JACKSONVILLE – Bound for the Big Easy.
Let's get to it …
Kyle from Ohio:
How would you grade the season-long performance of last year's free-agent signings – i.e. House, Skuta so on …
John: My view on the Jaguars' 2015 free-agent class is for the most part it did what the team hoped it would do – and I would give it a very high grade. I generally have very low expectations for free-agent signings because free-agent expectations overall are ridiculously high for players that their former teams were willing to let sign elsewhere. I also generally think it takes most free agents close to a year to make what will be their true impact on their teams. In light of those two factors, I think this was a very good free-agent class. The Jaguars signed eight unrestricted free agents last offseason: tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick, right tackle Jermey Parnell, cornerback Davon House, Otto linebacker Dan Skuta, safety Sergio Brown, wide receiver Bryan Walters and center Stefen Wisniewski. Thomas improved after the first half of the season and I believe he'll be a huge factor next season. Skuta and Odrick improved the run defense a great deal, and Odrick made more of an impact as a pass-rusher than I expected. House led the team in passes defensed. Parnell solidified the right side of the line. Brown, Walters and Wisniewski were signed to far shorter, cap-friendlier deals, so not nearly as much was expected from them. They for the most part weren't as good as the other free-agent signings, but they weren't supposed to be. Remember, that class wasn't supposed to form the core of the franchise. It was supposed to raise the talent level of the team and make the team more competitive. It very definitely did that.
Blaine from Winter Park, FL:
The only way I will ever yell Duval is if the cheerleader on the giant Fanduel poster tells me to do so. Only she can make cheering for a county cool.
John: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Robert from Jacksonville:
I think the big problem people have with Luke Joeckel is when you write about him, you say he is "OK" or for the most part playing "fine." That's just not what people want out of the No. 2 overall selection. And not at a position as important as left tackle. If Blake was playing "OK" or "fine," we would be talking about still looking for our franchise quarterback. I understand left tackle and quarterback are not equal, but one is pretty important for keeping the other upright. Thanks.
John: I can't control what people want. All I can tell you is what I see – and what people around the Jaguars say about Luke Joeckel – is while he is not a Pro-Bowl left tackle he is fine to have as a starter at the position. I suppose I could spent days railing on what he is not and whether he was worth the No. 2 selection, but toward what end? He's a good left tackle in the NFL. The Jaguars aren't going to try to replace him. That's it.
John from Jacksonville:
Zone, in reference to the discussion about Blake not throwing interceptions at such bad times, that was only possible this year in one game (fourth quarter of Indy). Taking the first and goal at the one with :11 out of the mix (that's just a bad time), a lot of the perception that every interception is at a bad time is because the games are always so close – or we are fighting our way back. If we could start faster and get some 10-plus point leads, then every interception wouldn't be as critical. Now, every possession seems to be an "OK-we-need-a-score here-type possession." Make sense?
John: No question. Look, the reality in the NFL is most interceptions are costly. Interceptions usually happen when teams are throwing in higher-risk situations, and interceptions rarely happen when you're milking clock at the end of games. But for the most part … yes, Bortles' interceptions have been costly because the Jaguars have played razor-close games. When that's the case, every mistake – interceptions, penalties, whatever – hurt.
Pradeep from Bangalore:
Hey John, do you think Allen Hurns will cross 1,000 yards with two games in hand? He needs close to 100 yards to achieve this feat. A team always gets some attention when you have two receivers with 1,000-plus yards and combined 20-plus touchdowns.
John: Yes, I think Hurns will do that.
Chris from Jacksonville:
I'm assuming Tony Khan is already looking into it, but I think it's clearly time for Bortles to trim the beard. Look at what Fitzpatrick has done since his beard trim in Week 10. It's time to get the beard and the season back on track.
Mike from Providence, RI:
Why can't the Jags get it right when they need to?
John: This is a pretty open-ended question. I won't try to cover the last half-decade plus, but as far as this season: inconsistency on offense and lack of pass rush on defense. It covers a lot.
Brett from Mason City, IA:
So our third-down defense is bad, but our third- down offense is worse! Why??
John: This is a pretty open-ended question. I won't try to cover everything, but: inconsistency on offense and lack of pass rush on defense. It covers a lot.
Anissa from Jacksonville:
Is Bowanko that bad that he doesn't get a shot this late in the season?
John: Luke Bowanko isn't bad – at all – but Stefen Wisniewski has been healthy all season and has done nothing to force the Jaguars to make a change at the center position.
Vishwa from Jacksonville:
Hi O'Sir, Happy Holidays. Lost in all of this is Bortles' durability. Every other AFC South team has started backup QBs. Yet our mustache hero Henne has yet to see the field. This helps with Bortles' development, too, as he gets more opportunity on the field. Fans have said "next year" for a long time around here. But I think this time it has more meaning and promise.
John: Bortles indeed has been durable. Some of this is his size, and a little is good fortune. I'd honestly like to see him run a smidge less because I value quarterbacks being available above a whole lot of other quarterback "things." As far as next year having meaning … yeah, I agree. We'll see.
John from Cape May, NJ:
John, I neither hate nor love Coach Bradley, but when I see the Houston Texans, who have played four quarterbacks and are on the verge of winning the division it makes me think where this team would be with better coaching.
John: When a team isn't winning as much as people want or expect, the natural tendency is to blame coaching. Sometimes, the natural tendency is correct. Sometimes it is not.
Brooks from Fleming Island, FL:
Ozonator, fans seem totally miffed as to why our defense is playing so poorly on third downs and against the pass, but the answer is quite simple: we need better players. We've lost Sen'Derrick Marks (our best defensive player) and Dante Fowler Jr. (our hoped-to-be best defensive player) to injury at the most pass rush-oriented spots on the defensive line without quality backups; our middle linebacker, Poz, is equally bad in coverage as he is good against the run; neither Sergio Brown nor Josh Evans should be starting at free safety in the NFL; and we're playing a rookie college quarterback at nickel corner. These are all personnel problems. The good news is the Jags enter free agency with the most cap space in the NFL and will likely have a Top-10 draft pick—so there's good reason to believe these issues can and will be fixed. Comments? Questions?
John: Nah, you pretty much covered it.
John from Tampa, FL:
Please help answer my Marqise Lee question. I am not a dumb fan posting nonsense that'll make for a funny re-post. I think Lee is a missing piece on offense and hope he's in Jags' future plans. Lot of fans give him heat for injuries and things out of his control. I just want to know about long-term subbing of him when in rhythm and getting comfortable.
John: Marqise Lee absolutely should be in the Jaguars' future plans, and there's nothing funny about this re-post. I've said often this week he needs to be on the field. Now.
Adam from St. Johns, FL:
I love how you media guys just think this is exactly what the fans deserve. We should be happy with the progress, not disgusted with horrible loses. We should be happy just to be here. It's so frustrating to read this crap. If we know what the problem is, then we don't have a coach that can fix it.
John: People ask questions; I answer them. I have never criticized fans for how they feel about something. I never pretend to know what fans deserve or what should make someone happy. I'm good, Andy, but I'm not that good.
Armand from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
John, this season has been fun. Thank you for all your insight on the team.
John: Hey, don't thank me – thank Andy.