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It's about running game

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Rob from Jacksonville:
As a Colt fan, we always made a summer trip to (their training camp in) Westminster, Md. One year, 1967 or '68, they practiced in my backyard at Towson State. I did not follow the NFL after March 29, 1984, nor did I allow Mayflower, my company's corporate mover, to handle my move when I was transferred to Jacksonville. I paid for the move out of my own pocket. I was eventually reimbursed, but it was the principle. It kills me to see the horseshoes on Indianapolis' helmets. Go Jaguars!

Vic: There's a message in your story and the message is: Don't betray people's loyalties. Once you lose a fan, you'll probably never get him back.

Spencer from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Can you elaborate on your memories of the Sept. 22, 1997, Monday night win over Pittsburgh. More specifically, did you think Cowher was going to try to tackle Chris Hudson as he raced the blocked field goal attempt back to seal the game? I always wondered why more people did not make a big deal that he was so far out on the field.

Vic: The fascination with Bill Cowher's mock gesture is ridiculous, yet, whenever someone mentions that great, great football game, that's what they often choose to recall. Why? I don't get it. He wasn't going to punch or tackle Hudson. It was just a playful gesture, yet, people actually believe Cowher was on the brink of losing it. We're talking about a coach who had already been hardened by five playoff seasons, two AFC title games and a Super Bowl. Do you really think he was going to lose it on MNF in September? Why do we choose to remember that game for Cowher's playful gesture and not for the real story of that night, which was one of the most courageous performances in NFL history. Mark Brunell was in his triumphant return from a preseason knee injury that was so severe it would've probably ended most players' seasons. On a knee that caused Brunell to limp onto the field in pregame introductions, he threw for 306 yards and a touchdown. It was a game that was loaded with intrigue. Tom Coughlin played cat-and-mouse with the media all week leading up to the game. He gave the media reports about Brunell taking limited percentages of the snaps in practice when, in fact, Brunell was taking all of the snaps. Coughlin signed quarterback Jim Miller, who the Steelers had just cut, then cut Miller the day after the game. I still believe the Miller moves caused Keenan McCardell to be nearly beheaded by Greg Lloyd in the return match between the two teams some weeks later. We're talking about a very special game; a very special two games. All of this I'm telling you is real, so why do we choose to remember the one thing about that night that was fake? He wasn't going to punch Hudson. Now I understand why pro wrestling is so popular.

Barry from Richmond, VA:
Every year around this time I start getting excited about the Jaguars' chances and I'm feeling it again, but that New England game haunts my dreams. How many players are taking the nightmare of that game into training camp?

Vic: None. You're grossly overrating the long-term effect of that game. In fact, there is no long-term effect. It was a game for which the Jaguars were clearly in a compromised state. They were beat up on defense and struggling to score points on offense. They had just been held to 10 points by San Francisco and humbled at home by the Colts. Last year's playoff appearance in New England was testimony to the Jaguars' improvement and return to the upper ranks of the league, but it was not a real chance at victory. Bill Belichick told us all we needed to know when he tanked it against Miami. Coaches know. They know beat up teams when they see them. The Jaguars were not peaking for the playoffs. That playoff game in New England is a mere representation. It's representative of a team on the rise and also of the gap between where the Jaguars are and where they want to be. Call it a stepping stone or a mile-marker, but don't call it a nightmare. The AFC title game loss to the Titans was a nightmare.

Zach from Clarksville, AR:
Your number one play-call? Why do you like this play?

Vic: Fourth-and-goal at the foot line. I want nine guys up front, a quarterback and a running back, and everybody knows where the ball is going. Let's find out who wants it the most.

Jimmy from Jacksonville:
With so much emphasis being placed on the offense and Jimmy Smith's departure, why is there no mention of the void left at the linebacker position by losing Akin Ayodele?

Vic: Because it's not much of a void. It's the kind of void teams routinely face from year to year in the salary cap era. This is not a game of maintenance. It's a game of replacement. You don't want to have to replace your quarterback or players at other premium positions, but you're fully prepared to replace players of ordinary ability or players at non-premium positions. That's why you have to have "jars on the shelf" and the Jaguars have "jars" at linebacker. Pat Thomas is a player who was drafted and developed for this situation. Clint Ingram was drafted and will now be developed for the same purpose.

Mike from Jacksonville:
I think Roethlisberger came into a great situation more than he is a great quarterback. I know they won the Super Bowl but he had a 22.6 rating in that game. How many games do you usually win when your quarterback plays like that?

