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O-Zone: Welcome hiatus

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Robert from St. Johns, FL:
First, let me say … I believe the Jaguars are moving in the right direction. I think we have the right ownership and coaching staff in place. My question is "Where is the on-field leadership and 'attitude?'' Someone on offense and someone on defense need to become the leader. Get nasty!! Get angry!! Stop accepting status quo!!
John: Long-time, loyal readers – and he knows who he is – can probably predict that I'd be lukewarm on this. Though I understand fans like to see fiery leadership and guys in each other's faces, I'd rather see execution, efficiency and big plays, and I'm not really one who thinks one leads to the other. The Jaguars don't lack fire. They don't lack want-to. They don't lack effort. There was plenty of energy and enthusiasm on Sunday against Dallas; it just all went away quickly when the execution wasn't there.
Sherick from Jacksonville:
Do ya think if fans started booing Bortles loudly it would give him the motivation to be awesome?
John: No. I think Bortles is motivated. Fans' reaction one way or the other doesn't affect that.
Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
The quality of the complaints is rising.
John: If you're talking about the "quality" of the complaints in the O-Zone inbox – and that's really all the complaints I hear … nah, I really haven't sensed much quality there. Quality would suggest that because the Jaguars are losing that the people complaining about the general manager and head coach and everything else are correct. I just sense fans are frustrated with losing, and that frustration has a tendency to override logic and reason. That's OK. That's not an insult to fans. This is a process, and the Jaguars overall have improved this season. They started from a very low place and are climbing out of that place. It's at a slower rate than people wanted, but they're climbing nonetheless. There are legitimate reasons the climb is slow, and the complaints of people doesn't make that any less true.
John from Cape May, NJ:
We, as an offense, have got to open up the play-calling. There were countless times where the receivers were either running five-yard slants or quick outs or hitches for five yards. Challenge the defense … throw downfield .. make them respect you. Bortles is a weapon, take off the safety, and let him fire away.
John: Ideally, that would be … well, ideal. Here's the thing: it's very tough to constantly take the five- and seven-step drops needed to throw deeper downfield with a line that has trouble protecting for so long. That's not to say the line isn't improving. It is, but it's not a fully-developed, experienced line, and the plays you're talking about take a lot more time to develop than shorter patterns. You don't want your quarterback simply dropping and firing randomly downfield, anyway, but protection is one reason you don't see it more often.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Cyprien is average at best. May make a good hit here or there, but more times than not, he's missing a tackle on a big offensive play.
John: Johnathan Cyprien didn't have his best game on Sunday, and he hasn't been at a Pro Bowl level this season, but he has been better than average. He's missed a few tackles that stand out, yes, but overall the defense is better when he's in the game.
Ronnie from Jacksonville:
I've read here and elsewhere the Jags plan to spend rather heavily in free agency next offseason. If true, how does that jibe with all this build-through-the draft talk I've heard the past two years? Contradiction?
John: Not at all. Since David Caldwell and Gus Bradley arrived in January 2013, the plan has been consistent that the team will build through the draft, and that that's where the core of the team will be built. It also has been clearly stated that after a couple of drafts, the team would supplement that core by targeting areas of needs in free agency. I'd expect that targeting to increase in the coming offseason.
Eric from St. Augustine, FL:
Great time for a bye week. The young guys could use a breather and everyone seems like they could really use some extra time to refocus on the fundamentals. Catching, tackling, and blocking. Think Gus will give them any time off during the bye week this year?
John: It is a good time for a bye week. That's true a little because of fundamentals, but mostly because it felt after the game Sunday like this was a team that needed a few days to reset and refocus. There was a real disappointment and real anger from players and coaches about losing as they did in Dallas, particularly with how they played in the first half. Bradley gave the players off this week. You would like to see them take that time turn that into the growth, the maturity – the "next step" as Bradley put it – that's needed. We'll see.
Casey from San Luis Obispo, CA:
I have been a Jags fan since I was nine years old and have gone through the torment of the team's seven-year playoff drought, combined with a 33-73 record, since 2007. How are fans, including myself, supposed to remain loyal and hopeful to that kind of product?
John: It's tough. That's why the Jaguars are taking their current approach of building through the draft, enhancing the talent base and developing a roster that can be sustainable. The idea behind doing it that way is so that you don't have the long droughts the Jaguars have experienced for the last seven years – an era that they're still trying to put behind them.
Ted from Jacksonville:
I am tired of hearing about how young and immature the team is. Just like when people said you don't take a QB No. 3 and sit him. They are getting paid to do a job. If they are not ready, they should not be playing. Are the coaches not putting the players in a position to succeed or are the players not being where they should be and not doing what they are taught?
John: I'm sorry you're tired; being tired can be, well … tiring. The problem with not being willing to factor in youth and inexperience into what's going with the Jaguars is to categorically ignore a reality that everyone who understands the NFL will tell you is an enormous and often overriding factor. I can't control fans who don't want to hear it. I can't control fans being tired of it. I can control how I answer questions and analyze the team, and if a team is starting and playing first-year and inexperienced factors, I'm not going to ignore it. So, to answer your final question, the coaches are doing their best to put players in a position to succeed and they are doing it far more often than not. The players are doing what they're taught far more often than not, but because they are rookies, there are also mistakes and inconsistency that lead to the Jaguars overall not being a very good team yet.
John from Saint Cloud, FL:
Rooting for our hapless Jaguars has been both frustrating and disappointing this season. But I don't get the feeling that the team is about to check it in like the imploding Chicago Bears or the Panthers. Is the mood of the team still positive enough to keep working so we have a chance to win some more games this season? I hope... I hope...I hope?
John: Your hope is well-founded. This team has many issues. Youth and inexperience are among them. So is a lack of developed talent. Effort and heart are not.
Scott from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I understand that we have a lot of rookies on our team, especially at the skilled positions. That being said, do we really have the talent on the roster to be a winning team or are we still a long way off there as well?
John: That will depend on how the rookies and second-year players develop. That takes time. There are good signs in some places; there are question marks in others. We'll see.
April from Pooler, GA:
Hi O'man! History. How it loves to repeat itself. We drafted Bortles with a top ten pick, I know. Fast forward to the 2015 draft and the Jaguars are on the clock and Mariota is available. If the staff feels he could be somewhere between Vinny Testaverde and Dan Marino, but closer to Marino, do they have the fortitude to make the pick? Or does the Reggie Williams over Ben Roethlisberger (because we drafted Leftwich the year before) history repeat itself?
John: It depends solely on how the Jaguars feel about Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles. If the staff believes Bortles can't play and that Mariota is the next Dan Marino, then sure … taking Mariota makes sense. I don't get the sense that the team has given up on Bortles, and I don't see Mariota being as good as Marino.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
I don't want to talk to you for two weeks, John.
John: For a second there, I thought you were my wife.

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