AFC South Stock Watch

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Matt Turk, Jacksonville Jaguars punter: Out of seven punts against the Bengals, one rated as good. At a crucial moment, he shanked a 22-yarder. There is a lot of talk in Jacksonville about his allegedly goading the crowd as he was booed, which I haven’t seen yet for myself. The Jaguars will look at punters today, and Turk may not be on the team tomorrow. They thought getting a guy who historically could boom it would work well with their solid cover teams. Kassim Osgood and Montell Owens have been dinged up, however. Combine the weakened cover teams with a lot of bad punts, and an area that’s supposed to be a strength becomes a weakness.

2. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans running back: Four games in, he’s clearly not the same guy right now. I don’t need an 80-yard run every game, but he held out for playmaker money and got it, and so now it’s past time to see him be that guy. Let’s see him turn a 1-yard run into a 2-yard run with a spin and a dive that shows you some life, some spark, some want-to. The Titans are 3-2 with their most explosive player having gained 250 yards on the ground and looking flat. The Titans have made solving the run-game issues Priority 1 for the bye week. But they’ve been talking about it for a good while with no change.

3. The Colts' entire defense: It couldn’t stop the run or the pass against Kansas City, allowing the Chiefs to storm back from a 17-point deficit to steal a win. The secondary beyond Antoine Bethea is an absolute mess. Receivers got separation or were able to overpower defensive backs to go get balls. Once they had balls they were able to run through defenders. The tackling was an absolute disaster. Coaches believe the guys they have can do better. What else can they say?

[+] EnlargeBrian Cushing
AP Photo/Dave EinselBrian Cushing has excelled in the Texans' 3-4 scheme.
RISING

1. Brian Cushing, Houston Texans linebacker: The stretch in which he played with blood rolling down his face from the bridge of his nose against the Raiders made for classic TV. He’s been a great fit as an inside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme and quieted questions about whether he can be the high-quality player he was as a rookie. Coming off that season, he wound up with a suspension that carried over into his second year for a violation of the league’s policy against performance enhancers, a penalty he challenged. He’s playing well, which means we’re not spending much time considering that question so much right now.

2. Curtis Painter, Indianapolis Colts quarterback: With quality protection against a bad team, he delivered several very nice throws in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s not going to cover up all sorts of deficiencies on both sides of the ball the way Peyton Manning does. But this performance showed that he can deliver a winning effort, and even as the offense did pretty much nothing after halftime, Painter was not on the list of reasons the Colts fell to 0-5. Whether he can make that the case in games to come remains to be seen.

3. Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end: The Jaguars’ defensive shortcomings so far this season have largely been a result of the team’s inability to rush the passer effectively. Mincey was explosive and disruptive against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday with a sack, four hurries and five tackles. If he can replicate the effort in upcoming games as the Jaguars get Aaron Kampman back in the mix, it could really do wonders for the rest of the defense.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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