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Don't get cute with Colts

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

David from Orlando, FL:
Tell me if I'm wrong, but the language that you and Jack Del Rio use gives off the vibe that big things are still a year away. Are the Jaguars still a year away and a few players short of making a serious run at the Super Bowl? Give it to me straight, Vic, I can handle the truth.

Vic: Teams a "few players short" are allowed to make a serious run at the Super Bowl. The Patriots were thought to be more than a "few players short" in 2001 when they won the Super Bowl. But, frankly, I think the Jaguars will be a better football team next year after another offseason of personnel acquisitions, and our expectations for this season should remain in the division title contender category. Yes, I believe the Jaguars are still a "year away" and a "few players short."

Ryan from Toronto, Canada:
I just read an article that said Jack Del Rio was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. Do you know what position Jack played?

Vic: Jack Del Rio was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school, but chose to attend USC on a football scholarship. He also played baseball at USC, which has been one of college baseball's traditional powerhouse programs, where he was a catcher who batted .340 in 1983-84. He was a teammate of Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire. Del Rio talks a lot about being a journeyman NFL player. He tends to represent himself as an over-achieving, try-hard guy who lacked the athletic ability to be a star. Yeah, well let me tell you this: If you can play football and baseball at USC, especially during the years Del Rio was there, you are not an average guy. Frankly, I'm more intrigued by his baseball career. That's a big catcher.

Tommy from Jacksonville:
On two point conversions, do the quarterback and receivers get credit for the completion and reception? And if so, how is it officially shown in the stats?

Vic: Conversion statistics – other than for kickers – are not included in the official game stats.

Newt from Jacksonville:
I listened to "Jaguars This Week" last night and wondered why the point of how to defense (Peyton Manning) was not even mentioned. Good quarterbacks must get pressure from the defensive line and blitzed sparingly, minimizing one on ones. Average to poor can be dealt with through blitzing schemes. Manning is one who can not be blitzed without ramifications (ask Green Bay). Do you agree?

Vic: Jeff Lageman addressed that very point. He said Green Bay made the mistake of blitzing Manning. Everybody wants to know how to stop Manning. It's as though everybody wants to solve the mystery. What mystery? He plays in a very balanced offense which requires defenses to be balanced in their schemes. That's the key to the Colts' success. They surround Manning with weapons. They can run it and they can throw it. Then can run it inside and they can run it outside. They can throw it short and they can throw it long. They can throw it to the wide receivers or the tight ends or the running backs. If you load up to stop one thing, they'll do another thing. Of course, all of those weapons on offense have cost a lot of money, which has left the Colts with major deficiencies on defense. So, when you scheme to beat the Colts, you have to take a comprehensive approach. How do you stop Manning? By controlling the ball against the Colts' defense and keeping Manning on the sideline. The Jaguars did that in their win over the Colts last season, when the Jaguars held the ball for 20 minutes and seven seconds of the second half. That's one ingredient in the formula for beating the Colts, but there are more. You also have to have good enough personnel on defense to be able to play it straight up and slow Manning and company down. That begins with stopping Edgerrin James. Manning had a poor season in 2001. He threw 23 interceptions and posted an 84.1 passer rating that is his lowest as a pro, other than for his rookie season. What happened to Manning in '01? He didn't have James, who was out with a knee injury. No running game meant defenses could concentrate solely on Manning, and defenses overloaded in their coverage and rush packages. In '02, James returned but was still slowed by his recovery from knee surgery. He rushed for only 989 yards and Manning was only slightly better in '02 than he was in '01. He threw 19 interceptions and his passer rating improved to 88.8. Last year, James made it all the way back, rushing for 1,259 yards and catching 51 passes, and Manning had the year of his life. So, how do you stop Manning? You begin with run the ball and stop the run.

Keith from Williamsport, PA:
Just wondered if you could give some type of evaluation on the development of our rookie class, mainly Williams, Smith and Jones, based on preseason expectations to this point.

Vic: Reggie Williams' development has been slow, Daryl Smith's development has been fast, and Greg Jones is coming along as expected. In the win over Tennessee, Jones provided exactly what I expected of him when the Jaguars picked him in the second round of last April's draft. He pounded out a first down on a critical fourth-and-one play in the Jaguars' game-winning touchdown drive. Jones is a power back who is making the transition to fullback. As he's making that transition, he will help this team in short-yardage situations. Smith may be the best of all the rookie linebackers. Pass-coverage was supposed to be his weakness, but not so. Early in Sunday's game, he covered the tight end into the flat and made the tackle for a short gain. It was textbook coverage. Williams made a catch in the Jaguars' first touchdown drive, then leaped to catch a two-point conversion pass, but expectations for him exceed his four catches for 32 yards through three games. We must remain patient, however, because the season is young and so is Williams.

Dane from Melbourne, Australia:
Do you think the Jags will run more "dime" coverage plays than usual this week to try and stop the Colts' passing game? Or would pass-rushing with linebackers be a more effective strategy?

Vic: If you can stop the run in "dime," that's the way to go. But make sure you can stop the run because the Colts have an outstanding offensive coordinator and, if you load up against the pass, Tom Moore will stick Edgerrin James down your throat. He did that to the Patriots on a nine-play, all-runs touchdown drive in the season opener. Get cute and the Colts will wipe their feet on you. Run the ball, stop the run, rush and cover. If you can't do the first one, then you better be real good at the last three.

Jimmy from Shreveport, LA:
There was preseason speculation that heavy enforcement of contact beyond five yards would boost passing numbers to all-time highs. Have you actually noticed any significant difference in the way the contact rules are being enforced?

Vic: The NFL's "major point of emphasis" on the chuck rule has resulted in a minor flurry of penalties. Why not more? Well, not all teams have the personnel to take advantage of the chuck rule enforcement. The Colts do. They are the major beneficiaries of this "major point of emphasis." In fact, a lot of people believe the chuck rule enforcement was created with the Colts in mind.

Patrick from Morgantown, WV:
Boomer Esiason made a good point on "What has been so amazing is that the Jaguars have had to win two games in the final quarter with Leftwich operating out of the shotgun and in his two-minute offense. I think if you can trust a guy to win the game in those situations, you should be able to trust him throughout the game. Let Leftwich do his thing!" Tell me why he is wrong?

Vic: He's a quarterback. All he's thinking about is passing the ball. Boomer Esiason also played in a very sophisticated, finesse-type offense with the Bengals that incorporated a lot of shotgun stuff, so, it's something for which he has a lot of fondness and history. Why shouldn't the Jaguars use the shotgun exclusively? Because they want to run the football. When you run the ball out of shotgun formation, you're allowing the defensive linemen to play run while in a rush mode. That's good for slowing down the rush, which is the intent of draw plays – you're attempting to draw the defensive line toward the quarterback – but power offenses, and Jack Del Rio clearly wants a power offense, make defensive lines dig in and play run-defense technique, too. Power offenses have a thud and thump quality to them, and there is no thud or thump on draw plays. After years of being physically dominated by the Titans, the Jaguars have finally gotten the upper hand, and they didn't do it with finesse.

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