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Watch the one-on-one battles

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

Guy from Hilton Head Island, SC:
Can you give us some pointers on how to watch preseason games? What should Jaguars fans be looking for throughout the depths of subs?

Vic: Coaches don't scheme for preseason games, and it's not just because they don't want to show their playbook, it's also because they want to see their players in the raw. In other words, they want to see their players in one-on-one situations; they want to know if they can win those battles. You should do the same; watch the one-on-one battles and determine whether the Jaguars won the majority of those battles. Watch the line of scrimmage. Do the Jaguars move it, or is it being moved on them? Watch the receiver-defender battles. Do the Jaguars receivers get separation? Do the Jaguars defensive backs shadow the receivers? The ball in the air can be defended by scheme, but scheme can't cover a receiver step for step. In other words, don't watch the game as a fan, watch the game as a talent evaluator.

Darrick from Jacksonville:
Isn't the reason every practice can't be like Monday's the fact that teams don't have as many bodies to spare?

Vic: That's true, but it's also true that teams faced heavy, mandatory cutdown dates throughout training camp in the old days. I can distinctly remember a cut to 67 in mid-August. That's back when final rosters were 43. Nowadays, teams don't face the same cutdown limits; they can keep 80 guys on the field until the final week of preseason, when they must cut to 75. The final roster cut to 53 is after the last preseason game.

Joel from Jacksonville:
Can you give us a perspective on the fan turnout for the scrimmage on Saturday night? Fourteen thousand people seem like a lot. How does that compare to the turnouts for the scrimmage in prior years?

Vic: Last year, the attendance was 12,109. In 2007, it was 11,039. See what's happening? A tradition is being built. A habit is being formed. That's why it's so important, in my opinion, to maintain continuity. The more you stay the same, the more you build on what you have. The Jaguars have developed a nice tradition of the Oklahoma drill toward the start of training camp and the scrimmage at the end of the first full week. This is good.

Curtis from Jacksonville:
Best guess, how much time do you expect Rashad Jennings to get against Miami?

Vic: I expect him to get a lot of time. The preseason is THE time for rookie running backs to show what they can do in a feature back role. The answer to this question goes directly to this column's first question. The farther you can reach down into your roster and find players who can perform at a high level, the better the future of the team looks. I would consider Jennings to be one of the featured players on Monday night in Miami.

Chris from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
What should we, as fans, be looking for as signs of improvement in our first preseason game in Miami?

Vic: My number one concern about this team is for its defensive line. That's where my eyes are going to be on Monday. I wanna see how the Jaguars hold up on the line of scrimmage against a team that whipped them up front a year ago. If the Jaguars can win the line of scrimmage on Monday, and I understand it's only a preseason game, there will be reason to have hope for improvement.

Hardy from Jacksonville:
On a scale of 1-10, how happy would you be with a 2-2 record in the first four games of the season?

Vic: I'd take it right now and move on to week five.

Brian from Douglas, GA:
A well-known ESPN talk radio host said, "Discipline over talent wins in the NFL. Talent over discipline wins in college and high school football." What are your thoughts on this comment?

Vic: You're not going to win at any level without talent, but I understand the depth of that comment and, to a large extent, I agree with it. The point is this: The talent gap from player to player and team to team in the NFL is so small that execution of technique and dedication to detail can often make the difference. In college and high school football, however, mismatches are common. I don't care how disciplined Charleston Southern is, they have no chance of beating Florida. It's a mismatch. You see a lot of that early in the college football season.

Bryan from Smyrna, TN:
I haven't heard much about Tra Thomas since we signed him. I was just wondering if you would give us an update on how he's doing so far.

Vic: Gene Smith has to feel awfully good about this signing. It's almost as though Smith is clairvoyant. Thomas has literally made Eugene Monroe's absence from training camp a non-event. If Thomas wasn't with the Jaguars, Smith and Jack Del Rio would be hounded daily by the media about Monroe not being in camp. It would be to the point that it would be a distraction. Thomas' presence and performance in training camp has literally eliminated the negative effects of Monroe's absence. I have been genuinely impressed by Thomas' play. Back in OTAs, I didn't like what I saw. I thought his feet looked slow. Now, with the pads and the heat on, he looks great. Thomas has been Quentin Groves' worst nightmare. I doubt that Thomas' feet are what they used to be, but he's crafty enough to overcome it.

Justin from Jacksonville:
I noticed that you made a brief note about the Jaguars running three-man fronts on defense. Does that mean what I think it means?

Vic: No, I don't think so but, frankly, I'm not sure what it means. I'm having a tough time understanding what they're doing up front. I see a three-man front, but I see five defensive linemen on the field, which means two are being used as linebackers. I've seen Derrick Harvey used in a standup position and then drop into coverage quite a bit. Hey, wasn't he drafted to be the pass-rusher that would put the Jaguars in the Super Bowl? Obviously, Mel Tucker plans to use a lot of smoke and mirrors this year, and I think that means what I think it means.

Dwayne from Jacksonville:
I hope it's not too late to ask this question. There seems to be pressure on Derek Cox to produce because we traded next year's second-round pick for his rights. Would things have been perceived differently had we drafted him the pick before, then used the traded pick for Knighton?

Vic: That would've put the pressure on Knighton. Why lie? What would that accomplish? Be a man and tell the truth. Gene Smith did.

Kyle from Jacksonville:
I was wondering how the safety battle was looking to you, who you think might have the edge?

Vic: Sean Considine has only practiced a few times since coming off PUP, but I've already noticed his presence. I've seen him flash a couple of times. What I haven't seen is much of a flash at free safety. It's time for somebody to make a move.

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