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O-Zone: Play your players

Posted Nov 25, 2017

JACKSONVILLE –Let’s get to it …

Seamus from Vancouver, BC:
O-Zone, I think there was a misfire in your answer to Jim from Cowford, FL. You answered a generic question about national attention for the Jaguars, whereas Jim was asking about specific attention for Coach of the Year considerations. I noticed the same thing when watching ESPN.com discuss CotY awards, where the only three mentioned were the Rams' Sean McVay, the Eagles' Doug Pederson and the Vikings' Mike Zimmer. Of the options who would have bet on the Jaguars and the Rams being in the conversation in November?
John: Here’s the thing to remember about “national attention” – specific or otherwise. Rarely do those doing the discussing care as passionately about the topic as those watching – and rarely do those doing the discussing drill as deeply into the details as the fans of individual teams. When planning for the abovementioned segment, it’s very possible an ESPN.com producer said to a couple of on-air personalities, “Hey, give me your three Coach of the Year candidates.” McVay, Pederson and Zimmer are logical choices and the discussion perhaps ended there. Would the drilling be deeper when it comes down to actual voting? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Fortunately, it’s a relatively minor issue, but that’s why it’s best to keep awards and national recognition in perspective. Sometimes the right people get recognized; sometimes, guys get overlooked. And recognition often takes time. When I covered the Colts, very good players such as Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis were “overlooked” for several seasons before having several seasons where they were regularly acknowledged. That’s why I answered generically rather than specifically, because when it comes to national recognition, it’s not always doled out “correctly.” It’s probably not “fair,” but if you keep winning it tends to work itself out. Oh, and one final thing: My answers don’t misfire. Always remember that.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
How significant is the issue with Jalen's hand?
John: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey sustained a hand injury in practice Friday. He later told a couple of media members he wouldn’t be able to play Sunday because of the injury. The team listed him as questionable. Had he been out, the team would have listed him out. The thought here is that Ramsey will play Sunday. I’m relatively confident in that. We’ll see.
Brian from Greenwood, IN:
How big was that win against the Chargers? That's a good football team.
John: The difference in perception and reality often is major in the NFL. When the Jaguars beat the Los Angeles Chargers, many fans dismissed it as “ugly” failing to realize how good the Chargers’ defense is playing. In reality, that was a gutsy victory. Coming from eight points behind to beat that team in overtime while shutting down the Chargers’ offense for the final six drives could prove to be one of the Jaguars’ major accomplishments of the season. How big was the victory? As it stands, the 7-3 Jaguars lead the 5-6 Chargers by two and a half games. Had it gone the other way, the 6-4 Jaguars would lead the 6-5 Chargers by a half game. It was big.
Clayton from Gambier, OH:
Which player do the Jaguars need to shut down to have their best chance of winning on Sunday, Larry Fitzgerald or Adrian Peterson?
John: Peterson. Here’s why: if Peterson runs for more than 100 yards, it means the Cardinals are running effectively. That in turn probably will mean the Jaguars’ defense isn’t forcing the Cardinals into passing situations, which probably in turn means fewer times to rush and fewer opportunities to pressure the Cardinals into turnovers. If you stop Peterson, it’s easier to take the passing game and Fitzgerald away. If you don’t stop Peterson, it’s quite likely Fitzgerald will have a big game as well.
Neil from Gloucester, UK:
Hi O. Assuming the defense continues to improve as the season progresses and Blake Bortles plays as he has, can the Jags win the Super Bowl?
John: Yes: the Jaguars absolutely can win the Super Bowl the way they are playing right now. That doesn’t mean they will win the Super Bowl. Nor does it mean they are the favorites. But this defense gives the Jaguars a chance no matter the opponent. Think of it this way: If the Jaguars get a lead against any team in the NFL – Patriots and Eagles, included – can this defense not create enough pressure/turnovers to hold the lead, and perhaps even pull away? I’m of the belief it can. Now, this is just as true: if the Jaguars get behind a lot of teams, it will be very difficult for them to come from behind to win. This is not a team with a lot of formulas for winning, but its best formula – play defense, get a lead and protect that lead – is a very good formula capable of beating anyone.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
I think Blake Bortles is only as good as his protection. When he has time and isn't focused on getting sacked and can use the play action because his line is opening holes for the run game, Bortles does well. But when he has constant pressure because of missed assignments on the line or a backup not winning the battle up front and the defense can pin its ears back because the running game can't get going, Bortles is a bit unpredictable with the ball and makes bad mistakes. Bortles’ worst games have come when our offensive line has struggled and our running game has been bad. (Titans, Chargers, Browns) but when we win up front he plays great (Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Indy). Thoughts?
John: I rarely say this, but: “Logan, you are correct.” Bortles this season with the notable exception of late in the Chargers game for the most part has made pretty good decisions and played pretty poised. But the line at times has struggled more than the statistics indicate. Bortles has avoided a lot of sacks with his awareness and mobility, and the run game – particularly in the past two weeks – hasn’t gotten the Jaguars into manageable down-and-distance situations nearly enough.
Randy from Jacksonville:
Do any of these people who constantly overanalyze and pick apart Blake Bortles watch any other quarterbacks other than Brady – or any other games? This league is full of missed routes/throws, great defensive plays and quarterbacks making (or desperately trying not to make) mistakes. It’s a tough game, Zone. Here’s one fer Blake, who is one of the consistent winners so far this season.
John: Bortles is not elite. He’s not one of the top three or four players at his position. This Jaguars’ offense right now is not going to be high-flying, and considering the injuries at receiver and along the offensive line, it’s fair to say points will be at a premium. The line is going to have trouble protecting Bortles long enough for him to take deep drops, and the line could have trouble run-blocking well enough to get Bortles into really good third-down situations. That will make it difficult for him to thrive. But what he has done so far this season is make good decisions and his mobility and – yes, grit – has been a positive for this team. He’s having a far better year than many realize, so yeah … one fer Blake.
HD from Sacksonville:
John, I have to ask: Are these Defensive and Offensive Player of the Week awards just much ado about nothing? The winner this week from Baltimore certainly didn't move the needle as much as our own Yannick Ngakoue ... but is it too much to ask, regardless of previous awards for a team, to award it to the most deserving player? One for Yannick he absolutely impacted the outcome of this last game. Sad the league didn't give him his dues … thoughts?
John: I wouldn’t say the Player of the Week awards are much ado about nothing; they’re more accurately a little to do about very little – like most awards, but even more so. They’re cool for a few days, but they’re not remembered very long and they don’t have very much to do with postseason honors, future contracts or winning and losing. But yeah … one fer Ngakoue – who, by the way, eventually will get the recognition he is due because he’s performing too well for that not to happen.
Robert from Fernandina Beach, FL:
What do you think of sitting Leonard Fournette for four-to-six games in the hopes he would be 100 percent for the playoffs? I realize we are far from making the playoffs, but we have lots of good backs for a reason.
John: The Jaguars have won seven games. They have clinched nothing. Not the AFC South. Not a wild-card spot. You play your players in the regular season until you clinch not just a playoff spot or the division, but the highest seeding possible. What if Fournette hadn’t played against the Browns Sunday? Would they have won? I’m not sure. You play your players until you clinch your seeding and then you figure out rest. Until seeding is clinched, players play.

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