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O-Zone: Long overdue

JACKSONVILLE – Here we are at look-ahead Wednesday. That means as much as possible, we're done with the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday and looking ahead to Oakland. At last.

Let's get to it . . .

Doug from Jacksonville:
John . . . John . . . John! I know you can hear me. What day is it? Joooohhnnn. It's hump day, John. Time to look west, not back.
John: Done, as much as possible anyway.
Steve from Jacksonville:
So how's practice looking this week? Any newfound "urgency" to things?
John: The Jaguars begin practicing Wednesday. We'll probably know more then, but I don't expect a tangible change in urgency. These guys are professionals. They have to prepare for a game, not impress one another with how "urgent" they're feeling.
Snook from Keller, TX:
What was your impression of the secondary in the opener? We have some young guys back there, and outside of one play (that I can remember) I thought they really held their own. Upset to hear about Gratz and hope he is back sooner than three weeks.
John: I doubt Dwayne Gratz will be back sooner than three weeks. He apparently has a high-ankle sprain, and three weeks is pretty close to the short end of the usual prognosis. But to your bigger point: yes, I thought the secondary played OK. Alan Ball had a pass defensed, and so did Will Blackmon. Mike Harris had two passes defensed and seemed to play well overall. Safety Johnathan Cyprien also blitzed well, which is something you could see him do more. The Chiefs weren't really attacking, particularly after they got ahead early, but overall, the secondary didn't fare poorly.
Nicholas from Fort Lee, VA:
I would like to see some emotion from players after a bad play. I would like to see a player such as MJD berating his linemen who make mistake. It appears that the players make a bad play, go to the sideline, don't say a word to each other, and wait till the other team scores just to make the same bad plays. I know I'm overreacting as a fan, but that is what my non-logical side is telling me. Don't want our young players to get released and say Jacksonville was a vacation for me.
John: Your feeling is understandable, and you're ahead of the game knowing that it's your non-logical side talking. Loyal O-Zone readers – and they both know who they are – know that I don't worry much about players not showing emotion. That stuff is mostly for show, anyway. The vast, vast majority of NFL players play with everything they have as often as they can, and how they express themselves on the sidelines before or after players rarely has any connection to how they perform.
Joseph from Jacksonville:
I figured it out. The only logical explanation for having Gabbert start is to allow him to end his own career as a Jag. Fortunately, it happened in one game and won't need a few more losses from him to figure it out . . .
John: You haven't figured it out.
Ryan from Vidalia, GA:
I'm not as concerned about what happened in the game Sunday as something I saw in the postgame interviews. Cecil Shorts III seemed very upset. Could it have been he was extremely disappointed in himself over poor play? Did he expect to be targeted by Gabbert more in the first half? When he talked about the interception it seemed he wanted to blame Gabbert, but wasn't sure whose fault it was. Also, when asked how he felt he just had a blank look on his face. Could you dive deeper into what you think was going through Cecil's head during that interview?
John: Losing is tough, and the postgame locker room is an emotionally raw place. I don't know that Shorts played poorly, so I doubt he was upset with that. Was he upset about not getting more opportunities? I have known few great receivers who don't believe after a game they should have been targeted more. As far as an overall assessment on what was going through Shorts' head, I think the offense had just struggled and his team had lost by 26 points. I imagine he was frustrated, angry and trying to figure out just what went wrong. I imagine a lot of players in that situation would have acted pretty much the same way.
Will from Jacksonville:
Is there any chance Caldwell really loves a quarterback in next year's draft and is purposely trying to lose this season in order to get the No. 1 pick? Sadly, it's the only theory I know that doesn't make me want to get rid of Caldwell already. This roster is simply inexcusable.
John: No, Caldwell isn't purposely trying to lose. If you want to get rid of a general manager a week into his first season, well, I can't change that. Fortunately, Shad Khan understands you don't solve an entire roster in one offseason.
Donny from Heathrow:
As much as Gabbert has to improve can we finally put to rest the questions about his toughness? A QB doesn't break their thumb while passing the ball because they're timid in the pocket.
John: No, he does not.
Michael from Altamonte Springs, FL:
So I know he's out for what is most likely going to be a month, but am I the only one who thought that Gratz looked like a starter at CB this weekend? I thought he played well, but I haven't heard anyone mention it. Did my eyes lie to me?
John: He looked good. He's a physical guy with a knack for the ball, and during the five games he has played he consistently has made plays. The Jaguars need him in the lineup. His injury doesn't help.
Luke from Vilonia, AR:
What was with Joeckel's blocking on the Tamba Hali interception? He cut straight for Hali's legs and didn't even put his hands to the chest of Hali. No excuse for Gabbert's decision but it seemed like a poor play from Joeckel.
John: It was a bad play by Joeckel. He has got to do a better job on that play. He will.
Tom from Jacksonville:
With the (thankful) recent injury to Blaine, moving Henne up is best for the team. Why not let Blaine go and hire Tim Tebow on to back-up Henne? LOTs of empty seats. Say you need to do it soon.
John: "Thankful." #classy
Chris from Nebraska:
John, why is Ace Sanders not returning punts?? In a game where we were so desperate for a spark, wouldn't it make sense to have our best returner back there?
John: Sanders was a rookie playing his first NFL game, and the plan was for him to play a lot on offense Sunday – certainly more than had Justin Blackmon been available. As it was, Sanders played 65 of 74 plays, which is a lot for a rookie. Still, considering the struggles of the offense and how little the passing game was producing, would it have made sense to have Sanders back there? Yeah, I can't argue.
Vincent from Jacksonville Beach:
Dave Caldwell said Blaine Gabbert was out of excuses this year. Now, all of a sudden Blaine Gabbert has an excuse for everything. First it's the thumb; now the hand. Maybe it's me but I'm pretty sure those sound like excuses for not playing well. I was one of Gabbert's biggest supporters, but it was clear from the start he did not want to be on that field yesterday. Since he hurt his thumb he reverted back to the old BG. Is there any chance Gabbert is cut before the end of the year?
John: Vincent, I understand your frustration, and you have reason, but a couple of thoughts. First, neither Gabbert nor anyone around the Jaguars used the thumb as an excuse. The reality was a lot went wrong on Sunday offensively and Gabbert didn't do enough to overcome that. As for the hand, the cut is significant, and as for your final question: No, he's not going to get cut before the end of the year.
Devin from Glenn Dale:
It seems that Blaine keeps injuring his hand by hitting it on helmets. Do you think that is caused by him being overly aggressive in stepping up in the pocket in lieu of all the criticism he has received about his pocket presence?
John: No.
Tom from Katy, TX:
Why is it on a pass interference call in the end zone, the ball gets spotted on the one-yard line and on a late hit on the quarterback, for example, at the 12, the ball is only half the distance to the goal? Seems like the defense gets a break here and isn't penalized fully. Why not spot that on the one, as well?
John: The core of the issue here is the penalty for pass interference, which long has been perhaps the harshest penalty in the NFL. No matter where pass interference occurs, it's "spot-of-the-foul" penalty, with the theory being that the offense should receive the yards the receiver would have gained had the interference not occurred. That's why the ball goes to the one, because the penalty in theory prevented a touchdown. Because of that, the offense should get the best opportunity to score a touchdown – i.e., the ball at the 1. You often hear people talk about wanting that rule changed, but in a league in which rules favor points scored, I doubt you see it changed any time soon.
Stan from Blufton, SC:
I wonder what Shad Khan is thinking right now?
John: Probably not, "Boy, I'm overdue in giving that John Oehser a raise." I just bet not.

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