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AFC South could aid recovery

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

Dan MacDonald from Jacksonville:
Please, enough talk about the cap. The NFL owners are like people who have to go to a fat farm to lose weight. The owners have established a self-imposed limit on how much they can spend on players because they know if left on their own they would spend themselves into bankruptcy. The Jaguars are the poster child for the fat farm analogy. The Jags kept amortizing signing bonuses over longer and longer contracts until the Jags hit the max on their credit card. End of story; it is time to pay the bill. I am interested in the players who will be with the Jags next year. My perception is that Danny Clark is a player who will make a contribution this year and next. What is your opinion of Clark and who else do you see on the Jaguars second team who will make a significant contribution either this year or next year?
Vic: Danny Clark is one of them. I'd like to see Aaron Koch play some center. Elvis Joseph appears to have some potential, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. Ryan Prince impressed Mark Brunell during training camp. I thought James Boyd was headed for a starting job and I'd like to see him get some playing time.

David Wielgus from Oviedo, FL:
What is the Jaguars' record with Fred playing vs. not playing?
Vic: The Jaguars are 2-5 the last two seasons without Fred Taylor. The only other time the Jaguars played without either Taylor or James Stewart available, the Jaguars lost in Buffalo, 17-16, in 1998. With Taylor in the lineup the last two seasons, the Jaguars are 7-8.

Nick Joshi from Tampa, FL:
You do a great job. Your thoughts are well regarded by me and by many other Jag fans. I have a question regarding Alltel Stadium. Under the Jaguars' proposed renovation plans, will there be escalators to both upper decks (as their should be), and will a new scoreboard like the ones in Baltimore and Tampa (wide screens) replace the current boards?
Vic: Stadium improvements will include the addition of elevators and escalators throughout the stadium. Current plans do not include scoreboard upgrades, but they are being considered.

Lane Baker from Orlando, FL:
There's a lot of gloom and doom surrounding the Jaguars this season. I don't think most Jacksonville fans understand there are peaks and valleys when you support a team. The fans have been spoiled by a lot of early success. In today's parity-ridden NFL, all it takes to be back on top is a couple of seasons to clear cap space, get some good talent through the draft, and sign a couple of free agents and plug them in where needed. It shouldn't take too long to rebuild and again be a competitor, or am I being too optimistic?
Vic: I don't think you're being unrealistic, but the Jaguars' salary-cap repair won't permit them to sign free agents while they clear the cap. In my opinion, the next two seasons should be dedicated to clearing the cap and re-stocking the roster with solid, young players acquired in the draft. If the Jaguars do that, they'll be on their way to recovery. To their advantage, the AFC South does not appear as though it will be an especially strong division. Tennessee is facing similar cap problems, cap trouble is right around the corner for Indianapolis, and, of course, Houston is an expansion team. A sound and conservative program of recovery could make the Jaguars competitive in the AFC South a lot faster than would be expected if they remained in what is currently the AFC Central.

Corey Downing from Petaluma, CA:
First, I want to thank you, Vic, for your column. I lived in Jacksonville for the Jaguars' first four seasons and I look to you for the hard answers and you never fail to deliver. I am as disappointed as anyone with the way things are currently, but I hold onto the hope that the team's true character will show and the wins will come back. Are there any players in the upcoming draft you believe will make an immediate impact on this team?
I haven't done a lot of homework on the current college crop that might be available next spring, but there are some obvious names that come to mind. Tennessee defensive tackle John Henderson and North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers jump out. Miami offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is another. Of course, the Jaguars would have to be in the top five picks to have a shot at one of those players. Reports are that this is a good year for linemen, especially on defense. Reports are that the running back and linebacker crops are not especially strong. The top 10 picks should offer impact players.

Steve Ducharme from Jacksonville:
You predicted at the start of the season that the Titans would have a big drop-off this year and obviously you were right. I had not paid too much attention to the discussion early on. What were some of the reasons for your prediction and did it play out like you expected it to or did other factors play out (Eddie George injury for example). Love your column and keep up the good work.
Vic: The Titans showed all the signs of a team in decline; salary-cap problems, injuries to star players and desperate personnel decisions. It all began with having to cut nine players on March 1 to get under the cap. One of those players is fullback Lorenzo Neal, who was a major factor in Eddie George's success. Then the Titans lost Denard Walker and Kenny Holmes in free agency. The final sign was the acquisition of Kevin Carter, who the Titans acquired from the Rams for a first-round pick. It was a move that so taxed the Titans' cap that Carter's contract had to be put on temporary hold as the league examined it. All of a sudden, the Titans appeared to have abandoned the logic that had built them into a power; draft and develop. On top of that, George had toe surgery in February and Steve McNair was battling a staph infection in his shoulder that would require surgery. All of the signs were there. It really wasn't a tough call.

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