Vic: That seems to be a popular opinion about Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe you're right. Maybe he's just lucky to have gone to the right team, but let me give you another train of thought. Roethlisberger came to a team that was 5-11 the previous season. When he became the Steelers' starting quarterback, it was in week three and I think you know the rest. All of that sounds familiar, doesn't it? The Patriots were 5-11 the season before Tom Brady became their starting quarterback, which Brady did in week three of the following season. Of course, we all know the rest about Brady and the Patriots. People tended to say the same things about Brady then that you're saying about Roethlisberger now. I think you're a guy who likes stats, but you failed to mention Roethlisberger's other passer ratings from last season's postseason games. His passer ratings in the AFC playoffs were 148.7, 95.3 and 124.9.

Chris from Crestview, FL:
When a passing play is going on, what does a QB know? I assume he knows the position every eligible person will be at, and I assume he will have a progression on each play, but is that scripted into the play? Also with the defenses so complicated, at what point will he know where the defense is going to be at?

Vic: It's a tough position to play, isn't it? The quarterback is responsible for all of the things you've mentioned. His first order of business is to read the defense. The old standard was "look through the middle linebacker to the strong safety and you should know where everybody else on the field is," but it's much more difficult than that today. Today's quarterbacks and wide receivers have to be able to read the coverage on the fly. The quarterback knows where his receivers are going to be and once the defense presents itself, he and his receivers will make the route adjustments they have to make. The quarterback will know what adjustments will be made according to the coverage. The bottom line is that he has to have a quick eye and strong instincts, and he has to have a kind of clairvoyant relationship with his wide receivers. The old-days stuff about "route tree" and "progression" is minor league compared to what he has to do in today's game.

Johnny from Jacksonville:
Are we allowed to make fun of coach Del Rio's new hat?

Vic: I think he got a bowl of soup with that hat.

Scott from Jacksonville:
What exactly is the nine-on-seven drill?

Vic: It's real football. It's five offensive linemen, a tight end, a quarterback, a fullback and a running back against the defense's front seven. No passing here. This is about blocking, getting off the block and making the tackle. This is about the running game. It is the training camp staple of teams that want to run the ball.

Alex from Christiana, TN:
Concerning your recent article on Mike Williams, do you really feel he can overcome his weight problem?

Vic: I sure hope so because Mike Williams is a big-time talent. He's a player who, if he can control his weight and dedicate himself to being the best he can be, can become a road-grading guard. The guy who drafted him, Tom Donahoe, told me on Sunday that once the regular season begins Williams will be fine. It's the offseason that causes his problems with weight. Williams will be a featured performer in tonight's "Oklahoma" drill. He made a special request to go against Marcellus Wiley. We'll start to find out a little bit about Williams tonight.

Mark from Rochester, NY:
I thought it was Maurice Drew? Why is it Jones-Drew?

Vic: Maurice Drew added "Jones" to the back of his jersey at UCLA last season, as a tribute to his grandfather, who passed away on Sept. 10. UCLA was playing against Rice in the Rose Bowl on that day and Maurice's grandfather was in the stands when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He passed away shortly after the game. His dream was to see Maurice play in the NFL. Maurice was raised by his grandparents.

John from Neptune Beach, FL:
As a journalist, what was your opinion of Sunday's headline in the "Times-Union?" To me, it crossed the line between reporting and editorializing. I don't know what purpose it served, but I see it as stressing what has been reported to be an already strained relationship between Del Rio and the T-U writer.

Vic: You're talking about the story on Fred Taylor that bore the headline, "Fragile Fred." I don't like media critiquing media, but I will tell you this: The guy who takes the hit on that kind of headline is the guy whose name is on the story, even though he had nothing to do with writing the headline. The reporter is Vito Stellino, and when Taylor picked up the newspaper on Sunday morning, his first reaction was probably, "I'm never talkin' to Vito again." Nowhere in Vito's story, however, did he refer to Taylor as "Fragile Fred." All writers have been there. We've all been victimized by headline writers at some point in time, but it's difficult to explain that to players, coaches and fans.

Jon from Jacksonville:
I was just reading the names of the owners who make up the selection committee for the next commissioner and I noticed it's almost all big-market owners. I would think that doesn't bode well for the small-market teams. How does that committee and the five finalists named by them for the commish job affect the Jags in the long run?

Vic: The special eight-man search committee is comprised of Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh), Jerry Richardson (Carolina), Al Davis (Oakland), Clark Hunt (Kansas City), Woody Johnson (New York Jets), Jerry Jones (Dallas), Bob Kraft (New England) and Mike McCaskey (Chicago). That means it's an even split of small-market and large-market teams. The final vote, of course, will involve all of the owners, and there are more small-market owners than there are large-market guys.

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