JACKSONVILLE – Here we are … last day to look back on Indianapolis. Look-ahead Wednesday now is a mere day away, though it is fair to wonder just how much that will change things, or if it indeed will change things at all.
Let's get to it … Bill from Jacksonville:
John, it seems we're headed for the No. 1 pick in 2015. If there is a must-have quarterback at the No. 1 pick, do we consider taking him?
John: This is becoming an oft-asked question, and I suppose that will be the case from now through May. Here's the best way I can put it: You "consider" everything as a general manager, but the problem with your scenario is you don't know if a quarterback is "must have" before the draft, only after. There are exceptions to that statement, but it doesn't appear there is an Andrew Luck-level quarterback in this draft. I've heard the Ben Roethlisberger-in-2004 theory just like most followers of this team have heard it. The theory goes that the team should have taken Roethlisberger even though it had selected Byron Leftwich the year before – and sure, in retrospect that's an easy choice. In reality there are few easy choices and the Jaguars weren't the only team to pass on Roethlisberger. In next spring's draft there are guys with potential and guys with questions and guys who may be great or who may not be. That's usually the case, and all of that is a long way of saying I don't see the Jaguars seriously considering quarterback in the first round. I could be shocked, and I've been shocked before … but I'd be really shocked if I'm shocked this time.
John from Gloucestershire, England:
What disappoints me most this season has been the play of the experienced players such as Marcedes Lewis and Cecil Shorts III, two players who should be guiding this young offense. Shorts had one reception Sunday for six yards and Lewis had one reception for minus-5 yards. Clay Harbor is little better. This is not acceptable in today's pro game. Do you see Dave Caldwell addressing the tight-end position in next year's draft? Seems we need more help on offense than we do on defense.
John: I think there's a very real chance tight end will be addressed in free agency, and certainly the Jaguars could benefit from a pass-catching tight end who can consistently beat linebackers and out-muscle safeties. I also agree the Jaguars could use better play from experienced players. I like Cecil Shorts III very much as a player, but I don't know that he's a carry-the-offense, No. 1 receiver. Fourth-round selections often aren't that type of player. As far as Lewis goes, I can't tell you what to be disappointed in or what not to be, but he has played two and a half games this season, so I don't know how much production it was fair to expect.
Derrick from Jacksonville:
Bortles looks like he's playing like Henne. It seems he has become the dunk-down passer. Has the coaching staff over-coached him as to where he doesn't look to throw downfield? I understand the pressure and all the reasons you've mentioned, but he was a gunslinger and now he looks afraid to take chances. If we can see he won't throw downfield surely the professional teams can see it.
John: This has become one of those questions to which people don't seem to want to hear the answer. So, I'll answer again: Is Bortles a bit more tentative? Yes, it appears that might be the case. Is he going through the process of figuring out what's going on in professional football? Yes. Is he a bit less confident than at the beginning? Yes. Those are all natural things. But the prevailing reason the Jaguars aren't throwing downfield more is it is very difficult to throw downfield when you do not have time to do so. On most plays on Sunday – and a whole lot of games before that – there has not been adequate time to let patterns develop downfield. This is not an "excuse" for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. This is not an excuse for Bortles. This is the reality of what's going on on the offensive line and it has to improve. The 1-10 season is not entirely on that area, but if there is going to be downfield passing there must be time to throw and too often this season that hasn't happened.
Tom from St. Augustine, FL:
I think most of us knew it would take time. We kept hearing the third year ... well, based on what we are seeing now do you really think Year Three can see us competing for a playoff spot? I am tired of competing for the top draft pick.
John: I said last week and I'll say it again that I'm not ready to say the Jaguars will compete for a playoff spot next season. I do think they'll be significantly better because I think the defense has been solid this season and I think offensive improvement can come from these young offensive players gaining experience. I don't know what that will mean for the record, exactly, but it can certainly be better – as must be the case.
Charlie from Section 217:
Has anyone noticed that seven of our games have been against team tied or in first place in their divisions? Two others have winning records, and only two have losing records. What was projected to be a relatively easy schedule before the season hasn't turned out that way. Things look a little better for the rest of the year with four out of five games left against teams presently under .500.
John: I'm one who thought the Jaguars could be better and not have it reflect in the record, but I'm not one who spends much time worried about the "strength of schedule." You play good teams in the NFL; you have to beat them to have a good record.
John from Jacksonville:
Last year at this time we were talking that Gratz and Cyprien could be cornerstones of the future. Today, they seem to have regressed. What gives?
John: I'm surprised Dwayne Gratz hasn't played better this season. He looked in the offseason as if he was ready to make a big jump. I'm not as down on Johnathan Cyprien as many others. He has made some glaring mistakes – not helping on the play when T.Y. Hilton appeared to beat Gratz for a touchdown Sunday chief among them – but overall, I still believe Cyprien makes this defense better.
James from Woodbridge, VA:
Hypothetically speaking, does Justin Blackmon make the wide receiver corps better if he was playing this year? Knowing that there's a possibility he's reinstated next year, where would that put us in terms of being better than we are right now?
John: Good gracious yes – the receiving corps absolutely would be better with Justin Blackmon. The team isn't counting on his return, though I believe there's a very good chance it will happen. All of that is conjecture, and certainly something that we'll continue to discuss and discuss and discuss. But what's not a question is his talent. He's a big-time player – and yes, he would make the Jaguars better.
Chris from Jacksonville:
You've said that we will likely be more active in free agency and draft heavily on defense this offseason. Does that mean that our free-agent pickups would likely be on the offensive side?
John: I could see a high-profile player on offense – perhaps a tight end, and perhaps an offensive lineman. That's a lot of "perhapses," but remember, wishing doesn't make it so in free agency. What I mean by that is you want to be very careful signing free agents just for the sake of signing free agents to fill needs at a position. You want to make sure you're signing a good player. Doing that and signing a big name often are very different things.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
John, which unit is playing worse, the offensive line or the special teams? In my opinion, as the offensive line goes the whole team goes.
John: Neither is playing well, and you're right that the offensive line is critical. That has shaped up as the most critical, pressing question surrounding this team right now. Is this the offensive line for the future? If so, why is it struggling and why can't Blake Bortles get more time to throw? I expected this group to take time to gel. I expected fits and starts. I wrote throughout the offseason that you would see that. But any member of that group and any member of the coaching staff would tell you they need to be playing better than they are right now. How to address this? How to get the cohesion and performance needed from that group? There may be no more critical question facing the team right now.
Jordan from Joplin:
I drink teal #Koolaid.
John: #Koolaidquestionsighting #Ilovetuesdaystoo