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O-Zone: Bold prediction

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
John: "Block better" ... is really the answer? How 'bout, "Two third-rounders, two free agents that were undrafted out of college, and a guy coming off an ACL on a prove-it-deal is just never gonna give you what you need up front in this league?" You've always said a team would be much better off with a stud offensive line and average running backs, so why can't you just tell it like it is? Using a second-round pick, in conjunction with giving a guy $32.5 million over five years to tote the rock – and spending so little to actually create space for them to do so – is unacceptable.
John: I'm not sure when I said this was a great offensive line, but I'll check. Look, the line could be better – no question. It's not yet a team strength. The question is what could the team have done differently? How much more equity could the Jaguars have used on the area in recent offseasons? And at what expense to building the rest of the roster? The Jaguars could have used their first- and second-round selections in each of the last four drafts on the line, but then you wouldn't have Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Dante Fowler Jr., T.J. Yeldon, Jalen Ramsey or Myles Jack. A lot of those players are good; people like them. As for unrestricted free agency, the Jaguars spent big money three times in recent offseasons on the offensive line – Kelvin Beachum, Jermey Parnell and Zane Beadles. That's not a Pro Bowl Trio, but teams aren't lining up to allow Pro Bowl offensive linemen to sign elsewhere in free agency. My point is not to say that the Jaguars' offensive line is great. I in fact believe there's a good possibility they will address a spot or two next offseason. That could be left guard if Luke Joeckel isn't re-signed, and it could be other positions – right tackle, perhaps – if the positions remain inconsistent. But the Jaguars haven't left the line unaddressed. It's tough if not impossible to adequately address every position on the roster – yes, even in four offseasons – and offensive line may be a spot where a piece or two still remains to be added.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
Stealing Bortles' glasses, Zone? Come on, man! Just because you miss Scobee now Bortles has to be the goat? Why, Zone … why?
John: Shh.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
Have watched the Jags since the first game. Something that is really getting old is that ever since Tom Coughlin left it seems we always have one area of the team that is severely needing improvement. Just an example is last year the offense was looking up and seemed to be a strength on our team and defense needed serious work. Now this year, we drafted and invested a lot on defense and it is becoming the strength of our team, yet the offense – with little-to-almost no loss of talent – has now begun to become a weak spot. Is it too much to ask to just have all three phases be satisfactory? They don't even need to be great, but something that is not considered a weakness? You would think after four years of roster improvements and free agency we would be further along than this.
John: There has been much surprise expressed about the Jaguars' offense being an issue early in the season, and equal surprise about the defense being a team strength. Frankly, I'm not all that surprised with either outcome. Yes, the defense is a little ahead of where I thought it would be so early, but I wrote throughout the offseason that I believed there was no way this defense wouldn't be improved enough to at least get into the Top 20 or so and give the team a chance. I was far more concerned about the offense. That's because while the unit statistically was good last season it did not often play winning football. It was not consistent and did not usually play well early in games. It had too many long stretches in which it wasn't productive – long, long stretches of three-and-out possessions – and the running game struggled all season. I also believed quarterback Blake Bortles needed to improve in some key areas in terms of efficiency and decision-making – and though I thought he would make those improvements, I didn't think they would be easy. The Jaguars' offense this season actually is strikingly similar to last season. The exception is that deep balls to wide receiver Allen Robinson were very effective last season and they have been not so effective this season. As far as your question, the special teams and defense have been pretty strong for the most part this season, so that's two of three. If the running game and quarterback can be more consistent then you'll have your Holy Trinity. Stay tuned.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Do you feel the Jags are inferior to the Raiders?
John: No, but I'm sure you do, Jerell.
Jerry longtime fan:
The run game starts at center so why did we let Stefen Wisniewski go and experiment with a lineman who is usually hurt in Brandon Linder?
John: There are a few reasons for this. One: the run game wasn't very good last season and the Jaguars believed they needed to upgrade from Wisniewski. Another: when they made the decision Linder had played two seasons, missing most of one with a shoulder injury; that's not "usually hurt" as much as a guy having had an injury and missing much of one season. The biggest reason the Jaguars made the change is that Linder isn't an "experiment; he's good and was the best option available to play center. That's usually why teams make moves such as that.
DJ from Charleston, SC:
Do you think the comment by Gus Bradley when he said doesn't see "urgency or speed" from the offensive line will motivate them or irritate them? Brandon Linder was quoted saying he had no idea what Bradley meant. Do you think the other players feel the same as Linder? Basically, what I'm asking is will they take that as motivation to get better or will they become bitter towards Gus because of his comments?
John: I got the idea from listening to Bradley this week he was trying to say that the offensive line and running game as a whole needed to play with the same tempo and – and at the same level – as it did early in the preseason. I got the idea listening to Linder that he wasn't sure what "urgency" meant, exactly, but that he also felt the running game needed to get back to the same level of play as early in the preseason. Did Bradley's comments about the running game irritate players? Perhaps. They probably didn't love them. But the Jaguars have rushed for less than 75 yards in four of five games this season. If I'm the head coach I'm starting to not care too much if I'm irritating the players involved in the run game.
Jan from Fairfield, CT:
Imagine that the Patriots have enough of losing all those games and decide to get rid of their inept coaching staff. Imagine also that they have identified another head coach (let's say, Gus Bradley) as the solution to their problems. Can they start negotiating with their target right now, or how does that work?
John: Teams can't negotiate with coaches who are under contract with other teams because contracts.
Bobby from Draper, UT:
Hey, O-Dude. Have Gus and the team thought about bringing in a fullback to start helping with the run? They need to try anything and everything to get this run game going. I have seen a few plays the last couple weeks where having a fullback would have done wonders (T.J. Yeldon was a shoelace tackle away from breaking that 90-yard run against the Colts). Do you think they will bring one in or starting having either Tyson Alualu or a tight end play it more?
John: This is an idea that has gotten a lot of run in the O-Zone this week and it's understandable that Jaguars fans would want a fullback because of the success the team had when Greg Jones played the position here. The theory more and more these days in the NFL is that having a fullback in the game tips the defense to the team's intent to run, negating the advantage of having the fullback in the game. That's a reason the Jaguars don't carry a fullback and I don't see them changing that approach midseason.
John from Jacksonville and Section 202:
Curiosity question: do West Coast teams struggle coming east as much as the reverse? Or is it a Jaguar thing with travel?
John: Conventional NFL wisdom is that West Coast teams traveling to the East Coast – particularly those playing 1 p.m. Sunday games – struggle more than teams going the opposite direction.
Matt from Jacksonville:
Remember when folks thought Ramsey was going to be a safety? I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that he could be a pretty solid corner.
John: You may be right. I'll Google this.

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