CHANDLER'S CROSS, England – Let's get to it … Eric from Winter Garden, FL:
Back in the day, there was resignation. We looked at the season schedule, we sighed, we wrote the Jags off for another season and life was flat, numbed, unfeeling nothingness. Now, we have heartbreak. Game after game, we are so close even the media critics are holding their thumb and forefinger together and saying, "You were THAT close …"
John: There is some truth to what you say. The biggest truth is Jaguars players and coaches appear to legitimately not be resigned to anything and in fact very much think this is a team close to breaking through and turning your heartbreak into joy. And soon. It would be better, of course, if that wasn't the case. It would be better if the Jaguars had broken through a few more times and turned close into victories. Close losses are frustrating and frustration often becomes people not seeing real improvement. Plus, there are people who understandably say, "The only improvement is winning." That's not a correct viewpoint, but it's understandable because winning feels so good and losing feels so bad. And make no mistake: heartbreak indeed is better than flat, numbed, unfeeling nothingness with the worst-case scenario being my scenario, which is a nice, tidy mix of all of the above.
Brett from Green Bay, WI:
John, Denard Robinson seems like a bright spot on the Jaguars. Do you think Bortles is "the guy" and do you think it might be an option for Denard to be put at quarterback?
John: Whoa! You were right there, Brett … I mean right there. You had a coherent email going, and then you got to the last line and went careening off the tracks. Denard Robinson at quarterback? No, no, no. Denard Robinson appears to be on the verge of becoming a reliable, productive NFL running back, but just because he played quarterback in college does NOT make him an NFL player at the position.
Bobby from Salt Lake City, UT:
So, in your opinion, how did Jeremiah George perform in his first start before he got injured? Do you think, if healthy, he will keep that job next week or do you think they will go back to J.T. in the middle?
John: Jeremiah George appeared to play very well in the short time he played. He was in the base package, which means he was playing in situations where his strength and pursuit against the run could come into play. He sustained a high-ankle sprain against the Bengals, which means he's likely to miss some time. Had that not been the case, I think George was going to get an extended opportunity in the middle with J.T. Thomas on the outside. If George is out, then the guess is Thomas will go back to the middle.
Ron from Fleming Island, FL:
O-Zone, it is not the losing that is troubling, it is how we are losing. One area improves and then two others regress. Can one more off season really get us competitive?
John: First, my guess is it is indeed the losing that's troubling you. It absolutely is troubling people around the Jaguars. Second, the "how-we-are-losing" part doesn't trouble me the way it does you. Not that I see losing as good. It's not, but I don't see what's going on this season as progression and regression. I see it as a team overall still trying to find itself, and overall, there has been significant progress on that front. Over the course of nine games, the defense has improved significantly, and actually played well for the most part Sunday despite significant injury and despite playing a very good offense. As far as the Jaguars' offense, it also has made significant progress this season. It's not consistent. It's not scoring in the red zone as it would like. But remember the first two-and-a-half games, when the offense was drowning in a sea of three-and-outs with no hope of running efficiently? That's gone. The Jaguars are moving the ball. They're doing it in fits and starts, which is indicative of a young offense trying to find itself. So, with all of that in mind – yes, I don't think there's any question an offseason can get the Jaguars more competitive. Just look at the strides made from last season to this one.
John from Orlando, FL:
New week, same Bortles. He will always throw horrible interceptions and cost the Jaguars the game. He is a bust.
William from Section 423:
Zone, is there any identifiable root cause of our generally poor special teams play? Or is it just a simple lack of focus?
John: This is something I'm sure will be a focus this week. There's part of me that wants to say it's because the Jaguars' special teams players are young. And they are. The blocking has struggled much of the season, and an argument could be made that Bryan Anger could get punts off a half-step quicker. And Josh Scobee's kickoff the other day … that can't happen. But all of those don't feel right. A lot of teams are young. Five blocked kicks in nine games, and two blocked punts in one games … I'm honestly sort of at a loss. I've never seen anything like it.
Thomas from Fort Myers, FL:
So … big question … what do we make of Denard Robinson? He has gone over 100 total yards three weeks in a row. I don't think he has elite breakaway speed, but he is a good athlete and can get some tough yards and find holes. However, I'm still not sure what exactly to make of him and if he is the long-term solution.
John: I'm pretty sure Denard Robinson has elite speed. In fact, that's the one thing most people long agreed he had. It was the tough-yards and finding-holes part that people questioned. I don't know exactly what to make of him, either, but if he keeps playing as he has then he's the long-term solution to something.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
C'mon, John. Really? Like Jeff Prosser said, I don't believe one bit that he (Bortles) is trying to throw that pass out of bounds. He's trying to force that throw on three defenders. If he's trying to throw that out of bounds then we need a new quarterback with a stronger arm because he threw that six yards shorter than what he is telling us. Heck, I could throw out of bounds all the way from the second level of that end zone on where he is standing. Stop with the excuses!
John: I understand why people would feel this way. It was such a horrible-looking interception that it's hard to grasp just what happened. But since he has been with the Jaguars, Blake Bortles has been nothing if not honest and forthcoming. He talked openly about his fundamentals in training camp and has pretty much answered everything about his play this season openly and honestly. You can't rip open a guy's head and see what's inside, but until proven otherwise, when Bortles speaks about his play, I'll assume he's doing what he can to be as honest as possible.
Mark from Green Bay, WI:
Now that's the Hurns we know and love.
John: Allen Hurns had another good game Sunday, and there's no doubt his first nine NFL games have been impressive. I hesitated to anoint him a Pro Bowl selection after a two-touchdown performance in the regular-season opener, because my experience is just because a young receiver is capable of having a big early-season game doesn't mean he can repeat that. I still don't know if Hurns is Pro Bowl-bound any time soon. He has struggled with drops and will need to improve there. But hey … I'm the guy with low expectations for a rookie wide receiver. Hurns has five touchdowns through nine games and has a knack for making plays on the ball at important times. He has done that better than any Jaguars rookie receiver this season, so is this guy a find? Does he have a future? I'm not saying no.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
Is there a certain person or group that just track practice-squad players to see who is available? The changes happen so fast week to week that it must be crazy to process all the information. How does it get done?
John: Yes, the Jaguars have a pro personnel department. The job of the people in that department are to know the personnel around the rest of the league and to be prepared if the team needs to make a move or if there is a player available who might be an upgrade to the current roster.
Will from Section 423:
Crucial mistakes at crucial times. When will it stop?
John: When the Jaguars mature and improve.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
Here's the thing. We have a rookie quarterback, and since he's been playing the Jags have been in position to win, tie or lead in the fourth quarter of every game. I'll take that every week for the rest of his career. Once he irons a couple of things out, those close games will turn into wins. How hard is that to understand?
John: You know what? I wish I'd written that.
O-Zone: Wishful thinking
CHANDLER'S CROSS, England – Let's get to it … Eric from Winter Garden, FL: