JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Nick from Virginia Beach, VA
Another great player and the Jaguars bench him. I'm tired of this franchise. How can any sane person tolerate this anymore?
You're referencing the Jaguars Topic of the Week, a perpetually moving target that this week is running back James Robinson's snaps in recent games. Robinson in each of the last two games has been out for extended periods following first-half fumbles – 20 snaps this past week in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams and 16 last week in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. What muddied the waters here a bit is that Robinson has been playing through heel/knee issues in recent weeks, so it has been difficult to discern for absolute certain whether his absences were injury-related or fumble-related. Or perhaps a combination thereof. Head Coach Urban Meyer said after a 37-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday that the issue indeed was injury-related and that Robinson would have returned to the game immediately had he been fully healthy. Muddying those waters was that Robinson carried three times on the Jaguars' final series in that game with the Jaguars trailing by 30 points. Robinson discussed this publicly Monday, and we'll get to those comments in the next O-Zone answer. But Meyer on Monday replied "That's a good question" when asked why Robinson was playing late if health was a concern. Meyer on Monday also said he plans to be more involved in playing rotations at the position moving forward because "I have just got to make sure we do it the way I want it done." Meyer, like many – if not all – head coaches, typically leaves playing-time specifics to the position coach. That's Jaguars running backs coach Bernie Parmalee. Are the Jaguars benching Robinson for the fumbles? Do they judge him more harshly than other players? Was there simply a miscommunication among the coaching staff about how Robinson should be used? Whatever the answer, the situation has been – and remains – strange and difficult to explain. Very strange and very difficult.
James from Socorro, NM
In a TV interview Monday, James Robinson stated that he felt like he got benched after fumbling. Urban knows this is an NFL team and not college anymore, correct?
You're referencing an appearance by Robinson on Action Sports Jax Monday evening. When asked by Dan Hicken and Brent Martineau if he believed he was benched, Robinson said: "When it happens and then you're out for that long, you've got to feel that way. I was waiting for my chance to come back in and it really didn't happen until the third quarter." He also was asked about playing on the final series and replied: "I'm not sure what the point of that was." Robinson's personality isn't such that he airs issues publicly. This is not a bad guy or a malcontent. He's also one of the team's best players. When he speaks, it matters.
Cameron from Jacksonville
Is it a bad look that James Robinson openly talked about how he felt like he was benched? We can't afford to lose another one of our top players again.
Well … it's not a good look.
Jon from Jax
"I'm not sure what the point of that was." - James Robinson on playing final few snaps of Sunday's game after sitting for most of it. Also said, he felt he got benched! If this guy is not 100 percent like what Urban said, then why is out on a final few snaps of the game? Your thoughts and/or spin O?
No spin. Simple thoughts. If Robinson felt he was benched, then that's a concern – whether that was the intent or not. And I don't know why Robinson played late in the game. Meyer didn't offer specifics Monday. Stay tuned.
Rob from San Antonio, TX
O-Dude, I have been giving Urban the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the J-Rob "benching" discussion. That being said, even when considering players could downplay injuries to stay in games, after watching J-Rob's answers during a recent interview there's clearly a significant disconnect between him and the coaching staff. I'm sure J-Rob's teammates are paying attention. How big of an issue is this moving forward?
Gary from St. Augustine, FL
You said maybe you were naïve. Yep.
Yep. This may be so. I wrote Sunday and Monday that perhaps I was naïve on the issue, but it didn't feel as if Robinson was being benched or punished – and that it was just hard to fathom that Robinson would be out of the game for a reason other than injury. I still figure injury has to be a factor on some level in the decision-making. Logic tells you he's too good a player and too valuable for that not to be the case. He clearly feels differently. That's a concern. A significant one.
Travis from Wisco
James Robinson's recent interviews do not seem to support the comments by this coaching staff. It does seem this coaching staff does not see Robinson as a key component of this team. Taking into account how bad this team has performed and that Robinson is probably the best overall weapon we have, then how can the fans not continue to question this coaching staff? If Robinson leaves this organization and the coaching responsible for it is still intact, then I find it hard even for hardcore fans to have faith in this organization.
There's a disconnect somewhere on the Robinson issue. That is clear. There needs to be a reconnect.
John from Jacksonville
On the topic of playing rookies when they are not better than the current player at their positions, would that send a message to the team that winning is no longer the goal? I'd have a really hard time going to battle with leaders who aren't serious about winning.
That's always part of the concern for coaches on that issue. You want to see young players play, but you mostly want to win – and you want to make sure all players know you want to win.
Andy from Canmore, Alberta
Hey, O. Can you help explain what Urban is thinking by choosing to use Brandon Wright for kickoffs? The explanation so far doesn't make much sense to me. Cooke has the bigger leg and in order to preserve his health, they are choosing to roll the dice with kick returns because Wright can't make it to the end zone as opposed to sure-thing touchbacks with Cooke. But if kicking off is so dangerous, would we not be more worried about our field-goal kicker's health as his position affects points scored … a punter influences field position and I'm sure there are lots of punters available to fill in for spot duty should Cooke get injured. Am I missing something here?
The motion for kicking off and kicking field goals are relatively similar, and kickers will tell you kicking off doesn't put undue strain on the leg compared to kicking placements. The punting and kickoff motions are different, and I've had multiple punters tell me the difference is significant – and that kicking off therefore can strain on the leg. I haven't spoken to Cooke about this, but the idea that kicking off can be risky to a punter is not a ridiculous one.
CLIFF from Las Vegas, NV
You speak of Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the same manner you used to speak of Jalen Ramsey during his rookie year. Seems like a subtle confidence that seems unflappable, regardless of rookie year struggles. Are you really "all in" on this kid being a superstar the same way you were with Ramsey? What is it that you see behind the scenes that many of us don't?
I absolutely believe Lawrence can and will still be a star. Am I as confident now as I was with Ramsey as a rookie? No. Because Ramsey played a position that was less dependent on factors around him, he was able to stand out as a rookie despite. Quarterbacks depend on players around him and vice-versa, and it's difficult to know for certain if Lawrence's struggles with accuracy are on him, communication, route running or something else. It's likely a combination. He needs to improve in some areas. He needs more around him. But he absolutely can be a superstar. He absolutely has the ability to be that.
Josh from Atlanta, GA
I can't watch this offense anymore. Every year it's a different reason for ineptitude. But this? This is pathetic on so many levels, and – unlike you – we aren't paid to watch this version of bleach on the eyes. It sucks. It's awful and damn am I done wasting my four good hours on Sundaze with Krimmuh almost here. Merry Christmas, Johnny-O!
Red from O-Zone comments section
No question John, just an observation. I'm glad I don' t have your job! That's all.
My job is awesome. I write and talk about football, and I am beloved by all. It is the last part that I perhaps value most.