JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
I'm in a really weird place, Zone. I want this team to win. I NEED this team to win, but for the first time ever I find myself doubting that they will win. Not specifically against the Bears, but in general. I don't like this feeling. I want to go back to being delusional the other way. Please just win, Jaguars. Please.
John: This is a fair feeling in the wake of the first month of the 2016 season. The Jaguars for the most part during that month didn't play well enough to earn the blind confidence of fans. Quarterback Blake Bortles in particular struggled far too much and the offense as a whole struggled along with him. So, you ask: what possible reason is there to believe the 1-3 Jaguars can get the season going in the right direction? Well, there is a reason and it's a better reason – one more based in reality – than you might think. This is starting to look like a defense that legitimately could be good. I don't see it being great yet, but it very definitely can be good – with a chance for greatness as it continues to develop. There are signs of a legitimate pass rush and there is playmaking speed on the back end. If the signs we saw in Week 3 and 4 are real, then that's a side of the ball that can win games. As far as offense, there are playmakers there. There is ability. Production largely depends on the quarterback. He struggled in Weeks 1-3 and while he played better against Indianapolis in Week 4, he also missed some opportunities. Still, Bortles against Indianapolis showed the ability to play turnover free and not hurt the team. Within those things are some real positives and a potential winning formula. Building on that formula would seem to be a way this team can find success – and restore your faith.
Al from Fruit Cove, FL:
Mr. O, can you give us the back story? On Sunday afternoon, when the Bears took an early lead on the Colts with a field goal, the Indy mascot was standing behind the goal line with a sign reading, "Jaxson is the greatest mascot in the world." No disagreement here, of course. Just curious as to why the sudden awareness in Indianapolis.
John: Jaxson won a bet based on the game in London. Good for him. He's a cool mascot. People like him.
Bryant from White Plains, NY:
The tough part about starting 0-3 is it feels like every game after that is a must win. Two weeks ago was a must win in London. This is a must win in Chicago, especially with a tough Oakland matchup the week after that. Let's keep building this momentum up. #DTWD
John: That indeed is the tough part about starting 0-3: every ensuing loss for a while feels like the end of the season – and indeed, every ensuing loss could well be the end of the season. This is the situation the Jaguars created for themselves. They have no one else to blame. Thus, their current scenario: If they beat the Bears Sunday, they get the chance to breathe – with an additional chance to have a very good outlook if they can follow it with a victory over Oakland. If they don't beat the Bears … ugh.
Alex from VA:
Do you see Brandon Linder moving back to guard this year and us drafting a center or signing a free agent? Or will he stay at center?
John: Linder will stay at center. He's very good at it. There is no inclination to move him.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
The Jags we saw in London – run blocking, pressuring the opposing quarterback and Nortman and Myers and Blake being good – can compete in every game. Get rid of the untimely penalties and we can win most of those games. Gotta take it off the paper and put it on the field.
John: So, if the Jaguars run well, minimize mistakes, pressure the opposing quarterback, get quality special teams play and have their quarterback play well they can be in every game. That's pretty much every team's winning formula. Is that all they need to do?
Brandon from Athens, GA:
Hey John, do you know what sucks? Knowing that many of the great quarterbacks of the past 15 years are nearing the end (Brady, Brees, Rivers, etc.) and we don't have the elite quarterback on our team to take their place. I like Bortles, but he's not elite.
John: The jury indeed remains out. We shall see.
John from Cape May, NJ:
John, for four years I've seen in this column and others like it fans bashing the Jaguars' coaching staff for issues like player personnel, play calling, and time management – just to name a few. So after a 13-39 start and having seen the regression the team has made through the first four weeks of the season do you see/have any faith that this coaching group can turn things around and find success?
John: As has been noted fairly often, it in many respects is short-sighted and unfair to sum up the entire Gus Bradley regime simply by stating the record during that span. The talent level during the first two years of that regime was not such that a significantly better record during those two was realistic. But the record is how coaches are judged, so … fine. As for the team regressing in the first four weeks of the season … I suppose I would have to disagree. While 1-3 is not what anyone expected, the Jaguars are a play or two from 2-2 or 3-1 and the defense is playing significantly better than it did last season. I've said often that I thought we would have a clearer idea about Gus Bradley and this coaching staff by the end of this season. I still believe that to be the case.
Karri from Sandy, UT:
So O, I have to ask because it's been so long since you've been asked … still sticking it to the man?
John: Patience, Karri. Patience.
Jon from Chicago, IL:
I've lived in Jax my entire life except for the past couple years and am now living in Chicago. I'm pumped to go to the game on Sunday. My bold but realistic prediction: Jags win six of their next seven games with the only loss going to the Raiders.
Rob from Jacksonville:
An answer to a question about Tyson Alualu got me thinking: Does being inactive on game days have any effect (or affect) on a game check? And since you're here, is it effect or affect? That one has always been difficult for me. Thanks, O.
John: No, being inactive does not affect a player's game check – and it's "affect" because there was no squiggly line under it after I wrote it.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
Even if Aaron Colvin looked great in the preseason, so did the offense. That hasn't seemed to translate yet, so I am holding my breath on Colvin being outstanding this season. Every year we forget that the preseason never seems to be a good prediction of the regular season.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
A lot of people want our two young pass-rushers to start and play most of our plays on defense, but when I watched the Giants play they said JPP and Olivier Vernon play too many plays and that is why they can't take over games. What's the deal, O-Zone? Make this clear cut for me.
John: I can't speak to the ideal number of plays for Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. I can say that the Jaguars ideally want a situation in which they're heavily rotating eight or so defensive linemen. Under that scenario you essentially can have two defensive lines, which enables the linemen to be fresh and "play in waves." As far as having Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue both starting, it's really not much of an issue. Both players are going to play a lot and both will be on the field the vast majority of the time in passing situations. That's about as much as you want young pass rushers playing.
Ed from Danvers, MA:
On a pass interference call, why not subtract 27.34 percent of the yards gained on the play? If the call is egregious enough, take 27.34 percent of the yards gained and multiply it by pi (3.14). This will balance the field by adding a math booth on the opposite side from the replay booth and attract engineers and math majors to the game.
John: I'll pass this along.
Preston from Oakville, CT:
O-Man, Chicago is reeling. They have a quarterback controversy brewing and have shown all sorts of problems on the field. After a bye week and a win, and given how the division looks right now, is Sunday's game a "must-win?" A loss at this time to that team would be devastating.
John: Yes, the Jaguars must win Sunday. If they do, the season suddenly looks a lot rosier. If they don't, then it suddenly looks just like it did after Baltimore. Things did not look rosy after Baltimore.
O-Zone: Ro Ro Rosey
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … DUVAL DOOM from Section 217: