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O-Zone: Not even close

JACKSONVILLE - Let's get to it... Adam from Sachse, TX:
John, I have a confession to make: I bought into the preseason hype that this third year would be the year the Jags finally broke out into respectability: maybe not playoffs, but no longer the joke they had been. It was easy to lose sight that this team is still very young. Even most of the "veterans" are young compared to most teams. There are still going to be growing pains with the core of this team essentially being second-year players and rookies with a few veterans. Perhaps even this year was too early for a fair evaluation of the job Caldwell and Bradley have done.
John: I don't believe this year is too early for a fair evaluation of Bradley and Caldwell, but let's emphasize the "fair" part. That means letting this season play out, and it also means keeping in perspective some of the things you mention. Yes, the team is still very young and added a significant number of players in the offseason – and yes, that means there are still going to be growing pains. That does NOT mean that it's going to be acceptable to play at the same level at which the Jaguars played the last two seasons. That does NOT mean that losing is "OK." It does mean that the team needs to continue to show progress over the long haul. The Jaguars are the 18th-ranked offense in the NFL right now, and players such as Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are showing progress – if not gargantuan strides. The offensive line has shown significant progress, too. Now, none of that means much if the Jaguars don't score points and that must start happening – just as victories and better overall on-field performance must start happening. So far this season, the Jaguars have improved. They must improve more, and win, and that's the storyline moving forward.
Jacob from Westchester, NY:
Why is nobody talking about Brandon Linder's injury? He is one of the best players on the team, maybe the best. What's going on with him?
John: He was placed on injured reserve Monday and underwent successful surgery Wednesday.
Ryan from Chicago, IL:
The season is far from over, right? Once we get some key guys back from injury everything will be alright, right?
John: It's too simplistic to say everything will be OK when injured guys get back. Can Julius Thomas, Marqise Lee and Sen'Derrick Marks help? Certainly. Do other players around them need to get better? Yes. Does the offense need to finish drives? That's the key right now.
Shaun from Jacksonville:
In your opinion, what is the reason that Blake Bortles is so great in the first half this year but the offense disappears in the second half?
John: I wish I knew. When he and the Jaguars can figure that out and get more consistency offensively, that will go a long way to making the team more consistent. The answer you get when you ask around is "execution," meaning it's just players making better plays more often. So far, it has happened three times. That feels like a trend, but we'll see if it continues.
Jersey Jaguar 64:
More of a statement than a question for the all-knowing-and-wise Mr. O. I don't understand why everyone is so upset about the Jags. Did everyone think we were going to make the postseason? If we go 6-10 it will be a great season. If we get to 8-8, it will be an outstanding season. I personally think this mindset of having to be in the playoffs within three years is unobtainable in today's NFL. Let's give it another two years and see what happens. I know I'm in the minority saying this, but firing the head coach and general manager after three years, hiring new and rebuilding AGAIN doesn't seem to be working out either.
John: You probably are in the minority, but being in the minority doesn't make you wrong. There are no changes coming immediately. The Jaguars have been improving, and in many ways they have shown it early this season. It's not enough for many fans, but that doesn't mean changes are forthcoming.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Amid all of the frustration experienced while watching this team play, we still have the best senior writer in the NFL. I mean that in all sincerity. When the team lets us down week in and week out, we can at least come to and count on you giving us the very best we can ask for. One for Oehser!
John: Keep going. You're making some outstanding points.
Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
I saw an interesting statistic on the Jaguars. In 2013, we averaged 15.3 points per game; in 2014, we averaged 15.4 points per game and now in 2015 we are averaging 15.5 points per game. To me, that means our defense is not really the issue. It's our offense. So, few points is not going to win games. There is little to no improvement there. Secondly, since 2013, we have 13 games where we have not scored in the second half. That to me is poor coaching and play calling. What do you make of those numbers?
John: Those are interesting numbers. They would be really interesting numbers if the entire 2015 season had been played – and if the 2013 offense had much to do with this season. My point here is that it's difficult considering the roster turnover and the fact that we're only four games into this season to compare seasons. Have there been improvements in points this season? No, not yet. Is it clear the Jaguars are moving the ball better this season than past seasons? Do the yardage numbers and the eye test back that up? Yes. Do the Jaguars have to start finishing drives? Yes. Can the play-calling be more aggressive at times? Sure. Can the players execute better? Yes, and that's what needs to start happening, too.
Jason from Da'Hass:
Please tell the "fire-everybody" crowd that our offense – especially Yeldon and Bortles – are looking improved. This may be due, in part, to the people they want to fire. Thanks.
John: I'll pass it along.
Scott from Section 137:
If we had drafted either Amari Cooper or Leonard Williams like the experts suggested, we would have difference-making playmakers on our team at this point. Too bad we always seem to miss out on the right pick. What is it the Jaguars know over the expert evaluators? Just wondering, since we continue to lose. For 20 years, I've been a season-ticket holder and this has been the longest stretch of poor performances I can remember ever. I hope it ends with some progress soon.
John: A ton of experts had the Jaguars taking Dante Fowler Jr., too, and he was pretty much the top-rated pass rusher in the draft. That's kinda, sorta something the Jaguars knew they needed, and something they could use. Honestly, though, I really don't care all that much what the experts think about the draft. Cooper or Williams probably would have helped this team. Fowler probably would be helping this team if he weren't hurt. No one knew which players was going to tear an anterior cruciate ligament – not even the experts.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I feel the offense is going to be much more efficient when Thomas comes back. Robinson and Hurns will free up more on the outside. The team is closer than people think it is to being a good team.
John: The return of Julius Thomas certainly won't hurt, and yes, his presence should help Robinson and Hurns. It also will help because he's an athletic, fast threat in the red zone and everywhere else on the field.
Royce from Jacksonville:
Mr. O, Dave and Gus have brought in several free agents – mostly on the defensive front seven. No speed at all (T. Smith not included). How do you rate the players that have been brought here? I won't mention Toby or Beadles.
John: I think David Caldwell has done a very good job in free agency – and I say that as someone who is not a big believer in free agency as a way to procure players. Sen'Derrick Marks by any measure was a good signing at defensive tackle, as was Roy Miller. Defensive end Chris Clemons has been productive, and Dan Skuta and Jared Odrick – two players brought in this offseason – have been consistent and helped the strong-side run defense. Jermey Parnell and Stefen Wisniewski … well, the offensive line has been better and it's hard not to see those guys as upgrades. They haven't turned the franchise around overnight. That's not normally what you get in free agency. They have upgraded the roster significantly. As far as the concern about speed … yes, the Jaguars need to get faster overall, but that is best done through the draft and two drafted players who could make the Jaguars look a lot faster – Fowler and Marqise Lee – have been on the field not at all and not enough.
Ben from Key West, FL:
Season over already.
John: Nah.

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