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O-Zone: As good as all that

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Dave from Jacksonville:
John, we are so tired of hearing about "getting better" from this staff, et al; we want to see it!! It's almost patronizing -- this fan base is not that dumb. Good coaching staffs can get quality, consistent football out of players - yes, even rookies! Jags, please don't pee on our leg and tell us it's raining. #losingstinks
John: You'll never hear me call this fan base dumb. You won't catch me thinking it, either. In this case, however, while your premise that good coaching staffs can always get quality, consistent football out of players whatever the situation is "awesome," it is in no way an inarguable truth. History, in fact, shows it quite incorrect. Bill Belichick and his staff struggled in Cleveland and early in his tenure at New England. Tom Coughlin had a similar staff in Jacksonville in 1995 and 2000-2002 as in 1996-1999. There are many more cases such as this. In each of the aforementioned cases, good coaches struggled for various reasons. And in neither case did those coaches have an offense as young as the Jaguars' offense this season. In a game in which it's crucial to have most or all of 11 players working and thinking as one, the the mistakes and miscommunication that come with a lack of experience often override quality coaching. That's not to say the coaches here have been perfect. They have not. But it's also not dumb to think there are circumstances here that go beyond coaching.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
John, In the O-Zone world of patience with player development and injuries happen, it will be tough to watch Justin Forsett double Toby Gerhart's numbers on Sunday... for significantly less money.
John: It won't be tough for me. Then again, I plan to watch the Ravens' offensive line, too.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Is Robinson's foot sprain that serious, or was he placed on injured reserve to give the Jaguars the freedom to use that roster spot another way for the remaining three weeks of the season?
John: Your question implies that Denard Robinson's injury wasn't significant and that the Jaguars merely wanted the roster spot for another player. That wasn't the case. He played after the injury, so clearly on some level he could play with the situation. However, the injury typically takes six-to-eight weeks to heal, and considering 16 days remain until the end of the season, he realistically wasn't going to improve enough in that span to make it wise to keep playing him.
Jason from Jacksonville:
If you say the core of the offensive line is already established and we should not expect to see significant personnel changes there, should we at least expect a change to the offensive line coach and scheme? This area has shown the least amount of improvement and that would seem to indicate poor coaching.
John: We shall see.
Robert from Jacksonville:
I get what you're saying about how we are really young and don't have many entrenched veterans at this point. The frustrating thing is if you look at Baltimore – a playoff-contending team – they have three guys who we basically thought we could replace with better people. I would argue that all three (Monroe, Forsett, D Smith) are playing at a higher level than the guys we replaced them with. Add in Knighton, Durant, Selvie, Reggie Nelson and we would have a significantly more talented team. I guess my point is that draft and develop does work, but we have made many errors in letting the players, who we developed into good ones, walk away and we are paying the price for it now.
John: Looks can be deceiving. I agree that Daryl Smith would have helped the Jaguars. I have said this often. I also agree that Knighton is a good player, though I really can't honestly say he is playing at a higher level than Sen'Derrick Marks and/or Roy Miller. As for the others – and that includes Justin Forsett and Eugene Monroe – I don't agree that their presence would help the Jaguars this season. Is Justin Forsett better than Denard Robinson, or is his line better? Is Eugene Monroe better than Luke Joeckel? Maybe. Is he better enough to make the overall line's performance and the team overall better? Doubtful. And as for Justin Durant, George Selvie and Reggie Nelson making the Jaguars a significantly more talented team … nah.
Mark from Green Bay, WI:
So I hear we're picking up JJ Watts and Clay Matthews next year?
John: Awesome. I'm in.
Dave from Jacksonville:
Just to add to your theory that it's not just all the offensive line's fault when it comes to blitz pick up, I've noticed that the Jaguars running backs have done a particularly poor job of picking up the "free" blitzer all season long. In the past Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor were both excellent blitz blockers. Actually, those two were probably two of the best In the NFL. Football is the "ultimate" team sport. It takes 11 guys doing their jobs!
John: The Jaguars indeed have struggled in blitz pickup at times this season – and understandably so. Denard Robinson pretty much was doing it this season for the first time … well, ever. And yes, Maurice Jones-Drew was very, very good at it. I know Fred Taylor worked hard to improve at that area early in his career, though I didn't cover him game-to-game for enough of his career to judge him in that area. This is an area that's tough to judge accurately because no one really wants to talk about who's to blame for blitz pickup. It's also something that's tough to judge watching games or rewatching coach's video because you need to know the assignments to fully know what's going on. Suffice to say when the Jaguars are blocking normal, base defenses, their pass-blocking issues are actually fairly standard. Some guys get beat one on one, but considering the experience level, it doesn't happen an abnormal amount and it's happening less lately. Blitzes are where a lot of the pressure is coming from, and blitz pickup is tricky for one young player to master, much less an offense full of young players.
Armand from Jacksonville:
What can the offensive line do in the offseason to improve besides hit the weight room?
John: Offensive linemen can mature and learn the intricacies of the game and spend time in the film room. They can also get better at recognizing defenses and blitzes looks. Experience, learning to communicate fluidly on the fly and playing together is a far bigger issue right now than getting beat physically in one-on-one matchups.
Austin from Athens, GA:
Be bold John! Is Ace Sanders on the roster, Week 1 next year? Put me down for no...
John: I sort of agree, though I hope I'm wrong.
Colin from Orlando, FL:
I don't really understand when people get angry at coaches for a team not playing well in the second half. Don't players pretty much just walk into the locker room, drink some water and rest until they walk back out? Maybe I'm wrong, but after playing a half of NFL football I don't think a coach is going to be able to magically teach a player to be better than he is.
John: You make a valid point, though certainly more goes on than drinking water. Halftime adjustments are part of the NFL, but they're a pretty overblown part. Coaches can only do so much. At some point, players have to follow plans and beat opponents in match-ups. Right now, Jaguars players for various reasons – youth, and in some cases, raw ability – aren't doing that enough. That's not to say coaches never err. They absolutely do. But when similar issues hurt a team over and over, that's not as much coaching as it is the inability of player to do what must be done.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
Look-ahead Wednesday...blah, blah blah blah. You read like Charlie Brown's teacher sounds.
John: Ooh, burn.
Jordan from Joplin:
I was a kid during the Jags early years and didn't know or follow the game like I do now. How dominant was Tony Boselli? How was he talked about then compared to other left tackle in the league? And why did the Jags let him go to the Texans in their expansion draft? Thanks! I love hearing some of the old stories.
John: He was dominant, and was as good as any left tackle I've seen in two decades covering the NFL. The Jaguars let him go because they were in salary cap trouble and needed to get several core players off the cap; making them available in the expansion draft allowed them to do that. But perhaps the most notable thing about Boselli isn't that he may have been the best left tackle in a golden era at the position. It's that he may actually have been as good as he believes he was.

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