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O-Zone: Primed and ready

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Ben from Tallahassee, FL

Does Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's firing this week give any hints as to the higher-ups' mindset for the offseason?

Not particularly. The Jaguars have five games remaining. That’s nearly a third of the regular season. There will be decisions to make following the season, and Jaguars Owner Shad Khan will have decisions to make about who makes those decisions. I believe those decisions will be made by Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell with Head Coach Doug Marrone. That’s my belief now. But when teams lose many consecutive games, winds change – and owners’ perceptions do, too. Because the Jaguars are losing, it’s vogue to say the decision-makers/leadership did a poor job. It wasn’t as vogue to say that last season when the Jaguars were winning. The plan this season blew up in large part because of injuries. I believe this group can put together a winning team and believe this in large part because they did so last season. Whether they will be together to do that remains to be seen.

Jason from Jacksonville

O-man, recently you've said you expect the team to select a quarterback early in next year’s draft, perhaps even in the first round. You have also recently said you expect Caldwell to be back next year in his current position. Would you trust Caldwell to select another high-round quarterback after watching Bortles struggle for the last five years?

There’s a lot of guesswork and projection involved with any selection, quarterback in the first round included. Some of the “best” selections have been players selected by teams as a second choice when a player they really wanted was off the board. Would I trust Caldwell to take another quarterback? As much I would trust anyone, sure.

Joey from Athens, GA

You mentioned that you would be surprised if Blake Bortles remained on the roster for the 2019 season. Why not keep him as a backup? Assuming we draft a quarterback in the first round, if he doesn't perform well at least we have an experienced quarterback to fall back on. We also absorb $21 million in dead cap (I'm pretty sure) by cutting him. It doesn't make sense to me to get rid of him, but you have better insights than I do. #DTWD

It doesn’t make sense financially to part ways with Bortles, but at some point it may make sense from a football standpoint and a franchise-direction standpoint. He has been your starting quarterback for four seasons. If you have benched him now, there seems little-to-no chance you want him to be the starter moving forward. If that’s the case, it makes a lot of sense to move on from Bortles – even as a backup. And while it would be a hit financially, the cap hit is less if you release him. At this point, I believe that will happen.

Paul from St. Johns, FL

Help me, O. If Bortles was bad enough this year to get benched, then why do we then allow the quarterbacks coach to begin calling the plays? Shouldn't the quarterbacks coach, who I assume only coaches the quarterbacks, be the first one to go when the quarterback is awful?

That’s not how it works. Coaching quarterbacks and calling plays are different jobs. How a player performs under a position coach offers has very little if anything to do with how that coach will perform in an entirely different job.

Evan from Section 37 and Ponte Vedra, FL

Maybe the Jaguars should start drafting best available player again. That seems to work for most teams and if we had done that, we would have had Khalil Mack, Leonard Williams and Lamar Jackson or a tight end that would be starting? This is why some teams are perennial winners and others get lucky once in a while but don't sustain anything. Not really a question but an analysis. Any thoughts on following this philosophy?

The Jaguars used this philosophy last offseason, selecting defensive lineman Taven Bryan when they had no immediate need at the position. They also selected wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and safety Ronnie Harrison with the same approach. That’s the philosophy the Jaguars and most teams ideally like to follow. It’s more often said than done.

Kyan from L-Town, IA

Since this season is essentially over what defensive linemen do you see coming back next year? Would it make sense to start Bryan now for whoever they plan on releasing? Or do the coaches care more about winning now since that is their job?

I don’t expect defensive tackle Malik Jackson to return, and I think it will be difficult decision to bring back defensive end Calais Campbell. And yes, it makes sense to keep increasing Bryan’s snaps over the last five games.

David K from Broward

John, we all know what a huge disappointment this season is so far. I want to look at where this team is now roster-wise. Even with all the injuries and horrible quarterback play, they have had legit shot at winning the last four games late in the game. They should have won the last three games. There is a core of good, solid talent on this roster that can win. Big changes are coming, but with consistent, competent quarterback play, they can be good and compete for playoffs next year. Thoughts?

Let’s see what the offseason brings. But it’s not out of the question.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O’man: Call me crazy but I think it’s the defensive coordinator that should have lost his job. With the talent we have, the blown coverages and lack of turnovers indicate more clearly in my opinion a lack of coaching execution. I’m crazy right?

You’re not crazy, but I don’t believe defensive coordinator Todd Wash or Hackett should have been fired.

The Other Michael from Middleburg, FL

I've been a huge Bortles fan since Day 1. His jersey is the only Jags jersey I've ever bought. I bought one for my son, too, who wore No. 5 on his flag football team. It hurts to see his career as a starter in Jax most likely end this way. Haters be darned ... Blake is one of the reasons I've loved watching the Jags play, and I really, really, against all odds, wanted to see him succeed. The London games, the playoffs last year, the Patriots game this year ... thanks for the memories, Blake.

Hey … one fer Blake!

Bryan from Portland, OR

Funk! When a quarterback struggles as Bortles did, why don’t offensive coaches approach it like defensive coaches by simplifying and working to strengths? It seems like Hackett never made that move to rebuild Blake’s confidence with roll outs, simple reads, rhythm passes, even up-tempo and no huddle. I thought that was quarterback-coaching 101? Rebuild the quarterback, and keep it simple like you would with a rookie.

No one had more faith around the Jaguars than Hackett. He simplified. Hackett did what he could to play to Bortles’ strengths within the offense and try to play to how the offense was built. It worked for a long time and in recent weeks it didn’t.

Tony from St. Louis, MO

Bortles still give us the best chance to win? Asking for a friend.

Not anymore.

Josh from Jacksonville

One fer the defense last year. It hasn't necessarily been bad this year, but racking up the sacks, interceptions and touchdowns that they did last year was something special I will not soon forget. The hopes were high as ever for this season and it just did not materialize. It's the NFL. Things change drastically all the time in the NFL and the makeup of the defense will likely be very different next season. So, one fer the defense's season last year and one fer Cody Kessler getting the start. Hope he can stay alive with this line.

The Jaguars’ pass rush hasn’t quite been what it was last season, and their secondary hasn’t quite been what it was last season – but the major reason for the drop-off in sacks, interceptions and touchdowns from last season has been that the defense hasn’t played nearly as often with a lead this season. This defense, remember, allowed quite a few explosive plays last season and was good – but not great – against the run. Defenses playing from behind rarely make as many big plays as those playing with a lead. That’s still the major difference.

Tom from Jax BCH

I agree with you that I think the Jaguars will win Sunday. Unless penalties play a huge role, I would be willing to take the Jags without the points. We are going to see some air game out of the Jags that we have not seen in a while. I am more excited for this game than I ever have been for a Jaguars regular-season game.

Wait … ever?

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