Join Jaguars Inside Report Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Keith from Neptune Beach, FL:
I am going to take advantage of the "Pick-a-Pack" plan and get tickets forthree home games. What games should I go to?
Vic: The majority opinion would be Buffalo, Miami and Tampa Bay. I can appreciate that. But I would substitute the Tennessee game for the Tampa Bay game. By the time the Jaguars play the Bucs on Nov. 30, thoughts of the Bucs' Super Bowl title will have long since evaporated. The Buffalo game offers the excitement of a home-opener, the Miami game is an intrastate rivalry early enough in the season to guarantee it'll have significance, and the Tennessee game could turn out to be the feature game of the season, if the Jaguars catch fire early.
Mike from St. Augustine, FL:
I've heard some head coaches believe in a lot of contact drills to keep their players sharp and tough, while others believe in less contact to keep the players rested and healthy. Where will coach Del Rio fall on this issue in training camp and during the season?
Vic: That's the question to which all of the players would like to know the answer. The days of beating players up in training camp are over, but this is a new era in Jaguars football and Jack Del Rio needs to find out about his players as quickly as possible, and accurate personnel evaluations require hitting. I expect the first couple of weeks of training camp to be lively. During the season, every coach backs off.
George from Memphis, TN:
When are the draftees expected to sign and how many players are currently onthe roster? Will more cuts be based around salary cap issues instead of performance? Could you please pass along the dates and roster numbers teams must be at, including opening day?
Vic: I expect the low-round picks to begin signing contracts this week. Teams get no bonus points for signing draft picks early. Contract negotiations are an arduous process that will impact a team's salary cap for as long as the player is with the team. It's necessary to take a firm stance. Yes, the salary cap is an important consideration in making personnel decisions, and it is often weighed against performance when deciding on the future of a high-priced veteran, but performance is always the number one consideration and it's the sole determining factor in making decisions on minimum-wage players. The Jaguars roster is currently at 86 players. The first mandatory roster reduction will be on Tue., Aug. 26, when all NFL teams must reduce their rosters to 65 players. The final roster cuts will be on Sun., Aug. 31, when each team must reduce to 53 active players. Until the mandatory roster cuts, the NFL roster limit for each team is 80 players under contract. Roster exemptions are granted for players who participated in the 2003 NFL Europe League season. The NFL Europe roster exemptions expire on the Aug. 26 cut to 65.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I get the feeling fans aren't as concerned with our offensive line as they have been in the past few seasons. Do you believe the Jags have upgraded the talent on their line since 2000?
Vic: The Jaguars are in the process of upgrading their offensive line. I believe third-round pick Vince Manuwai will prove to be the most significant upgrade this season. That will be especially true if Manuwai jumps in at left guard and Brad Meester makes his move from left guard to center permanent. That would settle two positions. Second-year left tackle Mike Pearson is the key to whatever gains the Jaguars will make on their offensive line this season. If Pearson proves he's the future at the position, the Jaguars offensive line will become an area of strength. If Pearson fails in his attempt, then the Jaguars will have to address that position again. Offensive lines traditionally require more construction and development time than any other area of a team, and patience is required. The Jaguars began the reconstruction of their offensive line in 2001 with the selection of Maurice Williams. Two years later, I think it's fair to say they've made progress.
Steven from Palmdale, CA:
With training camp just around the corner, why are none of the draft picks signed? I am noticing other teams have been signing picks but the Jaguars remain quiet.
Vic: Cincinnati's Carson Palmer is the only first-round pick signed and Atlanta's Bryan Scott is the only second-rounder under contract. As of July 8, these were the league-wide totals: one in the first round, none in the second round, three third-rounders, three fourth-rounders, eight in the fifth round and 15 in each of the sixth and seventh rounds. That meant that only 45 of the league's 262 draft choices were under contract as of July 8. Why so slow? Well, the salary cap figure did not increase much this year, and that's causing teams to hold the line in negotiations.
Mike from St. Augustine, FL:
Can you please explain the "new gameday experience" that is being talked about so much?
Vic: The new gameday experience refers to changes being made to Alltel Stadium. Due to construction at Alltel and the recent demolition of the coliseum, the stadium area currently has the look of a war zone, but by the time the Dolphins come here for the first home preseason game (Aug. 15), Alltel will be one of the NFL's new stadium jewels. Wayne Weaver is especially proud of the terrace suite and sports bar in the south end zone. You're going to be dazzled by the grand entrance at that end of the stadium. Renovations also include escalators that will provide easier access to the upper decks, and a broader security perimeter that will allow for interactive games and events.
Derek from Lehigh, FL:
What are the keys for the Jaguars to make the playoffs or at least have a winning record this season?
Vic: In my opinion, a fast start is the key. A fast start would keep everyone's mind focused on this year; a slow start could cause sentiments to lean toward replacing Mark Brunell with Byron Leftwich and moving on with the Jaguars' future. If this team is to be a playoff contender this season, I think it's fair to say Brunell would have to be its quarterback.
Jesse from Orlando, FL:
This team has traditionally been one whose focus has been on offense. With the arrival of coach Del Rio, do you think over the next few seasons we'll begin to see this team change to one renown for its defense?
Vic: I fully expect the Jaguars to become a defensive-minded team.
John from Jacksonville:
I'm psyched about new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. I don't think most fans realize what Muskie brings to the table, and I think he'll put excitement back into our offense. For example, Virginia's number two receiver last year was their running back, and their freshman tight end set an ACC record for touchdowns. He also did a nice job improving Matt Schaub's game. Your thoughts?
Vic: Clearly, Bill Musgrave has some talent, and I have been impressed by his comments on the philosophy of offense during conversations with him this past spring. Musgrave has been dogged by his disagreement with George Seifert and subsequent mid-season resignation in Carolina in 2000. Last year, Musgrave did a great job at Virginia. This season will offer Musgrave a chance to put the Seifert incident decidedly into the past.