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O-Zone: Time for a talk

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
Hello, John! What surprised you the most so far (positively and negatively) about the Jaguars and the '14 NFL season in general?
John: I'll take the Jaguars' question first. Negatively, I am surprised they're 0-6. I didn't think the Jaguars would contend for the playoffs, and when I said "8-8 is a very lofty goal for this team" throughout the offseason, I wasn't being careless with the words. Still, I thought they would have a chance to scrap and scrape their way to 2-4 by this point. They did have that chance, but had chances against Pittsburgh, Tennessee and even Philadelphia get away. Positively, I'm pleasantly surprised with the play of Blake Bortles. I didn't think he would look nearly this good this soon. As far as the league is concerned, I'm surprised the Seahawks have lost twice and I'm a little surprised with the Browns' early success, though I confess that I don't follow those teams closely enough to be truly blow-the-'ol-ears-back surprised by what's going on.
Steve from Jacksonville:
I saw this headline on the Raiders' website: "Raiders focused on winning, not just competing." As Jaguars fans, isn't it time we should be hearing this talk from Gus Bradley? We have competed to 0-16 through the first two halves of the last 2 seasons (so far).
John: Well, the Jaguars went 0-8 last season and are 0-6 this season, so they're not 0-16 through two halves of the last two seasons. But overall, your point with your last sentence is probably more right than wrong. As for what a headline on another site said … whatever. Bradley has been pretty clear in recent weeks that winning matters. In fact, he never has said that winning doesn't matter and players know winning is important. Fans seem to be focused these days on what Bradley is saying in press conferences, and I suppose I get that, but don't make the mistake of confusing a man who stays positive in press conferences for a man who doesn't want to win. That would be a mistake. If you want me to write Bradley saying every week that winning is important … I suppose I could, but it would probably make for pretty boring reading (insert joke here).
Shannon from Brunswick:
In my opinion, yes, there was an alternative. Pat Benatar. Wow! Just Wow!
John: OK.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Didn't realize Telvin is starting! Haven't been able to watch the games lately, so, why have I been reading that the linebackers have been horrendous? What have you seen from his time on the field and do you see the potential that he will become the dynamic playmaker we all hope he can be?
John: Telvin Smith isn't starting in base packages. But he is playing in nickel situations, so when the Jaguars open the game in that package, he is indeed starting. As far as what you've read about the Jaguars' linebackers, you're reading it because there have been times – particularly in passing situations – when the linebackers along with the rest of the back seven haven't played well. What I've seen from Smith's time on the field is the same as what the Jaguars saw from him when they drafted him and the same he has shown since arriving. He is a player with special speed and athleticism for his position who is learning how to harness that speed and use it effectively. When it's good, it's outstanding. He had a touchdown-saving tackle against the Titans that not many players can make. As he develops, you should see more of the same.
Christopher from Richmond, VA:
John: When will Aaron Colvin practice?
John: Colvin expects to start practicing next week.
Jim from Jacksonville and Deltona :
I think it is time for an entire new front office. The Jags will not likely improve until there is a wholesale change in the front office. They need people who really understand and know what it takes to build a real NFL team. The only success the front office has achieved is to make the Jags and Jax the laughingstock of the NFL. If the Jags are to survive it is time for the front office personnel to get out of the way and leave NOW in order for a new front office to step in and determine what needs to be done in order to get a respectable team on the field. John, what say you???
John: I say I'll take Destructive, Franchise-Gutting Overreaction for 400, Alex … thank you.
Adam from Jacksonville:
People keep arguing about how long the rebuild has currently been going on. I understand Caldwell and Bradley can only be held accountable for what has happened in the last 1.5 years. But I don't write my checks to Caldwell and Bradley. I write them to the Jags. And the Jags have given me a rancid product for at least four years. They haven't given me a clearly awesome product for seven years (the last time we went to the playoffs). John, how many consecutive years would you pay (BIG) money for a clearly inferior product? And would you continue to write those checks if you were assured, year after year, that the company is rebuilding?
John: I'm the wrong guy to ask. I say that because as a member of the media for most of my adult life I no longer have the same passionate, irrational attachment to a team – nor do I have the serious decision to make on whether to support that team financially – as fans do. But I understand your point. And the team does, too. No one takes it lightly. No one here doesn't see the issue. No one here doesn't understand that the product must improve. At the same time, there's no magic pill or magic check that can be written. The Jaguars must follow their plan, develop the players and they must trust that if they do that, improvement will come. That's not a satisfying fun, quick-fix thought on your issue, but it's reality.
TruFan from Jacksonville:
No offense to Gus but if Cowher were coaching the Jaguars, they'd be 4-2 right now.
John: LOL.
Alberto from Harrisburg, PA:
It keeps being said that the offensive line needs to "gel." What does that mean, exactly? What has to happen for them to gel? Besides buying inserts for their cleats?
John: "Gel" is sort of code work for improving and developing continuity. One reason it can take an offensive line longer to improve and grow is that when five, six or seven people are run-blocking, one mistake or one miscommunication can blow up an entire play. When you have four very, very young players and a veteran learning to play together, a lot of plays can have one mistake or miscommunication. That's why you can't look at the Jaguars' offensive line right now and say, "Oh, my goodness, they're struggling …. Draft three offensive linemen and sign two free agents!!!!!" That's a good way to have the same situation next year. You can't blindly assume all five of the current linemen are core guys for the future just because they're young, but you also can't assume all are terrible because they're struggling.
Kim from Dunkirk, NY:
I kinda feel bad about all the hate being thrown toward you and the Jags in general. It seems like a lot of fans that have been calling for Gus and Dave's heads thought that since we drafted Bortles we should be a contender this year. I'm a bit more realistic than that. I like what we're building here. I know it's going to take some time. Yes, some things need to change immediately (like eliminating stupid mistakes) but I'm willing to wait for these young players to develop. I've liked what I've seen in Bortles so far. Do you think he has the potential to become one of the elite QB's in the NFL?
John: Yes.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
Hey O. A lot of hate lately, so can we talk about you and your expert evaluation skillz? I remember when you said Cecil Shorts would be the best wide receiver on the roster after seeing him practice when everyone was saying what a waste of a draft pick he was. Hopefully, he can stay healthy, and help us get a win.
John: Actually, I wrote early in 2011 that I thought Cecil Shorts III would start that year and be the best receiver on the roster. It was later that season when he struggled as a rookie that many people wanted him released. Lo and behold, Shorts did what a lot of young players do after their rookie seasons. He improved. The Jaguars have a lot of rookies on this year's roster. I suppose it's maybe, maybe just a slight possibility they might improve, too.
Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Where did Clay Harbor come from? Don't remember him being drafted. He's been a bright spot. I'll buy the jersey when he decleats a linebacker, maybe even a safety! Looking for anything to stay sane as a Jaguar fan.
John: If you really don't know where Clay Harbor came from, talk to your parents. You're searching for answers we don't really provide here.

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