AFC South: Aaron Kampman

Sanders/WattUSA TODAY SportsAce Sanders and the Jaguars' receivers must pick up their play against J.J. Watt and the Texans.

HOUSTON -- Oddly enough, it’s the team with the worse record that enters this game with the better vibes.

The Jacksonville Jaguars finally won a game two weeks ago, whereas the Houston Texans are trudging through what’s now an eight-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.

For Houston, it’s been a matter of finishing. The Texans have led at halftime in each of their past three games. They regularly gain more yards than their opponents. They just can’t finish with wins, having lost by one, three, three and five points in their past four games.

ESPN.com Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli discuss.

Ganguli: So, Mike, do you think the Jaguars have shown signs of improvement lately?

DiRocco: In certain areas, yes. They've been much better against the run since the bye week, holding the Titans to 83 yards and the Cardinals to just 14. Their special teams have improved, too, especially the kickoff-return unit. Since bobbling several kicks against the San Francisco 49ers, Jordan Todman is averaging 34.7 yards on his past seven returns. Outside of those two areas, though, improvement is hard to find. The running game is still struggling. Since rushing for 90 yards against San Francisco, the Jaguars have totaled 86 in the past two games. The passing game really misses Justin Blackmon, too, because teams are concentrating on stopping receiver Cecil Shorts, and the rest of the receivers just aren't good enough right now to carry the offense. The pass rush managed three sacks against Arizona but overall has been ineffective. Couple that with a secondary that includes three rookies and you can see why they're struggling against the pass, too.

Speaking of struggling, what has been the biggest reason for the Texans' surprising stumble this season? Is it quarterback play? Injuries?

Ganguli: Special teams, turnover margin, quarterback play, injuries and red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball are all to blame. The Texans' kicker, Randy Bullock has really struggled. He made a 51-yarder on Sunday -- his first field goal from 50 yards or longer this season. Overall, he’s made only 65.4 percent of his field goal attempts. The Texans currently have their starting tight end, running back, strong safety and middle linebacker on injured reserve. They might get tight end Owen Daniels back in a couple of weeks, but not having him has been bad. The Texans' offense and special teams have turned the ball over at a high rate -- and that’s not just on former starting quarterback Matt Schaub, though Schaub has been a big factor. Pick-sixes aside, Schaub wasn’t actually playing too poorly before he got benched for Case Keenum. He had one game that was top-to-bottom bad: the Texans’ loss in San Francisco. But a pick-six is such a big play that his really hurt the Texans. That’s not something anyone predicted heading into the season. Well, maybe someone did. Certainly not me.

Speaking of quarterbacks, what did it take for the Jaguars to finally give up on Blaine Gabbert?

DiRocco: Gus Bradley says the team hasn't given up on Gabbert, but it's pretty obvious it has by the fact that Chad Henne is starting even though Gabbert has recovered from a hamstring injury and has been healthy for weeks. It was typical Gabbert when he did play earlier in the season: some really good throws, some terrible throws and a few "what the heck was he thinking?" throws. He just hasn't been consistent enough, and he's had three seasons. The other issue is that he can't seem to stay healthy. This season alone he had a sprained ankle early in training camp, fractured his thumb in the preseason, missed two games because of a cut on his hand and left the Week 5 game with a hamstring injury and hasn't played since. He also missed the final six games of the 2012 season with a forearm injury.

Tania, what is Schaub's future in Houston? If he's out, are Keenum or T.J. Yates viable long-term solutions or will the Texans go after a quarterback in the draft?

Ganguli: Schaub’s future in Houston is murky at best. He knows that. His teammates know that. As I said earlier, people did not see this coming. The Texans' handling of Yates indicates they don’t think he’s the future. I don’t think it’d be smart to go into next season with only Keenum as a starting option given the unknowns that remain about him. So far, he hasn’t been able to react well to defensive adjustments against him. It’s entirely possible he gets better at that, but I just don’t think you know for sure yet. I could absolutely see the Texans drafting a quarterback. It’ll be a pretty deep class, though there doesn’t seem to be a knockout like Andrew Luck.

Let’s finish up with defense. The lack of a pass rush has been a problem in Jacksonville for so long. Why has it been ineffective?

