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O-Zone: Surprisingly unfulfulling

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Gary from St. Augustine, FL:
No Telvin Smith? No Yannick Ngakoue? No more respect for the Pro Bowl from this guy.
John: The 2018 Pro Bowl players indeed were announced by the NFL Tuesday night – and while there were deserved Jaguars players honored, there were equally deserved Jaguars players left out. The four Jaguars players named to the game – cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, end Calais Campbell and tackle Malik Jackson – all deserved the honor. It's hard to argue the Jaguars would be as good defensively without them. But for Ngakoue or Smith not to be honored does feel like a snub. Ngakoue is sixth in the NFL with 11 sacks, and he has been consistently disruptive and effective all season. Smith is without question one of the NFL's best outside linebackers. I can only assume that Ngakoue fell a touch short because his reputation doesn't yet match that of a few players who made it; the Pro Bowl is a reputation game – and always will be as long as fans and even players vote. I assume Smith didn't make it because of the inherent flaw in a system that has 3-4 and 4-3 outside linebackers voted as the same position; in that system, 3-4 outside backers always will have the edge because fans vote for sacks numbers over all else, which means an all-around linebacker such as Smith is likely to get overlooked. As I wrote elsewhere on this site, I thought both Smith and Ngakoue were deserving. I also wrote that I always thought of the Pro Bowl as an honor that players should enjoy if they make it and not worry about much if they don't; the system is that flawed. Then again, it's easy for me to say that. I'm not the one who got snubbed.
Wayne from Orange Park, FL:
Zone, the coolest thing about Blake Bortles is he is the exact same guy after quieting the critics as he was while taking more fan and media abuse than anyone I can ever remember, or even imagine being subjected to. I'm not sure how anybody could have survived what he endured, let alone thrive in spite of it.
John: Bortles has shown remarkable resiliency in many ways, and he indeed has endured steady criticism without a hint of outward resentment or animosity. It's easy to say, "Well, criticism is part of the job," but saying that doesn't mean it's easy to take. And I absolutely have seen quarterbacks get irritated and snippy while taking far less criticism. He indeed has survived and thrived and you know what? Good for him. He's a good kid who has carried himself through good times and bad phenomenally well. There's nothing wrong with liking seeing him succeed. It's cool. I do like it.
Ric from Jacksonville:
Hello, John. I saw something Sunday that said a lot about this defense. They don't just want to beat you; they want to put other teams in a closet, close the door and turn the lights off. A perfect example was when the Texans scored their one touchdown. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins scored on Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Arguably the best receiver in the NFL this year and he scored one touchdown the whole game ... the only score Houston had. Jalen was absolutely inconsolable. Our defense takes moments like that and lets it get to them ... in the best of ways. This defense is amazing!
John: You touched on something that does define this defense – and that's a desire not just win but to dominate every game and every series. The unit absolutely has held itself to its own high standard since the offseason, and that's part of why the Jaguars have been able to ascend to the top of the NFL's defenses quickly. They believed themselves capable of being elite long before anyone else did. This indeed is a trait of this defense. One touchdown allowed is too many. One play allowed is too many. The Jaguars want to dominate defensively. More often than not, they do.
Mike from Mount Pleasant, SC:
How much has Nathaniel Hackett had to do with Bortles' vastly improved passing mechanics this year?
John: A lot.
Jay from Portland, OR:
Hey, O: What a difference a year makes. This time last year, the pundits all thought we whiffed on Blake, and it was so very obvious that Derek Carr was the superior talent throughout the evaluation process. Who would you ride with now?
John: I honestly haven't watched Carr all that much this season. I've watched Bortles a lot this season, though. If Carr is playing better than Bortles for the last month, he's playing really well. I doubt that's the case. So as of now, I'd take Bortles.
Vladimir from Belgrade, Republic of Serbia, Eastern Europe:
Hello, I am a Jag fan from a small country in Europe. I have been a Jag fan for 17 years now, and it is an honor to be one, especially today. Season by season, I hope for better result, better team, I follow draft, camp, preseason, everything … every lost game hurts, and there have been many. You get over it and hope for better next Sunday. Then, a season like this one comes, and it wipes away all the troubles of a Jag fan from before. Bortles is a franchise quarterback – wait and see. Also, so many others in this team of such a great talent. Proud of all of those guys. Keep up the good work. All the way to the end!
John: #DTWD
Chris from Section 237:
"If you build it, they will come." It's good to have EverBank rocking again!
John: Winning is cool. A lot of fans like it enough that a lot of them will pay to go see it.
Carl from Section 214:
John, it'll be interesting to see how defensive coordinators scheme the Jags moving forward. Blake has now proven he can throw against a stacked box, which may very well remain their approach. I'm curious if you had to choose between putting your defensive backs in single coverage against Blake and our young, unknown (but talented) receivers, or possibly often make your defensive backs the first point of contact against a healthy Leonard Fournette in freezing January temperatures because you took guys out of the box, which poison would you opt for?
John: I would still probably stack the box and force Bortles to throw because I would be sure I would lose if I didn't stop this running game first. But I'd have a Plan B and I'd be ready to go to it because Bortles is starting to beat single-coverage with some real consistency.
John from Cocos:
Big O: Just going one week at a time, if by some chance the Texans beat the Steelers, and Jaguars beat the 49ers, that would move the Jags to No. 2 seed because they would have the same record but the Jags have a better conference record. Is that correct?
John: The Jaguars would be the No. 2 seed in that scenario because they beat the Steelers. Head-to-head games are the first tiebreaker scenario if two teams are tied.
Chris from Columbia, SC:
Hey, O! Who are the playoff teams that you could see giving the Jags problems? I know that no NFL game is easy, but certainly there are teams that matchup well on paper. Personally, I would prefer not to play Pittsburgh again.
John: There's no such thing as an easy path to the Super Bowl. But there's no team in the NFL that the Jaguars can't beat. A disruptive, dictating defense is the great equalizer. The Jaguars' defense equalized the Steelers once before. Can they do it again? Absolutely.
Tim from Doboy Island, SC:
Looks like nobody from the AFC West can catch us for the No. 4 seed, and barring a Steelers or Patriots upset, seems like pretty good odds we will be the No. 3 seed. The Ravens have the best chance to go 10-6, leaving Titans, Chargers and Bills for the last spot. I like the Chargers; chances to land that No. 6 seed. How would you feel about a rematch? That may be the toughest matchup for us out of those teams.
John: I think there's no easy matchup in any playoff round. I think when a team has a big-time defense and a big-time quarterback that team is a particularly tough postseason matchup and the Chargers certainly fit that description.
John from Cocoa, FL:
Hey Big O, what does #DTWD stand for? I see it in a lot of posts. Just wondering.
John: I actually have no idea. I just heard somebody say it and I thought it sounded neat. I tend to follow the pack on things like this because I find producing my own ideas tiring, tedious and surprisingly unfulfilling. I assumed it meant "Donuts 'Til We Drop" or "Don't Touch Wet Dogs." But if someone knows for sure, maybe they could loop me in. Either way … #DTWD

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