Join *Jaguars Inside Report *Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Bob Roberts from Tarrytown, NY:
There are lots of rookies going through camp this year, and it's evident there will be a lot of pressure to have some of them fill holes and play. What is your best guess as to which players and positions will be filled by rookies.
Vic: I expect first-round draft choice Marcus Stroud to be a major factor at defensive tackle. The Jaguars believe second-round offensive tackle Maurice Williams can become a starter this season, but I believe that may be asking too much of a former defensive lineman who was a one-year starter at offensive tackle for Michigan. Third-round linebacker Eric Westmoreland has the pass-coverage skills to become a passing-downs specialist, and more. Those are the rookies I believe present the best play-now potential.
Jason Wulfekuhle from Cheyenne, WY:
You say it should take the Jaguars about 2-3 years to rebuild. Is it realistic to think that during this "rebuilding stage" they can make the playoffs?
Yes, it is realistic to believe the Jaguars can make the playoffs during this rebuilding stage. The Saints did it last season. This is the NFL of great parity, and maybe even mediocrity. Much can be accomplished when a couple of star performances at key positions are joined by over-achieving support personnel. The 1996 Jaguars are an example of that. However, the AFC Central in '96 wasn't what it is today. Making the playoffs becomes tougher when you play in the best division in football.
Mark White from Sacramento, CA:
You had said on either "Jaguars This Week" or "jaguars.com Live" that Eric Westmoreland looked very good in the drills in mini-camp. Is it conceivable that Kevin Hardy will be released this year, T.J. Slaughter starts at middle linebacker, Hardy Nickerson starts at strongside linebacker and Westmoreland starts at weakside linebacker?
Vic: The $2.2 million cap savings Hardy would offer makes releasing him a possibility, but it wouldn't make the Jaguars a better team this year. Eric Westmoreland is a nice-looking prospect whose strength would appear to be pass-coverage, and that makes him a natural passing-downs specialist. His future would seem to be as a starter, but having him and Slaughter on the field together this year would mean the Jaguars would be very inexperienced at two-thirds of the linebacking positions, and they would also be rather smallish in what is considered to be pro football's big-back division. It will be important in the future to find a way to have Slaughter and Westmoreland on the field together and still be able to hold up size-wise against the run. The key may lie in the success of first-round pick Marcus Stroud and the Jaguars' ability to develop a big, run-stuffing interior of their defensive line.
Will Levie from Harvest, AL
: I'd prefer to see the Jaguars rebuild now so we can seriously make a run at the Super Bowl when it comes to Jacksonville. How do you feel?
Vic: The first thing you must remember is that the Jaguars had no choice but to re-structure their veteran players' contracts. If they had cut them, the acceleration of their prorated signing bonuses would've only worsened the cap situation. That having been said, yes, I would like to see youth served, which it almost certainly will be. Between 16-18 rookies are guaranteed to make this year's roster. If that isn't rebuilding, I don't know what is.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.