We're going to have a no Blaine Gabbert Wednesday.
Not that he's not a "trending" topic, and not that we won't go back to it Thursday. I just wore myself out writing it Tuesday. I need the break, and he might, too.
The challenge will be finding non-Gabbert questions, but hey, what's life without challenges?
Let's get to it . . . Cathi from Jacksonville:
I was so excited and anticipated a great game by the Jags Monday night. I know there were injuries on the defense, but that did not prevent them from playing a good game in the past games. So I don't buy that excuse. No sacks? No interceptions? Mostly, I felt sorry for Mel Tucker and wonder what part he had in getting this defense ready for the game. It was like a one-sided game after the half and we were the peewee team. I am still questioning why MOJO stays with this team. If I hear anymore trash talk about Blaine I think I will scream. Now ESPN and NFL Network will soak this loss for all it is worth, just to keep their ratings up. Were the people holding the signs for T-Bow Jags fans, because they should have been escorted out of the stadium?
John: A lot of topics, Cathi, and I'll mostly address the first part of your question. I, like you, anticipated a better showing from the Jaguars Monday. Everything leading to the game pointed to that. Also like you, I rarely buy into injuries as a reason for losing and firmly believe a team must be able to overcome them, but realistically there are times when injuries get to be too much. I thought Monday was clearly such an instance. If the Chargers have a strength, it's the ability of Philip Rivers to get the ball deep to athletic receivers and that happened to play right into the Jaguars' weak areas Monday. Now, that's not to say the Jaguars' defense played great otherwise. It didn't, and there's no one happy about the running defense early, late or whenever, but despite that, the Jaguars were in it until Rivers exploited the cornerbacks. I don't know that the Jaguars win if Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Will Middleton or some combination thereof are healthy, but I sure think it's more of a version of the game you anticipated.
Scott from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I've been a season-ticket holder for 15 years now. I do not ever remember a season with this many players being on injured reserve? Is it poor conditioning or just bad luck?
John: It's a combination of many things, and while many have pointed to the lockout or conditioning, it's really not that. A lot of the injuries are just what you suggested, bad luck. Cox, Middleton and Mathis all went down with knee injuries, and on Monday, John Chick went down with a knee injury, too. It's hard to condition to avoid that. The high number of Jaguars players on injured reserve can largely be attributable to timing. If a player on a non-contending team goes down in Week 13 with an injury that is not ordinarily "season ending," it sometimes can end his season just because there's no point in keeping the player active for a final game or two without playoff ramifications. As I've said often, the Jaguars have had a head-turning run of injuries in the last month, but that's not why they're 3-9. It is certainly why the defense struggled on Monday, but the season was lost during the first half of the season and the Jaguars were actually pretty healthy during that stretch.
Nathan from Mayport, FL:
What are your thoughts on Taylor Price?
John: I think he's exactly the sort of player a 3-9 team with a struggling passing game wants to pick up late in the season. The Jaguars liked him coming out of college, and he clearly has ability, having been selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He's young and it makes sense he will still have upside and could develop with an opportunity.
Fred from Jacksonville:
For all MJD has done for the Jaguars we should offer him to opportunity to move to the team of his choice (team of deep playoff potential). The Jags are three years-plus from being that competitive. He's done a lot for us, we'll still follow him but he deserves at least the offer.
John: Your thoughts are well-grounded, but it won't happen, nor should it. First off, Jones-Drew would rather help the Jaguars to a new level than go somewhere and help another team already close. Secondly, don't fall into the trap of believing the Jaguars are three-plus years from contending. This has been a rough year and things haven't gone right, but as bad as it has been, they are a few late-game mistakes from being .500 and an upgrade or two offensively from being better than that. The guy we're not mentioning today must improve, but if that happens, the Jaguars can contend.
Robert from Bartram Springs, FL:
Mama said there'll be days like this. There'll be days like this, my mama said.
John: Mama said, mama said.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Hey, I'm in San Diego this week on business, but I brought my Jaguar gear and wore it to Junior Seau's sports bar Monday. Wow. All I can say is I got picked on a lot and boo'd when I left.
John: I would have thought they would have appreciated you very much.
Clay from Jacksonville:
Which injuries on the defense led to the Jaguars scoring under 20 points, yet again?
John: Point taken.
Steve from Jacksonville:
In the third quarter on Monday night, the Chargers had a 3rd-and-1 and tried to connect on a long pass. Wouldn't it have been better to get the first down first?
John: In most cases, yes, and certainly that's the way it often was done in the past. Now, though, more and more teams – especially those with veteran quarterbacks such as Rivers – see short-yardage as a time to take a shot downfield. Often in that situation defenses are bunched up to play the run, leaving wide receivers single covered downfield. And you know what? The Chargers had a fair amount of success going deep Monday. If I were them, I would have kept taking shots, too. It looked like a lot of fun.
Levi from Bloomington, IN:
How about Cecil Shorts fighting for that ball on the touchdown!? That was a great catch. Is that what the coaches saw all year in practice?
John: It was. Now, I'm not going to go overboard on a guy who has caught two passes this season. Readers know I've been down that road. But the Jaguars have been consistent in their stance they think he will be a contributor and he's starting to show some things in recent weeks.
Kevin from Chicago, IL:
As a Chicago transplant to Jacksonville, I think fans here need a little perspective. I watched the Bears lose year, after year, after year. Unlike the Jaguars, our only Pro Bowler was the punter for a while, and that's because our offense was so terrible that he got a LOT of chances to show off. And then, with a couple of exciting players (Urlacher on D, Hester on returns, now Cutler) the team turned around and went to the Super Bowl (one week after I moved). If you look at all of the top-flight teams, look at their histories. The Packers, Patriots, Saints, even the 49ers, every single team has gone through major slumps where people asked "why do they still have a team." We haven't been around long enough to be complaining about a slump. Be excited about the team and what's coming. Stick with 'em so you can truly say that you are a fan, and when they win, you're right there with them.
John: You have been heard.
Paul from Arlington, VA:
Just in case there are still some people who don't grasp the enormity of the issue at WR, let me point something out: There's bad, there's really bad, and then there's a WR corps that combines for five catches for 40 yards even in a blowout loss where they were up against loose coverage in the fourth quarter. A backup OT had more receiving yards than all but one wide receiver. Can we stop calling these guys "wide receivers" and start using a term like "wide runners."
John: It remains an issue. As I've written often before, the passing offense is broken. And it's probably going to be the off-season before it's fixed. That will mean a new approach with what I've been calling a reset. Personnel must improve, as must players currently on the roster, and an offense conducive to utilizing those players in the passing game must be installed. There are some basic, achievable improvements that must be made, and while it's not an easy process, progress can be made – and yes, it can be done in a single off-season. Obviously, that will be Priority One around this team in some form or fashion.