JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
This season is flying by, so I guess we are all having a good time, right? Reading your email must be depressing. What a shame, because the Jags are having a great season. Too bad they don't know it.
John: I get more than a few emails these days wondering why fans can't enjoy the Jaguars' season – and it's true more emails to this forum express concern or anger than joy. But here's the thing: people are more apt to ask about weaknesses or mistakes than good things. That's human nature – and as a certain brilliant observer of the human condition often says, "Fans gonna fan." But that doesn't mean fans aren't enjoying this season. My sense from speaking to fans on the occasions when I venture into public undisguised is fans absolutely are excited and enjoying this season. There's a real energy around this city, and I feel an uptick in excitement as the upcoming three-game home stand approaches. So, why so much of the aforementioned anger and concern? Because fans understandably want more than a 7-4 start. They want the Jaguars to make the playoffs. They want the Jaguars to win once they're there. That's what fans are supposed to want— to win every game, and to be furious and even irrational when they lose. The emotions Jaguars fans are expressing and feeling now are the emotions of a contending team with a chance at the postseason. It has been too long time since Jaguars fans have felt them – and trust me, they're having a good time. Even if some of them don't realize it.
Tim from Doboy Island, GA:
Too many people are knocking Leonard Fournette recently. When we drafted him, I was hoping and expecting the next Adrian Peterson or Fred Taylor, but that was wrong and I've had to change my expectation. When the line blocks and creates a hole, Fournette can do more than any running back in the league because of his size and breakaway speed. But if he doesn't have a hole, he can't create something out of nothing the way AP and Fred could. He is a different kind of runner and not quite at their level in that regard. For people to blame him Sunday is to expect something he isn't good at. Until the line starts blocking or the passing game threatens opponents, don't expect much to change in terms of the run game. Go Jags!
John: I haven't received many emails knocking Fournette, and I hadn't heard many people blaming him for Sunday's loss – and to either knock him or blame him would be silly. To your point: while Taylor and Peterson are indeed two of the better backs of their generations, I don't know that they faced defenses quite so bunched up to stop the run as Fournette has faced this season. I'm relatively certain, for instance, no team played a goal-line defense in the middle of the field to stop either of those players as the Los Angeles Rams did in October against Fournette. The Jaguars' passing game hasn't been able to be efficient enough – and at times, the line hasn't blocked well enough against the fronts – to give Fournette adequate opportunity. It's true he has struggled against bunched fronts. But I honestly don't know how well any back past or present would fare under these circumstances.
Jackson from Jacksonville:
Leonard Fournette was held to minimal yardage against Arizona so how should the Jaguars plan to attack the run game in the future?
John: Keep running – and block better. And hope you can do something to get some defenders out of the box – i.e., hit some deep passes. At this point, there honestly isn't that much more to scheme. If there were, the Jaguars would have … you know … schemed it.
Will from Jacksonville:
Do you think Corey Grant will finally get a decent look on offense soon? It just seems every time he runs with the ball there is a chance for a huge play but for some reason the coaches seem stubborn about playing him on offense, preferring to play an injured Fournette and ineffective Chris Ivory. I hope he gets a good look soon.
John: I doubt you'll see a dramatically increased role for Grant, but I agree he brings a serious threat of a big play. He has made them routinely on special teams, but it's tricky to give him an every-down role because of his size. Considering that the Jaguars' offense is having trouble putting together sustained drives, would it make sense to try to install a package or two to get explosive plays from Grant offensively? There's some logic there.
Kenneth from Jacksonville:
Is Tyler Shatley injured? I find it hard to believe the offensive line wouldn't be better with him at guard or at center with Brandon Linder moving over to guard than the guys we've trotted out there the past two games.
John: Shatley is not injured. Brandon Linder isn't moving from center to guard, and I wouldn't be shocked if Chris Reed held onto the left guard position. The bottom line: there's not really a significant difference between what you're going to get from Shatley, Reed or Omameh. All have their own shortcomings and none are really dominant run blockers.
Keith from Miami, FL:
Do ever see the NFL going away from official reviews and leaving all review decisions on the head coach? Maybe give each head coach one more review (three total) and if they win two of the three, they get the extra review? It just seems like there are more and more official reviews nowadays that are unnecessary and make the game longer.
John: No, and I hope they don't go that direction. The idea behind implementing the official review in the final two minutes – and for scoring plays and change-of-possession plays – was to ensure game-altering plays getting called correctly. The last thing the league, teams or fans want is an obvious call that would win or lose a postseason game missed because a coach was out of reviews. That would be chaos, I tell ya! Cha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-os!!!!
Let the Boys Play from Section 409 since 1995:
Is it time to rethink the script? The plan to play every game close and limit the offense seems to have everyone playing close and leaves no room for error. My observation is that the defense has progressed to a point where it can absorb a mistake or two on offense. I'd suggest telling the team, "Guys, were going to start taking chances, and we may make a mistake or two, but if it allows us to generate more scoring chances, we'll trust the defense to cover us."
John: It seems your theory is it's OK to put the defense in difficult situations either through more turnovers on offense or putting the defense back on the field quicker (because of shorter drives on offense). I can tell you neither is a welcome thought for Head Coach Doug Marrone.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Why does is it feel as if the Jaguars don't show their best against West Coast/NFC teams. Is the NFC that much better than the AFC, excluding the Patriots? Also, can you predict a win against our beloved rivals next weekend? Thanks dawg.
John: The Jaguars didn't show their best against many opponents for a long time. The sample size of them actually being competitive is far too small to draw any significant trends. And yeah … I think the Jaguars will beat the Colts Sunday … dawg.
Sara from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa:
John, since the O-Zone mandate commanding fan respect for J.P. Shadrick, I have to admit seeing him in a different light. Just thought you might like to share with J.P. proof of your powers of persuasion and acumen for global influence.
John: I botched that mandate, FWIW.
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
If I was an offensive coordinator, my first thought would be to attack the Jaguars' defense with heavy sets that try to eliminate the Jaguars' strength of having three very, very good corners. How would the Jaguars' defense match up against primarily one wide-receiver sets?
John: Good, particularly since the addition of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
Kari from Neptune Beach, FL:
Zone, as much as you disparage the notion of "It's always coaching," I would contend that things like not instilling a play-to-the-whistle mentality (Jets), and giving up 17 points on special teams (Rams), fall on coaching almost as much as egregious clock mismanagement (Cardinals). While the Titans clearly manhandled us up front, it could also be argued that opening up the offensive game plan would've benefited our chances immensely in that game. I agree that you are what your record says you are, but believe coaching has been instrumental in those four losses.
John: I couldn't agree more. That's why the Jaguars were so fortunate to play those seven teams with awful coaches. Otherwise they would be in real trouble.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Jim from Middleburg, FL: