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O-Zone: Well-earned

JACKSONVILLE – Time to look ahead.

Let's get to it … Adam from St. Johns, FL:
How is finding a way to lose every game not on the coach? I don't understand why you guys protect Gus so much. Again, how is finding a way to lose not on the coach!?!?!? Any other market it would be.
John: First, Gus Bradley doesn't need protection. Second, what's done in other markets is of little interest to me, and not pertinent to what's going on with the Jaguars. Still, your question is a fair one and this certainly will be a topic as we enter the second half of the season. Within the context of this team, I won't say Bradley is blameless for the record. He's far from perfect. The Jaguars could have blitzed more early this season, and a coach's game-day decisions always can be questioned. But the biggest reason Bradley doesn't take more heat from "us guys" is the nature of this building process. The Jaguars in Year Three indeed have reached the point where they have good, NFL-level players at most positions. What they don't have yet are many difference-making players, though it appears there are players developing into that role. Bradley clearly has kept this team together and the players believe in him. While you say the Jaguars "find a way to lose" every game, the belief here is they are still at the stage of learning to win. Many don't see the difference, but there is one. That's not an answer that satisfies fans, but it's why there's not more heat on Bradley.
Ryan from Dearborn, MI:
O-Zone - per Yahoo Fantasy Sports, Blake is a Top 10 Quarterback, the A-team are both in the Top 10 of wide receivers and T.J. Yeldon is in the Top 25 of running backs not on injured reserve. We're putting up the numbers. We finally have talent on the field. Why isn't it translating into wins?
John: The Jaguars have a lot of good, young players on offense. That means production – and also means inconsistency. The Jaguars don't have a dominant pass rush and have trouble creating turnovers. Those things make it tough to close games.
Ryan from Harlan, IA:
How is A.J. Cann doing within the offensive line? Is there any chance that Linder could move to left guard next year since Cann seems to fit at right better than left guard? (Assuming A.J. plays well enough to earn a starter spot next year.)
John: Cann is doing well for a rookie, and his future is bright. I think there's definitely a chance of Linder moving to left guard, though I wouldn't expect a decision on that until the offseason. (And I would be very surprised if Cann doesn't start next season.)
Tom from Charleston, SC:
Gus seems to use analysis more than any coach I have ever seen. Such as the Marshall-versus-Walters punt return. Statistics fail to consider the human factor. Is this a sign that he questions his own ability to make critical decisions or perhaps it has to do with the name of the head analyst? Also why do you think Blake seems to fold his tent when the team gets to the opponent's 35-yard line? He has made great physical growth, but when he gets near the red zone he becomes a different player. His loose style becomes tight and he appears to overthink, resulting in ever-apparent mental errors. He is so much better when he relaxes and plays with a "gunslinger" mentality.
John: I don't really see the Marshall-Walters punt return thing as analytics as much as an experience-versus-rookie thing. The Jaguars believe Walters' experience and decision-making is an asset on returns that begin close to their own goal line, and they like the potential explosiveness of Marshall. And at the risk of sounding argumentative twice in one answer, playing well in the red zone often is the last hurdle young quarterbacks face. I suspect Bortles will get better there, and when he does he will look a lot looser.
James from New York, NY:
John, is Julius Thomas really needed on this team? I don't mean is a tight end needed; I mean Julius Thomas? He doesn't seem to mesh. Our veterans need to be leaders and he doesn't have leadership qualities. He was great with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball but we don't have Peyton. Am I crazy? I want to see more Marcedes Lewis!
John: You're not crazy; like a lot of people, you're just disappointed there hasn't more production. But the answer to your question is that the Jaguars do need Julius Thomas to be productive and he can be productive in ways that Lewis hasn't been during his career. As far as leadership, it's tough to lead when you're not producing on the field. When that changes, I imagine Thomas will show more of those "leadership qualities."
Kevin from Jacksonville:
I get that it would be wonderful if we could create pressure with four down linemen. I am just really confused about how we can keep getting press conferences, and posts and interviews, talking about the need to create pressure, and meanwhile backup quarterbacks, injured quarterbacks and injured backup quarterbacks are sitting back in the pocket with way too much time on their hands. Why are we running a scheme that is dependent on a dominant defensive line if we don't have one?
John: This is a good question, but perhaps not as pertinent now as a couple of weeks back. The Jaguars without question could have and probably should have blitzed more in the first six games of the season. It was clear before the Bills game in Week 7 they planned to pressure more with five and six rushers, which they did. As for this past week against the Jets, defense was good – and a lack of pressure sure didn't cost the Jaguars that game. Overall, the pressure improved the last two games. It hasn't been overwhelming, but I wouldn't expect that this season.
Chad from Jacksonville:
I understand the plan with Toby going forward. However, where has Denard been? He is a quick/slash/change-of-pace back. Is he healthy?
John: The issue with Denard Robinson remains the same: T.J. Yeldon has earned a role as a three-down back, and Yeldon has been durable enough with enough stamina to play pretty much the entire game. When that's the case, it's tough for the backup running back to get snaps unless the starter is injured. I still believe the Jaguars believe enough in Robinson to get him opportunities, but I doubt you'll see anything like a 20-10 split with Yeldon and him.
Chris from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada:
Hey, John, what should we do with the offensive line? Blake Bortles was lucky to be able to escape injury … getting sacked six times and God knows how many times knocked down! The Jags need to get some better personnel in front of Blake or it's just a matter of time before something happens to the franchise, which we do not want see!
John: This answer is not meant to give the offensive line a pass. It did not have its best game. But the sacks on Sunday were in no way all on the line. Yeldon didn't have his best game in protection, and Bradley said Monday two of the sacks happened because of the running back position. Bortles also could have avoided at least one of the sacks. As far as "what to do …" I think you'll see Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann starting at guard next season, but I don't know that you need to see dramatic change in that area.
Mike from Waynesville, NC:
Hi John, I hate to throw someone under the bus, but do you get the feeling that our defensive troubles might cause the team to look in a different direction with the defensive coordinator?
John: It's hard to answer that until the end of the season, but I'm not sensing that now. The Jaguars haven't played great defensively this season, but they are seventh in the NFL against the run. Their issues defensively mostly have come because of a lack of ability to pressure the quarterback. Could Bob Babich and Gus Bradley have called more blitzes? Yes. At the same time, the lack of pressure has stemmed more from the down linemen not winning one-on-one than anything else. That's not necessarily on the coordinator.
Levi from Jacksonville:
Good for Jason Myers! Glad he finally made some kicks. But our special teams as a whole have been awful! From coverage to returns to the kicks themselves. What gives? There have been too many times momentum has swung the other way because of poor special teams play. Why does it seem all of them are bad? I feel like special teams are to blame for several losses and not just in Indy.
John: Well, you ain't wrong.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
Maybe I just missed it, but I haven't seen much mention of Darrelle Revis and Allen Robinson exchanging jerseys after the game. I know it's a small gesture, but I think that's incredibly cool. It has been a long time since a Jaguar player garnered that kind of respect. Stands in stark contrast to the reaction of the last Pro Bowl corner Robinson hung 100 yards on too.
John: It was a well-deserved moment for Robinson. As impressive as Robinson has been on the field, he increasingly has become equally impressive off of it. He's a talented player who – like Allen Hurns – exhibits professionalism and work ethic beyond his years. So, yeah … it was cool. Good for him.

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