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O-Zone: Right as rain

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jim from Jagsonville

Is this what a moral victory feels like? They don't feel so good.

I'm not sure what a moral victory feels like in the NFL; I don't know that I ever have seen one. So, no … I don't consider the Jaguars' 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium Thursday anything but what it was – a fourth consecutive loss to start the season, and the franchise's 19th consecutive loss dating to Week 2 of the 2020 season. The Jaguars did continue to show progress Thursday. They have competed deeper into each loss than the one before, and Thursday's game turned on a couple of fourth-quarter plays. That wasn't the case for the Jaguars earlier this season and it sure wasn't the case for them late last season. And the really good news from Thursday is that rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence clearly progressed. But progress isn't winning, and Thursday wasn't a victory. Not even a moral one.

Bill from Jacksonville, FL

Watching the game against the Bengals Thursday made one thing abundantly clear: the Jaguars have one star player on their roster. One, and he's a rookie quarterback. Everyone else is just a guy. How long is going to take to add the seven or eight good players this team needs, John?

You're correct that right now the Jaguars don't have enough players who make big plays in key moments. That was evident Thursday, particularly on defense – but also on offense with the possible exception of running back James Robinson. How long does that take it take to get seven or eight? Realistically a couple of offseasons, because it's hard to get that many difference-makers in free agency – and even drafted difference-making players usually take at least one year to be major difference-makers.

Chris from Mandarin

Sure, we lost the game, but we also lost O-Zone Late Night and that's just really sad. :(

We do not do O-Zone Late Night following night games. The reason for this is with my other postgame duties, the O-Zone Late Night following a night game realistically would post around two or three a.m. Eastern with the regular O-Zone posting around 8 a.m. That seems like too much O-Zone. Actually, a case can be made that any O-Zone is too much O-Zone.

Fred from Naples, FL

On our quarterback sneak attempt right before halftime against the Bengals, everyone knew that we were running that play. If Trevor would have taken the snap and pitched to his right to Robinson, he would have walked in.

If you're referencing the play on which Lawrence was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1, the play wasn't a sneak. And the play was designed for Lawrence to pitch to Robinson on the right. Head Coach Urban Meyer said the defensive end took that option away, so Lawrence kept and was stopped. Listening to Meyer discuss the play Friday, it sounded as if his regret was not simply having Lawrence hand to Robinson and let him power in as opposed to having a problem with Lawrence not pitching once the play began.

Roger from Heidelberg, Germany

Not even against the Bengals? There are not many teams left on this schedule the Jags have a realistic chance of winning against.

The Cincinnati Bengals are 3-1 and leading the AFC North.

Nick from Palatka, FL

You know, Zone: Coaches and players talk about getting better but that's usually all it is. But this team's improvement over the past three weeks has been quite remarkable. What do you think is/are the main area(s) of play that need to be cleaned up to put them in the playoffs?

Better pass rush, more turnovers forced and more big plays on both sides of the ball with the ball in the air.

Pedal Bin from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Oh, Mighty 'O'/King of all Funk, as I staggered to work on two hours sleep Friday, this loss hurts. We were so close. I always knew this season was going to be long and tough, but the main objective was to see if Lawrence is "The Guy." I think after Thursday night, we can say he is. Once the hurt of this latest loss eases, I'll probably feel that the future will be a little bit brighter. Still hurts, though...

All fair – and all true. Lawrence looked more like "The Guy" Thursday then he did in Weeks 1 and 2 and there should be less doubt by the week that that's the case. Losing does suck, though. It's like … you know … a lot worse than winning.

Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

_It's frustrating but also kind of fun watching this team and the quarterback grow with each week. They're getting better! Right now, the Cardinals and the Bengals are superior teams, they went toe-to-toe with them (and probably should have won). Learning how to finish games is tough for young teams.  _


John from Jacksonville

Isn't this DJ Chark's contract year? He gets rolled on through no fault of his own and it could cost him millions. Gotta feel for the guy.


Sad from Jax

Have you ever seen a more inept pass rush in your years covering NFL football?

The Jaguars through four games have five sacks. That's a pace for 21 for the season. That's not very good. I have seen worse.

Jason from Green Cove Springs, FL

It sure doesn't feel like better days are on the way: 0-4 isn't very fun. What now, John?

I understand frustration. Losing stinks – particularly when you lose 19 consecutive games. Sports is supposed to be fun and not winning for a year saps the fun from being a fan. But if you watched Thursday's game and it didn't look like at least somewhat better days might be on the way … I mean, did you not see Lawrence? Did you not see the first half? That's not enough. It's not fun. But it does perhaps at least sort of foreshadows better days. Maybe?

Holger from Zurich, Switzerland

If you have a lead, and you have no pass rush, do you really have a lead?

Not really – and you're correct that the Jaguars didn't pressure Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow enough Thursday. Meyer spoke after the game about how quickly Burrow throws – adding that he threw particularly quickly in the second half Thursday. If you watched Thursday's second half, you definitely saw Burrow throwing quickly – and the Bengals running good routes to enable him to get the ball out quickly on quick patterns to the sideline and crossing routes in front of the secondary. The Bengals also did a nice job through a lot of the second half staying in manageable down-and-distances and running well – both of which help negate a pass rush. At the same time, there also were multiple plays late when the Jaguars needed to pressure Burrow and there wasn't enough pressure. The Jaguars were third in the NFL in pressures with four sacks in the first two games. They have had just one sack the last two weeks and yes … this area needs to improve if the Jaguars are to close out games.

Steve from Charlotte, NC

When can we expect the Josh Allen trade for a fifth-rounder? For as much as you talk like he is some core piece, he is remarkably absent in a game with plenty of obvious passing situations. We are so devoid of talent on the defensive side it is alarming how completely inept we have been at scouting and drafting. Wow.

I have talked about Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen during his first two seasons like he is a core piece. He has played OK this season, but you're correct that he has not played like a "core piece." As the Jaguars' defense … no question the Jaguars aren't where they need to be in terms of talent. They have missed on some draft selections and some good draft selections are no longer with the team. That's a lot of lost draft capital. When that happens, it takes a while to rebuild the talent base.

Mark from Orange Park, FL

Please quit making excuses for Jack! He is terrible as an undersized linebacker in the NFL.

Who's making excuses for Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack? But he's not terrible.

Otis from Chicago

Anyone who doesn't see what Trevor Lawrence is and the amazing ride we're all about to go on as Jags fans after that game has either never watched the sport, played the sport, or heard of the sport. We have a real star, for the first time ever, and he's 21. Enjoy. The. Ride. Just like we know you're an amateur, we should all know we're on the cusp of a very fun ride as fans.

Good eye, Really good, in fact.

Logan from Wichita, KS

If I told you during the offseason that No. 85 would be our best tight-end weapon would you have ignored me?

That's not why I would have ignored you.