AFC South: Aaron Schobel

Tony from Greensburg, Ind., writes: I loved the interview with Polian. I thought you asked some very good questions that many fans wanted answers to. But I would have liked to have seen some tough questions about Bob Sanders. I know he is a major concern with many fans. The guy has missed more games than he has played. What is the strategy to keeping him on the active roster? He is taking up valuable roster space. What are your thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t see how the roster spot is hurting them right now. They have to deactivate eight guys a game. As long as they don’t have a ninth injured guy who can’t play, they can deactivate Sanders each week and miss nothing. If they feel that’s a fair trade-off for missing a body during the practice week, well, they can judge that far better than we can, no? With Donald Brown and Mike Hart hurt, they still had the roster flexibility to add a player they need -- they just brought in running back Javarris James.

I understand people are angry at Sanders for getting hurt repeatedly and at Polian for not cutting him. I don’t understand what there was to grill Polian about on the topic or why you’d prefer a rash decision that would leave them with no chance of having someone like Sanders late in the season or in the playoffs, which remains a possibility now.

Ted in San Francisco, Calif., writes: Texans worked out Aaron Schobel, which makes me conclude he would have been willing to come out of retirement. Texans later signed Mark Anderson, showing they had need at DE. Anderson has such a worse track record than Schobel that I think it's fair to conclude that the Texans balked at paying Schobel. He may have been overweight, but they should hire him for what he can do in January. The Chronicle media are shy of this angle. Am I wrong in calling out the Texans for not spending?

Paul Kuharsky: We don’t know what happened and what didn’t happen. I can’t recall anything that’s made me think the Texans are cheap. Bob McNair is first class. If Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith told him “this guy can be the difference for us,” I think they would have signed him. I don’t believe they felt that way.

I wish he decided he wanted to keep playing when it ended in Buffalo and that they signed him then. But you can’t foresee the injury to Connor Barwin and I can, philosophically, understand not wanting to stunt his development.

Cody Russell in Hendersonville, Tenn., writes: So the 2010 Best of Nashville Readers poll came out, and they polled for best Titan player. Here are the rankings 1. Chris Johnson; 2. Vince Young; 3. Cortland Finnegan. I was curious to know how you would have voted?

Paul Kuharsky: I’d say Johnson No. 1, Finnegan No. 2 and third would be between Michael Griffin and Jason Jones. Michael Roos would round out my five.

Stephen in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Who's blocking is usually more critical to the success of the running game: the tight end or the fullback?

Paul Kuharsky: Well it depends on what personnel you are deploying and the design of the plays. An inside play, it’s probably the fullback; outside it can be the tight end.

It’s not an easy A or B answer to me.

Jerome in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Do you happen to have Ditka's address? I'd like to mail him a pic of the pretty full stadium on Sunday versus Colts. Instructions included: [Not appropriate for print.] If you haven't heard, Ditka made an either A) Misinformed comment or B) Horribly delivered and unoriginal joke. "There will be only 25,000 fans" (paraphrasing)

Paul Kuharsky: I heard, live. I know people in North Florida are upset with him. I don’t have a pipeline. I did what I could by writing this.

Matt Barron in Indianapolis writes: Paul, longtime reader, first time writer. As a Colts fan and an avid reader of all things AFC South, I've always enjoyed the fact you have a vote in ESPN's Power Rankings. My question this week is your comment listed with the Colts. A drop for them was both expected and deserved. But I was a little surprised you chose to mention the red zone turnovers in particular. Granted, losing the ball in that situation is something you never want to happen and isn't really the best way to win football games, but personally I think given the current climate the Colts' offense is doing great… On the other side of the coin is the defense, and to me that's where the real problems of that game were. The energy they used to show seemed non-existent, no pressure on Garrard, no pressure on receivers, no pressure on Maurice Jones-Drew. That seems like a far more alarming issue than a couple unlucky turnovers, especially with the mounting injuries.

Paul Kuharsky: Good to hear from you.

Seems unreasonable to hit me on one sentence. I could write about absolutely anything there. Odds that I write a line about the one thing you think I should have written about are pretty slim, don’t you think?

Certainly the defense is the big issue right now. But don’t turn it over those two times and they would have bailed the defense out. And I didn’t find them unlucky -- Gerald Alexander delivered a giant hit to Brody Eldridge and Reggie Wayne seemed to be a little greedy stretching for extra when he fumbled.

