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Safety last dog of defense

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

Bill from Lancaster, PA:
Since you seem to believe the combined practices with Atlanta were more valuable than a preseason game, do you think with the expansion of the regular season that more teams will start to do this, or remain pat with what they are doing prior to the start of the season?

Vic: All indications are that combined practices will become part of the training camp routine in the future. You know, they aren't new to the pro football landscape. I was covering these back in the 1980's. The Steelers actually had a home-and-home with the Redskins. One week the Redskins came to the Steelers' camp; the next week the Steelers went to the Redskins' camp. In each case, the day ended with a scrimmage between the two teams at the local high school stadium, which were packed with fans. It was at one of those scrimmages that I saw the funniest thing I have ever seen on a football field. It was at Carlisle (Pa.) High School, where there were close to 20,000 people packed into the place. The Redskins were televising the scrimmage back to Washington and they had a TV camera in the bed of a pickup truck along a tight sideline. Well, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke walked onto the field to observe his team in pregame warm-ups. Cooke might've been elderly but he wasn't fearful. It was like a Mr. Magoo routine. Somebody brought him a folding chair and he sat right on the sideline as the Redskins were warming up. All of a sudden, a tight end named Don Warren did a down-and-out and he would've knocked Cooke into the first row had Warren not looked up in time to see Cooke. Warren dodged Cooke deftly and then crashed head-first into the driver's door of the pickup truck, caving in the door. Cooke never flinched. I don't think he ever saw Warren. The stadium exploded with laughter and the incident immediately became training camp legend.

Tyler from Woonsocket, RI:
I heard that the Jets are not ruling out trading Revis if a new contract doesn't get done. Do you think there's a chance the Jags try to make a play for him?

Vic: Trade Revis; that's funny. It's even funnier the Jets would think that kind of bluff might work.

Thrill from Jacksonville:
Has Troy Williamson been written off?

Vic: Not written off, but he better turn it on soon. I saw him drop a pass in Atlanta. It's crunch time for him.

Mark from Wichita, KS:
Were there any players that really jumped out at you during the two-day scrimmage with the Falcons besides Garrard?

Vic: There were a lot of players that jumped out at me in good ways: Terrance Knighton was dominant. Mike Thomas was, as I said, best in class. Zach Miller and Marcedes Lewis were every bit the equal of Tony Gonzalez and Justin Peelle. Scott Starks and Derek Cox made a lot of plays. Rashad Jennings caught everything. Kassim Osgood caught the ball better than I had seen him catch it at any time since spring practices began. Kirk Morrison and Larry Hart made impressive tackles for loss. Justin Durant and Sean Considine intercepted passes and Anthony Smith nearly intercepted a pass on a play in which he broke on the ball beautifully.

Preston from Atlanta, GA:
No question, just wanted to say thanks for the continued excellent writing. With more and more information out there on the Internet in the form of blogs and forums, I really appreciate your well-written and constructed pieces. Keep up the great work.

Vic: I'll return the compliment by saying I thoroughly enjoyed my two days in Atlanta. It's a beautiful place.

Steve from Columbus, OH:
After the joint practices, what is your opinion of the Atlanta Falcons and how do you predict they'll do this year in a division with the current Super Bowl champions?

Vic: They are considered to be Super Bowl contenders on the strength of one player: Matt Ryan. Yeah, he's that good. I'm fortunate to have had a chance to watch him up close. He plays as though he has eyes all the way around his head. His arm is very average, but his instincts for the position are jaw-dropping. He and Aaron Rodgers are similar in their skills, though Rodgers would seem to have a better arm. Overall, the Falcons have a lot of pieces in place. They have the workhorse back in Michael Turner. They have the speed receiver in Roddy White. They have the big-time pass-rusher in John Abraham and I think they're about to uncover a play-making linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon. What they don't have is a lock-down cornerback. I guess Dunta Robinson is supposed to be that guy but he was injured and didn't participate in the combined practices. Is Robinson a lock-down corner? Is he a guy that can cut the field in half? I would tend to answer no to those questions and that's where the Falcons may struggle this year, which is to say where they struggled last year, in pass-defense (28th). Mike Smith and his defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder have to find enough mirrors to camouflage what I consider to be a weak secondary. If they can do that, and those two guys have the smarts to do it, look out. Everything else about the Falcons is ready to go.

