O-Zone: The way it is

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Aqeel from Toronto, Canada

From the Houston-versus-Jaguars game to weekend games to Monday’s game, I have no idea what “in the grasp” is anymore. From the roughing-the-passer calls on sacks to lack of whistles when the quarterback is grabbed by three players and being driven to the ground, it is becoming more and more confusing and changing the outcome or momentum of games.

This is true – though it’s equally true that when to call roughing, and when and how much to protect quarterbacks, long has been one of the trickier areas of the NFL to officiate. I first noticed it again as a major issue at the same time many Jaguars fans probably began noticing it again: when the Jaguars played the Texans in London 10 days ago. While Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was otherworldly good at escaping pressure that day, he also made multiple plays after seemingly being “in the grasp” of a defender by NFL rules. It was easy to argue that day that had the Jaguars hit Watson while he was trying to escape the grasp, they might have been in danger of drawing unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties. Watson’s far from the only quarterback whose mobility and escapability make this an issue; as the game veers more toward this style with quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, etc., the league will have to continue to clarify this rule. You don’t want to curtail these stars’ playmaking ability, but you must provide clarity for defenders and provide the ability for those quarterbacks to be tackled. Or maybe you don’t. We’ll see.

Tim from Peoria, IL

John, those Salute to Service practice uniforms are amazing. Would the league allow teams to officially wear something like that for a game?

You’re referencing the Salute to Service practice uniforms the Jaguars are wearing this week. Those were designed and developed by the Jaguars’ equipment staff, and they are cool. Because the league must pre-approve uniforms, the Jaguars couldn’t wear them in a game this season.

Sam from Winter Park, FL

Bold to compare Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Mahomes is 15-to-20 pounds heavier with an identical 40 time to Minshew and probably four inches taller. Mahomes has also elite arm talent. Not only can he throw it harder than just about anybody, he can release from a variety of release points. He has shown that. Minshew has shown he can excel in the proper circumstances. I think Gardner Elizabeth Minshew starts again. But he is in, no way comparable to Patrick Mahomes.

Did someone do this?

John from Cape May Courthouse

"But when you’re assessing what’s going on with the team now, it’s only fair to acknowledge there has been as much success as failure under the current leadership." I laughed at this. Loudly.

I haven’t the foggiest idea why. When you consider that the current leadership took over for the 2017 season, the franchise by any measure has been successful during that tenure as often as not. The Jaguars made the AFC Championship Game following the 2017 season and finished last the following season. They currently are 4-5 without their starting quarterback in the regime’s third season. Laugh if you want, but the Jaguars have had as much success as failure during that span. This not a debate. Or opinion. It’s fact.

Chris from Nashville, TN

In response to your response: "The regime has drafted comparatively well in the last three offseasons." Compared to what? The previous three before that? When the bar is set that low, every pick seems like a home run. I see a regime that got lucky that several "no-brainer" draft picks fell to them (i.e. Jalen Ramsey, Josh Allen), and stretched to draft several players that have yet to consistently perform at a high level (Leonard Fournette, Taven Bryan). I guess this point will be revisited in the coming years, and you are correct that no one knows what the future holds. Tickle me pink if the Jags can retain some talent and figure out a way to win with it, and, heaven forbid, this front office.

People are struggling with objectivity and facts today. The Jaguars in the past three offseasons have drafted running back Leonard Fournette (the AFC’s third-leading rusher), wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (six touchdown receptions through nine games this season), wide receiver Dede Westbrook, defensive tackle Taven Bryan (improving), edge rusher Josh Allen (seven sacks through nine games), safety Ronnie Harrison, right tackle Jawaan Taylor, left tackle Cam Robinson, Minshew, linebacker Quincy Williams and linebacker Leon Jacobs. This in addition to drafting cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in the 2016 NFL Draft. Not all of the aforementioned players are destined for the Pro Bowl, but are they drafting comparatively well lately? I would say it’s hard to objectively argue otherwise.

David from Chuluota, FL

O-Zone - Is there research that shows whether most quarterback injuries occur inside or outside the pocket? Conventional wisdom says that pocket passers generally have longer careers, but do we really know this? There have been a lot of rule changes designed to protect the quarterback. Defenders can’t hit quarterbacks high or low or touch the helmet or face mask. There’s no landing on a quarterback with your body weight. Not to mention, the slide rule, which allows the quarterback to sustain drives with their legs, but not take the punishment. With all these rule changes, it seems that a running quarterback might have a better chance to stay healthy than ever before. Besides, it’s not as if pocket passers are in a cone of safety. Do you think we could be witnessing the evolution and elevation of the running quarterback, with quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson representing that change?

I know of no pertinent research, but logic and common sense tells you pocket passers have longer careers than quarterbacks who depend on their legs for success. It’s not just about specific injuries or even the unusual toll getting hit while running takes on the body; it also has to do with the natural aging/slowing process. A quarterback such as Tom Brady/Aaron Rodgers/Drew Brees can and are currently playing deep into the 30s and early 40s because they don’t depend on their legs for their success. Even if mobile quarterbacks avoid major hits and injuries, it’s a stretch to think they will be able to use their legs/mobility to succeed as long as a quarterback who stands in the pocket and distributes the ball as opposed to running out of trouble. That’s not to say the mobile quarterback isn’t changing the game, and it’s not to say mobile quarterbacks winning Super Bowls will continue to be outliers, but it’s just not reasonable to think they’re going to have the two-decade-long careers of pocket passers.

Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville

If/when they decide to build a new stadium, does the development of the riverbank mean it would have to be where the current stadium is? It would appear so but is there a possibility where they could build the stadium in another location say like St. Johns or North Duval near the airport?

This is barely even in the discussion stages – if indeed it is in any stage at all – but my sense is a major renovation is more likely than a new stadium in Jacksonville. If a new stadium does become a thing in the next decade or so, I would expect it to be in downtown Jacksonville. The Jaguars long have discussed the importance of downtown Jacksonville to the franchise, and I wouldn’t expect that to change.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

I am probably wrong, and hope it isn't even worth thought, but I think this could be a make or break game for some front office personnel. If they come out flat and get rolled by Indy, someone will get fired.

Go with your first thought.

Stormy from Wyoming

I just read your interview with Colts beat writer Mike Chappell and I am a bit concerned. Just the way he described how the Colts like to do short passes for high efficiency with quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Would you say that is a weakness of the Jaguars’ defense? Will the pass rush be able to develop? Can we even stop the run?

The way you stop offenses that like to run and throw short passes with high efficiency is to stop the run and force them to throw in more obvious passing situations – i.e., second-and-long and third-and-7 or longer. The Jaguars with their linebackers healthy should be able to stop the run more consistently than they did in the first half of the season. That will be a key Sunday.

Bill from Ponte Vedra, FL

All Jags fans should root against the Los Angeles Rams, not because of Jalen Ramsey but because we have their first-round draft picks for two years. I hope they lose every game.

Well, yeah.

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