Jordy in Boston writes: What's the ratio of "Your rankings are spot on. I agree with your opinions." to "You're a moron who should be fired and are totally biased against my team." emails you get weekly? I'm guessing 0:837,892.

Paul Kuharsky: That’s about right.

RTC: Aaron Schobel candid as Texans pass

September, 29, 2010
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Kareem Jackson is still transitioning, but his best is surely yet to come, says Jeffrey Martin.

Aaron Schobel met with the Texans and they didn’t sign him, says Mark Berman.

A Schobel deal was doable if both parties wanted it, says Jerome Solomon.

The Raiders game could bring a sigh of relief, says John McClain.

The Texans signed veteran cornerback Karl Paymah, says McClain.

David Anderson won’t dwell on Dallas.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Linkenbach filled in nicely for Charlie Johnson, says Curt Cavin.

Bob Kravitz has come to rank Peyton Manning ahead of John Elway. (Video.)

Kavell Conner had foot surgery and is out.

On the receiving end, it seems the Colts are always good to go, says Pat Kirwin.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars gained another option by claiming Trent Edwards, says Tania Ganguli.

Jack Del Rio talked about David Garrard and Edwards in a radio appearance, says Ganguli.

Gerald Alexander is embracing a second chance with the Jags, says Ganguli.

Details on the Jaguars failure at stopping big plays, from Ganguli.

Gene Smith believes the fans have a right to know, says Vic Ketchman.

Derek Cox should play, says Alfie Crow.

Tennessee Titans

Five things The Tennessean knows about the Titans.

A breakdown of personnel by down for the offense against the Giants from Terry McCormick.

Connor Barwin injury looks terrible

September, 12, 2010
HOUSTON -- Defensive end Connor Barwin suffered what looked to be a terrible left lower leg and/or knee injury when he got bent very awkwardly in a collision with Antonio Smith.

Barwin was carted off the field.

Without him, the Texans will either leave Smith at end on pass-rushing downs, or use Tim Jamison or Jesse Nading at end. If Smith stays outside, then we’ll see more of Earl Mitchell.

I expect more Mitchell.

And I wonder if the Texans will be calling Aaron Schobel tomorrow.

Also on the injury front, Bob Sanders has an elbow injury and his return is questionable.

Scouts Inc.: Texans' pass-rush options

August, 27, 2010
Do the Houston Texans have legitimate pass-rushing options to help balance things out for Mario Williams?

Looking at this situation through the eyes of the Texans, the key to their success is being able to defeat and supplant the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. That task is easier said than done, of course. But a huge key is creating consistent and threatening pressure on Peyton Manning.

[+] EnlargeOkoye
Kirby Lee/US PresswireThe Texans need Amobi Okoye, who has eight career sacks, to get more pressure on opposing QBs.
I have no complaints at all with Williams. He is a superstar who probably is only getting better, which is frightening. He is an even better player than his statistics and highlights would suggest. Every pass protection scheme that Houston faces is designed to eliminate the damage that Williams can do. But he isn’t what we need to discuss here.

What the Texans need is to create a push despite all the attention that Williams receives. On passing downs, if Houston moves Antonio Smith inside next to Amobi Okoye, that might present a formidable enough interior presence to make a passer like Manning move off his spot.

Okoye remains very young and is in a position to really take a step forward this season. It is important that he does so. He needs to show more. Although he was the Texans' first-round pick in 2007, amazingly, Okoye is only 23 years old. He has a ton of ability.

Smith is a solid base end opposite Williams on early downs, but he isn’t the ideal pass-rusher to thrive in one-on-one situations off the edge. But, as an inside player on passing downs, Smith is more than adequate. Still, Smith is a pretty solid all-around player and quite valuable.

With Smith on the inside, Connor Barwin will line up opposite Williams. Like Okoye (and many Texans), Barwin is young and extremely talented. He will turn 24 in October. A step forward seems likely for this ultra-athletic player who spent a portion of his University of Cincinnati career playing tight end. He is an extreme work-in-progress, but his ceiling as a pass-rusher is very high.

