JACKSONVILLE – Ah, the postgame inbox … a cauldron of mixed emotions right now.
Perhaps unsurprisingly after a whirlwind, up-and-down game such as Sunday's 42-39 loss to the Tennessee Titans, there seem to be as many people full of hope about the Jaguars' direction as people who are despondent and certain all is lost.
That's understandable. Sunday's game was as weird as it was discouraging.
In the end, it was a loss, but the quarterback …
The offense …
Yes, there is hope there. Not that things are easy right now.
Let's get to it …
Michael from Newport News, VA:
The real question is what do the Jags have left for the rest of the season? Can we get to six or more wins?
John: That is a legitimate question. The problem when giving the answer is the Jaguars are a very difficult team to project. It's easy for the pessimist to say, "No way can this team win two of their last four games … look at the defense!" At the same time, the Jaguars have been in 11 of 12 games this season and there's no reason to think the last four won't be just as close. I can't necessarily say the Jaguars are going to consistently play defense well enough to close out three or four games the rest of the way. But the way the offense is playing I can't necessarily say they won't, either.
Scott from London, England:
Over my 10 years of following this team, this is the first time I've felt like we've found our quarterback. Never been this excited to be a fan of this team!
John: That's one view …
Steven from Denton, TX:
Four more games for Gus Bradley and this coaching staff.
John: … and that's the other view.
Jeff from Rutland, MA:
Some great plays undone by some unbelievable goofs.
John: Yeah … pretty much.
Justin from Jacksonville:
So, we finally have a juggernaut of a day offensively in the red zone. Blake Bortles doesn't throw a pick (although there were quite a few close calls), we win the turnover battle and we still found a way to lose. I found myself thinking, "Only the Jaguars." How about that Allen Robinson guy, though? He's pretty cool. I like him.
John: Nah, it's not only the Jaguars. That sort of game could happen to any team that's struggling the way the Jaguars are on defense. When you can't pressure with four and you're not a very good blitzing team … that's a bad combination – as evidenced a lot of Sunday, particularly on the 87-yard run by Marcus Mariota. And yes, Allen Robinson is cool. There's a lot to like.
Royce from Jacksonville:
Mr. O, when is the answer simply that the Titans' offensive players were better than the Jags' defensive players? We are told about no pass rush, but never told why the pass rush is so bad. Several players were added on defense during the offseason and the team seems slower. What gives?
John: Your question implies that the reasons for the Jaguars' struggling pass rush are never discussed. They actually has been discussed … and discussed … and discussed. It's struggling because their best pass rusher from last season, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, is out. It's also struggling because Leo pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. is out for his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury. It's also struggling because Chris Clemons and Andre Branch haven't been effective enough from the Leo pass-rushing position and because the Leo as a whole hasn't played well enough to affect the quarterback. Those are the reasons, and they're tough reasons to fix during the season.
Matt from Stroudsburg, PA:
If Myers makes his extra-point attempts at worst we are looking at a tie game with under two minutes remaining. I like the kid and think he'll be kicking in the NFL again, but it's inexcusable at this point. He has to go to send a message that failure isn't an option.
John: It's harder and harder to argue otherwise. I've written for the last several weeks that Myers must make make-able kicks – the Jaguars' margin for error just won't allow them to leave points on the field and expect to win. He now has missed six extra points this season and there's little doubt the two he missed Sunday continued to shape the game until there was no more game left to shape. But if there's a move, I doubt it will be made to "send a message." It would be more about getting better at the position.
Kyle from Palm Harbor, FL:
Hate to break it to you and all the other fans, but this team is not close. They beat Miami (barely), Buffalo (narrowly), Baltimore (luckily) and Tennessee (flukily). They would not have beaten Buffalo if Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins had been in the game. They have lost to two rookie quarterbacks. Close??? They are nowhere close to being close.
John: This is the Great Jaguars Debate right now, isn't it? Are they close because the games have been close or are they lousy because they're losing and haven't beaten a great team? Evidence suggests the talent base is improving, and that good young players are starting to grow into more mature, better players. I believe that growth will continue and that that that will make the Jaguars better going forward – however close you do or don't believe they are right now.
Pete from Jacksonville:
Defense? Worst in three years. What's up?
John: Struggling pass rush. Not a great blitzing team. Second-worst day of the season against the run Sunday. Poor tackling. Tough combination.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
Better … sure, but just not good enough. I don't mean good enough for the playoffs (please, really?); I mean good enough to not again be one of three or four worst teams in the league. We have four wins and each was against a really bad team – or in the Bills' case a team playing without their top three offensive players. We are bad. You mentioned not having to redraft strong safety because of Johnathan Cyprien. Sorry, the defense just gave up 450 yards and 35 points to the Titans, not the Patriots.... the Titans. Every defensive position is potentially needing to be redrafted!
John: I understand who beat the Jaguars Sunday, and I understand postgame frustration. But the Jaguars obviously won't and shouldn't redraft the entire defense. There are good, young players there and when they are supplemented with other good, young players the unit will improve. A lot of the things that bit the Jaguars Sunday have bitten them all season. The run defense was an issue for the first time in a long time on Sunday, but one bad game on that front doesn't mean you redraft the entire unit.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, I'm sure narrative of the team media will be something like "Well, I expected them to win six-to-seven games this year, and that's still within reach." But the problem with that rationale is as the season has gone on, expectations can/should have changed. The Jaguars' schedule this year has frankly been a joke. Their schedule wasn't expected to be difficult, and it's been even easier than anticipated. They may win six-to-seven games, but the way the season has played out, at this point wouldn't that be underperforming? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: That may or may not be the narrative; I don't spend as much time thinking about "narratives" and "team media" as people like to think. I try to answer questions about the Jaguars and put into perspective what's going on with the team. Do I think fans have a right to be disappointed in the record? Sure? Do they have a right to be disappointed that they haven't beaten some struggling teams when they had a chance to compete in a struggling division? Sure. At the same time, I also realize how much a lot of elements of this team have improved from last season, and I believe the continuation of that improvement will give this team a chance to grow. I never talked much about what record would be "enough" or satisfying to fans because what I wanted to see from this team this season was improvement and proof that it was moving in the right direction. I believe we've seen that.
Gamble from Washington, DC:
To paraphrase Gus: this pass rush and kicking game may be intolerable, but the players cannot be replaced ... for now. An effective pass rush would change this team completely, no?
John: It wouldn't hurt.
Nick from Fort Polk, LA:
At first I was mad at the defense for obvious reasons. Then, I realized it didn't matter what defenses were playing; Bortles and Mariota were in the zone! As a Jag fan I'm disappointed we lost. As a football fan I'm excited! Bortles versus Mariota is going to be a lot of fun to watch for hopefully the next decade!
John: I certainly admire your enthusiasm, though I can't really share it. Yes, Mariota played well, but the Jaguars' defense showed a couple of the same critical deficiencies – inability to effectively rush the passer and inability to neutralize the tight end – that have been hurting them in recent weeks. The defense also really struggled against the run. That was discouraging because that had been a strength all season. I agree that Bortles versus Mariota will be intriguing for a long time. It will be even more intriguing when the Jaguars' defense is good enough to disrupt Mariota consistently.
Stan from Jacksonville:
We should have won the game. We didn't win the game.
John: Well put.