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O-Zone: Good advice

Posted Oct 12, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Josh from Pensacola, FL:
What has surprised you more this season: the level of dominance the defense has achieved or the play of the offensive line?
John: I must say the defense’s level of dominance has surprised me more than anything else about this team. I expected this defense to be good; I think most observers correctly and safely assumed a team that added defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye to a defense that already was good at least would be good defensively. What I didn’t expect was for the Jaguars to lead the NFL in sacks through five games, and I absolutely didn’t expect them to lead the NFL in takeaways and points off turnovers. The Jaguars have scored 74 points off turnovers. That’s a staggering pace through five games. So, no, I didn’t expect them to reach this level. As for the offensive line, I thought it was a better pass-blocking unit than people thought last season – and while I didn’t expect the Jaguars to lead the NFL in rushing this season, I thought the focus on the running game would at least make the Jaguars better in that area. This much better? No, but at least better.
Don from Jacksonville:
Aren't enough go-to weapons in the pass game? What did we draft Marqise Lee in the second round to be? Why did we resign Hurns to a big contract? BB5 is definitely not the only problem with the pass game.
John: A lot of parts of the passing game need to play better.
Chris from Jacksonville:
Where was that incredible launch over the line in the Jets game when we got stuffed twice on third-and-1? No doubt 4Net is better than I thought but even if he ends up being the best back in the league, it still wouldn't justify taking him (or any running back) with the No. 4 pick. This is a quarterback league and we will forever regret not taking Deshaun Watson. Give me Watson and Chris Ivory and you can have Blake Bortles and 4Net. Running backs can be found anywhere in the draft (Kareem Hunt, Aaron Jones, etc). Watson is a franchise-changing player that also happened to match our biggest need in the draft. Ouch.
John: If Fournette becomes the NFL’s best running back, he indeed would be worthy of the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. As for Watson being a franchise-changing player, he has looked really good in his last three games. Perhaps he’ll fulfill your expectations. We’ll see.
Steve from Upper Tract, WR:
I could have sworn that I saw "sweetness" on Sunday.
John: I wrote Sunday that Fournette’s dive over the line in Pittsburgh indeed was reminiscent of Walter Payton – and LaDainian Tomlinson. I neglected to include Marcus Allen, whose ability in this area was absolutely on par with Tomlinson and Payton. Will Fournette prove to be as proficient in this area as the aforementioned trio? Time will tell, but Sunday was impressive.
Josh from Pensacola, FL:
I never have really cared about the national media attention that the Jags get, but lately it has been very frustrating. Heath Evans in particular got visibly upset when talking about the Jags. He basically took discounted every victory we've had so far. Said we would've lost to the Texans if Watson was playing. Said Big Ben is an "atrocious quarterback" and so on and so on. Did the Jags do something to him in the past? Maybe these teams aren't as bad as the experts say and maybe the Jags’ defense is just that good. Heath Evans’ hate for the Jags is real, people; just watch the clip.
John: The list of national media whose opinions on the Jaguars I generally dismiss is a relatively long one. Evans without question is on the list, and that’s OK. I suspect he has little regard for my thoughts on many topics, too. As for “respect,” it strikes me the Jaguars are at least getting some version of it this week. The national types are talking about Fournette. They’re speculating on trades. They’re getting mention. None of it means anything come Sunday, but if you wanted the Jaguars to get attention or “respect,” this is what that feels like. Whee.
Kyan from Le Mars, IA:
I've read some people say they think the Jaguars should look to trade for Eli Manning. Do you think this is a realistic possibility knowing the Giants’ record and the relationship between Eli and Coughlin? Do you think it would improve the team?
John: This is something that has been floated and discussed in recent days, and there are plenty of circumstances that make it enticing: the Giants’ 0-5 record, the Jaguars’ struggles at the quarterback position and Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin’s relationship with Manning (he coached Manning from 2004-2015). But while this speculation perhaps has a touch more merit than most such speculative trade talk, I don’t know that it’s much more than a touch. I imagine the Giants would want significant draft equity – i.e., a first-round selection. I also don’t know that the Giants would be all that interested in trading Manning. This is a franchise that went 11-5 last season and has to believe it can win next season. If Manning was in their two-or-three-year plan at the start of the season – and it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t – I doubt he would be out of that plan a month later.
Ryan from Chicago, IL:
The "Teal Curtain" is a better nickname for our defense. The offense, quite frankly, has not earned a nickname suitable for our younger fans to hear. Which wide receivers would you target in a reasonable trade to help keep defenses from stacking the box against Fournette?
John: I wouldn’t.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars have had some significant cap space in recent years and used a lot of it to sign some high-dollar free agents. Those signings, by and large, have worked out well. But how does their cap situation look for the future when it comes to signing their drafted players? They've got a good number of young guys who are going to demand some big contracts, so will they have enough to keep the team – especially this defense – intact, or are they going to have to let some guys walk?
John: We’re not really nearing a crisis on this point yet. Remember: Linebacker Telvin Smith and nickel corner Aaron Colvin are the only two “core” defensive players whose contracts expire at the end of this season. If all of the players people are considering good players develop as such, then the Jaguars probably won’t be able to keep all of them. But they have enough cap space to sign players identified as “core” players. A player such as Jalen Ramsey, for instance, certainly will command a huge salary after the 2018 season – and I have no doubt at this point the Jaguars will meet those demands. Players such as Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. will have to be addressed, too. An intriguing story in the coming months will be Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent following this season. He is a key player on this defense, but outside linebacker is a tricky position in free agency. Will the team identify Smith as a can’t-live-without-him core player? We’ll see. I’d advise to relax on this front: time will solve some of the issues that seem urgent in the short term.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
This team really is a conundrum. I can honestly say that there will probably not be any games this season that I am overly confident about, but also no games that I feel are hopeless. This team is good enough to beat any team in the league and bad enough to lose to any team in the league. It's frustrating and wonderful at the same time. I'm so confused, John!
John: Welcome back to the NFL, Marcus.
Fred from Naples, FL:
Can we at least hold on to Jason Myers until AFTER this Sunday? The Rams’ kickoff returner leads the league in kickoff return average. Out of the end zone is a must this Sunday.
John: OK.
Len from Erie/Jacksonville:
Big O: Well, it’s obvious we are going to be a running team as much as possible. Can we get creative? Jet sweep with Corey Grant, Chris Ivory and Leonard Fournette in the same backfield once in a while. What you think? Don't be so predictable.
John: I think I don’t care if I never see another “jet sweep” as long as I live, but if the Jaguars want to mix one in to Grant … sure. But remember: the Jaguars are ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing. They are 3-2 and an overtime loss from 4-1 playing the way they want to play. I don’t know that they’re going to be particularly inclined to make major changes.
Duh! from Duval!:
If Tom Coughlin and David Caldwell have any brains, they will TRADE BORTLES FOR ELI MANNING!
John: CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!

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