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O-Zone: Tear in the eye

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jimmy from the Open Road:
After watching a Jets team with an offense roughly equivalent to our own in power – with a stout defense – take on the Colts, do you think it is fair to say we can get through the first four weeks with a 2-2 record? At this point in the season, I'm pretty confident in saying that Bortles and Mariota are (currently) playing much better than Luck. Am I way off?
John: Wow. So, that's where we are now? A week ago we're talking about job security and now we're talking about knocking off the AFC South champions on the road? And looking ahead a couple of weeks to do it? To which I say, "Yes … talk … enjoy it … it's what the NFL is about." At the same time, I said this when the Jaguars were 0-1 and it doesn't change at 1-1: I don't spend a lot of time doing the this-team-beat-that-team-so-that-team-will-beat-another-team thing. I particularly don't do it early in the season when teams are finding themselves. No one outside Jacksonville would have thought after the opener that the Jaguars would have beaten the Dolphins. The Jaguars played much better in Week 2 than Week 1. Do I think the Jaguars can win in Indianapolis or even New England if they play well? Sure. Did I think that before watching the Colts and Jaguars this past week? Sure. Will the Jaguars lose those two games if they play poorly? Equally as sure. Bottom line: it's Week 3. I'll let the Jaguars get to at least the bye before I pay too much attention to the standings or comparative scores.
Travis from Jacksonville:
Tied for 1st place! Woohoo!
John: Woohoo.
Dustin from Section 243 and Lake City, FL:
O, what did you think about James Sample's play Sunday? I personally did not notice him get beaten in coverage and thought his tackling was on point.
John: Sample tackled very well, and he took some improper angles. A lot of the improper angles stemmed from playing strong safety after playing free safety since returning to practice in mid-August. Josh Evans played in his place a lot of the second half because the Jaguars wanted Evans' versatility in the game. All in all, it was a good start for Sample. He has a chance to be really good.
Scott from Points North:
Any comment on Peter King and his MMQB article essentially calling Luke Joeckel a bust? What do we know that he doesn't? Still love my Jags and thankful for a September win.
John: We read slightly different articles, I guess. King wrote about the 2013 draft class as a whole. The first round of that draft generally has been disappointing and King wrote that. He didn't call Joeckel a bust. He called Joeckel a marginal starter, but he also did not put him among the worst of that class. The Jaguars see Joeckel better than that. But whatever … Joeckel needs to improve. He Jaguars believe he is on that path. King's story doesn't change that storyline.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O: Last week: Same old Jags; when are we gonna realize that Blake Bortles and Luke Joeckel were not worth their draft position (and can you believe we passed on J.J. Watt to get Blaine Gabbert?!?); Caldwell and Bradley need to be fired; who cares that Khan is moving the team to London; this team couldn't beat that high school in the movie "When the Game Stands Tall;" why don't we sign a starting left tackle, wide receiver, pass rusher, and linebacker from free agency before next week's game? ... This week: Now that's more like it. Clearly we are going to the Super Bowl this year.... Your comments, please?
John: Welcome the O-Zone. It sounds like you'll be quite at home here.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Actually, Bradley would have been penalized if he had attempted to challenge the spot with less than two minutes to go in the game.
John: Yep, you're right. When the question was asked, I didn't remember the play in question was inside two minutes. Good catch, Scott.
Marcos from Jacksonville:
At first when Gus said we had a "complete" team, I didn't get it. Now, I do. Is this team filled with superstars? Obviously not. But this is the first time in four-to-five years the team from top to bottom looks at least decent, like they deserve to be here, not that we're waiting for another draft or free agency class. It's a young roster, and they'll make mistakes. But this is a roster that does look "complete", and that is finally ready to compete. Do you agree, John?
John: Yes, and that's a good way to interpret what Bradley said when he said the team is "built." If you know anything about how Bradley operates you know he didn't mean, "It's done and now all we have to do is pump up the balls, lace up the cleats, put on the pads and go win the Super Bowl." He also didn't mean the Jaguars had Pro Bowl players at every position. He meant that the team at last had enough skill, experience and depth throughout the roster to have a chance in far more games than not. That doesn't mean the Jaguars will win every game. It doesn't even mean they won't have one-sided losses; most teams have a game or two like that every season. It does mean that the Jaguars feel confident that this group is good enough to be very competitive if it plays well. That's progress.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
There is definitely some concern over the second-half woes of the Jaguars' offense in the first two weeks. But, to put it in perspective the Patriots last year in a Super Bowl-winning season had eight halves of football games in which they scored seven or fewer points in the entire half. Four of those happened in their first four games. I'm not saying we're gonna win it all, but teams have ups and downs in games, especially early in the season.
John: The Jaguars are a young team. Last year they were re-e-e-e-e-ally young, but they are without question still young. All teams are going to have stretches of ineffectiveness, but young ones are going to have more. The Jaguars had a bunch of opportunities in the opener. They had a bunch of opportunities against Miami and converted enough to score 23 points and win. They also overcame a sluggish second half to put together a game-winning drive against Miami. That's not perfection, but the Jaguars aren't going to achieve offensive perfection this season. It was improvement and it was enough to win, and the Jaguars can start achieving those things this season.
Jesse from Panama City, FL:
I think we are going to have to control the time of possession against the Pats in order to have a chance. What are the keys to victory in your eyes?
John: I'm not a big-time-of-possession guy. Realistically, the way the Patriots play on offense they can score points in a hurry and can easily win a game while losing time of possession. If the Jaguars control the clock and score touchdowns doing so, they have a chance. If the Jaguars control the clock and kick field goals or commit turnovers doing so, they have a lot less of a chance. The Jaguars need to score touchdowns and they need to figure out a way to pressure Tom Brady into mistakes. They also need to be composed in high-pressure situations. The Patriots move very quickly and play very intelligently while doing so. The way their offense moves it can give the impression of the game getting out hand quickly. Responding in that situation can be difficult for a young team. It will be a test.
Jeff from Rutland, MA:
Do you think that we are not utilizing the tight ends in the passing game because they are needed more to block and help the O line? Are they not getting open. Or are we waiting for Julius Thomas to return to really implement these plays?
John: It's a combination of many things. In some cases, the plays are called to the tight ends and the route is defensed. There also has been a drop or two. In other cases, the play doesn't go to the tight end. And sure, in some cases they're not open. When Julius Thomas returns the position certainly will be utilized more, and I expect it will be utilized more before that, too. Two games does not make an entire season.
Kyle from Orange Park, FL:
Playoffs?
John: Whoa there, big fella … WHOA!
Darius from New Milford, NJ:
Do we HAVE to look ahead on Wednesday? Victories just feel SO good. I want this feeling to last ...
John: Yep. We gotta look ahead. I'm not going to say I won't miss it. I'll actually miss it a lot. Hold on. I have to go cry …

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