Mailbag: Titans D-line can be great again

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Sunday dip into the mailbag while I doze, hopefully, on a smooth flight back to Nashville from Houston...

Hit me here to be part of the next installment. I'm talking to you, Jags fans.

Brad in Houston writes: Who is winning the battle for number 2 receiver on the Texans? Its a battle that is not mentioned but is very important considering the injury to Andre Johnson.

Paul Kuharsky: Kevin Walter is No. 2, Andre Davis No. 3. I don't know that there will be much movement in those spots. Davis is faster, Walter is probably a better all-around player whom coaches love for qualities like his eagerness to block.

Paul in Nashville writes: Paul, it's great to see a Tennessean writer make it to the big stage, keep up the great work! What are your realistic expectations of the Titans' defensive line? It seems to me that on one side is set to dominate, manned by Big Albert and KVB, the other by virtual unknowns with little to no playing time and Jevon Kearse. I would love to see the Freak come back and show his old form, but I just can't see him being on the field all too much (especially if his old injury habits kicks in). I think we could see a lot more rushing yards wracked up unless Bulluck & Co. step up big time.

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the kind words. I think last year at this time we would have had similar concerns about Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy and they did just fine. I'm worried about Kearse missing as many practices as he has, but think he can be productive as a situational guy when he's healthy. Jacob Ford has looked quite good and William Hayes has upside. Jason Jones and Antonio Johnson give them far better interior depth than they had with Randy Starks and a no-name last year. I think the line will be very good again if the young guys make steady progress. Reports from last night said the front line guys were a handful.

Robert Howard in Houston writes: Paul, Great work your doing. I have a question I have been to several of the Texans open workouts (you could hardly call them practice's) and they are not hitting I understand that the team wants to stay healthy for the season and that the new 80 man roster .... But come on this is the NFL so my question is are the other teams in the AFC south also getting the spa treatment in leu of old school training camp? And do you think that the Texans players will really be ready for the speed and physical play of the Steelers on opening day?

Paul Kuharsky: My sense is everybody in the division and virtually everyone in the league is softening up camp. The hard roster limit of 80 is an issue and freshness at the start of the season seems as big an objective as ever. Texans practices I've seen aren't too different than everyone else. And I'm sure they'll do some big-time banging in New Orleans next week. I think they'll be ready for opening day. That doesn't necessarily mean they win, though.

John in Nashville writes: Hey Paul loved reading you in the Tennessean. Have you and Jim exchanged any texts about this whole MLB situation? Guilty or not with steriods I just don't see why they would go for average starter over considerable potential. Thanks!

Paul Kuharsky: This is not a surprise. Jeff Fisher always goes for steady and reliable over flashy. Stephen Tulloch can still be in the wrong spot once in a while, the staff's thinking goes. If that's a TD, it could be enough to swing a game against the Titans who play so many so close. They are confident Ryan Fowler will be in the spot and that Keith Bulluck and David Thornton will do enough flying around to take care of things.

Bill Smith in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, following up on your comments about Nick Harper. I have noticed Eric King is really looking good at camp. Last season, Nick had some issues giving up untimely big plays (Tampa). Do you think there is any chance King could supplant Harper later this season if he has the same issues this year or maybe being groomed as heir apparent?

Paul Kuharsky: Harper is a lock to remain in the lineup provided he is healthy. Again, Fisher never pulls a healthy veteran. (See above answer on Fowler.) King is great depth and is likely to be on the field for a couple of games somewhere along the way. He'll be a key special teamer and probably the dime. I don't know if he can run support quite like Harper, a quality that's underrated.

Dan from parts unknown writes: Re: Sports Nation poll. Last I checked John Mackey and John Unitas were not part of the Indy 'Franchise'. They should not be part of that poll. They were Baltimore Colts!!!!

Paul Kuharsky: They are part of the Colts' franchise. SportsNation doesn't really decide on such things, the league does. The Colts carried the records from Baltimore to Indy, the Oilers to Nashville, the Rams to St. Louis, etc. Only exception I can think of was the Ravens, who were treated as an expansion team and left the Cleveland history behind to be absorbed by the new Browns. Unitas will win that balloting, don't you think?

Lyndon from parts unknown writes: If Earl Cochran keeps impressing in camp and in the pre-season is there a chance that he wins the starting job at DE opposite Mario Williams? If not how has Anthony Weaver been looking?

Paul Kuharsky: Cochran is in fact competing for a starting spot. Weaver is great in the leadership department and is a good run defender. But his knee is an issue and he may be better when he moves inside in the nickel. Maybe they cut back his role to create room for Cochran to contribute.

Luke from South Bend writes: Who will be the odd man out at TE for the Colts? They drafted Tom Santi and Jacob Tamme, but Gijon Robinson looked good Sunday night [in Hall of Fame Game]. I don't see any way they keep all four of them. Does Santi get stocked away on an inury I don't see it happening for opening day. His first action could be as a nickel guy.
Paul Kuharsky: With no fullback anymore after trading Luke Lawton, that should leave room for four.

Josh in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, how has Brandon Jones looked so far in camp? He's always seemed to show flashes of #1 potential, but he's always injured.

Paul Kuharsky: He was good early but knew better than to read a lot into it. He knows the knock on him is his inconsistency, particularly with routes. He said he's determined to change that thinking. We'll see if he can.

Glenn in Cumberland, RI writes: Paul, what exactly are the Titans seeing in their WR corps that makes them say the group isn't as bad as the rest of the league thinks? Is it more of a feeling that they have a lot of depth, rather than stars? Will Crumpler have such an impact that they think it will force 1:1 coverage on the outside, allowing a "#2 or #3" receiver produce like a #1? Thanks, Glenn

Paul Kuharsky: They were 10-6 with a worse group of receivers last year. They've never believed in the necessity of a No. 1 receiver. They're not going to have someone catch 100 balls. (I know the counterargument: if they had a guy who could, then maybe he would.) Also, it's not like there are a bunch of No. 1 receivers sitting around out there awaiting employment. How many teams really have one? Alge Crumpler and Chris Johnson upgrade Tennessee' passing game from their positions and will help the WRs for sure. But Titans fans have to come to terms with the way the coaches and front office see the receiver spots.

John in Nashville writes: I enjoy reading your blog
s on Titans Training Camp . I found a section quite interesting today , felt I had to ask a question. Could you give your opinion on the Lendale White just barely making acceptable weight comment by Fisher and that Fisher felt he could be thinner . Am I reading to much into that comment or does Fisher sound upset and hoped Lendale White would have lost more weight ? From your time at Training Camp so far would you say Lendale White is still somewhat Overweight in his Stomach region ? Thank you for your time and look forward to your next AFC SOUTH blog . Congratulations on the ESPN Gig . Good things come to good writers

Paul Kuharsky: Thank you very much. White is probably in his best shape yet. Is that as good as it can be? No. Is it progress and is he starting to understand? Yes.

And one for the comment section:

Curt from Phoenix writes: Re: Veterans on the bubble. I think one or both Jeff Charleston and Josh Thomas are in jeopardy on the Colts D-line. The Colts seem to like both 5th rounder Marcus Howard and UFA Curtis Johnson as they provide more of the upfield speed-rush they use so much. That pass-rush was sorely lacking at the end of last year and that as much as anything contributed to the loss to the Chargers in the playoffs (with Thomas and Charleston playing). Factor in that Raheem Brock is also moving back outside as the "big" end on running downs it leads me to believe that those 2 should be polishing up their resumes... Love the blog!