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O-Zone: Foundation-building

JACKSONVILLE – Last day until we look ahead. I'm sort of looking forward to that. Bobby from Jacksonville:
It's funny: most of these people can't even remember a week ago what the Seahawks did to the 49ers. Are THEY a terrible team? This is all with Chad Henne in there and Blackmon/Lewis out. New coaches, one of the youngest teams and yet they ARE getting better every week already. It makes me cringe how little people know about the building process. You have more patience than I have, John. Keep it up.
John: I'm not patient, but I do understand what fans see. This is tough to watch, and you can't expect fans to like losing big. It's part of the process, but you can't expect fans to like it. But yes, the Jaguars do seem to be improving by the week, even if it's slower than fans want – and even if they were pretty much at Square One to start the regular season. And yes, the absence of Blackmon and Lewis have hurt. Probably the most important thing to remember is the point about Seattle being very, very good. They are capable of beating many, many teams by many, many points at home. The Jaguars won't be the only team to lose that way there this season.
Arthur from Jacksonville:
If you don't have a good offensive line then you don't have a good team. Is that ever not true?
John: Not often.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
"The offense took a little step forward Sunday, and while a lot of it came after the outcome was decided, perhaps something positive started." I fell asleep during halftime, but this just strikes me as dumb. I can almost assure you that at some point the intensity meter dialed down quite a bit for the Seahawks. No "steps" are taken while the other team is on the sideline laughing at you. Unfortunately in the NFL we start all games 0-0, and are not able to trick our opponents into believing they start 30 points ahead. Jedd Fisch will be a one and done.
John: Your point is absolutely understandable, and there was a reason I used "perhaps" rather than a phrase such as "absolutely, positively." It's because we don't know if Sunday was a step or not. But right now, the Jaguars are a team looking for answers and looking for something on which to build. There hasn't been much positive this season on the surface. Maybe, just maybe, a brief stretch of productivity – even one against a team that indeed had dropped its intensity – could be the start of something. It may not be. That's possible, too. As far the hammering of Fisch, you're not alone there. When teams struggle to move, coordinators get blamed. But I'd wait a while before writing him off. How the Jaguars fare over the long haul, and whether the offense improves and starts to find itself, will be far more of a gauge than these first three games.
Kris from Copenhagen:
I get the whole "rebuilding year" bit, but we have been hearing that the team was going to be competitive. Let's be fair: the Jaguars aren't EVEN close to being competitive. Who on the roster needs to step up for this team to be competitive, so that we don't lose by more than 10?
John: The rebuilding year isn't a "bit" as much as it is reality, and no, the team hasn't been competitive. I'd say the interior offensive line needs to step up, as well as the defensive front seven – particularly against the run as of late. Those would be two areas to start, but alas, they are not alone.
Mary from Jacksonville and Section 115:
Yes, I'm discouraged. No, I'm not giving up my season tickets. Yes, I'll be at the stadium Sunday cheering my team on. NO, TEBOW IS NOT THE ANSWER. Hope your inbox is bearable today.
John: It's fine, Mary. It was fine already, actually – these are just emails, not people beating at my car with hockey sticks – but it's better now, thanks.
Stu from Buxton, England:
The defense gave up 45 points because the amount of rookies in the secondary and the fact they had to spend so much time on the pitch because the offense failed. If Henne is the answer, I don't know what the question is. I've been trying to explain to my friend the way the NFL works, but it's hard to explain why your team has -7 yards of offense with eight minutes to go in the second quarter.
John: Yes, that would be a difficult tutoring session.
John from Jacksonville:
The real key to the game was the late first-half interception. That meant us going into the locker room at halftime down by 24 points instead of only 10 points. This was a huge game-changer knowing that we were getting the opening kick of the second half and could have narrowed the margin down to three or seven points after that drive. What a difference a play makes on momentum and of what is discussed in the locker room at the halftime break.
John: It did make a difference, and the play before it was one Cecil Shorts III certainly wishes he had a chance to make again. He had a chance for a touchdown and instead Henne was intercepted on the ensuing play. I didn't emphasize the play in's post-game coverage, mainly because it's hard to make the case that that one sequence would have changed the outcome, but could it have made for a more competitive feel in the third quarter? Yes, there's no doubt that for a short time at least the game would have felt different. That's the reality of the NFL. Good teams make plays and great ones take advantage of opportunities to put struggling teams away.
Cory from Philadelphia, PA:
How's this for an attainable goal next Sunday: the first series that the Jaguars offense has the ball, they should engineer a score (even if it is just 3 points). I'm sure this is every offense's goal whenever they have the ball, but if the Jaguars expect to be competitive in games, they must find a way to score before the start of the second half.
John: Score on first possession. Got it.
Shaun from Jacksonville:
The offensive line for the most part is healthy this year. We have a tackle selected second overall. In theory, that area should be better. The only thing I can really point to is the change to a zone blocking scheme. Do you think there will at least be consideration given to move away from that scheme?
John: Gus Bradley said on Monday the team won't move away from the zone-blocking scheme, but it sounds as if they'll use zone- and gap-blocking techniques. We'll see.
Scott from Section 147 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
Do you think a lot of our growing pains are due to poor drafting over the last four years? It seems this may explain some of our offensive woes. Other teams change coaches and they still seem to be competitive. If you look at our last four years of draft picks, most picks are not on the team or are underperformers for their round. What do you think?
John: Yes, I think the Jaguars would be better if the players selected in recent seasons had been better.
Princefigs from Jacksonville:
If you could upgrade one position on the team immediately to a Pro Bowl level player, who would it be? (besides the obvious answer, QB)
John: Defensive end.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
You've said in the past if a team signs a player off someone else's practice squad, they have to remain on the active roster for three weeks. Obviously, that isn't the case if you sign a player from your own practice squad, given that the Jags signed Ebert, then sent him back to the practice squad, then brought him back up. So how does all that work? Does he sign a one-game contract? Does he sign a one-year contract then get cut? Just curious.
John: He signs a one-year, minimum contract with no signing bonus and is paid 1/16th of that salary for the game.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
Brad Meester has been solid as the starting center for well over a decade, but I'm beginning to think he is playing one year too many. While all the interior O-line issues are not tied directly to him, I've seen multiple instances in the first three games where he has been simply overpowered by the defensive tackle or he missed on his block. Are you seeing this as an issue? Would the team be better off giving Brewster playing time and seeing if he's the heir apparent prior to the offseason?
John: Meester and the rest of the interior offensive line haven't played well the last three weeks. Yes, it's an issue.
Greg from St. Johns, FL:
I've had minimal expectations for the Jags this year and next other than solidifying our strengths and weaknesses and improving. But, if you were the Giants senior writer, what do you say to their fans?
John: "Stop bothering me."
Mike from Section 238:
My goodness, O-Man. Are your most of your readers children? I live with the fact that these games have been extremely hard to watch the past three weeks, but demanding to fire the GM and coach after only one draft and three weeks is beyond impatient and into "lala" land! These people probably expect to move furniture in the week after the slab is poured in their new house, too.
John: I don't know the average age of the readers, and it's fine to be upset. But it's not reasonable to think that Gus Bradley or David Caldwell won't be around next season. Shad Khan understood when these guys were hired that this is the start of a building process. The organization knows this is the beginning, and that if it's not time to move furniture in, it is indeed time to get the concrete poured the right way.

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