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O-Zone: The latest fashions

JACKSONVILLE – Look-ahead Wednesday.

Let's get to it … Jeremy from Andover, KS:
I don't agree with the excuses for Luke Joeckel or Johnathan Cyprien. They are both essentially first-round draft picks and don't play like it at all. To build a winning franchise you've got to find high-caliber/Pro Bowl-level starters in the first round. So far, Joeckel and Cyprien are not that and don't look like they're on their way. I will admit it looks like David Caldwell drafted better in 2014 than he did in 2013, but time will tell. At what point does Caldwell look to re-draft those positions or find upgrades in free agency? This offseason? Next?
John: Ah, nothing like a good "excuses" e-mail to get the blood flowing on a look-ahead Wednesday. You won't find excuses here for either player, though. Each needs to play better and each appears to be at a stage where he's playing well for extended periods, then making a key mistake that's harmful and very noticeable. That's not good enough and it's disappointing to some, but it doesn't mean it's time for panic or readdressing, either. Neither is going to the Pro Bowl in his second season. You'd love it if they were further ahead, but I have no sense that the Jaguars will be redrafting or upgrading those positions this offseason. They're not liabilities at this point, and in fact they're a long way from liabilities. There's also still potential for them to develop. Cyprien and Joeckel will get time to do that, and it's wise to allow that to happen.
Ray from J:
Wouldn't Eugene Monroe at left tackle and a player selected No. 2 overall last year be better than just Luke Joeckel? I would take the former option.
John: What player? Not to be sarcastic, but judging by the results so far, your percentage chances of hitting a home run in the Top 15 of the 2013 draft are pretty low.
Scott from Honolulu, HI:
Not only is Joeckel technically a rookie, he also spent the offseason rehabbing his leg instead of getting stronger and working on his craft. For that, I'll give him a pass for the struggles he is having. Also, Tyron Smith is considered the premier left tackle in the game and he struggled with JPP last week.
John: Yes, yes … yes to it all.
Mark from Middletown, NJ:
Is Denard Robinson a long-term solution to the running-back problem or do we need to get someone else to fill the spot?
John: I don't know that the Jaguars have a "running-back" problem. Right now, they have Denard Robinson, who appears to be productive when given adequate blocking. They also could stand to add a back to complement Robinson, because I still don't know that he's an every-down, 350-carry-a-season guy. That probably means finding a player in the later rounds of the draft to pair with Robinson, which qualifies as a "doable task" as opposed to a "problem."
Les from Jacksonville:
O-Zone, we all agree that Blake needs work on some techniques, footwork, etc. I also think it's fair to say he won't get to really work on them until the offseason, OTAs, training camp, etc. What are the collective bargaining restrictions on him working with the coaches during the offseason? With some improvement, I can't wait to see an improved Blake slinging the ball around the field to Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Cecil, Hurns, & dare I say Justin Blackmon!! #awesomereceivercorps!
John: Bortles and all other players can't work on the field or talk football with coaches until the start of the offseason program, which is typically in mid-April. This does not preclude him or any other player from working with other knowledgeable people after the end of the season.
Ben from Section 101:
Going forward, Blake Bortles must throw better balls. I watched NFL Rewind and his throws were not that good. I have been seeing the same wobbles since training camp. I'm scared to watch him throw the ball at times. Can he improve with this in the offseason?
John: Yes.
Ben from Indianapolis, IN:
How is Josh Evans playing and do you think free safety is an area that will be addressed this offseason via free agency or the draft?
John: Josh Evans has been inconsistent at times, as evidenced Sunday when he was pulled in favor of Sherrod Martin for a short time before reentering the game and playing well. I think free safety could be addressed in the offseason, though I don't know that it's a must-have, panic-button position. As with many positions, it will depend on what's available in free agency and what's available when the Jaguars draft.
Tym from the Southside:
