaguars to show improvement. You want them to continue to show that they're going in the right direction. That means you want them to play well, but if they play well and lose – or even if they stub their collective toes – I don't think it's a setback in terms of what this franchise is trying to build. This is a marathon, remember, and while the most recent few steps of the marathon have been enjoyable, that doesn't mean it's suddenly a sprint.
Mike from Southampton, NJ:
You say "Just win," but to really win in this league you need a franchise signal caller. The chances of getting that in later rounds is slim. I feel we need Bridgewater; he's easily a notch better than what we have.
John: You have every right to feel as you do. Just as the Jaguars have every right to believe they can win games and find players they need whatever their record.
Dave from Section 410:
What's lost in the discussion about Henne, MJD, Shorts, etc., is the dramatically improved play of a no-name, make-shift offensive line.
John:The offensive line has played well, and a lot of that has to do with it taking time for the line as a group to find cohesion within a scheme. There may be no position group at which working together and communicating is more important, and as much as fans want things to happen quickly, establishing cohesion takes repetitions, experience and time.
Dane from Jacksonville:
I'd like to add to Mark from Ocala's point. The purpose of intentional grounding is obviously to protect the quarterback. Why, then, is it even a penalty? Why penalize a quarterback for opting to protect himself? I'm definitely not in favor of limiting NFL defenses or favoring offenses any more than they already are, but this rule seems to contradict its own intent.
John: We may have a little mix-up in verbage here. The purpose of the intentional-grounding rule is not to protect quarterbacks. It's to prevent a quarterback from being able to throw a pass away strictly to avoid a sack. The reason that rule is in place is to not allow a quick incompletion to completely negate a good play by the defense – in this case, a pass rush. Quarterbacks are allowed to throw the ball away when outside the pocket to avoid a sack without penalty. The reason you don't make it so quarterbacks can do it wherever and whenever is you don't want to make the rule a complete travesty. There will be some who think it is anyway, but on that topic, argue amongst yourselves.
John from Elizabeth City, NC:
Chad Henne seems to have improved between the 20s. But in the red zone this team still is having issues. What's the cause?
John: Red-zone efficiency often is the last thing an offense achieves. Not just the Jaguars' current offense, but any offense. It's far more difficult to move the ball from the 20 to the end zone than from the 40 to the 20, so it stands to reason the Jaguars' young, developing offense would improve between the 20s first.
Zach from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars pick a quarterback in the first, second, or even third round, would they let him sit behind Chad Henne, or throw him out and let him learn by playing?
John: If the Jaguars select a quarterback in the first two rounds, my guess is he would play immediately. After that, it's less likely.
Justin from The ville:
How long is indefinitely? I know Justin Blackmon won't be back for the rest of the season but he still does a darn good job on the field. Would it be like the middle of next season?
John: It's impossible to say. He will be able to apply for reinstatement before next season. There is a long way to go before determining if that will happen.
Peter from Maribor, Slovenia:
Dwayne Gratz, Johnathan Cyprien, Josh Evans and Ace Sanders are the reasons why we should trust Dave Caldwell. Especially Ace. Taken in the fourth round as a kickoff/punt returner to become the second receiver with Justin out. Impressive. Really good hands.
John: Yes. So far, so good.
Charles from Bangalore, India:
John, after the draft you did a very astute article on what the Jags accomplished. It was a very comprehensive recap. Could you do the same please on why the Jags are winning?
John: I don't recall writing any astute articles. You must have the wrong guy.
Travis from Chesapeake, VA:
It is nice to feel like we are competitive. It would be awesome to hear moodachay in the stands when the Jags get first downs. It was one of those things I thought could be "our thing" like the terrible towel... but considering how the season started there was not a chance for it to become organic, maybe now is the time.
John from Jacksonville:
At this point, we haven't seen Denard Robinson do much of anything for our offense. What are the chances that he is not on the roster next year, and does the fact that he was drafted rather high have any impact on that decision?
John: I expect Robinson to be on the roster next season, and I'm not sure what you mean by high. If you mean "early," then you're inaccurate because Robinson was drafted in the fifth round, which is not early.
Brooks from Atlanta, GA:
It's amazing how you con people into getting excited for wins that do nothing but push us further from the best quarterbacks in the draft!
John from Evansville, IN:
I have been reading your column since you got to Jacksonville. At first, I didn't think I liked you. I was wrong about you. You are really funny and very smart. I actually laugh out loud sometimes. Sorry for doubting you. Keep up the good work.
John: Weird. Not only am I also John from Evansville, IN, but my wife over time has had the same reaction to me as you seem to have had – only, of course, exactly opposite.
Alex from Jacksonville:
When I watch Blaine Gabbert, I see an accurate quarterback who has been victimized by receivers who drop passes, can't get open, and run the wrong routes. Is there any way we can get some information about why the team won't start him?
John: Because the team doesn't see him the same way, but mostly because they feel like Chad Henne gives them the better chance to win.
John from Jacksonville:
It seems there are two general types of fans these days – one, those who enjoy the season and spend the offseason waiting for the next season to begin; and two, those who enjoy the offseason (free agency, drafts, etc.) and spend the season worrying about the next offseason. Did the NFL pomp and circumstances around the draft day along with the internet make the offseason a bigger focus for some fans. To me, it's all about live football action and the drama with our team each week of the season.
John: My instinct is you're very close to the reason. I grew up an avid NFL fan, but didn't follow the offseason extensively because you really couldn't. Information was scarce because there wasn't room in, say, the Florida Times-Union, for an extensive story on why the Chiefs had traded for a wide receiver. I can remember scanning the newspaper for selections the day after drafts, not knowing who they were and essentially forgetting about them until they started playing the following season or the season after that. There certainly were no Rounds 1-7 mock drafts out there. And not having a grasp over the backup guard in May didn't diminish my enjoyment of the game in October. But you know what? All of that is in no way a criticism of people who live for the offseason. People like what they want and they're fans for different reasons. Who the heck am I to judge people's passions?
Sean from Candler, NC:
What a difference a year makes. I distinctly remembering last year searching for the team to start looking better and seeing it get worse. This year it seemed the team was worse at the beginning and has gotten better, especially since the bye week. Are the players actually that enthusiastic for Gus Bradley's message or are their comments staged in the interviews we have been able to see?
John: They're as enthusiastic as it seems. The only thing staged around here is when Boselli and I go on camera and pretend to like each other. The man is evil; pure evil – and he knows I know it.
O-Zone: A ton of enthusiasm
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it...
Justin from Jacksonville: