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The view from the end zone

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

Brandy from Crawfordsville, AR:
So, if the preseason is for all the Jacob Cutreras out there who have a dream, what happens to that when they cut out the preseason entirely? What's going to happen to those on-the-bubble players when there are no more preseason games in which to shine?

Vic: I don't see the NFL cutting out the preseason entirely, only reducing it. When that happens, the NFL will create new talent-evaluation events, such as the combined practices the Jaguars and Falcons conducted this summer. As I've said, I think combined practices are better for evaluating talent than preseason games are because you can create the circumstance you want in a combined practice. Some would argue that combined practices lack drama. I would ask where the drama is in a preseason game. Frankly, with the personnel departments and the general managers of both teams standing on the sideline staring right at the action, I thought the drama in the Jaguars-Falcons combined practices was more distinct. The players know they are under the microscope and they are being evaluated intensely in the one-on-one matchups the coaches and scouts seek in deciding who stays and who goes.

Brian from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I saw that there were just over 40,000 fans to attend the preseason game. Also, the first five games of the regular season are most likely not gonna be blacked out. This gives me great optimism for this season. Is my optimism too early? Don't you think this is a great start to a great year in Jags football, win or lose?

Vic: Yes, I think it's a great start. I think the whole community has responded favorably toward the future of the Jaguars. There's a strong possibility the team won't experience blackouts this season and that would give the team a running start into 2011.

Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
My son and I have moved our season tickets to the center of the end zone. This is a whole new perspective for me. During a play, I can't tell how many yards the play covers and other similar things one gets from watching from the side. Since you like to watch, could you give me some tips on what to watch from an end-zone view?

Vic: I grew up watching football in the end zone and when I finally made it to the press box, I wanted my end zone seat back. When you watch football from the end zone, you are either the free safety or the quarterback. Start by imagining that. If you're behind the quarterback, then read the defense. Look through the middle linebacker to the strong safety and you should know where every other defensive player on the field is. Take a glance at your wide receivers and decide if the defenders are going to press or back off. Where should you go with the ball? Are the linebackers biting on play-action? Is the safety peeking into the backfield? If he is, then you need to give him a run look and test him deep. The end-zone view allows you to see all of that. It's the view to which the coaches most often refer in the video tapes. If you're behind the safety, then look for those things that might tip the play and allow you to decide whether to come up and support against the run or stay back and defend against the pass. Is the left guard pulling out? Are the center and the right guard executing a trap block? Is the tight end blocking down or releasing? The end zone is a great place to watch a football game if you really want to watch it and study it.

Jon from Jacksonville:
I don't like the cannon. It gets me every time. I'm going to be at EverBank Field every week, though.

Vic: Yeah, the cannon got me, too. I was doing a blog entry when they fired the thing. I wasn't expecting the noise and it scared the heck out of me. Immediately, I started complaining, but then I thought to myself that if it'll help sell tickets, they can point the thing right at me.

Craig from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
In looking at our coaches on the defensive side, specifically Joe Cullen and Mel Tucker, their past teams' performance in sacks and overall production for their last year with their respective teams has been essentially bottom of the barrel. What makes you think their mediocre performance is going to change at Jacksonville? We keep hearing it's players, not plays but, in reality, if they are learning from subpar coaching, does it not follow that they are going to be subpar or mediocre at best?

Vic: Is that what Madden teaches you? Well, Craig, let me put it like this: Cullen is one of the most respected and sought-after defensive line coaches in the game. How else could he have overcome the circumstances he's had to overcome and still have teams, college programs no less, clamoring to hire you? Tucker, in my opinion, is one of the bright, young defensive minds in the game. He's coached under Nick Saban at Michigan State and LSU, and under Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Tucker's headed for a head job and this is just the kind of opportunity he needs to draw attention to himself, which is exactly what he'll do if the Jaguars defense can turn it around. Have you noticed, Craig, how much better of a coach Russ Purnell has become? What happened to the guy who was fired by the Colts? He sure is a better coach now. I can't help but think he's a better coach because he has Montell Owens and Kassim Osgood and the Jaguars GM used two draft picks on return men. What do you think? Players, not plays, Craig? How about Gregg Williams? When the Jaguars hired him to be their defensive coordinator in 2008, everyone was going attack-defense crazy. Man, the fans were imagining blitzes coming from every angle and sacks all over the place. Do you remember what I said? I said it's not that simple because the Jaguars don't have attack-style personnel. They tried it; the Titans beat them on a blitz in the opening game. Before they reached midseason, the Jags were back in cover two and everybody was ripping Williams. Hey, didn't his defense win the Super Bowl last year? All of a sudden, he became a good coach again, huh? Plug that information into Madden and tell me what comes out, Craig.

