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O-Zone: Off to market

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jim from Nottingham, UK:
A rebuild is a rebuild, but 4-17 isn't fair on the fans. Should have offered Mack more.
John: No, 4-17 isn't fair. It isn't fun, either. It's brutal. It's difficult. But given the state of the roster when Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley took over early last year, a rebuild from the ground up was the logical approach. It was either that or continue a cycle of trying to build with veteran free agents, a cycle that usually proves fruitless. The ground-up rebuild meant a longer climb than normal. I have a strong sense that the last two games – the loss to San Diego and the loss to Pittsburgh – are more what you'll see from this team the rest of the season. By that I mean a team more along the lines of your normal "struggling team." Blake Bortles is going to make mistakes and an offense this young is going to have trouble keeping pace in most games. But by season's end, you should see signs of a young offense that can grow. That may not make the rest of the season fair, but it will show growth. As for offering Alex Mack more, I just wonder, "How much more?" Double? Triple? Do you build your whole franchise around a center? The Jaguars' interior might be a little better if they had Mack, but that much? Don't misread this: The frustration is legitimate, but I don't know that signing Mack would have solved all of the Jaguars' problems.
Todd from Section 437:
The game was actually winnable in the fourth quarter. That's a huge improvement.
John: Yes, and the game as a whole felt more like what many people expected this season to look like. The Jaguars didn't win, but they were close. The defense was OK most of the time. The offense struggled with a young quarterback. Not fun. Not good enough. But better.
Connor from St. Petersburg, FL:
Why is the coaching staff asking Bortles to throw 35 times a game? We need to develop the run. The run game is way more effective than the wide receiver screens that go for no gain or negative yards. Storm Johnson looks like he is the most comfortable compared to Gerhart and Robinson. Feed Storm the ball! I would like to see Ace get some jet sweep action going as well.
John: The Jaguars aren't ignoring the run, but they are looking for balance, which means trying to find plays that work. That hasn't been easy, but it feels closer. I think you're going to get your wish regarding Storm Johnson, though. He showed willingness to put his foot in the ground and attack the hole, and he also showed willingness to put his shoulder down when being tackled He appeared to tweak his ankle in the second half, but if he's healthy, I think you're going to see a lot of Storm Johnson.
Sam from Boulder, CO:
At what point is the fact that Gus Bradley is 4-17 as a head coach going to get brought up? Sure it's a rebuild, but at what point can we have some sort of expectation for our team to not leave us feeling empty every single Sunday?
John: Bradley's record gets brought up a lot. Jim brought it up in the first question, as a matter of fact. And you brought it up. But there are also needs to be an awareness that so far there haven't been a whole lot of games when the Jaguars were the best team on the field and lost a game inexcusably. I don't look at this roster and say, 'Boy, there's an overabundance of talent here that's just getting wasted.' So, I'm not sure that there are many coaches out there who would be significantly better with this team.
Eddie from Jacksonville:
Defense gave up one offensive touchdown. Yeah, I'll take that.
John: I will, too, but don't tell Sam.
Khris from Richmond, VA:
Still doesn't feel good losing but I can stand Bortles being the "reason" we lost. I definitely see some Ws in near future.
John: Although I don't quite agree that Bortles was the "reason" the Jaguars lost, I get the point. The Pick Six Sunday hurt, but I also think he played well on some early drives to get the Jaguars in field-goal range. You're seeing some bad in Bortles, but a whole lot of good. The good is still what gives this franchise a whole lot more hope than was the case this time last season.
Eric from Gettysburg, PA:
It's unfortunate to get excited that we only lost by eight. That's our level of improvement, not getting destroyed by three scores. However, it still is exciting. Sad but true?
John: I don't see it is sad, but then again, I continue to look to the long-term future for this team. The Jaguars are now starting to play a bit better around a rookie quarterback. That's different than playing around a veteran quarterback who you know doesn't represent the future of your franchise. What's happening on offense now is frustrating because there are mistakes, but when Bortles throws to Allen Robinson or perhaps when Storm Johnson runs for 20 yards, you're seeing something around which the Jaguars may be able to build. The loss may be sad, but the future of those young players … no, I don't think the future of those young players will be sad at all.
James from Socorro, NM:
The loss belongs to former General Manager Gene Smith. The offense was starting a second-year left tackle, a rookie center, a rookie right guard, a second-year right tackle, a rookie quarterback, a rookie wide receiver, and another rookie wide receiver. Where are the fourth- and fifth-year draft picks that should be the foundation of the team? You cannot win in the NFL fielding a bunch of rookies.
John: There are enough people willing to bash past general managers that I don't feel the need to jump in, but the Jaguars indeed are unusually young on offense. There are lumps that must be taken that aren't terribly enjoyable to take. It's difficult to be consistently productive offensively as young as the Jaguars are on that side of the ball. No doubt.
Chris from Brunswick, GA:
Allen Hurns is a rookie ... so is half of the team on offense … I am proud of progress. I believe we can still put together a respectable unit by the halfway mark.
John: Hurns has taken some heat since Sunday's game, as is expected for a player who dropped three passes and had a holding penalty. As Hurns said after the game Sunday, you have to catch the ball whether you're a rookie or veteran or whatever. But what we saw from the offense Sunday is EXACTLY what is to be expected when you have a rookie quarterback throwing to rookie receivers behind an offensive line with rookies. The group had three decent drives, and while they ended in field goals, the drives showed good progress. They came at important times and kept the Jaguars in the game. They didn't result in touchdowns, but that's the trickiest step for a young offense – turning production between the 20s into touchdowns. Blake Bortles is on his way to being good. As he progresses on that journey, and as this young offense progresses with him, you'll see field goals become touchdowns and losses become victories.
Jamie from SSI/GA:
Can we start second-guessing and/or blaming Jedd "Dink-n-Dunk" Fisch yet?
John: You can second-guess or blame whoever you want. I don't get the idea from watching or listening to Fisch that he particularly enjoys having his quarterbacks throwing short passes. This was a criticism last week against San Diego and the reality was there were plenty of plays downfield called, and many were either missed or there wasn't time to get the ball downfield. I haven't had time to re-watch the Pittsburgh game yet, but against a defense as exotic and as aggressive as Pittsburgh's – and with an offensive line this young – I can see the logic in not exposing the quarterback to a lot of five- to- seven-step drops. I know a lot of people are questioning the play-calling, but when you're designing stuff for an offense featuring seven rookies and a bunch of other kids, you may not roll out your most complex, time-reliant plays.
Eric from Long BNY/DTWD:
There have been several times this season that in one on one-gap situations Poz is getting blown up. The end result, big running play. Why is this happening so consistently with him this season?
John: It does seem to be happening more than last season. I noticed Posluszny perhaps overrun a play or two Sunday more than getting blown up. My own theory is perhaps he's trying to do too much, which you can't do in this defense. But yes, it did seem to happen a couple of times Sunday.
Stephen from Parsipanny, NJ:
Why aren't the Jaguars making any moves in the market?
John: What market? Wait … there's a market? A market!!! Sign me up!

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