AFC South: Adrian Peterson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Maurice Jones-Drew decided to sign a free-agent contract with Oakland, he took more than just 8,071 rushing yards and a Jaguars-record 81 touchdowns to the West Coast.

He took the Jaguars’ national identity.

Jones-Drew was the franchise’s most recognizable player. He was one of the few Jaguars players -- and possibly the only one -- who the average football fan in, say, Kenosha, Wisconsin, could pick out of a lineup, mainly because of fantasy football. When Jones-Drew said something interesting or controversial, it was national news.

[+] EnlargeBortles
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsThe Jags are surely hoping that rookie Blake Bortles will soon be identified as the face of the franchise.
He was the team’s unquestioned leader and the person whose name first came to mind when the Jaguars were mentioned.

He was the face of the franchise, and now he’s wearing silver and black.

The Jaguars are entering the second season of the Dave Caldwell/Gus Bradley era, and while the rebuild is focusing on improving the talent level on the roster, they also need to find Jones-Drew’s replacement as the public image of the franchise.

"I think that will just develop," Bradley, the head coach, said. "We don’t talk to our guys about that. Our hope is that they just continue to become the best that they can be, and then that might be a byproduct of it. That’s kind of how we look at it, and we think in due time those things will come."

Every NFL team needs a face, especially a small-market team like the Jaguars. In many cases it’s the quarterback -- think Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. But not always -- think J.J. Watt, Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. It certainly helps from a marketing perspective to have one -- especially when it comes to jersey sales -- but it goes beyond that.

The face of a franchise gives the team an identity. He's the player who rallies the team when things go wrong. It goes hand in hand with leadership, but think of the face of the franchise as the alpha leader. Teams generally have several leaders, and a player can be a leader without being the face of the franchise, but a player can’t be the face without being a leader.

In almost every case, he's a good player -- usually among the league’s elite. That’s the Jaguars’ problem. While they do have some very good players, they don’t have any who would be considered elite. Tight end Marcedes Lewis and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny have been to the Pro Bowl, but neither carries the same national recognition and cachet that Jones-Drew did for the past five seasons. Posluszny even admits that.

"Maurice is a national figure, and playing the running back spot, Pro Bowl player, offensive guy, great personality -- so whether you can fill his role in that aspect, I don’t know," Posluszny said. "Maybe it’s going to be by committee. Marcedes Lewis is a huge name, and then you look at Chad Henne and how he’s going to be able to lead, so as far as the leadership aspect of it there are several guys that’ll definitely step up to fill that void.

"Who’s going to be the guy? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine."

The most logical pick would be quarterback Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in last month’s draft. He’s the most high-profile player on the roster right now. However, it’s hard to be the face of a franchise when you’re sitting on the bench, which is what general manager Caldwell and Bradley want Bortles to do in 2014.

Henne is well-liked in the locker room and has become more of a vocal leader now that he is assured of being the starting quarterback, but he doesn’t have the star power. Neither do receiver Cecil Shorts and running back Toby Gerhart.

The Jaguars’ most notable player may actually be wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who is serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy for the third time, but he wouldn’t be considered the face of the franchise.

Right now, the most visible and prominent Jaguar is owner Shad Khan, and not just because of his handlebar mustache. He has put $31 million of his own money into improvements at EverBank Field -- $11 million to renovate the locker room and weight room and $20 million to help finance the $63 million in stadium upgrades that include the world’s largest video boards and two pools in the north end zone.

The mustache helps, though. It is featured in advertising campaigns and on T-shirts, and you can spot fans sporting fake ones throughout the stadium on game days.

It’s clever and it’s funny, and it’s obvious that the fan base has completely embraced Khan, who purchased the team from the beloved Weaver family in late 2011. But how long will that last if the Jaguars continue to struggle on the field? And can an owner truly be the face of a sports franchise? It has happened with Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner, but those three men share the same traits: huge egos and dominant, aggressive personalities. That’s not Khan.

It appears that Caldwell and Bradley have begun adding good players. They need one to become the franchise’s new face.

