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O-Zone: Swinging away

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Luke from Brisbane, Australia

Can any solace be taken from the defensive unit's second-half performances across the first few games? Or have opposition teams just looked to play safe after building a lead (thus making the defense look better than it is)?

The playing-it-safe theory would have merit if the only game in question had been the 31-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins Thursday. But the Jaguars rallied to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and they rallied to tie the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter of a Week 2 loss. The Colts never led by more than seven points, so they weren't playing it safe. The Titans never led by more than 14, and their double-digit leads came too early to play it safe. The Jaguars have played well defensively after the first quarter-and-a-half in all three games – including two when doing so mattered. How do the Jaguars do in the first half what they have done in the second? Wiser heads than mine are working on that question this week.

CC from Duval

When fans hear defensive Timmy Jernigan got released because he wasn't particularly good, they're automatically gonna think why is Taven Bryan still employed by the team. I'll go another way. Does Jernigan's release say more about the rookie DaVon Hamilton? I like him. I think he deserves more playing time! Is this a James Robinson thing? They're so pleased with the rookie, so they let go of the veteran?? If so, I'm good with it but what about depth at the position?

Jernigan's release says the Jaguars didn't think Jernigan was playing well enough. They like Hamilton, but his snaps have increased from 26 to 27 to 34 in three games so I don't know that you will see them increase substantially in Jernigan's absence. Head Coach Doug Marrone said free-agent rookie Doug Costin will be active Sunday, essentially taking Jernigan's place in the rotation. The Jaguars signed defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale from the practice squad; he and Costin replace Jernigan as depth at the position.

David from Daytona, FL

How do you win with the same terrible offensive line you've had for three years? Are there any undrafted rookie free agents we can get in to try take the job of some mediocre talent weighting us down? If we can't run, or pass, or score in the red zone and win three years in a row would you consider drafting some guys next year? I still believe that six wins would be a blessing from heaven.

This "take" is laughable. The Jaguars have issues this season, perhaps enough that your statement that six victories would be a blessing is correct. The offensive issue is not the offensive line – and no, there probably aren't any "undrafted rookie free agents" who would improve what is a decent group. Thanks for reading – and for watching. I guess.

Unhipcat from Camp Pendleton Beach

Mr. Zone: Our third placekicker in four games is working limited because of "right knee." Scale of what to whatever, how concerning considering the probability of games being close and not much margin for error?

Jaguars kicker Stephen Hauschka, who signed with the team Monday, indeed missed practice Wednesday with knee soreness. This came the week after the team placed ultrareliable kicker Josh Lambo on injured reserve with a hip injury and the same day it waived/injured rookie kicker Brandon Wright with a groin injury. Hauschka is expected to kick Sunday in Cincinnati, though the team also signed kicker Aldrick Rosas to the practice squad as a caution in the event of COVID-19 or other injury. The concern about Haushcka's knee? Minimal, though considering the recent events at the position it's understandable to have some level of worry.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

Is it safe to say that both Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold suck?

Not if you're around their families.

John from Ponta Vedra, FL

I recognize you are a glass half-full person with your comments like the Jaguars are a play or two away from being 2-1. But isn't also accurate to say the Jaguars are a play or two away from being 0-3?

Of course, but I think most people recognize that. It's therefore not a point I believed needed to be noted. Considering the number of emails I get from people who now believe the Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL it seemed fair to note that they are a play or two from 2-1.

Richard from Jacksonville

Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell seems to be blocking okay when he actually gets his hands on a defender, but too many times this year he has had mental errors and blocked air instead. I first noticed it on a completion to wide receiver Keelan Cole against Tennessee (see Baldy Breakdowns), but it happened many more times against Miami allowing the Dolphins rushers to get to Minshew. Do you know why such a tenured veteran would keep making simple mistakes, like confusing his left and right?

It's tricky answering this without knowing the blocking assignments of the plays to which you refer. Example: When the Jaguars allowed a second-quarter sack against the Miami Dolphins Thursday, many fans and observers – myself included – assumed Norwell went the wrong way and allowed a pass rusher an easy sack. Marrone said the following day it was right tackle Jawaan Taylor who should have moved to pick up the free rusher. I'm not saying Norwell has been perfect with the Jaguars, but I am saying those who break down film – even those who do it well – must know the assignments. Otherwise, there are a lot of assumptions that may make a … well, you know.

Jeff from Orange, CA

Drew Brees remains a successful quarterback with below-average height and arm strength with almost all passes being completed within a short distance. How can he be so successful while Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II looks lost? Is it all vision/awareness/intangible type things or are o-line play and skill player quality helping him? Not saying Minshew and Brees should be in the same conversation but the differences seem huge yet the potential issues with their game seem similar.

Why has Brees been successful where many quarterbacks with his skill set have failed? For one, he always has had amazing footwork to find lanes to see the field, and he for the past decade and a half has had an amazing – sometimes innate – knowledge of the offense and where/when to throw. He also was very good at attacking gaps in zones with play-action passes for most of his career. Also: Though Brees never had the league's strongest arm, he had a stronger arm early in his career than he does now. Why does Minshew look lost? First, he doesn't always look lost. He has won seven of 15 NFL starts and has looked good at times. He has looked lost at times when teams have defended him by containing him in the pocket and playing soft zone to take away the deep pass. Perhaps he will look lost less often moving forward. We'll see.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Coming off a 6.5-sack season and in a contract year, I thought Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot would be a good – if not great player – his year. He seems to be a non-factor so far this year.

Did you have a question?

Josh from Fernandina Beach, FL

Zone: What's the inside scoop on Chark's status? I have to believe his absence contributed materially to last week's dramatic drop-off in the Jaguars' offense (if you're inclined to permit me to state the obvious). As a follow-up, if Chark returns soon, and given wide receiver Keelan Cole's and wide receiver Chris Conley's good and bad recent performances, respectively, do you anticipate Conley getting bumped out of the lineup? Thanks and GO JAGS!!

Wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. practiced limited Wednesday, a positive sign that he could play against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday – and his absence absolutely hurt the offense. Conley played 16 and 34 snaps in Weeks 1 and 2 when Chark was healthy and 53 in Week 3 when he was out; I expect Conley's snaps to revert so something between Week 1 and 2 when Chark returns.

Bruce from St. Simons Island, GA

How do you think the Jags secondary will do against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow?

If they don't cover better than they have in the last two games – against Tennessee and Miami? Not particularly well.

Red from the O-Zone Comments Section

Hi John, have you considered going with the Todd Wash hair style Think of all the money you'll save not having to buy Clairol and you can pay homage to the greatest defensive coordinator in the NFL at the same time! Win-win situation right?

You tried. That's easy to see. You strung words together – sans punctuation, but words nonetheless. Chin up. There's always tomorrow.