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Perception and reality

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

John from Orange Park, FL:
Can you explain the difference in defensive philosophy between last year and this year. It seems like the defense is more swarming with gang tackles. Is it philosophy or personnel?

Vic: The generally perceived difference is that Jack Del Rio's team employs more of an attack-style concept of defense, while Tom Coughlin's teams were more intent on not allowing the big play and, therefore, played softer coverages and blitzed less often. Some of that may be true, but I don't think Del Rio's defense is blitzing any more than Jaguars teams of the past have. Forget about perception and philosophy; let's focus on reality. The reality is that the Jaguars are averaging 22 points allowed per game; last year's team allowed 19.7 points per game. This year's team has sacked the quarterback 17 times in 12 games; last year's team had 36 sacks for the season. So, in those two major categories, last year's team was statistically better. But here's where the big difference is in favor of this year's team: It is second in the league against the run; last year's team was 25th. Isn't it amazing that all of this attack-style, pressure-defense stuff comes down to stopping the run? Nobody liked Coughlin's defenses because they weren't aggressive enough. And everybody loves Del Rio's defense because it's aggressive and attacking. What does it all mean? To quote Del Rio, "There's perception and then there's reality." The reality is the major change in the way the Jaguars are playing defense is that they are stopping the run.

Bill from Columbus, OH:
I am a West Virginia boy and have watched Marshall for a long time. I remember telling my father Leftwich is incredible and singing his praises before Pennington even graduated. I loved watching the GMAC bowl between ECU and Marshall and find it a bit ironic that Garrard and Leftwich are now on the same team in the NFL. Can you tell me anything about the relationship between the two of them?

Vic: It appears to be respectful and professional. Beyond that, they're competitors. They each want to succeed personally.

Ian from Chesapeake, VA:
If you were the coach, would you give Brunell one last home farewell game? The fans would like to see Mark play with the fellas one last time. Would you?

Vic: Ian, I'd like to turn the clock back to 1995 and do this all over again. I'd like to go back to Stevens Point, Wis., again and raise an eye at the lefthanded backup quarterback. I'd like to sit in the press box in Denver one more time and marvel at what I'm seeing. In my 32 years of covering this league, I have had the pleasure and privilege of watching, interviewing and writing about two great quarterbacks, and Mark Brunell is one of them. Nobody is more nostalgic about Brunell than I am. I could go on and on and when this season is over and it's time to say goodbye, I will go on and on. But this isn't baseball. What you're suggesting doesn't happen in football because the game is so much more demanding and dangerous physically. When you play this game, you agree to accept the risk of major injury. Not only does the player agree to that, but ownership also agrees to accept the liability that accompanies injury. In this case, it would be reckless and irresponsible for the Jaguars to accept that responsibility for nothing more than a sentimental farewell. This is a very serious business. You guys have to get off this "farewell game" stuff. It shouldn't happen, it's not going to happen and I feel certain Brunell would agree. I'll ask him what his feelings are on the subject and I'll publish his response.

David from Milton, FL:
During Sunday night's broadcast, it was stated Jacksonville has lost five games by 10 points. I was wondering, in how many of those five games the Jags had a missed field goal?

Vic: David, I'm lost on the five and 10 stuff. The Jaguars have lost one game by one point (Panthers), one game by three points (Jets), one game by four points (Texans), two games by seven points (Ravens and Titans), one game by 10 points (Colts), one game by 13 points (Titans), one game by 14 points (Dolphins), and one game by 21 points (Bills). How about five games by a total of 22 points?

Jay from Jacksonville:
What is the history behind the white circles painted around a college football, and have pro footballs always been without them?

Vic: The stripes are intended to make the football more visible. The NFL ball once had stripes at each end of the ball. I can remember Terry Bradshaw complaining about the stripes being slippery and saying something about that being the reason he didn't like playing night games, so, if my memory is correct, NFL balls used in daylight games didn't have stripes and balls used for night games did. But that was discontinued, I believe, some time in the late-'70s when the NFL began using invisible paint on its balls. The stripes at each end of the college ball are not continuous; they cover half of the ball, which, in my opinion, gives the college ball a wobbly look I don't like because I have trouble determining if a kid is throwing a tight spiral.

Kelly from Santa Rosa, CA:
Even though it has no impact on how the players play the game, I thought the all-black uniforms sent a message of toughness, and it showed.

Vic: Do you understand what you're saying? You're talking about fear of uniform. You can't be serious.

David from Orlando, FL:
The Jaguars seem to be improving on committing fewer penalties. How are the Jaguars penalty-wise compared to previous years?

Vic: Last year, the Jaguars were penalized 89 times for 685 yards; that's a per-game average of 5.5 penalties for 42.8 yards. This year's team has been penalized 77 times for 648 yards; that's a per-game average of 6.4 penalties for 54 yards. Perception and reality, David. Vic from Jefferson City, MO:
Is Larry Fitzgerald going to the NFL draft next year? Can you explain to me that situation? If he is, will the Jags get him?

Vic: One more time: Larry Fitzgerald is a true sophomore at Pitt. He attended and graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy in 2002. He also attended a high school in Minneapolis, where he was to have graduated in 2001. The NFL requires a player to be three years removed from his high school graduating class to be eligible for the league's draft. The question is: Which of Fitzgerald's graduating classes apply? As far as the Jaguars are concerned, if they win another game they may not have to worry one way or the other about Fitzgerald.

Dan from Jacksonville:
Love your column; thanks for the daily dose of football education. I would like to know the advantages and disadvantages of the shotgun formation.

Vic: The advantage is that the ball gets back faster than the quarterback can, which means drop time is reduced. The disadvantage is the quarterback has to take his eyes off the coverage to focus on catching the ball.

David from Port Orange, FL:
Hey, Vic, how you doing? I'm glad we finally got some calls to go in our favor. In your opinion, what's the most controversial call in Jaguars history?

Vic: I'm doing fine, thank you. The most controversial call in Jaguars history is a tie between Quincy Morgan's drop in 2001 and his "catch" last year. Remember the bottle game in Cleveland two years ago? Replay showed Morgan had not caught the ball on a fourth-down play, but the Browns claimed the officials had not stopped the game to reverse the call before the Browns got the next snap off. Then, last year, replay was unable to reverse a "catch" ruling on Morgan's game-winning "Hail Mary" touchdown. Photographs clearly showed the ball had struck the ground. Actually, it's not a tie; the bottle game wins because the bottle-throwing incident that resulted is forever etched in the high-profile annals of NFL history.

John from Middleburg, FL:
"Ask Vic" is a great source for learning and amusement. I thank you for it. My question is: What exactly do the players on the practice squad do?

Vic: Practice.

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