Jaguars offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

.With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Jacksonville Jaguars' offseason moves:

Best move: It has been forgotten after the moves in free agency and excitement over the draft, but general manager David Caldwell trading Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick was a shrewd move. Caldwell managed to get something for a player who obviously wasn't in the team's plans and was going to be cut before camp anyway. He used that pick to draft Virginia center Luke Bowanko, a player who will compete with Mike Brewster for the starting job. Caldwell essentially got a potential starter -- and at least a player who can contribute at guard as well -- for nothing.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerFormer Vikings RB Toby Gerhart is largely unproven as a feature back at the NFL level.
Riskiest move: The natural assumption would be taking quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, but the Jaguars at least have some insurance in the form of Chad Henne if the Bortles move doesn't work out. There is no such luxury at running back if the free-agent signing of Toby Gerhart doesn't work out. While he did produce in the limited work he got behind Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Gerhart hasn't been a feature back since his days at Stanford. The Jaguars' only somewhat proven option behind him is Jordan Todman, a third-year back with 79 career carries.

Most surprising move: The Jaguars didn't land him, but it was a bit of a surprise to see how aggressively they pursued Cleveland center Alex Mack despite the fact that the Browns put the transition tag on him. The Jaguars put together an offer they felt Cleveland wouldn't match -- $42 million over five years ($26 million guaranteed) with a player option in the third year and a no-tag clause -- but the Browns quickly did. Still, the attempt served as a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren't going to be an afterthought any longer.

Overlooked move: Drafting guard Brandon Linder in the third round didn't move the excitement needle, but he may end up being one of the Jaguars' biggest rookie contributors. The interior of the offensive line was a weakness in 2013, and the Jaguars started to fix that in free agency by signing Zane Beadles to start at left guard. Linder was picked to be the starter at right guard. The proof of how much they are counting on him was the release of guard Will Rackley, the team's third-round pick in 2011, three days after Linder was drafted. Linder played both guard spots and center at Miami, and that versatility is an added bonus.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the benefits of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ signing of running back Toby Gerhart is also one of the biggest risks.

Gerhart doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body after spending the first four years of his career backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota -- just 276 carries and 77 receptions. But that also means he hasn’t had to carry an offense and there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to do that in Jacksonville.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerToby Gerhart, formerly with the Vikings for four seasons, says he's excited to show Jacksonville fans his skills as a starting running back.
Yet coach Gus Bradley doesn’t view the signing as risky.

"We watched his college tape and then we watched his reps that he did get [in Minnesota], that’s really what we’re basing it off of," Bradley said. "And then talking to people that have been with him as a teammate, all those things came together and said, 'Wow this is really clean. This is a great opportunity to get a guy in our locker room that we believe can help us.'

"You still have to do it, but I think he’s really looking forward to the opportunity. I think he’s been waiting for this opportunity and he wants to take advantage of it."

Gerhart has been waiting, and pretty patiently, too. Getting drafted in the second round by the Vikings in 2010 wasn’t an ideal situation for Gerhart, who ran for 3,522 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career at Stanford, including a senior season in which he ran for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns. He went from being a workhorse to feeling as if he were locked in the barn.

He got 81 carries as a rookie and 109 the following season but totaled just 86 in the last two seasons.

Gerhart said that while he obviously wanted to play more he used the time to learn from one of the NFL’s greatest running backs and treated things the same way as a young quarterback sitting behind a veteran starter.

“It’s been an opportunity to get experience over the years and also learn,” Gerhart said. “I’ve stayed fresh, stayed strong and healthy, and I’m ready for my shot now.”

The encouraging thing is that Gerhart has been productive in the limited work he has gotten, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 7.8 yards per catch. That works out to 5.4 yards per touch on offense, which is similar to the 5.1 yards-per-touch that Maurice Jones-Drew averaged in his eight seasons with the Jaguars. That included three consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 yards rushing, including an NFL-best 1,606 in 2011.

Replacing Jones-Drew, now in Oakland, isn’t going to fall completely to Gerhart. Second-year back Jordan Todman will get a lot of work, and Bradley is optimistic about Denard Robinson being able to hold onto the ball and contribute. The team needs a feature back, though, and the hope is that it’s Gerhart.

He understands if people aren’t sure he can do it, but he’s sure they won’t have doubts for long.

