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O-Zone: I'm so excited

Posted Oct 3, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
I'm convinced that this team will go 8-8 and never win two games in a row. The bright side: we won't lose two in a row.
John: This obviously is extreme, but it perhaps captures at least some of the essence of where the Jaguars are – and where they could be headed this season. This indeed could be an “inconsistent” team in that it may not reel off a bunch of consecutive victories. It doesn’t seem to have the consistency in the passing game to pull away from teams by stringing together offensive touchdowns very often. But it does appear to have a defense capable of pressuring the passer and creating big plays. It hasn’t shown itself to be a team with multiple ways to win, and it appears the primary way the Jaguars must win is to dominate defensively early, force teams to throw and take advantage of an aggressive defense. That’s a formula for some big victories, some tight games that could go either way – and some frustrating losses. But it makes sense that that’s where the Jaguars are in their development. This team went 3-13 last season. It brought in a lot of new parts – coaches and players. It probably wasn’t going to be a team that went 16-0. So, the Jaguars are 2-2 and in first place after four games. I still think the Jaguars can get to seven-to-eight victories – and if some things go right, they might be better than that. But it’s probably not going to be easy. Or pretty. Or “consistent.”
John from Jacksonville:
OK, that was no fun ... but I still can't wait to see Jalen Ramsey versus Antonio Brown.
John: I’ll click on that.
Kathy from Jacksonville:
There were costly mistakes made by both teams Sunday. It seems the game was won based on whoever made the last costly mistake. To me, the holding call was glaring. It seems holding is more of an immature, lack-of-discipline mistake. Worse, it removed the touchdown that would have won the game. Can anything be done at this point regarding discipline?
John: The fourth-quarter holding penalty on Jaguars wide receiver Arrelious Benn hurt – and it did negate an apparent touchdown by running back Leonard Fournette. Some offenses can overcome such a play; the Jaguars’ offense currently struggles to do so. As for discipline, penalties indeed often stem from a lack of it. But sometimes penalties are also unavoidable and sometimes they’re questionable. Benn said on Monday he felt the holding penalty in question fell into the latter category. After watching it again Monday, it’s hard to disagree.
Zach from Knoxville, TN:
Will the Jags upgrade since Marqise Lee was a bust against the Jets?
John: Sure. Who ya got?
Willis from Jacksonville:
I know Chad Henne isn't as mobile as Blake Bortles, but do you think Henne would complete a few more passes than Blake if he were named the starter?
John: Perhaps. Or perhaps he wouldn’t. And perhaps Henne wouldn’t have broken a 28-yard run on Sunday. And perhaps Henne would have been sacked two or three times compared to once. And perhaps given Henne’s history he would have gotten as many balls batted as Bortles. Seriously: I wouldn’t waste much time this week thinking on this one. I’m not saying there’s no scenario in which I could see Bortles getting pulled and Henne starting for this team. I am saying I don’t sense anything in that direction right now.
Hayden from Gulfport, MI:
Zone, is it just me or does the current state of our passing game show how important Allen Robinson is to our offense? Not only because of his production, but the matchup problems he creates. Watching the Jags this year I've noticed that the receivers are struggling to get separation far too often.
John: You’re not wrong. It was pretty evident when he was injured and lost for the season that Robinson’s absence would hurt the Jaguars at some point. I expected it would clearly cost them at least a game or two. Sunday felt like such a game.
Steve from Denver, CO:
O - Please stop saying BB has to be a pocket passer for this team to win. When he is on the move, he can use his legs to gain valuable yardage. He would have fewer passes knocked down by defensive linemen. A smart coach would try to put his quarterback in a position to best use his best assets. Don't you think Blake Bortles has proven he is too inconsistent as a full-time pocket quarterback?
John: S – please stop telling me what to do. It bothers me and makes me not want to answer your question. As for how best to use Bortles, no … I don’t believe you can always have him running. The offense has ways to use Bortles’ mobility. It calls for Bortles to go through his progressions, make his reads and throw if one of those reads is open. It also calls for him to run quickly if the reads aren’t there; this has been effective at times this season. There also is a healthy dose of read option in the game plan. But if you’re asking if I believe it’s better to have Bortles rolling out on every play and cutting the field in half instead of having him play as a quarterback must play in this league – making plays from the pocket – then the answer is: no, I don’t see that as the better option, and I don’t see the Jaguars going that direction.
Bill from Orange Park and Section 104:
"But in this case it wasn’t ‘play-calling’ at issue as much as miscalculating the opponent’s approach." Um, isn't that the definition of being outcoached? If not, what is your definition of being outcoached?
John: Um, I don’t have a definition for being “outcoached” – and I wearied long ago of explaining that most people’s definition reflects little on reality. The Jaguars called passes instead of runs on first-and-goal from the 6 in the fourth quarter Sunday because the Jets typically play hard run defense there with run blitzes. The Jets on this occasion didn’t run the defense the Jaguars anticipated. The Jaguars got their lone offensive touchdown Sunday on a red-zone pass. They nearly got a go-ahead touchdown on a screen pass. They have scored some big red-zone touchdowns on passes this season. They threw three passes for two yards that situation late in the game Sunday, which means the Jets won that matchup. The Jaguars won a lot of other matchups. The Jets won the game, so the Jaguars are going to get second-guessed. Call it what you want, but that’s what happened.
Sean from Fleming Island, FL:
A gap-control defense does not work if you don’t control the gap.
John: True that, Sean. True that. The Jaguars got out of their gap on a few too many occasions Sunday, and two of those plays resulted in 102 of the Jets’ 256 yards rushing – and 10 of the Jets’ 23 points. When the Jaguars neglected to touch Bilal Powell down in the first quarter, that resulted in about another 65 of those rushing yards. It was a classic case of a few mistakes looming very, very large and costing the Jaguars in a big way. They’re important mistakes that must be fixed, but they’re hardly unfixable.
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
I get that there were plays to be made from the quarterback position that didn't get made, but I didn't get the perception that Bortles was often missing very open receivers Sunday. It seemed like almost every time he threw more than five yards downfield the windows were very tight … even for NFL standards. On purpose or not, it seemed most incompletions were just a couple feet too far, but also thrown to a spot where the defender can't get it. How much do we have to put some blame on the receiving corps for not making more plays, and how much of Blake's struggles Sunday may have been due to being overly cautious with his ball placement?
John: This is a fair point. I re-watched the game Monday; the separation wasn’t great. A few plays stood out where Bortles could have been better – the pass that end Kony Ealy tipped for an interception in the third quarter and a wobbling overtime pass to Keelan Cole, most notably. But viewing the replay, it appeared that Bortles indeed was under too much pressure and was trying to throw to well-covered receivers. He also had three other passes batted at the line of scrimmage on plays where it seemed the offensive line didn’t do enough to get pass-rushers’ hands down. It’s hard to say Bortles had a great game when he was 15-of-35 passing, but the passing offense’s struggles seemed very much a group effort.
Dan from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I’m putting that disaster of a game behind me and trying to look forward to this week's matchup. I cannot wait to see how our defensive backs fare against one of the best receivers in the game. How do you feel about watching that matchup?
John: Oh, downright tingly.

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