O-Zone: Make a wish

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Duval County:
For the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, can somebody please coach Dante Fowler Jr. up? Every time he rushes the passer he looks like a wild pig trying to escape. I haven't seen Fowler bend rush one time this season. I'm not sure if it's coaching or if he doesn't trust his knee.
John: I don't get a sense Fowler is worried about his knee. He has seemed confident in that area since training camp – and really, since the offseason. Fowler clearly has work to do to hone the fundamentals and techniques needed to be a high-end pass rusher. That's something he has been doing this season and something I expect will be a major focus of his in the offseason and next season. Fowler does need work in this area – and he's going to have to improve his techniques if he is to be an elite pass rusher. It's not uncommon for pass rushers to enter the league needing such work, and in fact that is the case far more often than not. Still, it is critical he do the work and improve. The defense, while improved, lacks a hammer-down pass rusher; Fowler remains the current Jaguars player with the best chance to become that.
Alton from Melbourne, FL:
You DO NOT draft quarterbacks with bad mechanics!!!
John: Quarterbacks with unorthodox mechanics actually get drafted in the Top 10 more than people think. Philip Rivers comes to mind – and Sam Bradford doesn't exactly have a textbook throwing motion. Quirky mechanics can be overcome, and I do believe Blake Bortles can overcome them, too. Bortles' mechanics this season don't actually concern me as much as his decision-making and failure to protect the ball. Those things lead to turnovers as much or more than the inaccuracies and it's Bortles' turnovers – he has 19 this season – that are particularly difficult to overcome.
Brian from Duval County:
Has Marks' play been more down than up this season?
John: No.
Justin from Jacksonville:
Señor, O: I'm curious, do you see Poz starting for us next year? He embodies everything I want our team to be about. Toughness and heart, grit and passion. I read or heard somewhere that he never has been flagged for a personal foul in his whole career. That's just insane to me. He's gonna leave a big hole to fill when he's gone.
John: Yes, I think Posluszny will start for the Jaguars next season. And yes, when he is no longer with the Jaguars, it will leave a very big hole. As far as his penalties, I asked Posluszny about this and he said he recalled being penalized twice for a face mask early his career – both on then-Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. By my count, Posluszny has been penalized seven times in 10 NFL seasons – twice for face masking, once for pass interference, once for offside, once for holding, once for a personal foul and once for unnecessary roughness. So, yeah – Posluszny has been penalized for a personal foul/unsportsmanlike-conduct type of penalty on occasion, but it doesn't happen often.
Todd from Jacksonville:
One reason you consider keeping Gus and this staff is because the Jags do not quit like the Jets on Monday. They are not very far away from very, very good, I really believe that. The momentum just needs to change and at this point it looks like that will probably take a full off season and a quarterback competition.
John: That indeed is the argument for not making a coaching change. The Jaguars under Gus Bradley rarely have looked disinterested, and they rarely have felt like a team in disarray. I have said often I believe that's a major part of a head coach's job. At the same time, the Jaguars are 2-10 in season that began with expectations far higher than that. Continuity based on belief and effort is a tougher sell now than it has been the past two or three seasons.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Can Blake Bortles' play this year be considered a two-year slump? Oh, I also think that Dave Caldwell is a very good general manager. He seems to have picked more good than bad players.
John: I'll assume you meant "Year 2" slump when referring to Bortles – or Year 3 slump, or whatever. Sure, this season could be a considered a slump – provided of course he plays better next season. That could happen. I also agree that Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell is very capable and I believe the way he has built the roster does have the talent and foundation moving in the right direction. Not every player he has selected has worked out, but that never happens. His approach is a sound one that I believe will continue to improve the team. We'll see.
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
Zone, is this team good enough to start winning with just good quarterback play alone or do you think it needs more than that?
John: I think better quarterback play would have gotten the Jaguars to around .500 this season. I thought that's about where they would finish this season with a chance to make a serious jump to the postseason next season. That didn't happen this season.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Is it fair to say that Tashaun Gipson has not met expectations so far this season? Sure, free safety is not a glaring hole as it once was, but he has not been the impact player that I was hoping for.
John: It's fair to say Gipson hasn't created the turnovers expected this season. At the same time, the Jaguars' defense overall is significantly improved and it is particularly improved against the pass. Also, Gipson has come close to several interceptions this season; had he made those interceptions I don't know that there would be much of a discussion over his impact. I wouldn't say Gipson has had the same impact as, say, Malik Jackson, but I would say his signing has helped the defense and that was the point.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
There are a lot of reasons to have hope in the future of the Jaguars right now, but one thing has me very concerned. Arguably the three most important people in the organization (quarterback, head coach, general manager) are question marks right now. Bortles hasn't proven he can be a franchise quarterback. Gus Bradley hasn't proven he can prepare a team to win a game. And Dave Caldwell, for all the good decisions he has made, has an "incomplete" in terms of his first-round picks ... Bortles and Fowler are up in the air but trending downward, Ramsey is a hit and Joeckel is a miss (say what you will about his play, but he's a guard now and you don't draft a guard No. 2). Unfortunately, those 3 people are what make franchises great and it appears there could be major changes in the near future at those spots.
John: I wouldn't say Dante Fowler Jr. is trending downward; he actually has played better as the season has continued … but yeah … it's going to be a very interesting couple of months.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
This season's Jaguars defense reminds me a lot of the defense from 2011. If you recall, they finished at No. 6 in the league with Mel Tucker as the defensive coordinator and it was thought that Mike Mularkey would be able to lean on the defense in 2012 and win close games. I would caution anyone that thinks just because the defense is holding opposing teams to low-yardage totals that it means next year will trend the same direction.
John: You have a good memory, and a solid season on one side of the ball indeed in no way guarantees another good season on the same side of the ball. At the same time, the core of this defense appears to be young and ascending with players such as Telvin Smith, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler and Myles Jack all at an age where it's reasonable they should continue to ascend. That's no guarantee, but it should offer hope.
CD from Fleming Island:
Some people's idea of Gus breeding a losing culture by emphasizing competition is just irritating. There's a whole locker room of athletes that have been playing sports their entire lives. They want to win; it's insulting to say otherwise. If that's not enough motivation, the career span of an NFL player is short, and they could be cut at any moment, so it's safe to say no one is OK with losing. I guess armchair quarterbacks just think they know more about winning than a player who's dedicated his life to making it in the NFL. Criticize Gus for preparation, development, game-day decisions, etc., if you like; I feel that's fair. But in spite of the record, you can't argue that we're seeing real progress on the defensive side of the ball. So that message of positivity and getting better every day isn't the issue. Fans, can we please stop with that nonsense?
John: Yeah, I don't think you're going to get that wish, CD.

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