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No margin for error

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

Chris Schaus from Clearwater, FL:
I do not understand the optimism of some Jags fans. How are they supposed to make a run at the title with no real defense. With the exception of Fernando Bryant, Carnell Lake and Kevin Hardy, all of the Jags' defensive players are over-rated or unreliable due to injuries or inconsistency. How can the Jags make any run at the playoffs without a credible defense and no cap room to pursue real free agents? In fact, how can the Jags even field a credible team with their cap woes?

Vic: I appreciate your concerns. I think they are legitimate questions. I'll start with this: I believe that any chance the Jaguars have of being a playoff contender in 2001 must begin by having a blockbuster draft. If that happens, and if this team stays healthy, and if its players and coaches prepare and perform better than they ever have before, then they'll have a chance of being a postseason contender. What their cap problems have created is absolutely no margin for error.

Brian Bennett from Winston-Salem, NC:
Is there a workout regimen for Fred Taylor that will enhance his ability to stay away from injuries? I know certain injuries can't be avoided, but him being in the best possible shape can only strengthen his resistance. Also, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to use Taylor as a receiver (more like Edgerrin James)? Getting the ball into his hands has to be a top priority, as he is probably one of the top three backs in the league.

Vic: Taylor followed such a regimen last spring and he credited it for helping him be a much more durable back last season. People forget that after missing the first three games of the year, Taylor was a starter in the next 13 and posted career-highs in rushing attempts and yards rushing. The Jaguars plan to involve him more in the passing game, but his 36 receptions last season ranked high among the league's feature backs.

Dave Keyes from Lighthouse Point, FL:
It looks like Kevin Hardy is the latest victim of the can't-get-along-with-Tom-Coughlin game. The list of players who have lost this game is long. Most of them have been no-brainers to get rid of, but Hardy and some others give me reason to pause and think. How many players have the Jags lost strictly because they fell out of favor with their head coach, not due to performance? I know the answer is not zero. Also, now that Fordham is gone, who will protect Brunell's backside and did he give any thought to that issue when he waited until the last minute to settle for less than his agent's demands?


Vic: The Hardy issue is strictly about money. You seem to know of a long list of players who've left Jacksonville after falling into disfavor with Coughlin. I wish you had named them. The only such players who immediately come to my mind are Rich Tylski and Pete Mitchell. Tylski fell into disfavor after allowing a critical safety in the AFC title game loss to the Titans. In Mitchell's case, it was the reverse. The Jaguars wanted to sign him and offered him more money than he eventually accepted from the Giants, however, Mitchell had played for Coughlin at Boston College and decided seven years was enough. As far as Brunell is concerned, his backside protector will be determined by next week's draft. I don't understand the rest of your question, since the Jaguars had plenty of time to re-sign Fordham after the Brunell deal was done. Clearly, the Jaguars did not want Fordham at his price.

Mike Leone from Jacksonville:
Do you think Shyrone Stith has what it takes to be a good backup, or will the Jags draft another running back in the later rounds? Also, is there any chance R. Jay Soward will turn into a solid receiver? Shouldn't they move T.J. Slaughter to the outside?

Vic: Stith was impressive enough last season to warrant development and the opportunity to be the Jaguars' number two running back. Draft another running back? Absolutely, if he's someone they believe is worthy of the selection. Nobody knows what the future holds for Soward. Before we can speak in terms of him as a football player, we have to know he's overcome those social factors that have damaged his career. Only time will tell us if he has. Finally, Slaughter is best-suited for run-support; pass-coverage is not his strength. That would indicate that he's more of an inside linebacker.

Bob Rutter from Neptune Beach, FL:
What is the best case we can hope for with Kevin Hardy? How did it get to this point?

Vic: All options are still open. The Jaguars and Hardy can still negotiate a long-term deal. What we have is a situation in which a cap-strapped team has drawn a line in the sand as far as players contracts are concerned, and Hardy is bound and determined to get the big contract for which he's waited. He is in the prime of his career and if he doesn't get the big spike with his next contract, he probably never will. This is not a unique situation. In my opinion, the best-case scenario is that Hardy turns in a blockbuster performance next season and puts himself in position to get a big, new contract. Hardy wants the money; the Jaguars need him to play better than he ever has. Nobody would benefit from anything less.
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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