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Bang the drum loudly

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

Tom from St. Petersburg, FL:
In the question about the 1976 Steelers versus the 1984 49ers, you referred to the rules changes of 1978. Can you explain a little more about what changes were made and how they affected play?

Vic: Cornerbacks were forbidden to make contact with receivers beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage and offensive linemen were permitted to use their hands in blocking. Those were the two major changes. The intent of those rules changes were to give offense an advantage over defense. What they did was legislate the big, physical bump-and-run cornerbacks out of the game and transform offensive linemen from pads-down run-blockers to push-and-shove pass-blockers. The rules changes achieved the desired effect: Teams immediately began throwing the ball all over the field and yardage and points totals soared.

Mark from Kansas City, MO:
I heard Jeff Lageman say jokingly to turn on the sprinklers before the game this Sunday. Could the Jaguars actually do that? Is that considered cheating?

Vic: I think you know the answer to that. The home team is responsible for providing the best possible playing conditions.

Joe from Fremont, OH:
How do you think a player like Ted Ginn of Ohio State would fit into the Jags offensive scheme of things? Looking ahead, on what areas do you think the Jaguars should focus for the draft?

Vic: Another wide receiver. No thanks.

Rashid from Pittsburgh, PA:
Everyone around the league is talking about Dwight Freeney's ability to pass-rush. Whenever I watch him play he seems to use the same move every time; he uses his spin move religiously. If you know which move he is going to use, why is it so hard to stop him?

Vic: He's hard to stop because he's a great physical specimen. Freeney is the fastest pass-rusher in the league. It's not as though he can't be stopped. He has been stopped; shutout by Levi Jones, for example, on the road. Where Freeney is unstoppable is in the RCA Dome. It's physically impossible to look inside at the ball and then turn your head quickly enough to block him before he's by you. Making matters worse, to be able to look at the ball you have to assume a soft stance; firing out on a run-blocking assignment is even more difficult than pass-blocking against the guy. The competitive advantage he enjoys in the dome, because of the noise, makes him a different player than he is outdoors. He only has two sacks outside this year; one against the 49ers and one against the Texans. Yeah, he's got a great spin move and an even better first step, but his best pass-rush technique may be noise.

Jonas from Jacksonville:
With the Jags playing the Giants next year, do you think it will be a Monday or Sunday night game since Coughlin will be back in town?

Vic: It could be, but I'm thinking it could also be a one o'clock season-opener. I remember how Tom would complain about the league not giving the Jaguars enough one o'clock games in Sept.; he really loved that heat advantage. Well, you know, the schedule-maker has a real sinister side to him and he has a long memory. I just have the feeling Tom's going to get a trip to Jacksonville in Sept. for a one o'clock kickoff.

Joshua from Jacksonville:
Hey Vic, I just wanted to know if they do anything about the crowd noise in college football. I know most major colleges have a lot more fans show up than most pro teams do. I used to live in Ann Arbor and went to some of the Wolverines games with around 110,000 people and, trust me, it was probably 3-5 times louder then any of the Jaguar games I've been to.

Vic: You're not getting it. Noise is not a problem outside. Yeah, it can get very loud and very difficult for offenses to communicate, but they can do it. Inside, it is veritably impossible.

Derek from Orange Park, FL:
You named a lot of great teams on next year's schedule that the Jags will face. I'm starting to think we're getting the short end of the stick like the Chargers got this year. What are your thoughts on that? The only good thing I can come up with is we will sell tickets for almost all those games, but will we win those games?

Vic: I'm a big schedule-watcher; everybody knows that. I very definitely believe teams get blessed or cursed by schedules. Look at the Colts. They have a .382 strength of schedule, which makes their schedule the weakest in the league. Do you think that has anything to do with their 12-0 record? Of course it does. Denver has a .535 SOS, which makes the Broncos' 9-3 record even more impressive. The Jaguars have a .486, but that is boosted dramatically by a double hit on the Colts, who've played the weakest schedule in the league. See what I mean? It becomes a chicken or the egg thing. In my opinion, judging schedules is a purely personal and subjective thing. The SOS stats give you an indication of strength or weakness, but you have to look past the numbers; you have to have the ability to analyze. Even more important than who you play is when you played them. Were they healthy? Were you healthy? Was either team on six days' rest? Looking at the Jaguars' 2006 schedule, the thing that jumps out at me is that most of those teams are elite NFL franchises. They are not likely to fall off much from one season to the next. Yeah, next year's slate looks brutal.

Asley from Jacksonville:
How good has Brad Meester been this year and how bad does his absence hurt us?

Vic: Meester has been a steady player throughout his career. He'll be missed but I think his absence can be overcome.

