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Concerns are valid

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

Wade from Winston-Salem, NC:
When do I get worried about the offense? This isn't lack of game plan, it's lack of execution. The running game looked solid but the passing game was awful.

Vic: Based on the offense's performance against the Patriots' second-team defense, concern is warranted.

Bill from Jacksonville:
Perhaps I'm simply becoming a pessimist in my advancing years, but I'd feel a lot better about our chances for a winning season if our starting QB was playing well. I don't see improvement from last season; I don't see improvement from game to game in the preseason. I'm just seeing the glass as half empty, right? We're a different kind of team from the past. As long as we don't turn the ball over, play good defense and win the special teams matchup, we'll be fine, right?

Vic: Strong defense, a good kicking game, field position and no turnovers will win games and buy you time. Yes, the Jaguars are a different kind of team than they were under Tom Coughlin, and the Jaguars must adhere to their "defensive" strategy until the offense starts scoring touchdowns, but you can't live by that strategy forever. It'll buy you time, but eventually you have to move the ball and score points.

Keith from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Should we be concerned about the way the Patriots' second-team defense rendered Byron Leftwich ineffective, or the way teams have zeroed in on his big windup as a major vulnerability, or how, as a second-year player, he still doesn't know how to handle an aggressive, blitzing defense?

Vic: I think it's a legitimate concern that the Jaguars offense couldn't move against the Patriots' reserves, and it's a valid criticism that Byron Leftwich reverts to his windup delivery from time to time, but it's very unfair to expect a player who has yet to begin his second season to be expert at defeating the blitz. That's big-time stuff that comes from experience. Frankly, he's farther along in the learning aspect of the position than any quarterback I've covered who was at the same stage of his career.

John from Jacksonville:
Ever since Darius was a rookie, he has been an impact player on this team. There were times in the league when Bettis was in his prime that Darius was one of the few safeties that could bring Bettis down behind the line of scrimmage on a solo tackle. I know that this is a now league, but what is it that Cooper has shown in the preseason that would make you consider him as a starter.

Vic: Deke Cooper's pass-coverage skills have impressed Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Cooper also turned in a very strong performance in run-support last year against the Jets, when Cooper was used as a strong safety.

John from Niles, OH:
The Jags lost Hugh Douglas and I wanted to know if the backup right defensive end will have the same impact as Douglas did?

Vic: I hope not.

Mike from Jacksonville:
Is the quarterback position this season really a part of the Del Rio commitment to playing the best player? If not, is the idea of sticking with your highly-paid first-round pick more important than winning, which is what would ultimately put people in the stands?

Vic: I don't think anything I say will change your mind because I think your mind is closed on this issue, but there's no doubt in my mind that Jack Del Rio believes Byron Leftwich is his best quarterback.

Lane from Orlando, FL:
You've stated several times that a draft class can't be regarded as successful if the first-round pick is a bust. I disagree. If Wilford ends up being a fixture for years and Smith, Jones, Scobee, etc. are solid players, this draft is a major home run with or without the success of Williams. Do you agree?

Vic: Most "experts" would agree that the success of a draft class falls hardest on the shoulders of its first-round pick, especially when he's a top-10 pick. If you study the league's second-day draft classes of recent years, you'll see that very few of those second-day picks became stars. Careful examination of picks between rounds four-seven reveal few players who even became starters. A lot of personnel people believe the draft has become a two-round event. In my opinion, considering the pick and the money invested in him, Reggie Williams must become a productive player for the Jaguars' 2004 draft class to be considered a success.

Dan from Orange Park, FL:
My friend and I were just asking ourselves why a spike isn't intentional grounding and we couldn't figure out why. Would you be able to shine some light on this?

Vic: The rules allow it, as long as it is executed with the clear intent to stop the clock. In other words, you can't drop back, look around, then spike it. It must be immediate.

Clint from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I'm just not sold on Leftwich. The coaching staff and you obviously are. Since your expertise is in football, what exactly do you see in him?

Vic: I see a talented guy in whom a major investment has been made, and once the Jaguars committed to him, he became "The Man." David Garrard accepted that fact the moment he heard the news that Byron Leftwich was selected with the seventh pick of the draft. This isn't college football; there's more at stake here than a scholarship. Beyond the economics of the situation, I see a quarterback who has great instincts for the position. He's smart, dedicated and coachable. He has the personality to become a great leader. His physical limitations have been well-documented. He's not mobile and never will be. His mechanics must be improved and I have to believe they will improve because of his dedication to being a great quarterback. Frankly, I worry about his penchant for reverting to his long-arm delivery. It invites teams to get pressure on him. He must correct that flaw. I can't guarantee Leftwich will develop into a star quarterback, but I can guarantee that benching him because of a poor preseason performance would make the Jaguars the laughing stock of the league.

Bob from Philadelphia, PA:
What is with all the hatred against Philly? No need to be jealous of some success. Hugh knew what he was doing. So did Trotter, T.O., Kearse. It's nice being a fan of somewhere players actually want to go. At least you all have front row seats for our Super Bowl run. See ya in February, chumps.

Vic: Watch that last step. It's a killer.

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