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Time for a good book

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

Greg from Jacksonville:
Judging from the mini-camps to this point, do you feel Mathis and Bolden can provide the stability needed at their respective CB spots?

Vic: The Jaguars have a nice stable of cornerbacks. Rashean Mathis and Juran Bolden have impressive physical qualities and are clearly the team's headliners. I see no reason for concern at cornerback.

Jason from Orange Park, FL:
I was reading an article by Peter King in which he said Tom Coughlin would make the Giants a "tough" team. I think that in just one year with Jack Del Rio as head coach the Jags are already a tougher team than they ever were under Coughlin. Do you think Coughlin will have success making the Giants a "tough" team, and do you think he ever succeeded in doing that here?

Vic: We tend to associate toughness with defense, and defense was not the Jaguars' calling card under Tom Coughlin. I think that's what's coloring your observation. The trademark of Coughlin's teams was a disciplined and efficient offense. If limiting turnovers and penalties was toughness, Coughlin's teams would be the equivalent of Chuck Bednarik. But the numbers would suggest they were soft on defense. The Titans always believed they could win the physical battle against the Jaguars, so, your point is well-taken. Peter King's point is probably based on the fact the Giants suffered a loss of discipline and resolve in Jim Fassel's last couple of years. The playoff collapse in San Francisco was not Giants-like football. But I don't think "tough" is the right word to describe what the Giants will become under Coughlin. "Disciplined" is a better choice of words. The Giants will become disciplined, just as the Jaguars were under Coughlin. When did you ever see a Coughlin Jaguars team lay down? Even in his final game, a meaningless season-ender in Indianapolis amid rumors he would be fired the next day, Coughlin's team played all-out. Is that toughness or discipline? Maybe they're the same thing and it's just that we tend to associate toughness with defense and discipline with offense.

Nick from New Berlin, WI:
Do you think Byron Leftwich is better than David Carr right now?

Vic: I can remember having compared the two quarterbacks when the two met early last season, which happened to be Byron Leftwich's first pro start. And I can remember thinking the Jaguars got the better guy. David Carr had several passes batted down in that game, and I just can't get past his low release. It appears to not be fixable and, in my opinion, that means Carr is always going to throw a lot of interceptions (tipped balls). Leftwich's mechanics appear to be fixable, and he appears to be able to overcome his lack of mobility with his ability to find the check-down receiver. The Texans have spent high picks on receivers and a lot of money in free agency on pass-blockers. Maybe it'll all come together this year and Carr will prove me wrong, but that low release is a big no-no for me. I think the more appropriate question is how will Leftwich compare to the quarterbacks selected in this year's draft, especially to Ben Roethlisberger, who was available to the Jaguars when it was their turn to pick.

Russell from Jacksonville:
Your answer about fullbacks is totally true in today's NFL. What has changed over the years? Going back 20-30 years, many teams' fullbacks were the leading rushers; Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Sam Cunningham, Marv Hubbard, John Riggins, Matt Snell, to name some of the star fullbacks of the past. Is it that these guys were ahead of their time and the NFL's offenses didn't have a place for them other than FB? In today's game, would most of these guys just be labeled as RB? Finally, do you think large RBs today that lack the skill to block effectively have hurt the offensive game? The possibility of having two home-run threats in the backfield would put an added strain on the defense.

Vic: It's just terminology. If Franco Harris and Larry Csonka played today, they would be star "running backs." In the popular offensive formation of their time – pro set or split backs – the halfback was the blocker. The halfback was more of a runner than today's fullbacks are, but you couldn't play the position if you couldn't block. The fullback was the feature runner. What caused the change? Specialization. The game underwent a major evolution toward specialization, beginning in the 1980s. Why give the ball at all to the back with the lesser rushing average? And if he was going to be a blocker exclusively, then the fullback needed to be bigger and more physical. Those specialization requirements caused an evolution of the two positions that more clearly defined their roles, but don't dwell on the terms "fullback," "halfback" and "running back." It all comes down to "runner" and "blocker." Harris and Csonka were runners and Bleier and Jim Kiick were blockers. It's just that Bleier and Kiick were used as runners more often than today's fullbacks are, and for good reason: There were a lot more running plays than pass plays in the '70s game, and the load was too much for one man to shoulder. The Dolphins only threw seven passes in winning Super Bowl VIII, and Terry Bradshaw was nine of 12 in the Steelers' 1974 AFC title game win in Oakland.

Bill from Atlanta, GA:
Who do you think was the best blocking fullback to ever play the game? And who's the best at the moment?

Vic: Let's call him a "blocking back," for reasons provided above. One name that jumps out at me is Ernie Green of the Cleveland Browns. Green blocked for Jim Brown. You might argue that blocking for Jim Brown was an act at which many men would've been successful, but Green was awfully good at his trade. Another name that jumps out is William Floyd. He exploded defenders and Floyd had a lot of running skill, too, but his career was cut short by knee injuries. Mike Alstott was a great fullback, but you could argue that he was more of a runner than a blocker. Lorenzo Neal might be the best pure blocking fullback of recent history. The Titans' running game was never the same after they lost Neal to the salary cap. Daryl Johnston and Tim Lester were great blockers, too.

