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Physical play priority

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

David from Port Orange, FL:
A few months ago I asked you what it took to have a physical football team. You replied that one man can set the tone in training camp. My question is, has anyone on offense or defense been able to step up in your eyes and make the impression the Jaguars will be a physical football team this year?

Vic: The guy who is setting the tone in this training camp is coach Jack Del Rio. His nine-on-seven drills are the most physical and spirited I have seen in the nine years I've covered this team. A lot of players have made their marks with their physical play: Leander Jordan and Rob Meier have certainly risen to prominence, but this camp still lacks that one dominant presence that becomes the heart and soul of a team's physical identity. In time, the Jaguars will acquire that player. Del Rio will make certain of it because there's no doubt in my mind the physical aspect of the game tops Del Rio's list of priorities.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL:
John Henderson and Marcus Stroud are great defensive tackles. How are Larry Smith and Reggie McGrew playing?

Vic: Larry Smith drew the ire of coach Jack Del Rio on Wednesday, for being out of shape and unable to practice Tuesday night. I don't think that bodes well for Smith's future with the team. Reggie McGrew needs to distinguish himself in the preseason, because I don't think he's done that to this point in training camp.

Terry from Jacksonville:
Are all of the stadium renovations going to be done by next Friday when we play Miami?

Vic: Total renovation of Alltel Stadium won't be complete until the 2004 season begins, but the projects that have been under construction will be ready to go for the Miami game on Aug. 15. The cleanup crews are hard at work and the place is really starting to take shape. It looks great and I think you'll approve.

Keith from Jacksonville:
I know I'm a little ahead of myself, but if worse came to worst, can the Jags put the franchise tag on Byron Leftwich to assure he won't go back into the draft pool and we would get nothing from it?

Vic: First of all, you can't put the "franchise" designation on a player who isn't under contract. The "franchise" tag is meant to be used to retain players whose contracts are expiring. Secondly, the Jaguars are currently using the "franchise" tag on Donovin Darius and they won't get it back until it expires following the 2003 season.

Mathias from Madison, WI:
What, in your opinion, is the greatest and most valued asset a safety can have?

Vic: Instinct.

Todd from Toledo, OH:
How do you see the AFC South shaping up over the next couple of years? Who do you think will be the strongest teams in the future?

Vic: Houston might be able to bring it all together next offseason, if it's able to successfully address its offensive line and running back positions. The Texans appear to have a good nucleus of skill-position players. Now they need some grunts. If they get those people, the Texans would be my pick to make the most significant move up the ladder in the next couple of years. Whether or not the Jaguars join the Texans as a team in sharp assent may be determined by Byron Leftwich. This team needs a star player around whom it can build. Leftwich was drafted for that purpose. We'll have to wait and see if he can be that guy, as David Carr was drafted to be and is for the Texans. Nothing about the Colts' future excites me. Unless Peyton Manning takes his game to a championship level, which means getting it done in the big games, the Colts could really flounder. Tennessee is a quality franchise with a strong method of operation. The Titans draft and develop, and that's a formula for continued success. A significant salary cap problem may compromise their outlook over the next few years, but the Titans' leadership won't allow the team to crumble.

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