In conclusion, we don’t know for sure that Houston has enough pass rush. But the potential is certainly there. Still, maybe coaxing a guy like Aaron Schobel out of retirement for spot duty wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for
It’s early to panic, for sure. But that Mario Williams is compelled to get a second opinion on the hip issue that’s been holding him out of practice is certain a cause for concern.

John McClain and Mark Berman are both reporting that Williams is not with the team Monday as he seeks a second medical opinion.

Hopefully it’s again judged to be not serious. But a lingering issue for Williams from the start is certainly a bad thing for the Texans.

The possibility of him missing some action would be less of a big deal if the team adds Aaron Schobel, but indications seem to be it could be a while before the former Bills defensive end decides where to sign and strikes a deal.

UPDATE, 11:55: @NickScurfield of tweeted this from Gary Kubiak on Williams: "All the reports are good. We expect him to get back here and get back on the field here shortly."

RTC: Are Ugoh, Pollak emerging?

August, 9, 2010
Reading the coverage ...

Rick Gosselin’s weekly NFL rankings.

Three hundred-pounders are the norm these days.

Houston Texans

The Texans relish the opportunity to open against the Colts, says Dale Robertson.

Kevin Bentley’s spent a lot of time starting on the strong side, says Jordan Godwin.

Kevin Walter became an NFL success the old-fashioned way, earning his place in the league with hard work and perseverance, says Richard Justice.

Bob McNair’s backing of Brian Cushing is another example of why players like him, says John McClain.

Matt Schaub returned the most value on the money he earned in 2009 among AFC South quarterbacks, says Ben Alamar.

New England and Seattle look to be Houston’s primary competition for Aaron Schobel.

Indianapolis Colts

Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollak seem more comfortable and could be ready to turn things around, writes Philip B. Wilson.

A public intoxication charge against John Gill has been dropped, reports the Indianapolis Star.

Profiling Austin Collie with Coltzilla.

Jacksonville Jaguars

As the Jaguars head to Atlanta for practices with the Falcons, Jack Del Rio reviews some scrimmage developments, from Vito Stellino.

The safety competitions are wide open, writes Tania Ganguli.

Derrick Harvey is the best player on the Jaguars’ defense, declares Adam Sites.

Tennessee Titans

The NFL is more concerned about concussions than ever, writes John Glennon.

Jim Wyatt runs down the Titans’ four veteran free-agent additions.

Is Kevin Mawae being black-balled? David Climer considers.

Take preseason games out of season-ticket packages and sell the seats for cheap, says David Boclair.

Does Craig Johnson have it easy coaching Chris Johnson? Climer’s take.

RTC: Would Schobel fit in with Houston?

August, 8, 2010
Reading the coverage:

Houston Texans

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle takes a look at how Aaron Schobel would fit in with the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Star has a Q&A with Cody Glenn.

Retired assistant coach Howard Mudd visited Colts practice.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Safety Sean Considine stands out at the Jaguars' scrimmage.

Guard Vince Manuwai says his knee is feeling 10 times better.

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessean breaks down some of the more memorable plays from Saturday's practice when the rookies went live.

RTC: Texans interested in Aaron Schobel

August, 7, 2010
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Texans owner Bob McNair repeated that Houston was interested in former Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel.

Andre Johnson is now the highest-paid receiver in the NFL because he's the best receiver in the game, argues The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice.

Indianapolis Colts

One week into training camp, the Colts seem to have few weaknesses.

Dwight Freeney says he's healthy after recovering from an ankle injury late last season.

Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star says the Colts will benefit from continuity at linebacker.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Fullback Brock Bolen was trained from childhood with military precision.

The Jaguars had 12,482 fans show up for a scrimmage Friday night.

Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson isn't satisfied with his new contract. He plans to have a big season and get a better deal next year.
Would adding Aaron Schobel be the right move for the Texans?

They are obviously determined to rush better, and he can certainly rush the passer.

But with Mario Williams, Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin they’ve got three ends they like, so where would Schobel fit? Would adding him force Smith, a costly free-agent addition a year ago, inside or off the field too often? Would adding him help stunt the growth of Barwin, a 2009 second-rounder, by taking some snaps from him?

You can never have enough of a pass rush. Schobel’s from near Houston and has said the Texans are the team he’d most like to link up with. He’s connected to defensive line coach Bill Kollar. I can’t argue with the move if they make it.

