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Looking for a quality win

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

Trey from Macclenny, FL:
I'm a big fan of yours, Vic, and read all of your articles. My question is, what is your position on Jaguars fans? I've been a big supporter of this team, but I have noticed a disturbing trend among our fan base. It seems like everyone blames every loss on one player or one play. The reverse is also true. I feel like our fans are too accustomed to college football and have no patience at all when it comes to player development. It seems like they expect players to come into the NFL and dominate as they did in college. I don't want this to sound bad but do you think if our fans really knew more about football they would better support this team right now?

Vic: In almost every way, Jacksonville fans are just like fans in every other city. But I have noticed one major difference: I don't think Jaguars fans understand or have yet accepted the inevitabilities of the NFL system (draft order, salary cap, etc.). There is no escaping losing cycles, and smart teams and smart fans accept that fact and immediately plan a route for recovery. I'm talking about rebuilding. Jaguars fans just won't accept it, and I think that has caused the team to make attempts to avoid it, which has further delayed the process. Maybe this season will drive home the point.

Scot from Jacksonville:
What was the first year the current salary cap system went into effect?

Vic: 1993.

Sharon from Port Charlotte, FL:
I am not sold on Leftwich. After reading your column, I will give him this season to at least be a QB. I'll give you next season because I'm nice. After that, I'm on ya, or vise versa. Deal?

Vic: That's the plan.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
Great article about "Weighing in on Leftwich." Unfortunately, I think it will just fall on deaf ears. On to my question: I saw that Meester re-upped and I'm just wondering about how the Jaguars' triumvirate handles re-signing veterans. Does coach Jack Del Rio urge James Harris and/or Paul Vance to begin negotiations with a player he likes, or does "Shack" simply evaluate and select those he deems worthy of an extension?

Vic: It's a matter of communication. Paul Vance may have said something like, "Hey, guys, next Monday is the last day we can sign a guy for the future and claim some of that money on this year's salary cap." And "Shack" Harris may have said, "Brad Meester's contract is up at the end of the year; maybe we should try to lock him up." And Jack Del Rio may have replied, "Meester's a guy I want to keep." That's how it has to work for this system of football operations to be successful. Each man must communicate his area of expertise and marry it to the other two.

Alan from Jacksonville:
Your column and fantasy football are the two reasons a football fan has to have internet access. My question is about the league MVP. Halfway through the season, I am already hearing a lot of names, even Dante Hall from KC. But he is surrounded by playmakers like Priest Holmes. My pick so far is Steve McNair, because without his playmaking ability the Titans would be in the cellar instead of the Jags. Your thoughts?

Vic: If they voted for MVP right now, I'd have to believe Steve McNair would win in a landslide.

Andrea from Magenta, Italy:
I think that start Garrard next game and sideline Leftwich is making a big mistake. The future of this team is Byron. I'm sorry for David in writing this, but that's the truth and everyone knows it. Garrard is the future of another team, not this team. You don't spend a seventh pick overall in a QB if you not firmly believe that he's the guy. He only needs patience, a little more protection, a great receiver to throw to and, most important, he needs playing time. More time he passes on the field on Sunday, less time we have to wait for win. I'm right?

Vic: All right, what's the story here? Who are you, really?

Charles from Jacksonville:
Can a college football player turn pro before graduating, play a year or more in the NFL, and then return to get his degree and play college ball again?

Vic: I want so badly to say something sharp, but I'm sure fans of that team won't see the humor in it and they'll barrage me with hate mail, so I'm going to do the smart thing and answer your question very plainly: No, in most states.

Jacques from Alexandria, VA:
Thanks for helping to keep us sane in these down times. Your level-headed approach is rational. What do you think are the chances of the Jags winning four games in the second half of the season and finishing a not-too-shabby 5-11? As you've attested, the team has shown improvement, has many bright spots and has played respectable if not mistake-free football thus far. Baltimore fans this Sunday gave me more high-fives and "a heckuva football team" praise than the expected "Jags suck."

Vic: It's possible, but what I'm looking for is a quality win. San Diego wasn't a quality win. By a quality win I mean a win over a team headed to the playoffs. This Sunday's game may be the Jaguars' best chance for a quality win.

Eric from Jacksonville:
I agree with your column about being patient with Leftwich's development. It was a well-timed pick-me-up for a discouraged Jags fan. In the column you mentioned that you envisioned a pass-blocking line. What do you think we need to do to upgrade our offensive line? Is the signing of Meester a good start?

Vic: Brad Meester is a better center than he was a guard. It's a good signing because Meester has upside at the position and because he's very durable. Teams don't mind paying a guy big money, and Meester got big money, as long as the guy is a dependable and productive player. Those two words aptly describe Meester. As far as the rest of the offensive line personnel, they need to show what they can do in the second half of the season because the team is going to react accordingly during the offseason. Byron Leftwich is a pocket passer. He must have time to throw.

Scott from Canandaigua, NY:
I'm a freshman in high school and I play WR, CB and FS. I'm about 5-9 and I'm wondering what should I do in the offseason to improve my play? What part of my body should I really focus on strengthening?

Vic: At your age, build the legs; Run, run, run. You've got some hills where you live; run them. Strong legs are the foundation for success. Coaches want kids who can move. Build your legs and the rest of your body will follow.

Anthony from Jacksonville:
Can you explain the role of a weak, strong and middle linebacker.

Vic: Weakside linebackers are positioned to the side opposite the tight end. That means the weakside guy is usually in a chase mode; he needs to be a guy who can run plays down from behind. The strongside linebacker usually plays a role in pass-coverage on the tight end, so he has to be an athletic guy who mixes pass-coverage and run-support skills. The middle linebacker is usually a bulky guy with the speed to range sideline to sideline and the toughness to take people on at the line of scrimmage.

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