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O-Zone: A most confusing question

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Daytona Beach, FL:
Hypothetically, if we beat the Colts this week and if the Patriots don't lose three in a row, we are right back in this thing. Can we please start talking about playoffs again next week? Loving the offense.
John: You were saying something about playoff scenarios and something about what happens if the Jaguars beat the Colts Sunday and the Texans lose to the Patriots, and I … No. No, NO, NO! I can't do it. I got sucked in before, and I won't do it again. It's not that I don't believe the Jaguars are capable of winning four consecutive games; it's that I don't want to talk about that until they win at least two more consecutive games. Tell you what: we'll start dissecting playoff scenarios and chewing on possibilities when they become real possibilities again. Right now, because of tiebreakers and a two-game deficit, the Jaguars being in the playoff chase doesn't look realistic. But if …
Rob from Section 122:
What's the deal with the commercials? All the videos use to just play. Now, there are commercials? I just back out … don't even watch them now.
John: What's the deal with this free website? Why is it so darned inconvenient? Wait … what?
Paul from Baltimore, MD:
You are adamant that new edge rushers will make a difference with the Jaguars' defense. However, the Arizona Cardinals do not have an elite pass-rusher and they still rank towards the top of the NFL in sacks/pressures. That same theory also applies to the New York Jets. It's on the coaching staff to maximize the strength of the personnel. The defensive coaches have failed at that. I'm sorry, but who's to say that if the Jaguars had Von Miller and Justin Houston on their roster that the pass rush would be fine? It wouldn't. These coaches cannot scheme the pass rush. Period. Stop defending it.
John: You're entitled to your opinion, Paul. I would say an argument can be made that the Jaguars' coaches "schemed" pass rush fine last season when defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks was healthy and when they were getting a bit more pressure from the Leo – and I don't think they became idiots in one offseason. As far as your point, and your "request" that I stop "defending" the pass rush: of course there's no guarantee that other Leo pass rushers will "fix" the pass rush. There's also little question that the Jaguars have gotten little production from the Leo position and that that has been a major reason for the lack of ability to get off the field on third down.
Shannon from Brunswick, GA:
Why must Eddie be such an angry young man, when the future looks quite bright to me?
John: Because his head needs a rest. Honestly, you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it.
Keith from Miami, FL:
About that one more receiver needed to play at a high level ... isn't that Julius Thomas???
John: That would be nice, and it's beginning to happen, but having three receivers playing at a high level would be better. Not that the Jaguars' offense can't operate on a high level with Hurns, Robinson and Thomas playing well, but that fourth element in the passing game – that's the final piece.
Steve from Seattle, WA:
With Shad and the city council approving stadium renovations and a new indoor practice facility, is there any chance a large venue for entertainment could be built to supplement the Jaguars and draw more national interest to the city? What better than to make Jacksonville the location of not only the world's largest scoreboards, but the world's largest skate park – one that would bring professionals from around the country and world to visit?
John: Dude, that'd be gnarly.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
The pass rush struggling is a self-inflicted wound. Dave Caldwell knew he was counting on one addition (albeit a high-drafted rookie) to fix a pretty weak position. If Dante Fowler Jr. was playing, was anything approaching 10 sacks and consistent pressure even reasonable? Dave knew Marks was coming off an injury and shouldn't be counted on (see Atkins in Cincinnati). Dave put waaaaaaay too much stock into Chris Clemons and Andre Branch doing anything more than putting on a jersey on Sundays. Some of the free-agent pass rushers have made a decent impact for their new teams and I didn't recall hearing the Jags pursued any of them. Our lack of productivity at the LEO position is just as much a self-inflicted wound as bad luck. What are your thoughts?
John: That certainly is how it has played out. At the same time, remember: the Jaguars got decent pressure – not great, but decent – from the front last season and did a good job scheming to create pressure. They also added Jared Odrick, who wasn't expected to be a monster pass rusher but who was expected to generate a bit more pressure off the strong side – and who has done that. The thought was that Marks would be slowed early while returning from the torn anterior cruciate ligament, but that he would return and get progressively better – which he was doing until he tore his triceps. The primary issue has been at the Leo, and while it's easy to say Clemons and Branch should have been replaced in the offseason, I'd also say neither has been as effective this season as last season. I don't know that the Jaguars expected them to be Pro Bowl players, but it wasn't illogical to think they would be more productive than this. If Caldwell had it to do over again, perhaps he would have signed one more Leo veteran pass rusher to hold the fort until you draft and develop young players at the position. Then again, that's sort of Clemons' role.
Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Why can't they just play good football? If it weren't for their own mistakes, the season would be much better. That's why I believe they are "close," but is that on coaching or still being young?
John: I believe it's mostly on youth, though coaching certainly plays a part – as it does in anything.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Compared to all the other rookies you have dealt with, where would you place Dante Fowler's maturity level? We keep pinning our hopes on him for next year, but I have this bad feeling (unfounded) he is not going to be near the rookie we drafted.
John: He's very mature – strikingly so, in fact. I have no idea how he will return from the torn anterior cruciate ligament – or how he will play in the NFL for that matter. But If Fowler doesn't make it, maturity won't be the reason.
Andrew from Tehachapi, CA:
Looking at our pass rush more closely, I noticed that it's not just our defensive end's fault for the lack of pressure. They seem to do well getting around the ends, but when they move inside, they're either picked up by a running back or an offensive lineman. Really, our weakness seems to be a lack of push from the interior. An end can't do much if the quarterback can just step up and buy another second or two. This, I believe, is where Marks helps our pass rush so much.
John: Sen'Derrick Marks being out doesn't help at all.
John from Jacksonville:
Prior to the Titans games, there was a lot of focus on Marqise Lee getting his big chance with Allen Hurns inactive. Were you able to watch some film on Lee specifically and determine why he wasn't much of a factor? Was it mostly that Bortles/Robinson were in such a perfect groove that day, Lee not getting open in routes, or other factors? I may have missed some comments since Sunday but appreciate any of your insight as I really am anxious to see Lee have a breakout game.
John: I did watch Lee. He appeared to play OK. I thought he was interfered with on what could have been a big gain early, and I thought the 17-yard gain to the 1-yard line showed exactly what he can be when he's right. As far as why he didn't get more touches, it absolutely had to do with Bortles being in a groove with Robinson, which makes sense because Bortles has worked so much more with Robinson. There's a trust factor there that isn't there with Lee because Lee hasn't played enough. I'd like to see Lee have a breakout game, too. I think he's capable of it. At the same time, with Hurns returning I don't know that Lee will get the extended opportunity this season to have that sort of game. We'll see.
John-Paul P from Florida:
I heard people say that JPP would help the pass rush next year. Does that mean he would stop hosting the Post Game Shows and all his other duties or would he simply play the Leo spot in addition to that?
John: You're talking about Shadrick, I presume. I'm confused … what do you mean when you say "all his other duties?"

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