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O-Zone: Harsh reality

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Dave from Chorley, UK

Hello, O. Well, once again, this O-line surprises. Long may this continue. Do we appear to have found a Swiss Army Knife in Shenault? Dude seems like he can do anything on offense. I even heard the commentator mention he can even throw.

It's perhaps time to stop talking about the Jaguars' offensive line being surprising. The unit has played well in two games, and it appears to be what the Jaguars' decision-makers anticipated entering the season – a solid, capable, veteran group that is benefitting from continuity. It also appears to be benefitting from improved health/play from left tackle Cam Robinson. As far as rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. … yes, he can throw. And catch. And run. And break tackles. He's a unique player who feels like a rising star. He hasn't come close to reaching his potential as a wide receiver, and I anticipate that happening as he becomes more polished as a route-runner and more familiar with the subtleties of playing the position in the NFL. What's striking is how much he has contributed in the first two games – outside of the traditional receiver role. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wanted Shenault in the 2020 NFL Draft, believing at the time he was the sort of player who could have a versatile role in the offense. There was also a belief that Gruden could find ways for Shenault to be productive outside the traditional receiver role. He has done just that.

Nick from Annapolis, MD

A lot can happen in 14 games, but it seems crazy to imagine Marrone being let go after this season. I'm definitely pulling for him. I am exceedingly impressed by his humility. I could elaborate, but I think maybe you are more qualified.

I never thought Head Coach Doug Marrone should have been dismissed. Not after 2018. Or after 2019. I always saw him as a very capable NFL head coach, one very good at navigating an NFL season – and very good at communicating with players. He appears to have done a very good job this season setting the tone for this team and creating a culture in which a young team believes in itself and is pulling in one direction. It's far too early to know this team's end game for 2020, but would I like to see him remain the Jaguars' head coach for a long time? Absolutely. As always.

Morgan from North Carolina

When is the last time that the Jaguars' offense was this good?

It's been a minute.

Nick from Palm Coast, FL

Why is Dede Westbrook not playing each game?? if he ready to go and healthy, he should be playing. If the coaches feel he's not a fit to our team, then trade him for a player we need.

Wow, Nick: Your input regarding Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook's roster status is "awesome" – and welcome. It perhaps doesn't acknowledge that there are five other receivers on the Jaguars who are very good and were healthy throughout training camp – and therefore in better position to perform at a high level. It also perhaps doesn't acknowledge that it's not always possible to snap your fingers and magically "trade for a player we need." It also doesn't acknowledge that injuries happen in the NFL and that depth is not evil. The Jaguars like Westbrook. The guess here he gets a chance to play. And remember: It's indeed OK to have quality depth. It usually gets used over the course of 16-game NFL regular season.

Leon from Austin, TX

O-Zone: Dede Westbrook on contract year?


Justin from Jacksonville

It has been frustrating to watch the lack of pass rush that has allowed early big leads and too many critical third downs. While it seems like defensive coordinator Todd Wash is not big on blitzing, until we can get guys to win one-on-one matchups this soft zone defense is death by a thousand paper cuts. This kind of defense is not going to work all year. What say you?

I say the lack of pressure is a concern, and I do think the Jaguars will have to blitz more than is ideal this season moving forward. I also say beware what you wish for when clamoring for the blitz. It's not the cure-all for a struggling pass rush. It leaves an already young secondary exposed and what works on one play can lead to disastrous results on others.

Kay from Jacksonville

Do you think it would make sense to take the ball first (rather than defer) next time the Jags win the coin toss? The offense is good. Maybe get some points on the board and see what the defense looks like playing with an early lead? Lots to like about this team but these slow starts on defense have been painful to watch.

This idea has merit. NFL head coaches like taking the ball to start the second half these days because of the ability to "steal" a possession – i.e., score at the end of the first half and get the ball to start the second. It's a chance to get a 14-point swing. It can absolutely alter the game's momentum if executed well. And considering this team's slow starts … yeah, I wouldn't mind seeing it.

Tom from Jacksonville

On the tipped interception play to end the game that Titans player on the left end was lined up what looked like two feet offsides. I wish we would be allowed to do that. That no call may have changed the outcome. Did you see it?

Yes, I did.

Derek from Brookings, SD

I get that the defensive line needs to get more pressure, but how much can be attributed to the Colts and Titans offensive lines just being really good? I think I want to see at least a couple more games for them to find their groove, but I'm expecting we'll see some improvement from the d-line as the season goes along.

At least some of the Jaguars' struggles rushing the passer must be attributed to the offensive lines of the Colts and Titans. They indeed are among the NFL's better offensive lines. Still, the Jaguars had just two sacks in the first two games. More than that, there were too many plays Sunday on which Tannehill was allowed to scan the field unpressed. Even against good lines, good pass-rushers must do better than that.

Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John. About the lack of pressure on the quarterback: Colts and Titans a regarded as among if not the best offensive lines. Granted, there's work to be done, but how concerned are you?


Nick from Palatka, FL

Johnny O (may you live forever), Hacker and Searcy on their postgame radio show said that weak-side linebacker Myles Jack had his hand on the back of the receiver and that the refs are going to call that all day. Others say that if the receiver is not turned (impeded) it's OK. My question is where is Jack supposed to put his hand that isn't deflecting the pass if he's running with the receiver? Is he supposed to run with one hand behind his back or over his head? Also, is DPI a challengeable penalty this season? Seems like it would have been worth it at that point even though it probably would have been futile.

Nick (may your wish be granted), with due respect to former Jaguars right tackle Leon Searcy and whoever "Hacker" is, the pass interference against Jack was not a "have-to" call. It was, from my view, incidental – and easily could have went uncalled. Pass interference is not challengeable this season. The NFL mercifully and inevitable ended last season's one-season experiment with challenging pass interference because it's all-but impossible to have irrefutable evidence on the infraction. But you're right that challenging Jack's "penalty" under last season's rules would have been futile. As with most pass interference calls, Jack's penalty was open to interpretation. The officials certainly in that case would have gone with what was called on the field.

JG from Silver Spring, MD

Hi John, if I told you that the Jaguars would force zero turnovers while losing two turnovers, and additionally had two special teams mistakes that directly led to lost points for the Jaguars and additional points for the Titans, and that they allowed Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill to throw for four touchdowns while taking just one sack, what would you have guessed the final score would be?

Tennessee: many. Jaguars: not many.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

Is Shenault the team's best power back?

Shenault Jr. is physical and difficult to tackle. I wouldn't necessarily call him a power back in the sense of powering through bunches of tacklers at the line of scrimmage in short yardage.

Garrett from Edgetown

So wait I'm confused, are there two Jerrels? Or is it kinda like that one tv show: we are all Jerrel?

Oh my God, you're right. We indeed are all Jerell.