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Dolphins have a killer schedule

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

Sonny from Melbourne, FL:
The Jaguars are in a rebuilding stage; all the teams in AFC South have gone through some change. How would you categorize the stages of the other three teams?

Vic: The Colts are in what I would call make-it-last-as-long-as-you-can mode, which they should be. They've done a great job of getting as much value as they can out of Peyton Manning's career. The Titans are in the we-think-we've-arrived stage, but I'm not sure they have arrived. Losing Albert Haynesworth won't make the Titans a better team, and I can't help but doubt that they can get the same production out of Kerry Collins this year that they did last year. The Texans are in next-year-is-here, but I'm not sure it is. I don't like what I see up front on both sides of the ball and if the Texans don't do a better job of protecting Matt Schaub, they'll likely finish this season in wait-until-next-year mode, again. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I don't think the AFC South is nearly as strong as it thinks it is. It didn't win any playoff games last year and it's lost a lot of its top players from recent years: Fred Taylor, Haynesworth, Marvin Harrison, etc. I think the division is wide open and it wouldn't surprise me if 10-6 won the division title.

Andy from Jacksonville:
I look forward to watching the open competition for spots on the offensive line. What position battles will you be watching closely?

Vic: Right tackle will be a feature attraction. When the Jaguars drafted Eben Britton in the second round, I figured Tony Pashos was a goner. Based on OTAs, however, Tony is hanging on quite well and Britton has a significant gap to close. My eyes will be on right tackle in training camp. Aside from right tackle, the prominent battles will be at wide receiver, cornerback, safety and defensive line.

Chris from Jacksonville:
How do you determine strength of schedule? If you look at the schedule in August, the teams that look tough might not look that way in January. Do you wait until the season's over and then say who had a tough schedule?

Vic: You just do it. I didn't have any trouble looking at Atlanta's and Miami's schedules last year and knowing they were soft, and I didn't have any trouble looking at Pittsburgh's schedule last year and knowing it may be the most difficult schedule I had ever seen, and it turned out being even tougher than it looked because no one figured Baltimore, a team the Steelers had to play three times, would be that strong; nor did I assign proper difficulty to a game in Tennessee. This year, I look at Miami's schedule and I see the Steelers' schedule of a year ago. The Dolphins have a killer schedule. I don't see them making the playoffs. The strength of schedule stats say the Bears have the softest schedule in the league this year, but I don't agree. Anybody who plays the Lions twice are going to get a soft rating, because of the 0-16 from last year, but I see the Steelers, Falcons, Cardinals, Eagles and Ravens on the Bears' schedule and I ask, what's soft about that? That's why I won't go strictly by the strength of schedule ratings. I need to look at the schedule. I know a tough schedule when I see it and the Jaguars certainly have a tough opening month, but I think the Jaguars' schedule softens after that.

Edward from Lakewood, CA:
When the Jaguars traded for Gerald Alexander, I just assumed he would be vying for the strong safety position. Yesterday, however, you mentioned that Alexander would compete with Reggie Nelson for the starting free safety position. Could you clarify what the plan is?

Vic: I don't know what the plan is and I didn't have anyone to ask because the coaches have been on vacation since I've returned from mine. All I had to go on was the fact that Alexander only played free safety in Detroit and that he said he has to "be a safety on the field that can guide and direct and be the quarterback of the defense," which is the perfect description of what a free safety does. I think it's his belief that he's competing for the free safety job, but that doesn't mean Jack Del Rio doesn't have other plans. I will, however, offer this bit of advice: Don't underestimate Sean Considine. From where I stood during OTAs, Considine was the best safety on the field. In my opinion, he made more plays on the ball than any other safety. You're trying to make out a depth chart before there's been a full-pads practice. Why? What do you have against Considine? In my opinion, that's the kind of mindset that has to be extinguished. Performance and production have to be rewarded. It's competition time; may the best man win.

Trent from Litchville, ND:
What are considered to be a player's prime playing years? Do you think it differentiates between positions?

Vic: It varies, of course, from player to player and from position to position but, generally speaking, years 4-7 are considered to be a player's prime.

Ken from Memphis, TN:
What do you think about Lane Kiffin and company in Knoxville and how they are running the program?

Vic: I think they haven't played a game, yet, they are getting a lot of media attention because Kiffin has made some outrageous remarks. I'm sorry, but I refuse to evaluate a program based on outrageous remarks. May I at least wait until they play a game?

Terry from Jacksonville:
Do you believe the NFL has peaked, in terms of popularity?

Vic: No way has the NFL's popularity peaked. The world is a big place. I honestly think I'll see the NFL go international in my lifetime. Just writing that causes me to pause and reflect because I can remember that, when I covered my first training camp, the league was so appreciative of any coverage it could get. A new reporter in training camp got the red-carpet treatment. It was all part of Pete Rozelle's plan to make pro football the national pastime. I am so fortunate to have come along when I did.

Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
I'm interested in your thoughts surrounding Prisco calling "Big Hen" the most overrated player in the league?

Vic: In my opinion, John Henderson was the most underrated player in the league in 2006. I said then that Henderson had played the best brand of defensive tackle I had covered since Joe Greene. Now, all of a sudden, Henderson is being referred to as the league's most overrated player. Somewhere between '06 and now lies the answer. What happened in '07 and '08 to have so dramatically changed the perception of Henderson as a player? That's a question Henderson needs to answer and then use that answer to reverse the trend.

Eric from Jacksonville:
Do you believe in starting quarterbacks their rookie year? How long do you believe it should take for a QB to be ready to be a full-time starter?

Vic: Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan have certainly broken the mold, so to speak. Based on their success as rookie quarterbacks, it's rational to believe a quarterback can step in as a rookie and be successful. It wasn't that way years ago. They used to say it took five years to develop a starting quarterback. If you apply that standard to today's game, a quarterback will have switched teams three or four times or might even be out of the league by the end of his fifth season. I think the most sensible expectation should be for a quarterback to become a starter in his second season, and for him to achieve success beginning in year three.

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