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O-Zone: Gird up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

David from Orlando, FL

If I had one wish for the Pats game, it would be for the Jags defense to remain in man-to-man coverage throughout the game. It seems as soon as we go into zone coverage Tom Brady picks us apart. In my opinion, zone coverage makes sense when your cornerbacks don't match up well against the wide receivers. This is rarely the case in Jacksonville, so it makes no sense to neutralize your elite corners by having them monitor a patch of grass. What are your thoughts on man-to-man coverage versus zone?

I expect the Jaguars to play a lot of man-to-man coverage against the New England Patriots Sunday, and I expect the Jaguars to play man this season more than they play zone. The Jaguars typically don't play all zone or all man in any game because if teams know exactly what defense you're going to play it's easier to scheme to beat that defense. This was well-illustrated last week when the Giants used a variety of legal "pick" plays to get wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. free from Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. If a team knows you're playing man, they also can run plays specifically designed to have the receiver make a quick move one way, then use his speed to run straight away from defensive backs. That's a tough approach for even the best corners to defend. That's why teams mix coverage schemes, and that even includes teams with great cornerbacks.

John from Orlando, FL

Sad fact of the day ... the Jaguars are 1-11 lifetime versus the Patriots.


Terry from Jacksonville

Why won't they use Grant? I would like a few reasons.

The Jaguars do use Corey Grant. They have used him extensively on special teams, and they have used him on offense in packages and situations in which it makes sense to use him. Because of his size, and because he is not a great pass blocker, it is difficult to use him as an every-down running back. Because it's difficult to use him as an every-down back, it's sometimes difficult to have him in the game because opponents know he's likely to get the ball if he's in the game. The way the Jaguars do use him is in situations where they can get him the ball and take advantage of his elite speed.

Gibson from Vermont

Was Myles Jack Down?

No, Gib. He was not.

Cliff Lives from The Underworld

Who is responsible for Blake Bortles being our starting quarterback this year? Is it Shad, Tom, Dave, Doug? And if it's some combination of the four, how does that process work when they come to a consensus to extend him and move forward with him? Is the salary cap guy John Idzik involved in this decision?

Bortles is the Jaguars' starting quarterback because Owner Shad Khan, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone agreed following last season he was the best option available taking into consideration how he played last season and what other quarterbacks were available this past offseason. Idzik was involved in the sense that many people in the organization would have discussed this with many other people in the organization. As for who would make the ultimate decision, that would be Coughlin – but it wasn't as if there was disagreement on the topic.

Logan from Wichita, KS

Gonna keep my expectations low and hope for the best. Think I can keep my fanning in check this game. Go Jags!

How wonderful to learn.

Kyle from Noblesville, IN and the Mean Streets of Arlington

Living in your old stomping ground I saw a lot of Colts teams in this same situation, losing in the playoffs to Bill and Tom, then getting blown out the next season by the Pats because they had some exotic package in to beat Peyton. Do you think they have that type of personnel other than Gronk to do that sort of thing to us?

The Colts lost to the Patriots just twice in the postseason during Peyton Manning's time there – in the playoffs following the 2003 and 2004 seasons – and the teams' regular-season matchups during the height of the Brady-Manning rivalry (2003-2010) were never blowouts. I point this out not to show off my superior knowledge of Colts-Patriots, but to make the point that the notable thing about the Patriots is not their propensity to blow opponents out in one-sided fashion. Rather, it's their remarkability to be competitive year-in and year-out and consistently win close games. And it's often not necessarily personnel as much as their ability to make key plays in pressurized situations late that leaves opponents frustrated. This is what historians will remember about this dynasty – and it's what the Jaguars will face on Sunday.

Jason from Da Hass

John, I believe that the trend Sid was referring to is the trend where when the Jaguars have a lead they tend to sit on said lead. In the Bills and Steelers games the team didn't have a lead to sit on. I understand that the philosophy is to run the ball and keep the clock running in those situations, and I agree that it's a sound strategy. However, if the team has the lead and Blake is more efficient throwing on first down and play action then it would be an equally sound strategy to mix that in as well seeing as the team isn't quite at the "run-successfully-when-other-teams-are-expecting-it" level quite yet – as evidenced by the AFC Championship game and last week's Giants game.

The Jaguars never trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff last season.

Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL

Hi John, I thought the offense was moving the ball "OK" in the second half of the Giants game, but penalties kept them from being effective. With or without Fournette, that has to change.

This is true. There were some similarities between the second half of the Week 1 victory over the Giants and the Week 2 loss to the Titans last season, with penalties forcing the Jaguars into third-and-unmanageable situations in both games. The difference? The Jaguars were experienced enough and good enough this season to withstand the situations and not let the game get away from them whereas early last season they were not. In both cases observers interpreted the offense struggling for a half as a sign of disaster. That wasn't the case last season and I don't believe it will be this season – provided the Jaguars can stay out of third-and-unmanageable.

Pico from Orange Park, FL

John, it doesn't matter if Leonard Fournette plays this week or not. Blake Bortles stinks and we will lose the game!

(Yawn) What?

Jeff from Orange, CA

How big of an impact Sunday could RB thinness for the Patriots be?


Dan from St. Augustine, FL

I believe it's time to ask the uncomfortable question: Leonard Fournette is hurt again. It's possible he is one of those running backs that is injury prone and likely to miss many games like last year. What now?

This really isn't all that uncomfortable because I've heard it asked quite often. Fournette missed two games because of injuries last season. Is it possible he's injury prone? I suppose. What now? I guess we wait and see if he's injury prone.

Brian from Gainesville, FL

Big O, will the Jaguars be playing 11-versus-17 like they were in the AFC Championship Game or do the officials not blatantly favor the Patriots until the postseason?


Alex from New Jersey

Hey John, I'm with you that the storyline that "Marrone was too conservative in the AFC Championship" is tired. Yes, he was conservative and we lost. Yes, Doug Pederson and the Eagles were aggressive, and they won. However, does anyone remember the Atlanta/New England Super Bowl? Atlanta lost that game because they were too aggressive. Had Dan Quinn coached like Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone coached, Atlanta most likely would've won that Super Bowl. There's no one-size-fits-all answer to coaching or beating the Patriots. I personally am confident in the staff and the roster to get the job done this week. Will they? Well, that's why they play the game.

You coach to win the game you're playing based on the strengths of your team and the situation you're facing. The Denver Broncos beat the Patriots, 20-18, in the AFC Championship Game following the 2015 season by taking a 20-12 lead early in the fourth quarter then playing conservatively on offense and holding onto the lead. It was a brilliant strategy because the Broncos won the game and the Super Bowl. Had the Jaguars won the AFC Championship Game in January, Marrone's strategy would have been brilliant. He didn't, so it wasn't. That's how it works.

Craig from Jacksonville

Zone, to quote Barney Fife, " This is big, really big."

Or as Barney also said, "You better gird your loins, buster; you got a fight on your hands."

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