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O-Zone: Gonna keep fannin'

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
Don't you think we should start drafting offensive linemen like Dallas in the first several rounds of the draft? There still is a major problem for the Jaguars in pass protection and run blocking. Get big up front and draft playmakers and you have a chance to win in every game.
John: There's no doubt the current Dallas blueprint is a very good blueprint. And it is the understatement of the season to say the Jaguars need to upgrade something on the offensive line – talent, scheme or performance. But the Jaguars right now also significantly lack playmakers who can make plays "above the Xs and Os." The NFL is about line play, but it's also about those players making plays that make a difference. The Jaguars do need to improve both, so … yeah, there's your dilemma.
David from Duval:
You continue to use "youth" as an excuse for why this team is so bad. The fact of the matter is that the Jags aren't even the youngest team in the league on average; the Rams are. And if you look at the Top 10 youngest teams they include the Chiefs, Cowboys, Seahawks, Packers, Browns, and Bills - with the Pats and Broncos rounding out the top 12. The difference in average age between the Jags and the Broncos (12th youngest) is 0.6 years. Even Marcedes Lewis doesn't think age is an can you explain to me why you think this is the main cause as to why we can't seem to compete (much less win) on a regular basis? Oh, and I'm not going to say you won't post this question because that is the cheap way out....but I have a strong feeling you won't.
John: This was a very awesome, tough question – as evidenced by the challenging, strongly worded last sentence. (FYI … saying, "You won't post this question" isn't a cheap way out; what it really is is internet bravado and an easy way to dramatically reduce the chances of your question being answered.) As for the point of your question, there are statistics and then there is reality on the field. The statistics say the Jaguars aren't significantly younger than a lot of teams, and that may be true when you look at the entire roster. The reality is they have young players playing key roles all over the offense and most importantly, at quarterback. Some people may see it as a coincidence that the defense is playing better than the offense and that the defensive line is playing best of all and that the defensive line happens to be the most veteran unit on the team … yeah, it probably is a coincidence. None of which matters because, you know, I won't post this anyway.
Amata from Marshall Islands:
Coach Brian Billick, formerly of the Ravens, had this to say on his Rookie Wide Receiver Ranking article on "The Jaguars might have one of the best young receiving corps around for years to come." With all the negativity caused by this one-win season, I thought I'd share this to brighten up your inbox. Now my question, does the emergence of Allen's consistency, Hurns' big-play ability and Lee kinda, sorta make Blackmon trade bait or expendable?
John: No. What Billick said is great, and I think he may be right. But none of the receivers you mentioned – Robinson, Hurns or Lee – matches Blackmon for pure ability. If Blackmon is reinstated, I see him playing for the Jaguars and if he is reinstated I certainly don't see the Jaguars releasing or trading him. If they did, they would be trading or releasing a level of talent they dearly need.
Dave from Jacksonville:
This fan base, I believe, is remarkably well-informed and patient. We bought into the building-from-scratch model, and remained loyal last year despite a 0-8 start. We showed up in record numbers to watch rookie minicamps this offseason and gravitated towards Gus Bradley's enthusiasm. However, we were promised consistent, competitive play this year; if not a much better record. This has not been achieved. They would need to win three out of their last five games just to equal last year's win total. We were promised a team contending for the playoffs by 2015. I do not see this coming to fruition either. This is not going according to plan; consequences should be the result. I wish Gus Bradley the best, but hope we have someone else in his position soon.
John: I agree the fan-base has been patient, and if you read this feature daily you're darned right you're well-informed. I'd stop short of saying the fans were "promised" anything, though, because I don't know how you promise anything in professional sports. I did write and team officials did say they believed the team would be more competitive this season, and for most of the season the team has been that. It hasn't been enough to win more games, but there have been far more games against better teams with the team having a chance to win than last year. That's not satisfying, but considering where this build began, it's better than it was last season. As I also wrote before the season, it was possible for this team to improve and not have a better record. That doesn't sit well with people, but it not sitting well doesn't mean it's wrong. As far as consequences, I don't know what the offseason will bring. I am sure that David Caldwell and Gus Bradley will be running the Jaguars' football operations next season. I may not big on promises in pro sports, but I can pretty much promise that.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
Why does it seem we have not utilized players? Point in case, Justin Forsett never got a chance in Jacksonville, despite the fact we had no clear No. 1. I feel that our depth has been severely hurt by choices like this, and compounded by the lack of good draft picks in the previous era. What do you say?
John: This is an oft-repeated theme in the O-Zone, which is understandable because people look around the league and see former Jaguars starting for other teams. I won't go down the laundry list, though I'll continue to say that while linebacker Daryl Smith could have helped the Jaguars I don't know how much other players not retained would truly help. As for Forsett, his issue in Jacksonville last season was an injury that kept him out most of the season. Could he help the Jaguars this season? Perhaps, but I don't know that he would start over Denard Robinson. Also, Forsett looked very good against New Orleans on Monday, but he ran through enormous holes. I'm almost certain Robinson could have done the same. Often a player can get into a good situation and perform better than when he was in a more difficult situation. Good for Forsett, who seems to have done just that.
Bryce from Algona, IA:
Zone, after this season, Dave's first draft will be two years old. At this point do you see any of those picks being justified? McCray is probably the best player they drafted and he was a seventh-round pick. I can see why the fan base is a bit skeptical of the future. You?
John: I don't think it's time to throw Luke Joeckel out the door, though I agree he must play better. And I'm not nearly as down on Johnathan Cyprien as many fans. He has had some very glaring bad plays, but I also remember how the defense really struggled without him early in the season and how it has improved overall since his return and figure the team is probably better with him than without. I also think the Jaguars drafted Denard Robinson in the fifth round that year, too, so if you add McCray to that list I think that can still be a pretty good draft. And I do think it's still too early to tell. I also think early indications are that the 2014 draft may be better than 2013. So, while I can understand the fan base's skepticism, I can't say that I share it. You don't hit on every draft selection. Not even Hall of Fame general managers do that. So far, I don't see much indication that Caldwell has drafted particularly poorly, and there are some early indications that he's drafted pretty well.
Kyle from Sunbury, PA:
Why does it seem good or decent running backs leave here and then perform very well at their very next team? Rashad Jennings – and more recently, Justin Forsett – come to mind. Is our line that bad that being placed behind a better line automatically turns them into great backs?
John: I notice you didn't mention Maurice Jones-Drew. The performance and effectiveness of the vast majority of NFL running backs rises and falls on the quality of blocking they receive, as well as quality of the quarterback. The former is true because good blocking is good for the running game and the latter is true because the more a defense respects the threat of the pass, the better opportunities there are to run. Great running backs – truly, truly elite ones – can sometimes be exceptions to this rule, but it takes an elite player.
Gordon from Jacksonville and Section 210:
Brian from Nashville wrote: "I can't think of a team that has ever been built like this before and had success." Well, Junior, may I present the late-80s early-90s Dallas Cowboys? Check out what Jimmy Johnson did to that roster (and the Cowboys' record in those first few seasons) and tell me if you'll trade some short-term growing pains for some long-term success. Geez, O-Man. we are the whiniest fan base...
John: There's nothing wrong with this fan base. Fans just gonna keep fannin' and that's OK.

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