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Best scheme, worst defense

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

Joe from Jefferson City, MO:
Is it safe to say a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew is the cog that makes this whole offense work? Nothing seems to work without his threat of taking it all the way on any carry.

Vic: Not having him in the lineup doesn't make the Jaguars a better team. The same can be said for not having Aaron Kampman. Those are the Jaguars' best players on each side of the ball.

Mark from Jacksonville:
Regardless of the outcome, I now have an appreciation and fondness for December NFL football at its finest, with the elements and pressure swirled together as one. We truly have been missing out.

Vic: The drama of meaningful December football is special. It blows away any other month of the season.

Trace from Jacksonville:
I know you like your FULL CONSISTENCY jokes to make fun of fans who feel like they need that, however, can you blame us? How often is it that stuff like this happens to us Jags fans? We do so well but, at the critical moment, we bust. It seems like the Jaguars are consistently inconsistent and that, as a fan, the past couple of years has provided heartbreakers for that exact reason.

Vic: Is this a GEICO commercial?

Greg from Tallahassee, FL:
Is Jones-Drew that much better than Jennings or did the offensive line not play as well as they have been?

Vic: You mean the guy that only two weeks ago was being touted by Jaguars fans as being worthy of the league MVP? Are you really insinuating that there shouldn't have been a loss of production as a result of losing that player? My understanding is that the offensive line has been off its game the past two weeks and when you combine that fact with the loss of Jones-Drew, and clearly he wasn't the same guy in the loss in Indianapolis, I think it's easy to understand why the Jaguars have had so much trouble running the ball the last two weeks. It's simple: They lost their star runner and, to some degree, they lost their offensive line, too.

Tyler from Neptune Beach, FL:
I couldn't help but notice that Rashean Mathis was playing 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Why?

Vic: I guess they wanted to force the Redskins to throw short and that's exactly what the Redskins did. I have never seen so many throws short of the first down. The Jaguars have had a problem getting off the field on third down all season, but not against the Redskins. Whatever the strategy was, it worked. The Jaguars forced nine punts.

Sean from Indianapolis, IN:
You're never as good as you think after a win, nor as bad as you fear after a loss. At the outset of the season, were you even expecting to be contenders for the AFC South title this year? Nobody can maintain their perspective immediately after their team has been eliminated. I think that if at the outset of the season you'd been asked if you'd be satisfied with the Jags battling for a playoff spot down the stretch and missed out, you'd call it a step forward. You've been horrible judges of talent in years past, but that hurdle appears to be behind you. It would seem to me that your future is bright.

Vic: Thank you, so much, for those kind words. They are especially meaningful coming from the fan of a team of such esteem. One of these days the Jags are gonna make it all the way up to your level. Thanks, again, for the encouragement and good luck in the postseason. You can do it.

Eric from Jacksonville:
I've believed for a few years that weakness at the top (Mr. Weaver) has been the downfall of this team's progress. Any ideas?

Vic: I am genuinely flattered that you consider me truthful enough to ask me if the man who pays my salary is to blame for the team's failures. Thank you for believing in me and I will return your belief in me with what I genuinely believe is the answer to your question. In my opinion, the Jaguars' failures are the result of six years of poor drafting. When only one of six consecutive first-round picks is in the starting lineup and only two are on the team, I don't think you have to look any farther for a reason. Is that Mr. Weaver's fault? Well, I'll put it this way: If he gets the blame for hiring the people that produced those draft failures, then he also has to get the credit for making Gene Smith his general manager two years ago because, in my opinion, the fortunes of the Jaguars' drafting have been radically reversed. Each of the last two first-round picks is in the starting lineup and playing at a high level. Six members of the 2009 draft class were in the starting lineup on Sunday and another member of that draft class, Eben Britton, would've been in the starting lineup had he not been lost to a shoulder injury earlier in the season. I like what I'm seeing.

Sean from Jacksonville:
Whenever there is a blown coverage, inevitably someone will blame player X for it. I always argue that you don't know the defensive scheme and who had responsibility for what. Is there a way you can tell who is supposed to have what responsibility?

Vic: You're right, you have to know what the coverage scheme was. Usually, I can take a quick look at the alignment and know if it's cover two or cover three or cover zero, etc. This past Sunday, however, was a challenge. Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett emptied his playbook on the Jaguars and his defense did one of the best jobs of disguising coverages and rush schemes I have ever seen. I couldn't tell what the scheme was until after the ball was snapped. Here's the interesting thing: Despite all of that intrigue, the Redskins are last in the league in total defense. Think about that. The best scheme I've seen all year belongs to the worst defense in the league. If ever there was proof that it's players, not plays, that's it.

Mike from Jacksonville:
I just saw on ESPN that Mike Singletary has been let go from the 49ers and I was thinking about a few things. Now I know Mel Tucker has been an OK defensive coordinator for us, but do you think the Jags could consider Singletary at all in the offseason?

Vic: He's got a lot of fire in his belly. You look into those eyes and you see rage. He's good at yelling, too, and you gotta love those sideline displays. That's what it's all about, baby. You get a guy like that and nobody will ever again say your team lacked intensity. Who needs teaching when you can have yelling?

