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O-Zone: True professionals

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … John from Jacksonville:
Why do you have to run to open up the passing game? Why can't you pass to open up the run game? I notice with the Jags when we pass and get a couple of completions – then run the ball – the run goes for at least five every time! Tom Brady is excellent at this! Every running back that plays behind Brady is successful. I feel like we can definitely be like this! With a slinger like Blake Bortles and the receiving corps, that can top the league!
John: Your enthusiasm oozes through each sentence; perhaps it's the exclamation points!!!! Whatever, this indeed seems to be an approach the Jaguars need to try – and I do believe there's a chance they will start trying it soon. It's apparent what they have tried thus far this season hasn't worked nearly consistently enough. Remember, though: there are inherent risks in the approach. Opening up the run game with the pass is difficult when your quarterback is playing inconsistently. That's because the pass needs to work if it is to set up the run. An argument could be made that Bortles hasn't been consistent this season. Another argument could be made that he's more consistent when playing up-tempo and passing first. I get the idea we'll get a chance soon to figure out which argument is correct.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Hi, John. I read that Gus, in searching for the reasons we're having trouble running the ball, mentioned "too complicated." I've kinda wondered the same thing. If the talent level is there, then is it the "scheme?" If that's it, can they realistically make the changes or is that too hard/too much to accomplish before Sunday?
John: The Jaguars' offensive coaches' task this week is to answer this question. I expect the Jaguars indeed will simplify the running offense – blocking schemes, plays, etc. Simplifying is often the most effective means for an NFL team to "fix" issues midseason: scale back the amount of things you're doing, scale back whatever complexity is there – and thereby allow players to play as hard, fast and efficiently as possible. It's not so much changing a scheme as making what you do within your scheme as simple to execute as possible.
David from Ormond Beach, FL:
I know fans will fan, but we are 2-3 with a chance to pull even at home against a West Coast team flying cross country. I know there is a lot to correct, especially on offense, but who would have thought we would have this opportunity three weeks ago? I guess I am a glass-half-full kind of guy, which means I live on a lonely island by myself.
John: That's the most striking thing about this week – that the Jaguars with a victory can cast an entirely new light on this season. Their current two-game winning streak almost doesn't feel like a winning streak – mostly because of how poorly the offense played until the fourth quarter of the Bears game. The Raiders are 4-2 and in first place in the AFC West. They're a good team. The Jaguars haven't beaten a team as good as the Raiders in a long while. Here's guessing that if the Jaguars win Sunday the three-game winning streak will feel like … a three-game winning streak.
Nicholas from Jacksonville:
When a team is trying to run the clock out like Jacksonville did last week, would it be fair to expect a quarterback or running back to deliberately lose significant yardage if it ensured enough time ran out to avoid having to do an additional run play? I rather take two knees and one running play versus two running plays where a tackle is involved. Or are stats too important?
John: Yes, teams would gladly take the loss of yardage to drain the clock. You almost always would ask the quarterback to do it – not so much because of statistics, but because you don't want to risk a fumble on the hand-off.
Marc from US Assure Club:
How involved is Gus Bradley regarding offensive play-calling? Does he leave it to Greg Olson 100 percent, or delegate some to Doug Marrone because he is the assistant head coach offense – or does he help with the game plan and occasionally pull Oley aside during a game to say, "Let's pass it here on first down?"
John: Greg Olson calls the plays on Sundays, with Bradley and the offensive coaching staff having input regarding the game plan throughout the week. During games, Bradley often will let Olson know essentially what he wants in a given situation – run, deep pass, etc. – after which Olson calls the specific play.
Taylor from Maryland:
I'm sure you have gotten plenty of questions regarding Greg Olson and his mediocrity as an offensive coordinator this season, but honestly what can we expect when Gus fired the 31st-ranked offensive coordinator in Jedd Fisch and hired the 32nd-ranked offensive coordinator in Olson? Derek Carr had a decent season with Olson and they still fired him. The Raiders saw something that Gus missed – namely that Olson is and has always been a bad offensive coordinator. You can't stop being a mediocre team if you have mediocre coaches. Knowing that Gus is a defensive-minded coach, we should have had accomplished, veteran offensive coordinators all throughout Gus' tenure. That is a failure on Gus' part and on David Caldwell's to be honest.
John: I've gotten a lot of questions about Olson this season because the Jaguars are struggling offensively. I didn't get a lot of questions about this last year when the Jaguars' offense wasn't struggling nearly as much. Olson was the coordinator both seasons. I Googled it.
Bob from St. Augustine, FL:
Offensive line. This has been a big problem, yet Doug Marrone is supposed to be an ace in this area so why is he not effective?
John: Because coaching never has solved everything and never will. As far as Marrone, the offensive line has struggled to run block, but has pass-protected far better than it did last season. I'm fine with criticizing coaching since it seems from perusing this inbox that it is to blame for everything that ever has gone wrong within the Jacksonville city limits, but if we're going to blame Marrone for the run blocking, then let's credit him for the pass protection, too.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
It's mathematically possibly for a 3-13 team to make the playoffs over a 13-3 team.
John: Yes.
Adrian from El Paso, TX:
I remember reading in Gus' first couple of years that he wants to simplify the defense. I feel like that was for a giant reason that doesn't make sense anymore in Year 3: They knew the rebuild was going to be tough so bringing in rookies and free agents was already going to be tough without a complicated scheme on both sides of the ball. Am I close on this line of thinking? Is that normal for teams doing a massive overhaul? But mainly, is this "simplicity" something that's a permanent thing? I don't remember Seattle's defense under Gus being so predictable is why I ask. You da best!
John: The Jaguars' defensive scheme is at its core relatively simple; you ideally want to pressure with four and play coverage with seven behind it. At the same time, remember: while Bradley indeed is in his fourth season as head coach, this defense was dramatically rebuilt in the offseason with three key unrestricted free agents and five first-year players playing major roles. If it's a little simpler than the scheme Seattle plays, then that newness is a legitimate reason.
Joseph from Sacramento, CA:
Yes this offense has more weapons but I don't think that's necessarily a good thing because it seems Bortles is struggling trying to use all of his weapons. It's just funny how the offense was somewhat better when it was mostly Hurns and Robinson as the focal points.
John: The Jaguars have a lot of talented offensive skill players. They do not have "too many" good offensive skill players. This is not a "thing."
Damian from Appleton, WI:
What is your opinion on the defense so far? I would say they have been good enough to keep the Jags in games, they are just not turnover machines yet.
John: You're correct, and that's partly because while the pass rush has been improved it isn't yet a dominant force. The better the pass rush the more turnovers a team typically creates because that's where disruption, fumbles and tipped/errant passes originate.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
If you had to start a franchise who would you pick, Bortles or Carr?
John: I've watched Bortles far more than Carr. Ask me after Sunday.
Andrew from Appleton, WI:
After watching Odell Beckham Jr. this past season, how would you rate the professionalism of Sully's WR corps?
John: Off the charts. That answer has nothing to do with Odell Beckham Jr. and everything to do with the professionalism of the Jaguars' receiving corps, which – particularly considering the youth of the group – is extraordinarily high.

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