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O-Zone: Better off...

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Jordan from Jacksonville

I don’t think the defense has been bad, but something is missing or different. We have the same talent, but it has been a very different outcome. What’s your take on the defense?

My take on the Jaguars’ defense is it has played fine for the most part this season – better than fine, actually. I also don’t think it has been far below its 2017 level. This is with the exception of a bad outing at Dallas, a second-half drive in a loss to Tennessee and a late-second-quarter drive against Houston this past weekend. The difference is the defense only has played with a lead three times this season – in a Week 1 victory over the New York Giants, a Week 2 victory over the New England Patriots and a Week 4 victory over the New York Jets. And make no mistake: That’s the No. 1 difference between this defense being the 2017 #Sacksonville – i.e., a swarming, playmaking defense – and a very good 2018 unit that ranks second in the NFL in yards allowed. Consider: the Jaguars’ 55 sacks last season ranked second in the NFL. Forty-one of those sacks came with the Jaguars holding the lead. When teams don’t trail, they can throw in manageable passing situations. When teams throw in manageable passing situations, they give up far fewer sacks and commit far fewer turnovers. Want to see the Jaguars’ defense play as it did in ’17? Give the defense a lead. That will fix a lot.

Dave from Duuval

Hey, O: The Jags just need to win the game!

Ya think?

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, can you please explain what is not to like about a super-talented, confident, passionate, outstanding Pro Bowl player? I don't get it!

You’re referencing an O-Zone reader saying this week he didn’t like Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. I agree with that there’s a lot to like about Ramsey. The NFL is supposed to be entertaining, and Ramsey is entertaining. He’s also a little hot and cold with the media, and can come across as surly, arrogant and other not-so-great things. I’m fine with that because I’ve dealt with enough NFL players that I don’t particularly care if they’re “nice,” cooperative, “classy,” politically incorrect, etc. I’ve found I can do my job pretty no matter how certain players might behave. So, from my perspective, Ramsey can be as nice, cordial or standoffish as he likes. As I’ve said before, Ramsey typically has been fine in my dealings with him. But it’s also easy to see why some people don’t like him. I don’t think he much cares if some people don’t like him, so the rest of us probably needn’t worry much about it, either.

Fred from Naples, FL

I hope Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is aware that Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins took a swipe at him by saying that all anyone needs to do is look at the tape of his upcoming opponent’s quarterback to see that Colin Kaepernick is deserving of a job in the NFL. I hope Blake picks on him all day Sunday and throws for 400 yards.

I’m sure Bortles will be made aware of Jenkins’ comments criticizing Bortles and saying he’s a reason Kaepernick deserves a job in the NFL. I’m all for Kaepernick getting a job in the NFL, though the reality remains his situation is similar that which faced Tim Tebow. Teams will put up with outside distractions for an elite, franchise-changing players; they are far less apt to do so for marginal players – whatever the nature of those distractions. As for Jenkins criticizing Bortles … was it necessary? No. Was it original? Not particularly. Was it the worst thing ever said about Bortles? Hardly. I doubt it will motivate Bortles’ much, though. He has bigger issues these days.

Dave from Los Angeles, CA

Hi John, my last comment was "Sell high on Fournette," which was met with a sarcastic response of "traaaaaade!!!" Since then, we've traded for another team's starting running back, and I just heard Tony Boselli on the radio sincerely arguing that Hyde is now best running back on the team. Is selling high on Fournette a ludicrous notion at this point? The objective would be to salvage some of the draft capital invested in our injury-prone running back at fourth overall. Obviously, all of this in service of solving your now decades-long franchise quarterback drought.

Fournette has missed five of seven games with a hamstring after dealing with an injury issue much of the second half of his rookie season – after dealing with one his final collegiate season. He rushed for 1,040 yards and slightly less than four yards a carry as a rookie. I don’t know that the value you would get in return for Fournette right now would go far toward giving you the capital to work on the quarterback issue.

Alan from Mandarin, FL

Beyond the injuries, and bad Bortles, the real problem is the Jags were built to win the 2012 Super Bowl. Run the ball and play defense. That is no longer a winning formula. Rules changes have opened up the game, the pro game is evolving into something closer to the Big 12 college game. Coaches are learning to use guys like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in RPO offenses. The Jags both on offense and defense do not match up with the new NFL.

I agree that the NFL is changing. I guess I’m just shocked that it changed so dramatically in nine months. And I’m equally shocked that injuries suddenly have nothing to do with how a season plays out. Who knew?

Jonathan from Jacksonville

If you draft the likes of Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Sam Darnold then maybe that would help, no? Blake has been in the league for almost five years and he is still inconsistent. When is the cut line, O?

The Jaguars didn’t have a chance to draft Goff, Darnold or Wentz. They had a chance to draft Watson and Mahomes. I’ve yet to see Watson perform at a level that causes me to think the Jaguars absolutely should have drafted him. Mahomes has played at a level that does makes you wonder. The Jaguars during the Watson/Mahomes draft believed that going with Bortles and drafting Leonard Fournette would allow them to build a running-oriented offense that could complement a big-time defense. That formula worked successfully enough to get them to the AFC Championship Game last season. How that formula works going forward remains to be seen.

Andrew from 2019

Ten years ago, after our last playoff run we paid David Garrard, signed Jerry Porter at wide receiver – and of course struck out in the draft. We went 5-11 that season hampered with offensive-line injuries and an aging defensive line with no pass rush. We've been down this road. How am I supposed to believe this will turn out any different?

You’re right. That’s how this season looks right now. To say anything else with the Jaguars having lost three consecutive games while not scoring in the first half would insult your intelligence. That doesn’t mean the Jaguars can’t pull out of it, but if the season continues like this it absolutely will be remembered in the same vein as 2008. Why will it be different? Perhaps the addition of Carlos Hyde and the return – eventually of Fournette – will give this team the offensive identity it covers. And perhaps that will help the defense. That seems like a reach given the injuries, but that’s the hope.

Scott from Medford, NJ

Close losses are one thing. The Jaguars are not even competitive. I sense they are on the brink of implosion.

That’s how the locker room felt Sunday, but that’s how it often feels after losses – especially losses in disappointing seasons. My sense is the leadership on this team won’t let a total implosion happen. Another bad, one-sided loss will test that leadership a great deal.

Mike from Atlanta. GA

I don't like where this season is heading. The Jaguars' playoff chances are riding on the hope that the rest of the division struggles.

The struggles of the AFC South are a positive for this team right now. The Jaguars are only a game out of first place, which means they control their destiny. There are 3-4 teams in the NFL right now in worse circumstances. The Jaguars are very fortunate in that sense.

Ricky from Duval

I wasn’t and I’m not worried about Marrone going for two to stick it to a team he hates. But, when he won’t go for fourth and half a yard and let Bortles fall forward to keep the defense off the field a bit longer (and Houston passed the spot of the fourth down in two plays), he shows his true colors, which is a front runner. “The team needs a spark.” Yea OK.

Wow. This is some insight I hadn’t considered. Also.

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