"There’s always a prove-yourself situation, especially coming in to a team," Gerhart said. "I was one of the first running backs signed in free agency. Coming in where Maurice was, there’s definitely going to be that added pressure to prove yourself.

"I haven’t had the opportunity to play a full 16 games as a starters so I think a lot of people are going to wait and see before the jury’s out on me. I’m excited about that and ready to show what I can do."

Richardson going back to school

February, 5, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson will spend the offseason with the mind frame that he’s in school.

Learn, learn and learn the playbook some more. That will be his mentality as he knows the critics are still there and he knows the excuse of not knowing the Colts’ offensive system can no longer be used.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsColts running back Trent Richardson will spend his offseason trying to regain his form from 2012.
Richardson spent too much time thinking when he took the handoff than running with the type of speed and force that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

“Learn the system, not just memorizing it,” Richardson said. “Learning the whole concept of the system. There's a difference between having it memorized and feeling comfortable with the system. I’m going talk to a lot of veteran players, talk to Adrian (Peterson), talk to (LaDainian Tomlinson) , talk to Emmitt Smith to make sure I’m the best I need to be next year.”

The Colts went from pulling off the biggest trade of last season when they acquired Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a first-round pick to currently having the move favor the Browns after Richardson only averaged 2.9 yards a carry. The thought of the dynamic duo of Richardson and quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to come together. Richardson ended up losing the starting running back position to Donald Brown on Dec. 1, 2013.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson defended the trade during his season-ending press conference last month. It is too soon to call Richardson a bust because he got acquired during the middle of the season. He needs a full offseason of OTA’s, minicamp and training camp before a better evaluation can be given on him.

“This is more a problem of not being in the system long enough for me,” ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards said as part of the top 50 offseason questions. “He's clearly got talent. But getting traded in the middle of the season is tough for any player, and his offensive line in Indianapolis wasn't very good this season. Indianapolis also needs to mix up the game plan with Richardson more when he's in the game. Too often, he would come into the game and it would be obvious the Colts were handing him the ball. He'd get hit behind the line.”

Richardson will split his offseason between Indianapolis and his hometown of Pensacola, Fla. He won’t be on the pretty beaches of Florida building sandcastles with his kids. He’ll be on the beach running sand hills and training with his old school coach.

“I’ve got a big motivation for next season,” Richardson said. “My big thing, I want to contribute to the team. As far as putting on a big show every weekend for the team, the city, the fans, I’m going to do whatever it takes. That’s a lot of motivation for me.”

NFLN survey/Super Bowl player: Colts

January, 22, 2014
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The third question in the series of NFL Nation confidential survey questions leading up to the Super Bowl is: Who's the player you'd most like to see in the Super Bowl?

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson barely beat Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez in the confidential voting done by 10 players on all 32 teams in the league.

Peterson picked up 59 votes compared to Gonzalez's 56 votes. The two easily outdistanced Detroit's Calvin Johnson, who was third with 26 votes.

Peterson, one of the premier running backs in the league for years, has run for 10,115 yards and 86 touchdowns during his seven-year career. The closest he got to the Super Bowl was when the Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game during the 2009 season. The Vikings had some player named Brett Favre quarterbacking them at the time.

Gonzalez, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is the career leader in receptions (1,325), touchdowns (111) and yards (15,127) amongst tight ends.

But unlike Peterson, Gonzalez won't have an opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. Gonzalez is expected to retire after 17 years.
I have a feeling that if players could choose their own teammate, every one of the Houston Texans would have chosen Andre Johnson as the player they'd most like to see in the Super Bowl.

He's the longest-tenured Texans player, having been with the franchise since its second year, and has shared with his teammates the trials that have come with that.

But when we surveyed 320 players from around the league, they were told to choose one active non-teammate who has never played in the Super Bowl. Johnson still received 14 votes, ranking him fifth behind Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Falcons retiring tight end Tony Gonzalez, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who received votes from 15 players who will be happy to see him there this season.

Peterson (59 votes) and Gonzalez (56) were close at the top.

You get one guess on the other Texans player to get votes.

