I too, must apologize for the delay in continuing this debate. I had a lapse in time where I wasn't able to read, post nor comment anything on the site due to fluctuations in my living situation. Yet, all the same, here I am to finish what we started.
This is my rebuttal to Brians initial argument as to why the Jags won't win eight or more games this season. The link is provided here, as I don't know how to link it the way he was able to.
So let's get started.
Point 1: Offseason distractions.
While the organization hasn't been cleared of it's fair share of distractions, ranging from Blackmon's DUI, MJD's ongoing holdout, Scobee's prolonged (now over) holdout and refusal to sign his tender, and Knighton's club incident. One thing that reigns true about each situation is that they have all been relatively contained. The only one standing a chance of carrying over is MJD's contract dispute with the team and honestly, I don't see this being much of problem when it comes to the team's on the field play. They are professionals and they have their own professional careers to look after, not worry about another players situation, even if it is Jones-Drew. Blackmon's situation affected no one but himself, and from what I can tell, will not hamper his play in any way, even with him expected to miss a day or two of training camp with his contract currently in limbo due to offsettting language concerns. Scobee is now signed, so that's no longer worth mention. Then lastly, Knighton's club incident should be well in the rear view at this point. Thus, that should eliminate every offseason distraction from having an affect on the team going forward. Oh yeah, Brian even brought up Anger into the equation. Let me just say that if that is a distraction for anyone on the team, they have no business being in this league, period.
Point 2: Completely changed offensive system.
While this could potentially be something that could be noticeable at first, this is more of a good thing than a detriment. When you think about last year's offense, it will become obvious that a change was in order. Not only that, but having a new offensive system is only as bad as the player make it to be. If they're able to grasp the offense quickly, then there's nothing loss. This mostly falls on the shoulders of Blaine, because as the starting QB, he's the only player that has to know how the unit works as a whole. The o-line only have to worry about themselves as a unit, and that also goes for the receivers, tight ends and running backs too. While there has to be sycnhronization amongst the skill players, it's not as much of a concern as it is for the QB, who has to not only know what the skill players are doing, but also understand the protection scheme and how it all works together to make a given play successful.
By all accounts, it has been said that Blaine has picked this offense up as if he has been operating within it for longer than he has and that's where this becomes a plus. Also, it is a scheme that is geared towards his strengths. It allows him flexibility to audible on the fly, depending out what the defense is showing him. Something that can't be said about last years offensive scheme. It also allows more options for the skill players and as for the offensive line, their blocking scheme will remain the same, so there should no cause for concern there. Again, this new offensive scheme appears to be much more of a plus as opposed to a negative.
Point 3: Turnover/uncertainty on the defensive line.
While at immediate glance this can be viewed as a cause for concern, I'm one who believes that these concerns are overblown to an extent. As it stands, the only certainty we have is the return of Mincey. Yet, if you look further, I'd still say it's nothing that will keep this team from being better. The Knighton situation, while unfortunate, shouldn't be something that will hold the team back. He was well ahead of schedule in his recovery and with that being the case, I believe he'll be back in time and won't miss a beat. Until otherwise stated by the organization, I will hold to that stance. We can look at his past weight concerns, but the team said during OTA's and mini-camp, that is wasn't an issue, so it shouldn't be considered one now. Then you have Tyson's knee surgery that he is recovering from. I fail to see how this will turn out to be anything but good. This gives him the chance to get his explosion off the snap back, which should bode well for him taking steps to becoming the player he was when drafted.
The loss of Matt Roth and Aaron Kampman will be forgotten, if they haven't already, as the season goes along. Matt Roth was purely a run stuffer, a role that Austen Lane will more than be able to compensate for. We have Branch, who should provide a rush off the edge, along with Aaron Morgan, who also should be able to provide a rush. Chick is the question mark and I'm not expecting him to be fully ready to go by the beginning of the season. As far as depth goes in regards to the DT position, we should be set. Between Douzable, Pendleton and D'Anthony Smith, we should be fine. The uncertainty is abound, yet if you look at it from a talent standpoint, we aren't worse off, so I don't see this being enough to hold the team back as a whole. I'm actually predicting that the defensive line will be a strength of the team by the time the season comes to an end.
Point 4: Holdouts
Well, we're down to two holdouts. One by Blackmon that will be ending soon. Another by MJD that is the only one left to be decided. There's two ways you can look at this. One. The team is worse off for it, as there is no gurantee that Jennings and guys behind him won't be able to duplicate his production. Two. The team is better off for it, as we, step by step get away from the run game being the primary focus of the offensive gameplan. I see this being a neutral factor, thus not taking away from the team's ability to have a winning record this season. I'm of the belief that, while MJD would be missed, the run game won't see that much dwindle in production that it would hamper the team to the point where it can't win games. I believe this holdout hurts no one but Maurice, not the team as a collective.
Point 5: As goes Gabbert, so we all go.
This right here is the biggest issue that must be resolved. So let's look at it this way. In the worse situation that a rookie QB can be put in, Blaine went 4-10 (and to me, he went 5-9 because he won that Browns game, Jason Hill lost it.) So with a dominant run game, a stout defense and average special teams (good kicking and poor punting = average), he still mustered 4 wins, while being in all but 2 or 3 of those games. Fast forward to now, where the run game should still stay on track, the defense should remain true to last years form and special teams has been significantly upgraded and now we can look back at Gabbert. He has a year of experience, a full offseason, improved mechanics, new coaches, improved weapons and continunity amongst his offensive line. The chances of him not being better has virtualy been eliminated either way you try to angle the situation. From the way I see it, at his worse, we won 4 (to me 5) games with him at the helm. If the team as a whole is better, including himself, I don't think it's unfeasible to win 3 to 5 more games this year.
Point 6: Schedule.
I will keep this as short as possible. I think this team is fast approaching a point where it is entirely in control of it's own destiny. Meaning that regardless of who the oppenent is, we will enter that game with a chance for victory. We do have a tough schedule this season, but with my viewpoint on the team, all that is doing is preparing us for a playoff berth, as we will face more than a few playoff caliber teams. Come playoff time, whether we win the division or earn a wildcard berth, we will be battle hardened and ready to take on whoever is thrown at us.
So how I see it, every point that has been made as to why we won't have a winning record this season has an even brighter flip side to it, that points to that weakness having a better chance at becoming a strength. This organization is strong from the top, starting with the owner, to the GM, to the coach and I see all of that permeating through the team down to the players, making every pitall only slight deterrant that will make focusing on the ultimate goal of making the playoffs all that more rewarding for them to focus. What is now considered the least popular team is in a position to not only prove to itself, but also the league and the rest of nation that it means business and in the light of any negativity that has transpired, they will be better for.