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O-Zone: Decisions, decisions

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Zac from Austin, TX

Do any teams jump to mind who gave up scores on opening drives consistently and were always playing catch up? It feels like if that were the case, all of the struggling teams would choose to start with the ball and all of the clearly elite teams would always defer. If that was the answer, wouldn't it have already revealed itself in a previous season?

The whole deferring conversation frankly feels silly to me – and it feels like more of a Twitter- sports-talk-radio-fueled concept than anything that matters on the field. Yes, the Jaguars' defense has allowed touchdowns on the game-opening drive in all three games this season. Frustrated fans and media then began a chorus of, "What don't they just take the ball!!!!???" – perhaps forgetting that the Jaguars' offense has failed to score on any of its first drives this season. If the Jaguars take the ball and don't score against Cincinnati Sunday, and if the defense follows that by allowing a touchdown, then you know what happens? The Jaguars will be down 7-0 early – just like in the last three games – AND they won't get the ball to start the second half. The early-deficit issue will be solved when the Jaguars start stopping teams and scoring early – not when Head Coach Doug Marrone changes his philosophy on whether or not to defer to the second half when winning the pregame coin toss.

Adam from St. Johns, FL

So, it's players not plays? Ok, then why aren't we talking about the general manager that got us here? Eight years and it's still not coaching, it's the roster. Someone should probably look into that instead of making excuses for them wouldn't you think?

Wait a minute? Why aren't we talking about the general manager? What? This has been discussed ad nauseum here in the O-Zone, Alan – if not daily, not far from it. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell controlled the roster from 2013-2016 and he along with Marrone control it now. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan wanted to give that combination a chance without the influence of former Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin. As for Caldwell, it's difficult-to-impossible to know the level of influence he had over decisions from 2017-2019. He appeared to do a good job this past offseason given the two objectives of the offseason – i.e., compiling young talent and getting the salary cap in order for the future. I don't know what it will take this season for Caldwell and Marrone to return and guide the organization into the future, but this roster does look like a talented young roster. Bottom line on Caldwell for now: It's impossible to judge the job he would have done the past half decade if Coughlin hadn't been here because Coughlin indeed … was here. That's what makes this such a tricky topic when we talk about it – but we absolutely do talk about it.

Tony from St. Louis, MO

When the Jags lose this week will we see a change or will Khan wait to clean house? Or will he wait till after the Texans game when they officially be put in last place?

I don't expect a coaching change or a "housecleaning" whatever Sunday's outcome when the Jaguars play the Bengals. Or whatever the outcome of the Jaguars' game against the Houston Texans next week.

Andrew from Lindale

If it's your fault that it's my fault isn't it your fault by default?

Andrew, it's always my fault.

Dave from Duval

Hey Zone, When will Quincy Williams be eligible to come off of injured reserve? As a third-round pick from a small school last season he got the starting role early at weak-side linebacker. With Myles Jack now at that position and Joe Schobert at MLB does Williams have a chance to get on the field at Sam linebacker with Leon Jacobs going on injured reserve or does Cassius Marsh have it sewn up? It just seems to me the Jags defense could use his speed and tackling abilities on the field.

There is a three-week window for players to come off injured reserve this season. Williams was designated eligible to return this week, so the Jaguars can activate him for the next two weeks. He will be a reserve weak-side linebacker when he returns and Marsh will start at strong-side linebacker.

Steve from Nashville, TN

JO: Did you know old Tom Coughlin did the first endzone celebration? He called it "Doing the Charleston."

I googled this. I couldn't find anything on it.

Biff from Jacksonville

"Must-win games" are always a fun topic because the "must" is always predicated on something out of your control: What other teams are doing. For example, an 0-3 start might look bad but if other teams are also playing sub-.500 ball then the margin of difference is less problematic. Speaking of 0-3, my research found the following teams making the playoffs after such an abysmal start. The 2018 Houston Texans, 1998 Buffalo Bills, 1995 Detroit Lions, 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 1981 New York Jets. Rare, but possible.

The biggest problem with calling a game must-win game when you're 1-2 is what do you call a game the next week if you're 1-3? A must-must-win game? The Jaguars need to win Sunday. They're in a very difficult position if they lose. A lot of observers will be very "discouraged" if they lose. There will be a lot of "noise in the system" if they lose. There also will be a lot of talk about next week's game being a "must-win" game if they lose, so I'd rather not call Sunday's game that.

William from Savannah, GA

O-Man, with all the analytics that the team utilize, how is that they can't step back and see the forest thru the trees. The Jaguars have not had back-to-back winning seasons since the days of, yes . . . the Culligan girl. Don't give me this, "I don't know what you're talking about." The truth is out there.

Who says they can't see this?

Genuinejag from Jacksonville

Mr. O: Why would a front office put together a team with as many young and inexperienced players and say they expect to win?

Because the Jaguars expect to win despite being young and because they believed most of the moves made this past offseason would make them better. And because you don't say you expect to lose.

Bryce from Waterloo, IA

With Geno Atkins out for the Bengals, this has to be a game where James Robinson gets 25+ carries. At this point, the Jaguars need to put together long drives and finish in the red zone. The Jags need to keep Burrow on the sidelines and limit the amount of time that the Jags defense is on the field.

This would seem a sound plan, and I don't doubt the Jaguars would like to run effectively and use Robinson as much as possible. If the Jaguars score early and stop the Bengals – and therefore get a lead – I don't doubt they would try to do this a lot Sunday. If they fall behind by 14 points early – as they have done the last two weeks – this is a difficult strategy to execute.

Don from Marshall, NC

Does Jay Gruden develop a game plan in collaboration with Gardner Minshew or does he develop the game plan and that's it? You called it last year about the elephant in the room on Gardner. Here we go we're going to find out soon enough. Hope last week was not the normal. Oh My Go Jaguars!

Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden develops the game plan on Monday evenings and Tuesdays with Jaguars offensive coaches and Marrone, after which Minshew and the offensive players receive it and practice it through the week. Minshew certainly has input as far plays and concepts with which he's comfortable. I didn't really call anything about Minshew and there's no elephant in the room beyond him being a young quarterback – one who doesn't have the strongest arm or prototypical height. Because of that, some teams are game-planning for him with soft zone and rushing to contain him in the pockets. Last week in that sense looked like a couple of games in which he struggled last season – at least that's how it looked from this view. It's also important to remember that wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. didn't play, and that the team's game plan was built at least somewhat around Chark. The Dolphins game was in no way a final judgement on Minshew just as the first two games didn't establish beyond doubt as the quarterback of the future. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We're three games into the journey with a long trek remaining.

Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

Whether or not to defer the kickoff seems like the least of this team's problems.