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O-Zone: Fan away

Posted Nov 28, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Julio from Oak Hills, MO:
Mr. O, I made the 300-mile drive to Arizona Sunday morning and back Sunday night. Great game except for the loss. I put that game on coaching. I saw the Jags’ defense scrambling on two different plays to get set and they were beat for big plays on those two plays. That should be a timeout to set your defense. Then, of course: time management; I put that on the coaches. I believe the team and coaches will learn from the losses this year and as a result be playoff-ready. Go Jags!
John: Coaching certainly played a role Sunday, particularly with clock management near game’s end. Head Coach Doug Marrone said afterward he got greedy – and if he had it do over again, he would have played for overtime. Marrone also has said several times he needed to have the players better prepared to play, but I’m not sure I buy that. Players have to be ready, and there’s only so much coaching is going to do in that area with professional athletes. As far as the defense not being set before the two touchdowns, that absolutely was the case in the second quarter when Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert passed to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. The Jaguars’ defense on that play seemed to be scrambling with linebacker Telvin Smith having just gone out of the game. In retrospect, a timeout probably would have helped in that situation. But remember: you have three timeouts per half and you really, really want them at the end of halves and games. If you called them every time there was a sniff of confusion before a snap you probably would find yourself out of them more often than not. You have to pick your situations and hope every instance of pre-snap confusion isn’t a disaster.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
With each game without Patrick Omameh and Jermey Parnell, the drop off between them and the backups on the offensive line seems larger and larger. Yes, Allen Hurns being out may cost some experience at wide receiver, but he wasn't putting up many more stats than Dede Westbrook has. It seems the stagnation of the running game and the increased pressure on Bortles are much bigger reasons for the offensive struggles than anything else. Are the absences of Omameh and Parnell that big of a deal? Also, what is going on with Leonard Fournette's ankle?
John: The offense’s issues seem to be a cumulative situation. Teams often can overcome an injury or two on either side of the ball for a limited time; it gets tougher the deeper injuries go in specific areas – and the longer you have to cover for injured players. Parnell has been out three games and Omameh two, so now you’ve been down two starters there for an extended period. Remember, too: you’re not only down Hurns at wide receiver, you’re down Allen Robinson. That means you’re without your two most reliable, experienced third-down receivers – the receivers to whom Bortles has thrown more passes than any other receivers in four NFL seasons. In that respect, I’d say the loss of both Robinson and Hurns taking away that trust factor for Bortles might outweigh the loss of Parnell/Omameh … but that’s splitting hairs. Both situations are big. As for Fournette’s ankle, he’s playing through an issue that he expects to be an issue the rest of the season. It seems to be bothering him at times. He has been effective at times playing through it. I doubt the information gets more detailed than that.
Fred from Naples, FL:
In your opinion, how much was our lack of rushing on Sunday a result of poor run-blocking or Leonard Fournette's bad ankle?
John: Both played a role, but blocking usually trumps running back in terms of overall effectiveness of the running game. But don’t take the Cardinals’ defensive approach Sunday out of the equation. Teams are still stacking the box against the Jaguars’ running game. The inability of the passing game – quarterback, line, receivers – to throw effectively plays into it, too. It’s rarely one thing in football, and the Jaguars’ offensive current offensive struggles sure are more than one.
SI from Jacksonville:
Why is it that our offense is so inconsistent? Our defense can't bail us out every game. Our running game stalls and our wide receivers aren't getting open. Bortles is also inconsistent and makes bad decisions, too, which result in game-changing negative plays against the Jaguars. What's the solution to get our offense going?
John: Your third and fourth sentences go a long way toward answering your first question – and no, the defense can’t bail the Jaguars out every game – not without at least the ability to run to grind clock or to make a few big plays in the passing game. What’s the solution? Hope that the return of Parnell, Omameh and Hurns can help. Hope the receivers can hold onto a few more passes. Hope Bortles can cut out the late-game brain fades. So … same as before, pretty much.
