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O-Zone: Not here, not yet

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Mike from Jacksonville

Why does everyone think that Leonard Fournette's absence matters? He was pedestrian last year after an early fast start. I like T.J. Yeldon's versatility and durability much more. Also, it’s time for Blake Bortles to run more option keepers. I know it isn't college, but BB isn't a regular NFL quarterback, either.

You’re right to a point – because Fournette was not great at running back for the Jaguars last season, though he was good. But his absence this season absolutely does matter. When he played last season, he was dangerous enough that defenses respected his presence. That helped the offense because teams’ default approach against the Jaguars was to stack the box against the run, which opened opportunities elsewhere that allowed Bortles to have success. Teams needn’t do that quite so much this season because the Jaguars’ running game is averaging a little over 100 yards instead of a little more than 140 last season. Remember, too: the backfield of Fournette, Yeldon and Corey Grant looked very good early; think back to the preseason and first half of a Week 1 victory over the New York Giants. That three-headed backfield now essentially is just Yeldon. That has reduced the backfield’s effectiveness in terms of depth and in terms of being able to run the two-back sets that worked at times in the preseason. As far as Bortles running more keepers … I agree it would be good to see a few more, though I doubt you’ll see the Jaguars calling for significantly more designed quarterback runs. They’re effective partly because the Jaguars don’t run them often and they might not be as effective without the element of surprise. And you don’t want Bortles increasing his injury risk too much.

Kames from Orange Park, FL

Does anyone else want to ask questions about our record without Leonard Fournette?

Not as much lately, no.

Tucker from Nashville, TN

The Tennessee Titans showed other teams the blueprint to beat this defense. Block one direction and bootleg the other. Our defensive ends crash down the line every time. Nobody stays home. Fast linebackers are supposed to neutralize a mobile quarterback but ours get washed in the play. Safety Barry Church has become a liability. We miss Aaron Colvin right about now. I'm not going to comment on the offense.

Evidence suggests you’re right about the blueprint against the Jaguars’ defense. Mobile quarterbacks and a game plan that takes advantage of the Jaguars’ aggressiveness absolutely appears to work against this defense. Perhaps it’s more complex than that, but the Jaguars’ defense must succeed against the approach to prove you wrong.

Kevin from Jacksonville

Your endless excuses for Blake Bortles makes you look like a clown.

I watch the games. I talk about the games with a lot of people with a lot of knowledge and experience. I offer assessment based on those conversations and observations – and years of experience that help me grasp that good and bad things are rarely one person’s “fault” in the NFL. I’ll tell you what, though: There are countless people writing, tweeting and ranting online and elsewhere who don’t waste their time doing these things. A lot of them work for other free websites and others Tweet a lot if you want to read what they have to say. They’re out there. I promise. Just look around.

Cory from Madison, WI

Regarding your statement that the quarterback wasn’t a top 5 issue Sunday: they scored seven points, and the game has never been more pass friendly rules-wise. They scored six versus Tennessee. The quarterback is a huge problem.

I didn’t say Bortles wasn’t a problem Sunday. I said he wasn’t one of my top five problems for the Jaguars in that game.

Connor from Dallas, TX

Zone - I left the game feeling dejected Sunday. Pride to the wind, disappointment reigning, I had the worst moment a fan can have -- I took off my jersey. I was ashamed and I let the low get the best of me. But as I was walking out through the sea of Cowboys fans taunting and teasing, I passed by another Jaguars fan coming my way who noticed the teal sleeves on the crumpled jersey in my fist and he said "’Til we die" and held up his fist for a moment of connection amidst the tragic defeat. I put my jersey back on and lifted my weary head. Being a fan is about accepting the valleys as well as enjoying the peaks. #DTWD.

DTWD

Michael from Fruit Cove, FL

You answered a question a couple weeks ago about the defense not pressing to get turnovers, that getting stops and forcing punts was good enough. I agreed with that thought then and I still do now. The defense can’t try to make up for the offense, just play their game and they’re good enough to carry the team. Do you think they were pressing some this week? It would explain some of the big plays/“miscommunications”/all around terrible play?

There is a danger of a defense pressing when an offense is struggling to the extent that the Jaguars’ offense is struggling. The level of ineffectiveness of the offense Sunday caused it to feel as if the Cowboys’ lead was practically unsurmountable when it reached 10-0. That puts pressure on a defense, and it would be unreasonable to think the Jaguars didn’t feel it. I don’t know about it causing miscommunications on defense, though. When players and coaches are talking about that, they’re talking about missed assignments such a linebacker picking up the wrong receiver as he moves through a zone or a safety going with the wrong receiver and failing to break on a route. Or a safety filling the wrong hole on a run. A lot of different players made different mistakes along those lines Sunday. That hasn’t been the norm for this defense. It can’t be the norm going forward if this defense is to get back to its previous level.

Dwayne from Jacksonville

It could be worse. You could be senior writer for the Colts.

Been there. Done that. Don’t want to do it again.

Mark from Archer, FL

John, it seems the last two games the Jags’ defense has come out less than full force. Could it be they have gotten to overconfident that it is making them a little more relaxed?

The Jaguars’ defense isn’t overconfident. It’s not less than full force. It has been getting out-schemed at times and outplayed at others in recent weeks. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone discussed both issues this week with the tone of a man ready to do what’s necessary to fix the issues. Stay tuned.

Liam from Glasgow, Scotland

Zone, can you recall a worse seven days in Jags history?

Absolutely.

Mike from St. Mary’s, GA

I think the offensive-line play is the biggest concern for this team. If all else fails, at least if Blake has some time then maybe something could happen, but there hasn't even been that chance. Norwell looks foolish and we look even more foolish for signing him.

The offensive line hasn’t played well enough the last two weeks. As far as Norwell is concerned, he’s not playing horribly as much as he’s making a mistake or two per game that really stand out. Such is the life of an offensive lineman. He’s also playing through a foot injury that appears to be hampering him.

Marcus from Jacksonville

In seven losses last season, including the AFC Championship Game, the cumulative margin of defeat for the Jaguars was 57 points. In the last two weeks the margin in two losses was 49 points. Ouch.

The Jaguars faced relatively little adversity last season. They’re facing it in a big way now. That is not to say the season is over. NFL teams are capable of responding to back-to-back ugly losses, and the Jaguars’ defense is certainly talented and healthy enough to carry a team for a short time. But that was the case last week and it didn’t happen Sunday. It must happen now. Sunday’s response will be telling.

Will from Chelsea, AL

Not being in the Jacksonville area I get to hear more about what other teams say about the Jags. At the end of last year, and so far this year, other teams believe this team is to undisciplined and inconsistent. All teams have to do is not make mistakes and you win. The Jags beat themselves, plain and simple.

I hear ya, and yeah: I’ve heard about that interweb thing that allows you hear about things being said in far off lands. Thank goodness it’s not available here in Jacksonville yet. My cousin has it, though. He called me on the payphone in the hall last week and told me all about it. And get this: He said our uncle says you’ll be able to get it on your phone one day. YOUR PHONE, WILL!! Sounds like the devil’s work to me, though. I say “nay” to progress. Naaaaaay!

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