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A little spice is nice

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Lane from Lake Mary, FL:
I thought you kind of glossed over the Troy Edwards cut. He signed an extension in the offseason and I wanted to ask you how big of a mistake you think that was considering his signing bonus and subsequent cap hit?

Vic: The Jaguars signed Troy Edwards to a two-year contract that included a $500,000 roster bonus that was payable upon signing the deal. They made it roster bonus instead of signing bonus so all of the amortization would pass through this year's salary cap. That means Edwards is a $500,000 "dead money" hit this year. If that leaves you dismayed, then look at it this way: The health and flexibility of the Jaguars' salary cap allowed them to make a roster decision based solely on football information. The team couldn't make those kinds of decisions when it was in salary cap prison. At that time, it was being held hostage by its cap.

William from Jacksonville:
I have forgotten why they narrowed the hash marks so much for the NFL. If they were to spread them out again, how much would the game change?

Vic: The NFL moved the hash marks toward the center of the field for the 1972 season. The intent was to stimulate offense, particularly the passing game. It was thought that moving the hash marks toward the center of the field would give receivers more room to operate. So what happened? An explosion of thousand-yard rushers followed. Thirty-three years later, I don't know what effect moving the hash marks toward the sidelines would have on the game today. If you apply logic, I guess we would have to expect a reduction in thousand-yard rushers.

Josh from Prescott, AR:
How well do you think Matt Jones has fared thus far?

Vic: The Jaguars drafted Matt Jones because they believe he's a playmaker. Through three preseason games – I don't like using preseason games as a measuring stick but that's all we have right now – Jones has been exactly what the Jaguars thought he would be when they drafted him. He has made plays in each of three preseason games. He caught a touchdown pass against Miami, caught a long pass against Tampa and made that one-handed grab on a deep pass against Atlanta. Jack Del Rio cited Jones' improved conditioning recently. I think his route-running shows signs of significant improvement. The really big thing, in my opinion, is that he hasn't had a recurrence of the hamstring problems that plagued him last year and this past spring. I thought that was a major concern. At this point in time, Jones is on course to become a player of major impact for the Jaguars this season.

David from Lighthouse Point, FL:
You've mentioned several times that it's not avoiding blackouts that will ensure the long-term stability of the Jaguars' future in Jacksonville, but rather achieving sellouts consistently, like the Steelers, Giants, Redskins. I think it's much better to compare the Jags with the other Florida franchises, the Dolphins and Bucs. The Dolphins have a blackout or the threat of a blackout consistently. They even had a playoff game blacked out a few years ago. I'm pretty sure the Dolphins don't sell out every game as they very aggressively market multi-game packages and single-game sales. Wouldn't it stabilize the future in Jax for the Jags if they began to consistently avoid blackouts? Consistent sellouts may never materialize in Florida, but both the Dolphins and Bucs are very stable.

Vic: The difference is that Jacksonville doesn't have Miami's and Tampa's market sizes and the revenue streams that go with those market sizes. Here are some brand-new numbers for you: Tampa is the number 12 market in the country with 1.67 million TV households; Miami is 17th with 1.496 million TV homes; Jacksonville is 52nd with 613,000 TV households. When you're a smaller market, you have to over-achieve. That means that ticket sales have to make up for the revenue streams you don't have. Avoiding blackouts is a good thing because it means you've sold tickets to at least the blackout level, which is about 50,000 in Jacksonville. But 50,000 tickets sold isn't going to make this a stable franchise. Financial stability for this franchise is going to be defined by the team's ability to fill the building. That's what it's going to take for the Jaguars to be profitable and anything less than profitable is not stable.

John from Brooklyn, NY:
How much playing time do you think the first units will get in Thursday night's game against the Cowboys?

Vic: A quarter, maybe less.

Patrick from Arlington, VA:
Up here in Redskins territory, the topic du jour is, "Why all the negativity?" Ditto for down there, but at least you're helping to keep much of people's negativity in check. Now for a bigger concern: With Troy Edwards going to the Titans, how much of a danger is that to the Jags' playbook?

Vic: If Seattle had claimed Troy Edwards, that would've been a problem because Edwards would've spilled his guts and canceled a degree of the Jaguars' strategic advantage. Carl Smith's playbook is all new and Jaguars opponents, especially those early in the season, have no information on what the Jaguars will do according to formation. That's how defenses prepare for an opponent, according to formation. The Jaguars don't face the Titans for the first time this season until Nov. 20. The Titans will certainly seek information on the Jaguars from Edwards, but by that point in the year they will have been able to gather plenty of information on their own.

Marquis from Little Rock, AR:
Let me start off by saying that I've been a fan since the inaugural season. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon because Jacksonville took our hometown hero, Matt Jones, in the first round, although that fact gives me even more of a reason to be a fan. That leads me right to my question. After getting to watch several preseason games, I've seen some pretty impressive rookies. The ones that come to mind are, of course, Matt Jones, Scott Starks, Chad Owens and Alvin Pearman. Which of these young men do you see making a surprise impact for the Jags?

Vic: Whatever impact Matt Jones makes won't qualify as a surprise. He is the most hyped rookie, by far, in Jaguars history. After months of fan demands that he play wide receiver, tight end, H-back, quarterback, running back and kick-returner, I don't think Jones could do anything that might qualify as a surprise. Scott Starks is the player I picked before training camp began to be the team's surprise rookie. I believed Starks would win the starting right cornerback job. He hasn't, of course, which will obviously diminish his impact potential. I'm inclined now to think Alvin Pearman could be that guy. Pearman has really impressed me as a pass-receiver and as a runner. It was obvious from the start that Pearman has exceptional pass-catching ability, but his abilities as a runner didn't surface completely until live action in the preseason. I was really impressed by a run Pearman made against the Falcons. He darted to the outside with a quick inside-out move, got to the sideline and then finished the run by dropping his shoulder on a tackler. I had a scout compare Pearman to Priest Holmes, but I can't help but be reminded of an underrated guy from long ago, James Brooks. I don't think Pearman will put up Brooks-like numbers, but I think Pearman has Brooks-like all-around abilities.

Chris from Little Rock, AR:
I come home every night and the Jags site is always my first stop. I followed Byron through most of last season and was entirely impressed with his toughness and commitment. The defense is top-notch and I just wanted to say I enjoyed your commentary throughout training camp. My only question would be why would you be so harsh on people outside the Jacksonville area on their questions or comments? I understand you see a lot of the same inquiries, but I know I really enjoy your team's play and I wish them success.

Vic: There are a couple of different theories on this. First, there's the theory shared by those in my family, who would tell you that I'm a grumpy old man who looks for things to complain about and isn't happy unless he's watching football, playing golf or asleep. I reject that theory. Then there's the theory that's been advanced by angry "Ask Vic" types, who have labeled me a bitter old man who never played the game and is jealous of the money the players make. I reject that theory, too. Then there's my theory, that this is a column that gets a lot more readers every day than it gets questions, which means that you are merely assisting me in my responsibility to inform and entertain those readers. In my attempts to do that, I will, from time to time, add a little spice to the column. That's the theory to which I ascribe.

Steve from Leeds, England:
Great column! I am relativity new to the great game of American footy and just wandered if you could explain the blackout rule, as it is the one thing that completely confuses me. Cheers!

Vic: Pick any theory you like, Steve.

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