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The draft keeps you young

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

James from Jupiter, FL:
Could you tell us a little bit about Gerald Alexander? What do the Jags see in him and will he be competing with Reggie Nelson?

Vic: The Jaguars had strong interest in Alexander coming out of Boise State in 2007. That was the year the Jaguars selected Nelson in the first round of the draft. Alexander was a second-round pick by Detroit and started every game that year. He's considered to be a player who possesses size and intelligence and is good in both run-support and pass-defense. Alexander sustained a neck injury last year, so there is an element of risk the Jaguars are accepting with this trade, but Alexander passed the team's physical. I know a little about the kind of surgery he underwent because I've had the same surgery and I know guys who've played with it. Based on what I know, the cervical level at which he sustained the injury is now stronger than it was before he was injured. In my opinion, all he needs to do is regain his confidence that he can play without hesitation. He's had no setbacks in his recovery and rehab. My expectation is that he will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Tony from Indianapolis, IN:
What happens if/when the Jaguars are heading into Seattle with an 0-4 record in week five?

Vic: The Colts are in Tennessee that week so, with a win, the Jaguars might be able to pull into a tie with the Colts.

Stephen from Albany, GA:
I was looking at previous drafts and I took a close look at the 2005 draft. Other than Alvin Pearman, I don't think the Jags drafted a single player that is still on the roster. An entire draft was wasted.

Vic: Pearman and Scott Starks are the only players from that draft that are still with the team, and that's why this team now finds itself having to rebuild. When you draft like that, you run out of "jars on the shelf."

Andrew from Savannah, GA:
How do you walk the fine line between keeping a team young and not cutting players as they reach the apex of their talent? Second, would it be okay to keep an aging and expensive player an extra season or two, beyond what you would normally keep a player, if you believed that you were serious competition to go the Super Bowl?

Vic: First of all, the formula for walking that "fine line" is no mystery: Draft well. The draft keeps you young. In my opinion, it helps if you adhere to the best available player philosophy because, that way, you're not attempting to predict your needs, you're just making sure you collect the best young talent available. In my opinion, that's how you keep your roster young and staying young should be a priority concern. As far as keeping a player beyond his prime, I'm OK with that, provided the player fills a particular need or role. Jerome Bettis was a terrific short-yardage, goal-line back at the end of his career. So was Marcus Allen.

Thomas from Las Vegas, NV:
Do you believe the acquisition of Gerald Alexander means Reggie Nelson's days at safety are over?

Vic: You don't quit on a first-round pick in just his third season. Clearly, however, Nelson is being challenged.

John from St. Augustine, FL:
I remember you expressing trepidation over the 2008 trade up. I don't know if you came out and said you didn't agree but anyone who reads your column could read between the lines.

Vic: Prior to that draft, I started getting questions about trading up to get a pass-rusher and I downplayed the idea, for which I was strongly rebuked. I remember one particular e-mail suggesting that my old-fashioned ways were out of touch and wouldn't work, and I remember thinking to myself that maybe the guy was right. I folded like a diaper. That won't happen again.

Mike from Wanaque, NJ:
The Jaguars are in rebuilding and anyone who says different is in denial, however, I feel that if the offensive line stays healthy and the offense puts up numbers as they did in the 2007 season, we can see similar results.

Vic: There's no rule that prohibits rebuilding teams from winning. I think Atlanta and Miami were in rebuilding situations last year and they won. I think their schedules also allowed that to happen and, frankly, I think the Jaguars' schedule could allow for it this season. The reason I think it's so important to identify and accept that a team is in rebuilding is because it lets you know that improvement won't be steady. A team in a rebuilding phase is going to have some down periods until it stabilizes its roster. Miami has a killer schedule this season and Atlanta's is much more difficult this year than it was last season. If they each had played this year's schedule last year, I promise you, the results would've clearly indicated they were rebuilding. In other words, don't allow yourself to be fooled by soft schedules and lucky breaks. Know rebuilding when you see it.

Mark from Tulare, CA:
This season is like my golf game; expectations aren't high. I never want to be so good of a golfer that my day is ruined when I play poorly. I'm happy with mediocrity.

Vic: That's a great philosophy for people such as us, who enjoy sports for recreation and leisure. Professional football, however, is an intense occupation for which the expectation is not mediocrity. The Super Bowl is the goal, but part of being a professional is being able to manage your expectations, which means not allowing disappointment to soften your pursuit. Emotions aren't going to rebuild this team. Talent and the development of that talent will get it done, and that's going to take some time.

Justin from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I'm pumped up about this season. Rebuilding is where franchises prove their worth and forge their identity. I can't wait to see what happens this year. It is going to be filled with pleasant surprises and unexpected outcomes. I'm impatiently counting down the days.

Vic: I couldn't agree more. Good franchises identify and accept the need for long-term growth. The bad ones run scared and start mortgaging their future to repair the present, which usually only serves to ruin both.

Hugh from Vero Beach, FL:
You also probably didn't agree on first-round pick R.J. Soward. Did you say anything that time?

Vic: I knew little about Soward, except that I saw him drop a critical pass over the middle against Notre Dame. That kind of stuff bothers me and I talked about it. On the draft-day radio show, I brought on a friend who was between GM jobs at the time and he gave his seal of approval on the Soward pick, so I took his word for it until that summer, during a preseason game, when I talked to another scout friend of mine who told me more about Soward and how shocked the scout was that Tom Coughlin would draft him. At that point, I knew it was a troubled pick. We were already beginning to see signs of it.

Omar from Los Angeles, CA:
Who was the last jar on our shelf? It seems for the past two or three years we have had none.

Vic: Uche Nwaneri is the classic example of a developmental player being called on, as he was in the first game of last season. He stepped in and established himself as a player for the future. Unfortunately, the Jaguars ran out of that type of player last season.

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