Fred from Portland, OR:
You mentioned how speed is more important than strength, but this has me wondering. I don't even know if the Jaguars have a receiver that can top a 4.4 40. Does the Jaguars offense lack team speed compared to other NFL teams?

Vic: That's why Jimmy Smith is so important to this team. He's the only receiver the Jaguars have who has legitimate stretch-the-field speed.

Quinton from Jacksonville:
A word to describe Fred Taylor? How about reliable? I don't think it's fair to label Fred as "fragile" after 32 straight games and its seems that he is always breaking games open when the team needs someone to step up and make a play, as the players like to say. Fred Taylor certainly has provided his share of Jags memories. What is your favorite?

Vic: The 77-yard and 90-yard runs against Miami; take your pick.

Stephen from Kailua, HI:
Jermaine Lewis was recently mentioned in the column. How is his recovery coming along and what kind of an impact do you expect him to have on our mediocre return game next year?

Vic: The return game wasn't all that mediocre last season. David Allen developed into a quality punt-returner and he has really looked good in spring drills. In fact, it's about time I do a feature on him. Jermaine Lewis participated in kickoff-return drills last week without incident. His recovery from ACL surgery is coming along, but let's not forget that he's only nine months removed from that surgery, which most people consider to require a two-year rehab. In my opinion, expectations for Lewis should be adjusted accordingly.

William from Redlands, CA:
Love your wit and the great information I get from your column. I have been reading it since it's inception. I would like to see the Jaguars whoop it this year and have the most dominant year in their short history. If they play all of the games like they played the Titans last year, I believe it will be. My question is, what teams do you think will be in the NFC title game?

Vic: How about Philadelphia and Minnesota?

Mike from Orlando, FL:
Which team on the Jaguars schedule will be the toughest, judging from this early date?

Vic: The game at Minnesota on Nov. 28 stands out as especially challenging.

Mike from Orange Park, FL:
I attended last year's opening game at Carolina. I just received a package from the Panthers with a season-ticket offer and prices. Jaguars fans should be ashamed that we don't sell out every game just by prices alone. Carolina charges a minimum of $2,000 for the right to buy a season ticket and up to $17,000 for the right to buy a 50-yard line seat. The NFL is high-quality entertainment and we are lucky we don't have Permanent Seat Licenses. Do you agree that PSLs are a scam and we should be glad we have Wayne Weaver as an owner?

Vic: Yeah, PSLs are a little bit of a stick-up, and they have them in a lot of places. The Jaguars situation is tied to the size of Alltel Stadium. If you're a season-ticket holder, you gotta love the size of the stadium because it protects the price of your ticket. But if you like to watch the Jaguars' home games on TV, then the size of the stadium is a bummer.

Sean from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Hey, Vic, just wanted to let you know I added the page to the list of favorites in a few cyber cafes in London, Amsterdam and Paris. It couldn't hurt, right?

Vic: I don't know what that means. I'm not gonna start getting porno, am I?

John from Jacksonville, FL:
Love your section. Bobby McCray is listed at having a 4.6 40 and strength numbers to rival the top prospects in the last draft. In the seventh round it would appear he could be a steal. Is he buying into the Del Rio program and showing his talent?

Vic: I've made a point of watching him in spring drills, because you can't help but notice his size and speed. He's worked hard and I'm hopeful, but, the litmus test won't occur until the pads go on. Bobby McCray will always stand out in no-pads practice. What will he do when it's full tilt? He needs to prove he's willing and able to take on and defeat blocks. He needs to prove he can be an assignment player, and not just a run-around guy.

Alex from Jacksonville:
Will you do a series on offense similar to the ones you did on defense and on the salary cap?

Vic: Yeah, in time. We'll call them our "101" series stories. The next one will be "Vacation 101."

Ron from Balad AB, Iraq:
You can add Balad Air Base in Iraq to the list of exotic places where your column is read. I am here on a rotation with the Florida Air National Guard. I work alongside a Tennessee Titans fan. We get along pretty good since it's the offseason. Tell me, Vic, do you think the Jags can sweep the Titans this year?

Vic: I don't know. My main concern is that the two of you might be home to see both games.

Scott from Middleburg, FL:
Do you think Reggie Williams will be the number two receiver this year or will it be Troy Edwards?

Vic: The undeniable fact of the matter is the Jaguars didn't select Reggie Williams with the ninth pick of the draft so that he would sit on the bench.

Bill from Springfield, VA:
With all of the emphasis on the salary cap, wouldn't it be to the team's advantage to sign drafted players as soon as possible? I know this is difficult, as most players agents want to wait to see what the others around them in the draft are getting. Your thoughts?

Vic: Negotiating contracts is a patient process, and it's just about to begin. You might want to get a good book.

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