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Spread-option QBs must be durable

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

Tommie from Chesapeake, VA:
If big guys are at a premium and wide receivers are a dime a dozen, then why do wide receivers get paid much more?

Vic: They don't get paid much more. The "franchise" salary for wide receivers is $9.9 million. It's $9.0 for defensive ends and $8.5 for offensive linemen. Wide receivers are paid at a higher level because they score touchdowns. I don't think salary is the way to judge a position's value. In my opinion, the best judge of a position's value is the demand placed on that position in the draft and in free agency. The bottom line on big guys is that there aren't a lot of them who can move. The ones who can go quickly.

Olly from Oxford, England:
Thanks for your detailed explanations of the wildcat and spread. Has the spread ever been even tried at the NFL level?

Vic: The spread to which I was referring in yesterday's column is the true college spread, the spread option, which combines run and pass. Pro teams have been using spread formations for a long time, but the closest thing in the NFL to the college spread option is the slash package Pittsburgh used in 1995 and '96 with Kordell Stewart at quarterback. The Steelers made five-wide (five wide receivers) the hot-new formation in '95 and it was all the rage, just as the wildcat is now. Technically, that's a spread formation, but the Steelers didn't do much running out of it with Neil O'Donnell as quarterback. Stewart supplied the run as a slash-type quarterback, and he ran out of formations that had a spread option flavor, but it was strictly change of pace stuff. Stewart was an ultra-durable quarterback. He was a thick, muscular, hard-body guy who could take a hit and dish 'em out, too. He was ahead of his time. He's the kind of quarterback you'd have to have to run the spread option in the NFL, and you'd still have to limit its usage to avoid injury to your quarterback.

Nate from Pinellas Park, FL:
On a recent episode of "Top Ten" on "NFL Network," they ranked the zone blitz as the number one tactical innovation of all time, just ahead of the west coast offense. Would you agree with this? What's your favorite?

Vic: The west coast offense isn't a tactical innovation, it's a philosophy of offense. I would rank the zone blitz and the "46 defense" equally, in terms of defensive innovation. The top tactical defensive innovation of all time, in my opinion, is the "bump and run." It changed the game, which caused the game to have to be changed in 1978 with a rules change that forbid the "bump and run" technique to be employed. On offense, the number one tactical innovation might be the two-minute drill.

Brian from Atlanta, GA:
Can you please spread this message to everyone around the world? I have heard people from all realms, analysts, journalists, regular Joes making comments about the Michael Vick non-trade and how they can't get a seventh-rounder for him, and they seem to miss the point. When you trade for a player, you trade for his contract. Michael Vick had a $130 million contract. No team is going to pay that much for a player who will bring tons of negative media attention and hasn't played the game in two years, assuming Goodell doesn't keep him suspended longer. Every time I read someone give some conspiracy-like explanation for the non-trade, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Vic: You're right. When you trade for a player, you trade for his contract, but it doesn't have to be that way. No team interested in trading for Michael Vick would've traded for his contract, which would pay him $9 million this year and $10.5 million in 2010. Any team interested in trading for Vick would've asked the Falcons for permission to negotiate a new contract with him before making the deal. I think it's safe to say no team expressed an interest to negotiate a new contract with Vick, and I think you'd have to take crazy pills to think any team did.

Ricky from Melbourne, Australia:
Do you think the spread is a little dangerous for teams at the NFL level? There are QBs like Young, Jackson, Campbell, etc. that could be utilized in these formations, but defenses live to take the QB down (and take the QB down hard).

Vic: That's why the quarterback in a spread option on the NFL level has to be more of a running back than a quarterback. He's got to be able to take a pounding. Pat White was ultra-durable at West Virginia, but I'm not sure he has the body type to absorb punishment from NFL defensive linemen and linebackers and not get hurt. College football isn't pro football. It's tough to make people understand how dramatic the step up is from college football to the NFL. You can run that garbage stuff in college football because college football has long put its best athletes on offense, creating a mismatch effect for the defense. By the time the college talent filters down to the NFL level, that mismatch doesn't exist.

Paul from Fayetteville, AR:
I just want to say I think you picked a good, intelligent response to Blake's hate-filled e-mail the other day. I'm sure you got a lot of hate-filled e-mails back at Blake, and I'm glad you picked one with a calm, intelligent tone. I know mine wasn't so thought out and I'm glad you didn't pick it.

Vic: If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about, don't deal in lies, or being hated, don't give way to hating, and yet don't look too good nor talk too wise.

Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
Do you have any news about the competition for the punter position?

Vic: I watched Adam Podlesh and Steve Weatherford on Monday as they traded punts on the Jaguars special teams field. In at least one way, they seem to be the same guy. I saw them "kill" punts high and deep, and they'd I see their next punt wobble and nose-dive. Podlesh and Weatherford are guys with powerful legs. The one who achieves consistency will win the job.

Dan from Neptune Beach, FL:
I've been reading a lot of articles about the Jags possibly using some 3-4 concepts this season. Have you seen any of this during OTAs?

Vic: I saw the Jaguars in a three-man line for a few plays on Monday, but they weren't playing a 3-4. I'd love to lie to you and tell you they're making the move to a 3-4, because I'm sure that's what you want to hear, but it would be an awful lie. Based on what I've seen in OTAs, the Jaguars are going to play a 4-3. Concepts of the 3-4? I don't know what that means. Over tackles in an over-under scheme incorporate a 3-4 concept, but 4-3 teams have been using that for years. All schemes employ concepts from other schemes. I'll say it again: A true 3-4 defensive scheme is defined by two-gapping defensive linemen, and I don't care how many linemen or linebackers are on the field, the Jaguars are not a two-gapping defense.

Randy from Jacksonville:
Why does Maurice Jones-Drew keep the footballs after each score? My wife said I could find the answer online, and what better place to start?

Vic: Most players keep their touchdown balls. They then have the equipment manager dress-up the ball with language such as "10th touchdown of the season" or "20-yard game-winner," and the date, so that the player can display the balls proudly in his game room. I don't know for sure that Maurice does that; I'm just guessing. It's also possible that he plans to open a sporting goods store.

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