But I’d prefer if he was a free safety.

UPDATE, 2:03 p.m.:

According a team transcript Kollar said this about Smith Wednesday afternoon:
“Antonio, just like last year, when he moves inside and we move him inside, you really start to see him produce and make more plays. He was more effective for us last year when we moved him inside and obviously, we’ll be doing the same thing this year a bunch. He keeps getting better all the time at defensive end but he really played more inside when he was in Arizona and that’s where he feels more comfortable. He’s been doing a good job so far.”

I don’t know if Smith’s every going to be a fulltime tackle, but if he’s at his best there, a Williams-Schobel-Barwin trio at end could sure be promising against Peyton Manning.

Reading the coverage: Slaton to start

November, 22, 2009
Houston Texans

Andre Johnson denies he will want out if the Texans don’t make the playoffs, says John McClain.

Steve Slaton will start Monday night, says McClain.

Eric Winston vows to protect teammates, say McClain and Dale Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

The Ravens offer an unusual challenge for the Colts, says Mike Chappell.

It’s a home game for Matt Stover, writes Chappell.

Gijon Robinson didn’t travel to Baltimore, says John Oehser.

Ravens QB guru Cam Cameron has ties to Terre Haute, says Tom James.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Marcus Stroud won’t play against his old team.

Key matchup: Eugene Monroe vs. Aaron Schobel.

Justin Durant is doubtful for the Buffalo game, says Michael C. Wright.

Terry O’Brien chimes in on several Jaguars issues.

Richard Collier shares his story, says Charlie Patton.

Tennessee Titans

Nick Harper will concentrate on not getting too hyped as he returns to the lineup, says Gary Estwick.

LenDale White wants to start, but is happy for the wins, says Estwick.

Cortland Finnegan and Keith Bulluck drew big fines for actions against Buffalo, writes Jim Wyatt.

The option package is a nice changeup, says Terry McCormick.

Further review: VY's first-down run

November, 17, 2009
The suggestion from Hank Koebler via Facebook: “I don't know if this qualifies for further review, but VY's scramble on 3rd-and-long in the red zone, right before CJ's 2nd TD of the day. I think that makes the difference between usual Fisher-ball (settling for field goals every time you get in the red zone) compared to something explosive that puts you in position to score.”

The situation: Third-and-10 from the Buffalo 13-yard line with 12:20 left in the fourth quarter and the score tied, 17-17.

The Titans line up with Nate Washington and Bo Scaife to the left, Kenny Britt and Lavelle Hawkins to the right and Chris Johnson to the left of Vince Young, who’s in shotgun.

Buffalo matches up with its nickel package with Ellis Lankster, Reggie Corner, George Wilson, Drayton Florence and Bryan Scott on the field.

They rush with just their four down linemen.

What I saw unfold after the snap: Johnson heads left and cuts toward the end zone with Scott picking him up.

Jake Scott and Kevin Mawae double team Marcus Stroud and hold him up.

Eugene Amano single blocks John McCargo, who uses a spin move and winds up tugging Amano’s facemask.

Michael Roos pushes Aaron Schobel wide and David Stewart does the same with Chris Kelsay. But the two defensive ends begin to squeeze the back end of the pocket, and Young senses it early and sees room.

Young peers downfield as he scoots up in the pocket, but passes on throwing to Britt, who’s crossed from the right to the middle and is open but only two yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Paul Posluszny charges up the middle, but quickly loses any advantage in tracking Young as the quarterback slides to his right, gets to full speed and turns the corner to go up the right sideline for the pylon. He starts to lunge and reach for the pylon with the ball at about the 3-yard line with the defender on his left and diving for his legs. Field judge Keith Washington immediately signals that Young didn’t make it into the end zone marking him just short.

Young gets up and signals touchdown. Jeff Fisher challenges, but only because he was calling a timeout anyway to adjust personnel. Referee John Parry upholds the call.

Result: First-and-goal from 1. Johnson scored three plays later, bouncing off a hit behind the line of scrimmage by Scott and Posluszny and heading into the end zone standing from there and Tennessee moves to a 24-17 lead.

Ultimate outcome: The Titans pour it on from there, turning a close game into a 41-17 blowout for their third win in a row.