DiRocco: The bottom line is the players aren't anything but average. It dates back to 2008, when the team drafted Derrick Harvey in the first round and Quentin Groves in the second to improve the pass rush. They were both busts, and the Jaguars have been chasing those picks ever since. They signed Aaron Kampman to a free-agent contract in 2010, but he arrived coming off a torn ACL, and he went on to suffer another tear, among more injuries. The Jaguars claimed Jason Babin off waivers from Philadelphia in 2012, and he has 4.5 sacks in 15 games with them. Andre Branch, last season's second-round pick, has just three sacks in 23 career games. Upgrading the pass rush will be one of the team's biggest tasks in free agency and the draft this offseason.

This obviously isn't the kind of season the Texans expected. How has the locker room been? Do you get the sense of any problems, and is it a case which another few losses (especially one to the Jaguars) could make things get nasty?

Ganguli: The locker room is frustrated, but right now, the Texans are closing ranks and taking an us-against-the-world mentality. We saw a bit of frustration within the team when Schaub yelled at Andre Johnson on the sideline for stopping his route near the end of the Texans' loss to the Raiders. Johnson yelled back and then walked off the field before the official end of the game. The team didn't need him anymore at that point because Oakland was simply kneeling to the finish, but it was a surprising move from a guy who doesn't normally show his frustration like that. Still, Johnson and Schaub both downplayed the argument, saying they were fine with each other. I thought Johnson's comments on Wednesday supported that. He talked about how "you hate to see" what Schaub has gone through this season, especially given their long history together. This is a pretty good locker room. I think if they were going to turn on each other, they would have had plenty of reasons to do so already.

Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Matt Schaub says he’s ready to go, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

I visited with Nick Scurfield for this podcast while I was in Houston.

Last year’s Texans were actually healthier than the average NFL team, says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts continued to add at cornerback, signing former St. Louis Ram Justin King.

A look at the Colts’ schedule from Athlon.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Fred Taylor recalls his earliest days with the Jaguars, from Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Gene Smith has no control over the kind of thing Justin Blackmon did, says Justin Barney of the T-U.

John Oehser of the Jaguars' website touches on the big issues of a busy week, including Aaron Kampman, Justin Blackmon and Taylor.

Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson wants the ball, but his role is evolving, points out David Climer of The Tennessean.

Kendall Wright is asking the right questions, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Derrick Mason, who spent his first eight seasons with the Titans, is set to retire today as part of the Ravens.
Aaron Kampman’s no longer a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But if some of his teammates picked up on his professionalism, his influence will linger.

And Twitter gives us a couple indications that will be the case.


Some thoughts on Kampman on the day the Jaguars released him.
  • As Mark Long of AP points out, giving up on Kampman at this stage surely indicated the team’s feeling good about second-round pick Andre Branch, and Austen Lane, who’s was on IR last year after six games. You can also include John Chick here. Those three should be the guys beyond Jeremy Mincey to take the defensive end snaps.
  • The first time I spoke with Kampman, when he was recovering from the first of two ACL tears, he spoke of the recovery in a way I’ve never heard another player talk of it. He said he found the experience “purifying,” an outlook that’s struck me as healthy and always stuck with me.
  • He certainly will go on the negative side of Gene Smith’s GM ledger. But I don’t like to hold big injury guys at positions of need against teams who go for it. The Jaguars needed a pass- rusher, they needed leadership, and they made a move to get it. They got unlucky. (The Titans did that at receiver twice, memorably, with Yancey Thigpen and David Givens.)

I hope Kampman gets healthy and gets one more look somewhere. But if he doesn’t, I hope he’s satisfied with what he did as a player.
First off, here is my unsolicited idea on the NFL’s desire to provide reliable Wi-Fi for fans at all NFL stadiums: Turn goal posts and pylons into antennas.

Moving along and reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Punter Brett Hartmann now has league permission to take Ritalin, says Mark Berman of Fox Houston. His suspension was reduced from four games to three. I’m curious about why this case warranted a reduction, when suspensions related to violations of the league’s policies on such matters are usually cut and dried.

Rookie offensive lineman Brandon Brooks is the heaviest Texans player ever, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. They’re asking him to drop 15 of his 346 pounds, and heat he’s not used to may help.

