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Blocker vs. tackler

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

Jesse from Tallahassee, FL:
If Coughlin and the early era of Jags football made throwing the ball look easy, and Leftwich's statistics closely resemble Brunell's first years with the Jags, then why do fans have the impression Leftwich isn't making throwing the ball look easy?

Vic: That's a very good question and I can't give you a very good answer. All I can tell you is Mark Brunell and company did, indeed, make throwing the ball look easy, as early as Brunell's second year as the team's quarterback, 1996, when the Jaguars had the second-ranked pass-offense in the league. Statistics are good indicators, but I have always said "trust your eyes." I know what I saw. I saw a team that threw the ball with ease. The fact that Byron Leftwich's stats are largely the equal of Brunell's says a lot about Leftwich's performance. Maybe Leftwich is better than we give him credit for being, huh?

Kenney from Jacksonville:
To go along with the Deion Sanders question from yesterday, if he were to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which team would he go in with? The Falcons, Niners, Cowboys, Redskins or Ravens?

Vic: I've never understood this question. A player goes into the Hall of Fame representing himself and his career. He is immortalized in the Hall of Fame for all of the teams for which he played. They don't drape the uniform of one team over his bust. He is being honored for his whole career. How fans choose to remember a player is up to the fans.

Adam from Sandown, NH:
What team do you think made the single best move in free agency this past offseason?

Vic: The Dolphins traded for Daunte Culpepper, which doesn't qualify as a move in free agency, but I think acquiring Culpepper is the offseason move of the year. Nothing in free agency knocked me out.

Neil from Gloucester, England:
Do you think any wide receivers might become available who are upgrades?

Vic: Wide receiver is the one position where there's always a chance a guy will come free who can help you. I say that because there are a lot of wide receivers who don't have top speed but turn out to be productive pass-catchers. You have to keep your eyes open for one of those guys. Keenan McCardell was one of them. He was cut several times before he caught on.

Eduardo from Delray Beach, FL:
What would you consider the greatest rivalry in the NFL today? Can you explain the history behind it?

Vic: The Bears and Packers have the oldest rivalry. The Browns and Steelers have a great rivalry built on age and geography, too. Neither of those two rivalries is "hot" right now, however, because there's a gap between the teams in performance. It's the same with the Jaguars and the Titans and the Chiefs and the Raiders. The Jaguars and the Colts have a good one going right now, but if I had to pick a top rivalry, it would probably be the Patriots and the Colts because of the personal rivalry between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Kenney from Jacksonville:
Wouldn't Tom Coughlin be considered a coach with a good "tree" with Palmer, Jauron, Capers and others?

Vic: Coaching "trees" have to be taken back to their roots. I wouldn't consider Dom Capers a product of Coughlin's "tree." Capers is a Jim Mora guy. He coached for Mora with the Philadelphia Stars and then went with Mora to New Orleans. Some would say Capers is a Bill Cowher guy, but I trace "trees" back to their roots of real success.

Rick from Rome, NY:
I saw your top three QBs of all-time. What does Tom Brady have to do throughout the remainder of his career to replace one of those three?

Vic: If he wins another Super Bowl, he'll join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana with four each. At that point, some people might begin touting Brady as the greatest quarterback of all-time.

Adam from Tallahassee, FL:
What is the "Oklahoma drill?"

Vic: The "Oklahoma" includes two tackling dummies flat on the ground five yards apart, a blocker, a tackler, a quarterback and a running back. If the blocker isn't a center, some coaches will put one in there. The ball must be run between the bags. The blocker's job is to clear a path. The tackler's job is to stop the ball-carrier at the line of scrimmage. The ball-carrier, quarterback and center are just fodder for this drill. This is a blocker-tackler thing; offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen. Linebackers get into it, too, but they run around too much. This is for guys who like tight spaces. This drill is about strength and quickness off the ball.

William from Jacksonville:
The game of football today is obviously different than it was 50 years ago. How many different eras would you consider have existed in the NFL since the merger and what distinguishes these eras?

Vic: The first significant era following the merger is defined by the decision in 1972 to move the hash marks toward the middle of the field. It was a move made to bolster the passing game, but it had an opposite effect. There was an immediate explosion of thousand-yard rushers and the game entered a six-year run-the-ball phase in which offensive yardage and points totals plummeted. The game became physically brutal, which led to the rules changes of 1978. We then entered a pass-the-ball phase in which the game still functions. During this time, all rules changes and adaptations have favored offense. The quarterback has gone from being live to the ground prior to 1978 to being somewhat untouchable in today's game. Those are the two eras of professional football, as I see it, since the merger in 1970.

John from Neptune Beach, FL:
What in your opinion makes a passing offense sophisticated?

Vic: : In my opinion, a pass-offense is defined as sophisticated by its ability to function with efficiency and ease of movement. It's not about plays. All teams have the same plays. It's about the players who execute those plays. Tom Coughlin dedicated an uncommon amount of time to his passing game. Practice wouldn't be 10 minutes old and they'd already be throwing the ball. The Jaguars had a blocking sled that was propped up against the fence and hadn't been moved for years. The grass grew around it. All they did was throw the ball, thus, the efficiency and ease of movement. But, tell me, how do you practice stopping the run if all you ever do is throw it? That's the rub. Great passing offenses tend to be the product of teams that spend all of their time passing the ball. It doesn't work. Football is a physical game.

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