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You are what you draft

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

Henry from Birmingham, AL:
Why do the Jaguars start training camp so much later than other teams?

Vic: NFL rules forbid teams from requiring their veteran players to report for training camp more than 15 days prior to the team's first preseason game. The Jaguars' first preseason game is Monday, Aug. 17, hence the Aug. 2 reporting date.

Kamal from Novi, MI:
In 2003, everyone accepted that we were rebuilding due to a new coach, new quarterback and a depleted roster. By 2005, we all thought our window of opportunity was just opening. What does it say about that rebuilding effort if by 2008 our window had already closed? What went wrong?

Vic: The draft went wrong. The first three first-round picks of that personnel regime are gone. Scott Starks and Alvin Pearman are the only players left from the 2005 draft class and that's a killer because you're talking about a group that should be in the peak years of their careers. The 2003-05 drafts should be carrying this team right now. The players selected in those drafts should be the nucleus of this team, but there are only four – Rashean Mathis, Vince Manuwai, Daryl Smith and Greg Jones – full-time starters on the roster from those drafts. You are what you draft.

Sal from El Paso, TX:
Who would you say have been some of the most effective undersized defensive ends in the NFL?

Vic: There have been a lot of undersized defensive ends who've been successful in pro football. The two that immediately come to mind are Andy Robustelli and Fred Dean. Robustelli was 6-1, 230, and Dean was 6-3, 230. They're both in the Hall of Fame.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
In your career, what is the funniest quote you have heard from a coach of a player?

Vic: Chuck Noll was the master of the glib. He could say things in a few words and end what would've been a battery of questions. Here are two examples that still make me chuckle: 1.) The Steelers had a young defensive end that was being groomed to replace L.C. Greenwood. Against the Falcons, Greenwood was benched and the young player was given his first-ever start. Late in the first quarter, he was removed from the game and replaced by Greenwood. After the game, Chuck was asked why the young defensive end was taken out of the game. "Because he was being blocked," Noll said. That ended the questioning on that subject. 2.) The Steelers had a running back named Sidney Thornton, who was of immense talent but possessed a proclivity for screwing up. Noll loved Thornton's talent but had reached the limit of his patience on a day when, in the season opener, Thornton fumbled four times, the final time with but a few seconds left in the game and the Steelers attempting to run out the clock on a win. The fumble was picked up and returned by Kansas City for the winning touchdown. After the game, Chuck was asked about Thornton's nightmarish performance, to which Chuck said, "Sidney has many problems and they are great." There were a few chuckles and then somebody asked Noll what he was going to do with Thornton. "What do they do in Iran?" Noll said, then making a chopping motion with his one hand on his other hand's wrist. That brought the house down.

Joe from Jacksonville:
You've mentioned that Bum Phillips was one of the better go-to guys for conference calls. I was wondering if you had a favorite Bum Phillips anecdote.

Vic: Bum is a coach whose games I truly loved to cover. He is a sensational person and he always made football fun. I was covering a game that resulted in Bum having his cowboy hat taken off his head by a celebrating fan of the opposing team. After the game Bum said it wasn't the loss that angered him, it was having his hat taken off his head and he wants it back. A few days later, the fan who took the hat called the Oilers offices, identified himself, asked for Bum and then told him, "I got your hat." The story ended with the fan having the hat cleaned and blocked and then some kind of presentation was arranged that made for a cute feel-good story. Bum was always good copy. He was as popular with fans of opposing teams as he was with Oilers fans.

Mike from Jacksonville:
I love the new ways to keep up on Jag news. Give a high-five to the marketing dept. They have scored the game-winner.

Vic: Can I put you down for two in the club seats?

Michelle from Jacksonville:
I plan on attending several of the open practices next week. What should I be looking for to gauge the team's success this year?

Vic: Don't worry about this year. That'll play out soon enough and you can't really evaluate something that specific in a training camp practice. What you can evaluate in a training camp setting is the big-picture view of the team's roster. Look out over the fields. Do you like what you see? Do you see guys who can run? Do you see big guys with quickness? Do you see receivers with big-play potential; running backs with lean and burst? Do you see a coaching staff that has the players' attention? Do you see young players who are going to grow into their roles? All of that is what you want to see. Evaluating this team on what it might do this season will have to wait at least until the preseason because you need to judge its performance against those of other teams.

Troy from Orange Park, FL:
Is anybody's job on the line if the Jags don't do well this season?

Vic: Everybody's job is on the line all the time, but why is that so important now? Why is it so important six days before the start of training camp that we identify who will be fired when the season ends? And they say sportswriters are negative.

Matt from Erie, PA:
Do you see the lack of depth at quarterback as a problem? Garrard is a tough guy but if he goes down, does the season?

Vic: Yes, I see it as a problem, but there's nothing that can be done about it except attempt to patch it until the situation can be addressed more fully next offseason. It is what it is. Let's all cross our fingers and hope.

Jesse from Hilton Head, SC:
What do you look for in your primary receiver, secondary receiver, slot receiver? Do you expect to see different speeds, hands, physicality, run after catch ability, etc.?

Vic: Let's call the primary receiver the number one receiver or "X" receiver, which is to say the wide receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage, effectively making him the split end. You want him to be big enough and strong enough to get off the jam, which is certain to occur because he's on the line of scrimmage, yet fast enough to still get downfield despite being bumped at the line. Let's call the secondary receiver the "Z" receiver, which is to say the wide receiver who lines up off the line of scrimmage, effectively making him the flanker. If he was a carbon copy of the "X," that would be fine, but most teams don't have two big guys who can run so if your "Z" knows how to sit down in a zone, catch the ball and pick up the first down, that would be fine. The slot receiver or third receiver can be a hybrid of the "X" and "Z" receivers. I prefer a smallish, water bug type who catches the ball with his feet moving and makes defenders miss.

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
How does the team transition into pads? Do teams just slowly beat each other up or do they pretty much take it right to bare metal?

Vic: Most teams will transition into pads by spending the first two days of training camp in light gear and then going to full pads in day three. Remember, these guys haven't had full pads on since last season ended.

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