Something pretty special

Let's get to it . . . Robert from Moorpark, CA:
These Daryl Smith doubters annoy me. Did no one else notice how impressive the defense was last year before the injuries? John, can you tell these folks the importance of a solid linebacker corps? Insurmountable difference when all our starters are healthy, then when we got plagued with injuries. The defense was top-notch, or maybe I'm just a homer...
John: I don't know that there are a lot of Daryl Smith "haters," but because he's so low-key and unassuming, he hasn't been honored much. Maybe that's why it's hard for many people to process that his absence could make as huge a difference as it has. Now, I'll be the first to say that there's more going on with the defense than Smith's absence, but his presence almost certainly will help the run defense. Don't forget that Smith set a franchise record for tackles for loss last season. Making a stop behind the line puts the offense in a passing situation, which makes it easier to rush the passer. Are the Jaguars a Top 5 defense with Smith? Probably not. I said throughout the offseason I wasn't sure the Jaguars were really one of the best five or six defenses a year ago. But does he make the unit better? You have to think so.
James from Lawai, HI:
I forgot what I was going to ask you...
John: It was probably something really stupid.
Mark from Beaufort, SC:
Minus the kicker, punter, running back and cornerback do you see any hope for this roster moving toward the future?
John: Sure. Left tackle Eugene Monroe is a core player, and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is very good. The safeties are good. I also think we have to wait and see on Andre Branch and Justin Blackmon. Those positions take time for rookies. We'll see how the rest of it develops this season.
Eddie from Jacksonville:
A thought just occurred to me. How many of the wide receivers on this year's roster caught a pass from Gabbert last year?
John: Two.
Pete from Gainesville, FL:
Don't go crazy. There are still fans that are reasonable, like me. I don't enjoy seeing the Jaguars play bad, but I also have history and perspective on my side. The Saints had 20 straight years of losing seasons, and other stretches of seven and eight years. The Jaguars will get better and I still believe in the direction they are going.
John: Good for you. I will say it's more than understandable that fans are frustrated. Losing stinks, and waiting for success is hard. The problem is right now is because the Jaguars are 1-3 – and because they haven't looked better than they did last season - it's hard to believe that patience is paying off. The feeling inside the building is that seasons aren't decided in four games, and that things can and will turn around. That needs to happen soon.
Billy from Cynthiana, KY:
Regarding the question from Roy yesterday, wasn't that the big issue everyone had with Blackmon coming out? They didn't know if he could create separation at this level. Do you think this is something that will come with time or will never develop?
John: It's indeed the pressing issue regarding Blackmon. It's not surprising that it's an issue. Young receivers often need time to develop the detailed routes and subtleties in patterns needed to get open consistently. I watched Reggie Wayne take three years to develop into a big-time, Pro Bowl receiver. Blackmon can develop into a productive player, but it may take time.
Rick from Jacksonville:
I'm shocked how accepting Jacksonville fans are when it comes to being losers. You have a quarterback who can win seven games by himself sitting the bench and a young nobody as your starter. Jags used to be a team I respected, but now it seems they have no idea what they are doing.
John: Jaguars fans accepting losing? Most of those fans don't write me every day, I guess, and they sure don't follow me on Twitter. As far as the quarterback who can win by himself, where is he again?
Greg from Atlanta, GA:
Outside of Gabbert, what one player do you think will have to have a big game in order for us to beat the Bears Sunday?
John: Justin Blackmon. No, wait. Jeremy Mincey. No, wait. Cecil Shorts. The reality is this isn't something that's about one guy. It's about a lot of players looking in the mirror, improving and making plays.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
I know every team is looking for that game-changer on both sides of the ball, the person who has a knack for getting the crucial sack, the big interception, or huge catch. I also know that if it were that simple to find one, every team would get them, but I do think this is the Jaguars' biggest problem. We don't have players that change the outcome of the game when it counts the most.
John: No question that's the problem. Mike Mularkey has been talking about it for the last few days. At some point, these guys have to make plays. When you go entire games without making big plays, it's very difficult to get momentum or gain control. When the other team has control of the game, they can call plays that put them in advantageous situations. It just tilts the whole thing. This is professional football and in professional football, you need to make plays. It's what you're paid to do.
Sal from El Paso, TX:
So we're supposed to accept that Britton, who was taken early in the second round to play tackle, now might end up getting benched because he's not cutting it at guard?
John: I guess you don't have to accept it. You're thinking, what? Pitchforks at the gates?
Carson from Jacksonville:
On a serious note, how bad would Alabama beat us if we played them in Tuscaloosa Saturday? I'm serious, too. Seriously.
John: On a serious note, the Jaguars would win and it wouldn't be close—and I'm talking 30 or 40 points. Seriously. NFL players are older, bigger, stronger, more mature – more everything. Consider that Justin Blackmon was the best receiver in college football the last two years and is not dominating the pro game. It's different, and even the best players take time to adjust. Alabama's good, but not every player on the roster would start in the NFL, so there's just a big difference.
Brad from Palmdale,CA:
Do you think Clint Session and John Chick will return this season? Those guys would increase the Jaguars' defense a lot, don't you think?
John: I think they would help, sure. Chick would give the Jaguars' defensive end position depth and Session would give the linebackers the aggressive, playmaking linebacker they had for a few games last season. Will Chick make a dramatic improvement in the pass rush? I won't go that far until I see it. I'd say Chick has a better chance of playing than Session, though I wouldn't rule either player out yet. I'd guess we'll be hearing more on this in the next week or so.
Stan from Jacksonville:
I've been wondering this for a while but why does Tyson Alualu get Wednesday off for rest? I understand the reasoning behind Meester, but Tyson?
John: Alualu has been dealing with a knee issue the last few years. The Wednesdays off is to reduce wear on the knee to allow him to play the entire season.
Sam from Pomona, CA:
Not a question, just a suggestion. I think we should just come out in four- and five-wide receiver sets on every play for one game just to see what happens. I mean, we wouldn't have many questions about Blaine after that right?
John: The first question would probably be, "Blaine, are you OK?" after he got hit 35 times with empty- or one-backfield sets. The next step might be to run the Wildcat the whole game one week and the Wishbone the next, just for kicks. It's the NFL. You game plan the best you can to play to your strengths and matchup against the other opponent. You don't just arbitrarily run out a five-receiver set the whole game.
Clay from Jacksonville:
I have to say that the argument that we have good personnel just isn't credible. This team is not competitive against decent or good teams. We have assumed what has become our now customary position of worst offense in the league in both scoring and yards. The upcoming game with the Bears will most likely end in us getting run out of the building again. I'm sorry - but at what point do we call it like it is - this is a bad football team that lacks talent to compete with good NFL teams?
John: That's a familiar refrain, and the counterargument is that we are four games into the season. As disturbing as some of the results have been, teams often do turn starts like this around, and teams do improve. If we're saying these things in Week 10, then that's different. Right now, this is a team that's 1-3 and was a play away from 2-2.
Ray from Jacksonville:
What is the prize for being the first to declare a player a bust?
John: Judging by my inbox, it must be something really special.

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