Anooj from Scottsdale, AZ:
Why have the Jaguars not given Chad Henne an opportunity to start a game? In any other NFL franchise, if the quarterback is not helping the team win and making critical mistakes they would be benched. Why is it that we haven't made the move?
John: The Jaguars haven’t started Henne because Bortles gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. Bortles repeatedly made plays with his legs and escaped pressure on Sunday. He was sacked three times. With Henne that number is far higher – and it’s safe to call the chances of Henne running for two touchdowns “slim.” As long as he is healthy Bortles will be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, and rightfully so.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
I gotta give a huge one fer Bortles for his efforts against the Cardinals. When nobody else could consistently make plays happen, he still found a way to keep us in the game. In a vacuum I'd say that interception was unforgivable, but in the full context of the game, I have to say that's not the case. When they showed the back-end angle of the pick, Tyrann Mathieu was creeping behind some linemen and wasn't easy to see, even knowing he was there. Imagine how hard he'd be to spot at game speed. I call that play a fantastic effort by the defense to spoil the efforts of Bortles, who truly carried the offense on his shoulders all day Sunday. From the coaches through the players on the offense, the only person who gets a pass for Sunday is Bortles in my book.
John: I hear ya, Joe, but try telling that to Anooj.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Say what you will about him, but Blake's toughness was what kept us in that game. So, one for Blake? Then, I love the fact that after getting CREAMED by a bit of “unnecessary roughness” he ran for a nice chunk of yards on the very next play. Two for Blake?
John: I don’t know if two fer Blake is appropriate, but one fer toughness? Yeah, absolutely.
Jim from Oakwood Vila Estates:
Do you think we should employ play-action pass plays a little bit more? Maybe we should copycat teams like New Orleans who tend to chip the edge rushers …
John: I like the idea of chipping to slow edge rushers; that seems to be something the Jaguars should employ a bit more. As far as the play action, it’s very effective when a team is running the ball well. The idea is to slow down the pass rush and pull linebackers out of position by faking to the running back. But you still have to block and you still have to catch the ball when thrown to you. Those have been issues this season, and they certainly were issues Sunday.
Bill from Danville, NY:
Why does it seem like every close game we have lost this season there is two common excuses: One, "if Bortles didn't throw a horrible interception," and two: "if Marqise Lee didn't drop that last pass" we would be singing a different tune. You keep saying that you feel as if it'll be tough to keep Allen Hurns and Lee on the roster next season and that makes Hurns the odd man out... I think I would rather keep Hurns if only for his clutch performance rather than Lee's constant drops all because he can do is run fast.
John: I don’t know that “keep saying” is accurate. I did say early in the season that I thought the Jaguars could move on from Hurns and that it seemed more likely they would re-sign Lee and Robinson? That doesn’t seem as certain now. That’s frankly because very little seems certain about this receiving corps. I imagine they will work to get a deal done with Robinson. Beyond that, I think there are a lot of interesting decisions to make.
JT from Rosamond, CA:
I have been critical of Bortles for a while now, but to put Sunday’s loss solely on him is ridiculous and it’s lazy reporting by many of the journalists. His wide receivers didn't catch anything thrown their way. The Jags have to get more production from everyone, not just Bortles. It might be helpful if the line could block for more than two seconds as well.
John: It sure wouldn’t hurt.
Nick from Los Vegas, NV:
I was upset and frustrated like most fans at Sunday’s game, but after reading everyone blasting the team, coaching and play-calling I remembered we are still relevant for the playoffs going into December. Maybe we should see the glass as half full and be thankful for that?
John: I don’t think there’s a Jaguars fan who doesn’t deep down realize that what’s going on this season is more fun than – and a major improvement from – what was going on for the past several seasons. But that doesn’t mean fans can’t be upset and critical after a loss. And if fans were that way, frankly, this whole NFL thing might not be as much fun.

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