Passion not the issue

Last day for Bengals talk. Looking forward to LookAhead Wednesday. Let's get to it . . . Sandie from Yukon, Canada:
I truly hope the offensive line improves sooner than later. Blaine Gabbert can't be a very productive quarterback lying on his back on the field.
John: No, he can't. The Jaguars clearly have a problem on the offensive line. Eben Britton struggled at left guard Sunday and it appears to have had little to do with his ankle. Mike Brewster struggled there, too, but was a bit better. Herb Taylor remains a possibility.
Dustin from Jacksonville:
Is missing Daryl Smith really why our run defense is so bad? I mean, we got Britton and Bradfield back and how'd that work out? I agree getting Smith back will probably help, but our problems are much deeper than one player and selling them as such is just giving false hope.
John: Well, it's obviously more than one player. I've written often that Smith being back – which could happen after the bye – will help the run defense. When he returns, it will make Paul Posluszny better and I do think that will get opposing offenses in 2nd-and-7 more often. That alone will help the run defense because that forces teams to throw more. But no question the interior run defense overall has to improve and that's about more than the absence of Smith.
Josh from Lynchburg, VA:
I absolutely hated the decision to kick a field goal. I understand you have to get points on a turnover, but this team has proven that if it doesn't get touchdowns, it has no chance of even being competitive, let alone winning a game.
John: The Jaguars in that situation needed points because if you don't get them the game probably is over. The field goal got it back down to a one-score game and considering the way the Bengals had dominated the second quarter that had to give the Jaguars a lift. The argument against is that the Bengals went right back down and scored, essentially ending the game. In retrospect, it's easy to say that the Jaguars couldn't win without getting a touchdown there, but you can't assume you're not going to be able to score another touchdown. In that situation taking the field goal showed confidence that the defense could get the ball back. Perhaps that confidence was misplaced, but that's what it showed.
Clay from Section 214:
If you are down three scores with seven minutes to play, why would you punt?
John: I wondered the same thing. The argument is if you punt and play good defense there's still time to get three possessions and if you turn the ball over on downs there the game is absolutely over. Still, it's tough to argue your point.
T. from Salisbury, MD:
Two plays. Two plays in the Jags' favor and the game would've had an entirely different outcome. One was the interception/fumble. Two was the fake punt. They have to make those plays. Right now, the team looks to be playing with zero confidence. I know this team is better than this.
John: The Jaguars think so, too, and Mularkey has spent a lot of time in the last couple of days talking about the need to make big plays. Good teams make plays in those situations and they absolutely tilt momentum one way or the other. The Jaguars need to start making those plays. Fast.
Tommy from Jacksonville and section 122:
What I see are weak offensive and defensive lines. No push on either side is not a good combination. What say you??
John: I say you're right. The left guard position has to get fixed. That's Priority No. 1. I have more faith than many that the run defense will improve when Smith returns, but getting pass rush blocked on the interior of the line – if you don't fix that, it's hard to play offense.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
I bought a used vehicle last year. I paid pretty much what they were asking, and like my rig. But in my excitement, I forgot to do a Carfax search. I found out later the vehicle had in fact been in a minor wreck. No matter how much I like my vehicle, I can't get over the nagging fact if I had done my due diligence, I could have gotten it for a lot less money. That said, there is no way to convince me that we couldn't have gotten Anger in the fifth round. That feeling of lost value never goes away.
John: I'm glad you like your car. I don't think they could have gotten him in the fifth round.
Eric from Redondo Beach, CA:
I understand wanting to get Gabbert more throws, especially since he looked terrific in the preseason –but passing on 75 percent of first downs? That seems too much for me. I think we should have ran the ball more on first, and tried to sprinkle some of Gabbert's passing attempts into second down instead. What are your thoughts?
John: I think the Jaguars need to throw more on first down overall, and the only way to do that is to start doing it. In retrospect, could the Jaguars have been more balanced? Yes, I suppose, but as Mike Mularkey said Monday, the Jaguars were trying to take advantage of injuries in the Bengals' secondary. Had they lost and not tried to do that the criticism would have been widespread. The problem with the plan was the offensive line couldn't pass block. They didn't anticipate that.
Saif from Washington, DC:
Are players' fundamentals basically developed only in the off-season, since the season is devoted to game-planning? For example, are Gabbert's mechanics and the defense's tackling going to stay at about the same level till next year?
John: Most of the fundamental work done by NFL players is done in the offseason. With game-planning, there's little time for work on basics during the season. That's not to say you won't see any improvement, but it's tough to focus on fundamentals during the season.
Mike from Ponte Vedra, FL:
It's really not that complicated. When the quarterback is overmatched, the rest of the offense breaks down. When the offense is overmatched, the defense eventually breaks down. It's a quarterback league and ours isn't ready for prime-time right now.
John: Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Sometimes, you have to block and rush the passer.
Jordan from Orlando, FL:
Derek Cox is nothing short of dominant. Do you see the Jaguars changing their scheme and just putting him on dominant receivers?
John: It's not always as simple as just saying, "Derek, cover this guy all over the field." There are times you want to run different defenses and mix things up. All of that said, yes, I think you'll see a lot more of Cox on the team's best wide receiver.
Big Paul from Fort Lauderdale, FL:
John, when is it time to pull the plug on Gabbert? He has had enough starts to be winning games. Do we wait until the season is out of reach to give Henne a chance? Back in the day, Rob Johnson or Jay Feidler could step in and light it up.
John: Rob Johnson and Jay Fiedler lit it up because Tony Boselli, Leon Searcy, Fred Taylor, James Stewart, Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith played around them. As far as pulling the plug on Gabbert, toward what end? Is he going to create separation? Is he going to pass block? He hasn't been great, but he hasn't been the problem.
Keith from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Twelve more games in which to develop and improve. Our three losses are to teams all currently in first place with a combined record of 10-2. That is our silver lining. I looked forward to seeing improvement against the Bears. The season and our hopes didn't end Sunday.
John: You're right, Keith. The Bengals and Texans are good, but what frustrates fans is the one-sided nature of the two home losses. There were times the games didn't look close, and it didn't look like the Jaguars could compete, and that's what makes the silver lining tough. Mike Mularkey's right when he said teams can overcome those things and turn seasons around, but you've got to get some things fixed to be competitive against the better teams.
Jeff from Knoxville, TN:
Sometimes being a fan is hard. Usually I can find a few positive things about a game. This loss was really bad. The O-line, the D-line, the pass coverage, everything seemed really out of sync. What made it worse is the Jaguars show so little passion on the field. I watch other teams and the players are excited, passionate and going all out. I don't feel that from the Jags right now. It really makes the game hard to watch. I am not ready to give up the Jags but it is getting harder to watch.
John: A lot was out of sync. I'd caution against the passion thing, though. When you have trouble stopping the run and protecting the passer, it often looks like a lack of passion. A lot of times, though, it's just that you're having trouble stopping the run and protecting the passer. It's not a good thing and it's difficult to win that way, but it's not a lack of passion. That's not the issue.

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