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O-Zone: Still trying

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Robert from Titusville, FL:
Maybe I just had a bit too much to drink in the Bud Zone, but Sunday's loss felt a lot different than the last few years. Am I going crazy???
John: No, and while the first couple of days following the loss to Carolina Sunday didn't feel like a time to point it out, a few days have passed: so, we'll break the looking-ahead rule for one question. The idea still won't be well-received, but well-received is overrated, isn't it? Yes, this loss was different than a ton of the losses over the last couple of years. In many if not most of the 25 losses in 2013/2014 it did not appear as if the Jaguars were competitive. Often, it was not possible to watch the game and think, "The Jaguars should have or even could have won that game." The Jaguars played a 2014 playoff team on Sunday and could have won if not for many missed opportunities. They made too many mistakes to win. Had they made makeable plays they could have won. Did Sunday's loss feel good? No. Did it feel different? Yes, in many ways, it did.
Sara from St. Augustine, FL:
John - I'm not anything but disappointed in the Jags right now. It's really difficult when you spend so much time, money and energy into this team, and year after year I'm just disappointed. I have a lot of patience; I've been a season-ticket holder for seven years, but man … this is exhausting.
John: Yes, it is.
Kevin from St. Augustine, FL:
John: Perhaps you have "fact" and "opinion" confused. That's OK, even if neither you nor anyone else has any way of knowing how much either Gus Bradley or David Caldwell rely on analytics – and even if you perhaps don't realize that Caldwell doesn't coach. You're perfectly entitled to your opinion, even if what one holds as an opinion perhaps doesn't qualify as a fact.
April from Pooler, GA:
So are you getting/avoiding the 'now-our-division-has-two-elite-quarterbacks-with-Luck-and-Mariota questions' for as long as you can?
John: Sure, I'm getting the questions. I'd like to wait a week or so before designating Mariota an elite quarterback, and even if he is, I'm not sure what there is to do about it. Oh, yes, I do: beat him. It's not illegal.
Michael from Toledo, OH:
The guys may feel some anxiety and stress on game days. However, it does not appear they believe they can win. I'm sure they start the game thinking they'll "compete." That's just not good enough, though. Being down eight points at any point in a game should never mean it's over, but we were done after that pick last week. We need to see the guys fight for it out there. That has been true since Gus has been here. I love the guy, but he deserves to start being criticized for this because the bad-roster excuse just isn't true anymore. We're talented, but we don't show up on game days and it's frustrating.
John: I don't think anyone reading the O-Zone or listening to fans discuss the Jaguars would make an argument that Bradley isn't criticized. The criticism has been pretty easy to find – as is expected for an NFL head coach whose team has lost. As far as not showing up on game days, I'm not sure I buy it. The Jaguars played hard Sunday; they just made way too many mistakes in the first half. Now, as far as what happened after the interception, that is an issue. As Bradley himself said, the Jaguars didn't overcome adversity and they didn't respond well after the interception. That was particularly true on offense. Perhaps some of that can be attributed to youth on that side of the ball. If so, the young players on that side of the ball need to play with more experience – and soon.
Cory from Madison, WI:
Year Two is a big year in terms of quarterback development. We should probably start seeing the results from Blake Bortles soon. Good quarterbacks in today's NFL generally have had a good season in their first two years. I look at this as make or break for him as much as for Gus because of that.
John: This is absolutely a big year for Bortles. Very big. I'm not big on the phrase "Make or Break," because I don't know that if Bortles has a so-so year that he'll be broken and never get another chance. But are the odds pretty good that we'll know a lot more about Bortles after this season? Yeah, I think that's the case. And no question a quarterback needs to show he has a feel for the pro game sometime in the first couple of years.
T from Jacksonville:
What's a conservative estimate for when Lee and Marks will be back? Two weeks? Three?
John: A "conservative" estimate would be Lee back next week against the Patriots and Marks back several weeks after that. I think it has a real chance to be quicker on both, but that's conservative.
Tim from Jacksonville:
With Luke Joeckel out I suppose the tight end will probably be assisting the left tackle a lot against Miami's defensive front. Is that going to make finding them tough again this week?
John: Yes, if the tight end is assisting the left tackle by blocking the defensive end it makes finding him open as a receiver that much tougher.
Eloy from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
When the Jaguars passed on Amari Cooper in Round 1 I was disappointed. We had no veteran receiver and our top three receivers were coming into their second year. I was hoping we would pick up a veteran in free agency to help the group and our young quarterback. That didn't happen. I think lack of quality receivers will be the team's biggest problem this season. I realize we will get Julius Thomas back at some point this season, which will help with the tight-end position but is there anything the Jaguars can do – besides hoping the receivers get better – to improve the weakest part of the team during this season? Do you think they will do anything?
John: This is not meant as a snide answer, but I am always curious what people expect teams to "do" about positions during the season. If there were answers outside the building that teams believed would help, they would already have signed or acquired those players. The players on this roster are capable of getting it done. They just need to do it.
Terry from Jacksonville:
John: tell me why the Jags refuse to draft or get all offensive players the last two years since they are one of the worst offenses in the NFL???? The only thing they focus on is defense and I think they have a good one.
John: Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, Jermey Parnell, Toby Gerhart, Stefen Wisniewski, T.J. Yeldon, Brandon Linder, Zane Beadles, Bernard Pierce, A.J. Cann, Bryan Walters and Luke Bowanko all have been acquired in the last two years. Luke Joeckel and Marcedes Lewis were the only players who started Sunday who weren't acquired in the last two years.
Mazi from Jacksonville:
First regular-season game is a practice game. No worries. #DTWD
John: Well, not quite "no worries," but sure … #DTWD
Clay from Atlantic Beach, FL:
The Jaguars are consistently near, or at, the top of the league in two statistics - losses and cap space. How much is the cap space a function of the believed necessity to save for second contracts and how much is due to a philosophical desire to leave roster spots for younger players rather than older (presumably more expensive) free agents? If it is about saving space, who are the "bank breakers" we're saving for?
John: The Jaguars in the first two seasons under General Manager David Caldwell purposely did not spend big in free agency. The reason was the franchise wanted to get a core of two or three draft classes as the foundation of the franchise before adding free agents around them. The reason is sound: you don't want to add older veterans to a team with a young core because by the time your core is ready to win, the free agents you add are aging. The Jaguars this offseason added a slew of veteran free agents: Jermey Parnell, Julius Thomas, Dan Skuta, Jared Odrick, Davon House, Sergio Brown, Stefen Wisniewski, Bryan Walters. They also pursued Randall Cobb, Devin McCourty and DeMarco Murray. I expect the team to look heavy into free agency this offseason. Pointing this out is not to say the Jaguars are where they want to be, but it's not correct to say the organization's priority is "saving cap space." Being smart with it? Yes. Saving it? No.
Chris from Estero, FL:
O, I love reading your column but I find myself almost avoiding it during the season, especially after losses. I just can't take the whining and complaining and overall negative feelings. I know a 24-hour window is unrealistic, but is there any chance of maybe a 48-hour window and then move on from the previous game's questions/complaints and start looking forward?
John: Yes, that's what "Look Ahead Wednesday" is all about. It's not always easy, but we try.

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