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Fans need pep talk

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

Stephen from Jacksonville:
If you could describe the NFL in one word, what would that word be?

Vic: Lombardi.

Brian from Jacksonville:
With the league turning to a pass-first, run-second mode, how successful would a coach be if he did the opposite and built his team for power running with quick guards and strong tackles?

Vic: I don't think it would breed success. You'd be trying to do what the league is trying to discourage. You'd be swimming against the current. I think there's a place for a strong running game, but you will not win championships in today's game without an efficient passing attack.

Manuel from Jacksonville:
OK, Vic, tell us what you saw Saturday at Tampa.

Vic: I saw an efficient passing attack that failed in the red zone because, in my opinion, the field shrunk. I think David Garrard needs to take more shots downfield because big plays are what make defenses crack. The running game can't be judged until Maurice Jones-Drew is in the game and a commitment has been made to get him the ball. Soon, a decision will be made at the open guard spot and that will allow for the development of continuity along the offensive line that'll breed familiarity and assist in game-planning. In all other ways, I like what I see on offense. It's on defense that I have concerns. The safety derby continues. Training camp has come and gone and we're a few days from capping the preseason, too, and I don't think anything at free safety has been resolved. I'd like to see Tyron Brackenridge get a look at free safety. He plays the ball well in the air, he's smart and I trust him not to blow coverage. Linebacker remains a concern because the Jaguars haven't had their three starters on the field at the same time in the preseason. Up front, the Jaguars are developing something good and long-lasting. It's obvious to me the rebuilding job on which General Manager Gene Smith embarked a year ago was bigger than we thought, and it's also plain to see that those areas of the team that have been addressed in the past two drafts appear to have been fixed for the long term. Draft and develop is the way you do it and it's the way the Jaguars are currently doing it, but it's not a quick fix.

Ben from Los Angeles, CA:
Now that the "regular-season game" of the preseason is over, do you have your starters for the question-mark positions?

Vic: The question-mark positions would be guard and free safety and I can say that I think I've seen enough at guard to make a choice and feel reasonably comfortable about it, although I'm not sure what that choice should be. At free safety, I'm still looking.

Derek from Griffith, IN:
Montell Owens and Brock Bolen seem to be two talented young men. Greg Jones is a talented old man. What do you think of the fullback position?

Vic: They say Jones may be the best blocking fullback in the league, so his ability to play the position is not in question. What is in question is the degree to which the Jaguars are going to use the fullback position. I don't think you're going to see Jones and Zach Miller on the field a lot at the same time, so how does that impact the decision you're going to make on your fullback personnel? Play time and salary have to complement each other.

Dane from Gainesville, FL:
What is your evaluation of John Matthews thus far? He's had a lot of looks and he seems to be a physical player. Will it be enough for him to make the roster or the practice squad?

Vic: We all wanna believe there's a place for players such as Matthews, but the all-he-does-is-catch-touchdown-passes mantra is ridiculous. He's being evaluated on what coaches and personnel people refer to as his "full body of work," not on just a couple of plays in the preseason. Matthews has great hands. That's obvious in practice. He doesn't have, however, the special skills you look for in a wide receiver. He's not a run-fast, jump-high guy. He's not going to win the one-on-ones, so to speak. The question becomes: Is there room on the roster for a catch-and-fall guy, which is my slang for a possession receiver? Yeah, I think there is, but Jarett Dillard is a possession receiver and he's also a jump-high guy. My hope is that Matthews will land on the practice squad because I wanna see more of him.

Terrance from Jacksonville:
In my opinion, David Garrard was one bad pass away from the half he needed to solidify this new-found confidence we have in him. What's your assessment of his performance?

Vic: You nailed it. One pass ruined everything. If he throws that ball away and comes back on the next play and throws a touchdown pass, everything would be rosy today. That play is symbolic of the type of pass he's got to avoid. It's the gap between where he is and where he wants to be.

Ian from Brantford, ON:
The pass-protection looked horrible in the early parts of the game, but the upside is Garrard was above 80 percent in pass completions and wasn't sacked. Last year, he would have been sacked three times and been between 50 and 60 percent.

Vic: He got pressure in his face early in the game and it was the result of the Bucs using stunts and twists up front that the Jaguars' inside guys didn't identify and communicate well enough to block. As time went on, they did. This was a perfect example of the continuity you need on your line to be successful. That continuity, hopefully, will be coming soon. I think durability should be one of the considerations in deciding who the starting left guard will be. They need to plug in someone at left guard on whom they can rely from week to week. They need to build continuity.

Greg from Jacksonville :
So what was the official attendance of the game?

Vic: Tickets distributed was 42,640. The actual attendance was probably half that. If others' misery gives you joy, then have a good time, but let's not forget that good tickets still remain for Jaguars games this season.

Tom from Wicklow, Ireland:
What separates a great coach from a good one? I get the impression that many fans see the coach as just a guy who walks into the locker room and gives a motivational speech and then goes out and calls some plays. What is the most important thing a head coach can bring to a team?

Vic: It's stability. All of the traits you seek in a coach are represented in stability.

Steve from Jacksonville:
Obviously they are all professionals, but in the case of an impasse, who has final say (other than Wayne Weaver, obviously) over the final cuts on this team, Jack or Gene?

Vic: What part of the conn don't you understand? Jack Del Rio said it and I've answered this question several times. Gene's got the conn. It's his call on all matters relating to personnel.

John from Jacksonville:
I call it definitely guarded optimism. One key change that I saw Saturday night was coach Del Rio's sharp commentary and enthusiasm on the sideline and at the halftime media segment. He seemed different in a good way. It's obvious the coach and GM are anticipating good results this season.

Vic: Something I've come to learn is that it's more important for a coach to give his team's fans a pep talk than it is to give his players a pep talk. We're living in times of hyper-media, which means that just about everything a coach says and does will be exposed for fans to know, analyze and critique. Winning over the fans is a big part of coaching in today's game. Your testimony is evidence of that.

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