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Houston may offer cap opportunity

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

Tom Neal from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Should the Jags uncover their biggest cap hits for the Houston expansion draft for their expected house-cleaning, or still try to protect the core players?
Vic: Obviously, the Jaguars are in need of more than just their "core players." The roster, in my opinion, is in need of serious repair. That has to be accomplished simultaneously with salary-cap repair. With the conclusion of this season, there will be no choice but to officially begin the rebuilding process. The speed at which the Jaguars might accomplish that will be determined by the speed at which the Jaguars can clear their salary cap. Houston could expedite that process by drafting two of the Jaguars' highest-amortization players. In my opinion, the Jaguars should try to take advantage of that opportunity. Of course, Houston may decide not to accommodate.

Rick Armitage from Port Orange, FL:
If an AFC Central team has a final record of 10-6 but wins all of its Central games and another AFC Central team has a record of 11-5 but lost two of its AFC Central games, who wins the division? Also, who would get homefield advantage if the teams play each other in the playoffs?
Vic: An 11-5 record always beats a 10-6 mark. If the 10-6 team qualified for the playoffs, it would be seeded anywhere from fourth to sixth; the 11-5 division champion would be seeded anywhere from first to third. The lower-seeded team always plays at the higher-seeded team.

Jeff Parker from Jacksonville:
With the salary-cap hole the Jags are in, it's obvious next year will be the start of the rebuilding process. I'd like to see a bite-the-bullet approach, like the Bills are doing. How do you think Coughlin will rebuild?
Vic: It's not in Tom Coughlin's personality to invite losing, but major salary-cap repair demands present-tense pain for future gain. In my opinion, the Jaguars will have no choice to bite off as much of their salary cap problem as the cap will allow.

Eric Bassingthwaighte from Orange Park, FL:
Why would the Jags keep Soward on the team when, obviously, he is not a positive influence on the club, and release a player like a Richmond Flowers, who got picked up by the Cowboys?
Vic: It's a cap thing. Because R. Jay Soward is not a vested veteran, cutting him would cause the Jaguars to have to immediately "eat" all of his remaining amortization, if he was claimed by another team. If that occurred, the Jaguars would have to cut several players before they could play another game. If the team that claimed Soward was the Jaguars' next opponent, they would have gained a major competitive advantage by having weakened the Jaguars' roster for that game. The day after the game, they could cut Soward at no loss to them. The cap makes you live with your mistakes, which causes teams to be very cautious in their personnel decisions.

Dale Whelchel from Brunswick, ME:
The Jags defense looked pretty good but the team in general looks like it lacks the confidence to win the big games. The offense is really struggling. What does the coaching staff need to do to light a fire under this under-achieving team.
Vic: Dale, it has been my experience that motivation has to come from within. If someone else gives it to you, it will only last until the first time you get knocked on your wallet.

Ben Chen from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on Fred Taylor and the Jags future? His contract will be up in a couple of years and he'll expect top dollar. The problem I see is, how can the cap-strapped Jags justify paying that amount of money for a running back who has yet to complete a full season? Do you think we should start looking at running backs for this year's draft?
Vic: Fred Taylor is under contract through the 2003 season. There's no need to worry about re-signing Taylor, at this point in time. The major reason Taylor's injuries of the last two seasons have been so devastating to the Jaguars is that they haven't had another running back behind him the quality of a James Stewart. Yes, the Jaguars need to address that situation and I thought they should've addressed it in this past year's draft. Kevan Barlow wasn't selected by the 49ers until the 80th pick. Now, he's the league's third-leading rookie rusher. One running back isn't enough. The Giants have Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber, the Steelers have Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue, the Saints have Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister, the Packers have Ahman Green and Dorsey Levens, and the Seahawks have Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander. The Jaguars need to provide Taylor with a running mate. Maybe Stacey Mack is in the process of developing into that guy.

James Williams from Jacksonville:
With one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL, why are the Jags not throwing the long ball. I understand opposing defenses play two-deep a lot on us, but not on every play. Do you think Coughlin and his conservative coaching style can compete against other teams with more aggressive game plans.
Vic: You answered your own question. Opposing defenses are not allowing the deep ball and they're able to do that because they've been able to disregard the run. If you want to throw the ball, you better be able to run it, and vice versa. As far as Tom Coughlin's style is concerned, nowhere else in the league is he regarded as being conservative offensively. If you're looking for a conservative offense, look at the Steelers. They've rushed for 988 yards and thrown for only 636, but they're leading the division. You can win with any style, as long as you do it well.

Darren Ronan from Jacksonville:
When the decision is made to kick a field goal instead of trying to go for the touchdown or first down, like coach Coughlin did in the Bills game, doesn't that send a message of a lack of faith to the players? I understand playing percentages, but don't you think at this point he could have sent a message -- let's be aggressive -- and set an attitude for the team?
Vic: You can argue this both ways and be right. All I can tell you is I would've made the same decision. How could you not lack confidence in an offense that's playing as poorly as the Jaguars are currently? They had tried it the other way in Seattle.

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