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Jags are real close

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

Casey from Richmond, VA:
I think you need to settle down with the thick skin talk. Thin skin and anger management problems make good, passionate fans. Thick skin and cool, collective thoughts make good sportswriters.

Vic: You're absolutely right.

Grant from Lowell, AR:
With Matt Jones in the "X" spot this year, will we FINALLY get to see his break-out ability that we know he has?

Vic: Finally? He's just in his second season after making a position switch in his rookie year. The "X" is the premier receiver position. If he's playing the "X," which he did through the spring, he'll certainly have every opportunity to showcase his talents, but those talents need to be given time to develop, too.

Jody from Kailua, HI:
Why is this so hard? Look, I love football and live to hear about the players and teams, but I try to be my kids' role model. Admire football players for their athletic skill and try to get your children to emulate them on the field (minus the dancing and other craziness), but teach them yourself about life and how to be responsible men and women.

Vic: I don't think that's hard to understand at all. I have trouble understanding anything different.

Austin from Sugarland, TX:
I don't think the Jaguars need a number one receiver. Look at the Patriots dynasty. They won with a collection of receivers: Branch, Brown, Givens, Patten. Do you think the Jaguars need just one big time play-maker?

Vic: As I said in a column last week, "number one receiver" is usually defined by the "X" receiver position. In other words, it's not just about how you play, it's also about where you play. The "number one receiver" distinction usually belongs to the "X" receiver because the physical demands of his position are greater than the "Z" or flanker. He has to be strong enough and athletic enough to get off the jam and fast enough to still beat the coverage downfield. He has to be so physically gifted that the opposition dedicates double coverage to him, and he has to be gifted enough to beat that, too. That's the definition of a true "number one receiver," and if you don't have one, you're going to get an extra rusher. Do you have to have a "number one" kind of guy to win? No. As you said, the Patriots haven't had that kind of receiver. They have, of course, Tom Brady as their quarterback. The Chiefs have an ordinary cast of wide receivers, but they have Tony Gonzalez at tight end ("Y") and he fits the description of a "number one receiver." You don't have to have a star pass-catcher, but the Jaguars had one for 10 years and life sure was good when he was in the lineup. I think if you ask Jack Del Rio, he'd tell you he'd rather have a star pass-catcher than not have one.

Kelvin from Warwick, UK:
Since I was a big fan of taking Heath Miller before the 2005 draft for the very reasons you answered, could you give your opinion on whether you think Lewis will have a bigger impact for us than Miller did for the Steelers?

Vic: My expectation is that the Jaguars will use Marcedes Lewis very differently from how the Steelers used Heath Miller. Miller was used as a true tight end. For all the touchdown catches he made last year, he was still a blocker first and a pass-catcher second. There were games when he was literally not thrown the ball. They featured him in the playoff win in Indianapolis and that's what people remember. He only had 39 catches in the regular season; he wasn't even among the top 15 tight ends in receptions. My expectation is that Lewis will be "the other tight end." My expectation is for Lewis to be used more as a wide receiver than as a tight end, which means he's likely to catch more passes and have more impact in the passing game than Miller had in the Steelers'. You're comparing apples and oranges. They are very different players.

Stanley from Bakersfield, CA:
Since you seem to be ranking the Jaguars in every other category, why not ank them as an overall team? ESPN had them at number 19.

Vic: I'd put them in the number 10 position. Jimmy Smith's retirement drops them a little bit, in my mind, because Smith led the Jaguars in receiving yardage for 10 consecutive seasons. That's a big pair of shoes to fill. When I release my first power rankings – I won't do that until the week of the season-openers – I'll probably have the Jaguars near number 10, but I'll probably have some teams in front of them that will surprise you. Don't ask now who those teams will be. This power rankings stuff is fun, but I'm not ready to begin. The AFC South power rankings are what's really important. The overall league power rankings mean nothing. Ask the Colts. Where did everybody have the Steelers ranked when the regular season ended? This whole season, in my opinion, boils down to the Jaguars overtaking the Colts in the AFC South. It's time for that to happen. I don't care whether the Jaguars are ranked higher than the Bears or Bengals. Where they rank against the Colts is what matters.

