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O-Zone: Weighing in

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Zac from Austin, TX

You've always said that the worst NFL team would absolutely beat the best NCAA team. Well, going off what percentage of our team are rookies and fresh college kids - this is the closest to that experiment we will ever be.

Not really. The 2013 and 2014 Jaguars teams from a talent level weren't on par with this team. Remember, too: The Jaguars' offensive line is an experienced group that starts a fourth-year veteran, two seventh-year veterans and a sixth-year veteran. For that reason alone, this Jaguars team would overwhelm any college team. This team also has a slew of players – linebacker Myles Jack, center Brandon Linder, guard Andrew Norwell, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., right tackle Jawaan Taylor, left tackle Cam Robinson, linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive end Josh Allen – who are among many players notably well ahead physically and mentally of most NFL rookies. But I'm too far into the weeds on this – and as always, it's a silly conversation. The worst NFL team would beat the best college team. Every time. The score would be whatever the NFL team wanted to score versus whatever the NFL team wanted to allow the NCAA team to score.

Derek from Brookings, SD

Hey, Zone: Knowing defenses may now try to play soft zones against Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, how would you combat this as both the quarterback and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden? Granted, the running game will definitely help out, but is there a way to overcome the lack of arm strength that may be needed to get passes into the tight windows against that type of coverage?

You beat soft zone by throwing with velocity into tight windows, throwing underneath – or by using play action to draw defenses in and get receivers deep down the sidelines or the middle of the field. The primary way you beat soft zone is by stepping up in the pocket strongly and completing passes to receivers in the seams in the secondary. It's why arm strength and ability to read defenses in the middle of the field matters. The quarterback at some point must make the throws.

Andy from St. Augustine, FL

Any thoughts as to why the Jags haven't waived defensive tackle Taven Bryon?

The team is better with him than without.

Jordan from Jacksonville

Zone, I didn't love Brian Sexton's "hot take" during Monday's Drive Time on Minshew's perceived inability to elevate no-name players Minshew spread the wealth to multiple receivers, running backs, and tight ends during the first two games. Also, Chark was not a Pro Bowl wide receiver WR before Minshew got in the lineup, and it seems as if we're seeing the return of flashy Keelan Cole with Minshew under center. And based on your initial response to the take, you seemed to disagree with Sexton as well. I guess my question is ... isn't Minshew clearly capable of elevating this roster, or am I just being overly defensive of our super-likable quarterback?

I don't know that I disagreed that strongly. Minshew has looked good at times as Jaguars quarterback and he has struggled at other times. The ratio is close to even. Is he capable of elevating this roster? Perhaps. Is he clearly capable of elevating this roster? No. The reality is Minshew is not clearly anything yet. He's not even clearly the Jaguars' quarterback of the future. That's what's being determined this season, but it's hardly determined yet.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey John, I don't think it's always coaching, but for me it's just hard to believe that defensive coordinator Todd Wash is maximizing the defensive player's talent. The talent on the offensive side is not better than last year, but with the new coach and scheme they are just better. I know you like Todd, but I have the feeling they could be better defensively with a new scheme.


Ken from Jacksonville

Based on the performance of Nick Foles on Sunday can we just admit Jaguars management is galacticly incompetent?

For signing him as an unrestricted free agent in the 2019 offseason or for trading him in the 2020 offseason?

Robert from St. Augustine, FL

If the Jags suffer another "ugly" loss in Cincinnati, I would describe Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell as two lobsters sitting on a counter staring at a pot of boiling hot water waiting for the "Hands of Khan" to throw them in to seal their fate.

Would you?

Keith from Jacksonville

Dr. Zone: What I don't understand is how the defense can be this bad when they have drafted three first-round players on defense the last two years. The defense has looked worse than some of the statistics indicate. I know they are young blah, blah, blah – but c'mon they got some good fast talent there. To me, they just aren't being creative enough. Doesn't make sense. It all points to the coaching/coordinator. What say you?

The Jaguars do have some good, fast talent on defense. What they may not have is enough good, fast talent on defense. It doesn't yet appear they have enough good, fast – experienced talent – in the secondary. Or enough good, strong experienced talent on the defensive interior. That's not saying they don't have some. The question is whether they have enough. As far as it all "pointing to coaching/coordinator…" I supposed I'm reaching – or have reached the point – that I can't stomach saying the same thing about this every day. Coaching matters in the NFL – to an extent. Defensive coordinators matter – to an extent. But I've seen too many good coaches get fired and move on to have success with other teams to believe coordinators can make good players bad or bad players good by waving some sort of magic wand in one direction or the other – or to believe a good coordinator suddenly becomes a bad coordinator in a year's time. Either way, people are going to "point" where they want to point – and when teams struggle, fans are going to point at coaching. It's professional football. Players play and coaches coach, and coaches don't miss tackles or assignments. When players don't do things they're coached to do in practice … sure, that's coaching. Because it's always coaching in the NFL.

Leon from Austin, TX

Zone: With all the injuries, bad play at safety position why not bring Earl Thomas for a visit? Better Jaguars than another division opponent like Texans.

The Texans moved on from their interest without signing Thomas because they reportedly didn't believe he was a good fit. Charles Robinson, a well-respected NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports, wrote here that the Dallas Cowboys opted to not pursue Thomas because of a combination of locker-room chemistry, questionable off-field reliability and equally questionable on-field reliability. Those are a lot of questions.

David from Ada, OK

I have a hard time evaluating middle linebackers, but I would rate ours as roughly average. How would you rate Joe Schobert?

Schobert, who signed with the Jaguars this offseason as an unrestricted free agent from the Cleveland Browns, has been OK for the most part. He appears to have missed a tackle or two and been slow in pursuit on a couple of plays – but he has been good overall. The Jaguars' run defense has been better through three games compared to last season, allowing fewer breakout plays. Schobert's presence, and the move of Jack to the outside, deserves some credit in that area.

Brian from Cranford, NJ

In response to everyone blaming Wash for all of the defensive miscues, maybe the simple fact of the matter is the players on the defensive side of the ball – particularly in the secondary – just aren't very good. That's not a knock on the players in a general sense, but when the defense is being picked apart the way that it has, could it be that the players are just not good enough? That would explain much of what is ailing this defense right now.

It's certainly possible. Stay tuned.

Terry from Cordele, GA

I know we can and should say that our defense is young and we have few "veteran' core players. You mentioned Myles Jack recently as one. So, my question is: With all the turnover and disfunction (as some would say) on this team over the last several years, does it not possibly stunt the growth of even a veteran player like Jack? Even as a veteran, could it be that his growth is behind as well?

It's a legitimate theory, but I don't see Jack's growth as being behind. If he struggled last season, it was largely because of trying to make up for inexperience around him – and because of the knee injury that eventually cost him the final five games of the season. He is playing well this season.

Jerell from Columbia, SC

I don't think Jags win another game this year. I think they will be competitive but not win.