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O-Zone: Simple answer

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Taylor from Ellicott City, MD:
Hey, John: I'm not really sure how to phrase my question if it's really even a question at all. I guess I just want to know if you really think this rebuild is still working? Based on your responses to other readers' questions I feel like you think Gus and Dave should get another season to "keep improving."
John: There's certainly a question in there, and it's a good one. There are 10 games remaining in this season, and I do believe General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley should get at least that many games. I also think they'll "get" that many and more because I think Shad Khan believes in this group. I think they should "get" that for several reasons. One is because I tend not to put as much emphasis on the records of 4-12 in 2013 and 3-13 in 2014 as many fans and readers do. I understand why fans emphasize those, but I think this season is far more reflective of the state of the rebuild. Within that context, I see improvement through six games. I particularly saw improvement through five games, and I've written already that Sunday's game was disturbing for a few reasons. Playing at home against the Texans was a game I believed the Jaguars should have won; I didn't feel as strongly about the Indianapolis and Tampa Bay games the weeks before because they were road games. Against the Texans Sunday, the Jaguars had a chance to win and fell apart early in the fourth quarter. That wasn't good, but overall, I believe this team has improved and I believe they still have a chance to show that as the rest of this season plays out. If the things that have plagued the team through six games continue to plague this team, then maybe that answer will change. We'll see.
Jimmy from Section 107:
I agree we have more talent on this year's team, but please explain how we are a better team. This staff has won eight total games, all of which were against struggling teams (Browns, Texans and Titans twice each, a Giants team that had lost six in a row and a Miami team that fired their coach soon after). All of those wins, minus a 24-6 win against the Browns, were one possession games we pulled out. As a team, what are we doing now that makes us better than we were in 2013? I guess I can't see through my teal-colored glasses.
John: This is a major theme this week, and deservedly so. The Jaguars are better in the sense that they have competed into the fourth quarter with a chance to win in five of six games this season. That is better than they were the last two seasons. Had a break or two gone their way – had they been able to "finish" – they reasonably could be 3-3 and possibly better. That's how they're better. How they're not better is that they are 1-5 and haven't closed those games. Are they better enough? No, because they're not winning. That's why fans, players, coaches, management, etc., etc., are frustrated, angry, etc. The final part of the question is what it means for the future and job security. We shall see.
Chris from Brunswick, GA:
Blake reminds me more of Brett Favre than Big Ben.
John: OK.
Robert from Jacksonville:
The team is complacent. It seems as if they don't know how to game plan against certain teams or players also. Bortles is the quarterback; he needs to get on his players for missed assignments. They also need that fire/anger that Jared Odrick showed when they had the scuffle. Come out angry and fight while not committing stupid mistakes. It pains me to see a lot of the players coming out like "oh well, I'm still getting paid."
John: Fans like seeing angry players. They like seeing frustrated players act out. How much that has to do with winning and losing … I'm skeptical. But I do understand people like seeing it.
Emily from Richland, WA:
The past several seasons I've been able to swallow the losses with the thought that we just need a quarterback and things would get better. I think we have our quarterback. What now?
John: Now, he matures and grows and the team grows around him.
Andrew from Section 203:
Better? Yes. Good? No. Being better does not make you good.
John: Well put.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
Good NFL teams have core players in Years Four through Seven. Due to the previous regimes we don't have many players in that range, and the ones that we do have aren't generally elite players. The new regime has done a great job reloading the roster; but it can't escape the fact the core is too young. What are your thoughts on this?
John: Very well put.
James from Palm Coast, FL:
The world seems so much nicer the next day and by that I mean Blake reminds me of Mark Brunell – not being similar in style but I got the same feeling then that I do now; that on every possession we have an opportunity of scoring. That feeling is a lot better than when Byron Leftwich was running the ship. It has been a long time since we saw three or four touchdowns per game. If we could put some pressure on the opposing quarterback, our backfield would not look so porous. I still see the arrow point up!
John: The arrow definitely seems up on Blake Bortles. That's not to say he played well on Sunday. He did not, and the interceptions hurt. But without question he has shown through six games that he is improving and has a chance to keep developing. That does provide hope. That doesn't make a lot of other storylines and buzz easier to decipher, but it does provide a base around which to build. As far as pressure on the opposing quarterback … yeah, it's probably the most glaring "thing" right now.
Tim from Jacksonville:
Six games in and not a single rushing touchdown for the Jaguars offense: have you ever seen a streak that long without a rushing touchdown? Why do you think we are seeing promise with young players in the passing game but not as much with running the ball?
John: I think there are a couple of reasons. One is that the Jaguars spent more time in the offseason working on the passing game. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said as much before the regular season began; when he and the rest of the first-year offensive coaches arrived they had to begin somewhere – and the struggles in the passing game last season were pronounced enough that that seemed a logical place to start. The second is a little more basic and general: rushing offenses can take longer to develop because run-blocking tends to be more about timing, precision and cohesion than pass-blocking. In that sense, it's not strange that area would be behind the passing offense.
Jayson from St. Johns, FL:
I've heard Gus say after every loss there is something to be learned. What did you learn after this loss?
John: That there apparently is still some learning to do.
Marco from Lima, Peru:
John, I do see an improved team on offense, but we really have no playmakers on defense. I actually think we have regressed and can't remember the last time we had a legitimate Pro Bowler there. I remember you saying last season that the defense had to keep us close to be able to win games, and I feel now the offense is kind of doing its job but the D is dropping the ball. Is the answer in this roster?
John: The answer to improving is on the roster, because the players there certainly can play better than they have played this season. I say that because a lot of the same players were here last year with better results. I also say that because at times this season the Jaguars have gotten the run stopped, and if you get the run stopped you often can package that with creative schemes and affect the quarterback. Now, if you're asking about making this a great, game-changing defense … no, I don't think those players are on the roster – or at least they're not healthy. Dante Fowler Jr. should be able to make a difference if he is a Top 3-level pass rusher, but even assuming he is healthy next season, the Jaguars probably need another quality pass rusher in addition to him. They also need a play-making safety. They tried to get one in Devin McCourty this past offseason and he re-signed with New England. There wasn't one available in the draft. Maybe James Sample can improve that area. Either way, I'd look for that to be a priority next offseason.
Chris from Hamilton, Ontario:
Do you think it's time for Gus Bradley to be fired?
John: No.

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