Lyle from Kingsland, GA:
The saddest day of the year comes when I open my ticket envelope and pull out the last home-game tickets. Although the game was a disappointment, there are many memories to treasure from the season. Most of all, I enjoyed watching a young team improve and build.

Vic: We shared the same experience. Sunday morning, I reached into the envelope that holds my press passes and pulled out the last one for the home season. I mumbled to myself, "Well, there goes another season," and I felt a little twinge of something. It's called melancholia. Every football season is an investment of our lives and I can't help but reflect when I reach the end of each season. I reflect on the days on the field in OTAs, when I was trying to get to know the new players. I think back to the stifling heat of training camp, the exhilaration of the Oklahoma drill and the anticipation of the start of the season. A season is a lot of little stories forming one big story and I love to write them. People ask me when I'm going to write a book. I'm about to write the final chapter of book number 39.

James from Orange Park, FL:
What was the turnstile count for last Sunday and do I even want to know?

Vic: It was 53,972.

Keith from Jacksonville:
Why hasn't Karim gotten more of the blame? His muff of the overtime kickoff was the killer.

Vic: I think he's gotten his share of the blame, which I imagine has made these a very difficult few days for a small-school rookie trying to carve his niche in the NFL. Deji Karim has had his high moments this season, and this past Sunday he experienced a low. He's written his book, too. I studied that kickoff on tape and I still can't decide if the kicker was pooching it or he just didn't hit it well or if the wind hit it. From the behind-the-kicker view you can see the ball drift to the right and drop in the perfect spot on the field. If you were trying to drop the ball in a place where it might not be caught, the ball fell on that spot. Karim would've had to sprint to that spot to catch it, which he should've done. He experienced a moment of indecision and that sealed his fate. Such is life, huh?

Antonio from Brooklyn, NY:
Do you think the Jags should go after a QB with their first pick?

Vic: I've answered this question at least 20 times, but I'll do it again. Yes, I think it's critical that the Jaguars draft a quarterback, in whatever round they can draft one without reaching for one.

Evan from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
What has happened to Derek Cox? Why do defenses continue to target him and do you still think it was a smart move to trade our second-round pick to draft him?

Vic: Did you write this question back in Sept. and you're just now getting around to sending it? Hey, Evan, Cox is playing the best football of his life right now. Did you see what he did to Reggie Wayne? Gene Smith said Cox is the team's best defensive back. Cox's interception in the end zone on Sunday was a game-saver. What's it gonna take to get off this obsession for questioning the decision to trade a second-round pick to draft Cox? I've gotten 10 times more questions about that than I have about trading half the draft to pick Derrick Harvey.

Fred from Jacksonville:
My biggest concern from the game Sunday is why wasn't the Santa hat on the Jaguars logo at midfield?

Vic: It's not permitted by the league. Technically, the Jaguars were in violation of the league's field-markings code when they put that Santa hat on their logo. That was a long time ago and they haven't done it since.

Heather from Jacksonville:
Santa delivered three tickets to my six-year-old son's stocking for Christmas. His screams of excitement woke our neighbors. He bundled up and yelled through the whole game. He wore his foam teal claw and Jags sweatshirt to bed. Tucked in beside him was a Jaxson stuffed animal. I just renewed my season tickets. Thanks for being there through a great home season and here's to hoping that all goes our way in Houston.

Vic: Whose experience was better, his or yours? What a wonderful moment for both of you. It makes me wonder: At what age does the anger begin?

Steve from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars have built a team whose identity is based on a running offense, while the league favors teams built on a passing offense. Is it time for the Jaguars to change their identity?

Vic: I don't think you've represented the situation accurately. A lot of the teams in this year's postseason will have strong running games. You don't have to abandon the run to be successful in this league, but you can't be successful without being able to throw the ball. If it's have one but not both, then it's better in today's NFL to have a strong passing game, but you'd prefer to have both. Balance between run and pass is preferable. There's nothing wrong with the Jaguars' identity.

Eddie from Jacksonville:
I figured it out. Your football team is similar to your child in the respect that they will make you smile and fill you with pride the same as they will make you want to bang your head against the wall but, at the end of the day, you should love them no matter what.

Vic: There's also a big difference between your football team and your child: You don't berate your child and threaten him or her with abandonment.

Corey from Orange Park, FL:
I know you don't believe the Titans will beat the Colts, and with good reason, but this season isn't over and if this Jags team has done anything different this year, it's made me believe we always have a chance.

Vic: What if the Jags win and the Colts lose? What if the Jags win the division? Would everything be OK then?

Jeff from Jacksonville:
What did you think of Garrard's performance against the Redskins?

Vic: The interceptions ruined it. That's the problem; they were bad interceptions. They were the worst kind of interceptions, which is to say the kind that lead to points. All interceptions aren't bad. I have long espoused that interceptions have to be tolerated as the risk associated with being aggressive on offense. How can you develop a passing game if you're not willing to risk throwing an interception? You can't play scared. I have no problem with an interception that's the equivalent of a punt. I understand that you're going to throw interceptions when you've been forced into a throw-only mode. Too many of Garrard's interceptions, however, are game-changing; too many of his interceptions have resulted in points for the opposition. Of the 15 interceptions he's thrown, 11 of them have resulted in points for the opposition; six are touchdowns and five are field goals. If he could change that about his game, his passer rating and his proficiency at the position would spike to an all-time high.

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