Bill from Jacksonville:
In a perfect world, the Jaguars are sold out and have a 10-year waiting list. How long before we would get a new stadium?

Vic: First things first: Get the waiting list. When the ticket base is stabilized, I would expect facilities to become the franchise's next focus. Every 20 years, you have to revitalize these things or they get old. The trip to the Falcons' facility was an eye-opener. Their facilities are starting to become the standard around the league.

Eric from Atlanta, GA:
This is ridiculous, I know, but go with me. Last night I had a dream and as a part of that dream I went to to read the big announcement you keep mentioning (strange and over the top, I know). The announcement was that Bill Polian and Wayne Weaver had decided to team up and merge the Colts and Jaguars organizations into one team with two home fields. Again, I know this is absurd, but it made me wonder: Has this ever happened in professional sports? Has any team ever used two hometowns for a long time and has it been successful?

Vic: The Packers did it for years. They played home games in Green Bay and in Milwaukee. I remember having covered one in Milwaukee; both teams' benches were on the same sideline. The Packers actually had ticket offices in both cities. During WW II, the Steelers and Eagles combined forces to become the Steagles one year and the Steelers did the same with the Cardinals to become Card-Pitt the next year, but those teams didn't alternate sites.

Chase from Pensacola, FL:
I am worried about the interior offensive line, as that is probably our weakest point going into the season. Would you agree?

Vic: I think the two safety positions are a bigger concern because that's the last dog of defense, so to speak. If you break down at safety, it's a touchdown. The interior of the offensive line is a concern because up the middle is the most direct path to the quarterback, so you better be able to pass-block in the middle or it won't matter what you do at the tackles. I wasn't crazy about what I saw in Atlanta, but I think the Jaguars have enough talent inside to get it sorted out and be good enough.

Terry from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
As a longtime reader, I noticed that some days you post more questions than others. Yesterday happened to be a pretty long "Ask Vic." What goes into your decision to post more or less questions?

Vic: The questions determine the length and quality of the column. If the questions stink, the column's going to stink. If the questions are good, the column will probably be pretty good. Hey, I can't answer David Garrard questions 10 times a column, you know? A little variety helps.

David from Las Vegas, NV:
Is the college question possibly the big news that we are waiting on?

Vic: Yeah, it is. The Jaguars are fond of a program the Penguins of the NHL developed. The Penguins are on, like, a 200-game sellout streak and they're concerned about exposing their product to the next generation of fans, so they developed a concept in which they put college students on a waiting list for tickets that are greatly reduced in price. Pittsburgh has a big college population: Pitt, Duquesne, Carnegie-Mellon, Point Park, Robert Morris and more. It's only about 200 or so tickets but it helps expose the product to young people. The Jaguars studied the concept, liked it and are trying to tailor it to their need to fill the bowl and make this a blackout-free season. The team is currently attempting to work out the mechanics of a plan that would allow season ticket holders to donate their tickets to local college students. The Jaguars believe it would help promote season-ticket sales. Why would it be big news? Because if the Jaguars get within a few thousand tickets of a season-long sellout, it could be the program that puts the whole ticket movement over the top. It could be the final step in guaranteeing that all Jaguars home games will be shown on local TV. There are logistical issues that have to be overcome. Let's hope it can happen.

Steve from Orange Park, FL:
The opponents' record for the Gold package is 42-22; the Teal package opponents' record is 22-42. These packages are not balanced. Clearly, there's a price to pay if you want the Denver game.

Vic: It's called marketing. Isn't that what everybody wants?

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