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It rests on the defense

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

Brent from Ormond Beach, FL:
My son and I were at the game on Sunday and we both questioned one of the calls on a Jaguars punt. The punt was apparently downed by a Jaguars player inside the one but one official ruled it a touchback and another official called a penalty for "illegal touching" by the Jaguar player. After all the officials huddled, they ruled it a touchback and then penalized the Jaguars five yards. Can you illegally touch a ball in the end zone? It seems to us that they might have missed this call.

Vic: The "illegal touching" was the result of a player having run out of bounds in pursuit of downing the punt. You can't do that and be the first player to touch the ball in the field of play.

Christian from Palm Coast, FL:
Was the tackling better this week vs. the Chiefs?

Vic: Yes, it was. Reggie Nelson was a new man.

Jeremy from Navarre, FL :
It was a good game by the Jags but we must take it with a grain of salt. With a slim hope of making the playoffs, would you agree it all rests with David Garrard?

Vic: No, I would not. In the Jaguars' case, I think it all rests with their defense. It must play better than it has through the first half of the season. It's 23rd in the league and that's not very good against the soft schedule the Jaguars have played. The offense is up to number nine and that's pretty good. Yes, Garrard needs to eliminate the bad games, but I think he has by and large become a trusted quarterback. What the Jaguars need is a defense they can trust.

Jerell from Orangeburg, SC:
Did the extra linemen up front really make a difference or are the Chiefs that bad?

Vic: Yes, I believe the extra defensive linemen made a difference yesterday. That's another body in front of the linebackers absorbing the blocking. The Jaguars, in my opinion, just don't have enough athletic linebackers to play a 3-4. They just don't have enough speed to make that work. I think the 4-3 is a better fit for this team, but I won't lie to you, the Chiefs are bad and there's no way of knowing whether the Jaguars have taken a true step forward on defense until we see what they do against the Jets, the number one rushing team in the league.

Nick from Lafayette, IN:
I just wanted to point out that all seven rookies contributed to the win over Kansas City. If that's not an indication that the arrow is pointing up, I don't know what is. This pleases me more than the win itself.

Vic: This is the most productive draft class I've covered since the 1974 draft that produced Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. I'm not comparing this draft to that one, I'm just saying I haven't covered a more productive draft class since then.

Jimmicane from Cardiff, CA:
There was a lot of talk this week regarding the 2005 draft-day trade of Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. I know you're a big fan of the crunch-time performer. Which would you rather have quarterbacking your team?

Vic: Rivers.

John from Tallahassee, FL:
I can appreciate the enthusiasm that is generated by talking about a potential postseason run, but losing 41-0 to Seattle, losing to the winless Titans and barely beating the Chiefs and the Rams has clearly defined this as a rebuilding team. Mathematically, we have a chance but I think playoff expectations for this team are kind of silly.

Vic: I do, too, but it has to be acknowledged that the Jaguars are alive in the race. I don't expect the Jaguars to make the playoffs, but the schedule between now and December remains do-able and I'd sure like to see the Jaguars alive in the playoff race in December because it makes my job a whole lot easier and more worthwhile. Hey, there's no denying the importance of this week's game in New York. It's a clash of two 4-4 teams. The winner will advance its playoff hopes. The loser will take a major step backward.

Greg from Brockport, NY:
I know we'll probably have to wait a few weeks to get a definitive answer, but what can we ascertain from the Chiefs game about the return to the 4-3?

Vic: It worked against the 30th-ranked offense in the league. Might the 3-4 have worked? Yeah, it might've, but what if it hadn't? Oh, this would be a very angry place today. Coach Del Rio identified the need to do something dramatic. He knew it was time to make a change and it could turn out to be one of those season-changing moves.

Eric from Princeton, NJ:
Because the Jaguars seem to have returned to the 4-3 defense, can we determine the 3-4 was a failure here? Also, does this mean Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker could lose his job at the end of the year?

Vic: No, it doesn't mean Tucker is going to lose his job. Tucker coached the 4-3 under Nick Saban at Michigan State and at LSU. He also coached the 4-3 at Ohio State. The bulk of his coaching experience is in the 4-3. The whole 3-4 mania got out of control and I blame it on the fans. They wanted to think a scheme change was going to make the difference. They decided that if you move a player here and move a player there the Jaguars would instantly start sacking quarterbacks and returning fumbles for touchdowns. I warned everyone, as early as last February, that the Jaguars don't have the personnel to play the 3-4. I said over and over that you have to commit to a long-term personnel transformation to make that switch successfully, but my words were ignored. How about the guy who came to this column this past summer and chided me because the Jaguars were, in fact, making the switch? Where's that guy now? When the Jaguars lost Reggie Hayward, Rob Meier and Jeremy Mincey, they didn't think they had the linemen to play the 4-3, so they made the switch. What they found out is they didn't have the linebackers to play the 3-4. You have to have lots and lots of linebackers to play the 3-4 and they have to be superior athletes capable of sustained speed.

Keith from Jacksonville:
Why doesn't the receiving team call for a fair catch on the kickoff when they know it is going to be an onside kick? Don't the same rules apply whether the ball is kicked 50 yards or 10 yards?

Vic: Yeah, they do, but the fair catch capability is extinguished once the ball hits the ground.

Thomas from Snellville, GA:
After reading your in-game blog, I didn't really get a good feel for how you feel about Matt Cassel. What do you think of the move by the Chiefs to get him?

Vic: They got their pocket picked by the Patriots. I have a feeling the reason Bill Belichick didn't want the extra high pick is because he felt bad.

Mark from Tallahassee, FL:
"Why did the Jaguars stop playing when the game wasn't over yet, daddy?" This was a question my wife and I heard from a little boy asking his father that were sitting behind us at the game yesterday afternoon. The father responded by telling his little boy, "That's why you play your heart out until the game is over." Nice to know that even with only 40,000 fans, the Jags can offer a life lesson to the young fans. I just hope the little guy has a team to watch when he grows up.

Vic: I don't have to think long about what my father would've said had I asked him that question at a Steelers game when I was a little kid. "Because they stink," he would've said. That's why I wouldn't have asked the question. In the same situation, I would've had to console him, let him know everything is OK, to keep him from saying the one thing that was on the tip of his tongue: "I'm never comin' back to see these bums again." Today's kids got it easy.

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