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O-Zone: Force field

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jim from Fleming Island, FL:
A shaky start to the season, but this is the kind of game everyone has been expecting. There is too much talent on this team to not be winning regularly.
John: Sunday should be fun at EverBank Field, and it is indeed the sort of game that hasn't been played in Jacksonville in December in a long, long time. But I still don't know that it's fair to portray the Jaguars as having underperformed early this season. They certainly lost a couple of games early they could have won, but to say they were behind schedule? Or not playing to their potential? Remember: even at the start of this season this was a young team. A very young team. Talented? Yes. A team with future potential? Yes. But still a young team without a lot of experience. Blake Bortles had 13 career NFL starts when the season began. Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson had a combined 16 NFL starts. T.J. Yeldon had none. Julius Thomas wasn't in the lineup and never had played a regular-season game for the team. Greg Olson had never coordinated a game for the Jaguars. In retrospect, the offense came together remarkably quick; not vice-versa. It takes some maturity and experience to win consistently in the NFL. That's true no matter the talent level. The Jaguars appear to be growing steadily toward being able to win consistently, but although it was frustrating and disappointing at times early in the season, it's not remotely surprising that it took a while for the pieces to come together.
Mike from Des Moines, IA:
I clicked on something titled "Jags of the Round Table." There must be a mistake, because I saw a few guys sitting around a square table. I was confused, then figured out it must be a mistake with the website.
John: Wait, what?
Shaun from Jacksonville:
I realize they are not eye-popping numbers with the Cardinals. However, given what the Jaguars are getting out of the LEO position, do you think Dwight Freeney would have been a good addition?
John: Perhaps, but it's hard to know how effective Freeney would have been in this defense compared to his effectiveness in the Cardinals' defense. Remember, too, when older players sign in the middle of seasons they are often trying to sign where they have a chance to win a Super Bowl. That's not to say that couldn't have happened with the Jaguars this season, but the Cardinals from an objective point of view would seem to have a better opportunity.
Brandon from Athens, GA:
So John, are you a Star Wars guy?
John: Why do you ask?
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I don't know why you're against going for two more often. First off, teams that go for it more often make a higher percentage than other teams. Then, consider our kicker is currently making 80 percent of his extra-point attempts, which means you only need to make 40 percent on two-point conversions to break even … that's lower than the league average right now. Not saying they should go for it every time, but I don't think it's such an absurd notion when your kicker can't seem to make the one-pointers so "automatically."
John: I didn't say it was absurd to go for two more often. I said I wouldn't do it more often. Kickers are supposed to make 33-yard field goals, and I believe a two-yard play on a tightened field is a tougher play in the NFL than many people realize. If it were a one-yard play, I'd feel differently. It's not a one-yard play, so I would kick unless the situation demanded I go for two.
Tim from Petersburg, FL:
John: Did you watch the condiment bowl Thursday? French's beat Heinz in one of the worst uniformed games I have ever seen. If the NFL wants to vary the uniforms, why not let them do like college and have one the team designed – not putrid NIKE-designed uniforms for the Thursday night game. Nuff said ...
John: I guess this just doesn't bother me the way it does some people. I didn't mind the Jaguars' gold uniforms – and in fact, I sort of liked them. I wasn't crazy about the Rams' and the Buccaneers' uniforms Thursday, but I've liked a few of the others. Maybe the NFL will do something different next season. Wake me if that happens.
Steve from Woodbine, GA:
Although it would be great to make the playoffs and host a game as the division champion, I think finishing 8-8 and not making the playoffs would do as much for the confidence and future of this team and fans. It would show that this team has finally begun to grow. An 8-8 record would be a drastic improvement over the last few years, but would maybe keep expectations from being over-hyped going into next year. If we make the playoffs and maybe even win the first game, next year it would be Super Bowl or bust for many fans and I think that is a bit too much just yet. We still need a lot of help on defense mainly in the department of pressuring the quarterback. What do you think, John?
John: Win now. Worry about next year next year. My thoughts on the end of the season remain what they have been for the last several weeks. The Jaguars need to play well, build on what they have done and finish strong. They need to know that this offense is a strength going forward. Do that and the end of the season will have been a success.
John from Ramsey, NJ:
As much as I would love to see the Jags win out and make the playoffs, part of me sees the improvement in this team and is thinking that the lower we remain in the standings this year will mean a better draft pick and a relatively softer schedule next year. It's a great time to be a Jags fan!!
John: Stop being scared of success. Win now, and win in the future. It's OK to do both.
Gavin from Jacksonville:
How can we have a conversation about center and not mention Luke Bowanko? Are the Jags done with him at that position? I thought he had a reasonably good rookie season all things considered and now he's just ... gone. Healthy scratch most weeks.
John: Luke Bowanko is a quality backup right now. He is a backup who is capable of starting. He may for the short term continue to be a backup, but that's OK. It's not a bad thing to have backups who are capable of starting. That's depth – and that's actually a good thing.
Matthew from Arlington via the Westside:
Like many, I had serious doubts about Greg Olson and thought the Jaguars had merely settled. Unlike many, I just kept that thought to myself. I want to publicly acknowledge that it is good that people that know football better than I do are making the decisions. P.S. I wasn't thrilled about the Bortles pick either....
John: A couple of thoughts here. First, while coaching and coordinating without question matter – and while you certainly need competent planning and executing in key positions – it's not the end-all. What I mean by that is no matter the quality of coordinator he is not going to magically create a great offense if the players are not capable of executing at a high level. While I believe Greg Olson has done a very, very good job this season, I don't doubt that the offense would have improved this season had Jedd Fisch remained the offensive coordinator. Perhaps it wouldn't have improved as much, but the maturation of Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, etc., etc., almost certainly would have happened no matter the coordinator. Now, all of that said, Olson without question has done a fine job, and there was never any question inside the building that that would be the case.
John from St. Augustine, FL:
I believe Bortles has a lower completion percentage than some quarterbacks due to the fact that the Jaguars throw the ball deep often. We don't dink and dunk our way down the field where a quarterback would be expected to complete 70 percent or more of his passes.
John: Bortles does throw a lot of deep and intermediate routes, and that without a doubt contributes to his relatively low completion percentage. At the same time, Bortles did struggle at times with some accuracy issues on short passes early in the season. That seems to have waned a bit and if he improves in that area as he did in other areas this season, his percentages should rise accordingly. Bortles has improved in the areas on which he worked last offseason. I see no reason he shouldn't do the same this offseason.
Andrew Panama City Beach, FL:
The force is NOT strong in this one...
John: Oh, you bet it is …

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