JACKSONVILLE – Sigh.
Let's get to it … Scott Just Sad from Points North:
John: Yeah, like I said …
Keith from Palatka, FL:
The Jaguars are who they are. They are a team with a decent defense and an offense, because of so many rookies, that can't score more than two touchdowns a game. I have gone through the stages of grieving: shock and disbelief; disappointment; anger; and finally, resignation. They are slowly getting better, but will need an infusion of talent in free agency and the draft to take the next steps. While both sides of the ball need help in the offseason, we have to improve on offense. You can't score two touchdowns or less on a consistent basis and win in this league. I think the primary emphasis in the next offseason has to be on the offense again. What do you think?
John: I think your analysis is accurate for the most part. I continue to be more optimistic than most that the slow improvement you see can be significant improvement by next season, particularly on offense. That's because of the number of rookies. While I understand that people are tired of reading about that, look no further than wide receiver Marqise Lee to see evidence that players develop at different paces – and that young players can take significant strides quickly. Overall, though, the major issue offensively remains the line. I don't know that it means a major overhaul in terms of personnel, but something has to improve … there are just too many pass plays where Blake Bortles is throwing under significant duress and not enough run plays where the blocking gives the runner a legitimate chance. I also think a pass-catching tight end will be a priority in free agency. I don't know about relying on a major infusion of talent from the draft to improve the offense immediately, though. Most of the improvement there will come from current players growing up and growing together.
Jeremy from Andover, KS:
Who are the NFL head coach candidates for next year? Do you think Khan will get a jump on the rest of the teams and get his man sooner rather than later?
John: Your question implies that there will be a head coaching change in Jacksonville in the offseason. That implication is incorrect.
George from Savannah, GA:
Ozone, a check down on 4th and 20!!!!!!! Are you kidding me!! Throw in the end zone. End this season and this misery. I hope this is not too confusing for you.
John: I'm not confused, but young players do get confused and the Jaguars' offense is full of young players. I wouldn't have minded a longer pass there, either, but I'm also not big on having a young quarterback play chuck-it-and-hope on every play. But you know what? Whatever. That play wasn't why the Jaguars lost on Sunday and it won't have much do with Bortles' development, so … he threw a check down at the end of a long game in which he was under a lot of pressure throughout. It happens.
Brett from Seattle, WA:
This team is aware that there are two halves in football, right?
John: It is indeed, and that was a major source of frustration in the post-game locker room Sunday. The Jaguars did a lot right in the first two quarters and the game had the feel of a very positive step. It also had the feel of a momentum-building game coming off of an uplifting victory over the New York Giants the week before. One drive shouldn't be enough to kill that momentum. One drive plus a hurtful interception shouldn't, either. On Sunday, those things were enough to essentially end the game. That can't be how it is.
Mike from Jacksonville:
Is it too much to ask for four quarters of a football game?
John: For a team this young … I guess it is.
Biff from Jacksonville:
Jekyll and Hyde football. Is there a better way to describe it? The second half was ugly to watch.
John: This was a major theme in the inbox after Sunday's loss – enough so that some version of it has now been the subject of three consecutive questions. That may be some sort of O-Zone record. And with reason. The trend of the Jaguars playing dramatically different in the first half compared to the second is prevalent enough that it is season-defining. On the one hand, it's a better situation that last season, when the Jaguars were so far out of a lot of games that people weren't as much frustrated after games as baffled about how team could just not be competitive. On the other hand, it begs the question of how a team can look like a very competitive team capable of beating playoff caliber teams for 30 minutes then get dominated in the other half of the game. Some of it on Sunday was circumstance. The Jaguars allowed one extended drive in the third quarter, then gave up a quick turnover and – bam! Just like that a game that was close was one-sided. That one-sidedness can cause a young team to press and suddenly the game feels out of reach and it's over. That happened on Sunday, but at some point it has to not happen. At some point, the offense needs to answer a long, extended drive like that with a long, extended drive of its own. That's what a mature team does, and the Jaguars as a whole aren't mature yet. At some point these guys do need to grow up. I don't know that it will be this season. But it sure can't take much longer than that.
MrPade fromKingsland, GA:
I was at the game today and spent the time really watching Bortles. On one hand, he consistently had so little time to look downfield he couldn't possibly see his second or third options. It must be extremely difficult to only have time to see if one receiver is open before deciding what to do with the ball. Also, CSIII and Clay Harbor both dropped perfectly thrown balls that almost any other receiver would have caught. I do want your opinion though on the reason for BB5 throwing so many balls below the receivers' knees … especially on the swing passes behind the line of scrimmage. He does this often. Is it footwork, arm strength, or simply inaccuracy do you think that causes him to throw so many low balls?
John: Footwork and mechanics, which means … footwork.
Jacob from Jacksonville:
Any number on how many balls were batted down/dropped during the game?
John: The Texans defensed eight passes. I counted three drops, but there may have been more. In fact, there probably were.
Shawn from Jacksonville:
And you think the Jags will try to re-sign Shorts? This year he couldn't catch a cold if he were naked in a Minnesota blizzard.
John: Your question implies that I have been writing in recent weeks that I believe the team will try to re-sign Shorts. I don't believe that's the case. I wrote in the offseason that I believed they would try – because they were trying. I have written this season that Shorts' return could depend on what he believes the market will be and what the team believes the market will be. With three weeks left in the season, and with Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns all playing well – and with Shorts certainly not playing as well this season as he hoped – I now think it's probably a long shot. It's too bad that that's the case because history has shown Shorts is capable of being productive, and because he is the kind of player teams want in their locker rooms, but too bad or not … that's how it is.
William from Section 423:
Why does Mike DiRocco hate the Jags?
John: Who's Mike DiRocco?
Joe from Jacksonville:
John: This is either a commentary on the Jaguars' offensive line or a high-end, mathematical theorem having to do with the time-space continuum as it relates to four-dimensional physics and cross-generational travel. I'm going to guess it's the former and agree that it remains an issue. The offensive line has struggled this season, and while sacks aren't all on the offensive line, it remains apparent that protection and run-blocking in some capacity remains a significant issue. I don't know what the Jaguars will do to address the area. I don't think you'll see a major overhaul because it's not realistic to do that a second consecutive offseason and because I don't think it's necessary. But players need to grow up in a hurry and communication needs to get better and there may need to be a tweak or two somewhere. Whatever it is, it's critical because the offense must improve and it needs to happen next season.
Tucker from New York, NY:
At least we had a lead to blow in the first place.
John: I try to keep sarcastic, unanswerable, bitter questions to a minimum here in the O-Zone. That was a difficult task this week. People are tired of losing and they're tired of reading the reasons the team is struggling. I understand that, because even though the reasons are legitimate, they've been going on a long time and it's frustrating to see them continue. Three weeks remain. That gives the Jaguars three more chances to keep frustrated, sarcastic, unanswerable, bitter questions out of the inbox. Stay tuned.
Frustrated Jagfan from Boynton Beach, FL:
John: I feel ya, Jagfan … I feel ya.