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O-Zone: Good work

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Chris from Norfolk, VA

Hey O, can you give a little insight on some things? Marcell Dareus, Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr., Malik Jackson and Yannick Ngakoue … whose contracts are up after this year and who do you see us keeping?

Fowler is the only player on the list whose contract is up after the season, though the contracts of all of the defensive linemen you mentioned aside from Ngakoue’s will reach a point next offseason where the Jaguars can release them without extreme salary-cap ramifications. The Jaguars’ idea when they signed/acquired Dareus, Campbell, Jackson and other free agents such as safety Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson was that they would have to make decisions this offseason whether to keep or release some players. The reality of the salary cap meant that would happen, and that reality will come to fruition in the offseason. How it plays out remains to be seen. Some of this will depend on how those players play this season and whether they seem to still be in their primes by season’s end. Some may depend, too, on whether some of those players will restructure contracts. I doubt Fowler will return and I agree with you that the Jaguars will re-sign Ngakoue. As far as the other trio, I honestly don’t know. I imagine the cap will dictate at least one leaves, but it’s too early to know which one.

Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville

So, Denver gave us a good idea how to play against this Kansas City offense. Even in the loss, the Broncos pressured Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes all night. I hope our offense will be more effective than Denver was because I think we can win this.

I think the Jaguars will be more effective offensively, and I think the Jaguars will win the game.

Nick from Palatka, FL

Mr. Zone, How's nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden coming along? I thought he really played well the first two games and it seems like cornerback Tyler Patmon is getting picked on a little bit in his stead. If Hayden isn’t on the field Sunday, I think we're gonna miss him.

Hayden has been ruled out for Sunday, which means he will miss a third consecutive game with the sprained toe he sustained two days before the Jaguars’ loss to Tennessee. But while teams have thrown at Patmon in recent games, they haven’t done so with a lot of success. The Jaguars have allowed one touchdown drive – a five-yarder – in Patmon’s two games playing nickel. Whatever picking teams have done on Patmon, it has been minimal.

JT from Fort Worth, TX

These hamstring injuries are brutal. Just hope that Fournette comes back when he is healed up. We really could use him.

The first way to think of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette for the short-term is to assume he won’t play for the next few games. Perhaps he will return in the next few weeks, but assume he won’t. The Jaguars can handle this; they have been productive in his absence far more often than not. The second way to think of it is that it will add a significant dimension to the offense when he returns because the Jaguars will be able to use him not only in power formations, but in two-back sets with Corey Grant and T.J. Yeldon. The Jaguars used the two-back sets effectively in preseason but have yet to be able to use it in the regular season because of Fournette’s absence. That will be a significant wrinkle to add to an already good team – when it happens.

Geoff from Bay Area, CA

How was Taven Bryan looked in the first quarter of the season? The defensive line is going to bring Mahomes down to earth this Sunday.

Bryan, a defensive lineman and the Jaguars’ first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, has looked OK the first quarter of the season. He shows great power and athleticism at times, and at other times he doesn’t show instincts and awareness to put that power to use. So … a relatively typical rookie, pretty much.

Brian from Jacksonville

Is there any chance the Jags brass ask about Le’Veon Bell? We wouldn't pay him would we?

The Jaguars aren’t trading for Bell.

Scott from Daytona Beach, FL

I have two words for you. Le’Veon Bell.

Two more words: Not happening.

Mark from Richmond, VA

Do you see our defense making Mahomes look like a second-year guy with only five or so starts under his belt? We have the guys to give him a reality check, but dang they have a lot of playmakers on offense.

I do think the Jaguars’ defense will give Mahomes and the Chiefs’ problems. I thought before the Chiefs beat Denver on Monday night that the Jaguars would beat the Chiefs, perhaps by double digits. I’m not so sure about the double-digits part, but I do think elite defense will trump elite offense on Sunday.

Nathan from St. Augustine, FL

Kareem Hunt, he gave the Broncos fits Monday night and that’s a good defense. Do you think the Jags will play mostly zone in this matchup? Or are our back seven athletic enough to play the Chiefs man to man?

I expect the Jaguars to play a mix of zone and man Sunday. It has been their approach to do this on a pretty even split, and I doubt that will change.

Anthony from Madison, WI

I'm not going to argue with you about ref bias against the Jags overall, but just like Cam Newton, Bortles does not get the benefit of the doubt on roughing-the-passer calls that smaller and less-mobile quarterbacks do. It's ridiculous. Blake shouldn't have to get broken in half to get a call for a low or late hit.

True.

George from Savannah, GA

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles vs Mahomes. Now we will see who is an elite quarterback and whether or not the Jags should have drafted Mahomes instead of Fournette.

What we’ll really see is who is a better team that day: the Jaguars or the Chiefs. But if you want to base players’ entire careers on one game, I can’t stop you. And you won’t be alone.

Mike from Palm Coast, FL

This defense is incredible, but I worry about all the talk of turnovers. It was awesome last year with all the turnovers and sacks, but there were also a fair number of big plays allowed that may not have been a coincidence. Continuing to force punts and keeping the other team out of the end zone will work just fine to keep the wins coming. It may not be quite as much fun to watch, but lots of three-and-outs are great to see too. I’d hate to see risk taking trying to force sacks and turnovers lead to trouble; just take them as they come.

Agreed.

Mr Padre from St.Mary’s, GA

IMO the offensive line has done a great job of pass blocking. Is it just me or have we not had but a small few big holes for our running backs through four games? I watch a lot of other games and many running backs get five-to-10 yards before being touched when going between the tackles "way" more often than we seem to. Nitpicking maybe, but how do you feel our run blocking has been thus far?

The Jaguars’ run-blocking so far has been OK, not great. One thing to remember, though: The Jaguars’ offense typically is run-first, which means teams play more defenders at the line against the Jaguars than they do against most teams. That is a reason you don’t see as many gaping holes for the Jaguars in the running game. If Bortles continues to play as he did against New England and the Jets, I would expect to see defenses back off from that approach. When that happens, I would expect some gaping holes.

Jason from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Any big differences in the way the Titans’ defense matched up against us versus the way the Jets and Patriots defense matched up? I'm trying to understand how we seemed to move the ball so well in the passing game in Weeks 2 and 4.

The first thing that happened is the Jaguars played a lot better in Weeks 2 and 4 than in Week 3. Sometimes that happens; players aren’t the same week to week. Bortles passed better and made better decisions in those weeks, and the Jaguars’ receivers certainly played much better in those weeks as well. Also, the Titans have a very athletic, intelligent defensive front and the secondary does a nice job in zone coverage taking away the crossing routes that worked so effectively against New England and the Jets. I imagine teams will work to take those routes away from the Jaguars. How they counter that when that happens will be critical.

Jim from Jacksonville

Jalen Ramsey is slipping. If you’re the best, you can’t drop two interceptions in one game.

Good job on this one. I actually believed you were serious for a moment.

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