Matt from Jacksonville:
I can remember growing up as a hockey-playing kid in New England and watching Manon Rheaume play a preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Of course, it was a publicity stunt to drum up interest for the brand-new team, but I still remember it. Could a woman ever play in the NFL, or are there rules against it?

Vic: I'll bet it would improve the tackling.

Trevor from Vernon, NJ:
First regular season game, do you think the Broncos will utilize Tim Tebow against his hometown team?

Vic: I think they'd like to do that. The issue right now would seem to be Tebow's ribs. Will he be healthy enough to play in the opener or will he be inactive?

Lee from Jacksonville:
As a long-time season ticket holder, let me tell you how I get value out of the preseason games. It's my preseason, too, and I need to get ready for the regular season. I sit in the 400 level and I haven't climbed those steps all year, so I need a few times to get my legs ready for the season. I also look to see what new vendors have come into the stadium. Are there new fans parking near me that we can include in our tailgating? All these things get me ready for the season, just like the players are doing.

Vic: You're so right. I went up to the press box on Saturday and somebody had switched my chair and the new one was wobbly. The phone was on the wrong side of me and somebody had run the GSIS cord from the terminal to the left of my seat all the way to the right of my seat. Nothing felt right all night long.

Tiffany from Jacksonville:
A few years ago, wedges were allowed. What was the league's intent on preventing this?

Vic: The intent is to preserve life.

Gary from Rexburg, ID:
Looking into your crystal ball for year three of the roster reconstruction, would a future QB, safety, interior offensive line and linebacker depth seem to be the areas that need to be addressed to complete GM Gene's roster reconstruction?

Vic: Those are areas of need, yes.

Matt from Jacksonville:
I saw Douzable playing with the first-team defensive line Saturday night. Would that have been D'Anthony Smith's role or is Douzable that good? If' he's that good, how did he just fall into our lap?

Vic: He's fallen into a lot of laps: the Vikings', Giants', Rams' and Lions' laps, too. That's why I call him "Reusable" Douzable. His NFL journey can only mean one of two things: He's either not good enough to make an NFL roster, or he's good enough that a lot of teams think he's worth a chance to make an NFL roster. You never know when it can all of a sudden happen for a guy. Look at Kurt Warner.

Jay from Portland, OR:
David Garrard seems to get hit late a lot. Do you think he doesn't get the call because he's a big, thick guy?

Vic: Yeah, probably. I think some quarterbacks get calls other quarterbacks don't. When do you ever see a team called for roughing Ben Roethlisberger? He's a big, rugged guy who's made his reputation from extending plays and, as a result, officials tend to look the other way when he gets hit. Peyton Manning? Not so much.

Kevin from Floral Park, NY:
Should a team such as the Jaguars use a preseason game to work on their linebacker blitzes and try to create more pressure? I mean blitzing every play for that game. Let's get better at what we are not great at.

Vic: Or die trying, right? Haven't we been down this road before? The Jaguars will do some blitzing, but they don't have the kind of players that favor putting defenders on an island, so to speak. In time, GM Gene will find the players who'll allow the Jaguars to play that way, but he doesn't have them, yet.

Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
And Garrard's signature play is the quick slant pass.

Vic: Yes, it is, and there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't overdo it. Every quarterback has a favorite pass. Garrard throws the slant on time and on target. It was the pass that carried the Jaguars to the playoffs in 2007. It was simple stuff in a season in which the Jaguars offense was simple-minded. It ran the ball, it converted on third down and then it ran the ball some more. The Jaguars didn't do a lot by formation in '07. They lined up with a tight end, fullback and two wide receivers on first down, and brought in an extra tight end on short-yardage downs. You know what the great thing is about not doing a lot by formation on offense? It means the defense isn't going to show you a lot of different looks, and that makes it a lot easier for the quarterback to prepare and go through his reads. I'd like to see the Jaguars get back to that kind of simplistic, ball-control approach, but it requires having a defense that will allow it. Ball-control offense isn't good playing catch-up.

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