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O-Zone: Wash away my shame

Posted Dec 1, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Chris from Roseville, CA:
I think Jags fans lean towards angry and can't enjoy the season because so many think the NFL should be like college with 57-0 games every week. You'd think after 22 years of NFL in Jacksonville that people would realize the differences.
John: I once bought into the theory that the success of local college football teams caused many Jaguars fans to struggle with the idea of 17-16 or 21-17 victories being OK in the NFL. This theory held water when I covered the team in the 1990s for the Florida Times-Union; that was when Florida and Florida State routinely reeled off 10-, 11- and-12 victory seasons – and just as routinely beat teams by 20 or 30 points. Those days are no more, and many Jaguars fans still struggle with tight victories. That has helped me realize close-game angst has less to do with college football and more to do with the nature of fans wanting their team to win big and worrying when it doesn’t. The moral: worry not about college football, and simply remember that – whatever the circumstance – fans gonna fan.
Jason from Falling Waters, WV:
Max McCaffrey, then Jaelen Strong, now Larry Pinkard. Our wide receivers are weak. They need a reliable veteran. TO is available. League minimum, why not??
John: They’re too busy trying to reach Alworth.
Sid from Sidsonville:
It’s early, but what do you think about the group of quarterbacks that will be available in the upcoming draft? Any good fits for the Jaguars? Any you would not consider?
John: Check back at the end of the season or playoffs – or more specifically, after the Senior Bowl. That’s when I start focusing on the draft enough to fake insight.
Jon from Apple Valley, CA:
Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Arrelious Benn, Shane Wynn, Rashad Greene. Are all these receivers still on the team and injured? No news on when they come back?
John: All of the players you mentioned are on injured reserve and will not return this season – with the exception of Allen Hurns. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and is eligible to return when healthy. I don’t expect that to be this week. Robinson went on injured reserve following a Week 1 torn anterior cruciate ligament and Benn went on later in the season following a knee injury. Wynn and Greene have been on since before the regular season began.
Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL:
Get rid of the demons. Beat Tennessee New Year’s, then play them in playoffs at home and give them a butt woppin.
John: We look ahead after Tuesday each week. We don’t look that far ahead. #buttwoppin
Fabian from Jacksonville:
Sup, John. So, I was watching Doug Marrone's Wednesday press conference where he complimented cornerback Aaron Colvin’s high level of play this season and it made me wonder: Do you think that Jags players watch these press conferences? If so, I feel like it’d be used as motivation for them to prove him right?
John: I imagine some players watch Marrone’s press conferences – at least on occasion. But I doubt Marrone says anything to the media he hasn’t already expressed to the player – probably on more than one occasion. Marrone seems to do most of his communicating and motivating directly.
Dan NEZ Deck:
With Josh Gordon coming back to the Browns, do you think there is any chance we'll ever see Justin Blackmon back in the NFL?
John: No.
Bill from Orange Park, FL:
John, we didn't see Chris Ivory after the fumble in Arizona. If they activate Jermey Parnell and Patrick Omameh, they probably will want to go heavy offensive line for at least their first week back, thus speculating we don't see all four tailbacks dressed Sunday. If that is the case, do you think it will be Ivory or Yeldon in street clothes? I know they had success early in the year with the Leonard-Chris power-power combo, but it's hard to argue T.J.'s value in the passing game of late. Your thoughts, Sir?
John: I think you’ll see all four running backs active if healthy for the rest of the season. One reason is that Leonard Fournette has dealt with an ankle issue for the last month, and you need depth in case he leaves the game. You also don’t want to be without both Ivory and Fournette available if you can avoid it.
Alex from Los Angeles, CA:
Why don't we lighten up your inbox, Sir OZone? I can't say I've had the chance to enjoy an NFL season as much as this one. This defense is infinitely fun and we have had a good chance to win every single game this year. One fer Barry Church. He has been the most underrated part of the defense this year! #DTWD
John: Hey, one fer Church!
Sam from Orlando, FL:
Jermaine Gresham sure seemed to be open a lot in the middle of the field on Sunday. Linebackers need to figure out how to cover tight ends, quick: two-to-three-step drops and tight ends in the middle of the field seem to be a glaring weakness for the Jags.
John: The Cardinals completed eight passes to tight ends for 107 yards, with one of those passes going for a 29-yard touchdown immediately after weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith left the game. Cardinals tight ends caught four passes for 52 yards with Smith and Myles Jack both in the game. This clearly was an issue Sunday, and an area that the Cardinals exploited. The NFL is a copycat league, and it’s also a league of adjustments. Good teams and defenses often get burned by an offensive approach for a week or two; the better teams adjust. The focus for the Jaguars’ coaches now is to adapt and scheme against this approach. I agree that teams will attack tight ends in the middle of the field – and do so quickly – because the Jaguars’ defensive front has done good job rushing the quarterback and because the cornerbacks have locked down wide receivers, but I don’t know that it’s reached a crisis point yet.
Ambuj from Minneapolis, MN:
The way defenses stack the box against our run plays suggests that play action and read option should be used more often. What am I missing?
John: The Jaguars used read option quite a bit last week. They could use it more, but Bortles takes enough punishment dropping to pass that you must be smart in how many more hits you force him to take running the read option. As far as play action, the Jaguars use it. Its effectiveness often depends on offensive linemen holding blocks and receivers making catches downfield. There have been struggles in those areas of late.
Taylor from Houston, TX:
Bortles by no means is playing great Top 10 Quarterback football, but he also is not playing Bottom 10 Quarterback football either. He is maneuvering the pocket great, making plays with his feet and flat-out making five-to-six elite plays per game, yet people in the Jacksonville media beat him up like he is terrible player. Houston did this same thing to Case Keenum a few years back – and I just can’t get my head around the logic of beating up an average homegrown quarterback. The guy is 26 and has everything to be an elite quarterback – and it feels as if Jacksonville and the media want him to be worse than he is. Be careful what you wish for because half of the league would love to have a quarterback like Bortles and he is treated like crap in Jacksonville.
John: I don’t get the idea that the media has been unfairly critical of Bortles in Jacksonville. As for how fans “treat” him, there are many who support him and many who want him out of Jacksonville; such is the nature of the beast of playing quarterback in the NFL. I wrote often in the offseasons following the 2015 and 2016 seasons that Bortles had much improving to do to be an elite quarterback. He’s not elite, but he has improved this season. He has been much more aware in the pocket, and his improvement throwing the deep ball has been obscured by receivers dropping a lot of said deep balls. He has been good this season evading pressure, and his command of the offense is much better than in the past. Does that improvement add up Bortles being good enough? I don’t know that that question is answerable yet. I do know Bortles has helped the Jaguars more than he has hurt them in most games this season. One thing he must do – and this trumps a lot of other things – is cut out the late key mistakes. You can’t ignore the errors late games against Arizona and the Los Angeles Chargers. Until those stop, a lot of the other improvement matters a lot less.
Bill from Folkston, GA:
Hey, John: What is your favorite Three Dog Night song?
John: Shambala.

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