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O-Zone: The real thing

JACKSONVILLE – One more day until Look-Ahead Wednesday.

Let's get to it …

Robert from Middleburg, FL

We just simply aren't good enough, John. From our quarterback all the way down to our kicker. There's no way we're making any noise in the playoffs, even if we squeak our way in. Disappointing doesn't even begin to describe this.

This has been a common refrain since the Jaguars' 23-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Stadium Sunday. Because the loss was the third in as many games, disappointment from fans is expected and fair. Still, not much changed about the Jaguars from last week to this week. They remain in control of the AFC South and will win the division if they win their final three games. There's a decent chance they can win the South with two victories in the last three games if one of those victories is over the Tennessee Titans in Week 18. As for your thought that the Jaguars simply aren't good enough, I don't know that that topic is as clearcut as that. The Jaguars the past three weeks absolutely haven't been good enough. They have lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Ravens – and they made far too many avoidable, self-inflicted mistakes during that stretch. It's hard to win any games in the NFL that way. It's particularly hard when you're not running consistently. It's even harder when you're playing good teams from the NFL's most competitive division. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson in recent weeks has talked repeatedly of the need for the Jaguars to not beat themselves. Fans tend to eye roll when coaches say such things. But in this case, what Pederson is correct. The Jaguars might be good enough to make the playoffs. They might even be good enough to beat good teams there. They'll never know if they don't give themselves a chance to find out.

David from Eau Claire, WI

Is 8-9 a real possibility now? Another week of not showing up.

I suppose 8-9 for the Jaguars is a possibility but I wouldn't call it a very good possibility. The Jaguars (8-6) have lost to three good teams in the last three weeks – the Bengals, Browns and Ravens – that all are playing well late in the season. That makes the three-game losing streak understandable. The concern is that the Jaguars have hit a real trend here in recent weeks of making key mistakes at key times and giving away a lot of opportunities. It's hard to win any game doing that.

Andrew from Jacksonville

John, it seems that they have the horses even with the injuries, but they just can't get out of their own way. Story of the season.


Ken from Santa Rosa Beach, FL

What do the Jags do now that Nathan Rourke is in New England? Were the Jags asleep at the switch when it came time to "call up" Rourke to the 53-man roster? Thanks, KOAF.

The New England Patriots indeed claimed quarterback Nathan Rourke off waivers after the Jaguars waived him from the 53-man roster. I don't know that the Jaguars were asleep at the wheel as much as they were willing to risk losing Rourke. As for what the Jaguars will do now with Rourke playing elsewhere and starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence in concussion protocol … I expect they will sign a veteran as a third quarterback. That's the likeliest option.

James from Destin, FL

Hey, John. What was the Ravens defensive player's name that knocked the ball out of Trevor's hands on the second fumble? It happened so fast I missed who did it. Surely generational talent just doesn't lose the ball without being hit.

I'll assume you're referencing the first of two fumbles by Lawrence Monday. He was scrambling on third-and-17 from the Ravens 23 and lost the ball just before he was hit. As your question cleverly suggests, no Ravens player forced the fumble. It was a bad play by Lawrence on multiple levels. He didn't show the situational awareness to know that he wasn't going to scramble for 17 yards and a first down. He should have slid. He should have thrown the ball away. He should have done anything but try for an unattainable first down. That he didn't do these things means he made a bad play. It does not prove one way or the other whether he is a "generational talent."

Dakota from Dupree, SD

Zone, that drop Sunday night really hurt us and I'm not talking about one from the wide receivers or tight ends. It was a huge red-zone turnover. Worst turnover of the season?

I'll assume you're also referencing the first of two fumbles by Lawrence Sunday. Was it the worst turnover of the season? It was up there.

Alex from Jacksonville

Is Trevor returning the golf carts? The offensive line doesn't get any push and can't seem to protect him. The answers don't seem to be in the locker room.

The Jaguars' offensive line for the most part protected Lawrence fine Sunday. The run-blocking wasn't as strong, which too often has been the case this season.

Jaypee from The Vortex

It seems like Trevor is regressing to trying to force too many plays. And those plays are becoming turnovers. Does he just need to settle down? Remember after the London game last season when he realized he wasn't playing well and turned it around? I know it's not all on him, but he seems to be the biggest issue right now.

Lawrence specifically had a rough game Sunday. I don't know that it's fair to say he overall has been the Jaguars' biggest issue over the last few weeks.

James from Socorro, NM

Baltimore wins. Miami wins. Kansas City wins. Cleveland wins. Cincinnati wins. Indianapolis wins. Houston wins. Buffalo wins. Jacksonville loses three straight. Zero points without punting the ball in the first half takes a special kind of ineptitude. Teams that lose and beat themselves while doing it don't belong in the playoffs. The Jaguars have played three playoff teams in a row and lost to all three, so why even bother being in the playoffs if you're going to lose anyway?

It's not great to enter the playoffs cold with a bunch of late losses to contending teams. You know what's worse? Not being in the playoffs.

Josh from New Milford, CT

That was one of the strangest games I can remember the Jags playing. They got blown out, but they were also dominant most of the game. They played like high schoolers and a real NFL team. Lawrence is brilliant and also a problem. What is this team?

It's a team that's capable of winning but that has made too many mistakes in the last three games to do so. When the Jaguars have lost this season, that pretty much has been why. It is defining the season right now. The Jaguars have three weeks to redefine themselves.

Ron from Orlando, FL

Lawrence is singlehandedly killing us. Defense played out of their mind Sunday and Lawrence is just blowing it. Multiple fumbles, one with no contact, poor decision making at the end of the half. This is a recurring theme with him. When does he learn and how can you sign someone to a long-term deal when he continues to make the same mistakes that literally cost the team the game?

Lawrence played poorly Monday, particularly in some big moments – two lost fumbles and a lost opportunity near the goal line at the end of the first half. But the thought here is he was playing very well before a recent high-ankle sprain. He overall has played better this season than last. He has shown significant growth. Where he hasn't shown enough growth is protecting the ball when plays have broken down or when it's time to give up on a play. The thought here is Lawrence's instinct is to try to make a huge play no matter the situation. His football experience before the NFL likely tells him this is possible, and he wants to help his team. There are times in the NFL when you must be smart and make sure you protect the ball – and the team. Lawrence must learn and be better in those moments. Absolutely and without question.

Al from Fruit Cove

John, Trevor deserves credit for playing tough and for playing hurt, but why isn't he playing smart? Why didn't he keep the ball "high and tight" when running in the red zone? Why, when everyone in the stands and at home was screaming "Spike it," did he throw a pass short of the end zone and too far from the sideline? Why won't he just accept a sack instead of putting the ball at risk, resulting in (1) an intentional grounding call, and (2) another fumble? Aren't we getting tired of hearing him say, "I've gotta do better"? Is it possible he just can't do better?

The mistakes you cite are real. They're fixable. He must fix them.