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2003? Let's focus on '02

Join Jaguars Inside Report Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Keith from Jacksonville:
I love the give and take between you and Jeff (Lageman) on "Jaguars This Week." I am pretty much writing the Jags off as a 6-10 or 7-9 team this year, however, with the addition of Henderson, Pearson, Ayodele, Naeole and the continued improvement of Slaughter, Mack, Thomas, Craft and Stroud, I honestly am excited about our 2003 prospects. Barring major injuries or a bad 2003 draft, I think the Jags are a legitimate playoff contender next year as the team gets chemistry and experience under them. Is that far-fetched?

Vic: To be looking ahead to 2003 after week one of the 2002 season is very far-fetched. I've heard a lot of good things about heaven, too, but I'm not looking forward to it.

Fred from Jacksonville:
After watching the game against the Colts, is it not time to put Tony Brackens on the injured reserve list and find a vet who has one year in him?

Vic: The size of Tony Brackens' salary, most of which was converted to bonus last March, makes it understandable why the Jaguars are reluctant to give up on Brackens this early in the season. However, in my opinion, it's very important that whatever is wrong with Brackens' knee is fixed soon enough to allow him a full recovery before next spring's mini-camp. The Jaguars absolutely must know the prospects of Brackens' return to full health prior to next summer, because critical decisions must be made about his future with the team. His salary is scheduled to dramatically increase next season. I'm inclined to agree with you.

Sharon from Port Charlotte, FL:
I couldn't watch the first game, due to television showing other games, but I did see the stats. I feel better about our Jags. What did you see that was positive and negative in game one against a team that may be considered a Super Bowl contender?

Vic: The Jaguars were very efficient on offense. I especially liked their 17-play touchdown drive in the first half. It included nine consecutive running plays, which might be a Jaguars record. My main concern about the offense is the lack of big pass plays. The deep ball has been missing for more than a year. Defensively, we must remember to what degree the salary cap ravaged the starting lineup. I could point to several failures to stop the Colts at critical times in the game, but we're going to have to be patient with a unit that is clearly rebuilding its ranks. On special teams, Chris Hanson punted well and rookie kicker Hayden Epstein's kickoffs were non-returnable. His leg strength is worth keeping, even if his field goal accuracy is not acceptable. There were enough positives in Sunday's game to satisfy me, and I am not easily satisfied.

Tim from Jacksonville:
Last year the Jaguars started rookie Maurice Williams at right tackle immediately, and while the early reviews weren't stellar, he improved greatly during the course of the season. Part of the reason he developed the way he did was because they took some of the pressure off him by sliding a tight end to the right side of the line to assist with blocking. Why aren't the Jaguars doing the same thing with Mike Pearson?

Vic: Trust the coaches on this one. They'll play Mike Pearson when they decide Pearson is ready to play. They didn't draft him in the second round to sit the bench.

Josh from Glynn County, GA:
I thought T.J. Slaughter's suspension was too harsh. What is your opinion?

Vic: Josh, that's the rule. I encourage you not to take steroids use lightly. This is a serious matter that directly affects the well-being of the players now and, even more importantly, after their careers are over. The league and the players association are responsible for protecting these players from the natural hazards of the game, and steroids use is clearly one of those hazards. If it were up to me, policing steroids use and punishing its offenders would be far more rigorous than the current NFL policy allows. Our entertainment is not worth their lives.

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