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O-Zone: Keep on smiling

LONDON, England – Saturday across the pond.

Let's get to it … Bill from Jacksonville:
John, other than drafting Dante Fowler Jr., what was the plan to "fix" the pass rush? Chris Clemons only got a year older. Andre Branch has been nothing but below average. Jared Odrick was brought in to stop the run, and Dan Skuta wasn't brought in to rush the passer, either. Other than the DFJ injury, all of these facts were known. So, what was the plan? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: Well, the Jaguars did spend the No. 3 overall selection on Fowler, who is a pass rusher. So that's not really doing nothing. In fact, it's doing quite a lot. And entering the offseason, the pass rush didn't really feel like something that needed to be fixed in the sense of an urgent overhaul. I wouldn't make the case that the pass rush was great last season, but it did have 45 sacks, so it wasn't unreasonable to think adding Fowler to that mix would produce decent pressure. A healthy Fowler combined with Skuta and Odrick would have meant new faces at three of the front seven positions. Maybe it wasn't a perfect plan, but it sure wouldn't qualify as negligence.
Clay from Atlantic Beach, FL:
It appears this year (Year 3 of rebuild for this regime; Year 5 of losing for us fans) may be another rough one in the wins column, next year (Year 4/6) is when we move to 7-9ish, and then the year after (Year 5/7) is when we are really, truly supposed to be good. With that in mind, what level of success will be worth all of the blowouts, losses and other frustrations of the five-to-seven-year build? The success has to be pretty darn big and consistent, right?
John: Yes, the level of success must be contending for and being in the Super Bowl. That answer doesn't exactly qualify as a "Whoaaaaaaaa!!" moment. That's the goal for any regime and any fan base.
Chris from San Marco:
Personally, I'd rather have no help from the London initiative, then let the chips fall where they may as far as revenue goes and keeping the team in Jacksonville. I still find it disrespectful that the team has been taken away from Jacksonville (albeit for one game per year).
John: I don't think the chips would fall in a very nice place in your scenario.
Chris from Auggie:
The all-knowing Alfie Crow seems to believe that the time to move on from Gus is right now. Must be true, right? ;)
John: Alfie does good job, and is entitled to his opinion. That doesn't mean that want he wants to happen will happen in all cases, and in this case, what he wants isn't happening – certainly not when he wants.
Zeleznoc from Jacksonville:
Re: House benched. In my opinion, it was not just getting totally out of position on two long touchdown passes. On the Texans' very first pass play to Cecil Shorts III, House was blocked but appeared to make a totally feeble attempt to get to Cecil. I wonder if some free agents still think they're coming to Florida for vacation and make little effort to play their absolute best. What do you think?
John: Your first point has merit: House does need to tackle better. But I don't get a sense that we're looking at Aaron Ross II in Davon House. He'll get another chance to start, and I imagine that chance will be sooner rather than later. The Jaguars believe he'll respond to this and play better when he gets that chance. Either way, whatever he does won't be because he believes he's on vacation. This isn't that.
Swizz from Flagler Beach, FL:
I don't understand why you say Shad Khan must take fan reaction out of the equation. I get we're not professional football experts; however, we are the customers. Think about it: a five-star restaurant that employs top chefs from around the world and yet the customers complain about the food. Do you take customer reaction out of the equation and keep serving the same food with the same staff?
John: Few people in the Jaguars' organization – and dare I say, few people, period – spend more time reading and considering the thoughts of Jaguars fans than I do. I get the frustration and empathize with their feelings. So, understand where I'm coming from when I say that an NFL franchise must not and cannot make on-field decisions based on the desires of the fan base. It's not so much that fans aren't professional football experts as the feelings of the fan base understandably sway and twist on a short-term basis – week-to-week, day-by-day and on game days, minute-by-minute. Fans also have widely varying opinions on the same issues. Even if a team wanted to operate based on fan feeling, how would it do so? Which opinions would matter most? Would there be a vote? An American Idol-type competition? Professional sports organizations should never ignore fans, nor should they forget the fans' importance, but decisions must be made by leaders with vision and an eye on the long term.
Taylor from Germantown, MD:
Ryan Davis is statistically our best pass rusher, and yet Gus Bradley doesn't want to give him snaps over the underachieving Chris Clemons or Andre Branch because Davis plays special teams as well. Is he serious? You say over and over again that a pass rush will lead to turnovers from our defensive backs. So explain to me why our head coach is putting our best pass rusher in a role that depth players should be playing in instead of letting him do the job that he is actually good at, which is getting to the quarterback
John: I'll explain this. Again. Davis is a very good interior pass rusher and plays extensively in passing situations – hence, his role on the interior in the three-Leo lightning package. He's not as good a fit to start at Leo as Clemons or even Branch because his size would make playing any role against the run on first- and second down challenging. It would be difficult, even foolish, to put Davis on the interior in first- or second down situations because his size would almost certainly lead to problems defending the run. The Jaguars coaches know they need pass rush. It's very obvious. If they thought Davis was truly the best option there in more situations, they would play him.
Ray from Jacksonville:
John, Mr. Khan hired a mature man with experience in running a sport franchise to be the president of the team. The stadium upgrades are great, the so-called fan experience is second to none, and the franchise is stabilized financially. Mr. Khan hired an underling in his mid-30s to head the football operation, and the team is awful. I would be willing to bet his bumper company is not run by someone so inexperienced. Dave Caldwell is in over his head.
John: No, he's not.
Brett from ashamed to say:
What are the odds on the Jags turning this season around and making up the two games behind the Colts that we are and winning our division?
John: If the Jaguars start playing better and closing games … sure, they could make up ground on the Colts and other contenders. No team is running away in the AFC South, and the wild-card slots in the AFC by no means are out of reach. There are undefeated teams at the top, but the middle is still very reachable. Still, the Jaguars have only closed once in five chances this season. Let's let them do that a few more times before we start grinding through postseason scenarios.
Adam from Section 124:
The game in London is a home game the same way that tofurky is meat and the same way that pleather is cow hide. Keep putting lipstick on that pig – it's still a pig. Keep slapping the "home game" label on that London game. Some of us are smart enough to see that it's not a home game.
John: OK, but it ain't changing and at some point, the Jaguars need to make it a home-field advantage.
David from St. Augustine, FL:
Can you give us your assessment of Luke Joeckel's play this year so far?
John: Better in the regular season so far than he was in the preseason. Better run-blocking than pass-blocking. Better overall than people think. Struggles at times with power. Sometimes sets too quickly and doesn't stay over his feet. Has one or two plays a game where he struggles, but overall not bad. Better than last year.
Daniel from Windsor Heights, IA:
What changes were there on the defensive line from last year to this year? We seemed to have much more success last year with the front four? Scheme?
John: An injury to Sen'Derrick Marks was one change. Less effectiveness from the Leo pass rusher this season has been another. Those are two big ones.
JaguarsFans from Jacksonville:
Wipe that stupid smirk off your face.
John: Nah.

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