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Jags need big guys

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

John from Cedar Rapids, IA:
What a sad day to be a Jags fan. How can the Browns have such success running the ball and we did not?

Vic: You're asking me to repeat a theme I've repeated all year: The Jaguars need to rebuild both lines. That's where the Jaguars' need is greatest. They need big guys on both sides of the ball. They need blockers and pass-rushers and run-stuffers. The popular notion two years ago was that the Jaguars were a pass-rusher away from the Super Bowl. As it turned out, that was ridiculous thinking. What you saw yesterday was reality. To be a playoff team in this league, you have to be able to move the line and hold the point, especially in critical, late-season, cold-weather games. You shouldn't need to have asked the question you did. You should know the answer from having read this column all season. It's going to take time, but the process has begun.

Jerell from Orangeburg, SC:
How can the Jags play so well vs. the Colts and lay two eggs vs. the Pats and Browns?

Vic: I don't have the answer to that question, but I think we would all agree the Colts game was a circle game. The team circled it on the schedule and so did the whole town. Everything this town and this franchise had was poured into that game and losing it the way the Jaguars did may have been a crushing blow.

Mark from Palm Coast, FL:
There is no bright spot. The season was a failure, just as every season ends with this team. The coach can no longer get the team going and the offense is always vanilla. With a chance for the playoffs, they played Cleveland like they were already eliminated.

Vic: Mark, I'm in my first column back from a heart attack, so forgive me if I don't join in on the everyone-must-die-because-I'm-unhappy routine. The bottom line is the season was not a failure and it revealed several bright spots. The Jaguars acquired and identified bookend tackles for the long-term future. They found a cornerstone defensive lineman and a blue-chip cornerback in consecutive third-round picks. They rebuilt their receiving corps and validated their decision to make Maurice Jones-Drew the team's feature running back, as Jones-Drew became one of the stars of the NFL this season. Young depth was acquired and its development should be expected to go to the next level next season. Here's another bright spot: The Jaguars established a pattern of proper behavior off the field, the product of closer scrutiny by the personnel department and a no-nonsense attitude by the coaching staff. Just as importantly, the Jaguars' weaknesses were clearly identified. GM Gene knows what he has to do in the offseason and the process will begin as soon as the NFL calendar allows.

Jami from Arlington, VA:
This may sound crazy but I'm glad the season is over. Step one in the rebuilding process is complete and the results look promising. I look forward to the offseason and what the future holds for the team.

Vic: That's not crazy at all. It's a sensible attitude.

Philip from Miami, FL:
One Achilles heel we had all year was our lack of pass-rush, and it's a position we desperately need to address this offseason. I don't think the draft is the way to go since our first two picks in 2008 were Harvey and Groves. What do you think about the Jaguars signing a premier rusher, such as Julius Peppers?

Vic: I'm a draft guy. I'm for drafting young talent and collecting compensatory picks so as to draft even more young talent. That's the program that was put into place last winter and that collection process is going to take time and patience.

Dave from Fleming Island, FL:
I think it was wrong for the Colts to lie down and give the Jets a free pass into the playoffs. I think it affects the integrity of the game. The fans that paid money to see that game got ripped off. How do you feel about it?

Vic: This is, in my opinion, a critical issue confronting the NFL because it goes directly to the quality of the playoff field. If the playoffs are the goal, and they are, then the integrity of the playoff field must be sacrosanct. What we're seeing in these late-season games, however, is a manipulation of the playoff field by the top four seeds that produces a weakened field and the most favorable matchups possible. In my opinion, the league must take a strong stance against this kind of posturing. If the Colts had rested their starters for the whole game, I would've had no problem with that strategy. They had earned the right to rest and protect their starters. That they elected to risk injury to their starters for three quarters and then bench them and tank the fourth quarter is a clear example of manipulating the playoff field. Making matters worse, they walked out on the potential of an undefeated season and immortality. Colts fans have every reason to be furious. So why did they do it? I think that's obvious: Somebody looked at the scoreboard, translated what it meant to the playoff pairings and then gave the command to bench the starters. Bill Belichick essentially did the same thing back in 2005, but the tanking attempt began with the opening kickoff, therefore, it was forgiven. The Colts' strategy was too blatant, not to mention that it stained the whole idea of playing for perfection. Undefeated season? Obviously, it means nothing.

Matthew from West Lafayette, IN:
If the run doesn't matter, why use linebackers? Have five guys rush the quarterback every play and the other six be defensive backs in zone coverage.

Vic: Before I got ill, we were headed in this direction in our talk of future defensive strategies. I agree with you, but forget about the terms linebacker and defensive backs. Alignments mean little; it's all about personnel. What I'm trying to say is that the proliferation of the passing game in the NFL means linebackers of the future will have to be two parts defensive back and one part run-stuffer. Call them anything you want, but it's not about what you call them, it's about what they can do.

Jim from Jacksonville:
Hey, Jeff, nice touch with the "Draft Tebow" bumper sticker in the background of your picture. Was that on purpose?

Vic: I wouldn't worry about that.

Shaun from Gainesville, FL:
When scouts are evaluating quarterbacks, do they recalculate their stats and add dropped interceptions, receptions and touchdown catches?

Vic: No, they look at their physical tools as they pertain to how they will translate to the NFL. If college passing stats meant anything, the Pro Bowl would be full of Texas Tech quarterbacks. The scouts don't want to know what a guy did; they wanna get an idea of what he will do. They wanna know if he can make all the throws. The scouting combine is where they really get a read on that because that's where the quarterback prospects will be asked to make all the throws. Then, in the evening, they'll put those quarterback prospects to the mental test by hitting them with formation, alignment and coverage hypotheticals. Forget about the college stats. All they do is identify the prospects. That's been done. The stats are meaningless now. Now it's time to find out who can play.

Emmanuel from Las Vegas, NV:
What do you think about the Tim Tebow of the MAC, Dan LeFevour, and do you see him being a Gene Smith prospect?

Vic: Can he make all the throws? As I said, that's the issue. There are some arm-strength concerns on him. He'll have a chance to silence those concerns at the combine. If he does, he'll be a Gene Smith prospect.

Scott from London, England:
What do you think about Tony Pike?

Vic: He appears to be a poor man's Ben Roethlisberger. I saw him throw a rope downfield as he was flushed left against Illinois. That answered any questions about arm strength while rolling left. I like Pike. He's got NFL-caliber mobility, a high release and natural-looking fundamentals. I like his vision and I especially like the ease with which he throws the ball. He seldom rears back to throw the ball. That's something Ryan Mallett does that bothers me. In my opinion, the ball should come out with ease. Is Pike strong enough and athletic enough? Those are questions he has to answer. I think he is.

Brandon from Palatka, FL:
How great it would be if the Jets were the ones to take out the Colts?

Vic: It's hard to imagine a rookie quarterback winning in Indianapolis in the playoffs. If I was the president of the Colts, that's the matchup I'd want, but I'd also be a little tentative about having to play against Derrelle Revis. That's one matchup I wouldn't want. Revis has a lot of Ty Law in him, and I think we all know what Law has done in his career against the Colts, especially in the postseason.

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