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Rush is best pass-defense

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

Patrick from Killinghall, England:
I'm shooting for the silliest question. Now that the number of teams left has dwindled, does the NFL have any safeguards set up to stop players from playing in disguise? Say, Michael Vick playing for another player incognito? Has it ever happened?

Vic: In the pioneer days of professional football, it was common practice for players to use fictitious names, so as to protect their amateur status. In some cases, players used fictitious names to protect the fact they also played for another team in another association. Of course, they didn't have ESPN covering their every move, so they got away with it. But I don't think any of that could happen again. However, I can remember a similar situation in college basketball about 30 years ago. It involved identical 6-11 twins, and everybody was suspicious of a switcheroo, but nobody was able to expose it. The one twin was a significantly better player than the other one. If the one who was better got into foul trouble, which he often did, he would switch jerseys with his brother at halftime.

Stephen from Dillsburg, PA:
Thanks for all of your great insights. My question is this: It seems to me the Jags' injuries were much fewer and less severe this last year than in previous years. Why would that be since we had a harder schedule? Was the team in better shape?

Vic: The Jaguars finished the 2003 season with nine players on injured reserve; three (Jermaine Lewis, Chris Hanson and Jason Craft) played major roles. In '02, the Jaguars finished the season with eight players on injured reserve; three of them (Tony Brackens, Zach Wiegert and Maurice Williams) were starters. In '01, the Jaguars finished the season with six players on injured reserve; four of them (Tony Boselli, Aaron Beasley, Fernando Bryant and Kevin Hardy) were starters. The 2000 season was when the Jaguars went through a horrible rash of injuries. They finished the year with 12 players on injured reserve; eight were players of prominence (Damon Jones, Carnell Lake, Stacey Mack, Lonnie Marts, Hardy Nickerson, Leon Searcy, John Wade and Zach Wiegert). The Jaguars stayed healthy in 1999, but suffered through a rash of injuries in '98 and '97. I don't know what the answers are. Clearly, Jack Del Rio's training regimen is different from Tom Coughlin's. I need more data before I pass judgment.

John from Washington, DC:
Going into the offseason, one of Del Rio's highest priorities has to be our third-down defense, which has always seemed to be a problem for the Jags. Is this because we never have had an explosive pass-rush, or does it have more to do with the secondary? Del Rio said we "will stop the run," and he succeeded. How do you think he intends to get us off the field on third down?

Vic: Third-down defense wasn't a problem in 1999, when the Jaguars tied with Super Bowl-champion St. Louis for the league lead in sacks, 57. In 2003, the Jaguars were 31st in the league in third-down defense and 29th in sacks per play. What does all of that tell you? The best pass-defense is a strong pass-rush.

Dan from Thousand Oaks, CA:
You say you like Larry Fitzgerald's talents, and we definitely need a wide receiver, and he or Roy Williams would seem to be the top two wide receivers in the draft, but I just can't see them dropping to the number nine slot. Would you ever consider trading up and giving up another pick to get a premier talent? Or, is trading down and getting another draft pick a better option if the Jaguars don't see any wide receivers or any players who fit the nine slot?

Vic: The 2004 draft class appears as though it will be loaded with players at positions where the Jaguars have distinct need; especially at wide receiver, cornerback and linebacker. I don't think there's any chance the Jaguars won't like what's available when it's their turn to pick at number nine. As far as trading up, I'm against doing that in a deep-crop year; you'd be giving away a pick in a later round that might bring you a real player. Trading up is something you'd consider in a weak year, which 2003 appears to have been. Trading down is very attractive, especially in a strong year, because you're getting an extra pick. But any time you have a top 10 pick, you have to be careful not to move too far down. Even in the weakest of years, you'll probably find a productive player in the top 10.

Jim from Jacksonville:
Vic, more on cornerbacks blocking a field goal kick on the goal line: I understand the risks of recovery at the one-yard line by the kicking team, but why wouldn't teams train tall players to swat low-flying field-goal attempts out of bounds on ultra-long field-goal tries, or even catch them? The reward might be worth the risk to block a potential game-winner.

Vic: Jim, the crossbar is 10 feet off the ground. Assuming the ball would clear the crossbar at an angle of descent, and knowing the defender would have to swat the ball away before it crosses the plane of the crossbar (the crossbar is treated the same as the goal line; break the plane), you might have to carry Manute Bol on your roster all year for that one chance you might have, and then you'd be risking the possibility of the kicking team recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Troy from Murrieta, CA:
Who do you think the best player in the draft is, and why?

Vic: : Kevin Jones appears to have it all – power, speed and elusiveness – and he always finishes his runs. I haven't seen a better player.

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