Latoria from Jacksonville:
Are we allowed to bring horns and other loud stuff for Sunday's game?

Vic: Absolutely not; noise-makers are not permitted. You might, however, wanna check with the league on microphones and sound amplifying equipment.

Kevin from Tallahassee, FL:
I wanted to reiterate what you were saying about domes. My family and I went to Indy this year for the Jags game. I never knew what the big deal was about crowd noise until that game. Being a season ticket holder with the Jags, there's no way an outdoor stadium can match the noise in a dome. It was so loud you could not talk to the person next to you. I have a lot more respect for any team that can win on the road in a dome.

Vic: You get it. A visiting team playing in a domed stadium filled with loud fans might as well be deaf. That causes me to think about Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. Gallaudet is a school for the deaf and it has a football team that uses a bass drum to communicate its snap count. The players feel the vibration from the drum. I saw a film special on Gallaudet and I was amazed at how crisply its offense came off the ball. It may be the most heartwarming sports story I have ever seen. Everything at Gallaudet begins and ends with that drum. Without it, they can't play. Now, consider an NFL team in a frenzied dome atmosphere. It's "deaf" and it doesn't even have a drum.

John from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Interesting timing for your noise factor article. recently had an article, after the Indy-Cincy game, about how Boomer Esiason and Sam Wyche single-handedly killed the old crowd noise rule by pretending not to be able to hear at the line of scrimmage during a preseason game in the Superdome. They called the NFL's bluff by making the official penalize the home team because of the absurd nature of their actions to make their point during a preseason dome game. Do you think it is likely the NFL will do anything to correct this issue?

Vic: Yeah, I think it's going to become an issue. It has to become an issue. Teams have to be able to communicate in some fashion. Maybe they need a drum.

Andy from Jacksonville:
Does the fact that Daniel Snyder needs the CBA to be extended to survive help the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville revenue sharing plan get passed?

Vic: The Pitt-Jax revenue sharing plan is a completely different issue from the CBA talks. Deep thinkers and otherwise sound business minds, of course, could make the connection between the Jax-Pitt plan and salary cap health. There are, obviously, long answers to your question, and then there's the short answer: I don't think a guy like Daniel Snyder is capable of making the connection. He has so much money it doesn't matter.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Sunday will be the third mega game the Jaguars will have had at home in their history. They lost to Tennessee in 1999 and to Pittsburgh last year. How important is it that the Jaguars finally get over the hump and win a home game of this magnitude?

Vic: I think you're right on the button, Howard. I think it's very important in making fans and winning over this town that the Jaguars win this type of game. A win this Sunday could be the springboard to a run of popularity in Jacksonville that will secure the future of professional football in this town.

Farris from Jacksonville:
Can you give a quick run-down of the 3-3-5 defense?

Vic: Three defensive linemen, three linebackers, five defensive backs; you're betting the other guys wanna throw the ball and that you can stop the run with six.

Cole from Little Rock, AR:
The Jags are losing about 360K this week, as you pointed out. How much have they been helped or hurt by Wayne Weaver's willingness to make his fans as happy as possible? How many sellouts this year wouldn't have been if not for his covering the seats?

Vic: Wayne wanted his team's games on local TV. That's why he covered seats. The strategy has worked; all six home games, to this point, will have been televised in Jacksonville. Had the Jaguars not covered nearly 10,000 seats? It's impossible to know how many of the games this season would have been blacked out. It's impossible to know that because you can't know the dynamics of premium-seat sales vs. non-premium-seat sales. I think it would be fair to say this: This Sunday's game would definitely not have been blacked out, but others would've been.

Michael from Gainesville, FL:
I have to tell you this story from last Sunday's game. You know how Sunday was a big game for young Charlie Frye, and they kept showing his parents on TV. Well, early in the fourth quarter, John Henderson sacked Frye and for some reason they cut to the camera shot of Frye's parents. So the announcer got confused and said, "There's the sack by Henderson, as the proud parents look on." So, here on the screen are Mr. and Mrs. Frye, who, um, don't exactly look like they could be John Henderson's parents. It was priceless. Did you happen to catch that?

Vic: No, I didn't see that. Are you saying Mr. and Mrs. Frye aren't real big people?

Kevin from Cocoa, FL:
One of the things I love about you is I know you'll always give an honest answer and you're not some home team spin doctor. So, in your opinion, were does Jack Del Rio stand currently among the coaching ranks of today's NFL coaches? Or is that something you don't wanna answer until after this game?

Vic: I can answer it. Jack Del Rio is a young head coach who is attempting to establish himself as one of the elite coaches in the league. With a win on Sunday, he'll take a major step in that direction. The most major steps in a coach's career, of course, are taken in the postseason.

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