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O-Zone: Dare to dream

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Marc from Oceanway

Who do you think will start at quarterback next week?

I’m guessing Blake Bortles will start against Philadelphia at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday. I say that because Head Coach Doug Marrone on Sunday made clear he didn’t think Bortles was remotely solely at fault for the Jaguars playing poorly offensively in a 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans – and that he benched Bortles early in the second half to give the team “a damn spark.” He said he didn’t think it was fair, but that it was the nature of the quarterback position. I also guess Bortles will start Sunday because Bortles regained the starting job last preseason after losing it briefly and recovered well enough to quarterback the Jaguars to the AFC South title and a spot in the AFC Championship Game. I’m not saying Bortles was solely responsible for those accomplishments last season, but Marrone has a frame of reference for Bortles being able to overcome this kind of adversity – and history shows he wouldn’t be averse to returning to Bortles. I would also guess that because while Cody Kessler played fine Sunday, he didn’t play so well that he’s a clear choice. None of this is to say I think it’s a given that Bortles will start. It’s not. That’s a preliminary guess, and it’s no more than a guess – but for this morning, that’s my guess.

Alton from Melbourne, FL

The 2018 Jaguars are frauds. They had me fooled because I thought they were going to go 12-4 or even 13-3. This really sucks!

Yes. Losing sucks.

Marlin from Newberry, FL

Hey, John. This is tough. I think I am going to find something else to do on my Sunday afternoons. Maybe fishing. Next week we have a morning game and then: bye week. Maybe I will feel differently come the second Sunday in November. But this is really tough.

Yes. Losing sucks.

Josh from Rochester, NY

It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. The defense needs some turnovers.

The Jaguars’ defense indeed isn’t producing turnovers or sacks at the same rate as last season, when they produced both at a stunning rate. The defense is playing good – very good, for the most part. But it’s not superhuman, and that’s the problem: the way this offense is playing – and the way the team was built – the defense needed to be superhuman. That was going to be true at times because the offense was going to have good games and OK games; that was the case last season. It became doubly true when the offense became so injured that good games became a thing of the past.

Herb from MidState Office Supply

Is it too late to bring back Henne?

Chad Henne is the backup quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, so as far as bringing him back to play quarterback for the Jaguars … yeah, it’s too late for that.

Andrew from Charleston, SC

This isn’t good, Zone. The last three games are looking less like a bad streak and more like a sharp decline in performance and cohesion on all sides of the ball.

You’re right. That’s precisely how it looks. If that’s not what it is, the Jaguars collectively need to prove that.

Chris from Orlando, FL

So, let’s hear your famous spin now, John? I asked you back in the beginning of the season about how the Jags don’t have any No. 1 receiver and you dismissed my question. So, are the Jags going to look for a true wideout before free agency? Because these receivers just suck! Nobody can take the top off the defense! I told you the good teams have a No. 1 and you gave me the crap of there are only a few teams that have a #1 and I listed you 10 teams! Hell, trade Blake Bortles and our first-round selection for a wide receiver.

I did say that few teams have a true No. 1 wide receiver, I remember because I have a photographic memory, and I’m glad I said that because I was right – true No. 1 receivers indeed are difficult to find. Because of this, they are rarely – read: never -- available in unrestricted free agency. That certainly was the case this past offseason, which was one reason the Jaguars didn’t heavily pursue the position in free agency. As for your question, I doubt the Jaguars will pursue a true wide out before free agency next offseason. The way the NFL offseason is structured, there usually isn’t a lot that can be done before free agency begins because it’s against league rules. Teams generally don’t do things that are against the rules because they don’t want to pay a very big fine. As for the Jaguars’ approach at receiver this past offseason, they believed they could run effectively and be effective offensively with a group of complementary-but-not-great wide receivers. That plan depended on the running game being effective, the running backs being effective in the passing offense and the tight ends being improved in the passing game. Injuries have kept the last three parts of the plan from happening, and the passing game as it stands now isn’t potent enough to be productive. As for what the Jaguars do next, we’ll see. There are nine games remaining in this season. If those games go as the last three have gone, much will be on the table.

Marciano from Shoals

It seems obvious that making the playoffs or finishing better than .500 is not going to happen. What strategy will fit the team best approaching next season? Find a new quarterback? Continue with what we have hoping health will restore us to 2017 play?

The Jaguars indeed will have to make a remarkable turnaround to contend for the postseason. Weirder things have happened, but when you lose three consecutive games in which you have trailed 24-0, 20-0, 20-0 you are rolling out bad performances remarkably consistently. If the Jaguars play close to that way the rest of the season, many things we assumed about the franchise moving forward will be in question. Perhaps the position most questioned would be quarterback. Entering the season – hell, even entering October – I foresaw Bortles being the quarterback through at least the 2019 season. That looks like a far slimmer likelihood now.

Reid from St. Johns, FL

4-4 at the bye week. Get healthy, regroup … #dtwd

DTWD

Nick from Annapolis, MD

Bortles will start on Sunday, and it won't be close. People will look to Cody Kessler's performance and say he deserves a chance to prepare for a week as a starter, but the Eagles will surely do a little extra work to prepare for him. The move felt like it was about sending a message that stupid mistakes won't be tolerated. Fumbling inside your own red zone because you were recklessly trying to obtain a very unlikely first down was a stupid, and costly, mistake. As you have said many times, Bortles still gives this team the best chance at winning. He deserved to be benched after making the same mistake twice with really bad consequences, but he will get another shot against the Eagles on Sunday. If he makes the same mistakes again, then we can discuss a change after the bye. At 3-5 there's not much to lose at that point.

My guess is for the short-term you are right, and I think there’s a good chance that that’s how the coaching staff and Marrone will see it this week. Marrone following the game Sunday sounded like a coach who spent all week stressing the need to avoid giveaways and just couldn’t not bench Bortles after two very avoidable – and very costly giveaways. I agree that in the big picture right now the staff likely will see Bortles’ mobility, experience and toughness as being elements that give the Jaguars the best chance to win. At the same time, once a starting quarterback is benched during the regular season it’s rare for the player to come back and be The Guy again. Bortles did a relatively similar comeback after being benched last preseason. This would be a comeback on a much larger scale.

Tom from Jacksonville

You say we know that Bortles has struggled the last three games now, admittedly. I'm curious of the five positions that struggled more during the past three games? Please enlighten me Mr. Photographic Memory.

The Jaguars have been behind a cumulative 57-0 at halftime of the last three games. I’d say the struggles have been spread remarkably evenly.

Eric from Winter Garden

How about I save you some time and do your job for you this week. "Hey, this one hurt. It really hurt. But it's not fatal. This isn't who we are. Next week in London will be all-important. Stay tuned."

Wow! And to think just Sunday morning I woke up and said to my wife, “You know what I hope? I hope one of the many people more qualified than me to do this job volunteers to be my helper.” This wasn’t all I said, either! I also said, “You know what that would be? Awesome? Why, I bet me and this person would be best friends: real best friends … the kind you see in movies and don’t really dare dream will happen because it’s too crazy to believe something so glorious could happen to you.” I also said to my wife, “I really hope this happens, because God knows that’s what I need! Some more friends! I know I couldn’t possibly find anybody so compassionate, kind and willing to give their time, but boy … I do hope that happens.” My wife told me to shut up, that that kind of thing couldn’t happen. I’ll have to tell her she was wrong. She won’t believe me. It’s never happened to her before.

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