JACKSONVILLE – Game-Day O-Zone.
Let's get to it …
Mike from Middleburg, FL:
As much as I like the idea on this Chargers Morning of the Jags making a run at a division title, they just don't have the look to me of a playoff team. They still look about a year away. What say you, O-Zone? What do your eyes tell you?
John: My eyes don't matter nearly as much as the standings do, though I get your point. I wouldn't say the Jaguars after 10 games look like a front-line team capable of making a deep playoff run. They're still too inconsistent – read: young – offensively and don't have a consistent pass rush defensively. Blake Bortles also needs to keep developing and the offensive line needs to improve run-blocking – and so on. But you know what? The Jaguars are a game out of first place as Week 12 begins, and they're capable of being in pretty much every game the rest of the way. Do I think the Jaguars are the favorites to win the division or make the playoffs as a wild card? No. Do they have a chance? Yeah, absolutely.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
The last three Sunday night games of the season feature home teams that are out of playoff contention (Ravens twice and 49ers). Is it possible a Jaguar game could flex into a Sunday night game?
John: Let's let the Jaguars win a game or two more … then, we'll chat about flexing.
John from Jacksonville:
It's a big "if," but I'm circling December 13 on my calendar. If we keep pace with the Texans and Colts the next two weeks, December 13 could be the day we jump up to tie them both. It would require us beating the Colts on our home turf while the Texans have to deal with the Patriots. Sounds like a win-win weekend!
John: Let's let the Jaguars win a game or two more … then, we'll chat about circling.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
Three in a row? Could it be?
John: Let's let the Jaguars …
Joe from Morgan Hill:
Any reason why Greg Olson refuses to have T.J. Yeldon in the backfield during goal-line plays? He's our most effective runner and we've witnessed in three separate games that Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson are not up to task with the job.
John: This has been pretty well-explained in recent weeks, but considering the interest in the issue it's worth covering again. Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson and Head Coach Gus Bradley in no way "refuse" to play Yeldon in goal-line situations. The Jaguars came out of training camp confident that Gerhart running behind Tyson Alualu was a solid short-yardage approach, a confidence that seemed to many to be well-founded based on the package's effectiveness during the preseason. It got little use early in the regular season, then failed four times from the one-yard line against the Bills in Week 7. Gerhart hasn't been used in the role since that game. Robinson never has been the Jaguars' goal-line back, per se. He was in the game against Tennessee last week when Allen Robinson caught a pass that gave the Jaguars a first-and-goal at the 7. Because that play conceivably could have been challenged, the Jaguars went into "attack mode" and ran a play quickly on which Robinson rushed for five yards. The Jaguars stayed in the personnel package on the next two plays in part to keep the Titans in the same personnel package. The two plays failed, and while perhaps Yeldon would have scored on the second-down play the blocking almost certainly wasn't there for any back to score on third down. Either way, look for Yeldon to get work in short-yardage moving forward.
T.J. from Jacksonville:
I get so tired of some of our season-ticket holders. They are constantly complaining about something. I gave up season tickets years ago because I got tired of sitting next to the same people griping about every little thing every game. I see some things don't change. Yes, home games not at home suck. You know what sucks more? Losing the team because it can't stay financially stable in the smallest market in the league. So unless you are prepared to pay way more for those season tickets, quit your complaining about losing one whole game that you were probably just going to sit at and make everyone miserable around you anyways. Suck it up, Buttercup.
John: Well, then …
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Blake Bortles has been sacked, what, 46 or 47 times? That's a lot of punishment, even for a young and strong quarterback. What do you think is the greater cause? Ineffective blocking? Or Bortles holding the ball too long?
John: Bortles was sacked 55 times last year and has been sacked 32 times this season. That's too many in either season. As is always the case with sacks numbers, the reasons are several-fold. One is the offensive line at times has struggled, particularly last season. The receivers also struggled to get open a lot last season, which contributed to the number. And Bortles indeed holds the ball into sacks at times. A lot of this is his instinct to hold the ball to make a play downfield, and some of it is him still learning timing and how to move in the pocket to maximize time to throw.
Nicholas from Camp Casey, South Korea:
Gold uniforms on athletic players look great. Gold uniforms on middle-aged senior writers … well, not the best sight out there. Having a senior writer who isn't afraid or restricted from acting goofy from time to time to keep fans interested in the team is why I like the direction this franchise is headed. DTWD.
John: Thanks … wait. What?
Andrew from Sampson, FL:
Going in to Week 12 there are only nine teams with winning records. This seems unusual; is this your opinion as well? Also, it seems there are more injuries than normal. Could the latter be related to changes to the CBA relative to the decrease in time teams have with players or is it too early to tell?
John: I suppose there may be a team or two fewer over .500 than normal this season, but the whole idea of parity in the NFL long has been a myth. There are usually a handful of teams with a realistic chance to win the Super Bowl – usually teams with really good quarterbacks -- and a vast majority of teams that beat on each other to force a large portion of the league to finish somewhere between 6-10 and 9-7. As far as injuries, I haven't gotten the sense that there are more than usual. The NFL always has been a violent, physical game in which players miss significant time with injuries.
Robert from Moorpark, FL:
I just realized Daryl Smith evolved into Telvin Smith. I'm happy about that decision made by Caldwell now. All is right in the world.
John: Yeah, that sort of happened. In order to groom young players you sometimes must have a place for young players to play.
John from Jacksonville:
Jags play in Detroit next year. How about a Thanksgiving game? Can you get that done, O-Zone? Talk Turkey to the Man!
John: I'd be surprised if that happens. The league usually wants high-profile teams in the Thanksgiving Day matchups, and right now, the Jaguars probably aren't quite high-profile enough. Now, win the division and go on a little run …
Michael from Newport News, VA:
Hey O-Man, just finished reading an article in my local paper that the Redskins might be the first team ever to play back-to-back games in London with both games being road games for the Redskins. I understand that season-ticket holders don't want to give up home games, but I would have thought the Jaguars would have had the first opportunity to play back-to-back games in London – one home game and the other away. There is no true home team in London, but to afford an away team for two weeks in a row at the same offsite location sounds like favoritism to me.
John: It's more circumstance than favoritism in this case. The Redskins are guaranteed to play the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium in London on October 30 next season and could play there October 23 if they finish in the same place in the NFC East standings as the Rams do in the NFC West standings. I imagine the Jaguars at some point will play back-to-back games in London – one home and one away – and I'd even like to see that be a permanent thing at some point. But I don't know that it's a big deal that they're not the first team to do it.
Jackson from St. Augustine, FL:
We have a decent record. I don't care if we make the playoffs I am believing more in the Jaguars then I ever have before.
John: That's probably the best way to look at this season. They're improving. There's a good core. Those things are starting to result in a bump in the standings. That's good stuff and it looks like there's better stuff ahead. Stay tuned.