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No avoiding rookie contributions

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

John Scott, III from Jacksonville: In a past response, you commented that the Jaguars will have twice as many rookies this year as they did in the 1996 playoff run. Another factor to be considered here is that their "core" players have more than twice as much experience as they had in '96. Going off of this equation, the Jaguars have a legitimate shot at being serious contenders this year, but, as you have said many times, the Jaguars' destiny lies in their ability to stay healthy. Assuming no major injuries take place, do you believe the "core" experience will make up for the 2001-2002 youth factor?

Vic: That's the plan, but the Jaguars will have so many rookies on their roster that it will be imperative that a significant portion of those rookies develop quickly into major contributors. They don't all need to become starters, but they must become capable enough to offer roster depth and perform as competent role players and special teamers.

Kevin Lohmeyer from Greenville, SC:
Even with Mark Brunell playing his best game, what do the Jaguars have to do to beat a great team like the Ravens?

Vic: A physically-dominant team such as the Ravens demands that you play their type of game. The Jaguars didn't start winning in Pittsburgh until they started playing "Steelers football," which is run the ball and play defense. Teams built on physical play require that you beat them at their own game. The Jaguars set records for passing offense in Baltimore last season, but lost the game. Look at the games the Ravens lost at home, consecutive losses to Tennessee and Pittsburgh. In those games, the Titans and Steelers played better defense than the Ravens. That's how you beat the Ravens, and that's why it's so difficult, because they have one of the best defenses in modern football history.

Tom Connor from Jacksonville:
With the return of Damon Jones, the signing of Sean Dawkins and the low priority the team is putting on fullback, do you see the Jags not even having a fullback on the field on first down, by either going with double tight end, three wide outs or even a tight end lined up at wing back?

You may very well see all of those formations, and more, but nothing beats a fullback who can serve as a lead blocker and a pass-protector. Even though he won't be on the field for every down, the Jaguars must find a fullback of those very basic blocking skills, or all of the glitzy formations will become predictable ways of disguising a weakness.

Travis Taylor from Ormond Beach, FL:
If Jimmy Smith is healthy by the time the season starts, where do you see Sean Dawkins fitting in the offense? Will he become the new third receiver and handle the return special teams jobs, or will those positions still be something Whitted or Soward will compete for?

Vic: Sean Dawkins would not seem to fit into the Jaguars' return plans. He will fit very prominently into the passing game, with or without a healthy Jimmy Smith. Dawkins is a quality pass-catcher who has never had a monster year. He could have a "monster" opportunity with the Jaguars.

Tom Rusk from Malabar, FL:
Are trades allowed now, or any time before the start of the season? I ask this wondering if it is still possible for the Jaguars to trade Kevin Hardy.

Vic: Trading is permitted from now until Oct. 16. The negative in trading Kevin Hardy is that the Jaguars would be losing a player for a draft choice they wouldn't use until the 2002 season. They need that player now. Of course, the Jaguars were unsuccessful in attempting to trade Hardy for a draft pick this past spring. Though trading is permitted, it would appear the deadline for trading Hardy has expired. The two sides need to come together on a re-structured deal that would benefit both. That's the best course of action.

Jordan Lenger from Lincoln, NE:
I was just wondering why there's so much pessimism this season. I mean, once the Jaguars truly discovered their running game and Fred Taylor was back in action, the Jaguars ended their losing streak and began to become a dominant force again. They have a lot of the same key weapons, and as long as Taylor is healthy, I don't see a problem with a playoff path.

Vic: You may be right.

Greg Davis from Orange Park, FL:
It seems to me if you lined up a healthy Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Sean Dawkins, Alvis Whitted and R. Jay Soward, Brunell could take target practice on defenses. Do you see Coughlin opening it up to a little fun and gun, with the speed and talent of these receivers.

Vic: Last season, McCardell caught 94 passes for 1,207 yards, Smith caught 91 for 1,213 yards, Kyle Brady caught 64 for 729 yards, and Fred Taylor was worth 36 receptions for 240 yards. That's a combined 285 pass receptions for 3,389 yards by the top four pass-catchers on the team. That's about as wide-open as it's going to get. If that doesn't satisfy you, you'll have to wait until the Gators open the season against Marshall and Louisiana-Monroe.

This is the final "Ask Vic" until the week of July 9.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.*

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