Linebackers coach Reggie Herring says the Texans gained back what they lost with the trade of DeMeco Ryans by adding Bradie James, according to Gregg Rosenthal.

Arian Foster says he can get better at everything and knows things are different for the Texans now that they’ve had success, says Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

Tight end Dallas Clark signed with Tampa Bay after the Bucs got rid of Kellen Winslow.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Aaron Kampman and Rashean Mathis are enduring solitary roads to recovery from knee injuries, says Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union.

Montell Owens isn’t against the idea of leg pads, says Ganguli.

Martellus Bennett thinks Laurent Robinson proved himself as a No. 1 receiver last year in Dallas, says Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have signed all of their draft picks except for first-rounder Kendall Wright, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

AFC South links: Kampman eyes return

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Houston Texans

A pair of free-agent signings last offseason paid off in a big way for Houston's defense in 2011.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck is scheduled to have a private workout in front of Colts officials on Tuesday.

Craig Kelley of Colts.com continues the position-by-position breakdown with a look at the specialists.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman is trying to prove his critics wrong once again.

Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union: "Despite enduring a ton of criticism, including fans who lamented the Jaguars not acquiring Tim Tebow recently in a trade to compete for the starting job, [Blaine] Gabbert has conditioned himself to leave the past in the rearview mirror. He refuses to get drawn in to negativity."

Tennessee Titans

Linebacker Tim Shaw isn't a fan of last season's rule change that moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35.

Free agent Chris Hope is still waiting for some team to come calling for his services.

RTC: Aaron Kampman maintains faith

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Houston Texans

Wade Smith thinks the Texans will be able to pick up where they left off even with two new starters on the right side of the Texans offensive line, says Robert Neely of National Football Authority.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck already ranks as the second-best quarterback in the AFC South, says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive end Aaron Kampman continues to rehab and is approaching his cruising altitude, he told John Oehser of the team’s web site.

Tennessee Titans

“The Titans aren’t on the verge of trading for Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, and any interest in the four-time Pro Bowler is lukewarm at best,” says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Long-term free agency scorecard

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Bill Lubinger and Rich Exner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer put together a comprehensive free-agency scorecard.

They tracked what every team in the league has done from 2006-2011, and matched up winning percentages during that time.

That’s hardly scientific.

But all different kinds of signings count the same here.
  • Signing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a monster contract and getting minimal production, as Washington did.
  • Signing a big free agent who gives you all you hoped for, as the Texans did with cornerback Johnathan Joseph, or the Jaguars did with Paul Posluszny.
  • Signing a cheap guy you think can emerge, as the Titans did with defensive end Jason Babin, and getting fantastic production.
  • Signing a player like defensive end Aaron Kampman, who the Jaguars have gotten minimal production from as he has dealt with knee injuries.

Still, it’s interesting to consider the list in totality.

Here’s how the AFC South placed:

Hat tip to Scott Kendrick of the Florida Times-Union blog.
The money isn’t mine. I’m not certain about what you can afford and what the market will pay when free agency opens on March 13. I’m not positive about your plans and schemes.

But I’ve got a good sense of your team. We've looked at the free-agent list.

And here’s what I’d try to do with your major issues:

1) Land at least one premium free-agent wide receiver. I’d stack them something like this: San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe, Buffalo’s Steve Johnson, New Orleans’ Marques Colston. If you’re bold and will take two, I like Indianapolis’s Pierre Garcon or New Orleans’ Robert Meachem.

2) Re-sign safety Dwight Lowery. Just a year ago, you were a mess at safety. You did fine work signing Dawan Landry and trading for Lowery and shifting him from corner to fix it. You have to keep it fixed. Hopefully he realizes what a great fit he is in a top-flight defense. But there are a lot of safety-needy teams out there, including your AFC South rival Titans. Lowery needs to be in your lineup in 2012.

3) Be a player for Mario Williams. If Houston’s outside linebacker/defensive end becomes a free agent as I expect, you can afford to make a huge splash with him. And you’re a premier pass-rushing defensive end and a cornerback away from being a premier defense. If Williams goes elsewhere and the Colts’ Robert Mathis comes free, he should be the second target.

