O-Zone: Big city lights

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Zac from Gainesville, FL

It's documented that this has not been a good defense of late. The blame lies on both sides of the ball, though. The offense needs to put up points to give the defense a chance to rush the passer. This team has been built backwards with a defense-first philosophy that does not work in today's NFL. The primary assessment over the next six games should be who is the quarterback we are going to rebuild this offense around. Thoughts on my rant, Zone?

I don’t buy the “built-backward” theory, though you certainly can find many Jaguars fans who do. Here’s where you’re right, though: If you have a franchise quarterback around which to build, then you have viable “plan” to follow for many years. If you don’t have that guy, it always feels like you’re built wrong because you’re always building around shorter-term strengths – and trying to put together a few winning seasons while those strengths are together. So, yeah … the Jaguars must decide their quarterback for the foreseeable future: Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew II or someone in the draft. My guess is it’s one of the first two. We’ll see how it turns out. But once they get that figured out correctly, they can really have a cohesive, viable long-term plan around which to build.

Brandon from Jacksonville

John: Four first-round picks coming in the next two years. Hopefully we don't have to use any of that capital on a quarterback and instead can get four studs on both lines. We sure do need it.

I would try to get a “stud” tight end and wide receiver somewhere, but yeah … what you said.

Rik from Lexington, KY

It seems like most of our defensive players can't tackle or stay in the right gap. I find this incredible, since most of these guys have been in this system for multiple years and have played football all their lives. The issue is deeper. It starts with practice, preparation and focus. It is clear our defense is not focused at their individual tasks, but they are all over the place. I don't understand how Todd Wash is still our defensive coordinator. To be clear, I don't think we will be a top defense without him or make the playoffs, but they are playing terrible. You have to make a change to see if a different coach with a different attitude can get to these players a little better and also to see if some of these guys are really terrible or they can play a little.

If Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone believed defensive coordinator Todd Wash was the problem with the defense, I have no doubt he would fire Wash. I don’t believe Marrone believes this, and I don’t believe he plans to fire Wash. Wash, remember, has coordinated Top 10 defenses the past three seasons. Perhaps he has changed his approach so much or is suddenly so bad at coaching that he is the reason the Jaguars are now struggling to stop the run. This seems illogical to me, and it apparently feels illogical to Marrone.

Chris from St. Augustine, FL

You often defend the front office and say their drafting has been excellent. But when fans turn to the coaching staff to complain about bad play-calling and lack of team discipline, you say it's not always coaching, implying it's the players. Well, if the underperformance is due to the players, then isn't the front office responsible for their poor personnel management?

Nope. I never said the Jaguars’ drafting has been excellent. I said the drafting in recent seasons has been good, which is true. That doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dorey or that all is well. The Jaguars didn’t draft well enough before the 2016 season, which is one reason they don’t have enough long-term veterans in in key positions; that hurts. One thing the team hasn’t solved is the quarterback position to a level where the Jaguars have a player around whom all else revolves and around whom everything is built. Those are hard to get. Maybe Foles or Minshew is that, but we don’t know it yet. It also clearly must address the interior of the defensive line. As for “who’s to blame,” when you’re 4-6 there’s a lot of it to go around. And the reason I say it’s “always coaching in the NFL” is very simple: whenever anything goes wrong, the first instinct of many fans and media is to blame coaching. It’s a tiresome, quick-trigger reaction that leads to the ridiculous pattern of hiring and firing for the sake of change we see around the NFL every offseason. Does coaching matter? Of course it does. And the Jaguars’ coaching hasn’t been remotely perfect this season, or any season in recent memory. But is it the primary reason for the team’s struggles? Are Wash and Marrone causing players to repeatedly tackle poorly and get blocked out of their gaps. Nah.

Chris from Nashville, TN

The only team in the NFL that bothers to start teaching "the basics" in Week 10. When do the fans hear anything other than "it's on me," or "we have to play better?" This broken record of a HC needs to go along with his entire staff. Kill it with fire.

Head coaches emphasize basics all the time. They also take responsibility for things that have gone wrong all the time. Marrone is a good head coach and he handles things the right way. I don’t know if the Jaguars will win enough for him to be here moving forward, but good head coaches get hired and fired all the time. History suggests Marrone may someday be fired from this job; most head coaches are eventually fired. That doesn’t make them bad coaches and Marrone won’t be a bad coach if it happens to him.

Jay from Richmond, VA

The play of our linebackers has been pathetic. I see this as one of our faults of why we can't stop the run. Middle linebacker Myles Jack seems too small and gets pushed around. On the defensive front, defensive tackle Abry Jones looks like he is on skates. Thoughts?

Jack struggled on Sunday as much as I ever have seen him struggle, though the issue was more filling gaps incorrectly and missing tackles than his size. I do wonder whether his future will be at middle linebacker; it seems to be reaching the point he must prove naysayers wrong in this area. As for Jones, he is the type of valuable veteran that teams need on their roster. Does that mean he should be a full-time starter? No, that’s the role the Jaguars had for Marcell Dareus, who now is out following core muscle surgery.

Stephen from Wallingford

Do you think we can get an extra sixth-round pick this year and next for trading Minshew? Looks like we should just deport all the young talent for draft capital and start over. Also, Josh Allen is nowhere close to winning rookie of the year because he's rated as Maine the 60thbest defensive end currently and most of his stats aren't accredited to any meaningful plays.

Whut?

Jacob from New York, NY

Unless I am missing something, the season is basically over. Why not see what the Jaguars have with a rookie quarterback? It really cannot be that much worse than Sunday.

The Jaguars saw what they had with Minshew for eight games; the reality right now is they need to see what they have with Foles. As for your final sentence, Jacob, I fear you are wrong. It always can get worse. Always.

Gerry from Jacksonville

Of all the deficiencies in the Jaguars’ defense, which one would you try to improve on first: middle linebacker or nose tackle?

Interior defensive line.

Robert from St. Augustine, FL

The Tom Coughlin experiment is over. In my opinion, it’s dead in the water. We not only lost the last two games; we were humiliated. If we lose to the Tennessee Titans and we are humiliated again, it’s time to fire Marrone before the team plane lands in Jacksonville on Sunday night. By doing so, ownership will send a strong message to its players – and more importantly to the Jags’ fan base that it’s very serious about this team and its future. Tolerance and patience are fine. But when do you say, “enough is enough?”

Nothing is fanning quite like a “fire-the-coach-before-the-plane-lands-if-we-lose” email. I doubt this would happen, and I hope it doesn’t happen. Besides, firing a coach in November doesn’t make a team any more serious about its future than firing him in January.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL

How did we go from a young, ascending, Top 5 talented team in the AFC Championship game then suddenly be a team with holes and weaknesses all over the roster in two years? What happened?

Life comes at you fast in the big city.

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