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Run it, run it, run it

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

Kevin from Virginia Beach, VA:
Can David Garrard keep the Jaguars in the playoff race while Leftwich is out?

Vic: David Garrard has the physical skills to do it. He's a tremendous talent.

Chad from Easley, SC:
I don't really have a question just a reminder of something you said that I wanted to remind everyone of: "Help is not on the way." The Jags need us as fans. That is the only help that could be on the way.

Vic: That's an interesting point of view. You're right, this is when a team needs its fans to get behind it. Adversity brings out the best in those who are truly committed.

Brent from Palm Harbor, FL:
Running the ball and stopping the run last year led us to 4-4. We're 5-3 now but don't exactly have the identity we expected to acquire. What gives?

Vic: There's no reason for the Jaguars to be as low as they are – 27th in the league – in run-offense. It's essentially the same personnel as last year but with a quarterback who offers a much greater threat in the passing game. I know there have been injuries on the offensive line, but that's to be expected and I don't think the injuries have been such that they should be crippling the running game. I think it's a mind thing. I think it's time to get the quarterback back under center and commit to running the ball. Everybody loves the shotgun but when you go shotgun you can say goodbye to running the ball. I remain hopeful this team will get its running game going in the second half of the year. If they don't, they won't be the best they can be. It's that simple. As far as their run-defense, 14th in the league isn't awful and I also expect that ranking to improve greatly in the second half of the year. The situation at defensive end has really compromised the run-defense. Frankly, the Jaguars defense hasn't been the same since Paul Spicer was injured. As I said before, Spicer wasn't a Pro-Bowler but he was the one player the Jaguars couldn't afford to lose on defense.

Kirk from Micco, FL:
Could the Super Bowl be blacked out if Jacksonville was in it and insufficient tickets were sold? Love the site; I read daily.

Vic: Super Bowl I was blacked out in Los Angeles because the game wasn't sold out, but that's not going to happen in Jacksonville. The Super Bowl is the hottest ticket in all of sports. I can't answer your question because there are absolutely no guidelines for the possibility you raise because it isn't possible.

Danny from Live Oak, FL:
Do you get a bye week this weekend? Are you taking Mrs. Ketchman on a nice long weekend to some exotic destination?

Vic: You know, I've always seen those pictures of heart-shaped bathtubs in the Poconos, and now all of those Levitra commercials on TV, and I've wondered, why don't we do things like that? Then I remember: We have two in college and two in braces.

Roger from Jacksonville:
I think we could all use a little comic relief. How about this: A female acquaintance of mine asked me during a recent game why the referee always says: "Prior to the snap, false start on the offense." Of course it was prior to the snap. If it was after the snap it wouldn't be illegal.

Vic: That's great. What did we do before officials had microphones? Consider this: Probably the most controversial play in football history is the "Immaculate Reception." The officials debated for 15 minutes as to whether the ball had struck the offensive player or not. It was high drama; major suspense. Then, at the moment of reckoning, the referee walked to the center of the field, turned so that he was facing the press box and, after a hush fell over the crowd, raised both arms in the air. That was it. No words. I think I like that better.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT:
Can I point out that the Jaguars are 0-3 when Byron Leftwich throws 40 or more passes and they are 5-0 when he throws fewer than 40 passes. Run the ball! Will we see the second-half-of-2003 version of Fred Taylor and the offensive line after the bye?

Vic: You are a student of the game. Yes, I expect to see the best of Fred in the second half of the season. I'll tell you this: For this team, it's either run the ball or lose. It's real simple now. Run the ball and stop the run or start getting ready for the draft.

Robert from San Diego, CA:
You've mentioned several times that David Carr has a fundamental problem with a low release point. I didn't see that being a problem this past game. Has he solved it or was he just able to overcome it for this game?

Vic: I was very impressed with what Dom Capers and Chris Palmer did with David Carr against the Jaguars who, of course, have those two tall defensive tackles. What the Texans did with Carr was move him in the pocket so that he was throwing at angles. In my opinion, they have acknowledged his low-release problem and they have provided a cure.

Scherer from Lincoln, NE:
I noticed Reggie Williams got a little more attention in Houston. Can we all have your insight on our draft class over the first half of the season.

Vic: Reggie Williams is still a wait-and-see guy. When you're a top 10 pick expectations are high. Daryl Smith is a home-run pick. Greg Jones is developing as a short-yardage runner but it's still too early to know whether he can be the blocker and receiver they want him to be out of the fullback position. He's a wait-and-see guy, too. Jorge Cordova, of course, is injured. Anthony Maddox is on the practice squad. Next summer will determine whether he has a place in this league. Ernest Wilford is one of the steals of the draft. Josh Scobee is just what the doctor ordered and there's every reason to believe the Jaguars have solved the kicker position for the long-term future. Chris Thompson is a talented cornerback who could begin helping the Jaguars next year. Sean Bubin is in much the same category as Maddox. Bobby McCray is a steal in the seventh round. It's a good draft class that will ultimately be defined by Williams.

