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O-Zone: Perfect vision

Posted Oct 6, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Bobby from Doboy Island, GA:
Do you think Leonard Fournette has been a bit of a disappointment or was this past draft just a bit weak at the top? When drafting a running back that high, the hope is you'll get an elite-level player that is a game-changer. So far, Fournette does not seem to be that caliber of player the way Adrian Peterson was when he was a rookie playing on a lousy offense, with terrible quarterback play and defenses stacking the box. Perhaps that expectation is too high and Fournette is playing exactly how we should have thought he'd play. And if this level of play is what the reasonable expectation was for a guy drafted Top 5, then that would suggest it was a fairly weak draft class at the top.
John: A few thoughts on your thoughts. First, it’s impossible to judge an NFL draft class after four games. Second, Fournette hasn’t been a disappointment; if anything, he has been more than expected. Third, your question honestly makes me wonder if they have television on Doboy Island. I have no idea if Fournette will be as good as Peterson, who perhaps was the NFL’s best running back of the last 10-to-15 seasons. I do know through four games Fournette has shown he is a difference-making, game-changing NFL running back. No, he hasn’t popped any big runs, but that can be attributed mostly to a lack of holes and defenses stacked to stop him. Still, the Jaguars’ offense is built around him – and whatever effectiveness it has had either has been because of his ability to get more from runs than what seems to be there, or because defenses stacking to stop him have allowed the offense to make plays in the passing game. On a final note, this email sort of reminds me of when I was asked by a Times-Union higher-up early in the 1998 season to write about Fred Taylor being a bust. I talked the editor out of the story. A reporter being asked to write about Fournette being disappointing so far might be wise to do the same.
Billy from East Northport, NY:
So far in the season having Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye each play a side and cover whoever lines up across from them has worked. But they haven't faced a wide receiver of the caliber of Antonio Brown. Will Ramsey shadow Brown no matter where he lines up on Sunday?
John: Good question. That’s what I would do – and that’s no indictment of Bouye. It’s just that I would put a player of Ramsey’s caliber on a player of Brown’s caliber and like my chances. I don’t know what the Jaguars will do. It’s not exactly Head Coach Doug Marrone’s style to lay out the game plan publicly. Perhaps he will change that style on Friday. I’m not betting the mortgage.
Gary from Palm Coast, FL:
O-Man - you mentioned in your three things article that Poz was not in on two of the long runs by the Jets. Can we get past the Myles Jack-in-the-middle experiment? With our run defense ranking last in the NFL, the experiment seems to have failed.
John: It’s not as simple as that. Jack wasn’t playing middle linebacker on those runs against the Jets. He and Telvin Smith were playing nickel because the Jets were in three-receiver sets. I can’t see the Jaguars taking Jack or Smith off the field in nickel situations; their speed is a big part of what makes the Jaguars dangerous in those situations.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Love the expression "mambo dog face to the banana patch," but what does it mean? The proper use?
John: Google it.
Mike from Eagle River, AK:
Let's pretend the season ended today and you’re general manager. Would you stick with Blake Bortles based on what we've seen? Perhaps sign or draft one but keep Bortles around for a competition? Or maybe even something my brilliant mind hasn't come up with? It seems to me that the Jags could be in a bit of a pickle if they decide they desperately need a first-round quarterback but play just well enough to not have a top pick.
John: I would have a tough time right now moving forward with Bortles as the unchallenged starter. But while I understand the inclination to speculate on what will happen after the season, the reality is 12 games remain in this season. Bortles has struggled at times, but Sunday was in a sense a microcosm of his season. He was inaccurate at times, particularly after taking a series of early hits that might have knocked a lot of quarterbacks out of games. But Sunday’s offensive struggles were very much a group effort, and the Jaguars’ wide receivers simply must do a better job getting open. I can’t tell you what the thinking will be after the season. I can tell you the Jaguars still believe Bortles is giving them the best chance to win, and that he is a long way from the sole reason when the offense struggles.
Hassan from Dallas, TX:
The Jags lost a game they should have won against the Jets. The only way to remedy that is by winning a game we are supposed to lose. Beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and everything will be back to normal. I’ll take 3-2 through the first five weeks of the season. How about you?
John: Would I have a choice?
Anne from Aldie:
The problem with 2-2 is that Pittsburgh follows this – and then the narrative changes a good bit after what may happen ... of course the unlikely opposite is really exciting, too!! #DTWD
John: This is the NFL, Anne – and by extension, this is a developing team with flaws/rough edges trying negotiate its way from a long stretch of losing to contending. It’s not easy, and this team isn’t good enough to avoid some pitfalls along the way. If a team has pitfalls it must make up for them by winning enough to make those pitfalls seem like hiccups rather than trends. Was New York a hiccup? Or a trend? A victory Sunday sure would make it seem the former.
George from Jacksonville:
I get the feeling that this week is an expected loss and the team is OK with that. Your thoughts?
John: Are you serious, Clark?
Thad from Albuquerque, NM:
We are going to lose this week; no questions asked. The only thing that matters is if we lose by a close margin (1-10) or a huge margin (20-plus). The "experts" think they will "light up” the Jaguars’ defense. If that happens, you can no longer say our defense is near elite. If they keep it close, then maybe you can say they are getting there. If we win, it will only be because our defense outscored the Steelers. What say you O?
John: I say this is short-sighted. While I understand the inclination to draw sweeping conclusions from every victory or loss, the result of one NFL game rarely defines anything more than one week – and never an entire season. If the Jaguars shut down the Steelers’ offense Sunday, there will be talk next week of the Jaguars being an elite defense. If they allow points on the scale they allowed against Tennessee in Week 2, there will be calls for players to be released and the accompanying rioting at the gates for the jobs of all coordinators and coaches. Either way, it won’t define the Jaguars’ season.
Josh from Lynchburg, VA:
Bruce from Green Cove Springs said the Jaguars have been competitive in three of four games. They were pretty competitive against the Titans, until they weren't.
John: Fair point.
Bradley from Carson City, NV:
A Huge game this week. I can't even make a prediction. I like your rather philosophical take on the Jags. Would value your prediction especially this week.
John: The Steelers are favored Sunday – as they should be. They’re good. They’re experienced. They have a franchise quarterback. They’re playing at home. But this Steelers team has not been dominant and the Jaguars – while showing significant flaws – have proven they can be very good and even dominant when pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers. The key for the Jaguars is stopping the run and getting in situations from which they can rush the passer. That usually means having a lead and keeping the offense in second- and third-and-long situations. If the Jaguars can get into those situations, they have a good chance Sunday. If not, I think the Steelers will win.
Jeff from Orange, CA:
John, why can't the Jaguars use their hindsight and draft players they KNOW are going to be good and also use the "force-trade" feature of the NFL to take them in the exact perfect slot, while also accumulating later picks for more use of hindsight? Also, I am available for hire if help is needed to implement these changes.
John: I’ll Google this.

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