Join jaguars.com senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Stuart from St Louis, MO:
What sort of things do you do to feed your football needs during the "Dead Zone?"
Vic: I don't have any football needs during the "Dead Zone." This is vacation time. This is time I spend doing things I won't be able to do for a long time. It's that way for everybody associated with the game. It's not just the "Dead Zone," it's the "Vacation Zone." I get a packet of news clips every day. Today's packet included a one-inch "Sports moves" agate-type article that included four names on two teams. I didn't recognize any of the four names, but on July 6, 2006, they were the NFL's news-makers. It's that way because the whole league is on vacation. That's the "Dead Zone." I will be taking vacation time next week. I'll golf and read. Those are the two things I like to do the most and I'm going to do as much of that as I can between now and the start of training camp. Those are my needs right now.
Sam from Gainesville, FL:
Why does everyone keep saying Matt Jones had a disappointing season last year? He was near the top of the league for rookie WRs in touchdowns, receptions, first downs, etc.
Vic: Matt Jones' performance in his rookie season wouldn't have been disappointing to anyone who has an appreciation for the challenges rookies face and the extra challenge Jones faced in making a position switch. General perception, however, was that Jones' performance was a disappointment and the blame for that falls right on those who created the overwhelming expectations for Jones. He was going to catch the ball, throw the ball, run with the ball, play wide receiver, tight end, quarterback and running back. He was expected to sell tickets and save the franchise. All of that was ridiculous. The only expectation should've been for Jones to learn how to become a professional wide receiver and, in the process of learning his trade, contribute to the Jaguars' success. He did that. Now he's facing year two and it's fair to heighten the expectations a bit. I think it's fair to expect Jones to assert himself as a go-to play-maker. I'd like him to show signs of becoming Jimmy Smith's replacement as the team's "X receiver" and number one pass-catching threat. We'll see.
Barry from Jacksonville:
You hear a lot about the 3-4, the 4-3, the "nickel" and the "dime" defensive packages on the pro level. However, in high school my team ran a great deal of 4-4 defense. What keeps that defense from being successful on the professional level?
Vic: It's vulnerable to the pass; not enough true pass-defenders on the field. The "Penn State 44" with a "Hero" may be good enough against college passing offenses, but pro quarterbacks and coordinators would destroy it.
Fred from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I loved your column about ignoring all the preseason experts. I was one of the angry fans. However, I am ashamed to say I am a college graduate who doesn't know what omerta means.
Vic: Fred, never go against the family.
Aqeel from Toronto, Ontario:
I found your answer to Thomas of Jacksonville regarding the poll a little surprising. Wouldn't you say the Steelers are the favorite, since they won the Super Bowl? Like the old saying goes, to be the man you have to beat the man. Right now the Steelers are "The Man" until someone proves otherwise.
Vic: There are no rules to preseason predictions. If we did it your way, the defending Super Bowl champion would always be the next year's pick. What fun would that be? Bill Cowher said the Steelers weren't the best team in the league last season and I agree with him. I also think the Steelers are going to miss Jerome Bettis more than anybody thinks. When the Steelers needed to convert a third-and-short or score on the goal line, he was the guy who went into the game. That's the definition of a "money player." When the Steelers needed it most, they gave the ball to Bettis. Who's going to be that guy this year? People greatly underestimate the importance of that role and how difficult it is to find someone who can fill it. Short-yardage and goal-line backs such as Bettis are football's equivalent of baseball's "closers," and Bettis is one of the players who has helped define that role in football. I think Greg Jones has become that kind of back for the Jaguars. The Ben Roethlisberger thing is also causing people to back off the Steelers. What can be expected of a guy who just underwent seven hours of plastic surgery? Will he be gun shy? The Steelers have a good roster, but they've got issues to resolve.
Don from Memphis, TN:
Lance Alworth may or may not be the number two-greatest receiver, but your shot against the AFL is pretty silly, even for you. The proof is in the championships, 2-2. And just for clarification, we are talking about the same Alworth who ranked first in receptions, first in receiving yards, first in total yards from scrimmage and first in receiving touchdowns, all in the same year the "inferior league's" champion won the Super Bowl, right?
Vic: First of all, the two best receivers in pro football history are Jerry Rice and Don Hutson, period, end of discussion. As far as Lance Alworth is concerned, he was a great receiver. He's in the Hall of Fame. I won't, however, back off my inferior league statement. The AFL began play in 1960 and was clearly an inferior league through the majority of its existence. Alworth's best seasons, 1965 and '66, occurred when the AFL was still second fiddle to the NFL. The first Super Bowl wasn't played until the '66 season and the Packers of the NFL beat the Chiefs of the AFL, 35-10. The following season, '67, the Packers beat the Raiders of the AFL in Super Bowl II, 33-14. It wasn't until Super Bowl III, the '68 season, that the AFL achieved parity with the NFL, as the Jets beat the Colts, 16-7. The following year, the Chiefs beat the Vikings, 23-7, and then the two leagues merged, so, the two titles to which you referred didn't come until the very end. Alworth was still going strong in '68 and '69, though his numbers were in decline, but he fell off hard in '70 and his last pro season was with the Cowboys in '72, when he caught just 15 passes in 14 games. Alworth was one of the star receivers of the '60's, but a lot of AFL guys put up big numbers because it was a throw-the-ball league. The best receiver in the game in the '60's, in my opinion, was Paul Warfield. By the way, Alworth was not first in touchdown receptions in '68.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
Do you think Shaun Alexander is overrated? I know he broke the touchdown record and all, but anyone could have run behind that offensive line. Put any starting running back in this league in Seattle's backfield and he would have done the same. Matt Hasselbeck deserves more recognition but Alexander gets it all.
Vic: The guy rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. He rushed for 1,696 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2004 and for 1,435 yards and 14 touchdowns in '03. That's 5,011 yards and 57 touchdowns in the last three seasons. What does a guy have to do to earn your respect? He's just shy of 8,000 yards rushing in his career and he's still in his prime. I don't care if his offensive line was Munoz, Boselli, Hannah, Hickerson and Webster. When you rush for those kinds of numbers, you are one heckuva running back. Hasselbeck had a nice season; led the NFC with a 98.2 passer rating. If you wanna say he's underrated, I'll agree with you, but don't tell me Alexander is overrated. I'll tell you who's overrated; his coach. How could you have that kind of running back and not make him the focus of your offense in the Super Bowl? It was one of the all-time blunders in Super Bowl history.