JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Hammock, FL:
Johnny O: there have been many pleasant surprises with the Jaguars through the first half of the season: Blake Bortles, the defense, the coaching … to name a few. The bigger surprise in my opinion has been the offensive line. What would you say? Go Jags.
John: I can't say I'm surprised with the coaching; I thought in the offseason the players would respond to Head Coach Doug Marrone's message, and they seem to have done that. I also thought they would respond during a difficult training camp, particularly when veterans such as defensive end Calais Campbell embraced and supported the approach. The biggest job of a head coach is to get players to buy in, and I never saw that being a major problem with Marrone. As for the biggest surprise, I would agree it's probably the offensive line. The group has been helped greatly by the performance of the Jaguars' defense. That has enabled the offense to be persistent and patient with the run, which in turn has helped the line not only as a run-blocking unit but in pass protection as well. But even considering that factor, the group has played at a high level. Remember in August? When nearly every Jaguars observer thought the line would be a disaster? No one thinks that anymore and it in fact has been a team strength. That's remarkable.
Dustin from Orlando, FL:
Watching the Wednesday interview with Jalen Ramsey, three things stood out. First, I'm pretty sure A.J. Green only had one reception for six yards. Second, I loved the quote "That's the quickest way off Ramsey Island." Finally, Jalen said that his push occurred before the whistle. I tried to find a video of the scrap that had the game sounds but couldn't. Have you been able to watch a replay that shows whether or not the push came before or after the whistle?
John: I haven't seen a video that shows a clear view with audio. I did watch a replay of the television broadcast on which you can see the end of the play and on which you can see Green move toward Ramsey. The two go out of view before you hear the whistle. Watching that play and a separate replay of the fight, it seems conceivable that Ramsey's shove occurred very close to the whistle and perhaps before it. I think there's a better chance that the shove was after the whistle, but it's closer than I expected it to be before I watched it.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Jalen Ramsey … wow! As long as he keeps backing it up on Sundays! Agree?
Bill from Saint Petersburg, FL:
Zone, the win at Pittsburgh a few weeks back has taken this team to a different level in my opinion. The swagger they have now has been a long time coming. If they make the playoffs, I think that's the game you look back on as a major turning point in this fun season to watch to this point. Thought?
John: I wrote immediately after the Steelers game that I thought Telvin Smith's interception return in that game had the potential to be one of the biggest plays of the Jaguars season. The Jaguars were losing momentum in the game at the time and trailed 9-7. A loss would have dropped the Jaguars to 2-3. This at the time didn't feel like a team on a roll – or about to get on a roll. Then, Smith's interception return for a touchdown gave them a lead they never relinquished. They have won three of four games since. I'm not right all the time. When I am, I like to pat myself on the back.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Good Morning, O Man. Dare I say it? After the nature of the Cincy game – i.e., physical and chippy – this team seems ready to go on a run.
John: This team feels confident. You have felt it in the defense all season, and that feeling only seems to be growing. I don't know what that will mean in terms of consecutive victories. I do know that I am intrigued by this team. I don't know that it has scratched the surface on how good it can be. It seems just now to be starting to flex its muscles and find itself. That could be fascinating to watch – and even fun.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
The Chargers have a look of a good team that has played a very difficult opening schedule with their losses coming from Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philly, and New England. Philip Rivers has historically given us fits. Are we being setting up for a letdown? What's your prediction for Sunday?
John: I think the Chargers are better than their 3-5 record, and I think Rivers would make them dangerous no matter their record. I also think the Chargers' defense is very dangerous rushing the passer. I therefore think it's important for the Jaguars to get a lead and run effectively Sunday. If they can do that – which I think they will – then they can pressure Rivers. If they do that, they can win. Remember: Rivers has been the Jaguars' nemesis in recent seasons, but he never has played this Jaguars defense.
Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL:
Cincinnati did not use any of their timeouts in the last nine-minute drive Sunday. Do you consider that surrender?
John: It might be better described as acceptance, but surrender and acceptance also in this case might be the same thing.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, here are some thoughts. First, Joey Bosa and Bolts have a very good pass rush. Second, Philip Rivers versus Jags is well … Philip Rivers versus Jags. Third, [former Jaguars Head Coach and current Chargers defensive coordinator] Gus [Bradley] knows Blake Bortles as well as anyone. Could he form some form of Leo/Otto/Omaha/whomever Defensive scheme? My mind says Jags should win. My stomach says a pick'em. I sure hope my gut is wrong. Go Jags.
John: This game does feel like a pick-'em game – somewhat because of the three reasons you cite and perhaps mostly because the Chargers have won three of four games and have been really close in four of their five losses. The Chargers are not remotely a bad team. The good news for the Jaguars is that they have been playing defensively at a high enough level to force good offenses out of their game.
Scott from Woodland Park, CO:
So, why can't the team with the best defense, one of the best running games and sacks galore buy a nationally televised game these days?
John: The NFL national-television schedule for the most part is decided in the offseason. If the Jaguars make the postseason and continue playing defense at the level and in the style they're playing it, don't worry: the national-television games will come.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Blake Bortles has proven so far this season that he is able to win games with a good offensive line, a good running game and a great defense. If that trend continues and the Jags make a run in the playoffs, do you think that is enough for the Jags to move forward with Blake as the quarterback? Or, do you think they will want to try and find a guy who can do all those things, but can also put the team on his back and win games when those other elements aren't there? The teams that are in the hunt every year are the teams with those types of quarterbacks. The teams without those elite quarterbacks may have a year here and there where all the pieces come together, but they aren't a perennial contender.
John: I think the Jaguars will assess Bortles at the end of the season and I think they also will assess available quarterbacks in the offseason. If there is a quarterback available and attainable who they believe improves their chances to win, I imagine they would pursue that player. It's a long way from a guarantee that such a player will be available.
Jagsfan69 from Duval:
Good morning, sir. We can all agree the Jaguars have exceeded everyone's expectations this year so far. With that being said, do you still believe they are an 8-8 team? I predicted 10-6, AFC South champs and I'm sticking to my guns. You?
John: I said before the season I expected the Jaguars to push for seven or eight victories this season. I didn't think they would exceed that and I didn't believe they would make the postseason. I didn't expect them to have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and I didn't expect them to lead the NFL in rushing and sacks through eight games. I now believe the Jaguars should finish at least 10-6, and I believe they should make the postseason. A man of honor and integrity is able to say when he's wrong. I am, too.
O-Zone: Honor and integrity
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Hammock, FL: