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Don't pass on the QBs

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

Rik from Destin, FL:
Always enjoy your in-depth analysis and, darn, you are right a lot! How does Byron Leftwich's numbers compare to Mark Brunell's at this point in the season.

Vic: Byron Leftwich has completed 129 of 203 passes for a 63.5 completion percentage, 1,364 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions and an 86.3 passer rating. Mark Brunell is 86 of 168 for a 51.2 completion percentage, 912 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions and a 69.8 passer rating. But let's make sure we give credit to Brunell for what he still is: the greatest quarterback in Jaguars history. In 1996, he threw for 4,367 yards and 19 touchdowns, rushed for another 396 yards and, in the process, took every snap from center. That was his second season as a starter and I wonder if we're not witnessing another second-year starter en route to the same kind of season.

Rowella from Georgetown, Guyana:
A long-time Jaguar fan, I finally got a chance to visit the U.S. and see my beloved Jags. It was a great experience, however, one thing shocked me. After the game, I listened to a local radio call-in show and I heard fans criticizing Byron Leftwich. He played a great game with a 110 passer rating and pulled out another game in the last minute. I left Florida for the rest of my U.S. tour very confused. Please shed some light on this if you can?

Vic: The kid is one of those dramatic figures who just happens to attract praise and criticism. The issue isn't whether that will change, because it won't. The issue is will he be able to endure that kind of constant scrutiny without letting it get to him. He's a tough kid and he always takes the high road. That's what it takes to deal with criticism. You can't allow yourself to be dragged down to that level. You can't allow yourself to fire back; just play.

Rod from Jacksonville:
I bet the Ravens are kicking themselves for not completing the trade with Minnesota during the 2003 draft to pick Byron Leftwich. Thanks, Minnesota.

Vic: I don't think the Ravens are kicking themselves about the attempted Byron Leftwich deal. They did all they could. The one they've got to be kicking themselves about is having passed on Daunte Culpepper in the 1999 draft. Chris McAlister has been a great player for them, and he helped them win a Super Bowl, but when you pass on a quarterback of Culpepper's ability you pay the price for 10 years or more. You can always find another McAlister, but the Culpeppers of the game are rare. That's why when you get a chance to take one, you better do it. How do you think Cleveland feels about passing on Ben Roethlisberger?

David from Norfolk, VA:
Love your column; I read it every day. Fred is very tentative and running like he is expecting to get tackled. Is it just the shotgun set or is there more?

Vic: I have to disagree with you. Fred Taylor is not running tentatively. If anything, he's running too hard. In my opinion, he's trying so hard that he may be getting out ahead of his blocking. Taylor is a cutback runner. He doesn't like it when I say that, but a lot of great running backs were cutback runners. The best I ever covered, Franco Harris, was a classic cutback runner. In those days, cutback runners were revered because it was said that it took guts to cut back into the face of the pursuit. Now, we look down our noses at cutback runners because we've come to identify cutting back as reversing fields. But that's not what true cutback-running is. Cutback-running is a subtle move to the backside of the defender and into the face of the pursuit, and Taylor is one of the all-time best at it. I wanna see him get back to it. He has to find that balance between north and south running and cutback running. When he finds that balance, he's going to explode. Maybe it'll be this weekend in Indianapolis.

Ben from Rolla, MO:
I know we won the ballgame but was going for the touchdown at the end of the game rather stupid.? I mean, we gave a high-powered offense 45 seconds to score a touchdown.

Vic: It's tough to argue with success, but I remember a game against Tennessee in 1999 when the Jaguars had a third-down play near the goal line with a few seconds left to play and trailing the Titans by three points. The plan was to take a shot at the end zone and if it failed kick the field goal and go into overtime. What happened, of course, was that Mark Brunell was intercepted. Yeah, it's a gamble, so you better make it work. The Jaguars did make it work this past Sunday. Of course, there's the flip side of the argument. Mike Shanahan was playing for the field goal and his running back fumbled. I can give you countless examples of each approach and how it worked and how it failed. The key is making it work. If the Jaguars had played for the field goal and Josh Scobee had missed on the last play of the game, what do you think fans would've said of that decision?

Chris from Gainesville, FL:
If a team purposely runs the play clock out (during a punt for five more yards of room, for example), and the other team declines the penalty, what's stopping the punting team from just sitting there all day until they get their five yards?

Vic: Common sense.

Jon from Ocala, FL:
Is it the addition of Pete Rodriguez that has made the Jags' special teams so much better?

Vic: Pete Rodriguez and his assistant, Bob Ligashesky, have had a major impact on the performance of the Jaguars' special teams. It should also be noted that the Jaguars spent considerable attention on upgrading their special teams personnel. Tommy Hendricks was signed in free agency and Hendricks made a big special teams tackle on Sunday. Todd Yoder and Juran Bolden were also added in free agency and they have been outstanding.

Steve from Jacksonville:
When was the last time our defense scored a touchdown?

Vic: The last time the Jaguars defense scored was in Baltimore last season. Akin Ayodele scored on a 15-yard fumble return.

Eddie from Jacksonville:
We kept hearing about how the running game would get better when Kyle Brady returned, yet, Fred still had very few holes this week. What happened between last year and this year to make our line so ineffective?

Vic: What happened? Well, Kyle Brady was lost for the first five games, Mike Pearson was lost for the season in the fourth game of the year, and Vince Manuwai has been hobbled all along. As a result, the Jaguars offensive line lost its continuity and a lot of the chemistry that existed between itself and Fred Taylor. It'll return. They'll get this going again. Just give it time.

Patrick from Elida, OH:
Could you give me some win/loss stats on artificial turf vs. natural grass and open air vs. dome, since the coaching change.

Vic: The Jaguars are 9-13 under Jack Del Rio. They are 8-9 on grass and 1-4 on artificial turf. They are also 0-2 in domed stadiums.

John from Tallahassee, FL:
What is the Jaguars offensive fourth-down conversion percentage? What is Leftwich's fourth-quarter passer rating?

Vic: The Jaguars are seven of 11 (63.6 percent) on fourth down. Their opponents, by the way, have not attempted a fourth-down conversion. Byron Leftwich's fourth-quarter passer rating is 95.3, sixth in the AFC. He leads the NFL, however, in fourth-quarter passing yards, 575.

Tim from Lake Butler, FL:
I don't know what Bobby McCray's stats were for the game, but I was there and I noticed that he got a lot of push on the tackles into the backfield. How many pressures did he have?

Vic: Bobby McCray was credited for one quarterback pressure, which gives him six for the season.

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