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Friday, October 12, 2012
Bye week report: Jaguars' questions

By Paul Kuharsky

Lingering questions about the 1-4 Jaguars as they hit their Week 6 bye:

Is Gene Smith in trouble?

The team’s general manager is a well-respected personnel man who works incredibly hard and is certainly torn up by the team’s failure to improve. But he's responsible for the team’s draft picks since he took over in 2009 and there simply isn’t enough there right now. Nothing is going to happen during the season. But Shad Khan took over ownership late last season and signed off on an extension for Smith, and Smith conducted the search for Jack Del Rio’s replacement, ultimately Mike Mularkey. If the new owner sticks with the status quo, he’s going to really struggle to market the team. The biggest question going forward, barring a turnaround, is what degree of housecleaning Khan will consider?

Where’s the improvement from Blaine Gabbert?

You see it in moments and he certainly played better at the beginning of the season. But the second-year quarterback’s numbers and results are not much better than a year ago and while he still has time to right the ship, it’s time for some tangible, consistent and results-oriented progress. I feel badly for him that he still is dealing with protection issues -- the team failed him in this department, doing nothing personnel-wise to fix the issue -- and with receiver issues. Quarterbacks lift or sink teams however, and it can’t always be about what’s lacking around him. If he sinks because there isn’t enough, that’s on the franchise, but it doesn’t make him better than he plays.

Why can’t they rush the passer?

Joe Cullen is a good and highly-motivational defensive line coach. Which leads to the conclusion that he simply doesn’t have enough talent. It’s another roster construction failure that a team that couldn’t sack quarterbacks last year still can’t. Second round pick Andre Branch has made no difference and got bumped out of the starting lineup once Austen Lane was healthy. High-motor end Jeremy Mincey got big bucks to stay but has no sacks. The team has three. Yes, three sacks in five games. A quarterback like Jay Cutler, who can be bad under pressure, had his way with the Jaguars as he went unbothered. The Jaguars desperately miss injured outside linebacker Daryl Smith, but he won’t fix the pass rush either. Interior guys Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton (also demoted) are not collapsing the pocket the way things are designed to happen. It’s been long enough not working as it is, and drastic change is needed.