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Oklahoma on my mind

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions. Vic: The next "Ask Vic" column will appear on Monday, July 17.

Darryl from Morrilton, AR:
Arkansas fans get chided on the Jags message board for having high expectations of Matt Jones, mostly because we truly believe he is going to electrify the NFL once he gets his reps. Do you think we are wrong to tout his abilities, even if we may be a bit overzealous in the process?

Vic: There's nothing wrong with being fans of Matt Jones, but your zealousness may irritate some Jaguars fans because you're the fan of one person, whereas Jaguars fans are interested in the whole team. That's the rub. I think it's very obvious that Matt has fans from his home state and they believe he's a special talent. That message has been sent loud and clear. My message to you is that it might be best for Matt if he's allowed to develop his skills as a wide receiver without this crush of expectation. Just let it happen.

Jason from Abilene, TX:
What role did Al Davis have in the AFL-NFL merger? My brother is a disturbed Raiders fan and thinks he's a god. I pray for him daily, my brother that is.

Vic: Al Davis' role in forcing the AFL-NFL merger was that he transformed the Raiders from a failing AFL franchise in the beginning into one of the league's premier franchises in the AFL's final years. At the time merger talks began, however, Davis was the commissioner of the AFL and he was strategizing to sign established players away from the NFL. He wanted to fight, not merge, and Davis was incensed when he found out Lamar Hunt and Tex Schramm were involved in merger talks without his awareness. As far as the actual terms of negotiation, Davis had nothing to do with the merger.

Jason from Jacksonville:
Looking at the schedule, it seems weeks two and three could be the hardest part this season. Pittsburgh will have a longer period to prepare and the Jags will have a short week to prepare going to Indy. At least there are no three-game road stints.

Vic: The Jaguars certainly have a difficult opening month of the season, but the final month of the season is usually when playoff berths are decided and the Jaguars face three AFC teams that are expected to be playoff contenders: Indianapolis, New England and Kansas City. Fast starts are nice, but fast finishes are what propel teams to postseason success. What's most important for the Jaguars in the first month of the season is to avoid a slow start. Just be in position to make a move when December comes. You gotta get hot in the final month of the season anyhow to win in the postseason.

Hasso from Jacksonville:
Will we see any "Oklahoma" drills in training camp this year?

Vic: I was informed that Jack Del Rio told a couple of reporters that I would be allowed to select some "Oklahoma" matchups for what I expect will become the second annual training camp "nutcracker" drill. I promptly informed Marcus Stroud that I was handling matchups and that I would have a stern test in store for him. Stroud said that was fine because whoever it was they were going down. Yeah, baby, that's the attitude on which good "Oklahoma" drills are built. It's an offense vs. defense thing; a lot of bravado is necessary. I'm thinking Stroud vs. Chris Naeole might be a good matchup. How about Khalif Barnes and Reggie Hayward? John Henderson and Vince Manuwai?

James from Hernando, MS:
Besides Marcedes Lewis, who else do you think could immediately help the Jaguars in their rookie season?

Vic: I expect Maurice Drew to be a dependable punt-returner and third-down back. Clint Ingram will have a chance to win a starting linebacker job. Brent Hawkins intrigues me. Dee Webb will compete for the "nickel" back job.

John from Jacksonville:
In the upcoming training camp, do you expect to see an above average number of nine-on-seven drills to establish a strong running game, or do you think the number of nine-on-seven drills will be average since the line has played together a few years and the team does not want to risk more injuries?

Vic: Jack Del Rio told me at the end of spring drills that this summer's training camp regimen will be about the same as last year's. He's not going to beat them up. You don't do that to a 12-4 team.

Justin from Jacksonville:
Your response to one of the questions scares me. Putting so much weight on the opener is a huge risk for the fans to do. It could set the pace for a big season if we win, but it could deflate fans' enthusiasm about the rest of the season if we lose.

Vic: OK, let's try it another way. Even though it's a home game for the Jaguars, losing to Dallas would be no big thing because it's not a division or conference game. Now how important does the game against Pittsburgh become if the Jaguars are 0-1 with trips to Indianapolis and Washington ahead in weeks three and four?

Weaver from Bentonville, AR:
As a fan, I thought the Colts/Jets Super Bowl was the most important game ever played because it gave the AFL competitive legitimacy and created a marketing mechanism using the charisma of a professional football superstar, Joe Namath. In your opinion, what was the most important Super Bowl or championship game for the health of the league and why?

Vic: The 1958 NFL title game in which the Colts beat the Giants in overtime is the most important professional football game ever played because it gave birth to the popularity professional football has enjoyed ever since.

Michael from Ottawa, KS:
Is it just the five-yard chuck rule that has diminished the role of the corners, or has safety become a more important position?

Vic: Safety has become a more important position on teams such as the Steelers and Ravens, which is to say on teams that have dramatic play-makers at safety. Players such as Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, who sack you, strip you, intercept you and score touchdowns, make any position more important. Bob Sanders has made safety a more important position for the Colts. We have tapped into a vein of big-play safeties recently. As I said, this is the first time in my career I can remember the safety position having players of more prominence than cornerback has. In fact, players such as Polamalu and Reed may be better athletes than the top cornerbacks in the game today. In terms of the importance of the two positions, however, cornerback is still considered to be a position of much greater significance than safety.

Franklin from Jacksonville:
Speaking of the Jags drafting Marcedes Lewis, I was not surprised by the pick, but I really did not see the need. This team never seemed to be trying too hard to get the ball to the tight ends last year. In your opinion does this pick suggest a slight change in offensive philosophy or is this just an example of best available player?

Vic: You never pick a guy in the first round with the idea of not utilizing his talents. They liked him. They believe he fit right where they picked him. Changing the offensive philosophy to suit his talents is something any team would do.

Chris from St Augustine, FL:
Between 1985 and 1997, the NFC won 13 consecutive Super Bowls. Why was there such disparity between the AFC and NFC?

Vic: The AFC had outstanding quarterbacks (Marino, Elway, Kelly, Esiason, Moon), but the NFC had the muscle players (Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Ronnie Lott, "The Hogs," Mike Singletary and the Bears' front seven, Mark Bavaro, Leon Lett, Larry Allen and on and on). The NFC, especially the NFC East, played power football and the AFC was physically overwhelmed by the NFC. Everybody loves the passing game, but football is a muscle game. The teams that are more physical usually win.

James from Cincinnati, OH:
Which cornerbacks in the league are excellent in really slowing down the receiver in the first five yards from scrimmage? Who would you rate among the top all-time?

Vic: You're describing a technique known as jamming the receiver and, honestly, I don't know which cornerbacks are considered to be the best at it. Given the "major point of emphasis" on enforcing the chuck rule, I don't know if any of today's cornerbacks are allowed to be proficient at jamming receivers. Ty Law, in my opinion, was the best before the "major point of emphasis." Lem Barney was the master of a technique known as "bump and run" coverage. It was all about jamming the receiver at the line and continuing to jam him all the way down the field until the ball was in the air. It was legal to do that until the rules changes of 1978, therefore, I think the all-time best "jammers" have to have come from the era immediately preceding the '78 rules changes. I'll give the all-time nods to Barney and Mel Blount. Ken Riley, a guy from your hometown, was very good at it.

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