Barry on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC:
I went to the beach today. I burned, so my skin will be ready for the season (and I twisted my ankle running in the sand, so the sandpit debate is not closed).

Vic: I can hear the words as though it was yesterday: "Don't run in the sand." I never asked why because there was no chance I was going to run in the sand. I never knew that all these years later I would want to know why.

Andrea from Jacksonville:
I'm a first-time season ticket holder and I must say that your behind-the-scenes knowledge of my Jaguars is one of the reasons I decided to purchase my seat. I'm really excited about the season forthcoming and I believe this year we will have a worse record than last year, 11-5 or 10-6, but the games will inspire a toughness that will get us farther into the playoffs. Do you see our team making it to the AFC championship game after playing such dynamic teams throughout the season?

Vic: Getting to the conference title game usually requires being a hot team at playoff time. The Seahawks and Steelers are perfect examples of that. I won't even try to predict who will be hot at playoff time. About all we can predict before the season begins is what teams we think have the talent to get to their conference title games. The Jaguars are real close. The answer to your question, I believe, will be supplied by the passing game. The Jaguars have young receivers who have to prove they can be big-time pass-catchers. Watch for that. The Jaguars have the defense to go all the way, and I like their stable of running backs and I believe their offensive line will gel into a strong unit. If it's the second half of the season and I'm starting to see young wide receivers making big plays, look out! As far as I'm concerned, that's the key for the Jaguars. As the playoffs near, I wanna see young receivers making big plays.

Jonathan from Jacksonville:
What numbers do you expect Byron Leftwich to put up next season, assuming he plays 15 or 16 games and is healthy?

Vic: First of all, yards passing mean nothing, so I won't go there. I'd like to see Leftwich stay on the touchdowns-to-interceptions pace he was on last season. Twenty-two or 23 touchdown passes against seven or eight interceptions would probably put the Jaguars back in the playoffs. I feel comfortable about those numbers. Passer rating is very important, in my opinion. The highest-rated passers usually belong to teams in the playoffs. Again, that goes back to touchdown passes and interceptions. Those are the two stats that count and they go right to passer rating. Fans like yards, but yards are often garbage. It's all about touchdowns and interceptions.

Mark from Regina, Canada:
What draft picks still need to get inked?

Vic: All of them.

Evan from Jacksonville:
Do you see a big season coming for Lewis?

Vic: It wouldn't surprise me. The Jaguars drafted Marcedes Lewis for a reason. They drafted him with a plan in mind. Jack Del Rio has already talked about how Lewis' presence in the middle of the field could open up the outside for the team's tall wide receivers. That sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

Lee from Tyler, TX:
I recently read an article saying Lance Alworth might be the second-best receiver in NFL history. They are saying he helped bring in the modern era of the passing game. What are your thoughts?

Vic: I don't know who "they" are, but did they mention that Alworth played in an inferior league?

Kevin from Hillsborough, NJ:
Who do you think is the most underrated QB right now? I'm thinking it's Jake Delhomme.

Vic: I don't know if he's underrated any longer. Marc Bulger was my choice, until injuries and chaos in St. Louis last season ruined his season. I'm still not sure if Tom Brady is recognized fully for what a great quarterback he is.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
Did you watch the NBA draft? The majority of teams seemed to make their picks based on need. Why do you think these teams bypass the best available player? Is it because of the roster size being so much smaller than the NFL?

Vic: I don't know. Ask the team that passed on Michael Jordan. Who doesn't need Michael Jordan?

Chris from Gainesville, FL:
What makes the "46 defense" effective and is it successful today?

Vic: Players such as Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, William Perry, Steve McMichael, Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall make the "46 defense" effective and it would be successful today if those guys were your front seven. It's about players, not plays, always.

Thomas from Jacksonville:
The poll results are silly. Who do you think is the favorite in the AFC?

Vic: I think the Patriots are the favorite in the AFC. For starters, they have Tom Brady. They also have a strong nucleus of players and Bill Belichick was really able to address need and still get top value when he selected Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson.

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