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O-Zone: Ah, memories...

JACKSONVILLE – Look-ahead Wednesday. Time to move on.

Let's get to it … Paul from Lohrville, IA:
The desperation keeps growing, John. We have to win football games. If we don't, Gus Bradley will get fired and you couldn't blame them for doing that. If Gus gets fired, we probably lose Greg Olson and Doug Marrone and all the good coaches that have been assembled here. Bortles will then have a third offensive coordinator in three years. You ruin quarterbacks with that kind of turnover. I believe the players like Gus; they need to come together to save the captain because the ship is sinking!
John: We'll begin look-ahead Wednesday here, though we won't stay on the subject of job security all week. Yeah, it's a topic among the fan base – and no one's ignoring it. But we've addressed it early in the week, and there's not a whole lot to add. The Jaguars obviously must show improvement for evidence this regime is working. So far this season, they have shown that. Have they shown enough? Not in the very important sense that the improvement has produced one victory this season. Does that mean it's desperation time? I don't get that sense. The Jaguars obviously must at some point turn that improvement into victories. Is that coming soon? We'll find out. That's not a satisfying answer in a time of frustration, but that's the answer for now.
Joel from Section 232:
We seem to be decimated with injuries every year. Does it have anything to do with strength and conditioning or is it the way the NFL is set up now with how much the players are coddled in the preseason?
John: It has a whole lot to do with football being a violent, physical game.
James from Yulee, FL:
What has changed from other losing seasons is I really feel we have our quarterback. Everything else is just gravy!
John: Do the Jaguars have a franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles? It's starting to look like that could be the case, and if it's possible to take 1-4 out of the equation and look at the big picture, that's a good sign. It's impossible, of course, to remove 1-4 from the picture because that does and should overshadow everything, but for the sake of discussion, consider: Bortles has thrown 10 touchdown passes with four interceptions this season. He hasn't played anything close to perfect, and I think he would tell you he doesn't believe he even has played all that well at times. He has missed open receivers – at least two possible touchdowns Sunday, for example – and is still making many of the mistakes associated with a young quarterback. All of that is true, and those who still criticize and wonder about Bortles certainly have reasons to do so. What's far more important and encouraging is this: while he hasn't played perfectly, he has been productive. He doesn't yet have the look of being in total command of the offense, but five games into Greg Olson's system he is starting to look more comfortable. He's not there yet. He's far from elite. He's far from a finished product. But does it look like he could be a long-term starter? Is it starting to be not a surprise when he plays well? Yes, to both, and those are important questions to be able to answer affirmatively.
Kyle from Clearwater, FL:
John, the dust has settled and I'm still a fan. I don't know if the shock from this loss is going to motivate the players any more than any other loss, but I'm hoping that the disappointment and frustration shown by Bradley gets this team to shape up. What do you think?
John: I think the frustration and disappointment shown by Bradley probably has been there all along; I also think he probably has shown it a little more to the public this week. I don't think he has done that as much to show fans or players he is changing as much as he wants to make sure people realize there is accountability and that winning is important. That has been doubted by some because of Bradley's "positive demeanor" and I get the idea he wants to make sure that people know it's not the case. As for that disappointment/frustration getting the team to shape up … who knows? Maybe it will. More likely, the team will "shape up" and stop making costly mistakes as it gains more experience and grows together.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
I feel I see the progress the team is making and how close they can be to turning the corner. Then again, I keep the giant echo chamber that is social media at arm's length. Many Jaguars fans are seeing the same opinions amplified over and over within their small group. They believe they hold the one true answer and no matter what the topic (see: Anger, Bryan; Bradley, Gus; Posluszny, Paul) anyone arguing differently is either a fool or being paid to support the company line. There's no perspective. It's getting so loud and so unreasonable I'm not even sure winning will calm them down. In case they're reading the O-Zone, do you have any messages of hope that may be able to get through that noise and soothe their anger?
John: I learned long ago that what I say here does little to permeate noise or soothe anger. Often, it has the opposite effect – and that's OK. When fans are frustrated and disappointed – as Jaguars fans indeed are right now – it's their right to express it. And indeed social media has given those sorts of expressions exponential momentum at times. I don't know if I have a message of hope or not. What I can say is through five games this team has played in a sense how I imagined it would play. It has been better. It has competed with an unbeaten team (Carolina) into the fourth quarter and it was a missed field goal from beating Indianapolis. It got its doors blown off by New England. It had three or four mistakes that really hurt against Tampa Bay. It beat Miami. I expected maybe 2-3 at this point and I expected improvement. I have seen the improvement, particularly in the form of Blake Bortles and the wide receivers. The offensive line has played better than I anticipated for most of the season. I believe this team has improved to the point where it is now a normal struggling team – as opposed to an noncompetitive one – with the potential to keep improving. That's what I figured it would be. If that provides hope, so be it, but I do think it means that it's improving and there's little reason to believe it won't continue to do so.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
John, how do you fix procedural types of penalties – too many men on the field, illegal formations, lining up in the neutral zone, etc. These would seem to be coaching issues – not necessarily the head coach, but coaching at some level. Does the CBA allow fining players, or other punitive measures, for either players or coaches to fix these mental errors?
John: You fix them by doing what the Jaguars have been doing: you work on these things in practice. You coach and instruct, and if that message doesn't get through, you act. That action sometimes is cutting a player, though the Jaguars haven't done this. You don't cut a player for a one-time mistake, but if it becomes clear mistakes are his norm … then, yeah, you release him. As far as fining players for penalties … no, the CBA does not allow it. The league can fine for unsportsmanlike conduct violations, etc., but individual teams can't fine for penalties.
Kenneth from Duval:
Hey, O-Man: I'm disappointed by the losses, but I am very encouraged by the play of our offensive skill players. If our defense can improve to last year's play and our special teams play consistently, things will get better a lot faster than most expect. Do you agree?
John: I think there's a chance. What you're talking about is all three units playing better at once and achieving full consistency. Of course, that would help. That has been missing.
Bryan from Portland, OR:
Hey, John: It looked to me that both of our lines were completely overwhelmed by the Bucs. Grant's fumble resulted from one of many jailbreak blitzes where defenders ran completely untouched into the backfield. Defensively, we got mauled. The question, then, is are they that good on their lines or are we that bad?
John: We're looking ahead today, but neither line had its best game Sunday. The Grant fumble came on a play on which tight end Clay Harbor missed a block, but yes … a blitzer being in Grant's face didn't help.
Nate from Fogartyville, FL:
I think it may be time for coach to whoop some tail! A well-timed butt-whooping goes a long way.
John: This actually was my philosophy in high school. Anyone who knew me then can tell you I was all about "whooping butt" to get my way. I was indeed as John the "Butt Whooper." I spent quite a bit of time icing injuries in high school, but boy … the memories.

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