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Staying with the process

Gene Smith understands the frustration.

Smith, midway through his third season as the Jaguars' general manager, said with a 2-6 record at the bye week it's easy to understand why fans are upset, and said he knows that patience is a difficult request.

But while that's true, Smith said he believes to his core that this is, too:

The roster has improved. And steady improvement will follow.

It's the last part that Smith said will yield results.

"This is clearly a team that has improved talent-wise over the last three years," Smith said this week during Jaguars' 2011 bye week. "We're getting closer to where we want to go but we're not there yet. We still have to continue to add players who can assist our cause to compete to win a world championship.

"There's a process and with a process if you're trying to do it the right way, you have to have some patience. In saying that, you do have to see some progress being made. Sometimes, if you're not winning it doesn't appear as if enough good things are happening.

"But if you're an improving team, eventually you'll be a winning team, a team that will be able to sustain winning, and that's our goal."

Smith this week said while that's hard to see, it remains true, and he said he believes the Jaguars will show improvement over the second half of the season.

"I want improvement and sustained winning," Smith said. "I want the silver lining to be the second half, what we weren't in the first half – a team that executes better and finishes the season better than we have our last two. This team's very capable of doing that."

Smith also addressed the first-half performance of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Gabbert, after spending the first two games backing up Luke McCown, has started the last six games, completing 79 of 173 passes for 907 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions. But while there has been criticism of Gabbert in recent days and weeks, Smith said the experience of playing against the NFL's top four-ranked defenses – Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston and Cincinnati – has been invaluable.

He also said the drops from the Jaguars' receiving group haven't helped the passing offense.

"Certainly, at the wide receiver position there are details we can continue to improve on," Smith said. "You can be big. You can be fast. You can be tough. But the No. 1 thing you have to be able to do as a wide receiver is catch the football. We have to do that more consistently with our entire receiving group. I think when we do that you'll see more sustained drives and more finished drives with touchdowns."

Smith said while Gabbert has thrown for fewer than 100 yards in his last two starts, he doesn't worry  that the rookie will lose confidence.

"Knowledge is confidence and he's knowledgeable at what he's doing because he prepares well," Smith said. "I feel like his self-confidence is strong. His teammates certainly have confidence in him. He's mentally strong. If you're not disappointed in some of the things you do or some of the mistakes you make, you're not setting high enough expectations for yourself and you're not striving to be the best. I know that he is.

"There is a process to this. You have to crawl. You have to walk. You have to run. I don't think he needs any assistance walking. He's certainly not in full stride yet, but he's working to be the best player he can be as soon as he can be."

He also said Gabbert "has the mental and physical skill set to be as good as he decides to be."

"To be great at what you do, you have to have passion for what you do," Smith said. "He's passionate about his profession."

Smith also said the Jaguars have gotten solid performances from an improving defensive line in recent weeks, and said players such as defensive tackles C.J. Mosley and Nate Collins have played well for that group, with rookie guard Will Rackley also improving and playing well the last two games.

Smith also addressed the play of left tackle Eugene Monroe, who – like Gabbert – has been criticized at times early in the season. Monroe struggled during the preseason, but Smith said aside from two games which he missed with a shoulder/neck injury the No. 8 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft has been more technique-sound this season and also has done a solid job mentoring Rackley.

"With the exception of the injury he had where he missed some time, he clearly has played his best football since he became a Jaguar," Smith said.

Smith also said while the 2-6 record at the bye/midseason point is disappointing, he likes what he has seen from the Jaguars' players in a difficult time.

"You have a team that the only credit they want is winning," Smith said. "That's encouraging to see that. It's not about 'I;' it's about 'we.' I think when you get that type of mentality in your locker room, you have an opportunity to do some great things, and I think in time, this team will become one that this city is very proud of."

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