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Another good year for tackles

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

Kelvin from Warwick, UK:
Would you expect the Jags to add talent for the interior of the offensive line in the offseason? Are there any standout guys suspected of being first-round candidates that you are aware of?

Vic: This is another good year for tackles. I would expect no fewer than six tackles to be drafted in the first round. The guard and center crops aren't as strong. I have no doubt the Jaguars would like to address the interior of their offensive line, especially the center position. It's all a matter of where the Jaguars are in the order. The tenth or 11th spots would appear to be too high for a guard or center. It would be more realistic for a guard or center to be at the top of the Jaguars' board in one of the later rounds.

Blake from Jacksonville:
An article from ESPN quotes Timmy as saying, "I've never been asked to shorten or quicken my release and not have a loop in it." He's waiting to throw on his pro day so he has more time to adjust his delivery. I can't help but think of Leftwich every time this is brought up, but do you think he has sufficient time to show an improvement in his delivery?

Vic: If he had read "Ask Vic," he would've known he had over-stride and under-and-up issues as early as three years ago. This is, yet, another reason to read "Ask Vic." I also predicted he wouldn't throw at the combine. This will give him an extra few weeks to fix everything.

Stephen from Jacksonville:
Did you watch any of the USA-Canada hockey game on Sunday night?

Vic: Yes, I did watch it, and I thought the final-minutes assault on Ryan Miller and the way Miller repeatedly said no was some of the most exciting sports action I have witnessed. That was great stuff. The better team did not win, and there's nothing wrong with that. Hockey is sensational. The pace at which they play in the Olympics was nearly too fast to follow.

Ben from Cape Coral, FL:
Going back three years, after our underachieving 8-8 record in 2006, we bounce back to go 11-5 in 2007 and make the playoffs, probably should have went to the Super Bowl had it not been for two dropped passes against the Pats that year. This year, coming off a 7-9 year and a similar free fall to miss the playoffs like in '06, can we be safe to say with a good draft and with a lot of rookies getting valuable time last year that this current team, if healthy, can take the next step and put on a performance like the '07 team?

Vic: You're not going to stop until I say yes, are you? You want the lie, don't you? I'm sorry, I just don't see it. What I see is another step toward recovery. What I see is a team that should be improved next season and that means being a playoff contender, but I don't consider the Super Bowl to be a realistic expectation. The goal? Sure, but not the expectation. I don't understand why fans want to delude themselves. What benefit is there in promoting disappointment?

Caleb from New Prague, MN:
Why even bother with the combine? Scouting of players should be done by watching them play football, not how fast they are or how many bench-press reps they can do. I would rather have the football player than the workout freak.

Vic: I agree with you, but you're probably not aware of the history of the combine. The whole intent of the combine was to bring prospects to a central location for the purpose of conducting physical exams. The teams wanted to make sure they weren't drafting guys who were medical rejects. For example, I've told the story of interviewing a rookie upon his arrival at training camp in 1972. He was a fourth-round pick and I saw that he was missing a couple of fingers. When I asked the personnel director about the missing fingers, he said, "What missing fingers?" So somebody had the bright idea of assembling the prospects for the docs and trainers to examine, and then somebody figured that since the prospects were already there, why not ask them to run and jump a little? Then they asked them if they'd run around cones, and then they asked them to diagram a few plays, and then "NFL Network" came along and said they could put it on TV and people would watch, and they did. That's the craziest part about it all. People actually watch.

Joe from Orlando, FL:
Vic, a quote from the latest ESPN Magazine article on the CBA and loss of the salary cap reads: "Fans should be less worried about the Patriots becoming the Yankees than the Jaguars becoming the Royals." Do you agree or does ESPN greatly overvalue free agency in the NFL?

Vic: I disagree that football would suffer a baseball-like lack of competitive balance in a non-salary cap system. The cap has been dead since the current CBA was instituted in 2006 and three of the four Super Bowls since then have been won by small-market franchises. I don't think football bears any comparison to baseball and the reason is that the pool of football talent in America is deep and rich. It is an easily-identified, accessed and ready-made pool of talent, all of which offers football advantages baseball doesn't possess. Everything about football and its abundant resources favors competitive balance, but I acknowledge that small-market teams in a wild-west system would have to be very creative and efficient to hold forth against their deep-pockets counterparts. Frankly, I think the salary cap has become more of an obstacle for small-market teams than an aide. What good is a system that allows the haves to pass their costs on to the have-nots?

Dane from Gainesville, FL:
"The best pass-rushers come from the offense's left side, regardless of the hand with which its quarterback throws." Why is that?

Vic: Because most quarterbacks and most pass-rushers are right-handed. Yeah, some guys are capable of moving from side to side without a loss of production, but most pass-rushers want their right hand on the ground. It's just the normal sprinter's stance for a right-handed guy: right hand down, right foot back. At left defensive end, the left hand is down.

Daniel from Jacksonville:
So hardball golf writer coverage is what exactly, calling the guy out for not going at the pin on the down slope and near the water's edge?

Vic: No, it would be for putting out and causing the huge gallery following you to move to the next tee, intentionally leaving your opponent to grind over a three-footer with movement all around him, such as on the ninth green in the 2008 U.S. Open playoff round. Or maybe it would be for some other form of poor sportsmanship, such as throwing clubs and cursing. Instead of ignoring that kind of stuff, you'd write it. That's what I would call hardball golf reporting. It's writing with a fist-pump.

Andre from Jacksonville:
Do you think a quarterback's fundamental throwing motion can be changed in just six weeks?

Vic: Yes, I do. The question is: Can a quarterback change his throwing motion and not suffer a decrease in performance, and in the heat of battle and especially when he's being rushed and doesn't have time to concentrate on his mechanics, will he revert to his old habits? If I'm a personnel director, I'm stickin' with what I see on tape of a guy in game action. I'm not gonna draft a guy based on the new throwing motion he showed me at his pro day. At this point, it is what it is. The time for change was at some point during his time in college. He needed to show the new motion in game action. I covered two quarterbacks who tried to change their mechanics: Mark Malone and Byron Leftwich. In Malone's case, it was a simple case of a higher release. Mark poured his heart and soul into it and effectively changed his motion, but he never looked natural again and that was a major negative because Mark was a sensational athlete. In Byron's case, the adjustments became talk-show fodder that really hurt his career. His best days were in Pittsburgh where, as a backup, his mechanics never became an issue.

David from Tuscaloosa, AL:
So the Chargers released LaDainian Tomlinson. It's a young man's game. If the Chargers had shopped him two seasons ago, they might have received a first or second-round pick for him. Additionally, they could have resigned Michael Turner and had a dominant tailback.

Vic: Don't kid yourself. The Seahawks couldn't get a three for Shaun Alexander when he was the most productive running back in the league. Teams will pay big money for a good player, as the Falcons did for Turner, but money and picks is too much to give. Picks, not players.

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