O-Zone: No harm, no foul

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Glen from Orange Park, FL:
If you had to choose, would it be a franchise quarterback or an elite defense? What wins championships in the NFL?
John: This isn't a one-sentence answer. If I were trying to build a franchise over a 10-to-15-year period, I would certainly take the franchise quarterback if we were talking about a player on the level of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, etc. History shows that teams with such quarterbacks get far more seasons with legitimate chances for deep playoff runs than other teams. Because a defense depends on acquiring and retaining far more players – and because non-quarterbacks tend to have far shorter careers – it's difficult to build a 10-to-15-year contender on the strength of an elite defense. Now, if you have to go play one game – or if you have to play few games over the course of a season or two – then I'd probably take the team with the elite defense as often as not. That's particularly true if it happened to be a season when that elite quarterback was playing behind a beat-up offensive line and without much of a defense.
Michael from Middleburg, FL:
Big O, I played football both organized and sandlot for multiple years. (In the time quarterbacks didn't wear dresses). We and I never took ourselves (barring injury) out of a game voluntarily. Why do you see that so many times both in pro and college?
John: Because college and professional football isn't played in the sandlot.
TJ from Section 410:
Since all of sports is about taking advantage of mismatches, it is great to know that this weekend the Jaguars' strength (pass rush) is going up against Blaine Gabbert's weakness (feeling the rush). I don't say this because of sour grapes as a lifelong Jags fan, but because this year's Jags need to keep stacking up the wins and fighting for homefield advantage in the playoffs.
John: The Jaguars' pass rush versus Gabbert indeed will be a storyline this week. I don't plan to dive all that deep into Gabbert's history with the Jaguars in the coming days. For one, there's too much going on with the Jaguars to spend too much time on a player who hasn't played here in four seasons. For another, I'm just not sure there's that much interest in regurgitating three years of thoughts and analysis on Gabbert. The Blaine Train left this station a while back, you might say. On the topic of how Gabbert will fare against the Jaguars' pass rush, I will say this: I never saw Gabbert's issues as being worried about getting hit as much as his inexperience working the pocket and needing a lot more time to develop as a passer. Many disagreed with that, and that's OK. I think his issues with the Jaguars' pass rush Sunday will have to do with the reality of the Jaguars getting to Gabbert more than Gabbert being worried about it. The key for the Jaguars this week? Stopping the Cardinals' running game enough to force the Cardinals to pass. If they can create that scenario, they will pressure the passer and force mistakes. The quarterback this week happens to be Gabbert, but it's an effective approach for this defense whoever the opponent.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
Mr. O, have you heard anything about contract negotiations with Aaron Colvin? I worry about the slot corner position if we don't resign him.
John: I've heard nothing about negotiations with Colvin, which could mean a lot or could mean very little; in-season negotiations usually aren't overly public. My gut is you won't hear much along these lines because my gut is the Jaguars probably won't be able to sign Colvin. I suspect he will want to play on the outside rather than at the nickel and that he will command a higher salary salary/bonus than the Jaguars will be willing to pay. I won't like that because I like Colvin as much as anyone in the Jaguars' locker room. I think he's intelligent and mature, and his work ethic, dedication and professionalism always have been first-rate for a young player. And yes … if he doesn't return, the Jaguars would have an issue at slot corner. At the same time, it's a good thing if your biggest offseason concern is replacing a slot corner. Every team has offseason issues. That's one that a team should be able to address relatively successfully.
Steve from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I know you won't publish this because I have no question. And you only tackle significant questions.
John: True.
Rob from Jacksonville:
I was extremely upset about the non-fumble, touchdown call. But at the same time I was like, "You know what? Bring it on, we'll do it again. I like the challenge!" And it happened! I think our team is finally good enough to overcome things like that.
John: Your use of the word "finally" implies that being good enough to overcome things like that is long overdue. And maybe it is. I'll say this, though: the fact that the Jaguars could overcome a missed call that gave the opponent an underserved chance to win at the end of the game is significant. It's a league of razor-thin margin for error. To be able to stop teams over and over again late in the game is very difficult and it's why close-the-door pass rush is one of the league's most valued commodities. The Jaguars do seem to have a defense that can withstand a lot of adversity – and not only overcome it, but force teams into game-ending mistakes. There are a lot of aspects of this defense that make it feel special. That's among the most important.
Benji from Yreka, CA:
One thing that got lost Sunday in the talk about referees and turnovers was the gutsy call to onside kick after the first touchdown. Had we not been offside by a foot, the Jaguars could have easily led 10-0 or 14-0 and been able to unleash their pass rush earlier in the game. One for Couch Marrone and Joe DeCamillis having some guts!
John: Hey, one fer those two guys!
Joe from Surf City:
All of the criticism around Blake Bortles is getting ridiculous. He didn't have a huge stat line, but he is playing without his top two wide receivers, two rookies (one undrafted), and a banged up offensive line. He also had a couple balls dropped yet again....if anything I think he deserves some credit for keeping us in position to win.
John: We have reached a point with Bortles at which people who want to criticize him will criticize him for even the smallest of issues. He completed 17 of 30 passes on Sunday and did not throw an interception. He had one play that looked really bad when he flipped the ball over his head for an incomplete pass, and he had a lost fumble. He also was playing with two starting offensive linemen out and without two of his top three receivers, the latter of which meant he was playing with a slew of inexperienced receivers who weren't exactly glue-fingered Sunday. The Jaguars have won four consecutive games while dealing with a lot of the aforementioned issues. Bortles is doing some things well and he's having some slip-up plays, but he's not playing atrociously and he darned sure isn't costing the Jaguars games right now.
Keith from Woonsocket, RI:
I've got it, O-man: All the Jags have to do is never miss a throw, never get tackled – oh, and never give up any yards on D. Then we for once won't have any complaining Jags fans after a win. Whatcha think?
John: Keith, I think you seriously underestimate the ability of fans to fan – and trust me, it's a thing not to be underestimated. Ever.
James from Reykjavík, Iceland:
Well, I'm not from Iceland, but I am visiting and I was walking around touring this beautiful country with my Jaguars sweater partly showing through my jacket and a local hollered out as I passed by "Duval!" and kept walking because all that needed to be said was said. It truly is a state of being, not a place. #DTWD
John: #DWTD
Jessie from Orlando, FL:
John, I hope Tashaun Gipson learns from how Calais Campbell prepares for his former team this week.
John: I'm sure Campbell will handle things differently going to play Arizona than Gipson did last week going to play Cleveland. I assume that because Campbell was beloved in Arizona and had strong positive feelings toward the organization. I imagine he will voice those things eloquently. Gipson did not have the same feelings toward the Browns, and he expressed. And I guess I don't get the harm in what he did. Did the Jaguars lose Sunday? Did Gipson play poorly? Did something awful happen that I missed? He talked. He spoke his mind. People had something to discuss all week, and it was even a bit entertaining. Perhaps what Gipson did was a misstep. If so, the thought here was it was a comparatively harmless one.

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