O-Zone, I was hard on Jedd Fisch last week for a rather vanilla game plan. But he responded well on Sunday. We saw read-option plays, wildcat plays, quarterback rollouts, and deep passes (when the line held up). Fisch called a good game on Sunday. I think I may have put too much blame on him last week, and not enough on the offensive line. It's really hard to call pass plays when you don't know whether Bortles will receive the snap before getting sacked.
John: I know we're looking ahead and not back on Wednesday, but I just had to take time to note that, yeah, Fisch did respond very well to your criticism. Credit to him for taking your advice.
Chris from Philadelphia, PA:
A victory is great and hopefully it will uplift an undoubtedly frustrated team. But nothing has changed. The offense was anemic; the defense made plays but gave up a lot of points early in the game. Simply, a spiraling Giants team imploded. Few teams, if any, would not have won in the Jaguars' position on Sunday.
John: Who wants to look ahead when looking back is so much fun?
Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
Hello, John! What do you think/what have you heard from defensive starters/contributors who'll become free agents after the season – Geno Hayes, Roy Miller, Alan Ball, Tyson Alualu … Of that group, who has the best chance to get extended? Do you think it is likely or unlikely that all four will return in '15?
John: It's very unlikely all four will return. The top priority likely would be Miller. He has played well and shows no signs of decline. As for the other three, I'd say Hayes and Alualu will depend on asking price/market value while Ball's return likely will depend on how the Jaguars feel about Demetrius McCray/Dwayne Gratz/Aaron Colvin. We'll see.
Dave from Jacksonville:
Hey, John! The defensive line is unarguably the strongest unit of this team. Doesn't this call into question the whole draft-and-develop, team-building philosophy? The stud players there are Sen'Derrick Marks, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Roy Miller III - all free agents! Maybe we can use that model for the offensive line more this offseason? Please?!?
John: No, it doesn't call into question the draft-and-develop philosophy. That's because you can't build an entire team that way, and you must build your core around young players that you can develop and – when appropriate – re-sign. The Jaguars have done a good job selecting players on the defensive front to sign as free agents and they have been effective. The first- and second-year players who are struggling at times and flashing at times – particularly on offense – cannot and were not expected to be the core of a consistent winner immediately. They were expected to be players capable of developing over time into a consistent core. As drafted players develop, they will become the core and veteran free agents will become more of a supplemental approach.
Marc from Flushing:
Will Justin Blackmon ever play again for the Jaguars?
John: I believe there's a good chance he will, and I believe that could happen next season. We'll see.
John from Jacksonville:
John, I know the game stats say Gratz caused the fumble on the Colvin scoop and score...but looking at the replay, it's clearly Colvin's initial hit that caused the fumble. The kid needs full credit.
John: Jaguars Public Relations Ace Tad Dickman looked at this Tuesday. I tended to agree with you at first, and after watching multiple angles, it's still difficult to tell. There is an angle on which it sort of looks like the ball began to come out when Colvin made contact with Larry Donnell. But another angle seems to show that Donnell had possession until Gratz's hit. In the end, there seemed to be more evidence to support Gratz forcing the fumble.
David from Oviedo, FL:
Wouldn't it be easier for a general manager if the same one or two players made all of the mistakes?
John: Yes.
Robert from Oneonta:
John, I am amazed you think so highly of Gene Frenette. He is a negative-minded, anti-Jacksonville, anti-Jaguars writer. I have this opinion after reading a column he wrote in the Times-Union last year stating the Jags should play all of their games in London. I skip his column now. John, you are a positive-minded, honest writer, I think of you as a true professional. Thank you for your efforts and talents!
John: I've known Gene Frenette 25 "memorable" years. To know him as I do is to appreciate his subtle sense of humor, as well as his quick turn of phrase. It is also to be inspired by his bulldog-like dedication to being abreast of the latest fashion from Paris and London. In the spring – when unencumbered by the burdens of football season – critics find that Gene often is ahead of the European "fashion curve." Throw in a legendary ability to cook a turkey and … well, let's just say you've got Gene all wrong, Robert. All wrong.

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