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O-Zone: International man

LONDON – Let's get to it …

Mickey from Jacksonville

The NFL seems to magnify the importance of momentum. (See last year: Lose a bunch in a row then win a bunch). The backward momentum we have scares me more than anything because it can be hard to reverse. A couple wins in London will hopefully turn things around. Two losses might be enough to create a fatal level of morale.

It's hard to define momentum and hard to analyze it in terms of specifics. But if it's a "feel thing," it's hard to argue against what you're feeling. The Jaguars' lack of momentum seemed very real in a 37-17 loss to the Houston Texans last week, and it's perhaps intertwined with the pressing of which Head Coach Doug Pederson has spoken recently. Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium in London feels like a game in which the Jaguars need to get an early lead – and early momentum. They need something to go right early. It doesn't mean they can't rally if they struggle early. It felt last week that they were rallying in the third quarter before an 85-yard kickoff returned ended that momentum. But this team has made a habit of thriving in perilous situations at the end of last season and early this season. It might behoove them to take control of games a little early and get out of the peril. Or something along those lines.

Dave from Jacksonville

John, I am interested in your honest opinion. Is this a truly good team that has underperformed and has not yet hit its stride? Or, is this actually a fundamentally flawed team that was completely overhyped following a 9-8 season which included many unlikely victories?

I'm not in the habit of offering my dishonest opinion. While admittedly funny conceptually speaking, that would be mean. I believe the 2023 Jaguars have the ability to be a good team. They are not currently a good team because a good team doesn't play like the Jaguars played last Sunday. They are not "fundamentally flawed" because the pieces in place can win. They must get out of their own way and win. I don't know if they will do that or not. I expect we'll have a much better idea on where the Jaguars are headed Sunday night after the game.

Sam from Orlando, FL

Drafting Travon Walker was an absolute mistake. There isn't one aspect of Walker's game that is better than Aidan Hutchinson. The gap is far wider than it was on draft day.

It's fair to say Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is a better pass rusher than Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker. It's not fair to say Hutchinson is better in every aspect of the game. It's also fair to say I not unexpectedly received multiple emails about Hutchinson after his multi-sack performance Thursday. He had a good game. It looks like he's going to be a very good pass rusher. Walker is on his way to being a very good player, too. I don't know if he will be a great pass rusher. He hasn't shown that yet.

Sal from Austin, TX

What's the over/ under on how many times we're going to hear the word "obviously" at the press conference on Sunday?

I obviously don't know.

Dave from Jacksonville

Remember when the Jags made some roster decisions (e.g. keeping K'Lavon Chaisson, wide receiver Tim Jones, safety Andrew Wingard, etc.) based on special teams? How did that work out? 🤪

Emphasizing special teams has worked out positively for the most part for the Jaguars this season and last. They for the most part have been a good special teams team. The unit struggled against the Texans. It wasn't alone. The players you mention are also backups. Special teams are a reason they're on the roster, but they're not the sole reason.

Brian from ROUND ROCK, TX

Despite our coach's plan, we're a running team. Of course, real fans known that's who we are, always has been, always will be, despite whatever coach that comes and goes. It's in our DNA. We always deny it, but it's the ONLY thing we've been able to count on. Long live the running game! Agree?

No.

Roger from JACKSONVILLE

Why was wide receiver Christian Kirk No. 13 not targeted more against the Texans? The JAGS had success using Kirk against the Chiefs but only targeted him a handful of times against the Texans. When they did target him they were successful.

The Jaguars have a lot of weapons on offense. Not all of those weapons are going to touch the ball a lot in every game.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

Do you like the London trip?

OMG, yes. So. Much. Fun.

Sean from Jacksonville

Yep, I believe they are either pressing or believing they're own preseason hype and aren't that focused. Then again, being an armchair quarterback is pretty easy.

Pressing is not the same as believing your own hype, or not being focused. I have seen nothing to suggest the Jaguars aren't focused this season. And I have seen nothing to suggest they believe they're good and therefore don't have to practice or play hard. This feels more like a pressure to live up to expectations. The Jaguars were never really in that position last season with the exception of a Week 18 game against the Tennessee Titans. They scored one touchdown in that game on offense and needed a defensive touchdown in the final three minutes to win. This team seems to know it's expected to win, then presses at key moments. If that's from the pressure of expectations, it needs to work past it. Like now.

Vince from St. Augustine, FL

Uh. . .you don't know who David Garrard is? Uh. . . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DavidGarrard_

Uh, I wrote on Wednesday that I do know who David Garrard is.

Frank from St. Augustine

Each week during the regular season, you interview a counterpart that covers the other team we're playing. When you interview them, do they in turn also interview you about the Jaguars? Is it an understanding that it's reciprocated?

When my counterpart on another team wants to interview me about the Jaguars, I reciprocate. Different media types from different markets in different roles approach their jobs in different ways.

Clyde from Jacksonville

This isn't the start anyone wanted, but it's our start. When we come out of London with a two-game win streak everything will be OK. Can we do that, John?

Sure.

Trevor from Jacksonville

I really hope we get things going this week. I want to enjoy football this year. Are you as worried about our injuries as I am?

The Jaguars' injuries are a touch concerning. Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton's absence has hurt the defensive interior, and the absence of linebacker Devin Lloyd the next two weeks does remove some needed takeaway ability from the middle of the Jaguars' defense. My thought is the knee injury to wide receiver Zay Jones has hurt the offense relatively significantly; his playmaking ability is sometimes overlooked. But the thought here, too, is the Jaguars' early-season struggles aren't really about injuries. Good teams can overcome a few injuries and they haven't been waylaid enough at a particular position for that to be a reason they're struggling. Yet.

Dan from Munich

Hi, Zone. In your recent answers, you mentioned that this team has talent. I'm pretty sure that all 0-3 teams in the league can argue that they are loaded with talent as well. It's the NFL. Also you said that the pass rush wasn't good on Sunday. If I remember correctly the last time we had a good pass rush was when Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue were still wearing the teal jerseys

OK.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

This game against the Falcons feels like a, "if we stop their run game we win" kind of game. Am I off base?

The Falcons are a very run-centric, running-back-focused offense. They want to run and will not get away from the run easily. The Jaguars pride themselves on being a good run defense. That will be tested this week. Stopping the run won't ensure winning Sunday. Not stopping it could ensure losing.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

When you play from behind, every drop, bad throw, stupid penalty, missed assignment, turnover, or bad luck play is magnified. The playbook shrinks in time with the margin of error. Rare is the playoff team with a negative first half point differential. #Frontrunner.

We saw the truth in this Sunday against the Texans. The Jaguars, after trailing 17-0 at halftime, played very well early in the third quarter and rallied to within 17-10. They then allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown on a weird play in a game that felt very close one minute and felt out of hand the next. No margin for error.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Even from London, you suck.

There it is.

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