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Strong by any definition

Let's get to it . . . Nick from Annapolis, MD:
I am getting annoyed at people wanting Gene Smith's head for not building a competitor after four drafts. Half those drafts haven't been given a real shot at development. Gabbert is still a baby for the quarterback position, Will Rackley is on IR, the other picks last year deserve more than one season to develop, and the entire 2012 class is rookies. He's also had one of his top 10 picks lose a lot of explosiveness due to a knee injury. Criticize his first two drafts if you want, but to say he has had four drafts to build a competitive team and use the first five games of the fourth season as your proof doesn't seem rational, especially when you have such a young developmental quarterback involved.
John: I can't say I'm too annoyed with how people feel. When you're 1-4 and losing one-sided games, you can't expect fans to be thrilled. Also, in most games this season, the Jaguars have appeared outmanned at times. Now, I put those annoying little asterisks around appeared because appearances aren't always accurate. Sometimes teams can be closer than they appear. The Jaguars so far this season have lost to four teams with a combined record of 16-4. To have not competed better with three of those teams is not what the Jaguars wanted, but before the season, I believed the Jaguars would struggle against the upper-echelon teams, particularly early. I also thought that if they played smart and improved they would be able to be competitive against the non-elite teams. The rest of the season will determine if they can do the latter. There's still time to improve, but the time is at hand.
Zachary from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars need a breakout player and it needs to happen in the next few weeks. I believe it should be a young draft pick, be it Blaine Gabbert, Justin Blackmon, or even Tyson Alualu. We saw two years ago Ndamakung Suh have a break out year at defensive tackle. The Jags need a break out player who takes a leadership role on this team and gets guys fired up to play each week.
John: I don't know that Alualu this season is going to be a "breakout" player in the sense you're discussing. He is playing better against the run than most people believe, but he doesn't appear likely to be a big pass-rush guy. The players I'll be watching the first month out the bye are Gabbert, Blackmon and Andre Branch. Blackmon seemed to get better the last couple of weeks before the bye, and the Jaguars were able to get him the ball a bit more those two weeks. Branch needs to make a bigger impact the latter half of the season. If those players can turn into something more reliable, then the Jaguars will have something around which to build.
Chad from Henneville:
Should I start against Oakland? If no, why?
John: There are more emails from people asking the same question, Chad, but one reason is that Blaine Gabbert looked better in the preseason. The Jaguars also need to find out this season if Gabbert is the guy for the long-term future of the franchise. He's a young, talented quarterback who is not yet playing at a high enough level for the Jaguars to win, but in the final 11 games, they need to find out if they believe he can be that guy moving forward.
Jim from Meridian, FL:
A stadium-related question. Let's say 10 years from now, everything is going well for the Jags, but Mr. Khan says, "In order for me to keep the team in Jax, we need a new stadium." Is that a realistic scenario, or is Everbank a stadium that allows for multiple upgrades over time?
John: Ten years is a ways out – it's actually about 10 years out. That's a long time, but the guess here is in about a decade it will be pretty obvious the team needs a new stadium before the end of the lease. An awful lot has to happen before that happens, so it's way too early to speculate on the where and hows of that, but I doubt upgrading continually would be the way to go.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I would have fired Gary Kubiak long before 2010. With all the talent they have had what have they won? How long has he been the coach and how many playoffs has he been in? They look good this year but the proof is in the pudding and so far there is no pudding. They are in good position because of their drafting, not their coaching although I am sure Kubiak is a fine coach. If the Texans can stay healthy then any coach in NFL could guide them to the playoffs. One playoff win in how many years? Not my idea of success. We can do better than that I would hope.
John: I don't know, Don – the Texans made serious progress last season, and have shown the signs this season of being one of the elite teams. Kubiak has a reputation as one of the NFL's best offensive minds and Houston's offense looks like what it is supposed to look like – a mature offense with all players understanding its strengths and what needs to be done to play well. No, I'd say Kubiak is a pretty good coach.
Matt from Manassas, VA:
I cannot help but see similarities between the Jaguars the past two years and how the 49ers were. They both had top-pick quarterbacks that looked like busts but through patience (which isn't in abundance), they continued to build through the draft and now the 49ers are seemingly unbeatable. Am I crazy to draw the comparison and think the Jaguars (while not being competitive now) are on the right track?
John: You're not crazy. Yours is the optimist's view. What you'd like to see the rest of the season is evidence as a team and individually that there is talent at important positions. You'd like to see Cameron Bradfield develop at right tackle and Branch at defensive end. You'd like to see Gabbert and Blackmon develop, and perhaps a player such as Cecil Shorts as well. The next 11 games could tell a lot of that tale.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
My concern isn't losing, because being a Jags fan to the bone, I'm used to that. The real issue I have noticed with this year's team is that despite added talent offensively and defensively, they are losing by much larger margins, producing less yardage, and allowing more on defense than last year's much maligned and unproductive roster. What gives? I get that patience is required, but shouldn't we at least be seeing the production on a numeric level increase ever so slightly?
John: That absolutely should be the case as the season continues. Offensively, I expect the Jaguars to improve after the bye as they get used to Mularkey's system. Defensively, there's no question this team isn't playing at as high a level as it did last season. The absence of Daryl Smith has hurt, and the line as a group isn't playing as well as it did last season.
Brett from Ocoee, FL:
For Gabbert's sake, I wish we hadn't drafted him. The Jaguars are well on their way to killing the career of a very talented young quarterback. It started when he was burdened with saving Del Rio's job. It escalated when Del Rio benched him against the Texans. It continues now with him still being forced to "manage the game." Tannehill is "the guy" in Miami. He's being allowed to make mistakes without the threat of the bench. I'm not sure if Mularkey will bench Gabbert if he makes mistakes, but I don't get the feeling that this team is absolutely committed to Gabbert. I'm tired of seeing check downs to Greg Jones because coverage is a little tight. I've seen Gabbert make some amazing throws into tight windows. The more he does it, the better he'll get at it. Right now, he's mastering the check down. What a waste of a franchise QB. Am I wrong?
John: There's a lot of email here, and because it's the bye week and I'm trying to grab a little downtime where I can, I won't try to digest the whole thing. I will address the idea that the team isn't committed to Gabbert. In fact, it has been a strong commitment by any definition. The team has made him the starter and started him in 19 consecutive games even when he has struggled in a lot of games. They haven't made a move to play Chad Henne when a lot of teams might have done just that, and I don't recall there being a "threat of the bench" if he makes a mistake. It's up to Gabbert now to take advantage of that commitment by staying more patient in the pocket and making plays when given the opportunity. If he does that, he can prove himself to be a franchise quarterback.

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