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O-Zone: All worked up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jason from Jacksonville:
Hey John ... do you think the rebuild has gone relatively as planned? Was it planned to concentrate on the offense first in the sense that the offense could take longer to mature and grow? It seems it would be easier to add pieces defensively that could function together at a quicker pace. Or has the offensive build been the result of a little good fortune as a result of the way the pieces have been available? The most concerning thing to me on defense is this regime has spent a lot of capital on the secondary and they make very few plays. I sure hope Sen'Derrick Marks and Dante Fowler Jr. can help fix the pass rush and impact the playmaking ability of the secondary. It should be another exciting offseason and I, for a change, can legitimately say I am excited for next year.
John: From a long-term perspective, I do generally think the Jaguars' current rebuild has gone as planned. I can't say the Jaguars planned for the pass rush to be so ineffective this season, or for a few of the close games that went against them this season to go that way … but in terms of the big picture … yes, it's going generally as planned. Once the Jaguars used the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft on quarterback Blake Bortles, the decision was made to put skill players around him to allow the offense to grow. The next step, clearly, was building the defense: Fowler was the first first-round piece, and I expect a lot more pieces this offseason. Your view on the secondary is shared by many, but remember: a secondary is helped immeasurably by at least the threat of pressure on the quarterback. If a defense can't get that, it's very rare for a secondary to make impact plays. This secondary isn't great, and it needs help at the safety position – and at least one more cornerback after Aaron Colvin and Davon House – but pass rush is far and away the glaring need.
Allison from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
For the past many years the Jaguars have been seen as a "bad" team. Do you think the image of the Jaguars will change in 2016?
John: Yes.
Bharat from Jacksonville:
The letdown did happen. And I think a good number of fans expected it.
John: I wrote last Thursday that a letdown wasn't likely for the Jaguars against New Orleans. I've gotten a lot of emails since that game stating that the Jaguars' indeed let down. Maybe, but the Jaguars lost Sunday because they struggled to rush the passer and because they started slow offensively. Does that mean the Jaguars "let down" Sunday? Or are they simply a team that starts slow offensively and struggles to rush the passer? Whatever. A loss is a loss is a loss.
Frank from Knoxville, TN:
I know, John: Seven more days to draft talk, but it has to be said. The Jaguars should absolutely lose Sunday and improve their draft position as much as they can. The closer they can get to Top 5 the better chance they have at the defensive playmaker they so sorely need. A Bosa for the pass rush or a Ramsey for the secondary. Losses suck, but if it's better for the future I am OK with it. I'm guessing a lot of fans would be, too. So give me a 30-27 shootout loss to put a bow on the season and let's get on to the improvement phase and let Dave go to work.
John: I get the point, but the way the Jaguars are playing defense your worry may take care of itself.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
Statistically speaking this team's defense is the same as the 2013 team. Question is, where's the improvement on defense? And do you really believe this team will get better all of a sudden next year facing a harder schedule? Gus needs to win at least nine games and have a playoff appearance next year, which I don't think will happen, so why waste another year with this guy?
John: You're entitled to your opinion, and you're fa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r from alone in your view. You retain Bradley if you believe in the plan you laid out and if you believe that the issues – especially on defense – go beyond coaching. You also retain him if you believe that you will be better off with him and not a different head coach/philosophical approach. I believe the Jaguars will retain Bradley.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, losing teams dwell on individual stats. Winning teams only dwell on one stat.
John: Well, yeah.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
One part of Sunday's game jumps out: third-and-14 Saints ball on the opening drive of the game. The Jags put eight defenders in a line at the markers. Calling prevent defense on the first drive of a game, without any playoff implication, is the definition of coaching scared. That call says to me "I am out of ideas."
John: I agree that dropping eight defenders was unusual there, and it absolutely was about trying something new to address an ongoing concern, but I don't necessarily agree that the call was about coaching scared. Are coaches running out of ideas about how to pressure the quarterback? Yeah, that's fair to say. Is some on coaching? Perhaps. Is some on the players? Yeah, I think that's safe to say, too.
Bruce from Gotham:
You stated on Sunday that the performance against New Orleans was not all that out of character. I think this is what bothers most fans. Throughout the season we have seen improvement, yes, but just when you think things might turn and stay that way, along comes a stinker. The Jags lost twice to teams that were on six-game losing streaks. Any time they faced a team or quarterback that was average-to-above average things didn't look good. I think it has left most fans wondering how much improvement has there really been. In the end who and what is this team?
John: The Jaguars are a team that can't rush the passer and that is productive – yet inconsistent – offensively. They've been that way since early in the season.
Herbert from Midstate Office Supply:
Any chance the Jags start Chad Henne against the Texans in their big Battle Red finale? Chad Henne has had success against the Texans and Blake Bortles' confidence seems a bit shaky after his performance the other day.
John: Are you serious, Clark?
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
You said they would sort the pass-rush thing out as soon as free agency and the draft hit. Haven't we been hearing this same thing for over 10 years? I mean, this is not a new development like "OMG they lost their pass rush." The Jags have struggled with this for years. Why wait now to fix it and I thought they were trying to fix it already? I guess the question is what is going to make this time different than the last 10-plus years we have been hearing they have needed to fix the pass rush?
John: The Jaguars didn't "wait until now" to address the pass rush. They used the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft on Fowler in the spring – at a time, remember, when many, many people were clamoring for the team to draft other positions. Should they have done more? Perhaps. But it's not as if it wasn't addressed at all.
John from Jacksonville:
If we were to rewind and have the season with Fowler and Marks healthy and active, I believe the defense overall would have been much more effective and we would be talking division title this season. With them back next season, along with the addition of a couple of quality players for competition/depth, we'll be better balanced next season to flip our record around to more wins than losses. The overall talent on defense is unfairly skewed by the missing key players this season and this will be very evident next season. It won't take an overhaul and this is unfair to the several very good defensive players we already have. 2016 will be our year!
John: #DTWD
Brian from Jacksonville:
I just have a ton of confidence in David Caldwell and Gus Bradley. I hope fans don't get all worked up this offseason because of our record this year. If we can add the PROPER talent at a few key positions we should have a better season next year. I think our biggest issue with defense is lack of playmakers in the secondary – cornerback and safety. Call it a hunch but I have a feeling Dante Fowler Jr. is going to help out a ton in pass rush next year.
John: Even with the record, there are plenty who share your opinion of David Caldwell and Gus Bradley. But as far as fans not getting worked up about the record … well, a quick perusal of the inbox indicates it may just be a touch too late for that.

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