4) Shop free-agent quarterbacks to upgrade the backup plan for Blaine Gabbert. Chad Henne probably finds a better situation. Kyle Orton too. How about Jason Campbell? The new backup needs to have the right disposition -- sit back, offer guidance, run a good scout team. But he also needs to be able to play, because if Gabbert is bad again, you can’t just sacrifice the season. You have to have a better backup than Luke McCown.

5) Let defensive end Jeremy Mincey explore the market. He’s a supreme effort guy you’d like to have back. But he’s not worth the kind of money I imagine he’s looking for. If the rest of the league agrees, you’ll have a chance at him later. If he gets swept up, then someone likely overpaid.

6) Monitor your defensive tackles closely. Tyson Alualu's knee surgery wasn't said to be major, but the knee kept him from peak performance last season and they need to get it right. And Terrance Knighton's weight cannot continue to be an issue going forward. Ultimately it's on him, of course, but the new staff needs to find the best, most helpful approach.

7) Wait on Rashean Mathis unless he's cheap right away. The corner will be an unrestricted free agent but is coming off a torn ACL. He's a great team guy and can still play, but the end is in sight. You want him on a cheap, short deal and hopefully you draft the guy in April who replaces him in 2013.

8) While you have plenty of cap room, you still want to be conscious of paying reasonable prices. You can wait to decide on them later. But even a healthy Aaron Kampman isn’t worth a $4.97 million base. And fullback Greg Jones played only 38.7 percent of the team’s snaps last season but is schedule to make $3.4 million. Too much.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jacksonville defensive tackle Tyson Alualu had surgery on the balky knee that kept him from approaching his peak performance in 2011, Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said Friday at the scouting combine.

“We’re anxious to see how he is when he feels 100 percent,” Mularkey said. “I know that when we played him when I was with Atlanta, he was a disruptive player on that knee. Here’s a guy that’s going to hopefully come back full speed and see how much more he can improve from it. He should be ready to go by the time we get to camp."

Mularkey said the operation was not serious and is expected to solve Alualu’s issues.

The Jaguars can be an excellent defense, especially if they add a big-time pass rushing end. They are at their best when Alualu and Terrance Knighton clog up the middle and force teams to try to run outside.

Mularkey had less to say about other injured players like defensive ends Aaron Kampman (knee) and Matt Roth (concussions), linebacker Clint Session (concussions ) and cornerbacks Derek Cox (knee) and Rashean Mathis (knee).

“Our first camp will be on April 16, again I’m going to call it a veteran orientation camp … we’re hoping to see if they are ready for that but it’s not going to be a setback if they’re not,” Mularkey said.

Jaguars regular-season wrap-up

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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 27
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

[+] EnlargeMaurice-Jones Drew
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesMaurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing yards despite playing with the NFL's worst passing offense.
Biggest surprise: The Jaguars added six new veterans to their lineup of top-12 defensive players and once the group jelled it played very productively. Jacksonville finished sixth in overall defense, making giant strides from 2010 and maintaining the gain even as it lost a load of quality contributors to injury. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who finished the season as interim coach after Jack Del Rio was fired, did good work in his first season as the defense's playcaller. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was the sort of centerpiece tackling machine the team envisioned when signing him away from Buffalo as a free agent.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars didn’t intend for rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to start 14 games before they felt he was ready to take over. But by cutting David Garrard (who later wound up having back surgery) just a week before the season started and bailing quickly on veteran Luke McCown, they went against their own plan and paid a huge price for it. Jacksonville’s pass offense was worse than anyone could have anticipated, averaging just 136.2 yards per game. The NFL’s best passing offense in New Orleans averaged 334.2. Gabbert may not have been much better operating behind better protection and with more dangerous weapons at receiver, but it sure would have been good for him to have had a chance to find out. Tight end Marcedes Lewis killed the team with his disappearing act after he got his payday.

Biggest need: While the defense will need a pass-rushing end and at least one cornerback, the attention has to be focused on the offense. Mike Thomas was the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2011 but slumped badly after he got a contract extension and was not equipped to work as the primary guy. He should be the third option in 2012, working primarily out of the slot. The Jaguars need big, fast and physical receivers who can threaten downfield and go get the ball for Gabbert or whoever winds up playing quarterback.

