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O-Zone: Business as usual

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Sarasota, FL:
I like the fire after this loss. You can feel the anger and frustration. If our Jags can channel that energy, and translate that into victories, this could be a turning point for us. What say you, O-Man? What are the odds? It ain't over till it's over, Right? Duuuuuuvvvvaaaaallllll!!!!
John: This without question will be the storyline this week, and without question it's an issue worth watching. Gus Bradley was more animated and pointed – angry, even – after a 38-31 loss to the Buccaneers Sunday than after any previous loss in his 37 games as the Jaguars' head coach. He was equally pointed about things needing to be fixed in his next-day press conference. There is clearly a different message and some urgency going on here. I'm not big on press-conference tone and drama as harbingers for what lies ahead, but Bradley and Jaguars players certainly seem to have reached a point where it absolutely is clear beyond doubt that something isn't working. As far as it ain't over 'til it's over and all of those exclamation points, let's just let the Jaguars clean up some mistakes. First things first, you know …
Justin from Jacksonville:
John, I'm sorry for my email blasts Sunday. I was clearly upset and being irrational. It isn't your fault the Jags are a disappointment. I'm sorry for taking my frustration out on your inbox. Please rest up. It's going to be a very loooong week!
John: Blast away, Justin. Besides, If the Jaguars' performance Sunday wasn't my fault, I'm sure something else was.
David from Glasgow, Scotland, UK:
At least we're now just beating ourselves for the most part instead of the other team doing it. In all seriousness, the improvement is there, the ability is there, but these gut-punching mistakes need to end.
John: You said "in all seriousness," but your first sentence really isn't a joke at all. The biggest difference this season from the last two seasons is this: in four of five games the Jaguars have been very capable of winning. In three of the four losses, it has been easy to see that the Jaguars could have won had a situation or two gone differently. I'm not saying that makes the Jaguars a good team or that it makes what has gone on this season "excusable." The NFL is a league in which most games indeed come down to a "situation or two," and when you fail in those situations, you lose games. That's the cruel, competitive nature of the sport and it's also why it's the country's most popular sport. The good news is that being in that situation – where a situation or two decides the game – means the Jaguars have reached a point where they are back on par with a lot of other struggling teams. It means if they can get mistakes fixed and make key plays at right times, they can have success. The not-so-good news is they haven't shown enough signs of doing so. That can change, but talking about and writing about it doesn't change it. It has to happen on Sundays.
Richard from Las Vegas, NV:
Is it just me, or do the Jaguars get a lot of illegal formation penalties on offense? Who is at fault in these penalties? Is it young players lining up incorrectly, or coaches drawing up the plays?
John: They do get a lot of those penalties, and it seems to be a penalty that's getting called more around the NFL this season. It's absolutely players getting lined up correctly, which is something pretty much any coach will tell you shouldn't happen.
James from Upper Marlboro, MD:
This team should be 4-1. Talented bunch of players, but they haven't gelled yet. Three phases have to be hitting on all cylinders on Sunday, not only during the week at practice. Every game from here on out is our Super Bowl because we can no longer afford to lose another game if we are trying to make it into the postseason. Yes, I said it. These players have to start thinking bigger than just "competing." They need to believe they are playoff-bound. Stop believing and playing like losers. #DTWD
John: Wow, you did say "it." I don't think I'll say "it" because the mistakes the Jaguars are making are happening pretty consistently. Yes, they're mistakes that can stop because they're not talent-based mistakes. But until they stop happening, it's a little tough to see this team reeling off a long enough winning streak to start talking postseason. When they do? Yeah … absolutely … #DTWD
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
The thing that genuinely frightens me is my ambivalence about the loss. It's completely new and I don't like it, but I can't seem to bring myself to even get angry.
John: I've gotten this sort of question a few times this season, and I got it from people last season, too. When there's a lot of losing, people react to it differently. The solution? Win games.
Who cares from Who cares?:
Who cares, John? Who cares? Spend the time and effort to come down to Tampa to watch what I figured was a pretty close match up to only witness a team that cannot get a quasi-functioning unit on the field. My money next year will go to the Seminoles. Even when FSU is in a rebuilding year after losing 31 players of their 52-man roster in the last two years, it somehow still finds a way to be competitive. Ridiculous, John … absolutely horrific.
John: You lost me when you compared college football to the NFL. The sports are structurally and philosophically dramatically different, and in the NFL, you can't recruit and magically transform a roster in a matter of months. I answered the email because I was curious about a couple of your premises. You said thought it would be a pretty close match up, which it was. And the Jaguars' offense is more than quasi-functioning. It's functioning pretty well at times, actually. But was Sunday difficult? Yeah, I won't deny you that.
Johann from Jacksonville:
O-Zone, you've been with the Colts at their peak. How does this team compare in the way it prepares for game day? I feel that with a lack of play-maker veterans (exception: Julius Thomas) the young guys don't have a precedent of winning expectation or points of comparison. I think our coaches and players have been growing in the last three years. I'm worried the Gus Bradley regime will be cut short and we'll find ourselves having to restart again.
John: There is indeed a dramatic difference in how the Colts prepared. They prepared with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Preparing with an all-time great tends to make the result a whole lot better.
Mike from Tallahassee, FL:
You mentioned the Jags finding ways to lose and it has become a pattern. What do you attribute that to? It would seem to me that is on Gus. He may be another coach who is a great coordinator but isn't meant to be a head coach.
John: The easy thing when a team is struggling is to point to the head coach, and certainly that's where many fingers are pointing. My experience in the NFL tells me that when you point a finger at one spot anywhere you're usually missing a lot of other areas.
Matthew from Bryceville:
What are the odds of us getting a better offensive line by the trade deadline? Joeckel is out, but he can't help in the trenches and that's mainly where we run the ball. When it comes to passing we're amazing when we actually have a pocket for Bortles, but far and in between.
John: Luke Joeckel has played the last two games, and he is a good run-blocker. Everything is open to criticism at 1-4, and the offensive line didn't have its best game of the season Sunday. But overall that unit has played better this season. As far as getting better by the trade deadline … no, I don't expect the Jaguars to try do that, and I wouldn't expect miracles if they did.
Mike from Jacksonville:
I'm confused, John. We have so much hate for our punter out-kicking his coverage, but when the coverage unit is blocking for the wrong team … Begs the question: Is it really Bryan Anger's fault?
John: Criticizing Bryan Anger for out-kicking coverage has become vogue. The punt on Sunday was long enough. Could it have had a little more hang time? Yes, but it wasn't awful. It would barely be remembered had Bernard Pierce tackled the returner rather than blocking for him.
KA from Jacksonville:
I did not see in Gus' press conference why Bernard Pierce is still with the team. So I ask you why would a player who went out of his way to fail and let his team down still being paid by the team?
John: Bernard Pierce reported concussion symptoms after the game, which may have been the reason he did what he did on the play. That makes sense because no player would do what he did on purpose.
Jim from Jacksonville:
What type of verbal IV are you gonna push into out veins this week John?
John: My week will be pretty much what it usually is. People will ask questions about football and I'll answer them.

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