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O-Zone: Don't go there

JACKSONVILLE – Look-ahead Wednesday.

Let's get to it …

Holger from London:
Why is the defense not getting turnovers?
John: This is among the biggest issues facing the Jaguars' defense, with the team's minus-12 turnover ratio a major reason for their 2-6 record. It's simply difficult to win when you turn the ball over at that rate if you can't offset it by forcing turnovers yourself. The Jaguars have a league-low five takeaways, including four by the defense. Why? Many factors, but I believe the biggest is lack of pass rush. The Jaguars have three sacks in the last four games after 12 in the first four games. When you don't get pass rush, it's hard to get turnovers because disrupting the quarterback is what most often forces fumbles, tipped passes, errant throws, etc. What has happened to the pass rush? It hasn't helped that the Jaguars have led for only 2:49 in the last four games – the last few minutes of the come-from-behind victory at Chicago in Week 6. When you're always trailing, the opposing offense is in fewer obvious passing situations – and that usually means fewer sacks. The Jaguars need to get leads. That would enable them to play more aggressive defensively – and in turn, get a whole more opportunities to force opponents into mistakes.
David from Orlando, FL:
O, wise one: in football – as in life – we need not pass judgement on others, for it is the man upstairs that will cast the final judgement. For the Jaguars, the man upstairs is Shad Khan.
John: True that.
Tim from Orange Park, FL:
In addition to their poor performance, blasting fans and the long drought without success, there is another challenge for next year's season-ticket sales. The 2016 Jaguars schedule gave us season-ticket holders long stretches of time between home games. I've been able to watch more football on TV that is not only more competitive/entertaining, but also free. We bought into the new owner's vision, jumbo screens and pools. What's the plan for obtaining and gaining new sales next year?
John: The challenge you cite is not a new one, and it's certainly not confined to the approaching offseason. In fact, it's a challenge Jaguars President Mark Lamping routinely has mentioned as perhaps the major factor in the team enhancing the game-day experience over the last five years. It's common knowledge within NFL circles that teams are always competing against an advanced, modern and compelling television experience on game days. The Jaguars' plan therefore will continue to be to provide a game-day experience good enough to draw fans away from that experience and to the games.
Chris from Boston, MA:
If Bortles continues to play poorly and the Jaguars decide to choose another quarterback in the draft, do you think David Caldwell will be making the pick?
John: I don't know – because I think the final eight games of the season could play into this. I believe Caldwell should remain the Jaguars' general manager because I believe he is a capable football man with a sound plan – and I believe that plan when executed over time will give the Jaguars a good chance to win. But as for your scenario … no, I can't pretend to know that.
Bill from St. Petersburg, FL:
Zone, the rest of the schedule doesn't really have a game that I look at and say, "Wow, the Jags have no chance in this or that game." All of them are winnable. Maybe I'm just the optimistic Jags fan south of Jacksonville.
John: Yeah, probably. #DTWD
Aaron from Chantilly:
I think it's reasonable to allow Bortles at least two more games, but if he continues this bad play we need to look to Brandon Allen as our starter for the remainder of the season. Bortles' trade value shouldn't sway the decision since we will be picking high enough to select a promising quarterback next year. I would prefer to make a decision early and begin to prepare for next year. What are your thoughts?
John: I think Bortles should and will get more than two more games, at least in part because Nathaniel Hackett just took over as the offensive coordinator.
Michael K from Jackson de Ville:
The majority of your responses to fans' anger include the notation of 2-6. That's all great, John, when you want to paint a dismal picture of only this year, but the fans know it's 14-42 plus three more seasons of ineptitude. A 2-6 record isn't what the fans are upset about.
John: I can't imagine the fans being this angry if the Jaguars were 5-3 or even 4-4, so while the past indeed plays a role in fan disappointment, it strikes me that most of the anger is indeed about a failure to meet expectations this season. And that's fair. This season was supposed to be better.
RJ from Jacksonville:
With Bryan Walters and Allen Hurns possibly out this week due to the NFL concussion protocol, who will step into their positions? This may not seem like a huge deal to some, but Rashad Greene has been injured recently as well. Is he ready to go full speed?
John: It remains to be seen if Walters and Hurns will miss Sunday. If they do, you probably would see Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson start at wide receiver with Arrelious Benn and Greene at third and fourth receiver. At punt returner, you would probably see either Greene or Lee if Walters can't play – and you might see Lee or Greene at punt returner anyway.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
Fair enough on giving Bortles more time to see if he is the one or not. But wouldn't it be part of due diligence on the part of coaching staff to at least see what Brandon Allen can do in a regular-season game towards the end of the season if Bortles doesn't make significant improvement? We need to know what we've got before we go to the offseason.
John: This indeed feels like a mid-December question rather than a mid-November question, but could this issue be pertinent by season's end? Sure.
Steve from Woodbine, GA:
I can't understand why Denard Robinson or Corey Grant is not returning kicks/punts. Bryan Walters is basically back there just to catch the ball – and we see how that turned out. Imagine the spark a special-teams score would bring to this team.
John: Robinson and Grant don't return punts because their straight-ahead speed makes them more suited to the kick-returner role. They haven't been returning kickoffs in recent weeks because Marqise Lee has performed better and better in the role since taking it over Week 6. The guess here is you could see Lee or Greene on punt returns Sunday. Some combination of Lee/Greene at punt returner and Lee on kickoff returns is probably the Jaguars' best overall returning formula.
Emile from Tallahassee, FL:
I love Blake, but a third-year quarterback shouldn't be missing open receivers by as much or as frequently as he continues to do. While Sunday was an improvement, it still wasn't a well-quarterbacked game. Two would-be backbreaking interceptions were merely dropped by Chiefs players, and several big plays were left on the field due to inaccuracy. No real question here I suppose ...
John: No, those weren't questions – but they were valid points. The things you cite from the Chiefs game are indicative of things that still plague Bortles – and things on which he must improve if he is to be a winning-level quarterback in the NFL.
Jeff from Rutland, MA:
For all that could be said about this team, I'll say this: this Sunday would be a really good time for the Jags to throw the fans a bone.
John: Yes.
Cole from Jacksonville:
With Byron Leftwich, there was an absolute cannon for an arm. With Tim Tebow there were the athleticism, immeasurables and proven winning at the highest level in college. My question is with Blake Bortles' flawed mechanics; what do you suppose made the scouts think so highly of him as to look past those flaws and draft him so highly? Do these scouts believe that quarterbacks can somehow fix these flawed mechanics? Because in all three cases it appears there was/is no way to correct them.
John: The Jaguars drafted Bortles because they believed his size, potential, mobility, strength, etc., made him the best quarterback prospect in that draft. In terms of mechanics, remember: not every quarterback enters the NFL with great mechanics – and not every great quarterback has perfect mechanics, either. Philip Rivers, for example, has a quirky delivery that defies his status as an elite quarterback. Remember, too: Bortles' mechanics for the most part were OK last season. They have slipped somewhat this season. As for what the future holds … we shall see.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
This division is bad enough that if the Jags can somehow manage to beat the Texans Sunday and squeeze out some other wins, the last three weeks of our season could get interesting. Just sayin'.
John: Stop.

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