Yup, four players chose defensive end J.J. Watt.
A large portion of the 320 players that participated in an NFL Nation confidential survey about which non-teammate they’d like to see play in a Super Bowl didn’t get their wish.

Three Jaguars players did, though.

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson topped the survey with 59 votes, narrowly edging out Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez (56 votes), who retired last month after 17 years in the NFL.

Obviously neither was able to make to the Super Bowl this year, but three of the players named by the 10 Jaguars players polled did: Denver’s Terrance Knighton and Demaryius Thomas and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. It’s not a surprise that someone named Knighton because he was the Jaguars’ third-round pick in 2009 and one of the most well-liked players in the locker room during his four seasons in Jacksonville.

The interesting thing about the Jaguars’ responses was that no player was named more than once. In addition to Knighton, Thomas and Lynch, seven other players were named: Jake Long, Brandon Carr, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Peterson and Michael Vick.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maybe it’s because the Jaguars used to face Peyton Manning twice a year, but he was the overwhelming favorite as the NFL’s most respected player among the 10 Jaguars players who participated in an NFL Nation confidential survey.

Five players voted for Manning, now with the Denver Broncos, and New England’s Tom Brady was the only other player to receive multiple votes (two). Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Houston’s Greg Jones also received votes.

That Jones received a vote wasn’t a surprise since he spent the first nine seasons of his career in Jacksonville before choosing to sign with the Texans after the 2012 season. Jones was one of the Jaguars’ most respected players.

Manning also was the overwhelming favorite in the survey of 320 players as well, earning 26.8 percent of the vote (86 votes). Brady and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson were the closest players, with each earning 7.5 percent of the vote (24 votes).

NFLN survey/franchise player: Colts

January, 16, 2014
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Quarterback Andrew Luck's NFL career consists of a total of 35 games when you add in the three playoff games he’s appeared in. It’s only taken those 35 games for Luck to earn the respect of his peers around the league.

Luck finished second behind only Peyton Manning, the player he replaced at quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts, during NFL Nation’s survey question of: If you could start a team with one player, whom would it be?

Luck received more votes than Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

And Manning, who has led the Denver Broncos to this weekend’s AFC Championship Game, barely beat Luck. Manning had 62 votes compared to Luck’s 56 votes.

I’m not surprised that so many players selected Luck. He simply knows how to win, he goes about his business the right way and he’ll be leading the Colts for at least the next decade. Punter Pat McAfee once told me that other cities have more to offer when it comes to nightlife or beaches, but if a free agent wants to win he’ll come to Indianapolis because of Luck.

McAfee is right.

Luck is 22-10 in the regular season, he’s already won an AFC South title and he won his first playoff game this season. Manning didn’t win a playoff game this early in his career.

Oh yeah, Luck’s only 24 years old.

There aren’t many other teams around the NFL who can say the same thing.

NFLN survey/respected player: Colts

January, 16, 2014
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Indianapolis Colts fans spent 14 years watching Peyton Manning grow and turn into one of the premier quarterbacks in the league. He led the Colts to the playoffs 11 times and two Super Bowls. His talent is the reason his peers from around the league said he is the one player they would want to start a team with.

Manning was also the top vote-getter when players were asked who is the most respected player in the league as part of the NFL Nation survey.

The Denver Broncos quarterback (86 votes) easily beat out New England’s Tom Brady and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (24 votes each) for top honors.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver Reggie Wayne had two votes each. Linebacker Robert Mathis picked up one vote.

You can expect Luck to continue to move up the ladder as each season passes because everybody inside the Colts' locker room respects him on and off the field.
videoOAKLAND, Calif. -- It’s a legitimate excuse, but Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts doesn't want to hear it.

In fact, he’s upset at just the thought of anyone inside the locker room using it.

It doesn’t matter to him that by the time the Jaguars’ 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders concluded the team was down five offensive starters -- including running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who left the game in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle. The result is what counts, regardless of which players are on the field.

Whether it is Jones-Drew or Jordan Todman carrying the ball, Justin Blackmon or Stephen Burton catching passes, plays have to be made, he said.

