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O-Zone: Let's hear it

JACKSONVILLE – Ah, looking ahead at last.

Let's get to it … Trae from Jacksonville:
Well, at least Todd Wash is doing his job. I think if you look at this team and the way the different units are functioning, his is definitely the lone bright spot of this team. Perhaps the running backs with Denard Robinson … so we'll give some credit to running backs coach Terry Richardson, too.
John: I'll start this answer by saying I'm a big fan of Todd Wash, the Jaguars' defensive line coach. I think he'll be a defensive coordinator soon, and I wouldn't rule him out as a head-coaching candidate at some point. Wash has done a very good job. I'm confident he also would tell you it's not a coincidence that he is working with the most-experienced group on the roster, and the spot where the Jaguars have invested the most in the last two offseasons. Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Tyson Alualu, Ziggy Hood, Andre Branch. Those aren't the only seven players contributing on the defensive line, but they're a huge part of the group. Branch is the youngest player of that group and he's in his third season. Look around the roster and try to find another area without a rookie or second-year player playing a major role. Shoot, look around and try to find another area where rookies or second-year players aren't the majority of the unit right now. Tight end, linebacker … The list ends pretty much ends there. Experience helps in the NFL. People tire of hearing it, I know, but it's true. None of which is a way of saying Wash isn't doing his job but is a way of suggesting he might not be alone.
Phil from Coral Springs, FL:
John, I haven't heard very much about how Colvin's knee held up during, and after, the game... 30-plus snaps coming off of a reconstruction has to be tough. Did you get any sense that he's not fully recovered? Do you get a sense that increased playing time for Colvin could be bad news for Gratz? Do tell...
John: Colvin said after the game he was fine, and there was nothing to indicate that changed the following day. I'd expect to Colvin to play more in the nickel Sunday, and perhaps start at the spot, but I wouldn't expect him to start over Gratz. At least not for now.
Brian from Nashville, TN:
Looking back at it now, my frustration is how the rebuilding process was started. Everyone was so dead-set on building through the draft and developing the rookies that we didn't get enough players that had already gone through the "rookie growing pains". A good mix would've been optimal. This way the fans wouldn't suffer through a few horrible seasons in a row. I can't think of a team that has ever been built like this before and had success. There probably won't be another after the results of this rebuild are seen. Why didn't we mix it up, Zone?
John: The Jaguars didn't mix it up because there wasn't much here around which to build. What there was didn't merit paying what it would have cost to keep those players, and wouldn't have made a tangible difference as the team built. That was the approach of management, which also opted against re-signing veteran free agents from other teams for the simple reason that it's not a prudent way to build the foundation of a roster. As for whether there will be another build like it, we don't know that yet. The results of this build won't be seen next month. They'll be seen in the coming seasons. Stay tuned.
Roger from Jacksonville:
I was one of the biggest guys yelling "Play the kid" at the beginning of the season. I stand by that. Still, I feel as if Jedd Fisch is losing confidence in Bortles and not attacking defenses. We're 1-10 and in a race for the No.1 overall pick. Why not go deep into the playbook and open it up to see all of Bortles strengths and get him experience with different looks? I know he's gotta play better, but I think some of this has to do with the play-calling and being too conservative for a team going nowhere. AIR IT OUT!
John: I understand this instinct, and goodness knows I understand that there are folks out there down on Jedd Fisch. And I have been accused and accused – and accused – of not answering emails criticizing Fisch. Believe me, I read them. And believe me, I answer them. I don't answer all of them because to do so might break our servers. And believe me, I wouldn't say I necessarily have agreed with everything Fisch has called this season. There's part of me in the press box every week saying, "Throw the ball downfield … open it up … let the kid play loose." I'm also sure Fisch would enjoy that style of play just as I'm sure he wouldn't say he's had the perfect season in terms of approach. But it's probably too simple to think the Jaguars' issues would be solved by simply throwing the ball deep. Are there other things that can be done? Sure, there's a lot going wrong with any team that's 1-10 and Fisch and other coaches would tell you they need to do better, too. At the same time, to think all can be solved by just "airing out" probably isn't dealing with the realities the offense is facing right now.
Terry from Jacksonville:
John, Can you please let me understand why you never talk about offensive coach and his play calling … also about quarterback coach?
John: Well, I sort of just did, and I sort of have done that a lot this week. But I'll clarify this because it's such an overwhelming topic this week. First, I have discussed quite a bit why the Jaguars and Fisch took the approach they did Sunday. The game plan was to run, and when that didn't work Blake Bortles was under such pressure that throwing downfield was going to be very difficult if not impossible. To address your other point, it's true that I don't discuss play calling a whole lot in the O-Zone. The reason for this is it's a question-answer black hole from which it's very hard to emerge. Play calling is the first thing fans criticize after a loss, and play calling always can be second-guessed. I listened to play-calling get second-guessed for 10 seasons covering the Indianapolis Colts when they were perennially one of the NFL's best offenses, and I've listened to it here for four seasons when the Jaguars have been at the bottom of the league. Fisch was praised quite a bit in the second half of last season when his "creative" play-calling was reaping benefits and he's being criticized now for "holding Bortles back." Such is the nature of the job. As I've said, I haven't agreed with everything Fisch has done as a coordinator, and at the same time, I get why you don't call 20-yard patterns that take time to develop when your offensive line is struggling to block. But to answer every question criticizing Fisch would mean an all-Fisch-all-the-time debate and wouldn't solve the biggest issue facing the Jaguars' offense, which is that it's a painfully young group that's young enough to limit how much it can realistically do.
Kyle from Orange Park, FL:
Am I happy with the losing? No. Do I see progress? Yes. Will I always be a season-ticket holder, regardless of the team's success (or lack thereof)? NO DOUBT. #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Dave from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars' biggest weakness at the beginning of the season was the offensive line and it continues to still be the biggest problem. Against the Colts the offensive line was dominated. Bortles and the offense couldn't run or pass. Next season the offensive line must be addressed for this offense and our quarterback to improve. Your thoughts?
John: I think the offensive line has to be better next season for the offense and the quarterback to improve. I think what the team does to ensure that happens will be a major storyline going forward.
Danton from Mount Dora:
John, it appears that the offense does much better running tempo. When we visited the open practices, there was always a segment they ran with tempo. Do you know why the team won't just let Blake open things up? At this point, what is there to lose? 1-10 really sucks...
John: This is something coaches have considered, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a bit more of that. Fisch loves up-tempo offense and would love for that to be the Jaguars' style. One problem with up-tempo is you must deal with the question of how much can a rookie quarterback handle at the line of scrimmage. Another problem with up-tempo is when it doesn't work, your offense is off the field very quickly. You could even have a situation where you pick up one or two first downs and your offense is off the field very quickly. That's extremely taxing on the defense, and can result in games getting one-sided in a hurry if the up-tempo approach fails. I get that the immediate response to that is, "What does it matter? The team is losing anyway!" But the coaches are searching each week for a formula to give the Jaguars the best chance to win. The defense has been by far the better unit most games this season, so to attempt a formula that weakens that unit does defy logic to some degree.
Gary from Centerville, OH:
Coach Coughlin was an important part of this franchise and early success. I hope that on Sunday the crowd recognizes him in an appropriate manner (a nice ovation). This may be the last time we see him on the sidelines in Jacksonville, until he goes into the ring of honor.
John: I agree on all fronts, and I think you'll see the crowd do just that.

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