JACKSONVILLE -- Lookin' ahead, baby.
Let's get to it …
David from Broward County, FL:
O-Man, our current talent in Year Three is much better and you can see the potential on offense. Not so much on defense. Looking back at Year One of the rebuild, most fans don't realize how historically bad the talent was on this team when Dave and Gus took over. Also, the 2013 draft class was one of the worst, talent wise, in recent memory. Put those two things in perspective and you see why we are where we are. I say this not to give Gus a free pass. He has been every bit the rookie, young head coach – and I don't think he has gotten the most out of the talent this year. I say all of this to make the point that Mr. Khan's evaluation of Gus and the team the rest of this season is very complex. I believe at the end of the season Mr. Khan has to know with indisputable evidence that Gus is the right guy to continue going forward. That is a very tough decision. Any thoughts?
John: It could be well be a tough decision, and just how tough will depend on how the Jaguars fare in the ensuing 10 games. If the "noise" from the fan base is at the same level then as it is now that won't make it easier. And you know what? That's OK. Fans' voices should be heard. At the same time, Khan's "decision" – if indeed that is the right term – will be based on what he believes best for the Jaguars' long-term future, and he must take emotion/fan reaction out of the equation. No question he will factor in the issues you discussed above, and he will also factor in the fact that everyone involved knew this was a long rebuild. As Khan said last year, he has the ability to see behind the curtain into the structure of the building process. When he addressed this last year, he believed strongly in Caldwell and Bradley. I have no reason to believe that has changed until Khan says it has changed.
Ray from Jacksonville:
I had to move some hay, but when I went to the store they were out of pitchforks. I decided to burn the hay instead, but they were sold out of torches. I thought I would fix the driveway or at least mend a pillow – but the tar-and-feather aisles were both empty. Have you seen any of these items? Perhaps some readers know?
John: Probably, yeah.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
Why is our defense so bad? You can't use the excuse about youth on defense because eight of the 11 starters are veterans. Our defense is ranked 30th in the league in giving up points. With so many veteran players on defense, why are we still so bad? Wasn't this Gus' supposed expertise?
John: The Jaguars' defense is struggling because it lacks the ability to affect the quarterback rushing four down linemen and because it lacks a play-making safety.
John from Brentwood:
John, are the Jags giving themselves a more difficult task by not traveling to London until Thursday when the Bills arrive on Monday?
John: We'll see. The Jaguars have tried leaving on Monday from Jacksonville (2013) and from Sunday following a road game (2014). This year, the plan is to leave Thursday evening. Other teams have done it a variety of ways. The Jaguars appear likely to be playing a game in London each season for the foreseeable future, so they're trying to figure out what plan works best.
Dave from Jacksonville:
O-Man, kudos for another dead-on accurate Power Ranking. We are what we are. My question is, do you feel Gus and the coaches have to spend so much time correcting last week's mistakes that it is cutting down preparation time for next week's opponent?
John: I ranked the Jaguars last in the all-important weekly power rankings because they are 1-5 and they have lost to two teams – the Texans and Buccaneers – that are ranked low. I don't believe the Jaguars will finish the year 32nd, but for now, they have earned it. As far as corrections cutting into preparation … no. Coaches correct on Mondays and game-plan Tuesday, dedicating the same amount of time to each area whatever the outcome the previous week.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
If you were a general manager, how would you feel about drafting Leonard Fournette if – hypothetically speaking – he did not play football his junior year? I understand the need to have players who want to compete, but if I am that player, I am strongly considering taking a year off from SEC football and saving my body for when I'm getting paid. Thoughts?
John: If I were a general manager and thought Leonard Fournette was the best player on the board, I wouldn't let him being out a year keep me from taking him. There would be an element of rust, but players return from being out extended periods from injury and play well; there's no reason to think they can't return to play at a high level after a year off. I would have to speak to Fournette and figure out his dedication to the game. Not playing for your college team would raise a red flag in that area. Not that I would blame Fournette for taking that route, but if I was a running a team I certainly would ask the questions.
Clay from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Among the many Jaguars "explanations" that get tossed around, one that really bothers me is "we tried for that free agent, but we just didn't get him." We have the most cap space in the league, nice weather, no state income tax, and an owner, GM and coach that everyone says are swell folks. If Gus just went to the podium after a loss and just said, "Well, we tried," we'd all have our pitchforks out, so why is that enough when talking about failed roster moves?
John: The Jaguars pursued Randall Cobb and Devin McCourty this past offseason. They were the two big free-agent pursuits that didn't come to fruition and both returned to their former team. When a player wants to return to his former team and the other team is serious about keeping him, it's very tough to lure the player away because the team will figure out a way to get close enough to make it work.
Jason from #DTWD:
Shad was praised three years ago for having the patience to build "the correct" way through the draft. Fast forward three years later and we see first-hand why most owners don't. It's a painful process. And when you're the owner of a franchise which hasn't been to the playoffs in seven years, the last thing you can expect from your fan base is patience.
John: You're right, and that makes the coming months key for Shad Khan and this rebuild.
Lou from Section 101:
What's the update on Rashad Greene?
John: Greene is on the injured reserve/designated to return and is expected to be ready to return November 19.
Neil from Los Angeles, CA:
Hey Zone: thanks for all you do. A couple of points about the defense. One, I noticed that passes to running backs out of the backfield the last couple of games have really been hurting us. Secondly, zero interceptions by our cornerbacks and safeties. Are these issues due to scheme and not putting our guys in the right positions, the guys just not executing properly, or is our secondary really just that awful? I get the lack of pass rush doesn't help, but so far this is just pathetic.
John: The passes to running backs generally speaking are a scheme issue. In the case of the crucial, first-down converting screen pass against Tampa Bay, the Jaguars called a pressure in a situation where the Buccaneers called a screen. It caught the Jaguars in the wrong defense and broke for a long gain. As far as the interceptions, I attribute the lack of those somewhat to defenders being asked to play too far off the ball, but mostly to pass rush. Interceptions usually don't happen because of great plays by the defense. They more often happen because of mistakes by the quarterback, and the in the NFL, most quarterbacks are good enough that you have to force them to make mistakes. The way you do that is to apply pressure.
Gavin from Jacksonville:
It's not just the pass rush. The defensive line is getting pushed around in the run game as well. The last few weeks, especially, blockers are getting into the second level to interfere with linebackers – and we can't hold the edge. The biggest problem on this team, bar none, is the overall play of the defensive line. Followed by the offensive line in a close second. We are getting dominated up front, and it shows.
John: When it comes to the Tampa Bay game two weeks ago, there's very little you said wrong regarding the defensive line. Overall, the unit hasn't played terrible against the run. I think the offensive line has pass-blocked pretty well considering they have trailed a lot late in games, but the run-blocking … yes, that needs to improve.
James from Soccorro, NM:
Our core players (Years 4-7, Rounds 1-3) should be: Justin Blackmon, Andre Branch, Bryan Anger, Blaine Gabbert, Will Rackley, Tyson Alualu, D'Anthony Smith, Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Terrance Knighton, and Derek Cox. Oh.
John: Good list.