"It’s the NFL, man," Shorts said. "You’re here for a reason. You’ve got to go out there and make the plays at hand. Of course we can’t replace Mojo and Marcedes [Lewis] but we’ve got to go out there and continue to fight. We can’t use that as excuses. That’s weak-minded. That’s something we’re not going to do."

But being short-handed is a valid reason for why the Jaguars have struggled on offense this season, especially when the players missing are some of the team’s top playmakers.

Justin Blackmon, the team’s top receiver (64 catches last season), still has two more games to serve on a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Lewis, who has caught at least 52 passes in two of the last three seasons and is one of the league’s better blocking tight ends, has yet to play a snap in the regular season because of a calf injury.

Mike Brown, whose role is more important because of Blackmon’s absence, missed Sunday’s game with a back injury. And he needs as much playing time as he can get since he’s a converted college quarterback who has played in just three games in his career.

Jones-Drew is the Jaguars’ best offensive player even though he has gotten off to a slow start (72 yards on 25 carries).

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has yet to establish himself as a legitimate starter in the league, but he did beat out Chad Henne in the preseason and one of the goals of this season is finding out if he can become a franchise quarterback.

So, 248 yards against the Raiders -- 128 of which came in the fourth quarter when the game was pretty much decided -- and only one touchdown in two weeks is sort of understandable.

But not, as Shorts and several other players emphasized, an excuse for being 0-2, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, and punting 19 times in two games.

"When Adrian Peterson goes down what are you going to do next?" asked Henne, who completed 25 of 38 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown against the Raiders. "Every team’s the same. The next guy just has to be prepared to step in there and make some plays. We have to count on everybody. Everybody has to be accountable and make a play when they’re in there."

The problem is that the replacements really haven’t. Jacksonville's tight ends have caught nine passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, but most of that has come in the fourth quarter when the games have been determined.

Shorts has been targeted 25 times in two games and has caught 11 for 133 yards. The rest of the receivers -- Ace Sanders, Brown, Jeremy Ebert and Stephen Burton -- have combined to catch 12 passes. Ebert was called up from the practice squad on Saturday and Burton was one of seven players the Jaguars claimed off waivers on Sept. 1.

Tom Brady has spent most of his career throwing to average or below-average receivers and produced great offensive numbers. That’s not going to work for the Jaguars, though.

Yet, coach Gus Bradley remains upbeat about the situation, mainly because he knows it should improve soon with the return of Lewis and Blackmon.

"How I look at it is I think with those guys being out this is a great opportunity to develop those [inexperienced] guys," he said. "And when we all come back we’ll be that much stronger if we do this right. But that doesn’t take care of it for right now.

"We’re not waiting to be successful or do things right till they come back. We all want to get better right now. That’s the challenge. I believe in those guys in the locker room."

Colts haven't shown power-running game

September, 5, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Remember when the Indianapolis Colts talked about being a power-running team during training camp?

Ballard
Bradshaw
That raised a few eyebrows when offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton mentioned it because of quarterback Andrew Luck's passing ability.

The Colts ran the ball 115 times (3.8 yards an attempt) and attempted 130 passes in the preseason.

But it’s still too early to pass judgment on if the Colts will truly be a power-running team because they didn’t have their top two running backs during the preseason.

Vick Ballard played, but Ahmad Bradshaw, the likely starter at some point, didn’t because he continued to work his way back from offseason foot surgery.

Bradshaw will be in the lineup against Oakland on Sunday. He said earlier this week that he's been working with the second unit.

“I think it all starts up front,” Hamilton said. “Our offensive line, they’ve progressively gotten better since the start of camp and we expect that we’re going to be able to come out and control the line of scrimmage. That’s our ultimate goal.”

It’s the coaching staff’s job to figure out how the load will be divided between Ballard and Bradshaw. Unlike with quarterbacks when they say having two of them means you don’t have one, having two running backs is a luxury unless you’ve got somebody like Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson in your backfield.

“I think it’s probably been official for an offense like ours to have at least a couple backs that can carry the load,” Hamilton said. “It’s a long season and we expect to be able to run the football. We’re sure that there will be enough opportunities to go around.”
As we’ve gotten to know Chris Johnson over five years with the Tennessee Titans, we’ve learned one thing above all: He absolutely loves being fast.

