JACKSONVILLE – Just another Victory Monday.
Let's get to it … Mike from West Des Moines, IA:
The Jaguars fought very hard and deserve every bit of this win. I still say this group of players will not be able to get it done next year. They still need to address three positions on the offensive line. They should probably draft a defensive end with their first pick. They need help at more positions than can be practically addressed this offseason. This win showed a lot of resilience and determination. They should all feel very good.
John: I agree with a lot of your email, and agree the Jaguars should feel good about their 25-24 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. These players deserved that. They didn't quit when they could have, and were rewarded with a memorable day. I also agree the team needs to improve before next season, and I think most people around the organization feel that way. There are certainly positions that can be improved in free agency, and I agree that a defensive end with the first-round selection makes a lot of sense. (Wow, we really are agreeable today, aren't we?) I stop short of total agreement on what you say about the offensive line, though obviously improvement there must happen. I believe Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko have shown a lot as rookies, and although Luke Joeckel has struggled at times this season I believe he's better than many observers believe – and I'm not ready to call him a bust. As far as the other spots, we'll see; it obviously remains a critical storyline for this team.
Scott from Chelsea, NY:
Winning cures a lot of woes. I think the Jags should try and do that again ;)
Aaron from Chehalis, WA:
A couple of points after a big win for the Jaguars on Sunday … A couple of firsts for Blake Bortles: first game without a turnover and first game-winning drive. Those combined are huge for a young quarterback and are something to build on. Second, how about the decision to go for two!? Had the Jaguars lost that would probably be a main topic around here, but since they won it's merely an afterthought. Do you think the decision to go for two was the right call?
John: A couple of thoughts on your thoughts … First, you sure hope those firsts are big for Bortles. Overall, he did a lot of good things Sunday. He protected the ball and didn't really have any throws that were close to getting intercepted. He also did appear to make a move toward playing looser and freer. That was made more difficult by the Jaguars' protection issues, but there were flashes on Sunday of the quarterback we saw early in the season. More significant than the lack of interceptions was how Bortles played on the game-winning drive. He had a nice 22-yard pass to Marqise Lee for a first down and ran for a couple of first downs. You ideally want your quarterback making more plays with his arm than his legs … but hey, right now you're looking for plays where you can get them. A game-winning drive is a game-winning drive and credit Bortles for getting his first. As far as the decision to go for two, fundamentally I believe it was the wrong call the first time. It was too early to do it in the third quarter because the Jaguars were down 21-16 at the time and you're not supposed to assume at that time that you're going to be scraping for points the rest of the game. At the same time, considering the way the Jaguars' offense has been playing, I can understand why Head Coach Gus Bradley wanted to get within a field goal there. There have been some times in these first two seasons that Bradley has made decisions to go for two or go for first downs on fourth down that he probably wouldn't have made had the Jaguars been further along in the building process. I thought going for two in the third quarter Sunday was one of those times.
@ from Austin:
John: No doubt!!
Dave from Jacksonville:
Well, OK … I guess the coaching looked a little better in the second half.
John: This was one of a slew of post-game emails on Sunday reversing field following the Jaguars' come-from-behind victory. But you know what? No need to reverse field. There were a lot of things that did go wrong Sunday in the first half and into the second half. And just because the Jaguars won doesn't erase those things. Bortles was under far too much pressure and his mechanics weren't great on a lot of plays when he did have time. The Jaguars didn't run particularly well. And the defense in the first half struggled. Those things need to improve if the Jaguars are going to be good.
Jim from Folkston, GA:
Looks like the Defense of BOOM! has moved east. UNBELIEVABLE!!
John: This was another post-game email, and yes … no doubt the defense deserved a lot of credit for the second half. This is a unit that easily could have quit. The Jaguars were 1-10, and were down 21-0. They had played poorly on both sides of the ball and it would have been easy for the Jaguars' defense to say, "You know what? This offense isn't getting it done. No one's going to blame us for this loss." The Jaguars then held the Giants to six first downs in the second half, and they not only sacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning four times, they forced three takeaways and scored twice. So, to respond to your exclamation-point-heavy question, within the context of this season … yeah, that second-defense was UNBELIEVABLE!!!
