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Grading the 'Big Three'

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

Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Assuming the Jags can match another team's offer for Stacey Mack next year, do you think Mack will stay, knowing Taylor will be the starter for at least another year? That may be an impossible question to answer. Second question: What's your take on Ayodele now?

Vic: I have reason to believe the Jaguars can retain Stacey Mack. He received very little interest as a restricted free agent last spring, even though the Jaguars would've been owed no draft compensation since Mack was undrafted and the Jaguars hadn't tendered him high enough to receive compensation. So what's changed this year? I think Stacey wants to stay in Jacksonville and the Jaguars should have enough salary cap room to make him a respectable offer. As far as Akin Ayodele, I consider him to be one of the true building blocks for this team's future.

Lynn from Jacksonville:
This question follows the "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalty on Fred Taylor in the game against the Redskins: It seems officials are calling penalties like this (even though they are inconsistent and miss other more serious infractions) more this year than in the past. Are there specific guidelines for these types of penalties -- for gestures, taunting, etc. -- or are they left to the discretion of each team of officials to call it as they see it?

Vic: The NFL announced a major sportsmanship push in the summer of 2001 and sent their crews of officials into all of the teams' training camps to explain the specific violations that would be penalized. There should be no misunderstanding.

Duane from Jacksonville:
During the Redskins game, one of their receivers grabbed Fernando Bryant's facemask and ripped his helmet off. Why didn't they get a penalty? Is it legal for a ball-carrier to grab a defender's facemask?

Vic: No player may engage the facemask of another player. I remember that play in the Redskins game. All I can believe is that it went undetected.

Jon from Jacksonville:
It's good to have you back. What grade would you give the "Big Three" of the Jaguars (Brunell, Taylor and Smith)? It doesn't seem that any of them have played up to the level that was expected this year. What if anything can be done to correct the fact that the Jaguars don't seem to be able to make the plays that can change a game?

Vic: First of all, I believe expectations for the Jaguars' "Big Three" were unrealistically high. No trio of players should be expected to account for all of a team's yardage, but that's what's happened. Fred Taylor is the team's leading rusher and is only 72 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing with five games left to play. Jimmy Smith has caught 62 passes for 831 yards and four touchdowns, which is on pace to equal the third-most productive year of his career. And let's not forget that Smith does not have the supporting cast of past years. Mark Brunell's performance this season is statistically comparable to past years', though it appears as though he's going to be lower in touchdown passes. I'd give the "Big Three" a "B" grade for their collective performance this season. What's missing are big plays. As far as the team's failure to make game-changing plays this season, I believe that goes to overall roster strength. I do not believe this to be an upper-half-of-the-league roster. That will come with time, patience and more draft classes.

Donnie from Jacksonville:
I am a Tampa Bay fan but I still pull for the Jags. I had season tickets with the Jags from 1998 until 2000. My question is: If we win the remainder of our games, do we have a shot at the postseason. I' m sure you're going to tell me we're going to need help from some other teams. Do you think there's a chance we could get Emmitt Smith next year?

Vic: Yes, the Jaguars would still need help, but I think five in a row would do it. But is that realistic? As far as Emmitt Smith is concerned, I don't think the Jaguars would head in that direction.

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