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O-Zone: Tough guy

Posted Oct 8, 2017

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Let’s get to it …

John from Jacksonville:
I'm counting on you, O warrior, to stomp into the coaches’ room and demand the chains be taken off Blake Bortles to let him run the offense at key times with a faster tempo. The offense will thrive because this is his element, when he thrives in close games or when needing a score to come from behind. Bortles does better with the hurry-up offense and it's not being utilized often enough when games are close or we are behind. I'm counting on you, O warrior.
John: “O warrior” will probably sit this one out – and not just because of a crippling, ever-present fear of being beaten about the face and neck. While I agree that Bortles at times performs well in up-tempo situations or when outside the pocket, I don’t know that it’s accurate he has “thrived” in close games or when needing a score to come from behind. I also have no sense the Jaguars have any inclination to abandon their offensive approach and become a fast-tempo offense – and I don’t believe that would be a wise approach. When the Jaguars have been good this season, it has been because their defense has been fresh and swarming, using its speed and pass-rush ability to overwhelm opposing offenses. The defense did not look nearly as good, say, in the second half against Tennessee when it had been on the field facing adverse situations through much of the first two and a half quarters. To put this offense in up-tempo mode would run a high risk of putting this defense in more difficult situations and therefore negating the team’s biggest strength. O warrior says that would not be wise, young soldier.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Jags defense is slightly above average and the offense is futile. That equals loss to Steelers.
John: Jerell has his game face on.
Mat from Danielson, CT:
John, I hope Poz can appeal that fine. I don't know what good it would do, but if that other guy didn't get a fine for his hit on Poz, Poz shouldn't be fined, either. What do you think?
John: I didn’t think Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny should have been penalized for his play at the end of the loss to the New York Jets last Sunday, much less fined. He was penalized for taunting. He got blown up on a play – on a hit that appeared to be illegal. Did anyone see the play? Why would Posluszny “taunt” someone after that? This view on this certainly won’t change things, or make Posluszny feel much better when paying the fine. Either way, that’s my view.
Jason from St. Augustine, FL:
T.J. Yeldon is a disappointment at running back, but has great hands and does well in space. We are thin at wide receiver. Why not give him a shot there or at tight end?
John: Because he’s a running back.
Mark from Archer, FL:
John, do you think with our issues at wide receiver right now maybe they bring back Greene? Or one of our other receivers who got cut? They know the offense and would at least give us some depth right now that we desperately need.
John: Jaguars wide receiver Rashad Greene Sr. was placed on injured reserve before the September 2 53-man deadline and is ineligible to return this season. The same is true of Shane Wynn. It would be cool for the Jaguars if they were eligible to return this season. They’re not, so that’s not as cool.
Joe from Jacksonville:
Would you trade Jalen Ramsey for Jimmy Garoppolo?
John: No. I know exactly what Ramsey is and can easily project what he will be. I don’t know what Garoppolo is or what he will be.
Chris from Goodnight, TX:
I definitely LOL'd at your response to my question about Leonard Fournette. I appreciate good snark, but I stand by my point. Fournette has averaged a pedestrian 3.5 yards-per-carry over four games. Our offensive line is not dominant, and he is struggling to amass a lot of yards. I'd be surprised if he averaged more than four yards per carry at the end of the season, because I don't think he has the quick acceleration necessary to explode through tight windows at this level. Don't get me wrong – he is a good back, probably worthy of a late-first or second-round selection. I just don't see the value as a Top 5 selection. (And need I remind you about how excited you were about Dante Fowler Jr. going into last season, and he's only recently started showing that he might be a capable of becoming a starting caliber defensive end).
John: Four games do not a season or a career make, and I’m not going to get into a daily back and forth on Fournette’s draft value. I was on record before the draft that I wasn’t a big running-back-in-the-Top-5 guy. Generally speaking and studied over the course of history, I’m a believer that other positions have more value in the Top 5. At the same time, the Jaguars over the last decade or so have had a slew of early selections from which they got little value during their careers. You must get premium, elite talent in the Top 5 – and you can’t miss. That sort of player ideally should be a player for whom opponents must account when game planning. The Jaguars clearly got such a player in cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2016. Fournette so far is such a player. Defenses so far are having to stack the line of scrimmage and account for Fournette. My belief is if they weren’t doing this Fournette’s already significant production would be much greater. Is the quest in the Top 5 to get big-time, special talent? You can make that argument. Fournette looks like that to me.
CC from Duval:
More zone read with Bortles to utilize his running ability and take pressure off Fournette and the stacked boxes he faces?
John: A little, maybe – but not too much.
Sandro from El Paso, TX:
Although the Steelers have more weapons offensively than us, do you see the Jaguars stacking the box to shut down Le’Veon Bell while just having our top two corners do their thing?
John: I think this is an interesting question entering Sunday. The Jets had success running against the Jaguars’ nickel package last Sunday, particularly on a couple of their longer runs. It’s not fair to call the Jaguars’ nickel package vulnerable to the run off such a small sample size, but it’s reasonable to assume the Steelers – who run much of their offense from three-receiver formations – will do what they can to increase the sample size. I do wonder if the Jaguars will do something to get middle linebacker Paul Posluszny on the field more against Bell in those situations, though I doubt you’d see that extensively. The most pressing issue for the Jaguars against the Jets wasn’t the number of defenders in the box; rather, it was the defenders who were on the field not staying in their gaps. The latter issue was a major emphasis this week and will be critical Sunday.
Pradeep from Bangalore, India:
Hi John, what is your opinion on Keelan Cole so far? I guess he was pretty amazing in preseason and a true rookie in regular season. Never caught a deep pass or critical pass. Or is this one on Bortles?
John: Cole has struggled through four games. The Jaguars need him to be better. He’s one of the team’s top three receivers for a reason and the Jaguars aren’t getting enough from any of the three.
Victor from Jacksonville:
Zone, do you think maybe ... just maybe this week ... well, you know?
John: What? What?! WHAT?!!!
David from Broward County, FL:
O-man, Bortles is 6-feet-5, yet since he's been in the league he has the most batted down passes of any quarterback by far. When you've commented on this, you seem to indicate it is weird or bad luck. Really? He is lazy and sloppy with his mechanics and clearly cannot take coaching on this and many other issues affecting him. If this team is 4-4 at the midseason point, I will be shocked – in a positive way. He is a really bad NFL quarterback and anybody who can’t face that fact is being delusional. #DTWDDESPSITEBB5
John: I haven’t spent much time on the batted-pass issue – perhaps because there’s only so many ways to discuss it. Some is on the offensive line, some indeed is on bad luck, some is on the opposing defensive lines making plays – and some is on Bortles or any quarterback to have better feel in the pocket. Bortles indeed has had enough passes batted at the line that some of it is on his pocket presence.
Rocco X from Jacksonville:
C'mon, Zone Man! We thought you were a tough dude. You won't duel a person named Buttercups?
John: No, but I’ll drop you like a six-inch putt, “Rocco.”

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