Patrick from Elida, OH:
I know this may put me into your hall of fame, but here it goes anyway. I am a big Leftwich fan but you have to look to recurring injuries and, since the Jaguars have a little money to play with and I assume they will try to have that each year, could they make a deal with Garrard to stay with the team and be its backup quarterback?

Vic: That's a good question. Who doesn't need a dependable backup? David Garrard is a player with starting-quarterback talent. Should he hit a "home run" while filling in for Byron Leftwich, Garrard will certainly interest teams that need a quarterback. The question will be, to what degree will they be interested? We can't ignore the fact that David had a bout with Crohn's Disease last spring, and any team interested in David will be concerned about his Crohn's condition. Should it impact his career negatively, the Jaguars have the salary cap room to pay him what he would be worth as an accomplished backup. I will tell you, however, that I expect that if David hits a "home run" he will be playing somewhere else next season and the Jaguars will realize a major trade gain. All indications are Crohn's is no longer an issue.

Chuck from Atlanta, GA:
After the Houston game, Del Rio seemed surprised at the low number of running plays called during the game. Can you elaborate a little more on how the offensive game plan is put together and then how it is managed on game day? Does Del Rio make the decision on when and how to change or abandon the plan, or is that decision left entirely up to Musgrave?

Vic: The head coach meets with his two coordinators on Tuesday of game week. That's the players' off day; the day coaches routinely stay until the wee hours of the morning putting the game plan together. After studying the opponent, the coordinators assemble a list of plays and defenses they believe are suitable to be used against their opponents' personnel and schemes. The head coach listens to his coordinators' presentations, offers his thoughts, then approves a final game plan that includes when and how those plays and defenses will be used. It's determined whether the offensive plan will be run-heavy, pass-heavy or balanced; whether the defensive plan will be aggressive or low-risk. Knowing Jack Del Rio as I do, you can figure the plan will call for balance on offense and aggressiveness on defense. That's not what they got, however, in Houston. It came out the opposite. Why? Because Houston took the Jaguars out of their plan. They established field position early and got a lead, and the Jaguars got impatient on offense. At the same time, Houston's ability to move suddenly with its passing game caused the Jaguars to back off a little bit with its coverages. Those two facts are the reason Del Rio said his team was "outcoached," and I give Del Rio major high grades for being that forthright. Most head coaches, by the way, after they approve of the game plan, turn it back over to their coordinators and allow them to execute it. The head coach has big-picture responsibilities that require his attention during the game. For example: What do you do with a quarterback who's just injured his knee and wants to go back into the game? Or when should he use that fake-punt play they put in during practice? Let's be sensible about this, though. The head coach is in constant contact with his coordinators. They're in each others' ears all day. They talk. Opinions are offered. There is no manual for coaching procedures. This isn't nuclear war. Ron Erhardt, Bill Parcells' old offensive coordinator with the Giants, used to tell me that when he started to call too many pass plays, he'd all of a sudden hear Parcells say in his ear, "Run it, run it, run it."

Dayro from Oceanside, CA:
What's up, Vic? No love for Socal? If Garrard starts, will Del Rio let him run and pass out of the pocket?

Vic: What's it like being a Socal guy? Do you get flashbacks? Do you ever stare at the wallpaper and think the design is moving? I've always wanted to be a Socal guy.

Jon-Michael Harris from Starke, FL:
Why does a team's best corner play as the "nickel back?" Why not the team's third-best corner?

Vic: That's what most defenses do; they put their third-best cover guy at "nickel back," which means he covers the slot receiver. As a result, most offenses design their pass plays against "nickel" to go to the slot receiver. Presto, your best cover guy is covering the guy for whom the ball is likely to be intended. The offense, of course, reserves the right to throw to someone else. It's no big deal. He's gotta play somewhere.

Joe from Jacksonville:
When do you think Byron Leftwich will return? I'm hearing all different times, such as right after the bye week or after 4-6 weeks.

Vic: We'll know for sure next Monday. That's what Jack Del Rio said. We'll have to wait.

Charles from Jacksonville:
If you look at the Jaguars' record under Jack Del Rio in eight-week intervals (1-7, 4-4, 5-3), it is not hard to believe the Jaguars could make it into the playoffs, maybe even deep into the playoffs, regardless if Byron misses a few weeks.

Vic: That is a very interesting perspective. When you look at it that way, there's little doubt this is a team in ascent.

Pete from Jacksonville:
Do you think the re-focused attitude toward nine-on-seven drills, running the ball and stopping the run will have a significant impact toward a re-dedication to the running game and help the team protect Leftwich or Garrard or whoever will be under center after the bye?

Vic: It will or they will lose. It's that simple. I'm not clairvoyant, but I know the simple logic of the game.

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