JACKSONVILLE – Look Ahead Wednesday. At last. At long last.
Let's get to it …
Ryan from Tampa, FL:
Hi John, what must Blake do to prove to the fans he is the future of this franchise? He is in his third year and turnovers are still his biggest problem. The turnovers cannot continue to happen. Blake has to be better if this team wants to win games.
John: Your last three comments are correct, so let's focus on what he needs to do to prove not only to the fans but to the franchise he indeed is the Jaguars' future. The answers are many of the things we discussed in this space throughout the offseason. He simply must improve pocket presence and develop a better feel for when to get rid of the ball and how to better protect the ball; fumbles such as the one in the first half Sunday cannot happen as often as they do. He must improve accuracy; I don't know that he's ever going to be a 70 percent-completion quarterback, but he must be accurate enough to not throw behind Marqise Lee as he has done the first two weeks of the season. Mostly, he must improve pre-snap and in-play decision-making. His improved understanding of the offense is evident on many plays. But the throw down the middle of the field on Sunday that turned into an end-of-half interception? Combined with the fumble that's too much carelessness with the ball. A quarterback is going to have bad games, and a team can still win in those bad games. But it's almost impossible to win if a quarterback is careless with the ball because that carelessness is almost always going to cost you points.
Tom from Jacksonville:
Gus Bradley said something to the effect "that is not who we are." Since he took over, that has been exactly who we are.
John: Fair point. The difference this year is there enough talent that what happened Sunday shouldn't be who the Jaguars are. It also isn't what the Jaguars should continue to be. They need to not be that in a hurry, and the not-being-that process needs to start Sunday.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
It's hard to determine the primary role of a head coach considering they have their hands in nearly every aspect of the team, but there are a few things I look at as ultimately being the responsibility of the head coach. 1. Team preparedness. 2. In-game discipline. 3. Consistency. These are major areas of concern with the Jags. They are consistently ill-prepared, evidenced by slow starts in games and slow starts in seasons. They are undisciplined in games, giving up huge amounts of yards in penalties and failing to cover their assignments. And they are one of the most inconsistent teams I've ever seen. They are inconsistent game to game, but also within games – sometimes from play to play. Does all of this fall on Gus' shoulders or am I off base on this?
John: I'll address consistency first. It's tough to blame Bradley solely for three years of inconsistency, mainly because I don't think there was enough talent before this season to reasonably expect more consistency. I also still see this team being young enough that you would see some inconsistency under any head coach. Also, the great majority of teams without elite quarterbacks or elite defenses are inconsistent. Inconsistent teams are the norm in the NFL rather than the exception, and I expected inconsistency from the Jaguars this season. As for the slow starts and lack of discipline … yeah, they continue to be an issue. At some point it's going to fall on the head coach. As was the case with consistency, it was hard to blame coaching for these things in the past because of talent. As the talent gets better, those things need to improve – and fast.
Dave from Ada, OK:
Bottom of the AFC South. It's an ugly place, but it's a place we call home.
John: Yes, unfortunately.
Mike from Jacksonville:
O, why so many screens? For a team that prides itself on throwing down field, I'm confused about some of these plays. We've run seven-to-eight screens so far and none of them have worked. What gives? Where's that high-flying offense we saw last year?
John: Screen passes are not the only reason the offense has struggled. Bortles' first-half struggles hurt against San Diego and San Diego cornerback Jason Verrett severely limiting Allen Robinson hurt, too. As for why so many screens, Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson saw something in the San Diego defense that he believed would be vulnerable to the screen. He was wrong on that.
Keenan from Jacksonville:
There has been a general consensus in the fan base that all the fault is on Gus Bradley and the rest of the coaching staff. I have been trying to reason that David Caldwell should shoulder some of the blame as well. So my question is how do you balance the blame Gus and the coordinators should get versus the blame the players should get for this past Sundays' poor performance? And is it fair to put any of the blame aimed at the players on Caldwell? Considering he is the one that is the final decision maker on that front.
John: I have no idea how to determine percentage of blame. Blame whoever you want for whatever you want, I suppose. Blame Caldwell. Blame Bradley. Blame Bortles. Blame the offensive line. Blame the guy who closed the door to the television studio when the sign said "Wet Paint … Leave Door Open" and made it smell like paint fumes all day. Blame the senior writer because … who doesn't? As for Caldwell, he has acquired a lot of young talent through the draft and done what I believe is an admirable job using the imperfect market that is unrestricted free agency. It is not yet an elite roster and it is still one that needs to grow and play better, but overall … if I was running a team I would definitely hire him as a general manager. The follow-up question to that is, "Would I hire Gus Bradley and this coaching staff?" The answer to that remains what I said through the offseason: We'll find out this season because the first three years of this regime there was not yet enough talent to gauge it accurately. If I were judging it solely on last week, it would be tough to say this staff did a good job. That's because nothing was good and when nothing is good it falls on the coach. As for the final answer: Stay tuned, because while many have reached what they believe is the final conclusion yet, my rational conclusion is I do not yet know.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, I am not going to criticize Poz for not being able to run down one of the fastest receivers in football. I am curious though: is it common for a middle linebacker to be assigned to cover a speed mismatch of that magnitude? Are match-ups like these coaching decisions, blown coverages, or simply offensive misdirection for which the defense did not catch in time to prevent?
John: Such mismatches occur for a number of reasons. Sometimes quarterbacks check into plays that force the defense into such a mismatch. Other times they occur when a team wants to bring an exotic unusual pressure and a player winds up in coverage on a faster player when he normally would not be asked to do it. Other times it occurs because the player is trying to make up for another player's mistake. My understanding is this last part occurs in Posluszny's case quite a bit, and he often is blamed by fans for mistakes that are not his own. That's not to say Posluszny is an awesome coverage linebacker, but it perhaps sheds the smallest of light as to why he remains on the field.
Ben from Key West, FL:
Season over already at 0-2?
John: Of course not.
Tariq from Jacksonville:
I'm curious about Marqise Lee's role in the offense. Since drafted, we have been told he has the speed to take the top off a defense, but I have yet to see him used in that capacity and was wondering if you could share your thoughts about this?
John: He was used more in that capacity as a rookie than last season or early this season. Lee is playing more in the first two games this season than he did last season, and I expect in the coming weeks that role at some point will be to try to create more explosive plays.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
Gus has compiled the worst coaching record in the history of the NFL through his first 50 games. Your irritating penchant for painting a rosy picture of a truly putrid situation only feeds to the culture of incompetence in this organization.
John: So … you're saying I'm making a contribution.