O-Zone: So it begins

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

Over the past few seasons, our defense ranked near the top in nearly every category. But there have been a couple of weaknesses. They seem to struggle against two tight-end sets much more than against two or three wideouts. They sometimes struggle to contain the more mobile quarterbacks. And they haven’t always been effective against passes to running backs coming out of the backfield. If my perception of these weaknesses is realistic, how do you see them improving this season?

Some of the areas you mention are awareness issues, so the solution is to … wait for it … be more aware. Some of those areas are also discipline issues – i.e., reading the right keys. Guess the solution there? Be more aware. I absolutely believe the Jaguars will improve in these areas this season – perhaps dramatically. But there’s also a reality that it’s difficult in today’s NFL to shut down everything, particularly mobile quarterbacks. The best way to slow them is to rush the passer effectively, stay in pass rushing lanes and pursue effectively when they leave the pocket. The Jaguars clearly can improve in this area, but mobile quarterbacks are usually going to have their share of success running. Bottom line here: The Jaguars have been a very good defense in recent seasons. Yes, they have given up plays in certain areas. But this is a very good defense that has played well enough for the Jaguars to win far more often than not in recent seasons.

Bruce from Jacksonville

I will be forever grateful to Wayne Weaver for bringing the NFL to Jacksonville. However, when Mr. Weaver sold the Jaguars to Shahid Khan in 2011, Forbes valued the team 32nd out of 32. Mr. Khan has steadily improved on that. Forbes just released their valuations for 2019, and the Jaguars are now ranked 23rd. And this in one of the league’s smaller markets. It’s rather mind-blowing. You’ve been saying for years that the London connection is good for revenue. At the risk of making your head bigger than Tony Boselli’s, I have to say – you were right.

Being right does nothing for my ego anymore. I’m used to it.

John from Jacksonville

First, the hot-weather advantage for the Jags is overblown. It's hot for all players. Second, the Chiefs’ passing game exploiting the Jags defense with key long pass interference calls will be a major storyline for Sunday.

The heat factor isn’t overblown because it hasn’t been discussed that much. But it absolutely is a factor. If you’ve ever seen an athlete go directly from competing in a Midwestern/Northern environment with little humidity to one with heavy humidity you understand this. It doesn’t mean the Jaguars will win Sunday, but it matters. As for your second point … sure, that could happen. Who knows?

Unhipcat from Carslbad, CA

Hi, John. If pass coverage is one of the – if not the – greatest strengths of Myles Jack, why do I not hear of him being used as a prominent means of neutralizing Kelce and other tight ends?

The Jaguars don’t have Jack “follow” tight ends because he has run responsibilities on base downs and you don’t want him taken away from the middle of the defense. But could you see Jack on Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in some situations Sunday? Sure.

Alfonso from Torreon, Mexico

Just my story, Mr. O-ZONE ... I've been a Jaguars fan since I was 10 years old. I loved watching NFL games even if I didn’t understand completely the game. Since that age, I told my parents my dream was to see an actual NFL Jaguars game, but economy was rough at that time. It's not easy to be a Jaguars fan in México; here the Steelers, Cowboys and Patriots fans own the market. But being the only Jags fan I know makes me more proud of my team. So, last year I was graduating from university and my parents asked what I wanted as a graduation present. I didn’t hesitate, and it was so eaaaaasy to choose. We bought tickets to watch Jaguars versus Texans at NRG stadium on December 30 last year. The whole experience rocked my life; watch all the tailgates, being on an actual NFL stadium was just shocking for me. I was living my dream. I had the chance to meet other Jags fans and it was amazing. I had the chance to see my team with my parents and it was the best that had happen to me in my life. Now I’m chasing the Dream to see JAGS play in DUUUUVAL, but that will be another story.

Those are cool stories.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, is Marqise Lee getting any "real" practice done yet? How is he looking?

Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee practiced full all week, so his practice is as real as any other player. I don’t know how he’s looking. Practice is closed to media after the first few weeks of training camp. But I do expect Lee to play Sunday.

Steve from the Sunroom Couch

So, I saw Red in the comments section talking about Lags and Co. discussing the possibility that defensive tackle Marcell Dareus might not be a go on Sunday. If you were Coach Reid would you run the ball exclusively on Taven Bryan's side?

I expect Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid to try to take advantage of Dareus’ absence – if indeed Dareus misses Sunday. But the Chiefs’ running game isn’t overly dependent on attacking the middle of the line. They utilize a lot of short passes to the outside to essentially use that as part of the running offense. So, while the Chiefs will try to take advantage of a perceived weakness, it’s not as if they will be slam-bamming runs in the middle at Dareus’ replacement. It’s not what they do.

KC from Orlando, FL

Mighty O! The 2017 Jaguars caught everybody by surprise riding an amazing defense and marching just short of the Super Bowl. I am sure most thought that the offense would be the focal point with two recent thousand-yard receivers on the roster. Coming off a disappointing 2018 campaign and sporting a strong-yet-questionable defense (Telvin Smith taking the year off), do you think that the Jaguars will catch some teams off guard and make a push for possibly one of the best Jaguars teams in history?

The Jaguars’ defense isn’t questionable. Considering the talent elsewhere on the defense, Smith’s absence shouldn’t be significant enough to raise many questions. I do think this defense is good enough to be the foundation of a very good season. Best in franchise history? Let’s see how the offense develops and if the team stays healthy.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

Is Josh Allen more important to this team's success than Marcell Dareus? I feel like Dareus' importance gets overlooked by many.

I agree.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

The Chiefs switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 this year. Will that be a transition that the Jags’ offense will be able to exploit, or is the switch insignificant enough that the Chiefs will have worked out most of the kinks after training camp and the preseason?

It’s a significant switch. The Chiefs revamped their defense this offseason on a similar scale to which the Jaguars revamped their offense. New coordinator. New scheme. A lot of new players. Both teams believe they will be better for it, but it’s realistic to believe there will be a learning curve for both.

Daniel from Jersey City, FL

O-man, if we can beat the Chiefs on Sunday, what kind of message will that send to the rest of the league?

That the Jaguars are good and they’re 1-0.

Jeremy from Dodge City, KS

Who do you think makes the bigger impact, Quincy Williams or Allen? I'm betting heavily on Quincy.

I believe Jaguars rookie linebacker Quincy Williams will be fine when he moves into the starting lineup. I don’t see him making a bigger impact than rookie defensive end Josh Allen.

Steve from Wallingford, CT

Out of curiosity, are there any rules restricting a defense from dropping 11 players into zone coverage on say, a third and long? Couldn't a team put six or seven defenders on the line like a blitz, hope for a max-protect audible, then just drop 11 guys in coverage leaving four or five guys legally able to catch a pass?

No, there are no rules against that.

Daniel from Urbandale

One of the things I'll be watching for in the opener is how many penalties we collect. This is a serious question: How do you coach to avoid penalties? Besides saying, "Don't be stupid" is there any real insight coaching staff can give players?

“Don’t be stupid” is a good start. “You’re hurting your team with your stupidity” is another. The Jaguars coaches emphasize this, but there is a limit to what you can do beyond that. There is always a dilemma coaches face when it comes to penalties. Do you punish players by taking away playing time? If those players are your best players, are you hurting your chances to win by taking them off the field? It’s a difficult balance.

David from Orlando, FL

O- Come Monday, many fans will be confident that the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to the Super Bowl OR need to fire everyone and start another rebuild. Let the fun and insanity begin!

I can’t wait.

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