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O-Zone: Toll taken

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Thomas from Blacksburg, VA

Is it fair to question whether two bargain-bin free agents really would have made that much of a difference to this defense?

I assume you're referencing Rodney Gunter and Al Woods, interior defensive linemen who signed with the Jaguars as unrestricted free agents this past offseason. Gunter retired just before the season because of health issues and Woods opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19. Yes, it's absolutely fair to wonder how much difference the players would have made for the Jaguars' defense this season. Still, the two were stout against the run – and that's where the fundamental problems with the defense begin. When you lack stamina and stoutness against the run, you have to commit other personnel to that. And because the Jaguars' interior defense gets little-to-no interior pass-rush push, it further limits a pass rush that already struggles off the edge. I don't think anyone inside or outside the Jaguars believe they would be a dominant defense with Gunter and Woods. But did the loss of the two hurt the defense? And has their absence contributed to the 1-6 record? Sure.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey, John … referring to a question regarding Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton. In my opinion, there is no way no matter how good Luton should be the rest of the season that the Jags don't draft a quarterback next year. Gardner Minshew II had a couple good games last year and some wins, but that doesn't work out, either. I don't believe the Jags will risk that for a sixth-round pick again. But I truly hope Luton is a capable backup. What say you?

I say it's very, very, very – did I say "very?" – likely the Jaguars select a quarterback with their first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. The reason I don't say the Jaguars absolutely will do so is you learn early in journalism that there are very few absolutes – and you learn that covering the NFL, too. As was the case entering the 2020 season with Minshew, there certainly is a scenario in which Luton could control his destiny on this front. That scenario would be him looking like an All-Pro, elite quarterback beginning with his first game and leading the Jaguars to seven or eight – or perhaps even nine – victories against a brutally difficult schedule. Luton also would be doing this with a struggling defense. That's admittedly a fantastical scenario that would be written about for years. Barring such a story, it's extremely unlikely that Luton in the final nine games of the season plays the Jaguars out of a top pick in the '21 draft, a selection the Jaguars almost certainly would use to select the best quarterback available.

Chris from Vienna, Austria

Is the thumb injury the attempt to put Gardner on the bench with little attention?

No, the thumb injury is a legitimate injury that Minshew perhaps should have reported in the middle of October rather than late October.

Lot J from Lot J

Lot J?

You are very important to the Jaguars' long-term stability in Jacksonville. Do you have a question?

Dave from NK, RI

John, As the jags come out of the bye week and with the record they have, what are the biggest stories to watch the rest of the season, for you?

The development of pass rushers K'Lavon Chaisson and Josh Allen. The development of wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. The development of cornerback CJ Henderson. The development of Luton.

Hunter from New Hampshire

I play as the Jags in Madden Mobile, the full current team with whatever IR/Covid/trades happen. Oh … and I'm using 67 overall Jake Luton at quarterback. Beating teams WAY better than mine, wish it would become reality... :(

You keep being you. And keep us updated.

Steve from Wallingford, UK

I mean, the entire fan base saw what we had in Allen Robinson. Why didn't we re-sign him again?

Wide receiver Allen Robinson was a tricky re-signing for the Jaguars in the 2018 offseason for multiple reasons. One is he was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him pretty much the entire 2017 season; that was a big reason the Jaguars didn't use the franchise tag on him in 2018 – because a player coming off an ACL typically takes a big portion of the next season getting back to full health. The trickiest part was what Robinson wanted on the open market compared to his worth. The Jaguars didn't consider him a "true No. 1 receiver" on the level of the NFL's best receivers – i.e., a player for whom defenses had to game plan and a player whose presence dictated coverages. His production, remember, had dropped from an 80-yard, 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown performance in 2015 to 883 yards and six touchdowns the following season – numbers undoubtedly influenced by the struggles of quarterback Blake Bortles that season. Is Robinson a true No. 1, game-changing receiver? That can be debated. He hasn't proven that to be the case with the Chicago Bears. But no question the Jaguars would have been better at times in 2018 and 2019 had they found a way to re-sign Robinson. That's absolutely a fair point.

Gregg from Jacksonville

#jayglutenisfree Should make this a more interesting week...


Dave from Dallas, TX

Hey Mr. O: "I think there's very good chance of getting a very good quarterback selecting in the Top 3." Remember the last time we thought that? I'm still reading and enjoying your column daily, so thanks for your resilience. And y'all a funny dude. keep it up.

I don't remember when we thought that. But I am a funny dude.

Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL

If we end up with the fifth pick and have to settle for the fifth-best quarterback, I still say we take him. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson were taken waaay later than pick five and in retrospect could have been taken that high. It's all about quarterback and we get one no matter what. Thoughts?

I think it's wise to know the identity of the fifth-best quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft before committing to making in the foundation of the franchise. And while Allen and Jackson indeed appear to be elite-level quarterbacks, that's not guaranteed for all mid-to-late first-round quarterbacks. But in theory … yes, no doubt. The Jaguars must get a quarterback this offseason and they must do what it takes to get one.

Micah from Chicago, FL

John, I'm always intrigued by players that did well on one team but not on others. Reggie Nelson, bad for Jags, good for Bengals. Cornerback Sidney Jones IV, too early to tell but so far better with us than the Eagles. Then take Head Coach Mike Tomlin coaching wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell in Pittsburgh, two players who have yet to get into grooves with other teams. Is this all on coaching? Is it an issue with individual players?

Sometimes players achieve with one team and not with another because of system fit. Sometimes they mature and approach the game differently. Sometimes they're with a better team that puts them in better situations to succeed. Sometimes players are playing with a better quarterback, which makes everything around them better.

Terry from Cordele, GA

Ok, since you "lean far more toward the player either having it or not than coaches having the ability to make so-so players great," what would be the percentages that each area would have on the success of a team: Coaches (percentage?), players (percentage?), game plan (percentage?)?

Coaches … 12.78 percent, players 75 percent with 62.3 percent of that being the quarterback, game plan 12.22 percent. Or so.

Bob from Sumter, SC

One fer hoping Luton doesn't poop the bed.

Well, yeah … absolutely one fer that.

James from Salt Lake City via Jacksonville

O-man, I know Jacksonville has never really had a great quarterback since Mark Brunell. But do you consider him elite? He is the closest to elite we've ever seen here.

I don't believe Brunell was elite when he played, but I think he was a very good player who meant a lot to a lot of very good teams.

Stebo from Duuval

The first thing I read in an article on this afternoon, the headline of an article: "He doesn't act like a rookie." I immediately think, Oh NO please don't be talking about Luton! Sure enough... *extremely overdramatic eye-roll* We don't need this kind of false hope. He IS a rookie, let's just expect him to play like a rookie. And it's OK if he ACTS like a rookie. WTF Doug?!? I know you didn't say it, he did, but... Sheesh! I'm having a hard enough time this season. Sorry to vent Zone, but it seemed all too predictable.

One and six apparently has gotten the better of Stebo.