O-Zone: Clue me in

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

John from Cape May Courthouse

Is the franchise quarterback on the roster?

This seems a fitting start to this O-Zone because many emails I’ve received since a 42-20 Jaguars loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday have voiced displeasure with quarterback Nick Foles, called for rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew or requested some combination thereof. And while Head Coach Doug Marrone appears disinclined to start Minshew, I understand fans’ desire to see that. But I suppose the main reason to start Foles – aside from Marrone believing he gives the Jaguars the best chance to win – is the Jaguars in the coming weeks must better answer your very important, understandable question: Is the franchise quarterback on the roster? I’m not sure – and anyone who says they’re sure is uninformed or lying. Minshew showed flashes when he was starting, but he also must improve before he’s a “franchise quarterback.” Foles in two games as a starter hasn’t played poorly, but neither has he provided a lift – and while he may be focused on building camaraderie and culture, you sign a veteran free-agent quarterback for immediate production and “lift.” Perhaps the biggest question isn’t whether the Jaguars have a “true franchise” quarterback, but whether they have a quarterback around which they believe they can build, win and be competitive. Minshew has shown the first signs of that. Foles has done that elsewhere, but not here. Can he do it here? It would defy reason to believe he can’t, but it sure would be nice to see more evidence that’s the case.

Steve from Sunroom Couch

Dear John: Are you still sticking to the notion that the Jaguars' last few drafts under the direction of General Manager David Caldwell and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin were good?

Of course. That doesn’t mean there weren’t misses. That doesn’t mean the roster is good enough right now. But for the most part, these last few drafts have been good. Not great. Good.

David from Oviedo, FL

This Jaguars’ defense is suffering because their backups could not match the production of the players they lost in cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson, safety Barry Church and linebacker Paul Posluszny. Our defensive talent from 2017 slowly, but surely went from above to below average in too many positions. Thoughts?

I think for various reasons – whether because of injuries, age or departures – the Jaguars’ defense is not nearly as talented as it was in 2017. This is why the hue and cry for firing defensive coordinator Todd Wash is silly and misinformed. Is Wash completely without blame for the defense struggling? Of course not. Coaching decisions matter within the NFL. But to think that the Jaguars are an ultra-talented defense being bungled by an overmatched coordinator? That’s ridiculous.

Dane from Shreveport, LA

"...if you can keep growing through these character moments, through these tough moments, that’s where you build something special." I think us fans are tired of the building. We're ready for the special.

This refers to a situation irritating many Jaguars fans – and that’s quarterback Nick Foles continuously discussing love, culture and building character during recent media availabilities. These themes are the same ones he discussed extensively upon signing with the Jaguars in the offseason, and they’re the foundation of his approach to football. He also often discusses his faith and the need to keep football in perspective during adversity. There’s nothing wrong with these beliefs. They have served Foles well during his career, and Foles’ approach indeed keeps a team together during tough times. The obvious problem with Foles emphasizing patience and keeping losing in perspective in a public forum is two-fold – Jaguars fans had high expectations for this team, and this fan base has gone through a lot of painful building. The fan base has heard messages about building and patience before – and building and patience are tough themes for fans to accept with a 4-7 team that is essentially eliminated from the postseason. When that’s the case, messages about building and culture – and how winning takes time – comes off as tone deaf. That doesn’t mean Foles should take a different approach. He is who he is and it’s unfair to ask him to be phony. But it’s also completely fair for a fan base to not want to hear about winning taking time when it reasonably expected to “win now.”

Shep from Eglin AFB

When is it time for a new coaching staff? Three bad losses in row – division losses, at that!!!! This is getting old! Is now the time for a new direction?

It’s always coaching in the NFL.

Mike from Jacksonville

Zone, do people realize that Khan is an accomplished and brilliant businessman with a longstanding history of making outstanding decisions? Further, he owns the Jaguars and will do whatever he wants on his own timeline. When you look at the composite of owners in the NFL, I think we're pretty lucky.

Of course the Jaguars and Jacksonville are fortunate that Shad Khan owns the team. It’s understandable that not everyone always sees it through this lens. Fans gonna fan, particularly when their team loses as consistently as the Jaguars have lost in recent seasons.

Kyle from Orange Park, FL

Obviously you don't read the comments, so I'll leave it for you here. I don't care about your answer. You not actually giving one proves my point.

Thank you for reading. Your obsession with me, while perhaps unhealthy, nonetheless is humbling. What’s a “comment?”

Jerell from Columbia, SC

Jags season is over, so where do you see the going with the picks next season? I say first three picks should be offensive line, defensive tackle and tight end.

Agreed.

Peter from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

I know that we all want running back Leonard Fournette to be viewed as a huge success, but ESPN broke down a bunch of running backs including him and noted that he was 33 out of 35 in success rate as far as breaking tackles, moving the chains and running inside. Guess it is time to extend him and pay him $50 million so we have to let some high-quality guy go in a couple years.

I sense a certain snide tone in your email, although I could be wrong – and I don’t particularly care how “we” view Fournette. He has been far better this season than last season, and time will tell what the Jaguars do about his contract moving forward. I would expect these decision-makers – provided they are making the decisions – to pick up the option on his contract for 2021, but I don’t expect they will extend Fournette’s contract in the coming offseason.

Brian from Jacksonville

I still believe Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack can be an above average outside linebacker (if he improves his tackling and tones down the unruly behavior during games). Unless Jake Ryan can push Jack outside this season (doubtful), the rest of the season will feature short games unless quarterback Nick Foles can string them out. The defensive tackles are not top quality but a quality middle linebacker still makes a ton of tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. Jack has not done this ... ever. Will Ryan get a chance, or is defensive coordinator Todd Wash determined to go down sticking to Jack?

I expect Wash to stick with Jack at middle linebacker, because Jack – while criticized robustly this season – is not as much of an issue with the run game as the outside linebackers and defensive interior. A primary reason Ryan has not played is he has not been available to play and still isn’t available; he remains on the reserve/non-football injury list, though he has practiced the last two weeks.

Sascha from Cologne

Do you think a run-stopping defensive tackle will be addressed early in April?

Yes.

Koop from Jax and Section 201

Can we start talking about the draft now?

You can. I won’t get into the draft until mid-January around the time of the Senior Bowl. I’m not being rude or dim to the realities of the season. I just don’t have the time until the season ends.

Charles from Savannah, GA

It's pretty clear. This team quit on the coaching staff.

Nah. When teams struggle, people always believe they’re quitting on the staff. Or just quitting in general. I’m around this team daily. It has heart. It tries. When you can’t stop the run, it often looks like you quit. Sometimes, it just means you can’t stop the run. When players jump out of gaps defensively, it doesn’t mean they’re not trying or that they don’t like the coaches. It just means they’re getting blocked out of gaps or that they’re not good enough to stay in them. Those aren’t good things, but it’s not “quitting.”

Chill from Jacksonville

Why do you still work there? You’re as clueless as the rest of the dumbasses who work there.

Mom?!! Is that you??!! Call me!!

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