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O-Zone: Still so true

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … JT from Aledo, TX:
I hope Nathaniel Hackett can deliver something other than jamming our backs against the stacked box Xteen times in a row each week. Unoriginal play calling is tough to watch. Every team is game-planning for that and it won't work forever - either that, or the backs go into concussion protocol. Where are the run-pass options, roll-outs and screen plays? We saw a little in London, but nothing since. What about two-back sets/wishbone where they don't know whether Chris Ivory or Leonard Fournette will get the ball?
John: I realize this forum lacks experience when the main subject is a winning team, but emails this week regarding Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's play-calling do raise the question of just what people expect. The Jaguars are 3-2. They lead the NFL in rushing. They also lead the AFC South. They're a dropped pass from possibly being 4-1. Last I checked, those are all good things. As I write this, I hear the chorus of "YEAH, BUTS!!!! ..." – and yes, that chorus will include CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!! I realize people are concerned with the lack of passing efficiency – and at some point the Jaguars will have to throw to win. But realize this: Hackett is calling plays within the context of this team's philosophy – and that philosophy is to run effectively and play defense. It's not going to be a pass-happy team. It's going to run a lot, and it's going to follow running a lot with … running a lot more. The Jaguars have a pretty good idea what happens when they stray from that; they strayed from it the past few years to the tune of a ton of interceptions, a ton of sacks and a ton of losses. Hackett last week in Pittsburgh was calling plays against a defense that thrives on pressuring the quarterback and forcing check downs, and he was calling plays with a backup center. He also was calling plays in a game in which the Jaguars' defense was dominating – and in the second half of that game, there was a priority in figuring a way to keep that defense off the field. I'm as big a Passing Game Guy as you're going to find; I love an imaginative, high-powered offense. But if you consider Hackett's play-calling unoriginal I supposed I'd ask, "Do you want original 1-4 or unoriginal 3-2?" I'll hang up and listen to your answer.
Jeremy from Dodge City, KS:
O versus Heath Evans ... I'll take O man every time!!! #fightnight
John: Heath Evans knows where to find me.
Steve from Upper Tract, WI:
Put me at the top of the list of people who don't want Eli Manning to be a Jaguar. Overrated, old outgoing quarterback is not what the Jaguars need. I'm not exactly sure what they need for quarterback but I'm pretty sure Eli Manning is not who we need.
John: I don't think the Jaguars are going to trade for Eli Manning, and I don't believe the New York Giants want to trade Manning. As for your flurry of alliterative Os … yeah, he's a little older and closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but overrated? No, no, no.
Joe from Hall of Fame City, OH:
Yo, John: Why on earth would the Jags trade for Eli? The way I see it, we don't need a high-priced arm to win. Our formula seems to be coming together, so keep BB5, run it down there gullet, and let the defense continue to dominate. I mean, would you trade?
John: Sure. If the price was right. If the price is a first-round selection? No. If it's a third-round selection? Sure. But one reason I shy from discussing trades much here is they're usually conjecture, unrealistic and a waste of time. This feels like a combination of the three.
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL:
John: Zac had a point about defense winning the Ravens' and Bucs' Super Bowls. The rules have changed since then. Now, with the game resembling basketball on grass, I doubt those defenses could win it without a respectable offense. What say ye...
John: Yes, those teams could win Super Bowls now. The rules favored passing then, too. Seattle and Denver have won Super Bowls in recent seasons with dominant defenses as the team's signature unit. It absolutely can be done again.
Brett from Raleigh, NC:
Jalen Ramsey's and Tashaun Gipson's comments after last season ended had me worried since Todd Wash was coming back. They both are looking good and having fun in the new scheme. Can you describe the changes Wash has made from Gus' scheme?
John: I never worried too much about aftereffects of those comments. Players often speak from frustration at the end of difficult seasons; often, more is made of such comments publicly than is felt privately. I sensed that to be the case after last season, and that indeed was the case. As far as the Jaguars' defensive scheme, it's essentially the same as the one run under Head Coach Gus Bradley in recent seasons – and to the one coordinated by Wash last season. There's little difference up front, and – as Wash noted Thursday – the Jaguars were and remain essentially an eight-man front team in base situations. They have tweaked some coverage concepts to move away from a pure single-high safety scheme in passing situations, but for the most part it's the same scheme. Players such as end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church have been as good as advertised. That helps. Perhaps the major factor is the level of play of Bouye and Jalen Ramsey at cornerback. This team is very difficult to pass against. That has helped the pass rush. It has helped the pass defense. It has helped everything.
MrPadre from Kingsland, GA:
Is it simply a coincidence that this team has struggled to win at home? I realize this team struggled to win "anywhere" for some time, but I would like to think that being at home is at least some kind of an advantage. Instead, it seems to either be a wash – or could it actually be a detriment? Is it in our team's heads? It's one thing for us long-suffering fans to finally get to see some wins on television … but can we expect to finally see some in person?
John: I have been amazed this week by the collective perception of this issue. It has become vogue to think there is some mystery about the Jaguars' inability to win at home. What mystery? This team struggled to win everywhere for the last decade. It has really struggled since 2012. Since Doug Marrone took over as head coach things seem to be turning. The Jaguars are 4-3 with Marrone as a head coach. They are 1-1 under Marrone at EverBank Field. The Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 because they committed too many ill-timed penalties and because the Titans' offensive line controlled the game late. It had nothing to do with the game being at EverBank Field. If the Jaguars continue to get better, they will start to win at home. If they don't, they won't.
Ozzie from Duval:
O-Man, when can we refer to this defense as elite? Do we need to win the whole tourney? How close are we to the '85 Bears?
John: The Jaguars have played defense at a really high level for five games and are 3-2. The Bears began playing it at really high level in 1984, continued it in 1985 and may have been just as good defensively in 1986. They won a Super Bowl in 1985. I'd say the Jaguars have some doing to do before reaching that level, but sure … winning the tourney would help.
Riley from Calgary, Canada:
Aaron Colvin played lights-out football this past week. The number of times that the nickel formation is used, do you see re-signing Colvin long-term as a priority? I would think he will be looking for big money come free agency. I can't really see the front office justifying paying three cornerbacks starter money.
John: I'd be surprised if the Jaguars can re-sign Colvin for pretty much the reasons you cite. I think he is a good enough fit at nickel and valuable enough that it's worth exploring a way to keep him, but I doubt it will happen. I hope I'm wrong. Colvin is an intelligent kid who I enjoy interviewing; I respect how he has embraced playing nickel even when in his heart he obviously would love to be playing outside. I hope he's here for a long time.
John from Jacksonville:
Very frustrated that we beat the Steelers handily, are finally leading the division and so much talk about who the next quarterback is. Is it not OK to win on the ground? Does that mean Blake Bortles didn't throw four touchdowns to beat Baltimore? Can't we just enjoy wins without finding something to make up about Blake? In three wins we have scored over 100 points – and not all defensively. The offense has capitalized both in the air and on the ground on our turnovers; we are leaving very few turnover opportunities out there. Here's one fer Blake and I hope he continues to run this offense to many more wins as this team and he have worked very hard to get here. Can't we simply enjoy that?
John: No, because fans gonna fan.

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