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Some days are better than others

Last day for Texans questions, and we'll limit 'em where we can. Looking forward to LookAhead Wednesday this week.

Let's get to it . . . Fred from Waycross, GA:
I honestly see the start of our rebuilding as the day Mr. Khan bought this team. I grew up in Dallas/FTW in the '80s and remember a Cowboys team going 1 and 15 the first year after being sold. If the arrow is pointing up, then that is really all that matters. Correct?
John: There is truth in what you say. The fact that General Manager Gene Smith is in his fourth season and Blaine Gabbert is in his second understandably makes it tough for many fans to see things that way. In a real sense, you're right, but losses like the one Sunday always make it difficult to see big-picture timelines.
Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL:
What is with the cheerleaders? They were out of sink and seemed very disorganized. Is their coach on the hot seat?
John: Maybe that was the problem. We need to get the Roar back in the sink.
Tim from Tucson, AZ:
No Daryl Smith is a huge hole in the D – no one filling gaps on the run and 20 of Schaub's passes were dumpoffs to TE/RBs. It's tough to get much pressure when a team runs well and play-action passes quickly. Offensively, it was way conservative and vanilla - almost like they wanted to avoid screwing up. Thoughts O-Man?
John: I agree with you about Smith's absence hurting. He played at a higher level last season than many analysts realized, and the Jaguars appear to miss him greatly. As for the offense, Mike Mularkey understandably hasn't been overly open about the game plan Sunday. Most coaches don't want to share much along those lines, but it would stand to reason that the Jaguars simplified their plan against the Texans because of a concern over how much time an injured offensive line could give Gabbert. And yeah, in a situation like that sometimes you try to not screw things up. I wasn't crazy about no passes going downfield, but my guess is a lot of fans would have been less thrilled with sack/fumbles going the other way, and that's what the team was trying to avoid.
Scott from Kings Bay, GA:
The receivers didn't seem to get separation and Blaine seemed to have to throw into ever-tighter windows. I worry this team is being successfully defended as it has the past five years: stop Jones-Drew and force the quarterback to beat you deep. It has worked like a charm for years now. It's really a punch in the gut to see it continuing even through an entire offensive coaching staff change and almost entirely new receivers. What will it take to break this trend?
John: The receivers must run better routes, and make plays on the ball. And the offensive line must get healthy and give Gabbert more time. Gabbert also must play better. A lot of things went into Sunday's performance, including the team perhaps needing some more time to get completely in sync offensively, but receivers getting more open than they did Sunday would be a big first step.
Dave from Ada, OK:
Two games in. Expectations have fallen like an express elevator to hell. Thinking about upcoming games (no matter who it is) makes me wince. Am I a bad fan?
John: No, just a fan – and that's a beautiful thing, even on weeks such as this.
Drew from Buford, GA:
Things that stood out: 1, Lack of intensity or heart – a lot of ho-hum body language out there; 2, the players do not seem to have grasped the offensive or defensive scheme well; 3, play-calling was bland and somewhat predictable. I would like to see more intensity from them for sure.
John: I'm always wary of saying a team lacked intensity or heart. It's my experience most NFL players want to win and play hard on Sunday. When discussing this topic I always think back to what Tony Dungy liked to say when asked about it, and that's that teams that have trouble running and stopping the run always look like they're not trying. He said it's usually not a lack of heart, rather a lack of stopping the run. Your other points are being made a lot this week, so I'll let my other answers stand.
Tony from Jacksonville:
Our team looked awesome for a brief period against the Vikings when our entire starting line was in. Since then, it's been rough. This is the NFL and it's early in the season. We're not the only team that's been erratic. I still feel we have a good core of talent, but too many key players have been on the sidelines. I still have hope.
John: As well you should. As much as fans hate hearing about injuries – and as much as senior writers weary of writing about them – injuries in the NFL do matter. You can overcome one or two. Overcoming five as the Jaguars have sustained on the offensive line is a different proposition.
