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Football with a personal touch

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

J. from Surprise, AZ:
On Sunday Night Football, Favre stated the swing pass is the most difficult pass in football. Why is that? What is the easiest pass in football?

Vic: It's not a difficult pass to complete, but it's a difficult pass to complete for yardage because the throw has to be timed and thrown perfectly for the back to make the catch and get his hips turned upfield before the linebacker closes the angle on him. It's a pass that requires a lot of touch and accuracy to a receiver who's running a route that's not nearly as crisp or as specific as downfield routes are. Plus, the back is angling away from the quarterback and that makes the throw more difficult. The easiest pass to throw is the quick slant. It's the exact opposite of the swing pass, as the receiver is moving toward the quarterback and the window in which the ball must be thrown is tightly defined. No touch is necessary; just zip it.

Don from Jacksonville:
Please explain the wedge penalty the officials called against the Jags on Saturday.

Vic: Three Jags blockers were judged to be within an arm's length of each other as they were blocking during the return. Any formation in which more than two blockers are within arm's reach of each other constitutes a wedge and that is a violation. It was a close call because one of the blockers quickly peeled off, but the officials make calls in the preseason with the idea they are providing a teaching tool for the coaches on new rules and major points of emphasis. The no-wedge rule is a major point of emphasis.

Gil from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Wouldn't it be better for the NFL to just say there will be no overtime in the preseason? That way fans can see their teams go for two to prevent a loss (as if it really mattered), without having to worry about players being hurt during an overtime period.

Vic: So, we would have one overtime rule for the regular season, another overtime rule for the postseason and no overtime for the preseason, right? Count me out because, as you said, it doesn't really matter. It's the preseason. The scoreboard is meaningless. The scoreboard that's important is the one that involves evaluation and analysis. Have you seen enough of your players in the preseason to know who to keep and who to cut, without making mistakes? Have you addressed the issues on which you need improvement and information heading into the regular season? I hate the preseason. I'll be delighted when they cut it down to two games. I wish they'd get rid of it entirely, but if they did that the first few regular-season games would be as poorly played as the first few games of the college season. Try to watch the preseason without becoming emotionally involved. We're halfway through. It'll be over soon.

Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
Did Jacob Cutrera win some favor for his efforts Saturday? Is he a bubble guy for the practice squad?

Vic: I'm not going to limit his reach. Why can't he make the final roster? It's not as though this team is deep at linebacker. Montell Owens came out of nowhere in the final two preseason games of his rookie season to surprise everyone and win a roster spot, and we've seen how that's turned out for him. Why can't Cutrera do the same thing? You wanna find worth in the preseason? This is it. It's for all the Jacob Cutreras out there who have a dream. Forget about David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew. The preseason isn't for them, it's for Cutrera.

Joe from Orlando, FL:
How do you maximize the different skill sets of Mercedes Lewis vs. Zach Miller at tight end? Do you think their presence on the field might tip the hand of the Jaguars' play-calling?

Vic: You are asking a question I asked of GM Gene on the radio show last night. I think it's a big deal. I don't think it involves Lewis; I think it also involves Miller and the fullback, Greg Jones. Lewis is the Jaguars' true tight end. He can block and catch with equal aplomb, therefore, he is an every-downs player and that means his participation in the game won't tip run or pass. Miller and Jones, however, are role players. If I'm the defense and Miller is in the game, I'm playing pass. If Jones is in the game, I'm playing run. If they're both in the game, then I'm happy because someone I fear more is on the bench. As GM Gene pointed out to me during a break, however, most teams have the same personnel. So, what it comes down to is offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's use of those players. He has to invent plays and formations that'll create the matchups he wants. This will be fun to watch. Remember this: When Miller had his big game against Cleveland last year, Jones was on injured reserve and the fullback didn't figure prominently into the offensive design. In my mind, it goes to philosophy: What do you wanna be, a running team or a passing team?

Steve from Orange Park, FL:
Tell us how a fan should approach getting their money's worth from a preseason game.

Vic: It depends on whether the fan is a season-ticket holder or bought the ticket to the preseason game on a single-game basis. The season-ticket holder should understand that the cost he pays for his season ticket is what it costs to see the product for a full season. He can assign any value he wants to the games, instead of dividing the cost equally among the 10. If he wants, he can pretend the preseason games are for free. Fans were paying full price, so to speak, for a preseason-game ticket back when I started covering the league, but I never heard anyone complain about it because all of the tickets for the team I covered were purchased on a season-ticket basis and it was understood that the price fans paid for that season ticket is what the franchise required to provide a season's worth of football. My suggestion is to buy a season ticket.

Andrew from Chapel Hill, NC:
What will the Jags have to do this season that they didn't do last season to be a playoff caliber team?

Vic: Right away, we know they'll have to rush the passer and protect the quarterback better than they did last season. It starts with those two things because you can't play better defense if you don't rush the passer better and you can't expect your quarterback to play better if you don't protect him better, and it's imperative that the defense and the quarterback each play better than they did a year ago.

Jack from Jacksonville:
Every time I hear Gene Smith, I am amazed at the amount of access he gives to Jaguar fans. It's such a refreshing change after the way things were done under Shack Harris. Is this normal for the league or is Gene the exception to the rule?

Vic: Gene is the exception to the rule. He gets it. He understands that the Jaguars have a fan issue in Jacksonville. He understands that the Jaguars need to increase the fan base and sell tickets and that a personality that is perceived to be fan-friendly and transparent is going to aid each cause. I've also come to see that he enjoys the give and take. He loves to talk football and he puts everything he has into answering the fans' questions on his Monday radio show. I mean, he really tries to answer the question instead of just skirting it. He and I get into deep conversations about football, which might result in a post-conversation voicemail or e-mail in which he further makes his point. It's obvious this is important to him. He loves his job and he loves the team for which he works. I can't think of a better situation for the team and its fans. This is your guy, folks. This is the guy you've wanted from the very beginning. This is football with the personal touch Jaguars fans have always wanted.

Sam from Tallahassee, FL:
It may be wise to take a glance at Denver's third preseason game this Sunday night, as week three is the best time to try and gauge a team. I'll go ahead and take a peek at the rest of the league while I'm at it.

Vic: If you wanna find something in this preseason that might offer any kind of preview of the upcoming season, this is the game that'll provide it. Be that as it may, I would still urge you to not put too much stock into it. It's just the preseason.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
Maybe I am simply tuning in more often than in previous years, but I'm really enjoying what seems like increased time on the radio for you, the other broadcasters and the Jaguars staff. The insight is informative and exciting and it is more of what this fan base needs: an almost nightly presence on the free-radio airwaves. Hope you are enjoying it as much as we are.

Vic: What you're sensing is more of everything. More promotions, more coverage, more ticket sales, more city officials campaigning for the team's future, more cannons, etc. This is the big push. If it works, there'll be more of it next year.

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