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Only players can make plays

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

Max from Tucson, AZ:
What are your feelings about rookies singing their college fight songs in the lunch room or in meetings? I always got a kick out of that when watching HBO's "Hard Knocks," but I wasn't the one doing the singing.

Vic: I'm OK with it. It's harmless. It's the kind of thing that can help a rookie come out of his shell. It can lighten the mood of training camp and that's a good thing, but let's not think teams win or lose based on this kind of stuff. This is a job and this is these players' profession. It's time to leave college behind and become professional football players.

Baldvin from Aalborg, Denmark:
Do the Colts, by lining Bob Sanders so close to the line of scrimmage, play the "46 defense" when they meet the Jags or is that something else?

Vic: The "46 defense" is a particular alignment with specific design elements. The "46" has three defensive linemen cover the interior offensive linemen for the purpose of disrupting pulling, trapping and other such intricate blocking schemes. The advent of the "46" is one of the reasons teams don't pull and trap as much nowadays. What the Colts do is bring an eighth defender, usually Sanders, up into the box in down-and-distance situations that suggest the offense will run the ball. Sanders, of course, attempts to disguise his intent. All eight-man defenses aren't the "46." The "46" has its own special design.

Chad from Jacksonville:
I agree with you about hazing but, as a prankster, I'm cool with certain things veterans do to the rookies. Remember when Paul Spicer did something with Ex Lax and brownies? I think it binds the team together.

Vic: Binds? Imagine trying to learn your craft and having to run from the field every 10 minutes and everybody's laughing at you. What part of that couldn't you like, right? You're the entertainment. You're the joke. Oh, what fun that would be, except playing professional football is a life-long dream and this is the most important opportunity of your life. It's good for team chemistry though, right? Maybe that's why last year's team had such great team chemistry. Have another brownie.

Gabe from Jacksonville:
Based on your discussion about the second half of the 2003 season, it was about plays, not players.

Vic: No, it's always about players, not plays, because no matter what play is called, it has to be executed. It amazes me that so many people can't figure that out. The best plays in the world don't work if bad players are attempting to execute them. Bill Walsh is considered to be the greatest "plays" coach of all time, but his plays didn't work nearly as well when he was the Bengals' offensive coordinator as they did when he was the head coach of the 49ers. I was always in awe of Walsh's aptitude for the game, but I watched his Bengals offenses dink and dunk against the "Steel Curtain" through the 1970's, and the results were predictable: The team with the better players usually won. Coaching can help put players in the right positions to make plays, but only players can make plays.

Billy from East Northport, NY:
In regards to the "46 defense," if it's an eight-man front with only three defensive backs, how would they go about defending three and four-wide receiver sets?

Vic: Obviously, you'd have to commit another defender to coverage, but the offense is losing a blocker and that plays right into the hands of a pressure-based defensive scheme because you're creating space for the rushers. The formula for beating the "46" is simple: Block it. Get players who can block the front, move it off the ball and keep it off the quarterback. Let's not forget who those linemen were in the Bears' "46." We're talking about Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Richard Dent and "Refrigerator" Perry. In their prime years, they would've been successful in any defensive scheme. It's always about personnel.

Bryan from Jacksonville:
Now that the Underwear League season is officially over, who were the offensive and defensive MVPs for the Jaguars?

Vic: Rashad Jennings had the best spring, beginning to end, of any offensive player I saw. Zach Miller made a big push at the end of OTAs. Eugene Monroe began his move to the starting left tackle job, and that could end up being the most significant event of the spring, but it's against my nature to give MVP awards for linemen in non-contact drills. On defense, Clint Ingram is my MVP. He was all over the field. I could say the same of the other two linebackers, but I'm gonna give the MVP to Clint because he displayed an infectious kind of energy this spring that made him stand out.

Tim from Jacksonville:
Can you give us your list of players to keep an eye on in training camp? I know several people have caught your eye so far, but which players have the most to gain/lose when the pads go on?

Vic: I wasn't crazy about the quarterback play in OTAs, and I'm not speaking only of Cleo Lemon. Simply put, Jaguars quarterbacks did not complete enough passes. I can remember practices in Mark Brunell's heyday when the Jaguars would go long stretches without an incomplete pass. What I saw this spring was something that probably bordered on a 50 percent completion rate, in team-drill situations. Who has the most to gain or lose? The Jaguars do because success or failure at the quarterback position defines a team.

Shane from Macy, IN:
A few years ago, when Garrard was the backup QB, the Jaguars had some level of depth at that position. If David Garrard were to go down now, what would be the outlook for the Jags?

Vic: What have I been saying all offseason? This is rebuilding. This team got old and now it's getting young again, but it can't happen at every position overnight. Todd Bauman is a capable backup, but the kind of backup quarterback you want has to come from drafting and developing a player who has down-the-line starting potential.

Trip from Jacksonville:
I can't shake the fact that we signed three high-priced free agents last year that were all complete busts, cost us millions of dollars and, more amazingly, were all cut one year later. What are the odds of failing so badly in free agency?

Vic: I think everyone knows how I feel about high-priced free agency. Not only aren't there any bargains in high-priced free agency, I think the odds are that a team is likely to regret spending freely in free agency. What's really amazing is that some teams learn their lesson, then have to learn their lesson all over again a few years later. There's something about money that burns a hole in our pockets, and I'm not just talkin' about teams, I'm talking about fans, too. As soon as a team gets some salary cap room, its fans demand spending in free agency. The good teams are the ones that turn a deaf ear to that kind of illogic.

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