Marcus from NYC via Jacksonville:
Is Sen'Derrick Marks on the AP All-Pro ballot? I think maybe he should be. Also, Marqise Lee is fast – very fast. Can we skip the first 20 minutes next week?
John: There really isn't an AP All-Pro ballot, per se. It's up to writers from around the NFL to vote -- but to your point, Sen'Derrick Marks is deserving of any accolades he receives. As for Marqise Lee, he has played better the last two weeks. That's good news for the Jaguars and it's not entirely surprising. It also speaks to a point sometimes lost in the angry fray of a losing season – that young players indeed develop at different rates. Lee hasn't had a great rookie season. He disappeared at times early in the season, and hasn't been as productive as he or the team would have liked. But he seems to be gaining confidence and Bortles seems to be gaining confidence in him. Those are good signs.
Cory from Frankfort, NY:
My question is can we please get Marks in the Pro Bowl. As fans, I think it's our duty.
John: Hey, another for Marks!!!
NoBodyImportant from Jacksonville, Duuuuval, The BangEm:
I heard that once you hit rock bottom there is nowhere to go but up. I hope that was the offense hitting rock bottom in the first half because things started to look up! Do you think the offensive line needs to improve its strength along with experience – or is it a situation that could get better by working together more … that whole cohesive-unit thing? Also have we invested too much in Beadles and Joeckel to bring in competition at their spots? I know you are too scared to post these questions because You Are Rumored to Be The Greatest Writer EVER!
John: Wow, nice comeback on the final sentence. I almost didn't post the question, but it ended with such insight that … well, I just had to post. I don't know if Sunday was rock bottom for the offense and I also honestly don't know what the future holds for the line. I do know seven sacks is too many and there have been way too many instances when Bortles has no time to throw. There was a stretch in the third quarter Sunday when he was trying to scramble, trying to make plays, trying to play free, and the rush was simply on him too soon. An offseason of strength and conditioning indeed could help, as could cohesion. That's the decision management must make: is there an upgrade of personnel needed, or is it scheme, approach, coaching, something else? If the Jaguars decide its personnel … no, I don't think previous investments would prevent competition. The Jaguars aren't jammed up against the salary cap in any way, shape or form, so whatever decisions get made will be made based on performance and not money.
Tom from Section 141 and the mean streets of Nocatee:
This question is so awesome that I won't have to dare you to print it. Are you sticking it to the man?
John: No doubt.
Wil from Corpus Christie, TX:
Hate to be a Debbie Downer after such a good game and an amazing effort by our defense, but that's unfortunately the thing: you take away the defense and you are left with an offense that needs so much improvement. We already knew the defense is the one aspect of our team that has shown serious improvement. It was to be expected given that Gus Bradley is a defensive coach. I just hope this doesn't become Jack Del Rio part 2 where the team was OK defensively but the offense was nowhere to be found. You just can't win consistently with a bottom-of-the-barrel offense.
John: You're right that the offense remains an area that must improve. I don't expect that to change before the end of the season. With its experience level – and with the way the offensive line is playing right now – it's not realistic to think it's going to be running smoothly by the end of the season. What you want from the final games of the season are signs of improvement, and signs of things around which you can build. That last drives had some of those signs. Maybe Bortles needs to be in the read option more. Maybe Marqise Lee is developing into a more reliable player. Maybe he and Allen Robinson will make a significant step as a tandem next offseason. That's a lot of maybes, but that's what you get from a young offense. What you also often get from young players is improvement in their second season. We'll see if we get that from the Jaguars' offense next season.
Renee from Duval:
John, I feel betterGO JAGS
John: Winning makes everything taste better.