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Drops have to stop

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

Mike from Middleburg, FL:
What are we missing on this team that makes our team so inconsistent? Is it a lack of leadership among the players or coaches, a lack of maturity in either group or, simply, that they have not yet learned how to win on a week-to-week basis? I would like to know your thoughts.

Vic: Mike, I'm just not into all of that leadership and maturity stuff. If you buy into that, then what you're saying is the Jaguars' talent is superior to every other team's and the only reason they lose is because sometimes they just don't try hard enough. That's baloney. The truth of the matter is the Jaguars' talent is probably no better or worse than the talent on 70 percent of the other teams in the league. I just don't buy into the intangibles theory. It has been my experience that a team's record is usually indicative of its talent level. It's a scoreboard business. The scoreboard doesn't lie.

Darcy from Jacksonville:
I hate to think it's true, that the team would play an underperforming high draft pick instead of someone more deserving. Do they want to be right or want to win?

Vic: Jack Del Rio was very firm in his stance on this issue, during our questioning of him at Monday's press conference. We hit him hard on the subject and he never flinched. He said he's in the "winning business" and it doesn't matter to him in what round a player is drafted, the best players are going to play. He convinced me. I still maintain, however, that it's naïve and unfair of us not to understand the impact the salary cap has on coaches' decision-making processes. When you draft a guy in the first round, you have to commit to him. That's the way it is on every team and, for that reason, it's imperative that you don't miss on your first-round picks. Production always wins out. The best players will always rise to the top. The high-drafted guys, however, get preferential treatment early on. They face less of a burden to prove themselves quickly. In time, of course, the burden becomes the same for everybody.

David from Milton, FL:
Where has Jimmy Smith gone? I know he's a focus of opposing defenses but he has disappeared recently in games.

Vic: There have been some dropped passes. Quarterbacks are never going to admit that they lose confidence in a guy and begin to look elsewhere, but it's human nature for that to result.

Ryan from Hamilton, Ontario:
I do not see this game against St. Louis as a bad game for the Jags. I think that over the last couple of weeks the Jags have got some good breaks; Maddox's fumble in overtime, the missed field goal that forced overtime, Carson Palmer's fumble late in the game against Cincinnati. I think this was the payback. Any thoughts on my theory?

Vic: Some will go for you and some will go against you. It's a reasonable theory.

Patrick from Jacksonville:
ARRRGHHH, pop. That was the sound of my head exploding following the Rams game. Just thought you'd like to know.

Vic: I'm sorry to hear that.

Larry from St. George, UT:
What is the team's red zone record and where do they fall in the league?

Vic: The Jaguars are 16th in the league with a red zone touchdown percentage of 53.8 (seven touchdowns and six field goals in 13 red zone trips).

Brandon from Jacksonville:
All right, quit playing with these idiots who can't seem to detect sarcasm. We have a team that is all but out of the division race and trying to stay in contention for a wild card and you have people writing in about the invention of the TV.

Vic: Now you've ruined it for everyone.

Nathan from Golden, CO:
The only major fault I saw was the obvious one, run-defense. Do you think it can be fixed and would you agree?

Vic: There were other flaws in Sunday's game that need to be corrected. The dropped passes have to stop. I would put that right at the top with poor run-defense. I have no doubt the Jaguars will fix their run-defense, but I'm starting to wonder if they can do that without loading the box. They are obviously not getting the linebacker play they need to take advantage of what they have up front. What good does it do to hold the point on the line if your linebackers aren't getting to the ball? In my opinion, stopping the run has to be a function of playing it straight. If it isn't, all you will have done is open yourself to the pass. Against a lesser quarterback you can do that, but you're not going to face lesser quarterbacks in the playoffs.

Sam from Sacramento, CA:
I don't know if it's just me, but it seems to me the Jaguars always seem to play to their opponents' level. Am I just paranoid?

Vic: I don't know if it's paranoia as much as a need for something definitive. Parity remains an intriguing concept. Everyone admits that it exists, but fans continue to be amazed when a team from the bottom of the standings beats a team from the top of the standings. That's what parity is. How do you explain the Ravens taking the Steelers to the wire last night? How do you explain the Patriots having to rally at home to beat the Bills? The 49ers beating the Bucs? Are the Steelers, Patriots and Bucs also guilty of having played down to the level of their competition? It's a level league. Every manner in which the league operates is meant to promote parity, from the salary cap to the draft order and beyond. Yeah, I thought the Jaguars would win against a Rams team that was playing without its three stars on offense, but nothing in this league stuns me. One of the criticisms of college basketball is that all you have to watch are the last two minutes of the game. Well, in a lot of ways you can say the same thing about the NFL. This has clearly become a two-minute-warning game. We saw that again last night.

David from Jacksonville:
Everyone wants to blame someone for a loss, so let me ask a blame question. In a loss such as the one we suffered against St. Louis, I would like to know the percentage of blame you feel exists between the players and the coaches. Is it 50/50 blame?

Vic: Can we change the word "blame" to "responsibility?" If we can then I can tell you that responsibility ultimately falls on the coaches. They are responsible for the strategy, the performance of the players they coach and, in many cases, the selection of those players. The coaches take the fall. It's always been that way and coaches accept it. Is it fair? No, but that's the way it is.

Chris from Urbana, OH:
Do you really think changing the wide receivers around is going to help our season?

Vic: Competition is the essence of the game. In my opinion, it can only help improve the situation at wide receiver. The dropped passes have to stop. The one-handed stuff has to stop. The effort has to be harder and tougher. Ernest Wilford plays hard and tough. Maybe he'll light a fire in his wide receiver mates. If Cortez Hankton gets more playing time, that'll mean less playing time for somebody else. Let's see who that bothers. That's something I'm going to watch closely. Who wants to play?

Adam from Bremerton, WA:
Shouldn't it be pointed out that if the playoffs started today, we'd hold one of the wild-card spots?

Vic: The Chiefs are also 4-3 and I'm not about to spend an hour figuring out tie-breakers for no meaningful reason, so I'm going to approach your question this way: If the Jaguars don't win this Sunday against Houston, they probably won't "hold" one of the wild-card spots. That makes this a big, big game. In fact, I think it's a must-win game because I can't imagine losing this game and making the playoffs.

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