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O-Zone: Man of principle

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Raymo from Jacksonville:
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In football, the offensive line comes first and the difference in our offense last year and this year is the offensive line. My question to you is what can we do about this glaring need at this point? The defense is fine; if not forced out there after back-to-back-to-back three and outs … if not given a short field time and again ... they are fine.
John: I agree the Jaguars' defense for the most part has appeared fine this season – a lot of the time, anyway. At the very least it appears to be improving enough that it has the chance to be fine more often than not. Still, I don't see the offensive line as the No. 1 issue. The unit obviously is struggling to run block – and it must run block better for this offense to be what it envisioned itself being entering the season. But the line didn't run block well last season and it is pass blocking better than last season, so it's hard to see where the unit is causing a different offense than last season. I don't know whether the chicken or the egg came first, but I do know that in the NFL quarterbacking comes first – and quarterbacking is the biggest difference in the Jaguars' offense this season compared to last. Blake Bortles' play in no way is the only thing going wrong with the Jaguars this season. Not even close. And the offensive line hasn't been as good as it needs to be, either. But quarterback is by far the NFL's most impactful position and so far this season the Jaguars' quarterback position hasn't had a winning impact.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
Let's frame the "is-it-the-coaching?" question in a slightly different way. Are the Jaguars still a Bottom 5 team in talent? I don't think that's the case, as I feel like they're closer to middle of the NFL. The Jaguars right now are playing like a Bottom 5 team. That has to fall on someone if the talent is there. We've seen nothing thus far to indicate Gus Bradley has the ability to maximize the talent around him.
John: This is a well-framed question, and it's probably pretty much the way this question eventually will be answered. Within the framework of this season, the Jaguars so far have not played to their potential. That's because within the framework of this season the Jaguars should at worst be 1-2 and possibly 2-1. If the season continues in that vein, then that will fall on the head coach/coaching because that's how it works in the NFL. It will fall on the quarterback, too, but it almost certainly will fall quicker and more harshly on the head coach.
Ryan from Dearborn, MI:
Zone, for two years I've praised Blake Bortles for his ability to clearly recognize and define areas he needs to improve on, and not trying to shirk the blame elsewhere. I thought it was a strength. Now, in Season 3 - I don't want to hear it anymore. I don't want Blake to recognize where he needs to get better. We need him to just get better. Where does the talk turn into action?
John: We'll find out in the coming weeks.
CC from Duval:
Any reason why Arthur Brown replaced Dan Skuta when he was hurt and not Myles Jack?
John: Brown replaced Skuta last week because Skuta plays Otto linebacker. Brown is the backup Otto linebacker and Myles Jack is not. That's not going to be a satisfying answer for many fans, but that's the correct answer.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Have quarterbacks historically been able to make significant improvements in passing accuracy? I thought that a great deal of that was sort of a "you-have-it-or you-don't" kind of deal.
John: It's true that accuracy often is a have-it-or-don't deal, but Bortles improved his accuracy from Year 1 to Year 2 – and he's actually case, but Bortles actually is completing 62.2 of his passes this season. That's not outstanding by NFL standards, but it's passable. If he improves other areas we've been discussing all week – interceptions, decision-making, pocket awareness – the accuracy part doesn't have to be an overriding issue.
Ben from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso:
13-3, not impossible.
John: You're darned right it's not. #DTWD
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
I actually thought the pass rush was better this week when both of the young Leos played at the ends. They appeared to stop the run well enough, too. I'd rather see this moving forward than the big end.
John: The pass rush should be better when both of the young Leos are at the ends. That's what Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler are supposed to do well. You won't see them both at end at the same time all of the time because the Jaguars rotate their defensive linemen pretty heavily, but you've already seen them both at end quite a bit in passing situations. It's safe to say you'll continue to see that.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
I told you in the preseason that this team was two good drafts away and your reply was I am a little over the top with that. What do you think about that observation now?
John: I still think it's a little over the top.
Mac from Neptune Beach, FL:
Do you think we get a decent home-field advantage in London?
John: I certainly don't think the Jaguars have the same home-field advantage in London as Jacksonville, but I absolutely think Wembley Stadium felt more like a home-field advantage for the Jaguars last season than it did in 2013 and 2014. I felt that before they won the game. The Jaguars need to keep making it feel that way, because they're going to be playing a home game per season there for a while.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
OZone, would you draft a player with rare athletic ability if you knew he had the IQ of an imbecile?
John: Not in the first round.
Rob from Brunswick, GA:
John, if you see Jalen in the facility please kindly suggest he not trash a wide receiver after a game where that player caught 8/11 of his targets. Thank you.
John: Nah, I won't do that. Jalen Ramsey on Sunday responded to questions he was asked following an on-field incident with Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith. Ramsey answered honestly and said what he was feeling. He also had played well against a very good receiver. Could he have phrased things a bit differently? Maybe. Was there anything harmful with what he said? No. Put it this way: if the worst thing a young player really does is be really, really good and speak his mind in a harmless way after a game … well, there are bigger issues around the Jaguars right now. Let's just put it that way.
Edward from Jacksonville:
I realize you can't put this in your column but you need to hear it. Are you familiar with the phrase, "The Peter Principal?? I find it true of both Coach Kumbaya and Botch Bortles. I'm not the only one thinking this. Now, you can stick your head back in the sand.
John: I am always intrigued by emails include lines such as "I realize you can't put this in your column" just as I am truly touched by readers who forget I have a wife and therefore take upon themselves the task of telling me what "I need to hear." I am doubly intrigued when readers with stunning IQs don't realize that finishing a thought with something nice – or even a forced attempt at humor – is a better way to get a point across than insults. I suppose I am mostly intrigued by emails questioning my familiarity with the Peter Principle, which anyone with a library card or Google access knows refers to the famous Disney Character Peter Pan's inability to accept he was the only one in his peer group who wasn't going to grow up and that eventually that trait would alienate many around him – or at least make a number of his peers dangerously jealous.

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