JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Al from Orange Park, FL:
I'm sure that it's some of both, but do you have any sense of how much of the run game issues are due to Leonard Fournette's ankle and how much is due to the missing offensive-line starters?
John: I'm getting this question a lot, and many people understandably see the two primary issues in the Jaguars' current running struggles as rookie running back Leonard Fournette's ankle injury and injuries to the offensive line. Both are certainly factors, and it does seem Fournette isn't squeezing every last yard from every run by sheer will in recent weeks as he did early in the season. That's a big factor because that was a big part of the Jaguars' early offensive identity and effectiveness. But here's a reality: the Jaguars haven't been a "dominant" run offense this season – and that was true when they were effective at times in September and October. They got a good chunk of yards on two 50-plus runs by reserve running back Corey Grant from punt formation, and they got 165 yards on back-to-back runs by Fournette at the end of a victory over Pittsburgh and the beginning of a loss to the Los Angeles Rams. While they have been a good running team this season outside of those plays, there also have been stretches when they have struggled and depended a lot on Fournette to grind and will his way for yards; they also have been able to stick with the run for long stretches because they could count on the defense to keep them in games. Fournette, remember, is averaging 3.24 yards per carry if you take away the 90 and 85 yarders – and he has averaged more than four yards per carry in just three games this season. He never averaged four yards a rush in any of the first four games, and there have been few games this season when it felt as if the Jaguars were consistently reeling off runs and controlling the line of scrimmage. None of this is to say this team is not a good running team when everyone is healthy and the offense can play to its formula. It is to say that teams have stacked the box effectively against the Jaguars much of the season, and it's not just injuries to the offensive line and Fournette that are contributing to the recent struggles.
Tom from St. Augustine, FL:
Eli Manning. Do the Jaguars go get him?
John: The New York Giants' decision to start Geno Smith over Eli Manning at quarterback this week is not only perplexing, it does raise legitimate questions about Manning's future with the team. The first point to make is no team – Jaguars, included – can go get Manning until the offseason because the NFL trade deadline has passed. Would the Jaguars be logical for Manning next season if the Giants choose to move on from him this offseason? Sure: Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin was Manning's head coach with the New York Giants and the Jaguars have a playoff-caliber defense. The Jaguars would need to pass protect a lot better than they have this season for Manning to be effective, though; Blake Bortles' mobility has prevented a lot of sacks, and Manning's not going to do that. And Manning couldn't have caught the balls that the Jaguars' receivers have dropped. Bottom line: this is almost certainly going to be a hot topic among Jaguars observers for the foreseeable future, but there won't likely be anything substantial discuss for months. So, discuss away, folks. Discuss away.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
O, it is OK that you keep defending Blake. My question is this: After four years, is Bortles the franchise quarterback for this team? If he is not, then is it fair to say that this team will look for a quarterback starting next year instead of just being content at that position? Blake is mediocre at best.
John: I have written in recent weeks that Bortles is not playing as poorly as many fans believe, and I have written that he absolutely should be the Jaguars' starting quarterback. I also have written and said there's a better chance than many believe that he starts for this team next season. If that's defending … so be it. None of that is to say that Bortles is a franchise quarterback, or elite. To my knowledge, I have not written or said that – and to this point in his career, he hasn't shown that. As for the Jaguars being "content" at the position, I doubt that will be the case next offseason. I actually don't think that was the case last offseason. I do believe they will try to determine a way to have the best quarterback possible on the roster to give them a chance to win. Maybe that will be Manning. Maybe not. Maybe it will be someone else. If there is a better quarterback available through free agency or the draft, I do believe they will try to make such a move. If there's not a rookie who can improve the offense immediately or there's not a veteran who can do the same, then Bortles could return. We'll see.
Bruce from Gotham, NY:
While missing AR15 obviously hurts, the receivers as a group seem to have regressed this year. Was it a mistake releasing coach Sullivan (who we were repeatedly told was one of the top at his position)?
John: Jerry Sullivan was a very good receivers coach, as is Keenan McCardell. The receivers have regressed this season because the best of the group – Allen Robinson – made one catch, and because that has thrust the others into roles they're struggling to play. Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee haven't played like No. 1 receivers this season, and Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook are rookies. I wrote a lot last offseason that the receivers as a group had a lot of improving to do to be as good as their reputation. So far, that improvement hasn't happened.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
It seems Bortles is regressing with his decision-making. He was doing well throwing the ball away and avoiding sacks earlier in the season. Do you think it's the pressure in recent games or something else that is causing him to take sacks and force throws lately?
John: I don't know if Bortles' decision-making as a whole is all that much different in recent weeks. He has had a few doozy late-game mistakes in the last three weeks, but outside of that his decision-making has been OK. The pressure from opposing pass rushers has increased in recent weeks in a big way; Bortles has handled it well at times and he has struggled with it a few times. It would be better for Bortles and everyone else involved in the Jaguars' passing game if there were less pressure. Soon.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
We have three consecutive home games approaching and you mentioned we need to win at least two of them. Two of these teams are division rivals without their starting quarterbacks and well below .500 records. The third team, Seattle, is 2-2 in its last 4 games, traveling 3,000 miles, have one of the best quarterbacks with one of the worst offensive lines, and a defense missing two of its best players. Which of these games should we accept losing? Which would the Steelers or Patriots accept losing, too – especially at home? Or should we lower our hopes and expectations for 2017 and accept are team can't have Steeler/Patriot hopes/expectations?
John: I ask this not to be snide, but because I apparently am too dim to know the answer without asking: How does saying a team needs to win at least two of three games mean that team – or its fans – should "accept" losing the other?
Robert from Reno, NV:
Hey John, as much as I hope this isn't the case, even if we don't win another game this year I can honestly say I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished so far. New coach, Tom Coughlin, many of the best players in their first and second year and with more wins than the past several years. I didn't expect a turnaround this good this fast. Even if we lose a few players to free agency, we'll still have many of the best for a few more years. I truly believe the changes and cohesion that has been created so far will be magnified next year. I see us winning a few more games, but won't be depressed if we don't get in the playoffs, well... I may shed one tear. What do you think?
John: I think I believed before the season that 7-9 or 8-8 was a realistic goal for this team, but that it wouldn't get much better than that. I think when you're 7-3 after 10 games expectations of finishing a game under .500 have to be put aside because higher goals are possible.
Brian from Round Rock, TX:
Is Boselli really a sociopath? Or does he just play one on the radio?
John: I've been "asked" by "certain people" to no longer "comment" publicly on Boselli's personality. He was a very good left tackle. I've been "asked" to leave it at that.
O-Zone: No comment
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Al from Orange Park, FL: