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O-Zone: Fair's fair

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

David from Broward County

John, you are kind saying the decisions to not have an every-down backup to running back Leonard Fournette and not re-sign tight end Marcedes Lewis were “curious.” It was a seriously risky gamble – with huge potential downside and minimal upside. The injury plague this year revealed the downside. Couple that with the horrible decision to extend quarterback Blake Bortles – with a hefty guarantee for 2019 that totally hamstrings the team moving forward – and you have the nightmare scenario that is the 2018 Jags season. This was, unfortunately, very predictable. The Jags were so lucky last year with few injuries and many players overperformed their mean level of play. You had to know that several players would come back to earth. Very sad. Thoughts?

The Jaguars indeed are in a tough spot, and offseason decisions helped put them there. They’re 3-5, fighting for their lives this season and facing an offseason of difficult salary-cap decisions. And yes, the Jaguars were for the most part fortunate with injuries a season ago. Still, I’m not as quick to call how this season has played out thus far “very predictable.” It appears that way in retrospect. And yes, the Lewis and backup running-back decisions were ones that were “curious” at the time. But the injuries that have hit the team weren’t predictable. The offense last season dealt with a lot of week-to-week and short-term injuries. They played through them for the most part, patching holes and playing well enough to win a lot of games. That’s the sort of injury situations a franchise can predict. What has happened this season? Not so much.

Tony from the Land of Confusion

If Bortles continues to play at this level and the team falls out of playoff contention, do you get the sense that the coaching staff would start Cody Kessler just to see what they have there before going into the offseason in search of a quarterback?

I’d lean toward yes, but likely not until the final week or two of the regular season.

Ryan from Apopka, FL

The Jags lost their Sunday night game versus Pittsburgh, but they can still earn one back if they play well to finish the season. That Week 17 game versus Houston, if the Jags can put things together in the second half of the season, could be for the division title with the possibility to be flexed to Sunday night.

That’s a remote possibility at best, but yeah … the Jaguars’ regular-season finale against Houston indeed likely would be flexed if it’s for the AFC South title.

Josh from Fernandina Beach, FL

4-0 this quarter … it can happen.

Sure.

Jerry from Jacksonville

Zone, I have been a big Bortles defender but how can they continue to play him when he has had zero touchdowns in the last four first halves? I know injuries are a factor but even the worst teams in the league score first-half points.

The Jaguars’ offense has been awful the last four games, and Bortles’ turnovers were a major issue – particularly in the first half of the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But if the Jaguars thought Bortles was the main reason the team was struggling offensively they would make a change. That’s not their view.

Paul from Ponte Vedra, FL

O Mighty … I feel like this team will come out playing well this week. I know it’s professional football and no one likes excuses, but the injures this season ... COME ON! Two years in row ... no No. 1 receiver after Week 1, No. 27 out after week one with a hammy. Corey Grant ... out on injured reserve with a foot injury. Left tackle No. 1 out … Left Tackle No. 2 out! We are now using a backup tight end and a second-string-to-the-practice-squad tight end!! We need to remember just two seasons ago and how this squad improved in just one season – and how many thought 2017 could have been a disaster and it was an awesome season. Keep the faith, man! Get back to a run-first team. Keep defenses honest. We still have an entire half season left.

DTWD

Ron from Orlando, FL

You named two of the “misses” as if those were the only two mistakes the front office made during the offseason. Clearly you forgot about the high-priced Bortles extension that hamstrings us for another year, the failure to not grab one of the young veteran quarterbacks with potential to be a starter (Teddy Touchdown, McCarron, etc.), and failure to acquire a true No. 1 receiver. Wasted an elite defense on the front office’s inability to dump #5.

One of the cool things – maybe the coolest thing – about this job is always being reminded the difference between what people read and what is written. I didn’t say or write that the two misses were the only mistakes made; you said that was the way I wrote it, and that is incorrect. I didn’t write that not acquiring Teddy Bridgewater or A.J. McCarron was a mistake because I have yet to see evidence that was a mistake. I also have yet to see evidence of a “True No. 1” receiver being available last offseason, though the team perhaps could have made a stronger push for a receiver the caliber of Sammy Watkins. As for re-signing Bortles, yes … I thought it was a good move at the time. Considering how this team was built and how he played late last season, the move made sense. That in retrospect looks like a bad move because the Jaguars are 3-5. A losing record makes a team’s plan look bad. Injuries in this case have kept us from ever knowing for certain if the plan this season would have worked.

Hulk Smash from Las Vegas, NV

John: We can pick many areas that this team is failing – especially the quarterback position. But after reviewing the last eight weeks, it's hands down, no argument to be made, highlighter across the paper ... it’s the offensive line. Period. Those guys have been getting whipped since the beginning of the season. No quarterback – and I mean no quarterback – can be successful behind that line’s atrocious play. It was evident when Carlos Hyde, who creates yards with his running style, looked pedestrian at best. It has trickled to the defense. Head Coach Doug Marrone had every right to call them out. It’s the line, John.

OK.

Ray from Jacksonville

John: All of the discussion regarding injuries may be a bit misleading. I looked at the stats through eight games last year and this year. The offense averaged 367 yards per game last year and has 352 this year, which is only a four percent decline. However, average points declined from 25.7 to 16.8, which is a 34 percent decline. Defensive stats are similar: allowed 281 yards per game last year and 313 yards this year, which is a 10 percent increase; however, points allowed have gone up 33 percent -- from 14.6 to 21.3. The huge difference is turnovers. This year's offense has 18 turnovers compared to eight last year at this time. The defense has seven this year compared to 17 at this time last year. My point is that with all the talk about injuries to the offense, it has not affected the total yardage that much.

Giveaway-takeaway ratio and rushing indeed are the two most damning statistics for the Jaguars’ offense this season. The turnover ratio is completely reversed from last year and the Jaguars rank 24th in rushing after ranking first last season. But to take injuries out of the equation is still overlooking the obvious. The Jaguars’ injury situation got out of control when they lost left tackle Josh Wells, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Corey Grant in Week 5 against Kansas City. They have scored just two first-half field goals since.

Matthew from Fort Worth, TX

Hey Zone, in retrospect, if you had the decision between Taven Bryan or Will Hernandez, who would you have selected?

I don’t know yet. They’re eight games into their NFL careers.

Kyle from Palm Harbor, FL

Dallas is 3-5, yet America will have the pleasure of watching them this Sunday night. I feel for you, John. Towing the company line is tough work and often thankless.

I guess you’re making the point that the Cowboys are going to be on Sunday Night Football with a 3-5 record while the Jaguars got flexed off the game with the same record. OK, but what the hell does “company line” have to do with this conversation? The Cowboys are one of the NFL’s most popular teams; the Jaguars play in one of the NFL’s smallest markets. The Cowboys have played their way into the national consciousness for nearly five decades; the Jaguars have had one good season in a decade? Is it any surprise Dallas would be on national television and the Jaguars wouldn’t be with similar records? Is that fair? Probably not, but so what? This is professional sports. It’s real life. When did anyone say it was fair?

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