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O-Zone: Here's to optimism

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Mark from Raleigh, NC:
We traded Eugene Monroe? Please explain this. He was a Top 5 left tackle. Agree or disagree.
John: Although team policy prevents from reporting many transactions as official until they are indeed official – paperwork signed, physicals passed, etc. – widespread media reports are that the Jaguars indeed have traded left tackle Eugene Monroe for undisclosed draft selections. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported they are third-day selections, which means anywhere from Rounds 4 through 7. Monroe indeed is one of the NFL's better left offensive tackles, certainly in the top half or perhaps lower Top 10. However, the Jaguars selected Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. He had been playing right tackle and now almost certainly will move to left. The Jaguars had to determine if Monroe was going to be worth re-signing to franchise left tackle money at the end of this season, when he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The trade would indicate they were not. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said repeatedly since his January hiring the team will build through the draft. Acquiring draft selections for a pending free agent is in lockstep with that approach.
Kirk from Section 244:
What does Jerry Sullivan have to say? Arguably the most lost/disappointing group out there is the wide receivers. Justin Blackmon will help, but his presence makes it even easier to rely on someone else. I feel like there are no expectations for anyone besides Justin and Cecil to make a play out there.
John: The receivers aside from Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon have been Ace Sanders, Tobais Palmer, Stephen Burton, Jeremy Ebert – and Mike Brown in the regular-season opener. They are of extremely limited experience. Sanders has made a few plays at times – a reception of at least 20 yards in each of the last three games – and honestly has done about what might be expected of a fourth-round rookie in his first four games. It's rare for a receiver to step and make significant, game-changing contributions this early in their NFL career. People won't like that answer. That doesn't mean it's wrong.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
Fans are quick to forget how much praise they lauded on the Jags starting line before the season began. The only real concern seemed to be depth. It's not fair to criticize not grabbing up offensive linemen in the offseason now when it was thought to be a point of strength at the time. We don't need any revisionist history. #StandUnited.
John: I can't agree with you here, Tommy. While I believed and wrote often that the group would be improved, there were indeed many fans and many readers of the O-Zone who wrote often saying that the area needed to be addressed. So far, it has not been improved and has not played well. That means, so far, I was wrong. Stop the presses.
Tom from Charleston, SC:
During the offseason and the beginning of his season, you were standing tall for Gabbert taking the "Let's wait and see approach." Lately, you seem to have softened that stance. Does this signal that you have seen enough to agree with the masses, that Gabbert is not the future of the Jags?
John: My approach with Gabbert always has been waiting and seeing. So far, Gabbert has not been good and there have been a lot of reasons for that. Some of the reasons have been on him and some have been on those around him. The Jaguars are committed to trying to give him some level of stability and solid play around him to better determine just what he might become. I'm not going to be disingenuous and say Gabbert is awesome. I'm also not going to blame him for all that ails the offense.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
This new Jags staff and team are a quarter into the season. Please offer some insight into what you've seen and what your thoughts are going forward.
John: I must stink at my job (INSERT JOKE HERE). I thought I did this every day.
Darius from New Milford, NJ:
Did you stop with the #Moodachay because the Jaguars, in fact, have not been Mooin Da Chays?
John: There seems to be a misunderstanding of how things such as #Moodachay and #shadricksightings work their way into this odd world we call the O-Zone. I did not start #Moodachay or stop #Moodachay. When the phrase appeared in the O-Zone, I commented on it and emailers/readers enjoyed it enough that the phrase took off. With the Jaguars struggling at the start of the season, emailers/readers haven't mentioned it as much and therefore it's not appearing in the O-Zone. If that changes, it might reappear. We shall see.
Tom from Keystone Heights, FL:
Points? POINTS?? I would be happy if we just moodachay. Standing united
John: Hey!! #Moodachay!!
Michael from Tallahassee, FL:
If the league and teams are so concerned with whether or not veterans can make it through a season without getting injured or too worn down, why are these guys still playing at that age? If the risk is that great, then why bother even playing at all? Let the young guys play and get experience.
John: When I covered the Colts, Dwight Freeney very, very often did not practice Wednesdays. This was because of a combination of several nagging injuries. At the time he was a very effective pass rusher. I mention this not to laud Freeney, but to point out that teams around the NFL handle various players in different ways for different reasons. You do what you can to get the best players on the roster on the field.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
They complain about veteran days off and then want to crucify the staff for injuries. Darned if you do, darned if you don't. #thecommonfan
John: This.
Jim from Westside of Jacksonville:
I love it, O-man. Bradley and Caldwell are mixing it up. Stanzi on the 53-man roster now should put a little heat on Gabbert.
John: I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm, but Stanzi being re-signed Monday wasn't about Bradley and Caldwell mixing it up. Stanzi was released on Saturday to make room for Tobais Palmer, and then was re-signed Monday when the team released Palmer. It was a roster management move similar to the ones made previous weeks when the team re-signed and released guard Jacques McClendon and Jeremy Ebert. It's about what players have practice-squad eligibility and what players the team believes it can safely release without risk of having them signed by other teams and not necessarily about sending messages or whether players should be pushed or not.
Shawn from the Mean Streets of Arlington:
Mr. O, What's with the inadvertent whistle garbage? This ridiculous rule really should be addressed.
John: It's a frustrating rule, but there's really not much alternative. When a referee blows a whistle, players often stop playing. To award a ball on a turnover that is finalized after such a whistle therefore is to count a play in which not every player was playing through its entirety. That's not what the league wants to have happen.
James from Socorro, NM:
Will Blackmon has been playing well. Good pick up.
John: Yep.
John from Elizabeth City, NC:
I know everyone's on the passing game, but what bothers me more is the lack of a running game. We improved the offensive line and even as bad as we were last year, we could run the ball. This year, it's constantly third-and-6 plus. I don't see how a young offense can succeed passing the ball if we can't run. It's almost like we try a couple draw plays, they get stuffed and then that's it.
John: It's a major concern, though I don't know that I'd agree about the Jaguars running the ball well last year. They averaged 85.6 yards per game and less than four yards a rush. That said, that's much better than the 2.3 yards per carry and 49 yards per game the Jaguars are averaging this year. Speculation has abounded about the reasons, with the struggles of the offensive line foremost among them. Whatever the reason, 2.3 yards per carry won't win games in the NFL. It puts your offense in too many difficult down-and-distance situations and hurts the passing offense as well.
John from Elizabeth City, NC:
Am I missing something? Why is everyone wanting Freeman? He was just benched for a rookie on a team with far more weapons and a better overall team than the Jags even if the record doesn't reflect it.
John: I don't know who does or doesn't want Freeman. I do know the Jaguars won't be trading for him.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
Selling knock-off gear out of the trunk of his car in Lot P. #shadricksightings
John: Most likely, yes.
Optimistic Anna from Orange Park:
With Justin Blackmon back, and the OL having another week to gel, I smell improvement on the horizon! I sense a tight win in St. Louis followed by tight loss in Denver setting the tone for the rest of the season! I'm willing to go out on a limb and say I feel the Jags will not lose another game at EverBank this year! Go Jags!
John: You are aptly nicknamed. #Standunited

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