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O-Zone: Serious objective

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Tom from Jacksonville:
So now where do the Jags go with Justin Blackmon?
John: For now, he has been suspended by the NFL indefinitely under the rules of the league's Substance Abuse Policy. It's about as serious a suspension as there can be, and he must apply for reinstatement. He will be eligible to do so at the start of the 2014 season, but it stands to reason he has a lot to do before being eligible. Gus Bradley and David Caldwell each care about Blackmon, so this is not a case where you automatically cut ties and get rid of a guy. As for the end game with the Jaguars and Blackmon, it's far too early to know.
Redmond from Jacksonville:
Now, our franchise has taken another step back with the Blackmon suspension. Our next step from here is to try and find a trading partner for him or release him. He clearly can't be trusted after lying to the entire organization.
John: That's not the next step.
Tim from Kingsland, GA:
I read your answer about the right people being in charge. We have heard that story so many times in the last few years. Byron L., Gene Smith, Jack Del Rio, Tyson Alualu, Reggie Williams …I seriously can go on and on. Every time we are told to not trust our eyes and every time the line is the arrow is pointed in the right direction. I'm tired of hearing the arrow is pointed in the right direction. My advice to the team management is to stop sucking and start not sucking and everything else will work itself out.
John: Wow, I love advice. I can't control what has happened in the past, and the Jaguars can't, either. I can just tell you what the plan is now. The people in place now believed they had to change the culture of the organization, and that changing that culture was the only way to prevent repeating a lot of what happened to create the frustration of which you wrote. That meant essentially "blowing up" a team that finished 2-14 last season. When you do that, you're probably not going to improve dramatically that first season. That's because in the NFL, it's very, very, very unlikely you're going to get rid of veterans and replace them with rookies ready to step in and be immediate impact players. To have one or two rookies make a difference is rare. To have an entire class play well enough to carry a team? It just doesn't happen. So, unfortunately for this email, the stop "sucking" part is indeed going to take time. Eventually, there's a good chance you'll see it.
Tired from Jacksonville:
Play-calling has always been the issue. This team is far more talented than the record indicates. Jedd Fisch stinks. Passive and safe is not the coach you want to have leading your offensive roster when you have nothing to lose.
John: I'm not going to say Jedd Fisch has qualified for the Hall of Fame with his play-calling this season. He probably hasn't. I will say that for the first four games of the season there was no Justin Blackmon and the offensive line struggled mightily. I'm not sure how effective all-out aggressiveness would have been in that situation. As far as the "nothing-to-lose" approach, I'm not big on that. If you approach games and situations figuring you're going to gamble and "just see what happens" because you're going to lose anyway, you might have a successful play or two, but you're not going to string enough successful plays together to have many positive results.
Dane from Jacksonville:
This may require a little bit of effort on your part, so for that, I offer my apologies... Has the new crown of the helmet rule for running backs been called this year? Everyone, including myself, was up in arms over this new rule but so far this season it seems to have been a total non-factor.
John: I actually broke character and emailed NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino about this. He said the penalty has been called three times, so apparently it hasn't been the end of the league as we know it after all.
Dude from Jacksonville:
John: Dude, I wasn't even there.
Manuel from Jacksonville:
It's hard to tell which side has played worse – the offense or defense, but I'd say the offense has been fluid although terrible scoring points, especially in the red zone. Bradley being a defensive mind I expected for the Jaguars to be much better in defense.
John: A lot of people shared your expectation. The disconnect is that while Bradley indeed is a defensive coach, a coach can't always outcoach his circumstance. The Jaguars, remember, began the process of completely overhauling the defense in the offseason. Every player in the secondary is new to the team this season, as are three of the players on the front line. Tyson Alualu moved outside to end in the offseason and Jason Babin joined the team off waivers late last season. That leaves linebackers Russell Allen and Paul Polsuszny as the two players who were playing their positions for this team this time last season. The Jaguars without question put themselves in that situation. It was their decision to overhaul the secondary and to not re-sign Terrance Knighton and Daryl Smith. At the same time, what you're seeing on defense is a long way from a finished product, so it might be premature to judge Bradley as a defensive mind just yet.
Scott from Ormond Beach, FL:
In a few years, when our Jags start winning on a regular basis,tell some of these fans, "DO NOT GET ON THE BANDWAGON." You root for your team win or lose.
John: I'm not one to tell people when they can root for a team and when they can't. The hardcore Jaguars fans, I will say, are as good as any I've ever seen. Their loyalty and passion even in these very difficult times is unreal, and one of the main reasons I'd love to see this team turn things around is it would be terrific to see those fans rewarded for that loyalty. At the same time, not everyone is engaged at the same level and some fans react to losing differently than others. The cool thing about sports bandwagons is there are no space limitations. When the Jaguars start winning on a regular basis, there will be room for everyone.
Bruce from Gotham, NY:
I think the issue some fans have with Caldwell is the lack of an immediate impact player in his first draft, leading people to people it will be more of the same. When was the last time a Jagwas in serious consideration for rookie of the year? This last draft class may have a couple of long-term starters but definitely no sudden-impact players. Also with Mr. Khan taking over the franchise you have seen so many dramatic changes quickly. I think people hoped that would set tone for the new GM and coach, but that has yet to be as visually seen or heard.Thoughts?
John: My thoughts are it's much easier to have dramatic changes off the field than on. With the exception of the quarterback position, it's unusual to have a rookie make a dramatic impact if his team isn't already functioning with some relatively set situations around him. Tony Boselli was the No. 2 overall selection in 1995, and while he was good as a rookie you didn't hear much about him because the team struggled and because he was a left tackle. Fred Taylor was good as a rookie and because the team was competitive and because he was a running back, you heard a lot about him. As the core of the team improves, rookies will be in situations to make a little more of an immediate impact.
Jim from St. Augustine, FL:
Leftwich (bust), Williams (bust), Jones (bust), Lewis (OK),Nelson (bust), Harvey (bust). These are prime reasons the Jags are in the state they are in. G. Smith's first-rounders actually have been better than Shack's. What say you, John?
John: Perhaps by a touch, although considering the relative lack of contribution from the players of any of the last 10 drafts, it's probably not fair to do a whole lot of lauding, either way.
Mark from Green Bay:
Seeing that our team was one above the Chiefs last year, and the Chiefs are kicking butt this year, what does that say about the Jags gaining momentum next year?
John: It probably says about as much as the Chiefs' record last season did about their chances this season, which is not much. The Chiefs had a decent core and needed just a few parts. The Jaguars needed more than a few parts and will enter next season still needing parts. I believe the Jaguars will be improved next season, but to think they're going to have the established core of pass rushers that have made the Chiefs so effective this season is probably a little far-fetched.
Paul from Jacksonville:
I hope Blackmon gets the help he needs.
John: That's the Jaguars' objective now, too.

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