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The perfect f/back

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

Kevin from Orlando, FL:
What have the Bengals done differently than the Jags that has put Palmer in a better position to succeed?

Vic: The Bengals spent a lot of years at the top of the draft order and some key players on the team that is now 4-0 came to the Bengals before Marvin Lewis became their coach. Justin Smith, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are products of the 2001 draft. That's three stars and a fourth starter out of one draft, which qualifies that crop as a blockbuster. Levi Jones was a surprise top-10 pick in '02 but he has turned into a quality left tackle. The Bengals have found the five main ingredients to have a big-time offense: a star quarterback, a star wide receiver, a star running back and two top-notch tackles; the other tackle is veteran Willie Anderson, a first-round pick in 1996. The Bengals have given Carson Palmer an outstanding supporting cast and, for the most part, it's young and in ascent. The Jaguars have addressed wide receiver and offensive tackle in recent drafts and now have to wait and hope those players develop into the same kind of star-quality players the Bengals players at those positions have become. You may think it happened overnight for the Bengals because the Bengals have all of a sudden burst onto the scene, but their ascent began when they were still the "same old Bengals."

John from Jacksonville:
I sent an e-mail to you previously about converting Kyle Brady to an offensive lineman, if you thought it would help. Now I have a much better idea. How about g/back? He would seem to have all the tools necessary to play the position. What do you think?

Vic: I completely agree. In fact, I think he might even be better-suited for f/back.

Louie from San Marco, FL:
I just read your "Salary Cap 101" and my head is spinning. I was left with a couple of questions: Am I right in assuming that it's beneficial to try and trade veteran players toward the end of their contracts, for draft picks if possible, in order to build for the future? If so, how often will other teams bite the bullet and sign these guys, as well as provide draft picks?

Vic: In other words, is it beneficial to trade your old, worn-out socks for new socks? You bet it is. Now go find somebody who wants old socks. Louie, when I started covering the NFL, there were a lot of old-school coaches left in the game who preferred experienced veterans over rookies. George Allen was the most notable of those coaches. New-school coaches who understood the value of draft picks picked the pockets of those old-school coaches, trading used-up guys with a year or two left for draft picks the new-school coaches would develop into long-term fixtures. As a result, the "Over The Hill Gang" Redskins burned out quickly, while teams such as the Dolphins, Raiders, Steelers and Cowboys had long runs at the top of the league. All of a sudden, everybody understood the value of draft picks. They quickly became more valuable than players and it's still that way today. In fact, I think draft picks are more valuable than ever before because the draft is an inexpensive form of player acquisition. Consider the fact that you could have gotten Shaun Alexander this summer for a third-round draft pick.

Scot from Jacksonville:
A couple of weekends ago, the Gators played a huge game against the Volunteers, which is traditionally the first big game of their season. On Monday, all of the talk was about the Jaguars; not some, but all. This is not as much a college town as many would think.

Vic: I totally agree. All you have to do is look at the TV ratings.

Brian from Jacksonville:
Nice comment about Vanderbilt and Duke. Oh, one thing though. Vanderbilt is 4-1 and I just might take Jay Cutler over Byron Leftwich. If you were a typical journalist right now you would tell me how Vanderbilt is traditionally a bad team, lost to MTSU and hasn't really played any tough competition this year. I would then mention that the Bengals are in a pretty similar situation and you praise them. So where does that leave us?

Vic: The point I was attempting to make is that Vanderbilt usually represents a win on your schedule. The last time Florida lost to Vanderbilt was 1988. Does that make my point?

Scott from Boise, ID:
Twice in the last two weeks there have been comments from fans of other teams (Jets and Bengals) expressing amazement at the negativity of the fans in this column. Do you think the e-mails you publish are representative of Jacksonville fans in general or does your writing style simply attract fans with negative outlooks?

Vic: One of my objectives each day in doing this column is to finish with a product that is representative of all of the e-mails I received that day. I can only select a small percentage of the e-mails I receive, so I try to address as many e-mails as possible by answering the ones I've selected for publication. What would you like me to do, put a disclaimer at the top of the column, "For positive people only?" How about you, Scott, are you a positive person?

Skip from Jacksonville:
When talking about the loss to the Broncos, I heard several players say they two-gapped us. What does that mean?

Vic: I didn't hear or read those comments, so I'll just take your word on it. Two-gapping is an old defensive line technique in which the defensive lineman plays head-up on the offensive lineman across from him. It's called two-gapping because the defensive lineman is responsible for the gaps to the right and left of the offensive lineman. His job is to stand up the offensive lineman and hold the position, read where the ball is going, then shed the block and make the tackle. That's tough stuff; that's Bob Lilly, Joe Greene kind of stuff. Two-gapping is a pure run-defense technique. It's something you might do when you're playing against a team with a running back who had 37 carries the previous week. You don't two-gap, however, if you wanna rush the passer. Nowadays, almost everybody plays gap-defense, which puts the defensive lineman in a gap between two offensive linemen, for the purpose of penetrating into the backfield and disrupting the play. It's a pass-rush technique that can be used effectively against the run, provided everybody "fits" into their gap responsibilities. That's what Jack Del Rio means when he refers to "fits." The real question is this: If the Broncos were two-gapping, how were they able to get such a fierce pass-rush? That shouldn't happen, I don't care how many linebackers you blitz.

Glenn from Sumter, SC:
What is your assessment of Reggie Williams this year? It seems he has been more involved in the offense and his stats are improved over last year's, but he still doesn't seem to stand out. Are you satisfied with his contributions so far?

Vic: Reggie Williams is a much better player than he was a year ago. He's tougher and more productive. His blocking is outstanding. There's a difference, however, between being a tough, productive football player and being a play-maker. Williams was drafted with the ninth overall pick because the Jaguars thought he was a play-maker. That's the next challenge for him. He needs to become a play-maker.

Daniel from Jacksonville:
I love the Jaguars and I love watching them every game but I want to know your opinion of what the chances are the Jaguars will qualify for the playoffs this year and go even further?

Vic: The sexy answer would be: These next two games will answer your question. That's what I want to say because I think Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will provide stern challenges that will give us a good indication of where the Jaguars are in their quest to become a playoff team. I won't say that, however, because if I had said that about the 1996 Jaguars at the same point in that season I would've been totally wrong. When the Jaguars were 4-7, they looked dead. There wasn't a man alive who saw seven straight wins all the way to the AFC title game. It's a long season.

Jim from Sioux City, IA:
What do you think of the "Who can cover number 85?" sheet that Chad Johnson has in his locker? Also, I assume Rashean Mathis is going to be the main person guarding him this weekend. I'm looking forward to watching this matchup on the field and was wondering what you think. Will Mathis be the first person to get a yes on that chart?

Vic: Who renders the final verdict? What constitutes a victory for the defensive back covering Johnson? One catch? Two catches? This stuff doesn't interest me. In the old days, if Johnson had popped off like this, a Jack Tatum or a Glenn Edwards would've been standing at safety waving Johnson to the middle of the field. Who's going to be that safety?

Roland from Jacksonville:
Can we drop the whole ticket sales/fan support bit? We've sold out our first three home games and will probably sell out all year. Football is a great part of Jacksonville and anyone who says otherwise is full of it.

Vic: I understand and appreciate your pride, but I get question after question the week of every home game asking me how many tickets have to be sold for the game not to be blacked out. Before we can "drop the whole ticket sales/fan support bit" we have to end the blackout watch.

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