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O-Zone: Not quite there

JACKSONVILLE – Next-day O-Zone.

Let's get to it … Darius from New Milford, NJ:
If it's not one thing, it's something else ... if not one person, then someone else ... why is it always something?
John: This is actually an outstanding, on-point question this morning. The Jaguars' 28-23 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon without question was frustrating – and it was yet another game that had fans and players alike wondering what else could possibly go wrong. Without a doubt, it hurt. And without a doubt, it felt familiar in that sense. But the answer to your question – "Why is it always something" – isn't a satisfying one. That's because the answer is while the Jaguars clearly have a bunch of good, young players who are ascending they don't yet have enough mature core players to make the final few plays necessary to win games such as the one they lost Sunday. The belief here is the team is significantly closer to being good than it was last season. I don't believe last year's Jaguars would have been in that game Sunday after the way they played in the first half. Last year, that game probably would have been a second-half blowout. This year, the Jaguars were a play or two away from winning that game. Will they be mature enough to win these kinds of games in the final eight games of the season? At some point during that stretch, I believe they will be. I believe they're improving at that pace. We'll see.
Frank from Knoxville, TN:
You know what, Zone? I can't even be mad about this one. Turnovers kill everyone sometimes and few teams can overcome a 4-1 turnover margin. The Jaguars played really well other than that. They really outplayed the Jets for most of the game. Just can't turn it over and waste scoring chances. On to next week.
John: No doubt it's hard to win when a 4-1 turnover margin goes against you. It's even harder when the margin is 4-0.
Thomas from Jacksonville:
Do you think experience is the only thing holding us back?
John: No, I don't think experience is the only thing holding the Jaguars back. I think the Jaguars need to get more out of tight end Julius Thomas because right now the team has three reliable skill pieces on offense around Blake Bortles – T.J. Yeldon, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns – and you need a fourth to really consistently strain a defense. I also think the lack of pass rush and lack of a play-making safety has really hurt the ability to force turnovers, and when you can't strain an offense it's really hard to put teams away. But you asked about experience … yeah, I think that's a huge factor right now, too.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
Tough loss, just like the others this year (except the Pats game) because they were in the game with a chance to win. After the heartbreak immediately after the game, I started thinking how encouraged I am. The Jags are no longer a game that teams circle on the schedule as an easy "W." It felt like a fight Sunday. I'm waiting for the time when the self-inflicted wounds stop. Then, the wins will come. Not too far away. A lot of season yet to go and some winnable games left. Thoughts?
John: I get a sense there are many fans who feel the same way. As for my thoughts, I feel more encouraged about the direction of the team after that game Sunday than I had yet this season. The Jets were the best team the Jaguars had played this season aside from New England. They were a team that needed that game on Sunday, and it appeared they were going to pull away from the Jaguars in the first half. How many times last season and early this season did we ask, "Why can't the Jaguars respond to adversity?" How many times did we see Blake Bortles not respond to a negative play? On Sunday, the Jaguars responded throughout the game – and Bortles absolutely responded. Yes, his late fumble was costly, but he played poised for the most part against a very good defense. Those are huge signs, and on that front Sunday's game had encouraging elements.
David from Section 124:
John, while I am disappointed and angry from this loss, I think what I am confused about most is Julius Thomas. He doesn't look explosive or athletic. Is this a case of not being used correctly, still struggling from injuries or lack of desire? Compared to the Allens, Julius just doesn't seem to want it as much for the Jags.
John: I thought the Jaguars needed to get more from Thomas Sunday and I thought they would get more. It's hard to say exactly why he hasn't been more productive. There is an element of him and Bortles not being on the same page – and perhaps that stems from practice time/game time lost in the preseason and early in the season. I don't think it's a coincidence that Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Bortles have not only been healthy for the most part throughout the season but also very productive. I'll admit Thomas' lack of production upon return from the hand injury that kept him out those eight weeks has surprised me. I thought the athleticism and play-making ability he showed in organized team activities and in Denver would translate more quickly. As for why he appeared sluggish, it's hard to say. The abdomen? Perhaps. But I wouldn't say it's because he doesn't want it as much. When players are struggling that's something people say and it's usually not true.
Chad from Jacksonville:
This loss was a hard one to take. The win was right there in their grasp.
John: Yep.
Tim from Jacksonville:
I respect that Bortles tries to extend plays, but do you think at times he waits too long for something to develop? On his fumble he had more than enough time and open field to just run without costing us a turnover.
John: Bortles absolutely needed to more aware on the late fumble. As he said after the game, he either needed to run or throw the ball away. At the same time, the Jaguars have to be careful about curtailing him in those situations. You have to encourage a quarterback to keep his eyes downfield in that situation. It was keeping his eyes downfield and not running, remember, that enabled him to find Hurns for the game-winning touchdown against Buffalo in London. Bortles needs to continue to grow and learn when to run, when to dirt the ball and when to extend the play. That's more of the learning, developmental stuff. It's frustrating stuff, too, and it's why playing quarterback in this league isn't easy.
Chad from Duval:
Gus should have called the timeout before the two-minute warning to allow for more time if/when they got the ball back. Not calling for his head, but it seems Gus makes his fair share of mistakes that he can control. Other than experience, is there a coaching school of sorts he can go to in the offseason?
John: I thought maybe Bradley could have called timeout quicker at the end of the first half. I didn't have a problem with how he used his timeouts in the fourth quarter. He had one left, and it got the clock stopped at 1:55.
Kyle from Clearwater, FL:
A lot of improvement, a lot of improvement, in it until the end, have to eliminate the mistakes, Hurns has a touchdown in the last however many games, 100 yards from Yeldon, have to create turnovers, blah blah blah … THE JAGS LOSE!! See you next week. Don't expect much.
John: It ain't easy, Kyle. I get it.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
Why don't they make the whole plane out of the 2 minute offense?
John: I don't think that would fly.
Jerry from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Special teams strike again. Marshall needs to be cut as the experiment with converted quarterback should be over. Poor coaching decisions.
John: I can understand how fans would be frustrated with Bradley at times this season. Sunday wasn't one of those times. Nick Marshall had been close to breaking a couple of returns early in the game, and the situation in question – out from the shadow of their end zone – was where the Jaguars planned to use Marshall. He took his eye off the ball, but I doubt it gets him cut. He's a talent, and just as the Jaguars didn't release Denard Robinson when he struggled as a rookie, I doubt they release Marshall.
Nick from Fort Polk, LA:
A lot of heart and talent on this team. I don't know what it is they're missing, but once they find it the wins will come in bunches.
John: There is a lot of heart on this team. There is some good, young talent and there needs to be more at some key spots. That's part of what they're missing and the other part is experience to slam doors and close games. They're closer than they were early in the season, but they're not there yet.

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