Also, he also doesn’t think Adrian Peterson is better than he is.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsRunning back Chris Johnson says the Titans' backfield looks good on paper, but it has to go out and prove its worth on gamedays.
His rationale, per Pete Prisco of CBS Sports:

"I did it first," Johnson said of running for 2,000 yards. "Not one time did I sit back and say he did something that I can't do. I did it first. He's a great back. But I can't sit here and say out of my own mouth that Adrian Peterson is better than me. All the things he's done, I've done the same things. I did them first."

CJ thinks 22 carries a game will be enough to get to 2,000 yards. That would require an average of nearly 5.8 yards, which sounds impossible. And I’m not sure he’ll get 352 carries.

I did the math on what Shonn Greene and Jake Locker can mean to Johnson’s workload back in March.

I think he’ll get more like 254 carries and would need a 7.8-yard average.

That’s simply not happening.

Johnson tweeted “THANK GOD” when the Titans used the 10th pick in the draft on guard Chance Warmack. They also added guard Andy Levitre as their most expensive free agent in a spring of shopping, which makes their depth substantially better.

Excuses about blocking should disappear, as the system will be friendlier to Johnson under Dowell Loggains than it was under Chris Palmer.

But a lot more is on Johnson now. And he’s not saying everything is cured.

“Yeah, we look good on paper, but we’ve got to go out here every day and work hard and try to jell together and see how it is once we put it out there on the field,” he said. "Once we do that and if everybody can jell together, we should be OK."

I asked him how much is on him now that the line issue has been addressed?

“Just because we got all those good guys there’s not always going to be just great big holes,” he said. “I’ve still got to do my job. Hopefully it will eliminate some of the getting hit in the backfield as soon as I get the ball and those type of things and just get me a fair chance.”

No, even a great line isn’t plowing big holes on every snap. But barring something unforeseen, if the Titans don’t run well this year it’ll be much more about Johnson and the backs than about the line.

J.J. Watt up for an ESPY

July, 1, 2013
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Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt is a candidate for NFL player of the year in polling for the ESPYs.

You can find the ballot here.

He’s up against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

It’ll be a tough slog for Watt, and NFL MVP Peterson is the likely winner.

Watt’s the lone defender, and defenders rarely outpoint guys who accumulate statistics that help fans win fantasy leagues.

During the 2012 season, I wrote about Watt’s intention of redefining the 3-4 end position, how teams will have to build and plot to slow him and whether a defensive player will ever win MVP again.

This award is hardly as important as NFL MVP or NFL defensive player of the year, which Watt won with all but one vote.

Think he’s got a chance at it?

RTC: Foster in Madden Final Four

April, 12, 2013
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Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle will be surprised if the Texans draft anything other than a wide receiver at No. 27 of the first round.

Arian Foster is in the Final Four of the Madden cover contest. He'll square off against Adrian Peterson in the New School bracket while Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice are in the Old School final. While I confess to paying minimal attention to this deal, I am sure fans don't want him to win for fear of the cover jinx. Foster looks like the longest shot of the four finalists.

Indianapolis Colts

Breaking down the Colts at wide receiver and tight end with Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Army lieutenant Josh McNary’s active duty is scheduled to end May 21, at which point the linebacker should be able to join the Colts.

Vincent Burns is on Phillip B. Wilson’s list of the Colts' worst draft picks, while Reggie Wayne is on the list of the best.

A look at the penalty history of the Colts free-agent newcomers from Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Don’t call new Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks a fisherman. He’s an angler, writes Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

John Oehser of the team’s website has seen the Jaguars new uniforms, but any information on them is embargoed until the official release, which is coming soon. Additional info of note here: Oehser advises fans not to shape draft expectations based on free agent additions. Short deals for Roy Miller and Marks won’t preclude the team from taking a defensive tackle No. 2 if that’s the guy (Sharif Floyd) they want.

Tennessee Titans

Marc Mariani sees the light at the end of the tunnel in his recovery from the shattered leg suffered in the 2012 preseason, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

A thorough look-back at the Tennessee Titans 2007 draft with Tom Gower of Total Titans. To which I say: Boy were there some major duds in this group.

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