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Stewart was difference

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

Lawrence from Jacksonville:
Just a followup to the Brunell-Leftwich discussion. You indicated Brunell got the team into the end zone and Leftwich didn't. Counting rushing, Leftwich accounted for more touchdowns in 2004 than Brunell did in 1999. The quarterback numbers alone do not account for a five-win and 135-point difference. It just doesn't add up. Brunell also had way more surrounding talent than Leftwich. Does a healthy Mike Pearson or Ephraim Salaam and Mo Williams compare to Boselli and Searcy in their primes? Does a 35-year-old Jimmy Smith and a struggling rookie in Reggie Williams compare to a 20-something Jimmy Smith and a 20-something Keenan? There's no way the points and wins disparity could fairly be put on Leftwich.

Vic: The difference was James Stewart. He had 13 rushing touchdowns in 1999. Greg Jones was the Jaguars' leading touchdown rusher in 2004 with three. The Jaguars only had nine rushing touchdowns total in '04. The '99 team had 20 rushing touchdowns. That's the difference. Leftwich rushed for one more touchdown in '04 than Brunell did in '99, and Leftwich passed for one more touchdown in '04 than Brunell did in '99, but Stewart gave the Jaguars an over-the-top goal-line rusher and the Jaguars offensive line mashed opposing defensive fronts in short-yardage. The '99 Jaguars also returned three interceptions, one punt, one kickoff and one fumble for touchdowns. The '04 team had no such touchdown returns. The bottom line is that the difference between the '99 Jaguars and the '04 Jaguars can be measured at every position except quarterback.

Jonathan from King George, VA:
How much of the Jags new offense do you think we have seen so far? How much of the offense do you think has been held back to protect regular-season schemes?

Vic: There's no responsible way to represent the degree to which the Jaguars exposed their playbook in the preseason game against Miami, because there are so many subtle variations of the same play that it would be misleading to affix a percentage of usage. Let's just say this: NFL teams don't get out of their base packages in the preseason. Jeff Lageman answered your question on this past Wednesday's "Jaguars This Week" radio show. Jeff said that when the Dolphins tacked on those two late touchdown drives, the Jaguars were in their base defense. You would never see that in a regular season game, at a point late in the game when you're attempting to protect a big lead against an opponent that is going to throw on every down. The preseason is mostly about exposing talent and hiding schemes. It's always been that way.

William from Jacksonville:
Great comparison on the 1999 stats for Brunell and for Leftwich last year. So here's one for the Byron-bashers and play-calling types. Could the difference in touchdowns have been simply that Brunell was throwing to a young Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell?

Vic: No, because Jimmy Smith caught six touchdown passes in each year and Leftwich made up for the five touchdown passes McCardell caught in '99 by completing touchdown passes to five different wide receivers in '04. Smith and McCardell were the only wide receivers to have caught a touchdown pass in '99.

Mark from Orlando, FL:
Everyone seems to be panicking and blaming people already this season and it hasn't even started. They want quarterback changes, coaching changes, wide receiver changes. What's the deal? We went from 5-11 to 9-7 and we've made improvements this offseason. To me it seems like we're right on track. Your thoughts?

Vic: I agree. We'll reevaluate at the end of this season and our opinion might change but, as for right now, I don't see much to criticize.

James from Jacksonville:
Sometimes the people and fans here in Jacksonville get me so frustrated with their negativity and impatience on the development of not just Byron Leftwich and Reggie Williams but the team as a whole. I would like to know, are all the hometown fans in NFL cities like this or are the fans here expecting way too much?

Vic: Expectations and demands are high in every NFL city. They vary in nature, but not in degree. For example, in Pittsburgh it's the defensive coordinator who gets the bulk of the criticism and Steeler fans complain about the offensive coordinator when he doesn't run the ball enough. That's just their tradition. Jacksonville focuses its attention on offense, as most NFL fans do. If there's one thing that sets Jacksonville fans apart from fans in other NFL towns, it's that Jacksonville fans, in my opinion, have yet to accept the fact that the NFL, relative to college football, is a low-scoring league. NFL teams scored at an average of 21.48 points per game last season, and scoring was dramatically up from 2003. The average NFL game would result in a 24-20 score. What that means is the Jaguars will be among the league's elite if they find a way to score one more touchdown a game this season. They might even win every game if they do that. They averaged 16.3 points per game last year, so, we're not talking about a ridiculous gap between what they were and what they have to be, especially considering the Jaguars defense, which held opponents to 17.5 points per game in 2004. Just a little bit of improvement on offense could make all of the difference, but I don't think that would satisfy Jacksonville fans. They want lots of points, and that's just not realistic. It is what it is. This is the NFL and its games are played tight and close to the vest. If you don't like that, then this isn't for you.

Nate from Macclenny, FL:
I just wanted to make a comment about what a great job our front office is doing. They had all of the rookies under contract before training camp began this year. Did any other teams have all of their players under contract prior to the start of training camp?

Vic: Matt Jones wasn't done for the start of training camp. He signed his deal two days later, in time for the Jaguars' first full-pads practice of training camp. Ten teams had all of their draft picks signed for the start of their camps: Bills, Broncos, Bucs, Colts, Eagles, 49ers, Jets, Patriots, Raiders and Steelers. The Bills, Broncos and Jets didn't have first-round picks.

Carl from Orange Park, FL:
Jon-Claude from Harrison, Arkansas, said you shouldn't bite the hand that feeds you, in response to your comment about Arkansas fans trying to turn Matt Jones into Walter Unitas and Kellen Rice. Just out of curiosity, how many season tickets have people from Arkansas purchased?

Vic: The Jaguars have nine season-ticket holders from Arkansas, but none of them are new.

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