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Safety is wide open

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

Jordon from Silver Spring, MD:
Vic, on the non-dishwasher-safe "Ask Vic" mug, I had the same thing happen a few weeks ago and not only did the "Jaguars Fan Shop" send me a new mug, free of charge and with free shipping, they did not even make me send back the old one and they gave me $10 credit for something else at the store. How's that for customer service?

Vic: Hey, we pay good money for those things. You didn't read the small print: Wash by hand only. I spent a lot of time painting that crap on there. Send me the name of the person who's giving them away.

Bryan from Jacksonville:
What was the draft like, B.K. (Before Kiper)?

Vic: We all sat in a hot, stuffy, smoke-filled press room that featured an easel with a large piece of paper on it that had "Round One" or whatever number the round was at the top of the page, and the teams in the order of their selection down the left hand side. When a pick was made, a PR department rep wrote the player's name next to the team that picked him. All of the information was relayed from draft headquarters in New York to the PR man. There was no TV coverage. We sat around and talked and wrote our stories. The PR guy was in control and he took care of his writers' specific needs. I remember that in 1977 the Cowboys made a trade with the Seahawks to move up to number two and draft Tony Dorsett. Later in the first round, when it was the Seahawks' turn to pick with the selection they got from the Cowboys, the PR guy gave me advance warning before he put it up on the board because the guy the Seahawks picked was from my circulation area. In its own primitive way, covering the draft back then was a lot of fun. The best part was the suspense as the name of the pick was written on the paper at the head of the room. We always had a pick pool and a time pool and they were the highlights of the draft for us. We laughed when we heard that ESPN was going to televise the draft live. How would they fill the dead time?

Guy from Hilton Head Island, SC:
Going back to the last four games of the 2009 season, do you ever remember thinking that our defensive line had quit or were they just being physically dominated?

Vic: It's been my experience that when teams struggle it's usually because they lack talent, not because they quit. That bad chemistry stuff in 2008 was not it. The Jaguars lost in '08 because they got old and lacked young talent. They went flat at the end of last season because the schedule got tough and they lacked talent. I didn't have to wait until the final four games to form my opinion of the defensive line. I knew long before the final month of the season that it was the team's greatest weakness.

David from Charlotte, NC:
How do you explain Maurice Jones-Drew's comments that the team lacked focus down the stretch last season? Who should take responsibility, the players or the coaches?

Vic: I don't know. As I said, I don't think focus or effort or team chemistry or any other intangible was the problem. In my opinion, bad drafting was the problem.

Joel from Jacksonville:
I read back on your "Ask Vic" column following day one of the draft in 2004 and 2005 (articles 3602 and 4345, respectively) to see if you were exaggerating. Forgive me, I believe you but sometimes I have to do my homework to be sure. You didn't like the Jones pick, but you said he was at the top of the Jaguars board.

Vic: You mean I didn't lie? I'm occupationally bound to defend the Jags' pick, right? Thanks for finding out what the truth really is. I disliked the pick and I think I expressed that opinion quite freely. James Harris said Matt Jones was at the top of their board and I reported that information in my story.

Jeff from Fullerton, CA:
When Stroud and Henderson were in their prime together, which one was the three-technique tackle and which one was the one or zero-technique, or did they alternate?

Vic: Marcus Stroud was the three and John Henderson was the plug.

Sean from Arlington, VA:
I realize the recent fan forums with Gene Smith and Jack Del Rio were primarily marketing efforts, but I was surprised at the quality of information both were willing to share. I felt both were very forthcoming, even more than we might expect in a press conference or a postgame interview.

Vic: Yeah, they were part of a marketing strategy, but I really don't like the way that sounds because those two guys really embraced the event and gave a genuine effort to reward the fans with information that should give fans a better feel for where the team is in its efforts to make 2010 successful. Coach Del Rio was fantastic on Tuesday night. He stayed until all of the questions were exhausted. We are now in the fifth month of an intense effort to fill the stadium for next season, and I can sense some legitimate forward momentum. It's a good feeling.

Robert from Ventura, CA:
Can Anthony Smith start at safety for us?

Vic: That's what we're going to find out. There's no position on this team more wide open to competition than safety is. I wouldn't even know which players to put at the top of the depth chart at those two positions right now.

Mike from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
"Go with your heart" is one of my favorite "Ask Vic's". Great read.

Vic: Try going home tonight and telling your wife to give you a reason to love her.

James from Augusta, GA:
If the Jaguars were to concentrate on minimizing false starts, delay-of-game and holding penalties on offense and offsides, facemasks, roughing-the-passer and pass-interference penalties on defense, where do you think that would put them in terms of wins and losses?

Vic: The Jaguars were the least penalized team in the league last year, both in number of penalties and yards penalized. Draft, baby, draft.

Brian from St. Louis, MO:
What are the different skill sets required between a kickoff-returner and a punt-returner? Why do we need two different people for those roles?

Vic: For starters, catching a punt and catching a kickoff are very different. Catching a punt in the face of 11 men charging at you is a courageous act. You want somebody who does it naturally and Scotty McGee is said to be natural at catching punts. After the punt is caught, you want the ball in the hands of someone who is quick and elusive. Big hits tend not to be the issue once the returner gets underway, therefore, a smaller guy isn't in danger of being physically overwhelmed, as a kickoff-returner is. Catching a kickoff is easy. You have time to do it and you're looking right at the coverage team as the ball falls toward you. The key element in returning kickoffs is the ability to find a crack, hit it at top speed and have enough meat behind your pads to be able to deliver a blow and absorb one. Why is Maurice Jones-Drew such an outstanding kickoff-returner? Because he's a powerfully-built man who has the speed to hit a crack and break into the clear and the force to absorb a hit or run through it. Why hasn't Jones-Drew been used as much as a punt-returner? Because he's not natural enough at fielding punts to instill confidence in his coach.

Andrew from Jacksonville:
What exactly is the 30 percent rule and how is it affecting players such as Chris Johnson?

Vic: Excluding signing bonus, you can't increase the player's salary more than 30 percent over the previous year's salary, in a contract renegotiation, which this would be. That means that based on Johnson's salary last year, he couldn't earn more than $1.755 million in salary this year. There are a couple of ways to get around this rule, one of which is by giving Johnson a bigger signing bonus than you'd like to give him, or getting into a lot of incentives. The bottom line is that Johnson's situation is no different than anybody else's, at this point in time, who's looking for a big sting.

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