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O-Zone: At the ready

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Wade from Westside

Caldwell said improvement is possible and that the talent is there. So, what gives? What is the problem? Is it effort, scheme, poor execution or coaching? I can't help but believe he is blowing some smoke and overrating the talent level, but what do I know?

Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell indeed this week was asked if the Jaguars had enough talent to have a "top-level" defense. It's the sort of question coordinators get asked near the end of seasons in which their units are struggling, and it's the sort of question that was inevitable following a 40-14 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday in which the Jaguars allowed scores on the Lions' first eight possessions. Caldwell said the Jaguars indeed have enough talent. It's the sort of answer coordinators give when asked about talent. Coordinators don't criticize players, even when there are deficiencies in the defense that help teams score on eight consecutive possessions. And they don't say there isn't enough talent to win.

Ryan from Detroit, MI

John, I was thinking about your frequent response that it typically takes two-to-three years for even top- end draft picks to develop to meet their potential. Obviously, that hasn't happened in Jacksonville for a very long time. So, my question is: have we been bad at identifying talent? Or have we been bad at helping those players develop to meet their potential?

My frequent response about it taking two-to-three years isn't my opinion. It's a longstanding NFL truth, albeit one often overlooked by the most knowledgeable fans and observers. But you're right that the Jaguars haven't had a lot of top-end draft selections meet their potential in recent seasons. That's because they didn't draft well enough for a long time. They also had a bad stretch of not retaining many of their good draft selections. They remain in an extended stretch of trying to break that cycle. They must wait for players to develop, and have faith that they will do so. That's part of breaking the cycle, and the patience needed is what makes breaking the cycle difficult.

Marty from Jacksonville

John, please tell Wade is Woke from the Westside that "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result" is NOT the definition of insanity, even if Einstein supposedly said it.

I know. But correcting people all the time is tedious. It's hard work being this good.

Art from Drexel Hill, PA

Going into a season cash-strapped with all these holes on the roster after having $100 million and the first pick in every round of the draft for the past two seasons isn't a good look for whomever is calling the shots.

This is a common refrain these days, particularly with the Jaguars' defense struggling. And while the refrain is understandable, some of the culprit here is the nature of free agency. The Jaguars had multiple areas to improve in recent offseasons and therefore felt they had to participate more than is ideal in the free-agent market. When you do that, you run a high risk of paying premium dollars for less-than-premium talent. That's not to say no mistakes were made. It is to say that at least some of those mistakes can be attributed to having to fix the mistakes of past regimes with a less-than-ideal means to do so.

Tony from Johns Creek

O, I can't remember the opponent, yet I do remember they lost two offensive line starters during the game and the Jags still couldn't get to their quarterback. It doesn't appear that the 3-4 is working. How hard would it be to switch to a four-three during the season?


Keith from Saint Augustine, FL

Football is fun? For a franchise having one winning season since 2008, please explain to me how all this losing is fun.

Football is fun compared to other things such as work, sickness, plague and torture. This is true even at its most frustrating – and even at its most frustrating, sports should provide some sense of diversion. If they provide no diversion or joy – if it pains you so much to watch games or to read this column, or if one's outlook on life is so tied to a football team's results that losing affects you as it would sickness or plague – perhaps there are bigger issues at play than a win-loss record.

Dave from Section 103

Hey Zone, Trent Baalke joined the Jaguars in February 2020, over two months before the draft in which we took cornerback C.J. Henderson and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson in the first round. I know he wasn't the "general manager, but why does he get a free pass on those picks?

Because he wasn't the general manager.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

Contrary to what Gary from St. Augustine says, you don't suck, John. I do think you sometimes have a deeper tint of rose-colored glasses than most. But I deeply appreciate you giving us a voice to "bitch and complain" about this team that we love (and hate). We are fans after all.

When teams lose, fans and observers want to hear everything sucks. They want blame, calls for firings and short-term reactions. This is understandable and there are plenty of places fans can hear these things. While issues are acknowledged here in the O-Zone, I try to make this a place where fans can better understand why things happen as they do and why the Jaguars make the decisions they do. That's it. That's the job. That's what this is. But I do still suck. Ask anyone.

Billy from Orange Park and Section 412

In the limited time that I have focused on watching Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen's pass rush, he has not been using a variety of pash rush moves. It seems the bull rush is the only technique he is using and it's not working. Has he given up on other moves? Is he hurt? It's obvious that this is not the Josh Allen that we knew before. Help me grasp this.

I agree that Allen doesn't look the same as before. While he has pressured the passer consistently with a team-high pressures this season, he hasn't had near the sack production he or anyone else expected. He also hasn't been as disruptive as past season when he was healthy. My sense is he's pressing a bit and perhaps dealing with some confidence issues, either of which can lead to using limited techniques and not playing as well as he has previously. I don't believe injuries are an issue for him. I just think he's struggling.

Michael from Cincinnati, OH

Hey, Zone. Looking at the injury reports, the Jags look in pretty good shape compared to Tennessee. I think if we weren't coming off a lopsided game, we'd all have a little more confidence for Sunday. I think the Jags bounce back and squeeze out of Nashville with a W.

Michael remains "all in."

John from Jacksonville

The 1999 season still sticks in my craw after all this time. The Jaguars are going to play a dinged-up Titans team in Nashville where they haven't won since 2013. The Jaguars' two best wins this season were against teams with significant holes from injuries. How handicapped are the Titans this week? The Jags are the little kid from "A Christmas Story" and the bully is picking on him again, only this time he has answer. Go Jags!

John, though perhaps a little scarred by life and therefore a little "all over the place" in his Ralphie analogy, also remains "all in."

John from Jacksonville

Hi, KOAGF. I must say that it is refreshing to have a meaningful Jags game as late as December 11. This Sunday will either escalate the talk of postseason with a Jags win (and give us another meaningful game next Sunday) or it will put the final nail in that discussion. I hope our boys are ready to fight hard for 60 minutes.

Sunday is indeed big in that sense – and the Jaguars really aren't out the race for the AFC South title. If the Jaguars win Sunday in Tennessee, they will be two games behind the Titans with a home game remaining against Tennessee in the regular-season finale. It feels like a very distant scenario as of this writing. It will feel a lot closer if the Jaguars win Sunday.

Ray from Jax

John: "I could be wrong about that, too. I'm often wrong." Did your wife hack your account and publish the column Saturday? If so, does that end the streak?

My wife did not hack my account. This is beyond her technological level. So is resetting the wifi, though she thankfully is always at the ready with "helpful advice" when I'm addressing such issues. But I indeed have been wrong before. And I indeed often am wrong. This remains true, and I nonetheless remain the king of all funk.