Walter from Orange Park, FL:
I am not one of the people asking for Gene Smith to be fired, but one fair criticism of him is not addressing O-line depth in the offseason. I realize there have been a lot of injuries, but this was a common concern at the end of the offseason and it turned out to be a correct one, in my opinion. Is it not fair to ask why this wasn't addressed, especially considering how much cap space they had?
John: It's fair to ask, but I'd argue that the Jaguars were relatively deep on the offensive line. They then lost John Estes, Will Rackley, Jason Spitz, Cameron Bradfield and Eben Britton. I think it's fair to question the depth at a few positions – linebacker, perhaps – but to expect a team to plan for five offensive line injuries is asking a lot.
Cole from Jacksonville:
Could you explain the rationale behind starting Herb Taylor over Mike Brewster Sunday? Taylor wasn't terrible considering the situation he came into, but I figured familiarity with the offensive system and a solid preseason would have given Brewster a leg up. What can we expect moving forward should Britton miss more action?
John: Mularkey said the belief was that Taylor would be a better matchup, and that the Jaguars also wanted to have Brewster available as a swing player in case someone else on the interior got hurt. Mularkey said this week Taylor will start if Britton can't play Sunday.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
Why did Gabbert not get Blackmon the ball? It's hard to see on TV, but on the one play where the pass was completed to Laurent Robinson for about 6 yards out to the 7 to give Anger some room to punt, Blackmon was open another 2 yards up the field. If Gabbert passes to Blackmon and he breaks a tackle or two, he gets the first down. Instead Robinson is tackled in his tracks and the Jags punt. Get the ball to Blackmon more!! Play calling and QB execution were both poor overall.
John: I'm not going to tell you the plays that ended up being run were the best Sunday. I, like many, believed the Jaguars could have gone up field more. There were a variety of reasons this didn't happen. Protection sometimes didn't allow it and other times Mularkey said Gabbert may have not quite trusted a receiver to be open on a route. That happens with a young quarterback, and on the play to Robinson that went for 32 yards, for example, he made the right read, trusted the route and came up with a big play. So, no, the play-calling and execution weren't perfect Sunday, because nothing was, but I don't think it's accurate to portray Sunday as Gabbert missing a bunch of receivers who were wide open. The receivers, Blackmon included, did not have a great day and need to get open better and more reliably. I believe that will happen, and believe Gabbert will continue to trust that process more as time goes on, and I don't disagree with many readers who say they want to see that happen sooner not later.
Lance from Jacksonville:
Do you ever want to grab a Snicker's bar to get away from doing the live feed of Jaguar's games?
John: There were times Sunday I wanted something stronger than a Snicker's.
Jason from Section 232:
Lots of hate on the QB, I assume. True, the 0-for-9 on 3rd downs is rough. But let's look at it: 3rd and 3 (batted down), 3rd and 20, 3rd and 12, 3rd and 9, 3rd and 4, 3rd and 29, 3rd and 5, 3rd and 14, and 3rd and 17. Of those, only three were "manageable." Of those three, one was batted at the line and one was dropped. Gee, I wonder why he didn't have more success?
John: You had to look closely to notice that, and you did. I thought a lot about Gabbert's game Sunday night, and I wondered like many if it was time to be harder on him. I wondered if what we had seen in preseason and the regular-season opener was an aberration. Then, I thought back to what we saw on Sunday. While the play as a team was discouraging and made it easy to criticize Gabbert, the point you make is a good one – that Gabbert was rarely in situations in which a quarterback has a good chance to succeed. Throw in the fact that receivers were giving him some very small windows and I'm not sure it's time to bury Gabbert yet. He has to play better, as does the offense, but we need a few more games before we call Sunday a trend.
Charles from Orange Park, FL:
Somehow I get the feeling Monday was not a good day to be the senior writer.
John: It's always a good day to be the senior writer. Now, are some good days better than others? Well . . .

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