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O-Zone: Send in the clowns

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Andrew from Jacksonville:
Is it "Look-Ahead-to-the-Draft Wednesday" yet?
John: Cute, and it indeed is "Look Ahead Wednesday" … at last. But we're looking ahead this morning to Indianapolis – and we're a long way from looking ahead to the draft. That's because there's still plenty of reason to anticipate Sunday and the rest of the season. Look, the Jaguars are 1-2. I think a lot of people sort of expected that record after two games. If they're 4-2 or even 3-3 after six weeks, I think a lot of people would say that met or exceeded their expectations. My point is the story of this season has yet to be written and one one-sided loss to the defending Super Bowl champions is going to be a very small chapter. Look ahead to Sunday. There's plenty of time after the season to look ahead to the draft.
T.J. from Cherry Point, NC:
That was a tough game to watch. However, I suppose it's easier to swallow getting blown out by the defending world champs as opposed to the Redskins playing with a backup quarterback … this upcoming game is a big one. Stay positive. Go Jags!!!!!
John: The upcoming stretch is very, very important. A 1-5 record is not what you're looking for after six games this season.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
If we reach the bye week with only one or two wins, do you think David Caldwell, and by association Gus Bradley, will begin to make some uncharacteristic decisions in an effort to keep their jobs? By that I mean trading draft picks for veterans and things like that. The market is not always ripe with talent at that time of year, but there are usually some teams trying to offload some high-salary veterans and load up on draft picks.
John: No, I do not think that will happen. Actually, I would be shocked if that happens.
Chris from Pickerington, OH:
Something I saw on Monday Night Football got me thinking. Lots of Jags fans complain about not picking up this or that free agent. But on Monday Night Football, they pointed out that the Packers, out of a 53-man roster, have only three players that played for another team. Has to be something right about the philosophy of draft and build.
John: Draft and develop absolutely is the best philosophy. It's tried, true and proven – and if you can build that way, you can build something sustainable for the long haul. And draft and develop indeed is the core philosophy for Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell. The issue for the Jaguars was and continues to be how much to supplement the building process with veteran free agents. The reason that's an issue is it's really hard to win consistently or even compete with a roster overloaded with young players. Caldwell said as much following last season when he essentially said in retrospect the offense may have skewed too young last season. The Jaguars are still somewhat dealing with that issue this season. Over time, if the Jaguars can get stabilized and have some success, you'll see the team gradually skew toward more drafting and developing; ideally, you would have a "clean" roster along the lines of the Packers. That's a long process, as evidenced by the Jaguars' current path.
The Grabster from Jacksonville:
Fans are gonna fan, but everyone knew this team was going to be a six-to-eight-win team in all likelihood – and I think most level-headed Jaguars followers realize that's still quite attainable. It bears repeating that Caldwell and Bradley did NOT walk into a typical rebuilding job. The cupboard they were left with did not have even a few items in it – as is the case with most NFL team rebuilds. "No excuses," many seem to say; I beg to differ. This team would have been 0-3 last year at this time, and 0-3 in 2013 at this time with lopsided losses in all three games. I for one am completely fine with the way this team is headed and it's clear that his roster is WAY better than it was last year and the year prior to that. I'm patient and happy. One fer patient and happy?
John: Hey, one fer patience! /ducks
Dave from Jacksonville:
Hey, John … You know how Charlie Brown feels when he gives in and believes that Gus – I mean, Lucy – is going to actually let him kick the football for once, but yet again he falls on his butt and feels like a fool? Being a Jags fan is worse than that.
John: I actually don't know how Charlie Brown feels; he's a cartoon character, and while my soul is a bleak place, I have a touch more emotional depth than a cartoon character. In theory, anyway. But I digress: It has been tough the last few years. No one would say different. It has to improve, and needs to start showing tangible improvement very, very soon.
Trey from Jacksonville:
Why can't Alualu beat a rookie guard? He is so bad. Probably the worst player on the team.
John: Incorrect, but thank you.
Tom from Virginia:
I respectively disagree … Indy is a must win! A win there could create a winning streak! Lose and then the Tampa Bay game becomes a must win or the season is lost. This week's game is really a turning point for the team in my opinion.
John: You made my point. If the Jaguars can lose to the Colts and Tampa Bay therefore becomes a "must win," then the Indianapolis game is not a must win. But we're off point here. The Colts game is big. The Buccaneers game will be big. This team has to show over the next few games that it's more the team we saw against Miami and sorta, kinda part of Carolina than against New England. That's still not out the realm of possibility, but the team has to show it.
Joey from Cleveland, OH:
Every year in this column you talk about key injuries. If you go through your archives you talked about key injuries last year and the year before that and the year before that. Let's face it: every year we are going to have key injuries just like every other team, but what makes a team good is having superstars that overshadow all these injuries; we have none. Can we please stop using injuries as an excuse every year, O man, just for once?
John: Of course, injuries are discussed every season – and of course, I write about injuries. I write about injuries because injuries are a part of the fabric of the NFL. Injuries do influence how a team performs. I have never written that injuries are the overriding reason for a team's overall record at the end of the year. Injuries are not why the Jaguars have struggled in recent seasons. But are injuries discussed when people discuss the NFL? Yeah, it's a violent physical league and injuries ultimately have at least some effect on a season.
Dave from Jacksonville:
O-man, you got to understand: Fans are desperate to Fan. We need players to play! Writers gotta write. Enough fresh beer and swimming pools. We can't wait for a bunch of 23-year-olds to mature to 28-year-olds. We need them to be grown men now. Fans want to fan … When, "O", when can we get those players to play?
John: I do understand. Everybody understands. Understanding is not the issue. As far as your question, it's about growing up. That must happen soon. Will it? I don't know, but it must. But understanding? That's not the issue.
Gamble from Washington, DC:
The bigger issue from such lopsided defeats is this: having made a conscious decision to go so young, will David Caldwell and Gus Bradley make it to the end of year four? Not one of Caldwell's players looks worthy yet of NFL cornerstone money. If the Jags suffer a few more games like this -- while having $32 million in cap space -- will they regret not offering more to McCourty, Cobb, and a few other difference-makers?
John: Regarding your first two points, time will tell – and as I've said often, those are storylines we'll watch play out over the coming weeks and months. As far as what should or shouldn't have been offered to unrestricted free agents this past offseason, that's a tough question. It's easy to say the Jaguars should have offered more, more and more money to Devin McCourty and Randall Cobb. And there's no doubt those players would help this team right now. But there's no guarantee the other teams wouldn't have kept matching, matching and matching the Jaguars' offer – or at least getting close. At some point, if a player is going to go back to his team for similar or even a bit less, then it's hard to win that situation.
Rosco from Jacksonville:
I'm scared of clowns!
John: I get it. Believe me, I get it.

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