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O-Zone: Day of atonement

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tim from Jacksonville:
I still have no idea what kind of a team the Jags are. Please help me understand, John. Can you recall a season with so many ups and downs to this point?
John: The Jaguars' season indeed has had highs and lows, but many NFL seasons have highs and lows; it's a week-to-week league. And it's really not hard to figure what kind of team the Jaguars are through five games. They're a team with a defense that can force turnovers and create sacks. When the team is trailing – as was the case against Tennessee in the second half – it's hard for the defense to play to its strengths. When the team is in the game or is playing with the lead – as has been the case in the other four games – the defense can play to those strengths. The Jaguars won three of the games other than the Tennessee loss, and they lost in overtime to a New York Jets whose 3-2 record is as good as any of the Jaguars' five opponents thus far this season. That's what this team is: a team that can create turnovers and run effectively. It needs to be ahead or close to have a chance to win consistently.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
Feels good. Should I gloat?
John: Absolutely. You're a fan – and you're a fan of a team that has had a lot of lean times. So, enjoy it. Gloat. Stick your chest out. Feel great. Go watch the game again and fast-forward to the pick-sixes, The Wave and the 90-yard run. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Until Wednesday. Then it's time to look ahead.
Daniel from College Station, TX:
Good win. Now we just have to focus on consetantce and we will have a good year in my opinion. Can we give some props to the offensive line? They actually played really well considering they had to do some reshuffling this week. I think people see these Grade A offensive lines like dallas and forget how many first-round picks are invested in it – and yes, I left dallas not capitalized cause they are not America's Team. So, short version: one for the O line.
John: Absolutely, one fer the offensive line – and while we're at it, throw in a couple for consetantce. If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times: if you don't have it, there's just no way you can win in this league.
Steve form Upper Tract, MD:
That was an awesome win; progress is definitely being made. Now, they must come home and beat a team they're supposed to beat in front of their home fans. Winning at home seems to be something they're not very good at. Must turn the corner on that. I sound like Captain Obvious!
John: I agree the Jaguars need to win Sunday, though I don't know that I'm all-in on the Rams being a team the Jaguars are supposed to beat. The Rams are 3-2 and are ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense. Like the Jaguars, they believe they're an ascending team. This will be a tough matchup.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, you used to say how this team needed to improve its pass rush to win football games. I'd say that box is now checked.
John: Whether or not the Jaguars could be a slam-the-door pass rush in obvious passing situations was a fair question entering the season. It's not as fair to keep asking that anymore.
Scott from New York, NY:
In a world where Mrs. Ozone gets everything she wants …
John: O-Zone nods and says yes. He then checks his checking account using his online app. While feeling temporarily good about himself because of his ability to stay attune to this crazy "online generation," he sees the balance. He cries silently and nods again.
Tony from Jacksonville:
I am so excited about this defense. I absolutely love our corners, but this has really been a team effort. Four different guys get interceptions? How many of those were caused by the D line pressuring the quarterback? To me, what's most exciting is that this defense is young. Other than Poz and Calais (who are playing great), the rest of this defense could be around for a long time. Go Jags!
John: The core of this defense is young, confident and very talented. The future looks bright, but the future is difficult to project in the NFL. This defense right now looks good and it looks like something that can be the foundation of an improving, capable team this season. That's the best thing that we've been able to say about this team on the field in recent memory.
Steve from Queenstown, MD:
I drove over four hours to make the trip to Pittsburgh, and boy was it worth it! Go Jags!!!
John: #DTWD
TJ S from Orlando, FL:
If you told me we'd be in a seven-way tie for second in the AFC and in first place in the AFC South in October, I'd have laughed hysterically at you before the season opener. Now, I'm not screaming Super Bowl by any means (yet), but I'm pretty excited about where this team is right now. If our passing game gets consistently good, I will start screaming those words though. Fair warning. #DTWD
John: The Jaguars have done what they needed to do through the first five weeks. They have navigated through a tricky stretch that included three road games and just one game at EverBank Field – and they have gotten through that stretch with a 3-2 record. I thought before the season if they were 2-3 or better at this point they would be in good shape. They are now 2-1 on the road. They have beaten a team on the road (Pittsburgh) that looked very good entering the game and they have a road victory over the defending division champions (Houston). So, you're right to feel good about where the Jaguars are through five weeks. They're in good position and have six home games remaining. While there's no such thing as an easy or favorable schedule, there's nothing about the remaining schedule that makes you think it's not navigable. There is plenty that's not perfect, the passing game in particular. But I'll repeat something I've said a couple of times in the last few days. The NFL isn't a league of perfect teams. Most teams have flaws. Most are entering this week with something they feel they must improve in a hurry. Most of those teams don't have a defense that's gaining confidence, leading the league in sacks and takeaways and looking like an improving unit that can carry the team a long way. The Jaguars have that. That could make the rest of the season very interesting.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
This was a game that, when the schedule came out, everyone (including me) just chalked up in the loss column. When's the last time we won a game like that? I honestly can't remember.
John: Week 1, sort of. But you're point is well-taken. For that and many other reasons Sunday was this franchise's biggest victory in a long, long time.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
14-2? I think so!!!!
John: God love him.
Zac from Gainesville, FL:
An inefficient offense and strikingly dominant defense. I've seen this formula win the Super Bowl before.
John: It's October 10, so I'm not going to go giddy talking Super Bowl. But the formula for getting to the Super Bowl is to win in the regular season, keep improving and to continue improving once you make the playoffs. This team clearly has a foundation on which it can build and improve, and that foundation point looks strong, young and confident. That's not a bad place to be through five games.
Chris from Goodnight, TX:
I take it all back. Leonard Fournette is a Greek god.
John: I actually missed this email Sunday night, but hey: it's never too late for a "Hey-Zone-I-Was-Wrong-So-I-Come-to-You-in-Your-Infinite-Wisdom-Begging-for-Atonement" email. Chris from Goodnight indeed questioned Fournette late last week, wondering if he was worth the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fournette rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers Sunday, with one touchdown coming on a 90-yard run and the other coming on a two-yard dive on which he left the ground somewhere near the Steelers 4-yard line and landed somewhere outside Heinz Field near the Allegheny. They were both next-level plays, and they were far from Fournette's only memorable moments Sunday. Just as memorable were multiple plays on which Fournette took on Steelers defenders – particularly safety Mitch Mitchell – and showcased his dominant, physical style. We've discussed ad nauseam the play when he waved Mitchell toward him, but when you add it to the rest of Fournette's day, it's fair to wonder the last game in which one Jaguars player set so obvious a tone. When Fournette gets physical, it inspires the Jaguars. Clearly, it inspired you as well, Chris. So, yeah, consider yourself atoned.

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