Team MVP: Unquestionably, running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s just the fifth back since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to lead the league in rushing on a team with the NFL’s worst passing offense. That means with no threat to keep defenses honest, he ran consistently against stacked boxes and still produced in a giant way. There are always worries about wear and tear on him, yet he finished very strongly with no sign of tapering off. The Jaguars need to get other guys who are good with the ball in their hands so they can rely on him less, extend his window, and increase the chance he’s on a winning team.

Still searching for pressure: How long have the Jaguars needed a consistent pass-rush threat off the edge? It seems they are always looking. Jeremy Mincey is a great, high-energy player, but he’d benefit greatly from having a player opposing offenses have to game plan around. Yes, the franchise missed badly when it traded up to No. 8 for Derrick Harvey in the 2008 draft and counted on its second pick the same year, Quentin Groves, to help rush too. They are mistakes they still haven’t made up for. Knee injuries and rehabilitation have meant Aaron Kampman has played in only 11 games in two seasons and will be hard to bank on.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Receiver Andre Johnson and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could both be back with the Texans for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Titans, says John McClain.

Arian Foster is likely to be named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl this evening, says McClain. He’ll hardly be the only player from the team to be named to the AFC squad.

Indianapolis Colts

Aggressive, dynamic and productive linebacker Pat Angerer is the Colts' best chance at a Pro Bowl spot, says Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star. I won’t be surprised if Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney make it either.

The season finale has a lot of implications, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

On his radio show, vice chairman Bill Polian talked about what positions the Colts need to draft to fill, says Richards.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have placed 31 players on injured reserve this season, says Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union. But presuming that’s the reason for all the team’s troubles is a mistake. “While some players landed on the list for serious and long-term injuries, not every injury was such. Many of the injuries happened after a five-game losing streak derailed the Jaguars’ season. And the two aspects of the Jaguars’ game that excelled before the injuries -- the defense and the rushing offense -- continued to succeed even after injured reserve ballooned.”

Defensive end Aaron Kampman had his right knee cleaned up with surgery, says Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Munchak is urging his Titans to take care of their own business because results elsewhere have a funny way of falling into place as they did in 2006, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The franchise record for yards by a tight end in a season is within reach for Jared Cook, says Wyatt.
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Houston Texans

With secondary coach Vance Joseph, transparency is vital, writes Jeffrey Martin of the Houston Chronicle. “Players openly discuss each other's weaknesses, but not in the hopes of tearing down a teammate. Rather, the openness allows the players to feel comfortable, to ask questions that might not have been asked before and to even volunteer suggestions.” He’s definitely qualified as a difference-maker on a team that has several.

Indianapolis Colts

Jim Irsay took to Twitter to chime in on the possibility of Peyton Manning returning to practice this season, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts have difficult choices ahead as they decide what to do at wide receiver, says Brett Mock of Coltzilla. I think it would be awfully difficult to let Reggie Wayne walk, but predicting the timing and speed of his drop-off is something the Colts have to do correctly.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive end Aaron Kampman is trying to keep the Jaguars’ situation in perspective, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union. Jack Del Rio chimed in, too: “Until you drive a stake through me, I’m going to fight for every inch and so we’re not conceding anything,” Del Rio said. “But we’re in a situation now, we’ve got such a big hole we’ve just got to put the next game in front us and go out and win that game. Worrying about anything else would be counterproductive.”

Tennessee Titans

David Climer of The Tennessean gives props to Mike Munchak for using Javon Ringer over Chris Johnson late in the win over the Colts. “Instead of sticking with standard NFL protocol and repeatedly giving the ball to Johnson so he could work on that 2.8 yards-per-carry average, Munchak chose to go with Ringer on the last three offensive series when the Titans were protecting a lead.” I’m more curious about what happens going forward, as the Munchak and the Titans have to stick to the thinking that prompted the change.
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Houston Texans

Right now, the Texans are feeding the hot and healthy running back, says Jeffrey Martin.

John McClain gives the Saints the edge.

Indianapolis Colts

As the Colts hit prime time, Peyton Manning will be next to quarterback coach Rob Turner in the coaching booth at Lucas Oil Stadium, says Mike Chappell.

The Colts deserve a full house, says Bob Kravtiz.

Manning is dealing with a lot of unknowns, he told Chappell. Manning also detailed the timing of his surgeries.

