O-Zone: Humble apologies

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Aqeel from Toronto, Canada

Mr. O, when you start speaking of the challenges and craziness for the Jags this season, you often begin with the injury to quarterback Nick Foles. However, didn't linebacker Telvin Smith get the crazy train rolling in the offseason, who then made cornerback Jalen Quitsey conductor, who then took it to another level? Telvin even became his unofficial spokesperson just prior to the trade. That trade looks better each day – and with the Vernon Hargreaves situation in Tampa Bay, it looks like teams might really start grading character as much if not more than just looking at talent and keeping fingers crossed. Teams will always take a chance, but the philosophy has to change at some point doesn't it?

A couple of thoughts on your thoughts. One is you’re right that Smith’s retirement did mark the beginning of the weirdness that has been this Jaguars season. But I don’t mention it much anymore because Smith’s departure took place long enough ago it doesn’t really feel like it is hurting the team. I also don’t know that the linebacker play overall has suffered in his absence; while there have been some missed assignments from linebackers this season, it’s not as if those things didn’t take place with Smith. The season-long Jaguars weirdness indeed has felt more about Foles’ absence and Ramsey’s trade, but those things are behind the Jaguars now and they have done an admirable job staying in contention despite those circumstances. As for NFL teams grading character more than talent, this has been a topic for decades and I just don’t ever foresee a sea change leaguewide in this area. Teams are always wise to seriously consider character, and franchises almost always benefit from high-character players, but the temptation of talent – the reality of what talent can do on the field – is a strong pull. I expect teams will continue to seek balance in this area. I expect team officials to enter situations telling themselves to consider character above all else and know that this is the wise approach. But to think that teams will stop drafting players with red flags … well, I can’t see that happening. As an addendum … Jalen Quitsey? I laughed at that.

John from Orlando, FL

You haven’t mentioned longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. “Gene” Frenette in some time. Why is this?

Sometimes even greatness needs a break.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

I don’t get it, Zone. The Jaguars have been looking for a tight end for years. Other teams have two or three. Why can’t we get this right?

This is a fair question, and the frustration is understandable. There are those within the Jaguars’ organization who share that frustration because the team has searched for a pass-catching threat at the position for years. They signed Julius Thomas to a free-agent mega-contract; while he produced more than some observers remember, he ultimately proved ineffective and disappointing. They haven’t done much else at the position in free agency recently, primarily because front-line players at the position aren’t often available in free agency. They haven’t invested much draft equity in the position – primarily because they have understandably invested elsewhere. They were set to address the position in a big way this past offseason by selecting Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson No. 7 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, but changed direction when edge defender Josh Allen of Kentucky came available. That proved the correct decision because Allen looks like a franchise-foundation player. I expect the position to be a major priority and to be addressed in a big way next offseason.

David from McAlester, OK

Wow. Sunday the Jaguars will either ascend to textbook mediocrity or slide down to slightly below average. It’s like they are making fun of my life.

Or maybe the Jaguars will win in Indianapolis Sunday and move to 5-5, therefore being in playoff contention despite playing eight of 10 games with a rookie backup quarterback. I don’t know if that will make them mediocre or below average. I guess it would mostly make them what a lot of NFL teams are through 10 games – competing for a postseason spot in a league designed for parity.

Aqeel from Toronto, Canada

I think many people feel Foles needs to do a lot more than he really has to. The Jags currently rank 11thin offense yards per game with 377.1. They are just outside the Top 10 and 20 additional yards from being in the Top 5. Where they are lacking is the well-documented issues on third-down conversion [25th] and red zone [bottom]. You have to believe Foles will at least maintain the yards if not increase them and his experience should make third downs more manageable while increasing efficiency there and in the red zone. I think Foles has shown enough in his history to prove that he is capable of that don't you?

Yes. The Jaguars for the most part have been effective offensively this season. While the line has struggled at times, the group also has had strong games both run-blocking and in pass protection; consistency is the goal here. Running back Leonard Fournette for the most part has run well. The wide receivers have proven far better than many expected and they feel like an ascending group. The question, as your email indicates, is in the detail situations. Red zone. Third down. A clutch conversion here or there instead of an opportunity missed. Foles could make the difference in those areas. He must make the difference. It’s why the Jaguars signed him in the offseason.

Jerry from Blountville

I'm a daily reader, and I've become sick of the few readers that fill the comments on your work. I log on and read every day and appreciate your answering of questions. Then I go to the comments to further the discussion, and I'm confronted with poison comments from the same few people. Is there a way that readers could report this to have the negativity reduced? Keep up the hard work! I'm thankful to have your work to read every day. And WOW! Youve not missed a day in years!!

What’s a “comments section?”

Greg from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Honest answer: Do you truly believe the Jaguars can make the playoffs this season?

Honest answer: I don’t know what to expect from this team Sunday because it’s so hard to predict what Foles could mean from the offense. If Foles adds efficiency and the Jaguars win Sunday, I think they’re a playoff team. If not, then probably not.

Greg from Orange Park, FL

If you could ask former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey one question, what would it be?

If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Dmoney from Jacksonville

Trying to figure out what "All-Star" supporting cast people keep referring to when discussing the 2017 NF7 played with. Obviously, the line was phenomenal, but the run game was NOT – and their Top 2 wideouts I would say are not much better, if better at all, than Jaguars wide receivers DJ Chark Jr., Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook. Obviously, tight end Zach Ertz makes a big difference, especially for Foles’ style – but outside of that, where are the All-Stars?? I would say our defense is very similar. So unless I missing something very obvious, I believe NF7 has just as good of a supporting cast here – especially considering how we have been running the ball.

Fair.

Cliff Lives form the Underworld

If the Jaguars’ wide receivers caught and held on to more balls in London than they did, we would have won (also not being screwed by the refs on the DJ Chark Jr. catch). How is Foles going to make wide receivers catch and hold on to more balls? Buncha BS that Foles will elevate the offensive line to protect better, open holes for the one-cut-wonder, and make wide the receivers to hang onto the ball or catch it in the first place. Oh, also Foles will create tight end talent out of thin air.

Your tone indicates you’re arguing against points you perhaps have read here in the O-Zone. I don’t know that I’ve said Foles will improve the receivers’ hands, but his accuracy and ability to put the ball in spots where it’s easier to catch should only help the group. And while Foles won’t cause the line to protect better, those who football far better than I (though perhaps not you) will tell you a quarterback’s ability to get the ball out on time, make correct reads and get rid of the ball for incomplete passes in the right situations absolutely can help an offensive line look better. It’s also true that a quarterback can help a running back by checking to the right plays at the line of scrimmage, and by causing a defense to play different schemes and therefore open up running lanes. Will Foles do all these things? We’ll see. But his presence absolutely could help these areas.

Mark from Atlanta, GA

You’re an apologist.

Sorry.

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