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O-Zone: No way, no how

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Gainesville, FL:
I am happy the team is 3-3 after the first six games. Given the last few years, it's a vast improvement. Why does the defense appear to struggle to stop the run? Why does the offense struggle to pass the ball downfield? What can the team do to try to improve in these areas given the players they have on the roster?
John: The Jaguars' defense appears to struggle to stop the run because it does struggle to stop the run; that has become an issue in recent weeks that needs to get fixed. The offense struggles to pass downfield for a variety of reasons, ranging from quarterback Blake Bortles' accuracy issues, wide receivers' difficulties getting open/making catches and the offensive line struggling to protect Bortles long enough to hit receivers when they are open. How can the team improve with the current players? Defensively, the front seven must do a better job playing assignments and staying in gaps on run plays. As for the passing issues, coaches could probably call more plays to create more opportunities, but mostly the players whose job it is to make plays need to do a better job making them.
Howard from Homestead, FL:
Remember, it wasn't long ago that we rarely even got to experience a close game, much less win half our games. Just sayin'
John: This isn't wrong.
Gerry from Jacksonville:
Do the Jaguars keep to the same routine for away and home games? Specifically, do they stay in a hotel one or two nights before home games? If not, they should consider doing things EXACTLY as they do for away games to maybe help them focus better.
John: The Jaguars' routine is kept the same as possible for home and away games, with one notable exception of course being that the team does not board an airplane on Saturdays and fly to home games. Now, if you're saying the Jaguars should charter a plane, fly around for a while, eat some cold chicken sandwiches, then land at the Jacksonville airport just to keep the routine … well …
Kevin from Sacksonville:
Our receivers would look much better if when they attempted to catch the ball they turned their shoulders to the quarterback and caught with either hand out in front of their bodies. These body catches can't fly anymore. They also need to keep their feet on the ground and not jump when it's not necessary.
John: Thanks, Coach.
Adam from Bryan, TX:
John, is Josh Scobee still available? Any chance the Jags give him another chance? It's not like he wasn't any good; Dave Caldwell just thought it was a smart to get rid of a proven veteran and keep an unproven rookie. Looks like a pretty dumb move now.
John: There's a reason Scobee kicked for a few weeks after being traded in 2015 and not since. While Scobee had a very good career and has a deserved place in the hearts of Jaguars fans, his time as an effective kicker had come to an end at the time of the trade. In retrospect, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell in that respect actually looks pretty smart for obtaining a draft selection for Scobee at that point in his career. Did the Myers move turned out as Caldwell hoped? In the end, perhaps not. But parting ways with Scobee is a separate issue.
Dave from Oviedo, FL:
O-Zone, with the corners that we have, do you know why we don't blitz more?
John: The Jaguars lead the NFL with 23 sacks, three more than the second-place team. They also lead the NFL with 10 interceptions.
Kenney from Jacksonville:
Allen Robinson's downfield threat is truly missed. I thought with Lee's speed he could be that guy to take the top off the defense but he's more of a shallow-cross, run-after-the-catch guy. Keelan Cole hasn't made much impact in that regard, either. Hopefully, Dede Westbrook's return will add a spark to the passing game, even though depending on a rookie can be dicey – Leonard Fournette notwithstanding!
John: Yep. Yep so far. Yep. Yep.
Craig from Auburn, AL:
So, I guess you were wrong about Jason Myers, huh? Apparently Jacksonville doesn't agree with you.
John: Ooh, burn.
Tony from Coast, FL:
Let's say defenses stack eight in the box; that leaves three defenders to cover our three wide receivers. Our receivers are not getting open! It's as simple as that! When you look at the passes to our receivers from Blake, they are always covered it seems and it takes a perfect pass for them to catch it in most cases. When you look at other teams, most times there is space for the quarterback to get the ball there. With that said, do you think that Dede Westbrook will really help our team because of his speed and ability to get open, which in turn will force teams to not play eight in the box and open up the passing game for the Jags?
John: I have written more than once that the Jaguars' receivers haven't played well enough since the loss of Allen Robinson in Week 1, and I have written more than once that Bortles clearly is not all that ails the Jaguars' passing offense. While I would caution not to expect the weekly 100-yard games you saw from Westbrook in the preseason, I do think he can make an impact quickly.
Mike from Palm Coast, FL:
Lots of focus in your questions about the offensive struggles, but I think more needs to be said about the defense. While they may be close to elite and have been incredible with turnovers, sacks and points in the wins, I am disappointed in the run defense in the losses. Maybe we need to start playing eight in the box ourselves if we continue with No. 51 on the bench due to extra receiver sets.
John: The inability to stop cutback runs, particularly in nickel defenses, indeed is an issue. The defense, particularly the front seven, must be more disciplined and do a better job staying in gaps. There's no great secret to it; it just has to get done. As good as this defense is rushing the quarterback and creating turnovers, it's going to struggle if it can't stop the run well enough to get into those situations consistently. Teams will find opponents' weaknesses in this league. If the Jaguars' run defense is an unsolvable weakness they're in trouble.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
I lived through the Blaine Gabbert years; still, I must say, this is the worst passing offense I've ever witnessed for the Jaguars.
John: You ain't far from wrong …
Cliff from Jersey City, NJ:
Yo, O. Gotta say, despite the ups and downs, this season is quite refreshing. It doesn't matter who the Jags are playing, I'm excited every Sunday because we have a real chance.
John: … and neither are you.
Nathan from Orem, UT:
Do you think we're going to the Super Bowl?
John: This season? I do not. I long have said I believe this is a seven-to-eight-victory team this season, and it still feels that way. I do believe more than in the preseason that it has a chance to beat that number and get into the postseason. I have a tough time seeing a deep run if it happens because the offense is one-dimensional. Maybe I'm wrong. That's not rare.
Mark from Banner Elm, NC:
I'm not a big Blake Bortles fan; I thought it was a bad pick from the beginning. But I tend to agree it's not all on him. Yes, he makes some "what-the-heck-was-that" throws, but he also hits receivers dead in the hands quite often and they drop it. Marcedes Lewis and Marqise Lee both dropped very catchable balls last week, including a potential touchdown for Lee. Could this be hurting Bortles' confidence? He seems to play fluid and free when catches are being made. When the dropsies start he seems to get erratic. Just wondering if he's second guessing his receivers and not himself in these situations?
John: It's hard to say what hurts and helps Bortles' confidence, because it's hard to know what goes on inside another person's head. It's not hard to say the skill players in this offense need to make more plays. There probably aren't going to be too many downfield passes in this offense; when they take place – and on the occasions Bortles throws accurately – receivers must take advantage.
Riley from Calgary, Alberta:
Losing on Sunday definitely puts a damper on the rest of the week. Besides winning, I have come up with a way to avoid this feeling that we all know too well. O-Zone, you need to grow the ponytail again! The confidence of you rocking that bad boy will help the team, which will make fans' lives easier. Plus it would be entertaining to see ... take one for the team, man!
John: I don't know that at 51 I have a "good look." I'm confident that's not one.

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