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O-Zone: Strong statement

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Corey from Orange Park, FL:
Wasn't this the plan all along? Not the blowout, but to be in such a situation where we're competitive against playoff-caliber teams? It sucks and I hate it, but hasn't the rebuild gone the way Gus and Dave said it would?
John: In a very real sense, yes. Now, that sense did not include going 1-9 to start this season. The belief was they would have a few more victories early this season, and because they don't, there is disappointment in the organization as there is among the fan base. But it is indeed possible to improve on the field without winning more games, and for the most part the Jaguars have done that this season. They have been competitive against Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Miami and San Diego, going into the second half of all those games with a chance to win. They also have improved in a lot of areas, doing so with a younger roster. So, except for the victories it's going as planned, but those victories … well, they matter, too.
George from Harrisburg, PA:
John, I know you receive a lot of e-mails criticizing Blake Bortles, but would you say he is further along in his development than Blaine Gabbert was at this point in his career?
John: Good gracious, yes.
Jason from Jacksonville:
OK, so let me get this straight … the Jaguars are playing a bunch of rookies and second-year players. If I recall, rookie contracts are three-to-four years in length. So, that means in three-to-four years all of these rookies will start to get better AND will be looking for new contracts. The last time I checked, there is a salary cap – a.k.a., we can't resign all the rookies back because they will all cost too much to keep them all and NONE OF THEM WOULD WANT TO STAY ON A LOSING TEAM IF THEY DON'T HAVE TO!!!! So my question for you is, in three-to-four years will we have to "rebuild" again? COME ON!!! This is a plan for failure. Anyone that thinks this will work is an idiot. cough John Oehser.
John: Yes, I'm the idiot. That's fine. I've been called that and worse – already today, in fact. But this idiot knows that the reason the Jaguars aren't overspending in free agency now is because the idea is to have cap room to re-sign players who merit it as they earn contracts. This idiot also knows that all drafted players don't develop into core players, so you're not going to try to re-sign every rookie anyway. The idea is to get a quarterback who can become a franchise player (you definitely re-sign him). Then, the idea is to identify and re-sign core players at key positions around the quarterback. Then, the idea is to re-sign impact players around those players and continue drafting and developing and signing free agents in spots as needed. That's the formula the Jaguars plan to follow, and it's a formula that can be successful. Wiser football minds than mine believe in that approach, and franchises such as the Packers have followed it. That may prove the people running the Packers are idiots, though it might prove, too, that they're successful ones.
Elias from Orlando and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
Hey, Zone! What's doing?? I take it the team will use the bye week to maybe get healthier, rest and who knows, get better? The way the season is going, doesn't really matter much what the team does … We all know you're the reason the fans keep coming back! So tell us … what about you, Zone … what will your bye week be like?
John: I don't know … thought me and Jason might hang out … maybe talk a little ball.
Scott from Jacksonville:
What concerns me is just because our team is young doesn't mean all these players will turn out to be NFL superstars. They might just develop into average or below-average NFL players. If that happens, then this rebuild has just built a 5-11 team at its peak. I guess I'm just trying to be a realist that the end result of this rebuild very likely could be an average to below average team.
John: Sure. In life, there are no guarantees. I suppose the alternative is signing a much of aging veterans who are likely to get hurt, or decline rapidly, but that's pretty much a guarantee of failure, so let's skip that step.
Shane from Atlanta, GA:
Fans gonna fan......
John: Yup.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
When can we start to judge this team on talent and not youth? When can we start to say "Hey, this guy just isn't talented enough to be effective at his position?" It seems we are quick to do this with veteran talent like Dekoda Watson. How long do I have to wait before I can say the same for players like Cyprien and Joeckel aren't talented enough to be effective or elite?
John: Well, you can say whatever you want whenever you want. I can't control that, but we may be jumping the gun a bit on Johnathan Cyprien and Luke Joeckel. Cyprien had a tough game Sunday. That doesn't mean he's a bad player; it means he had a bad game. As for Joeckel, I would say he is learning the position and still adjusting to the NFL. He has struggled at times and he has played OK other times. I don't yet know if either player will be elite. Neither has reached that status. They also haven't shown that they won't reach that status – and they certainly haven't shown they can't be effective NFL players.
Mike from Mandarin, FL:
Ugh, now Allen Robinson is gone for the season; this team has just seemed cursed for the past few years. What can go wrong, will go wrong. I know injuries are just part of business, but when it rains in Jacksonville, it definitely pours.
John: Nah, all teams sustain injuries. We just feel the Jaguars' more because we're close to them.
Abe from Fairfield, CT:
If my marketing team is competing against another team or two for a project from a company, if we don't win the contract no one questions whether or not we really cared. No one asks if we were fired up enough. Why do you think there is still this lingering myth that a team who loses on Sunday has done so because they lack fire, or heart?
John: There are a few things that tend to happen when NFL teams lose. One, coaches – and sometimes senior writers – get blamed. Two, play-calling gets criticized. A third is that fans want violent, emotional reaction and fiery leadership. Why do I think these things are the case … I suppose they're easy targets, but honestly, I don't really have any idea.
Aaron from Jacksonville:
Blake is going to miss Allen pretty badly, right? That seven-to-eight-yard route on third down saved our butts in some spots this season. I think that someone will step up, be it Marqise or Ace, but man, that stinks and I hope Allen has a speedy recovery. Also, looking forward to seeing Aaron Colvin get out there. Do you think he will be playing soon? And with the injuries to the secondary does he have a chance to show some glimpses of a bright future ahead?
John: There's no doubt Bortles will miss Robinson, and the seven-to-eight-yard route on third down is a big reason. That had started to be a go-to play. The bad news for the Jaguars is they won't have that option in the final six games; the good news is that they have seen that they can rely on that with Robinson going forward – and that Robinson has a chance to develop into a reliable receiver. As far as Colvin, he's going to start out playing the nickel. We'll see where it goes from there.
Don from Richmond, KY:
Think the Cardinals would give the Jags a draft pick for Henne?
John: I doubt it. They have Drew Stanton, who has performed well enough in spots for the Cardinals to win. Plus, the trading deadline has passed, so it couldn't happen until the offseason anyway.
Armand from Jacksonville:
Can Blake and the receivers get together after the season to continue to build their chemistry?
John: They can and they will. That's what the offseason, organized team activities and minicamps are for.
Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
It seems Dallas has gotten better over the years by drafting the big linemen early in the draft. The same can be said of Seattle. Do you think we should consider this approach even if we think our current offensive and defensive line is adequate and the highest-rated player is an offensive or defensive lineman?
John: At some point, yes. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Jaguars go pass-rusher in the first round of this year's draft, and as they move forward after that, it would indeed make sense to mix in quality linemen as they add skill players.
Aaron from Chehalis:
Hey John, in your opinion do we have any players playing at a Pro Bowl level this year?
John: Yes.

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