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Right from the gut

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

Mike from Jacksonville:
I'm a big fan of the Jags and your columns are the best. I would like to know what your gut feeling tells you about the season this year. Do you see the Jags making the playoffs?

Vic: My instincts tell me the Jaguars will be a division title contender this season. I've reached that conclusion because I don't believe teams can endure the salary cap problems that have confronted Tennessee and Indianapolis without experiencing a decline. So, I see the Jaguars getting better and the Titans and the Colts getting worse and that combination should result in the Jaguars being a division title contender. Make the playoffs? Only if they win the division. I don't see them getting enough wins to be a wild-card team.

John from Jacksonville:
With the players making such padded salaries these days, why doesn't the NFL make the players pay for the tickets that are needed to lift the blackout?

Vic: Yeah, that'll happen.

Nate from Tampa, FL:
Looking forward to next year, are there any big-name guys on the team who will be eligible for free agency? Any chance of one of our core players leaving town?

Vic: As it stands now, Willie Blade, Donovin Darius, Troy Edwards, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, Nick Sorensen, and Joe Zelenka are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Akin Ayodele and Deke Cooper would be restricted free agents. The bottom line is that if the Jaguars' current roster of players are, in fact, players, this team is in great shape for the future.

Patrick from Morgantown, WV:
Are you all right with Rob Meier being the slated starter at DE?

Vic: Rob Meier is a run-stuffer, not a pass-rusher. He can be a competent, two-down defensive end, though his talents are clearly better-suited for defensive tackle. The plan is for multiple use of personnel, and as long as the Jaguars' defensive staff can adequately predict run and pass, the specialized use of personnel will work. The long-range plan, however, is to develop or acquire every-down defensive ends. I'm OK with Meier, for now, but the position won't be fixed for good until the Jaguars address it for the long-term future.

Gary from Jacksonville:
What is the purpose of the practice squad and is it composed of only eight players? Also, for a given upcoming game, which players simulate the opposing team's offensive and defensive tendencies during practice?

Vic: The practice squad is an eight-player unit that allows teams to develop young talent for the future. The practice squad also serves as a reservoir from which coaches might promote players to the active roster. Another intent of the practice squad is to provide a pool of ready-made players for NFL Europe. Scout teams act out the upcoming opponent's offense and defense during practice. The scout team is comprised mostly of a team's "three's" or third-stringers.

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