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O-Zone: Hidden identity

JACKSONVILLE – Game-day O-Zone.

Let's get to it … Alex from Orlando, FL:
This game is huge. Who do you think wins, and why?
John: I'm not a big predictions guy here in the O-Zone, but I think the Jaguars will win Sunday if they play well – and yes, I expect them to play well. They're playing at home with at least some measure of momentum. They have saved their season with victories in the last two games – and they have a real chance to put themselves in a very good situation over the next five days. If they win the next two games then the 0-3 start that threatened the season suddenly seems far in the past. Their defense is covering well – and it seems to be improving by the week. I also expect the defense to play the run well – and the run is where Oakland's offense really begins. The 'X' factor, of course, will be the Jaguars' offense. If it can protect the ball and hit big plays, then I think the Jaguars will win. They haven't done either enough this season. I expect they will Sunday.
Damien from Jacksonville:
How much, if any, advantage is it to the team that Greg Olson worked closely with Derek Carr a few years ago? Thanks!
John: Very little.
Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I don't see why fans are complaining about our running game. Our offensive line has a few problems - but overall our running game is OK. Am I totally wrong?
John: You're not totally wrong – though to be honest, you're kinda close. The Jaguars have shown signs of running well at times this season – early against Green Bay and San Diego; in London against the Colts – but overall this area hasn't been good enough. Not nearly.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
O-man, now that he appears to have lost his starting job, what is the role of Davon House on this football team?
John: Back-up.
Spence 'O Matic from Jacksonville:
O-Man: Marqise Lee's display of ability last week in Chicago gives the offense a vital third weapon at wide receiver ... that in many formations will still allow the Jags to have a tight end to block and help the running game. To me, Lee's emergence will do more to help the running game than a lineman's development. The only thing this does, though, is leave multi-million $$ man Thomas on the bench. What say you?
John: I say the Jaguars need to get their best players on the field. Yes, that may mean Lee playing instead of Thomas in some early-down situations. I doubt the Jaguars take this approach too much because they like the balance a two tight-end set gives – and they like the defensive match ups created by two tight ends. But Lee is playing well enough that he could be forcing his way onto the field more regularly.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
This team has made great progress. Because there are 31 teams that place great value on the offensive line, you can't just go shopping at Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of spare tackles, guards, and centers. I wrote during preseason this team would start slow and improve as the season and develop into a 7-9 or a 8-8 team. I still believe it will happen. We play six games in the AFC South against teams that we are able to beat. Add just one or two wins outside the AFC South and we all can celebrate. Keep Gus Bradley for this season. Period.
John: OK.
Chris from Mandarin:
No, John, the best option to play center was Alex Mack, but the team elected not to pursue him. If they had, we could have left Brandon Linder at left or right guard depending on where him or Cann were better at. You can't spend all the monies at once, I suppose.
John: Your opinion and that of David Caldwell differ on this matter. That's OK. Differing opinions are legal and healthy in this country.
Pogie from Orange Park, FL:
Top eight in yards per game on defense … take the Charger game out, probably Top 2 or 3. Guess what I'm saying is once this offense gets going … look out. Fans need to recognize this is possibly one of the best teams we've seen in Duval. Ever! Go Jags.
John: Let's let the Jaguars get to .500 first, Pogie.
Will from Orlando, FL:
Is it fair to expect a well-rounded, solid game from Blake Bortles considering the subpar defense coming in to the 'Bank on Sunday? I feel like this team doesn't just need a win, it needs a convincing "W."
John: It's fair to expect anything you want. I don't know that Blake Bortles' issues will be magically solved because the Raiders are ranked 32nd in the NFL. So far, his issues this season seem to run deeper than that – and by that I mean they are more about what he's doing than what defenses are doing. He needs to be more accurate, make better decisions and be sounder with the ball when under pressure. He will face pressure Sunday because Khalil Mack plays for the Raiders. Either way, if Bortles plays well Sunday, it will be because he played well and made strides in areas where he needed to do so; not because the Raiders allowed him to do so.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
29th in total offense; 24th in total defense. Tell me if I'm off-base, but I can't see how overall performance in the bottom tier can translate to a winning record. I'm not giving up, mind you, but I'm struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. John, you've been around a long time – is it more a personnel issue? Or is it that the personnel we have simply aren't performing to expectations?
John: The Jaguars are ranked No. 8 in the NFL in total defense.
Preston from Oakville, CT:
I may be in the minority here, but the way the Jaguars are playing has me filled with optimism. The offense has struggled much more than I would like, but we have seen that they have big-play ability. The fact that the defense is as far along as they are means that we have the pieces in place and it's time to see them bring it all together. Your thoughts?
John: My thought is that this game Sunday has a chance to be a very important game for this franchise. I do get the feeling that this team is close. That feeling doesn't come from the offense nearly as much as it does from a defense that indeed appears to be improving rapidly – and appears to have the tools in terms of speed and ability to stop the run to be sustainably good. As far as the offense …. yes, there is big-play ability. More important than that, though, it must improve in the running game and Bortles must be more accurate and reduce turnovers. The good news for the Jaguars is those latter two areas don't need to improve dramatically for results to be positive. The smallest upturn could yield significant results. We'll see if that happens.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
I expect to see more three- and four-wide receiver sets and more no-huddle in the game Sunday. I know Gus wants to run the football, but how about letting the pass set up the run? We all know too well that this year, they haven't been able to run consistently on traditional running downs and situations. What say you, O?
John: The pass only can set up the run if the pass is effective. We'll see if that happens Sunday.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
My prediction for the first three rounds of next year's draft: Right tackle, guard, strong safety.
John: There obviously is a long way to go before the draft – as in, 11 regular season games and perhaps more games after that – and much can change between now and then. But those indeed are spots where the Jaguars could have needs next offseason. The good news for the Jaguars is none of those are spots that traditionally have to be filled in the first round to be filled effectively. The other good news for the Jaguars is it's no guarantee that all three will have to be filled. We'll see.
Will from Orlando, FL:
How much longer can we expect Julius Thomas to be a highly-paid acquisition with minimal impact on the offense?
John: The Jaguars haven't gotten Thomas as involved this season as would be ideal, and some of that has been Bortles' trouble getting him the ball (witness a third-down overthrow early in the third quarter last week). Thomas is an important piece of the offense. His presence does help others around him because defenses have to account for him. But there's no question the Jaguars would do well to get him more involved.
Glen from Section 408:
Great job this week; here's one for you Oehser!!
John: Is this Jerell?

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