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O-Zone: Hanging on

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Paul from Section 148

Draft an offensive lineman in every round of the 2019 draft.

The Jaguars won’t do that, but you’re right that the offensive line’s pass-blocking was a major issue Sunday. A large part of that was injuries; the Jaguars finished the game with just two Week 1 starters playing – left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Jermey Parnell. Credit the line for this on Sunday: It run blocked very well, particularly before right guard A.J. Cann reaggravated a hamstring injury and left the game. But the reality is the line has been OK a lot in the last season and a half, but often not as good as necessary. I expect Cann and Parnell to be gone after this season. That could leave the team looking for two starters, with two more – center Brandon Linder and left tackle Cam Robinson – returning from season-ending knee injuries. But I agree that the team must focus on the area early in the draft the next several offseasons. That’s true of a lot of positions.

Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

You think the Jags should start giving safety Ronnie Harrison and defensive lineman Taven Bryan more playing time?

Yeah, probably.

Steven from St. Augustine, FL

Why didn't we even attempt a pass of more than 10 yards? Does Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett even know what a vertical pass is?

Hackett is aware that you can pass vertically under NFL rules, and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles did throw deep on multiple occasions late in the first half Sunday. He threw inaccurately, and the receivers to which he threw weren’t exactly running open. Those efforts went away in the second half for several reasons. It appeared Bortles missed a few plays downfield, including one on which he had wide receiver Donte Moncrief open for a first down. There also was very little time to throw throughout the second half; Bortles, remember, was sacked three times in the fourth quarter and narrowly escaped pressure to set up the Jaguars’ third-quarter touchdown. The lack of vertical passing was like so much else about the offense Sunday: A group effort that was bad enough to allow the Steelers to rally and win a game that should have gone the other way.

Mike from Mandarin, FL

John, what do you think?? I think Hackett has zero faith in his team and zero confidence in Bortles. The most disappointing team in the NFL in 2018.

I think you’re right that Hackett’s lack of trust in the offensive line, receivers and quarterback was an issue on Sunday. Whether more trust than he showed was merited is a legitimate question.

Fred from Naples, FL

We never called you stupid.

Why not?

Mark from Green Bay, WI

Really, the same run play 12 times in a row, with the Steelers defense stacking the box. No end around run, no play action pass (of course not), no razzmatazz, no screen. Whoever calls this stuff should be gone next year, this year is over.

The Jaguars damned well get a little razzmatazz in here. If not … well, it just better happen is all I can tell ya.

Mal from Jacksonville

Our first-round draft picks are the least productive in the league probably since our existence – other than cornerback Jalen Ramsey. What are your thoughts on that?

My first thought is you might be comparatively young. The Jaguars’ first-round draft selections early in their existence were quite productive, with left tackle Tony Boselli and running back Fred Taylor two of the NFL’s best players at their positions – perhaps ever and certainly in recent decades. But you’re point is correct: Since then … far too many first-round selections haven’t become core, foundation-type players. It has been a problem.

Jess from Glen Carbon

When people talk about strong defenses winning the Super Bowl, the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens are the two teams most often cited. There may be one or maybe two others. Three teams in the last thirty years that have won with defense. Why would any team count on a superior defense to take them into the playoffs and win a Super Bowl when only ten percent of Super Bowl wins have been with strong defenses? Wouldn't putting together offensives similar to the ones that have won ninety percent of Super Bowls make more sense?

You pretty much win the Super Bowl with an elite quarterback or a great defense. There are exceptions to this, and it’s awesome to have both. But your question makes me wonder if you honestly have paid much attention to the NFL either historically or for the last seven or eight seasons. Tampa Bay in 2002. Denver in 2015. Seattle in 2013. It’s not the best way, but without an elite quarterback it’s still the best way.

Brian from Section 238

John, the problem is No. 5: 10-18, 104 yards. Take away the check downs to the running backs and he finished with 49 yards passing. He’s the problem. I don’t know the answer. Please help.

I wish I knew.

David from Maplewood, NJ

John: Real stat. I checked. On the touchdown drive Bortles was 2 for 2 for over 40 yards passing on first down. The rest of the game he didn't have a pass attempt on first down and only one on second down. They went conservative and that is why we lost. I get doing it once, but we clearly were not running effectively in the second half. If not now, when? Why not go for it. The season is lost anyway?

The Jaguars didn’t enter Sunday’s game thinking the season was lost; they entered it correctly thinking they would be very much in contention for a playoff appearance with a victory. They ran on first down throughout the game because they were effective with it early, and they continued doing it in the second half in part because the offensive line was struggling to pass block. It was a more conservative, less-creative game plan than you would have liked.

Jesse from Hilton Head, SC

Honest question; I would love to know your answer. If Kessler started Sunday, do you think the Jaguars would have lost? In my opinion, as well as many other Jags fans, the answer is clear. The only reason I can think of that the Jags have stuck with Bortles after all of his struggles is that they are hoping to salvage some trade value for him in the offseason.

That’s not why the Jaguars are starting Bortles; they’re starting him because they believe he’s their best chance to win. And yes – I believe Bortles’ mobility and presence gave the Jaguars in that situation the best chance to win. I wouldn’t say it’s a no-brainer, though.

Jeremy from Jacksonville

While I agree 2.0 played an amazing game, am I wrong to also see that he had a facemask penalty on the final drive and got beaten in the middle of the field by wide receiver Antonio Brown to set up a first-and-goal inside the 5? I know, the offense didn't do them any favors in the final 20 minutes or so of the game, but with the game on the line 2.0 made a couple of costly mistakes (he was not alone out there, but neither was Blake. Just sayin).

It’s unrealistic to think a defensive back never is going to get beat in the modern NFL. Also, Ramsey got screened early on the play to which you refer. It’s why teams don’t always play man-to-man all over the field even with elite corners. You can’t play it all the time and not expect to get screened out of some plays; Ramsey actually made a remarkable play to make the tackle.

Frankie from London, UK

Could Tom Coughlin stop whiffing on draft picks please? If you really look at each pick since he’s been here ... doesn’t look good at all.

Not yet, it doesn’t. Young players often take time to develop, and remember: The Jaguars’ top three selections in the 2018 NFL Draft – Harrison, Bryan and wide receiver DJ Chark – were selected with the idea that they would mostly develop for a season before contributing more in their second seasons. Stay tuned.

Kyan from LeMars, IA

I know personnel on offense is limited because of injuries. However, offenses in this league are so creative (Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, etc.). How does Nathaniel Hackett not have one or two creative plays to get a first down late in the game? All he can come up with is Fournette right up the gut??

The lack of rollouts, misdirection and quick play-action throughout the game is a legitimate question. The final play actually was a run-pass option, with Bortles having the option to keep the ball and run. He didn’t.

Sonia from Wiesbaden, Germany

Wow. Before the game, I was positive they'll make it. Still so during most of it. At least, it was worth watching. Hope there will be some more of it - if nothing else. Not the most popular (fan) opinion, I am sure, but what else is there to say? (Coming back to mentality and keep on fighting, I guess, but that's what they get paid for isn't it?)

Hang in there, Sonia.

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