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Play stats make it clear

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Gene from Jacksonville:
Did you watch the Dallas game this past weekend? The QB, Robo, is fun to watch. That's the style of QB this city and the Jags would probably love to have. What is your opinion of him and do you think he will start ahead of Bledsoe when they play us?

Vic: First of all, the QB to whom you are referring is Tony Romo, not Robo. I saw a little bit of him last preseason and he looked OK. Some people in Dallas think he could be the Cowboys' QB of the future. I don't think he'll be the starter on opening day, but Romo will have his day and then we'll find out what he's got. I don't know what it is about his style that you especially like, but my guess is that it has something to do with mobility.

Chris from Crestview, FL:
Often I have heard that linemen love to run-block. I always think the Jags don't run enough, but have no idea if the stats back that up. Is the NFL today still 40 percent run, 60 percent pass, and where are the Jags?

Vic: In 2005, the league average in play selection was 44.9 percent run. The Jaguars' play selection was 49.2 percent run, which was the league's ninth-highest run-play selection average. If you wanna know why teams are good and why teams are bad, all you have to do is look at the league's 2005 play-selection averages. Six of the seven-highest run-play teams in the league made the playoffs, including all four of the conference title game teams and both Super Bowl teams. The number one run-play team in the league was, as you'd expect, Pittsburgh at a whopping 57.2 percent, which is nearly five percent higher than the number two team, Denver. None of the 11-highest pass-play teams made the playoffs. The irony is that Pittsburgh was considerably down the list (12th) in yards per rush-play average, which only goes to support the people who say it's not about yards, it's about carries. Please, I don't wanna do a chicken-or-the-egg debate on this. They're just statistics. Interpret them any way you wish. I know how I interpret them. Run the ball and stop the run, and you better have a quarterback who can convert on third down.

Hasso from Jacksonville:
I was looking at some of last year's rushing stats for the Jags and this is what I have learned: The Jaguars had 30 or more carries in 11 of 12 wins and had less than 30 carries in all four losses. Moreover, in all 12 wins we carried the ball more times than the opposing team and in all four losses we carried the ball fewer times than the opposing team and in all four losses the opposing team carried the ball 30 times or more. What do you think about these stats and do you think Fred Taylor and Greg Jones could carry the ball about 20 times per game each?

Vic: Give it to Taylor and Jones 20 times each per game and I'll see you in Miami the first week of February.

Steve from El Dorado, AR:
Just looking at your comments from Wednesday triggered something in my mind. Do pro football players read your column? Do other players from other teams read your column? Has Vicmania reached that level?

Vic: I know Marcus Stroud reads it. He's asked me several times why I won't use one of his questions. Last spring, when Pat Thomas heard Mike Peterson say to me, "Hey, Vic, what's happenin'?" Thomas looked at me quizzically, then asked, "You 'Ask Vic?'" So I know Thomas reads it, too. I also know Kimo von Oelhoffen reads it because last winter he sent me an e-mail after I answered a question about his hit on Carson Palmer. I think some other people read it, too.

Scot from Jacksonville:
I think one thing many fans don't understand is that having a strong running game isn't about the first quarter, it's about the fourth. You pound and pound, which leaves the other team physically hurting and demoralized. That leads to more big running plays in the second half, as well as opening up the passing game. It bears fruit, but not in the preseason because evaluation and development are higher priorities.

Vic: You're absolutely correct. The Jaguars' run-play selection in the first half of games last season was 50.2 percent, which was fifth-highest in the league.

John from Jacksonville:
You mentioned in your article about Richard Collier that, were he to be placed on the practice squad, he could be lifted off by another team. How does that work?

Vic: Any player on a practice squad is technically a free agent and may be signed by any other team in the league, provided that player is immediately put on that team's active roster.

Adam from Sandown, NH:
What do you think of Ronnie Brown? Would you consider him a pounder?

Vic: That's the expectation.

Brian from Mobile, AL:
I'm a Packer fan first, but I appreciate your column and all the things you write. In your Tuesday column, you mentioned that Mike Williams might be a candidate for injured reserve. Would there ever be an occasion where a player would fight to not get put on the shelf for a season? Does a player have any recourse if the team wants to keep him off the roster but out of the hands of other teams?

Vic: No, there's nothing a player can do if his team wishes to retain its rights to the player by placing him on injured reserve. He's under contract to that team, which means they own his rights and his liability.

Aaron from Kapaa, HI:
Every year I hear about how every team needs one or two key things to happen for them to have a standout season and maybe a great playoff show. What do you think the Jags need to do this season to take those steps and get closer to the Super Bowl?

Vic: All teams need to stay healthy. That should go without saying. Beyond that, these are the two things I think need to happen for the Jaguars to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender: 1.) Their receiving corps has to make plays. Yeah, the running game is important, but you can't win in this league without balance. 2.) Byron Leftwich has to settle into the role of an established veteran quarterback, which probably means the position has to become more peaceful. He needs to be relaxed and secure to play his best football and develop into a championship caliber quarterback.

John from Jacksonville:
With all of the rotation that occurs in games with wide receivers, how much more playing time do the two starters get than the others? It seems so much emphasis is placed on who the starters will be. Is there really that much benefit other than the label?

Vic: It's going to vary from team to team. Let's say it's a team that only uses the third wide receiver in obvious passing situations, and let's say that team is pretty good at running the ball and likes to run the ball. On that team, the third wide receiver is going to see most of his action on third down. There are about 12-14 third-down plays in a game for each team, so that would be the expected play count for the number three receiver, if the two starters play all of the other downs. The bottom line is that coaches are going to use their players in a multitude of ways and they're going to keep their players fresh. Being a starter is better than not being a starter but, if you're a number three receiver, you're going to get plenty of opportunities to impact the game's outcome.

Gabe from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Why are the Jaguars and the local media, for that matter, not more critical of the performance of our offensive line, which appears to be the real reason for our lack of offensive production?

Vic: Because it's just the preseason. If this was the regular season, the offensive line would be getting plenty of criticism, from the head coach and the media. If it's happening in the regular season, I'll tell you this isn't good enough. I'm not going to do that in the preseason, however, because the preseason is meaningless and coaches don't play to win. They tell you they play to win, but they'll also tell you they don't game-plan to win and, as far as I'm concerned, if you're not game-planning to win, you're not playing to win. What they're doing now is planning to win in the regular season. Jack Del Rio said it all on Wednesday when he said he'd take 0-4 in the preseason for 1-0 in the regular season. That's all you need to know. The coaches are doing what it takes now to win later. The Colts haven't won a preseason game since 2004, but they didn't lose a regular season game last year until mid-December. We've had the NFL long enough now that we should know how to watch preseason games. Look for flashes. I said that right from the beginning of the preseason. Don't look at the whole picture. Look at specific brush strokes in the picture. The preseason will give you indications of what your team's regular season prospects might be, but only if you know what you're looking for.

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