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O-Zone: Always

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Strnbker from Dothan, AL:
Over the past several seasons you have consistently written about how the Jags needed a strong pass rush to become effective. Could this season be solid proof that perchance you were right the entire time? Oh my -- the horror!
John: Being right is cool. While I obviously am used to it, I also like it. Still, it's not as if I'm alone on NFL Analyst Island when I say a team needs a lock-down, shut-the-door pass rush to win consistently. Teams with an effective pass rush close out more games – and therefore win more – than teams that struggle to rush the passer. The reality is most NFL quarterbacks are good enough to score late in games if they're allowed to throw with little disruption. But lest I again hurt myself patting myself on the back, I must admit I slightly misjudged this Jaguars' defense. I long have believed great defenses must be built on a strong pass rush with secondary play typically feeding off what happens up front. This defense is built at least somewhat the other way. The secondary continues to force an inordinate number of coverage sacks, and this was particularly evident Sunday with Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett holding the ball on several occasions and giving the pass rush time to make the play. So, while I certainly was right that teams that can't disrupt the quarterback always struggle to win, my assumption that disruption always must be first generated by an overwhelming defensive line was wr…, wr…, wr… Nah, can't do it.
Chris in London, England:
Sometimes I like to just sit down with a bourbon and coke and think about the fact Ramsey, Jack, Ngakoue and Day were all signed in the same draft!!
John: You had me after 10 words.
Brent from Intracoastal West, FL:
We FINALLY have some homegrown talent worthy of a new contract. Which ones do you believe will be re-signed? Telvin Smith? Aaron Colvin? Blake Bortles? Marqise Lee? And does this mean David Caldwell has been vindicated to some extent?
John: The Jaguars already have re-signed center Brandon Linder, and I would imagine something will get done with wide receiver Allen Robinson at some point before free agency begins next March. My order next to be re-signed would be Smith, Colvin, Lee and Bortles with the obvious caveat being that there are nine games remaining in this season – and nine games is a lot when you're trying to figure what do about the quarterback position. As far as Caldwell, I never believed he needed that much vindication. The roster was at a low point in 2013 after he took over the roster and parted ways with a lot of veteran players. The idea was to go young and build – and results were going to take a while. An argument can be made that the Jaguars went "too young" and therefore took too long to show results; a weak Jaguars draft class in what was generally speaking a weak overall 2013 NFL Draft didn't help. But yeah: if it was vogue to criticize Caldwell when you were frustrated during recent seasons about the losing it's only fair to throw some praise his way right now if you like the young talent on the roster.
Will from Jacksonville:
Do you feel if the team becomes a playoff team that Doug Marrone should get consideration for Coach of the Year?
John: Sure, and he probably would have a real chance at winning it.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
Of note, out of the 33 sacks that the Jaguars have piled on, only four come from outside the defensive line. We don't blitz very often because we don't have to.
John: The best defenses and best pass rushes usually don't blitz much because blitzing by definition takes defenders out of coverage. The Jaguars' defensive linemen to a man credited the pass defense with a lot of the 10 sacks the team registered Sunday. How many of those 10 sacks would have happened with fewer players in coverage? Who knows, but don't look for the Jaguars to dramatically increase the number of times they blitz. Ideally, you'll see them blitz as little as possible.
Nate from York, PA:
Blake Bortles this year has seemed a whole lot better without Marqise Lee tipping balls into the air for interceptions.
John: Yes, Alex … I'll take incorrect hot takes for 200, please …
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
You told us for a long time to be patient about the Jaguars getting some respect from national media. We waited and waited and waited and it is finally here. Enjoying it to the max!
John: The national media tends to praise teams that win and do noteworthy things while winning. The Jaguars didn't fit that category for a long, long time.
Tom from Section 141 and the Mean Streets of Nocatee:
It seemed as though the offensive play-calling was a little more creative and effective Sunday before it was out of reach. Do the coaches plan more conservatively with Leonard Fournette in the game, or was this just the result of a poor Colts team that might be quitting on its coach?
John: Wow. We went from one extreme to another pretty quickly. Just because the Jaguars' opponent got shutout doesn't mean the team "quit on its coach." The Colts throughout the season had struggled to finish games, and the Jaguars' defense has proved very effective all season at playing with a lead; once the Jaguars got ahead in the first quarter it was going to be tough for the Colts to score. As far as the play-calling Sunday, I suppose it was more creative. More to the point, the Los Angeles Rams' approach the previous week of putting six linemen and two linebackers near the line of scrimmage made it clear to everyone that this team was going to have to let Bortles throw downfield. The game plan Sunday called for Bortles to do that and he did so effectively. When Fournette returns, I anticipate you'll see him used heavily in the game plan. That might be conservative. It also has been effective.
Tim from Mandarin, FL:
I'm sure lots of us fans are puzzled how the offensive line can look so good with (mostly) the same players there compared to previous seasons. No one saw this coming since Doug Marrone was the offensive line coach previously. Has the scheme changed that much, because we couldn't block third-stringers in the preseason even?
John: The Jaguars weren't nearly as worried as observers about the offensive line in the preseason. They believed that right tackle Jermey Parnell had played better late last season after recovering from a hip injury that hampered him early in the season. They also thought rookie left tackle Cam Robinson would be a big upgrade. They also knew that they didn't scheme much in the preseason, and scheming can have a lot to do with an offensive line's effectiveness blocking for the run. As for the overall improvement from last season, the Jaguars were confident throughout the offseason that a greater commitment to the run game – along with the addition of Leonard Fournette – would help in that area. They also believed the improved running game would mean throwing fewer passes, and attempting fewer passes always helps a team's pass blocking.
John from Jagstown:
It's always fun to go back and re-read the Sunday morning O-Zone questions after a big Sunday win this season.
John: The NFL is a week-to-week, game-to-game league. The inbox reflects as much.
Phil from Woodmere, NY:
If you give the Jags a 10-point lead going into the second half, is there any team in the league you would pick to beat them?
John: I'd give the New England Patriots a decent chance to come from behind in that scenario because of Tom Brady, and there's something about the Seattle Seahawks that always make you wary no matter the score. But your point is a correct one: this team is very good with a double-digit lead, and there aren't many teams that would come back on this defense in the second half.
Jon from Ocala, FL:
Hi O, so why haven't we traded Allen Hurns and T.J. Yeldon yet, lol?
John: You kid, but Sunday's game was the perfect example of why it's not always a smart thing to trade players who aren't starting. The NFL is a violent, physical game and players get hurt. Neither Hurns nor Yeldon were starters in Week 1 and wouldn't have started Sunday if not for injuries to Allen Robinson and Fournette, respectively. They both produced more than 100 yards offense. Depth is cool. Teams like it.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
That was some great play-calling! This defense can wreck your day from every position. Not too often you get a collection of talent like this so anything is possible. Win the bye week and go Jaguars!
John: It's truly amazing how good coaches are at calling plays when their teams win.

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