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O-Zone: Sweet anticipation

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … John from St. Augustine, FL:
The Jaguars clearly have enough quality players to win now, which means David Caldwell has done his job. In your experience, what will it take to actually win games now? Is it an intangible thing, like team culture? Or is it just time? You've been around the NFL long enough. What is your opinion?
John: The Jaguars have enough quality players to do what they're doing now – which is to compete far more consistently than they did the past two seasons. They don't yet have enough talent to put teams away, which is why they have played four close games this season. They have made enough mistakes to lose three of those games, but they easily could have won two. What has to happen for it to change? Make a play here or there that you didn't make before. Finish. Easier said than done, but that's what must be done.
Pete from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
The Bradley Era is a repeat of the Del Rio Era: Losing games that should have been won, mistakes that never get corrected, occasional no-show blowouts, glimpses of NFL-caliber play that make you think better times are coming, players calling the head coach by his first name instead of "Coach" (Brady still calls Belichick "Coach," for example), because he is their buddy. It is Deja Vu all over again. I have no question, because I have seen how this must end.
John: I covered Jack Del Rio's Jaguars teams for 11 games in 2011, so I really can't comment too much on the entirety of the Del Rio Era and how it compares to Bradley's time. I see them as pretty different in approach, but my knowledge of Bradley's approach far exceeds my knowledge of Del Rio. I do know that the things that you describe – apart from the first-name thing and the mistakes-that-never-get-corrected thing – are pretty indicative of teams that are struggling. I see the Jaguars as a young team that's learning, and if that's true, then a lot of the things that you cite should diminish as times goes on. Maybe they won't. Time will tell.
Brian from Section 238:
Here are a roundabout couple of questions. One, do you expect the Jags to beat the Texans and two, hypothetically if you could pinpoint a reason right now, what would be the reason the Jags will lose: lack of experience, J.J. Watt going Beast Mode on Blake, Brian Hoyer torching our secondary? Your response can be satirical. I almost expect it to be.
John: I do expect the Jaguars to win or come very close for the same reason I expected the Jaguars to win or come close the last two weeks: because I believe the rosters are such that the Jaguars should be able to do so. If they lose, I'd expect it to be because of some of the things that have plagued them in recent weeks or variations thereof – errors, not finishing, etc. I don't believe that because I think the areas aren't being addressed or because someone's not doing their job. I believe that because the Jaguars are still a young, growing team that's going to play close games. When you're in that stage, losses often come down to mistakes and not finishing.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
I get why teams like to be vague about injuries, but there comes a time where it can start to impact a player personally and professionally. The situation with Marqise Lee right now is making me think back to Fred Taylor and his injury in 2001. Have I just missed something, or does it feel like there's more to this story than what's out there?
John: You're not the first person drawing this comparison, but I do think you've missed something – or at the least, you may be overthinking it. Lee had a hamstring injury in training camp and returned. He played in two games, then injured the area again. Now, the Jaguars are trying to get it rested to the point where he'll be able to last the season.
Samwise from the Shire:
Hey, John: how do you think Thurston Armbrister played this past weekend and what should we expect from him? I saw him miss a few tackles, but he generally seemed to know where to be. To me, it seemed like Sergio Brown was the defender that was out of place quite often – not the undrafted free agent thrown into the fire. Cyp was yelling at Brown all game to get into position. Side note: Telvin Smith is second in the NFL in tackles … the guy is all over the field and never gives up on any play!
John: Armbrister played OK given the circumstances. There was a drop off from Paul Posluszny, but that wasn't unexpected – and Armbrister certainly wasn't the sole reason the Jaguars allowed nearly 120 more yards rushing than their average. As far as Brown … yeah, he struggled and missed a few tackles. He wasn't alone, but he didn't play well.
Christian from Titusville:
John, with the way Bortles is playing this year without much of a running game, and his success in the two-minute type situations, why don't we pass to set up the run and change tempo besides at the end of halves and when we are behind? Thanks.
John: I think you might see the Jaguars do some of that. At the same time, if you're going to go hurry-up throughout the whole game you better be darned good at it. If not, you're rolling your defense back on the field without much rest and without much time to make adjustments, and that can lead to games getting out of hand in a hurry.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
John, you said, "It's not wise to pay backup linebackers starter money." I'm curious who would frown upon us being 3-2 and in first place in the division if we were only $20 million under the cap after having paid a reliable kicker, a speed back that can get to the edge without losing the ball, and a backup middle linebacker with starting experience and the ability to be the quarterback on defense; all on two-year contracts while we await future drafts? I think most would agree that being 1-4 and remaining the laughingstock of the league for not doing so is a much worse decision.
John: I know what I said and I was talking about paying J.T. Thomas starter money when he would have been the backup in Jacksonville. Perhaps Thomas would have stayed in Jacksonville if offered more, or perhaps he wanted to start. Either way, it's tough to keep a player as a backup when he has a chance to start somewhere. As for your other points, I wasn't talking about the kicker or Corey Grant, though the Jaguars do have a backup running back who can get to the edge without losing the ball. That's Denard Robinson, who was out with a knee injury last Sunday.
Cliff from Orange Park, FL:
John, the past few weeks I have wondered if I were general manager and had the opportunity to trade Blake Bortles to any team in the league for their starter who would I take over Blake? Taking into account age, potential, current production and leadership, the list is very short: Aaron Rodgers. I could make a case for a few others but no others would be a clear upgrade, including Andrew Luck. Who might you consider in a straight up trade?
John: I would probably trade for Luck and obviously Rodgers, because both have played at a pretty high level over a far longer period than Bortles. But let's hit the brakes a little on Bortles. I do see him improving, and he has shown reason for optimism. But he just had his first career game with more than two touchdown passes and he has won four games as a starter. He's improving, but he has a lo-o-o-ong way to go.
Brian from Mandarin:
John, coaches have been quoted as saying Cann is more of a right guard. Brandon Linder played a predominant amount of time at right guard. Cann played a predominant amount of college time at left guard. Cann seems to be doing well at RG and will only get better. Can we expect Linder to compete at left guard next year? Sounds like a great guard tandem for the future. Just wondering if there is any reason to expect Linder having difficulty switching to the left side.
John: That seems like a real possibility, and I think Linder is more than good enough to make that switch.
Mike from Elberton, GA:
I can't remember the last time the Jags offense put up 30-plus points, especially without help from a special teams or defensive touchdown. What I'm looking forward to the most if see if this becomes a trend where it becomes expected that the Jags can score at any moment instead of it being a constant struggle to get points. Can the offense and most importantly Bortles continue to grow and maintain that level of play? What are you looking forward to the most, O-Man?
John: I'm pretty sure there's an Extreme Couponing marathon coming up on TLC. That should be cool.

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