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O-Zone: Not so funny

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Austin from Atlanta, GA:
It's always something, John. Probably the most frustrating thing is I now expect something to happen when I watch our games. It's pretty cool that Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns competed well against Darrelle Revis.
John: The "Allens," as they are coming to be known, did indeed compete well Sunday – and yes, that was cool. As for your main point, I sense that a recurring O-Zone theme this week will be the frustration around the Jaguars seemingly finding many, many ways to lose. But the more I thought on Monday, the more I realized that Sunday's loss fit pretty well with the others. That's not to say it was OK, or that the loss wasn't frustrating. It was both. But the reality through eight games is this is what the Jaguars are. They're a team that can stop the run consistently and they are a team that will be explosive on offense at times and frustratingly error-prone at other times. They are not a team that is going to rush the passer well with four down linemen, and that's going to make it very difficult for them to create turnovers. When you're inconsistent on offense and you struggle to create turnovers, you're going to be in a lot of tight games late. So far, they haven't closed many of those games – and not creating turnovers or getting pressure makes it tough to do so. So, does that mean this team is going to have frustrating moments the rest of this season? Yeah, probably. Can it mature enough offensively and maybe, maybe, maybe create enough pressure on defense to limit that frustration? Ah, that is the question …
Joe from Ponta Vedra, FL:
I thought this is where the Jags would be last year: in close games, trying to figure out a way to win. Could it be that the tear-down and rebuild was so dramatic that we are a year behind the "typical" rebuild process?
John: Yes.
Mike from Section 238:
The Jets' defensive line is very strong, and they blitzed a lot, but was anyone else disappointed in the way our offensive line handled it? Blake was hit hard and often. (Thank God he isn't Blaine.) I thought our line was supposed to be "fixed" with the new center and right tackle. Do they really think Zane Beadles' experience outweighs his lack of strength?
John: You were far from the only one disappointed. The line and pretty much everyone else was disappointed. The Jaguars allowed six sacks Sunday, and while not all sacks are "on" the offensive line (T.J. Yeldon didn't have his best game in protection), Bortles undoubtedly played under way too much pressure – possibly the most pressure he has faced this season. As far as the offensive line being "fixed" from last season … I don't know that you go from needing to be fixed to being great in one offseason. The line is better than last season overall and Sunday wasn't close to its best game. Also, the loss of Brandon Linder has hurt the interior and probably has prevented the Jaguars from starting A.J. Cann and Linder at the two guard positions.
Chris from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
So the loss puts us at 2-6 – or in your words ... just five or six plays from 8-0.
John: Nope. Never said that.
Ron from Orlando, FL:
The second interception came in desperation time? Way to cover up basic fundamental mistakes like "never throw against your body on the run." Desperation time for a good team is called 'game-winning-drive' time, not make another basic fundamentals mistake AGAIN.
John: You know what, Ron? You're right. It was a bad throw, and you're right that Bortles has made some basic, fundamental mistakes this season. In writing about Sunday's game and turnovers, I focused on trying to make the point that the two fourth-quarter fumbles were particularly costly. It was also unlikely that the Jaguars would drive the length of the field for a touchdown in the situation they were in in the final minute, but at that point Bortles indeed should have thrown the ball out of bounds rather than across his body. No doubt.
Alan from Jacksonville:
During Sunday's game I realized there was something different this year. Last year, I watched games in virtual silence whereas this year I have become much more animated, yelling at the crazy ups and downs. Could it be … gasp … I actually believe his team can and should win? All disappointment aside, this excitement sure beats the flat-lining of the past couple of years. Despite the record I believe we are actually heading in the right direction and pulling the plug on Gus Bradley would set our team back. Do we really want Bortles and gang to have to learn a new system? To me, that would be like pulling a carrot out of the ground to see how it's growing.
John: It would be a lot like that. I've said often this season I don't believe there will be major change – i.e., head-coaching change – so long as the Jaguars show improvement, and so long as the Jaguars look like a team believing in its head coach. So far this season, the Jaguars have shown improvement and the team continues to play hard. Eight games remain.
Arianna from Pooler, GA:
Three thoughts about the NFL this week. One, good for Mularkey and Gabbert getting a "W." Two, I would like to see Julius Thomas catch the ball more, especially in the red zone. Three, the Colts might be back. Your thoughts?
John: Three thoughts. One, meh. Two, the Jaguars would like to see Thomas catch the ball, too – especially in the red zone. As far as the Colts being back … when you have a franchise quarterback, you usually don't completely go away.
Christian from Titusville, FL:
This team will get over the hump when they can affect the opposing quarterback. That's what Dante Fowler Jr. would have helped them do. Until then, and whatever other moves they make in the offseason, we are going to see the same thing every weekend.
John: Yeah.
Tommy from Jacksonville :
Why hasn't Julius Thomas clicked with the Jags' offense?
John: Good question, and one that needs to be figured out. I believe part of the issue has been chemistry/continuity with Blake Bortles that was lost when Thomas missed three preseason games and four regular-season games with the hand injury. Maybe some of it recently has been the abdomen injury he has dealt with the last couple of games. Those are my best answers, and they're not very good ones. Either way, the Jaguars need more productivity from that spot in the last eight games.
Craig from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
So, let's throw a little reasoning into yours and everyone else saying the Jaguars are a much-improved team. Now, stay with me 'cause this requires a bit of rational thought. Let's say the O-Man is in college and taking a course in Logic. The first test O-Man gets a 50 and its corresponding grade is an "F." on the next test O-Man gets a 60 improving on his first test score but still an "F." Realizing it's time to buckle down before the final is given and the O-Man gets a 72 on it. Certainly, the O-Man has shown progress but at the end of the semester the grade is an "F." This analogy certainly applies to Bradley as well as the rest of the coaching staff. Improvement: yes … failing grade without question. Certainly you would agree with this logic - right?
John: If the three tests are weighted equally, then the final grade is a 60.67. If the final counts more than normal tests, then it's a little above that. A 60 grading on a scale where 90-100 is an A, 80-90 is a B and so on … is a D. Logic is cool. I like it.
Rob from Section 122:
Three things. It's amazing how within a matter of hours between the Jags' loss and Colts' win we go from talking playoffs to where that seems such a distant, remote chance. Why put Nick Marshall back there with a minute left after Bryan Walters has been returning punts all game? And what the heck happened on that Jets fumble? We had the ball at midfield!
John: Three responses. Yes, it's amazing how things turn in the NFL; emotions and scenarios rise and fall week to week, which means – believe it or not – things could look very different in seven days. Marshall was returning punts in that scenario because he returns when the return doesn't begin deep in Jaguars territory; Walters has more secure hands so he returns when the Jaguars believe the return will begin close to their own goal line. As for the late Jets fumble, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny had it – and then he didn't. Football is a funny game that way, though the Jaguars weren't laughing Sunday.

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