O-Zone: Reach for the stars

JACKSONVILLE - Let's get to it...

CD from Fleming Island, FL

Hey, John: Compared to other schemes, is Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash's difficult to learn? And/or is it difficult to execute? There seems to be confusion out there, and in a sport played as fast as the NFL, that hesitation and lack of confidence and/or discipline could lead to the issues we've seen – i.e. over-pursuit, poor tackling, bad positioning, etc. Is it as simple as the team isn't talented enough to pull it off? Or in your opinion, can Wash do more to put his players in the best position to succeed?

The Jaguars’ scheme isn’t overly difficult to learn, nor is overly difficult to execute; there actually is an emphasis on keeping it simple. And the concepts in the Jaguars’ scheme are common to most gap-based defenses in the NFL. Remember: this is the same defense the team has run the past three seasons when it was one of the NFL’s best; it’s no more complex or difficult to understand than it was in those three seasons. It’s also a similar scheme to that being run by the Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers – and it doesn’t appear to be overly confusing to those players. So, what’s wrong with the run defense? The undersized nature of the defensive front makes this team a bit more vulnerable to the run than many schemes, though players doing their assignments and being in the correct gaps can counter that vulnerability – as it has here in the past and as it often does when the scheme has been run with success by various teams in recent seasons. As for why the scheme isn’t working for the Jaguars now, some of it is players not being in correct gaps, some of it is players not tackling, some of it is players getting blocked. As Head Coach Doug Marrone said this week, some of it is players not getting off blocks and making plays. Wash said this week he’s as responsible as anyone, and that’s what coaches should say when teams don’t play well. But mostly, it’s players not doing their jobs correctly. Is the team talented enough to pull it off? Yes. Has it done so the past two games? No. I get that people don’t want to hear that because they want to hear that it’s Wash’s fault. Oh, well.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

If the problem with our defensive line is size, then how does the lightest defensive line in the league (Colts) manage to rank eighth while the Jaguars’ defensive line ranks 23rd?

Size isn’t “THE” problem; it’s “A” problem. But this defense and these players are capable of stopping the run if they play better.

Brian from Cranford, NJ

Don't think we can write off Nick Foles just yet. The guy has only played a game and a quarter this year, so how can time be running out on him? At least give him a full season's worth of work to make a judgment.

Marrone said following last Sunday’s loss to the Colts he is sticking with Foles as quarterback moving forward, and there’s no reason to believe that’s not the case. He will get an opportunity.

William from Jacksonville

Lamar Jackson leads Pro Bowl voting, Taven Bryan a close second … wait, whut? Limiting Josh Allen and Leonard is just stupid coaching.

The Jaguars didn’t select Jackson – the Baltimore Ravens’ dynamic quarterback – when they had the chance in 2018; I’m not sure what there is to say about it based on your question, so I’ll pass for now. As for your last sentence, I suppose you could call rookie edge rusher Josh Allen playing half the snaps last Sunday “stupid coaching.” You could also call it putting a rookie where he is most effective – in the nickel package – and trying to get your best linemen on the field. Who do you want to pull out of the defensive end position in base? Calais Campbell? Yannick Ngakoue? We’ll see what direction the Jaguars go Sunday. As for “limiting” Fournette last Sunday, I’m still not certain the Jaguars were as negligent here as many believe. The Jaguars took possession for the first time in the second half of that game trailing by 10 points, and Fournette got three carries on that drive. He didn’t carry after that, but the Jaguars were down by 17 or more points that entire time. How much were they really supposed to run in that situation? My guess is that many people would have been yelling at their televisions at the stupid coaching had Fournette gotten a bunch of carries in the fourth quarter with the Jaguars down by three scores. But maybe I’m wrong. It has happened.

Gary from Centerville, OH

I see this week's game going one of two ways. The defense steps up and stops Titans running back Derrick Henry and a resilient team and the Jaguars win, causing the fan base to start talking playoffs again. Or, Henry rushes for 485 yards, embarrassing our defense. The fan base crying for a coaching and front office change (in particular, on defense) grows to a new crescendo.

Gotta stop the run. No doubt.

Landrum from Washington, DC

You recently wrote that coaching is not the primary reason for the team's struggles. Fair. What IS the primary reason for our struggles in your opinion? Obviously players must play better, but a player can only be who they are.

The primary reason for the Jaguars’ struggles in the last month and a half has been that they’re playing poorly for the most part against the run – and when you do that, it’s hard to do anything else well defensively. They have struggled offensively because they’re not a dominant enough running attack to completely lean on that, and they haven’t gotten good enough quarterback play to overcome these other two areas.

Terry from Jacksonville

John: Just think how would be if Marrone went for the extra point, or not going on fourth downs how many wins we might have. Marrone worst couching I have ever seen and you defend him, WHY?

Because I don’t agree with you. Marrone is a fantastic couch.

Austin from Atlanta, GA

Hi John. Appreciate getting to come here to read about the Jags and chat each morning. My question is at what point do you think Shad makes substantial changes to personnel? The team has won five games a year since Dave Caldwell has taken over as general manager, Marrone is 20-24 since taking over the head-coaching spot, Todd Wash is 22-36 since becoming defensive coordinator. Regardless of the team you inherit, the injuries you face, etc. at some point these numbers should be considered unacceptable at a high level. Do you believe these three will retain their roles next year?

Only Owner Shad Khan knows this. Six games remain in the season. How the Jaguars fare during those games obviously will influence his thinking on how the franchise looks moving forward.

Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL

John: I know Wash had reiterated that Myles Jack is our starting middle linebacker. To my eyes, he has not been as effective since moving to the middle. Do you think the Jags look for a middle linebacker in the offseason and move Jack back to the outside?

I think it will be considered, and the answer likely will depend on who is making the decisions.

Jaginator from (formerly of) Section 124

Yeah, long runs count. Here’s something else that counts: success rate. When you have 1 run for 66 yards, that’s obviously a success. It counts. When you follow it up with 18 runs for a total of 10 yards, that’s 18 consecutive failures. Those count, too. Those failures kill drives. And yes, the example I’m talking about is the Jets game – that we won – but against most teams, when you have 1 success, followed by 18 failures, you’re gonna lose.

Fair. The Jaguars’ running game isn’t consistent enough. No doubt.

Fred from Jacksonville

John, I know you have a profound understanding of the mindset of a fan. So please explain this to me. How could we beat the Titans rather convincingly in Week 3, yet I now possess negligible confidence that we can even avoid embarrassment this Sunday.

Your television wasn’t broken on November 2 and November 16.

David from Chuluota, FL

O-Zone - If Myles Jack is the Middle Linebacker and he is responsible for setting the defense and getting everyone in position, why is he out of position so much? There’s probably many reasons, but none of them are good.

Jack’s issues for the most part this season have been about trying to make up for what’s going on around him – i.e., trying to make up for mistakes and inexperience of others. He struggled this past Sunday and had a few inexcusable mistakes, but for the most part this season he hasn’t been nearly the problem observers believe.

Max from Jax

We were 4-6 at one point in 1996, right?

You’re reaching, Max … but yes.

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