Five things to watch for in Steelers-Colts from Nate Dunlevy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Panthers had considered Blaine Gabbert with their No. 1 pick, too, says Tania Ganguli.

Aaron Kampman is down, but Gene Frenette says not to count him out.

Carolina is a game the Jaguars should win, says Vito Stellino.

Breaking down the game with Ganguli.

The Jaguars will be concentrating on playing like normal, says John Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

Teammate Daniel Graham was involved in the play last season that tore Derrick Morgan’s ACL, says Jim Wyatt.

Receivers had more catches for the Titans last week than in any game since 2004, says John Glennon.

When Chris Johnson gets going, we’ll really see what Chris Palmer is like as an offensive coordinator, says David Climer.

AFC South Stock Watch

September, 20, 2011
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Luke McCown, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback: Pick the synonym for awful and it fits his game against the Jets: dreadful, horrendous, ugly. Four interceptions got him pulled in favor of rookie Blaine Gabbert, and now the Jaguars’ quarterback situation is up in the air. Whichever quarterback is in the huddle will be hoping for the return of tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) and receiver Jason Hill (hip), who was unwise to question the hype surrounding Darrelle Revis in a week when he didn’t even play.

2. The Colts’ red zone offense: With Peyton Manning at the helm, this is an area where Indianapolis typically excels. Last season the Colts scored touchdowns on 67.9 percent of their possessions that crossed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. But as part of Sunday’s field-goal festival in the loss to Cleveland, the Colts moved four yards in six snaps in the red zone before kicking. Their lone red-zone touchdown came when the game had already been decided. Indianapolis’ defense isn’t good enough to make field goals stand up.

3. Pick a guy, Jacksonville Jaguars: The receivers are certainly candidates, as they did little against the Jets on McCown’s bad day. (And Hill embarrassed himself without even playing.) If safety Courtney Greene can be nudged out of the lineup for Chris Prosinski or Dwight Lowery, Greene may have made a case for the move with a poor game. And defensive end Aaron Kampman, who suffered a setback in his return from an ACL reconstruction, missed his second game and won’t play Sunday. The defense misses his leadership for sure.

RISING

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck
Jim Brown/US PresswireMatt Hasselbeck successfully orchestrated a win against a tough Baltimore defense.
1. Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans cornerback: Finnegan was excellent in the Titans' win over Baltimore with four tackles and three passes defended. He was consistently involved for Tennessee in a rebound effort that can’t be underestimated. And with the praise Mike Munchak has offered Finnegan, it sounds like his play so far is the culmination of his leadership during the lockout and a solid camp that featured a short, failed walkout in a contract dispute.

2. Jacoby Jones, Houston Texans receiver/ punt returner: He had an excellent catch on the sideline, tapping his feet to be in bounds, and three catches for 48 yards. His performance is a good contribution in an offense featuring Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. He also chipped in with an early 40-yard punt return that helped set the tone. On a day the team was without Kevin Walter, Jones did his part to make sure the team wasn’t lacking. Is he becoming more consistent?

3. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans quarterback: He keyed a solid offensive day against a Baltimore defense that teams struggle against. A week after he ended a disappointing loss in Jacksonville with a bad interception, he was very accurate. Though Chris Johnson couldn’t get going, the other elements Hasselbeck counted on when he signed in Tennessee came through. He wasn’t sacked and his pass catchers like Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Jared Cook made plays for him.

RTC: Chris Johnson to get more carries

September, 13, 2011
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Houston Texans

Mario Williams’ transition to linebacker is good so far, writes john McClain.

Confidence is one heck of a drug, says Jeffrey Martin.

David Anderson is one of the receivers the Texans will look at today, says McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are ready to move on after a terrible start, says Mike Chappell.

Reggie Wayne thinks if the Colts can stay in third-and-manageable on offense they will be OK, says Phil Richards.

Bill Polian is talking about looking for Peyton Manning’s heir.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Luke McCown executed the plan and drew praise for it, says Vito Stellino.

Aaron Kampman’s return remains on hold, says Tania Ganguli.

David Garrard doesn’t want to be a temporary fix, says Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

“You don’t throw everything away after one game because certain things didn’t work out the way you’d hoped,” says Mike Munchak. Jim Wyatt’s story.

Chris Johnson will get more carries against the Ravens, says Wyatt.

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