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O-Zone: Bold prediction

JACKSONVILLE – Next-day Ozone.

Let's get to it . . .

Joe from Jacksonville, NC:
The sad thing is so much of what happened Sunday wasn't Blaine Gabbert's fault, but he will take the blame. I think he played so much better Sunday. It is pretty obvious we are really missing Justin Blackmon.
John: Yes, Blaine Gabbert will get blame for the loss to the Colts. Much of the inbox today was focused on just how much blame he should receive. The consensus? A lot. Some of the blame indeed will be deserved, and while this is a minority opinion, probably just as much wasn't his fault. I thought that for the first quarter and a half he did play better, and then he slipped into some old patterns. But it wasn't a step forward, and there's little doubt he needs to take a step forward. Finally, yes, the team misses Justin Blackmon, but let's not overstate it. I don't know that he's the difference between 0-4 and 1-3 or whatever. He'll help, but he's not a miracle cure.
Craig from Auburn, IN:
The game Sunday was a tale of different quarterbacks. Andrew Luck is poised in the pocket and goes through his receivers. Blaine Gabbert acts scared, leaves a perfectly good pocket, and focuses on check downs. I would like to read your honest opinion of Gabbert without all the little jokes and sidestepping you have become famous for. Do you truly believe that Gabbert is any good?
John: Wow, I'm famous! But seriously, anyone who reads the O-Zone can – or should – be able to tell you that I rarely joke when it comes to Blaine Gabbert. My stance long has been that while he has not been nearly good enough while starting for the Jaguars, at the same time he absolutely has not gotten enough help from the offensive line or receivers. That remains true to this day. Gabbert absolutely appeared to leave the pocket too early on several occasions on Sunday – perhaps more than that. At first watch, that appeared to be a major issue. He absolutely had drives where he didn't look good. At the same time, he appears to focus on check downs far more when his line is struggling and rarely gets the benefit of receivers making plays above the Xs and Os. On Sunday, he was hurt by at least three drops by Cecil Shorts III and the receivers other than Shorts struggled to get separation. So, your question regarding Gabbert: Is he great? No. Is he any good? I still do not know, but I still think he could get a lot more help.
Scott from Jacksonville:
John, wow ... well, ugh, not good. Obviously, this team is building through the draft and I have faith that Dave and Gus are the right guys to fix this disaster. However, do you think they will be more active in free agency next year for short-term fixes? We need help everywhere.
John: I think the Jaguars will be more active in unrestricted free agency next offseason. I think they'll look more for young players who can project to play perhaps four or five years, but yes, I'd anticipate them being significantly more high-profile in that area.
Guest from Orange Park, FL:
Can we get an update on Gratz? I haven't heard anything lately on his status. Will he play next week?
John: He has progressed, and was walking last week without a boot or a significant limp. I expect his status to be updated Monday, but he was expected to miss three games and he has missed three games, so he could have a chance to play Sunday.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
Four games played, and we have been outscored in the first half, 75-8! One more time for emphasis: 75-8! Life is too short to waste valuable time and hard-earned money on such an inferior product! I can't wait until February to start the debate on what to do with the first overall pick in the draft! See ya then O-man! I know you won't be allowed to print this but wanted to say thanks for at least keeping bad times entertaining! See ya after the season, God Bless!
John: God bless you, too, Nathan, and while I know this is a Monday, next-day version of the O-Zone, I'll take a moment to again express wonder at how often I get emails saying, "I know you won't be able to print this" and "I know you have to say . . ." These always become common during losing streaks, but I'll say what I've said before: the Jaguars give this website astonishing freedom to discuss and analyze this team. I won't say it's unprecedented, but there aren't many NFL sites that match it. There are emails that I don't answer because I get many, many emails a day. Some, I don't answer because I'm tired of the topic. Some because I don't feel like answering that day. Some because . . . well, some just because. But to say that I wouldn't be allowed to print this email just because it's a fan disappointed in the product . . . well, it's just obviously not the case. It's obvious things right now aren't good. No one's ever denied that. The team is working to get better and it's going to take time. That's just how it is, but the team's not ignoring or censoring the topic.
Owen from Waycross, GA:
I think my head is going to explode. Sitting here watching a team with enough talent to actually win a game, making some great plays (except Gabbert making bad decisions on when to step up in the pocket and when run to the outside), then beating themselves with stupid, stupid penalties. They are making it so hard to be excited about what Gus and Dave are doing.
John: It sounds like you're in lockstep with Gus Bradley this morning. I found Bradley's post-game press conference Sunday very interesting. He clearly is committed to the approach he's taking and he clearly likes players' attitudes toward that approach. At the same time, he talked on Sunday about needing to execute better – that it can't be simply about competition. Bradley won't come off the approach and he'll continue to stay positive, but I'd guess players are also going to be held more accountable in the coming weeks.
Marvin from Fredericksburg:
I'm a realist. I wasn't expecting much in the way of wins this season, but I was expecting to see progress from week to week. I haven't seen anything. This has got to be the worst first quarter I've seen a team perform that wasn't an expansion team.
John: It hasn't been good. The Jaguars are far from the most talented team in the NFL, and on Sunday, it would be hard to make an argument that the talent the Jaguars do have played all that well. That's a combination . . . well, it's a combination that gets you beat, 37-3, at home, apparently.
Rocco from Jacksonville:
Justin Blackmon is a better receiver than CS3. I think without Justin Blackmon IS JUST ANOTHER AVERAGE RECEIVER! YOUR THOUGHTS, JOHN?
John: I think Cecil Shorts III is better-than-average receiver in his third NFL season, and I don't think he's a receiver who can carry an offense alone. I think right now he's being asked to do just that, and I also think he had a bad day on Sunday. I think he will be helped by the return of Justin Blackmon, and I believe the opposite would be true if Shorts had missed four games and Blackmon had played.
Depressed fan from St. Petersburg, FL:
I don't know what it is, John. At times during the game I murmur under my breath, "I'm done with Gabbert." And then I see a few passes that hit his receivers in the hands only to be dropped. It's like the offense as a whole is totally inept. Any thoughts/opinions?
John: I think you're going through what a lot of people go through with Gabbert. He has struggled. He hasn't often been good. He has made bad plays. At the same time, he has received little help and if you step back from it, you realize that while he's not great he may not be as bad as the team's performance has made him look at times. And then you're back to not knowing.
Chris from Mandarin:
How many snaps did Marcedes Lewis play against the Colts? If he was in the game, he was invisible.
John: He left early in the game after aggravating the calf injury that kept him out of the first three games.
John from St. Louis, MO:
I'm looking forward to seeing the Jags play against the Rams this weekend. I only want a touchdown scoring drive in the first half. Is that possible?
John: Yes.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
I don't know if this would be their style, but I'm sure there's going to be some talk about it. Do you think Caldwell and Bradley would seriously consider trading for Josh Freeman? And if so, what do you think the right price would be?
John: I don't think they'll trade for Freeman.
Stan from Jacksonville:
0-16. Yes.
John: No.

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