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O-Zone: Just in time

Posted Jul 11, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
If you make the playoffs, it’s a good year; if you do not make the playoffs, it’s a bad year. Anybody who gets satisfaction from being 8-8 with no playoffs is a loser. That's the way it works. This is not Little Billy League where everyone gets to play. It’s the NFL and you make the playoffs if want to be a winner. Eight-and-eight has been the attitude around here for way too long. If you want to be somebody, it’s the playoffs or nothing. All you 8-8 girls need to get your Star Wars lunch boxes and go over to Sbarro's and hang out with the losers. Go Jaguars and Blake Bortles who will make the playoffs this year.
John: Ah, the great 8-8 debate goes on … Look, I’m not saying a .500 record would satisfy fans, and I guarantee you no one inside the Jaguars’ organization on July 11 is saying, “Let’s shoot for 8-8 … ready … break!” The idea is to win, and no one’s talking about improving being OK and being satisfied with .500. But I have covered this team for six consecutive seasons of double-digit losses. I can’t accurately say the Jaguars have been close to contending in any of those six seasons. From that perspective, being as objective as possible, 8-8 would be a dramatic improvement. To get there, a lot of positive things must happen – i.e., quarterback Blake Bortles playing better, the offensive line playing better, the pass rush being more consistent, the team as a whole playing better in crucial situations. I also assume that for the Jaguars to get to .500 they would need to reduce turnovers and play better on special teams. Those would all be positive for the organization. It might not thrill every fan, and it sure wouldn’t thrill Head Coach Doug Marrone or Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, but from a big-picture, realistic viewpoint, it darned sure would be progress for a long-struggling organization. Now, give me back my lunch box.
Old Skool from Da Burg:
I'm calling my shot! 12-4 with a sweep of the Titans! And … and a first-round playoff (home) win! Magic Eight Ball has nothing further.
John: OK.
Mike from Chiefland, FL:
Mr. O, lots of fans were not happy with the retention of our offensive and defensive coordinators after last season. I was one of them at first. Then after taking time to analyze the decisions, I saw that Nathaniel Hackett was still running Greg Olson's playbook, just with some Hackett twists. Then Todd Wash was running Gus Bradley's defense. Am I right to say we will see big differences in the play-calling style from last year to this year even though we still have the same coordinators? Thanks, Mr. O.
John: I anticipate noticeable differences both offensively and defensively. Hackett indeed was running Olson’s offense in the last nine games of last season after taking over as coordinator, and it’s likely you will see a more power-run-oriented offense in 2017; signs of this already can be seen the return of the fullback to the offense. Hackett showed last season he wanted to establish the run and stick to it, and it’s safe to say that will be his approach moving forward. I anticipate the defense will look pretty similar on the surface, but there will be schematic changes in the secondary and in terms of how the team uses the strong-side linebacker. As far as play-calling style, it’s hard to say how Hackett and Wash will change from last season, though I would anticipate Hackett continuing to be more persistent in sticking to the run and you might see Wash try to give more looks up front in passing situations. Stay tuned.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
Do you foresee the Jags picking up anymore veteran free agents between now and Week 1 of the preseason?
John: I suppose the Jaguars could sign, say, an offensive linemen or a cornerback before Preseason Week 1. I wouldn’t anticipate it being a player who would generate much excitement. The Jaguars’ Week 1 starters almost certainly are on the roster, and most significant contributors are as well.
Charlie from Van by the river:
John, I liked metal, too. Are you a Winger or Bon Jovi guy? I was always partial to Poison myself.
John: I’m sure you were.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Sbarro's is fine and all, but did you ever check out Dream Machine in your Avenues heyday?
John: No. My mode of operation was to park just outside the Food Court; order a slice, a garlic roll and a jumbo diet coke; park my fat self solo at a table for two; then watch the world go by. #heaven
Doug from Jacksonville:
You know the mall food court is not only a great place to eat, but to meet girls. That. Place. Is. Awesome.
John: Word.
InfiniteWaters from Ralphville:
Feels so good to be alive, baby! Can I get a hellooooooooooo there?
John: What?
John from Jacksonville:
Now that we are a couple of months from the start of the regular season, it's starting to sink in - the importance of the first two games (Houston and Tennessee). I'm hoping our Jags are treating these two games as all-important in having a fast start and a successful season. Starting 2-0 with your division and the overall record would bring mega-excitement to the fans. Our playoffs start out of the gate and the team needs to be ready Day One! All in … no excuses. Go Jags!
John: Of course the Jaguars are approaching the first two games as all-important. What else would you expect them to do? Mail it in?
Donald from Tampa, FL:
O-Zone: Other than Blake Bortles, what’s the most important area the Jaguars need to improve this season?
John: It would be easy to say “pass rush,” but I’ve been harping on the need to improve the pass rush all offseason, so I’ll go with turnover ratio here. The Jaguars were minus-16 last season, which means they averaged giving the ball away one time more a game then they took it away. If the Jaguars can reverse that, they have a chance to make the five- or six-game improvement many fans so desperately and correctly covet.
Donald from T:
Brian from Orlando, born in Atlanta, fave color: green, likes: sardines, wine Are we friends yet?
John: Nah.
Gary from St. Augustine, FL:
Zone, I’m excited about the season, but I realize a lot of it is about the return of Tom Coughlin. I also realize he is not the head coach. How much of a difference can he make from the front office … you know, realistically?
John: There realistically won’t be a tangible, statistical difference attributable directly to Coughlin. He won’t make in-game decisions and won’t be on the sidelines. But when you lose as much as the Jaguars lost in recent seasons, the tone and outlook of the organization has to change. Coughlin has helped reset the tone of the organization, and his success and reputation has helped give the tone immediate credibility. That in turn has helped with the “buy-in” necessary – and make no mistake: the buy-in with players entering 2017 is complete. There’s a belief that this approach of Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone can work. The next and far more important step is to build on that with success.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
If Blake Bortles isn't the Jaguars’ quarterback in 2018, do you think it will be Chad Henne, Brandon Allen, or someone not yet on the roster?
John: If Bortles isn’t the Jaguars’ quarterback in 2018, that will mean another franchise reset at the position. That would almost certainly mean drafting a quarterback in the first round or trading for/acquiring one in free agency – all of which would mean that player being the quarterback for the majority of 2018.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, what era did you cover University of Florida sports? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not? How does it compare to covering the NFL?
John: I covered the Gators from spring of 1993 through spring of 1994, so I covered two Southeastern Conference Championship football teams and the 1994 men’s basketball team that went to the Final Four. I enjoyed it for the most part because I had the opportunity to cover big-time events at a relatively young age – and work what at the time was a very competitive beat with a slew of major newspapers covering it on a daily basis. I didn’t enjoy it as much as covering the NFL; the access to players on a regular basis in professional sports is far greater than in college sports – and makes the job far more interesting. I also enjoy covering professional football more than college football. I find the pro game faster and more entertaining.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
What's good, Zone? Every time I want to get excited about the Jags I remind myself Blake is still the quarterback and it all fades away.
John: Jerell’s back.

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