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O-Zone: Similar souls

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bryce from Algona, IA:
O, I am not buying the defense argument of, "Yeah, but we are playing with six rookies on offense..." I challenge you to name one other occurrence in the history of the NFL where six rookies are playing together. This, to me, seems more like a failure from management to bring in/keep veteran leadership to help this team be in a position to be competitive. Thoughts?
John: I guess we approach this issue differently. You say you're not buying the "defense argument," which makes it seem you believe there is some point of contention between people – perhaps you and I – over what's going on offensively. Perhaps, but Head Coach Gus Bradley in fact is the first to say that featuring six rookies on offense was a choice the team made this offseason and early this season. When he says it, he's not looking for anyone to feel sorry for him, and he also says it's the players' and coaches' responsibility to be productive whatever the experience level. I suppose you can look at it as a failure, but the Jaguars look at it as a complete reset on offense in line with their approach of building the roster to be competitive for the haul, and doing so through the draft. Finally, to answer the question that was stuffed in the middle of a few other questions … no, I don't know of another occurrence in NFL history when six rookies played together. I know of one now, though.
Pete from Lee Center, NY:
What? Over? Did you say "over?" Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!
John: C'mon, Pete … the Germans didn't bomb Pearl Harbor. How can you not know that?
Moshe from Mexico City:
Don't you think that Toby Gerhart can be used better as a fullback than as a running back? He can be much better than Ta'ufo'ou.
John: I don't think Gerhart can be used better as a fullback than a running back. I do think there's a chance he could be used better as a third-down, specialty back than an every-down workhorse back, but I also may be jumping the gun on that. I don't know that it's correct to say Gerhart would be a better fullback than Ta'ufo'ou. The latter is a wham-slam blocker at the line of scrimmage while Gerhart is a runner/receiver.
Shawn from the Mean Streets of Arlington:
I just watched a video you said we had not yet reached FULL CONSISTENCY. It was funny (again) it made me laugh.
John: I thought you might like that.
Cory from Madison, WI:
So, what part of the Caldwell/Bradley plan has actually worked to this point? Purging the roster led to Daryl Smith and Terrance Knighton going. Drafted a tackle to replace one who was already good enough, and the replacement hasn't come close to justifying his draft position. They drafted a work in progress in Denard Robinson, when the pick could have been spent better elsewhere. Invested in Toby to carry the mail. And the plan at quarterback was clearly a debacle. NOTHING HAS GONE ACCORDING TO PLAN. That's a bad sign.
John: I'm not going to spend valuable (?) space arguing your every point. Yes, the Jaguars are winless right now, which makes it seem like nothing has gone according to plan. If the Jaguars don't have a stronger roster that appears built to compete by sometime in 2015, then yes, maybe all is bad. But right now, the Jaguars have what appears to be a franchise quarterback as well as some pieces in place offensively who appear to have a chance to develop around him. I'd also say a legitimate question is: if you didn't want Luke Joeckel at No. 2 in his draft who would you want? Then again, that would imply that six games at his position is enough to judge the selection and that would be insulting to your intelligence. I'd hate to do that.
Tom from Jacksonville:
Can you say 5-1?? I'm feeling a victory!
John: Sure, I can say, "5-1," but I'm not sure why you want me to say it.
John from St. Augustine, FL:
I heard it said that Bortles lacks the ability to throw the deep ball accurately, and that the Steelers took advantage of that and compressed the field on him. Any thoughts on this? Is this something he can get better at or are our receivers to blame?
John: Ah, nothing like a little blame early on a Thursday morning, but no … I haven't seen anything to suggest that Bortles has an inaccurate deep ball. I have seen plenty to suggest in recent weeks that receivers aren't as open downfield as some observers might believe – those observers being the one who want the Jaguars to take "more shots downfield." They might be the same lot who wanted to give "Matt Scott a shot," but I can't be sure.
Bobby from Salt Lake City, UT:
I feel like Blake Bortles needs to get back to his style of game. He looks like he is playing without confidence. I saw a few plays that the old him would have made. He hasn't really been going through his progressions as much. On Sunday, right before the half when he overthrew Allen Robinson, he had an open receiver in the end zone. If he would have waited an extra second and went through his progressions, he would have seen him. That's the old him. Is he playing without confidence? If not then why is he not taking his chances?
John: Blake Bortles has started two NFL regular-season games. There is no "old him." There is no "new him." There is a "him" that is learning how to be an NFL quarterback, and it's not a smooth process, particularly with rookies around him also learning how to be "themselves."
Bill from Jacksonville:
You've said before that it's normal and OK for fans to expect the progress to be further along than it is. My question is, do you think Dave and Gus believe the team is where it should be at this point of their tenure? Do they see the results and say this is what we expected 21 games in? Because if they expected this, than I feel better about it moving forward. Thanks! Go Jags!
John: I don't know that they expected to be exactly 4-17 after 21 games, but without question they expected the build to play out fairly close to this. They knew this would take time. And they certainly expected the offense to struggle once they made the decision to go with a rookie quarterback and a slew of rookies around him. That's one reason they stuck with Chad Henne for the first few games; they wanted his experience to help smooth over the rough patches that come with so much inexperience everywhere on offense. The team appears to have improved the last two weeks, and if that remains the general trend with Bortles starting, then yes, this is where David Caldwell and Gus Bradley pretty much envisioned the team being.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
Is it just me or has McCray looked solid?
John: It's not just you.
Christopher from Philadelphia, PA:
I don't care about the record. I do, however, care about this team's development. It seems with so much inexperience on offense, everybody's growth could be stunted. For instance, when Big Ben took over the Steelers, he was surrounded by veterans – i.e., Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, etc. I am confident that veteran presence helped his development. I suppose the inverse is likely true as well, that Bortles' development – and that of every other young offensive player – could be hindered because of the lack of a veteran presence. Do you think this is a legitimate concern?
John: It would be great if the Jaguars had been loaded with experienced, savvy veterans to help Bortles along. It also would be great if the Jaguars had been one player away this season, enabling them to plug in a rookie quarterback and emerge quickly as a playoff contender. The Jaguars weren't one player away and they're not loaded with experienced, savvy veterans. They're loaded with kids and it's up to them to grow together. I get the feeling listening to Bortles that he's going to figure out a way to grow surrounded by people his own age. He doesn't lack confidence and he doesn't lack work ethic. That's a pretty good formula for future growth for a quarterback.
Joe from Leeds:
Watching these talented players grow and our team improve week by week isn't enough, John. We want FULL CONSISTENCY and we want it now...
John: Yes … yes, I'm sure you do.
Jaggy from Duval, Australia:
I'm confused with Dekoda Watson. Has he fallen out of favor with the staff? I know he has been injured, but his snap count dropped completely last week and he was overlooked for the starting job he was signed to play when it was available the week before. Confusion is confusing...
John: The year has been frustrating for Watson. He wasn't helped by missing the entire offseason with a sports hernia injury, and he hasn't played in the Otto role as well as he or the team expected. That was why J.T. Thomas moved into the starting role over second-year veteran LaRoy Reynolds when defensive changes were made. Watson's snaps dropped last week because of a shoulder injury. Sometimes guys have years where they can't catch a break. So far, Watson has had one of those years.
Ralph from Jacksonville :
After watching the O-Zone Video Mailbag, I realized Andre Branch has nothing on you O-Man. Well, maybe a few more tattoos. And money. And rhythm. Wingspan. Muscles. But really, nothing else.
John: We are very similar souls.

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