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O-Zone: Fully engaged

Posted Nov 7, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
I'm 25. I missed out on how great this team was in the late 90s. Aside from '07, this has been a hard team to root for. Regardless of how this season ends, I want to thank this team for being fun again.
John: I’m 51. I was there in the 1990s when the Jaguars indeed were very good – and I also covered a lot of good Indianapolis Colts teams for a decade. I’m not ready to put this Jaguars team on the level of the best Jaguars or Colts teams I’ve covered, but I will say that the 2017 Jaguars defense is taking on the feel of a unit that can carry a team a long way. There are times it reaches truly elite levels – and I don’t use the word “elite” casually. When it reaches those levels, this team is more than capable of beating any team in the NFL – and when I say “any team in the NFL” what I actually mean is “any team in the NFL.” There remains a long way to go in this season, but if the team continues to improve and gain confidence at anything close to its current rate … well, let’s just say the fun on that front may have only just started.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
One fer Doug Marrone for sending the message that no player is above the team. Fans have wanted accountability for the last few years, and now that we have it they are criticizing the coach? How about we blame the player for making a mistake rather than blame the coach for holding him accountable? That being said, Leonard Fournette is a kid. Kids make mistakes. He will learn from it and move on.
John: Agreed.
JT from Aledo, TX:
With the defense, ground game and now BB5 playing well, the biggest Achilles heel left on this young amazing team for “them” to question is maturity and clutch-time experience. If you ask me, all the first-down ball spinning and defensive-back yipping can stop. Just looks like we HAVEN’T been there before. Make a great play? Get up, high five your own teammates and quietly line up for the next play. Your record and stats should speak for themselves – as they do right now. These guys are fun to watch; we can be elite even without national attention. Let’s put the ‘quiet’ into ‘The Quiet Assassins.”
John: I grew up in the 1970s era of handing the ball to the official – and I respect players who go about their business and quietly play at a high level. But those aren’t the times in which we live. It’s also not the personality of this defense, or this team – and I’m not sure it should be the personality of this team. Wide receiver Marqise Lee is going to spin the ball after a reception, and Jalen Ramsey – and the entire defense/secondary – is going to talk and yip. This is a loose group that’s gaining confidence; these players enjoy playing with one another. They enjoy succeeding, and they enjoy celebrating when they succeed. The notable thing is they celebrate and enjoy each other’s success as much as they enjoy their own. So long as that’s true I don’t anticipate Head Coach Doug Marrone or anyone else around the organization trying to curtail the yipping. Nor should they. And as long as the Jaguars win and keep improving, you know what? Yip, away, guys. Yip away.
Jeff from Austin, TX:
Hey O, I know our offense has been more admirable than expected, but have you ever seen a defense truly embarrass opponents in their wins halfway through a season? From the benching of Tom Savage, the full-on assault of both Joe Flacco and Big Ben, and then aggravating one of the best wide receivers in the game to get himself ejected … have you personally ever covered a defense this exciting?
John: No.
John from Clay County:
Hi, John O (from John O). Football is fun again. Are we better than our old nemesis, the Titans?
John: Of the Jaguars’ three losses this season, the only one game in which I thought the Jaguars weren’t as good as their opponent was Week 2 against Tennessee. The Titans’ offensive line appeared to control the game, and the Jaguars struggled to run more against the Titans than against any other opponent this season. But a lot changes in a month and a half in the NFL – and more will change in the nearly two months until the teams play again in the regular-season finale. The Jaguars are a different, better team now than the one that lost to Tennessee. If they keep improving and stay healthy … yeah, I think the Jaguars can win in Nashville on New Year’s Eve.
Eddy from Miami, FL:
A.J. Cann was a game-time decision because of his triceps, and turns out he couldn't play. I understand putting Brandon Linder at guard because Tyler Shatley has been playing well at the center position and why change the connection that Bortles and Shatley have developed the last four weeks. If Cann returns next week, will Shatley go back to the bench?
John: Yes.
Derrick from Jacksonville:
The most impressive part of Sunday’s victory over the Bengals was that final Jaguars drive. They kept the ball for the final eight-and-half minutes to close out the game. That is HUGE. This is my type of football: tough, in-your-face smash-mouth defense and offense. They can keep the passing/quarterback/receiver-type of football. GO Jags!
John: The Jaguars have done a remarkable job establishing their identity and playing to that identity. I, like most people, expected the Jaguars to be a pretty good defense. I thought they would be a better running team than a many believed, but no way before the season began did I think they would be the NFL’s best rushing team. Nor did I believe they would close out games with 15-play drives that were pretty much all runs and no third downs. That’s domination on a big-time level in the NFL. That’s what the Jaguars did Sunday, and no one watching has much doubt as to the identity of the ’17 Jaguars.
Jess from Castle Rock, CO:
John, was Marcell Dareus in the lineup against the Bengals? I haven't read anything about him playing and was wondering if he had a part in the strong run defense on Sunday.
John: Dareus played 12 snaps and had solo three tackles and a pressure. Amazingly enough, those three solo tackles tied for the team lead in the category. That’s the sort of statistic that happens when the opposing team only runs 37 offensive plays.
Dustin from Orlando, FL:
I don't think Blake Bortles will ever be one of the league’s top gunslingers. However, it seems now that we have a good running game, a good offensive line and a great defense keeping games close, he is feeling less pressure to do everything by himself and that is allowing him to be an efficient game manager – a la Alex Smith. I would be satisfied with that. Do you think the brass will be or will they keep hunting for the next Tom Brady?
John: I think if Bortles keeps playing over the next eight games like he has in the last six that he will be the Jaguars’ quarterback next season. What that will mean in terms of how the Jaguars approach the 2018 NFL Draft in terms of quarterback, I don’t know. Here’s the nice thing about me not having an answer to that question. Eight games remain in this season and almost six months remain until the ’18 draft. It’s not a question that needs answering just yet.
Brian from Round Rock, TX:
Another winning performance from Blake. What is your assessment of his current game? I remember pocket presence, decision-making and accuracy were the primary weaknesses from the past. His pocket presence and decision making look much improved to me.
John: Bortles’ pocket presence and decision-making without question have improved. Not only that, they appear to be getting better by the week. And while his accuracy isn’t perfect, he was very accurate on most of his throws Sunday – and he also was as clutch on third downs as I remember him being at any point of his career. Here’s what’s intriguing about Bortles: it was often overlooked or ignored early this season that he was entering his first season in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. He in retrospect appeared to have been going through some growing pains in that offense early in the season. It’s probably not accurate to say he has mastered the offense, but he at the very least appears more comfortable in the scheme by the week. His decision-making was very good against the Colts and Bengals, and he appeared as sure and confident on that front Sunday as I remember seeing him.
Joey from Pontypridd, Wales, United Kingdom:
John, for the first time, my four-year old boy sat with me for the drive that started the second quarter Sunday. He was engaged and excited and cheered every play (despite not really knowing what was going on) and went nuts when we scored the touchdown. I nearly cried with pride - a new Jaguar is born!
John: I cheer and get excited a lot when I don’t know what’s going on. I do this at weddings. People act mad sometimes, but trust me: it’s hilarious.

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