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O-Zone: Assessing blame

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Greg from Julington Creek, FL:
Really, John? How can you possibly say the Jaguars shouldn't be disillusioned? After that mess in the second half? What was that?!!!
John: I have received plenty of criticism for writing on Sunday night that the Jaguars – and, by extension, Jaguars fans – shouldn't be disillusioned by being outscored 34-0 in the second half on Sunday. Or by the eventual loss that came as a result. My stance was this: that the Jaguars should be disappointed, yes – but not disillusioned. The general reaction to that stance went something like, "Are you nuts!!!!!?" … followed by a few words that I know and enjoy using when doing routine chores around the family but probably shouldn't repeat here. I may make the mistake too often of looking for long-term, big-picture growth from this team. That's a critical storyline and one that intrigues me. On that front, I still see the Jaguars making great strides. I see the building blocks coming into place, and once a few more come into place, I think we'll see The Big Building Block that is Blake Bortles get put into place as the starting quarterback. That's the foundation that will make this a contending, stable organization and that's what a whole lot of national and local media were praising most of the offseason. The other reality is that fans don't give two hoots about long-term foundation when they see the excitement of a 17-0 lead disintegrate with an ugly 34-0 score the other way in the second half. But even in that regard I saw a team that was losing its lead fight and maintain and still have a chance late in the fourth quarter Sunday. I saw them do that against a team that made the playoffs last season and probably will this season. So, yes, I see a lot to like this morning, though I understand if few others do.
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John: What's your point?
Brian from Jacksonville:
Had I not watched the game, had I simply followed what was happening via social sites, I would have assumed everything was Henne's fault. But when you have a talent like Bortles on the bench the running, blocking and receiving failures often get overlooked. Is there one area you can point to that would have changed the outcome?
John: Yes. I think had the Jaguars been able to run the ball better throughout the game a lot would have been different. Henne wasn't great on Sunday and he had some plays where he could have been better. The fourth-down incompletion to Marcedes Lewis was particularly damaging. But we've known all along Henne wasn't going to win games by himself. The receivers needed to get open better in the second half, and they needed to catch the ball better. This was a group effort … not at all on Henne alone.
Robert from Jacksonville:
Once Crypien left, we could no longer stop them...
John: Yeah, and if you combine that with Jonathan Cyprien being out you have a real issue.
Justin from Bexley, OH:
What happened to the defense in the second half? I think the biggest issue was that with all of the three-and-outs the pass rushers couldn't catch their breath.
John: That didn't help. The Eagles ran 82 plays. It's probably not a coincidence that the Jaguars didn't look as fresh and lively in the fourth quarter as they did the first.
Steven from Woodbine, GA:
So do you still think Henne is the man to win games for us? A two-yard pass to a 6'6" tight end and he overthrows him? C'mon man … he choked worse than Romo has many times over. Give me a break! That second-half was embarrassing! And don't give me that rebuilding crap … you have a team down 17 points and you lose … that is classic Chad Henne! I wouldn't go watch him play if you and the Roar begged me to and bought my ticket! We suck and we will continue to suck until we put someone back there that is a winner not a LOSER! I am so sick of being embarrassed by that idiot! I know you won't post this …
John: #iknowyouwontpostthis
Fred from Waycross, GA:
Man! That many points in the second half … is it because we lack depth?
John: Actually, not really. The Jaguars allowed a 49-yard touchdown run by running back Darren Sproles and a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Foles to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, as well as a fumble return by outside linebacker Fletcher Cox. The two long touchdowns were miscommunications/mental errors and the fumble return is the sort of play that happens when a team is trailing and facing must-pass situations late in games. None of the touchdowns should have happened, but depth was not the culprit.
Ron from Virginia Beach, VA:
John: It wasn't easy Sunday. No one will tell you otherwise.
John from Orlando, FL:
Is Hurns for real or did he just have a career game in the first half because the Eagles didn't know who he was until halftime?
John: We shall see. I don't see him having many first halves or perhaps even games like he did in the first half. If he did, he would be a perennial Pro Bowl selection bound for Canton. The second step for a wide receiver always is how he fares once teams realize who he is and start focusing on how to take away what he likes to do. The Eagles didn't change anything dramatically on Hurns in the second half and Henne said the Eagles actually started playing more man-to-man. The big picture on Hurns is that it's way too early to know if he can ever match the sort of electric performance he had in the first half Sunday, but he seems likely to be a pretty productive player for this team.
Jason from Coral Springs, FL:
It's so frustrating that we lost the game today. I'm a believer in everything the Jags' new regime has done, but I can't help but wish Gus would decide to start Bortles sooner rather than later. Henne played all right Sunday, but I think Bortles gives us a better chance to win. I know my opinion doesn't mean squat, but I do believe we win that game today if Bortles is in there.
John: The Jaguars' coaching staff really doesn't believe that. I don't think we'll see Blake Bortles until some stuff around him gets better, including the offensive line. I also think the wide receivers have to develop a little more and be consistently open a bit more throughout the game. There is a lot of growing to do, and this is a work in progress. There needs to be more growing before we see Bortles.
Brian from Mandarin, FL:
Lots of good to see. If we could have got the running game going, we could have won. Hopefully, the offensive line will gel. Otherwise, one more draft and a little time and we will be very competitive.
John: This isn't a popular view right now, Brian, its correctness and insight notwithstanding.
Gino from Jacksonville:
We had the Eagles where we wanted them in the first half. With that said, we got outcoached and outplayed in the second half. Our run game must pick up steam if we are going to win any games this season. The Eagles' turnovers gave us points because of a short field, otherwise we would have been blown out of Eagle stadium!!!
John: I agree the Jaguars got outplayed in the second half, but I don't know that there is a lot of glaring evidence they got outcoached. I got a lot of emails criticizing Jedd Fisch for being too conservative in the second half, and got about the same amount criticizing him for running too much. Many fans made the argument that the Jaguars were too conservative in the second half. I didn't get that feeling, but remember: you had a young offensive line that struggled in a lot of areas, and you had three rookies at wide receiver. Now, one of those rookies had a really good first half, but two of those rookies also had what appeared to be catchable passes bounce from their hands in the second half, so they're still rookies. Point being if the Jaguars' weren't exactly airing it deep on every play in the second half, youth and inexperience may have been a legitimate reason.
Dan from Jacksonville:
You seem to have realistic expectations of the rate at which the Jaguars might improve this year. Overall, were you encouraged or discouraged by the Philly game?
John: Very encouraged, but remember: I'm the one who said six or seven victories and increased competitiveness will mean a good season. I didn't think the Jaguars had much of a chance to have a good game Sunday offensively with the youth on the line and at receiver. I also thought they would really struggle to keep pace offensively with the Eagles. Within that context, I was very surprised the Jaguars were in the game with less than five minutes remaining. That's why I saw more positives than negatives.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
Chad Henne is done. He is garbage. Bortles can't be worse off than this second half dumpster fire.
John: Wow.
The Baguar from Bagsonville:
Ok, Oehser, bring on the excuses, youth, drops, Cyprien's injury. What will it be?
John: It's mostly my fault, to be honest.

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