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O-Zone: Alone on a Monday

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Snidely from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I can understand why some people would think Sunday's game shows Blake Bortles should have started Week One. The other side is maybe, just possibly, the staff picked the best time to start him after all.
John: I've said often there's no way to know the perfect time to start a rookie quarterback. And there was no way to know the perfect time to start Bortles. For all of the good things Bortles is bringing – and it's obvious there are a ton of good things – we also have seen the rookie stuff that kept the coaches from starting him immediately. Sunday's game showed the same thing. Bortles was very good early. He wasn't as good late and threw two interceptions. None of that means he won't be very, very good. I think he will and it may even happen before the end of the season. But right now, he's a rookie quarterback and all that that implies. But was it the right time? Yes, it had to happen early and this was as good a time as any.
Matt from Jacksonville:
You are my emotional safety blanket for all things Jaguars. And football.
John: I saw what you did there.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
Welp, the offense looks better, but what has happened to our defense? It boggles my mind as to how bad the entire secondary has been this year. Wattup wit dat?
John: As difficult as it may be to believe, the secondary actually better Sunday than last week. That was the view of the coaches in the immediate aftermath. We'll get a better idea on Monday when Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley addresses the media after reviewing the video. Either way, it's not at a winning level and it's not on a level that feels close to a winning level. That's discouraging because this was supposed to be a secondary that improved in its second season. The downer statistic of the day is that the Jaguars allowed a season-low in points and yards Sunday, so they improved. /ducks
Chip from Jacksonville:
Another inept team seven years running. Where is the improvement, the competition? I bet you can't name more than two players that really want to win or even deserve to be on an NFL roster. Not including rookies who just don't know better.
John: I bet I can.
Ron from Section 118:
It was nice to see the offense move the ball a little better this week. Would have liked to see more downfield throws. The defense seemed to be better against the run, but that doesn't matter when you allow 350 yards through the air. Also, any word on Gratz? That was a nasty landing.
John: Gratz has a concussion. It's too early to know much beyond that.
Ryan from Orlando, FL:
We have a quarterback who is 6-feet-5, and need to go one yard (three feet). Why is the play not quarterback sneak up the middle as he just has to fall forward to get the first down? Instead, we hand the ball off about 3-5 yards behind the line and get stuffed for no gain!
John: The Jaguars ran your play in the first quarter. Bortles was stuffed for no gain. That's not to say it wouldn't have been the better play call. Perhaps it would have. But history certainly provided evidence that the play was not a guaranteed success.
Steve from Lusby:
This defense couldn't stop a parked car. It's really hard to watch the defense give up big play after big play. This needs to get fixed ASAP.
John: This is not the morning to argue this point.
Kyle from Clearwater, FL:
Why can this defense not capitalize on third down? Why do they play well for one half and then crumble? What are you seeing? Is it simply inexperience? Is it lack of talent? Is it coaching? What's going on?
John: The answer, as often is the case, is a little of everything. The Jaguars are inexperienced at some spots, and they are not as good in some spots as they will be after more drafting and developing. Regarding two first-half touchdown passes by Philip Rivers, when safeties and linebackers are covering Eddie Royal one on one, that's probably not ideal. When you're allowing 38 points a game, the issue isn't one thing.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
They started him. Now, time to take the training wheels off.
John: I've gotten this comment a lot, and Bortles indeed didn't seem to look downfield as much in the second half. Remember, this is a quarterback who was making … what was it? That's right! … HIS FIRST NFL START! There almost certainly was an element of offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wanting him to take shorter drops behind a young offensive line. He also was playing against a pretty good coverage secondary. He threw downfield in the first half and didn't as much in the second. It's very possible – even probable – that the Chargers' coverages focused on taking throws away that they knew Bortles liked. That's part of the early process for an NFL quarterback, and it's a hurdle Bortles will have to clear.
Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX:
If Andre Branch wants to fight he should slap the guy "windmill style." That would be fun to watch.
John: Well, yes … I suppose it would.
Connor from St. Petersburg, FL:
The majority of our defensive veterans are on the defensive line and they are struggling. How do we get them rolling? How is Aaron Colvin coming along? Will we see him in the near future? There's a hint of light at the end of the tunnel.
John: The defensive front hadn't played poorly through three games, and I didn't get the impression they played poorly Sunday. Roy Miller played well again, and Sen'Derrick Marks seemed to have played well. The Jaguars need more production from Chris Clemons, but overall the front isn't a huge concern. The back seven, particularly the secondary, indeed is struggling. I honestly don't know how to fix it and if I did, I'd be in the coaching meetings. I'd expect to see Aaron Colvin in the second half of the season after he comes off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Matt from Gainesville, FL:
I'm trying to be positive, but it seems like Gerhart is a bust. When we needed him the most he couldn't provide. He obviously isn't a finesse back but I thought he could be a power back. It just looks like he was overhyped. No question, just disappointed.
John: No reason to be positive. Not the day after a 19-point loss. It was hard to see Gerhart's run on fourth-and-1 late from my angle in the press box. I've read from many that he stutter-stepped on it. If so, that can't happen. My assessment on Gerhart from the beginning is he needs good blocking to be effective. Most backs do. That hasn't happened often enough this season to determine whether he's a bust or not.
Matt from Gainesville, FL:
Third downs are killing us. We can't convert on offense and it seems we can't stop them on defense. What will it take for this team to turn this around?
John: The Jaguars actually converted 9 of 14 third downs on Sunday, which is typically a winning number. The counter to that, of course, is that the Jaguars couldn't convert a couple of big fourth-and-1s in San Diego. Anytime you fail on fourth-and-1 it's a momentum turner, and that was true Sunday. As far as the defense, yeah – it was one of many, many issues. One factor was that Philip Rivers was playing quarterback for the opponent. He's really good and really clutch on third downs. At the same time, there were a lot of instances – too many instances – when the Jaguars defense made it way too easy for Rivers to be clutch. How do you turn it around? Get in more manageable situations on offense and more third-and-longs defensively. That helps the percentages.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
It wasn't perfect, but what I saw left me excited. We finally have a quarterback who has the capability to be "the guy." Once the pieces start coming together this could be something special.
John: I agree for that reason. Blake Bortles was the story of the game on Sunday because the first step right now is determining if the player you took to be your franchise quarterback can indeed be your franchise quarterback. That seems to be the case. If it is, then everything else that has to happen becomes so much easier. Yes, the defense was bad Sunday. Yes, a lot of other things need work. I expected all of that to be the case. I didn't expect Bortles to look as good as he has thus far this season. For now, that still trumps all.
Michael from Longwood:
Call me crazy, but I'm not that upset. Especially in the first half, I saw a lot to like from our defense. A couple of explosive plays, but those can be fixed. Bortles did exactly what we expected. He did some great things, and he made some mistakes. D Rob is looking like he's really making the adjustment to running back. I'm definitely encouraged about this season moving forward from what I said. Am I crazy?
John: You're not crazy, but you might me lonely. That's OK. We'll be lonely together.

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