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O-Zone: Cockeyed optimism

JACKSONVILLE – Looking ahead to the bye week.

Let's get to it … Negative Nancy Donovan from Houston, TX:
Grateful for the win Sunday, but I still have major coaching concerns – and I will continue to have those concerns until we quit matching defensive linemen (and Poz) against the opposing teams' fastest players in pass coverage. Watching Yannick Ngakoue chase T.Y. Hilton one on one on a crossing pattern drove me crazy. We will continue to lose those matchups every time.
John: I understand the irritation when fans see defensive linemen and linebackers covering wide receivers. I particularly understand that irritation when fans see pass rushers not pass rushing and instead covering wide receivers. The approach by definition takes a player away from his strength and puts him in a vulnerable area. It's probably evident from those three sentences that I'm not a fan fundamentally of the approach. At the same time, don't think for a second that the Jaguars are remotely the only team that drops pass rushers or puts linebackers on wide receivers. It's not that the defensive coaches believe that those are favorable matchups. The matchups almost always occur when the defense is sending exotic pressure as opposed to rushing four defensive linemen. When teams do that, they often drop linebackers and/or defensive linemen to cover for what they hope are short periods because the pressure is designed to work and disrupt the play. When the pressure fails, the lineman/linebacker is then caught in coverage and the result can look really bad. I don't love the approach, but does its use signify major coaching concerns? If so, then pretty every NFL team has similar concerns.
George from Duval:
O, we are in second place in our division. Can I still dream the impossible?
John: The Jaguars are in second place in the AFC South and are within two games of the division lead with two games remaining against the team leading the division. When that's the scenario, by definition nothing is impossible.
Antony from Columbia:
O, the Jags have played four $100 million quarterbacks this season, and their defense is fifth in the league in passing yards allowed giving up less than 199 passing yards per game. They are tied for third place in the league in sacks with 12 in four games. Five of those 12 sacks are by defensive players under 23 years old. One of those defensive players has a pass deflection in each of the last two games that led to an interception. One of those defensive ends has a sack in three consecutive games and an interception in one of those games. I just found those stats to be very encouraging. Any commentary you'd like to add to that?
John: Not really, except to say this: it's rare in the NFL to hit on a large group of draft choices in a short period. Usually within a group you have a player or two miss – even if all players in that group are selected early. The Jaguars drafted four defensive players in the first four rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft – defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Throw in Dante Fowler Jr. from the first round of last year's draft and you have what appears to be a remarkable group of young defensive players. This could be on the verge of getting interesting.
Jordan from Little Valley:
The Jaguars need to figure out how to turn this win into a winning streak. They have been a hard thing to come by in the Gus Bradley Era, but that has to come to an end now.
John: Ya think?
Chris from Mandarin:
Your argument is invalid. Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. have been strong against the run ... and the pass.
John: I wasn't arguing. I was simply answering a question about why it's unlikely that Ngakoue and Fowler will both be playing end in the Jaguars' base defense in the near future. Yes, Fowler has been very good against the run. Yes, Ngakoue has been better than expected against the run. But I'd still be surprised if you the Jaguars go to a base defense with those two at end as opposed to Tyson Alualu or Jared Odrick at the strong-side end.
Steven from Woodbine, GA:
After reading the suggestion about pass interference being changed to a 15-yard penalty, I agree with your reply. But since the penalty is a spot foul and can sometimes dictate the outcome of the game, why not make it a call that can be reviewed? How many have you witnessed that should have not been called?
John: I've seen more bad interference calls than I can count. The reason it's not a reviewable call is simple. The NFL Competition Committee considers it a judgment call and therefore not one that is subject to review. The idea of review is to correct irrefutable calls such as scoring plays, balls hitting the ground, fumbles and out of bounds plays. What the league doesn't want is officials making calls on the field and having plays reversed by replay when arguments can be made to support both calls.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Can you explain the last sentence of your answer to Adrian from El Paso? I think jet lag got to you, or something.
John: Your question refers to an answer in Sunday's O-Zone Late Night, which indeed was a garbled mess. It wasn't as much jet lag as pre-international flight rushing with a dash of autocorrect. The answer referred to NFL games in London and came out something like" I see versatile possibility of it division games not being in play in future years." What it meant to say was I see very little possibility of division games not being in play for the International Series in future years.
Nick from Copenhagen, Denmark:
I am really excited about this defense. They are quickly becoming one of the better defenses in the NFL despite the youth and lack of playing time together. They will only get better from here. Your thoughts?
John: I think there's a lot to be excited about when it comes to the Jaguars' defense. I think the Jaguars look like they have a chance to quickly become one of the better defenses in the NFL despite the youth and lack of playing time together. I think they will only get better from here.
Aaron from Bethlehem, PA:
Do you think Blake Bortles can improve his mechanics during the bye week?
John: My sense is there will be some focus on this area. We'll see if there's a difference.
D Mack from Centreville, VA:
We get Aaron Colvin back for Chicago. With Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara playing well and then Davon House there and the emergence of Josh Johnson Sunday, where does No. 22 fit?
John: Colvin was playing at an extremely high level in training camp and preseason. I don't know that he moves into the starting lineup immediately. I would guess he begins as the fourth corner, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's starting at cornerback opposite Jalen Ramsey at some point this season.
Dane from Jacksonville:
Averaging 100 yards of penalties per game: that's like handing the other team a free, length-of-the-field-touchdown-drive per game. Cut those penalties in half and I'll bet we allow a good three or four points per game fewer.
John: They might score three or four more points a game, too, which would make, you know – a difference.
Grant from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I'm usually pretty optimistic about my beloved Jags, but nine years of misery has really dampered one of my favorite things – being the Jags. Yes, we won Sunday, but we are 1-3 and – as you say – "fans are going to fan." Blake Bortles is really disappointing me. He looks like he shouldn't be on the field about 80 percent of the time and it honestly disgusts me with the amount of throws he makes that high school quarterbacks could do better. I was so convinced our quarterback problems were solved at the end of last year but now I'm scared. …
John: Wow, you are fanning – but while your points about Bortles have some validity, it doesn't have to be quite as dire as you fear. Bortles may never fit the NFL Quarterback Mold – that is, being crisp and dazzlingly accurate from the pocket. Perhaps he will, but if that's going to happen he's going to need to mature/develop into that style. For the short term, what Bortles has shown he can be is a quarterback who can make big plays and who can be effective when using his mobility to get outside the pocket. On Sunday, he showed he can do that and get through a game without committing turnovers. Those last few elements need to be part of his formula for the short term.
Oliver from Aldershot, England:
Is it just me that thinks we are going to be top of our division after we beat the Titans in Week 8? #believe #4-3 #gojags
John: #DTWD

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