AFC South: AFC South Mailbag

Time for the Twitter mailbag

June, 22, 2013

Our Twitter mailbag

June, 15, 2013
A fast-paced, wide-ranging installment of the Saturday Twitter mailbag ...
We've converted the regular mailbag feature to Twitter-based. But I just made a trip to the mailbag and thought I could do an old-school version this afternoon.

Adam from Cookeville, TN writes: Is there a maximum number of players a team can have on the roster at this time of the year? At what point will each addition require a cut? When is the date that the team has to be under the cap?

Paul Kuharsky: Maximum is 90 now. Teams had to be under cap at start of league year in early March. The most expensive 51 players have to be under that cap from then through camp. The cap count then goes to all 53 when they cut to 53.

Jim from Greenville, SC writes: Any chance you could do an article on how the undrafted free agents are signed? Questions I have include-Can the teams contact the players before the draft is over? How are the players paid, enticed, etc. beyond the obvious potential playing time?-Seems that players in the 6th and 7th rounds would benefit from NOT being drafted at some level. Thanks for the informative, objective writing.

Paul Kuharsky: You can't technically negotiate until the draft is over. But teams typically are in contact with guys they want. "Hey, we really want to draft you in the seventh but we have a hole at center and may have to go that way. If that's what happens, we're going to want to sign you as a free agent." If he gets drafted by someone else, you are obviously out of luck.

If he's undrafted, you compete with anyone else who's interested and try to lure with opportunity and signing bonus. Those bonuses aren't generally much unless you can really get a couple teams bidding. It's typically a one-year deal for the minimum. If you make it, you'd be an exclusive rights free agent the next year and have no freedom if the team wants you for four full years.

Paul in Jacksonville writes: I see this draft as being like a home renovation. The wife (fans, some media) wants a new kitchen and master bathroom (QB and pass rusher.) She's focused on things like cabinets and flooring - the flashy stuff people will notice. The contractor (Caldwell, Bradley & company) is more immediately concerned with the fact that the house has major structural issues. He's happy to do the kitchen and master bath, but first let's make sure the house doesn't cave in when we hang those cabinets on the shaky kitchen walls. To me, it looked like the Jags spent their picks strengthening the structure of the team. Thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: That's about right, though we don't need to run with the stereotype that a wife would care more about the cabinetry than the foundational stuff.

One thing you need to note about your structural issues vs. home renovations: Gene Smith talked all about foundation building at the start of his term as GM. It's one thing to think that way, and another to make the right choices in that thinking.

Terrance from Memphis writes: Just looking at your last piece on VY. Funny how you're so anxious for Vince to go off quietly into the night. Don't worry, nobody cares about how invested you are in his failure. When he finally succeeds nobody will care that you worked against him. Brown nosers like you will always be fine.

Paul Kuharsky: Who am I brown nosing, exactly? I'm not following your logic.

Vince Young has been out of the league for a while now. You say he will finally succeed. When will that be? What's the timetable?

Say what you will about my feelings on Young. What you need to realize is that 32 teams have zero interest in him. Seems to me their sense of whether he has a chance to be good trumps yours.
Greetings and welcome to the super popular Saturday Twitter mailbag. Watch for tweets requesting questions and find yourself here next week.

Twitter mailbag: Pre-draft edition

April, 20, 2013

Saturday's Twitter mailbag

March, 2, 2013

Mailbag: Everyone is heard

November, 17, 2012
Shawn from Honolulu writes: We know several teams in the league (especially my Jaguars) will most likely be seeking new general managers after the season. Supposing the Jaguars do clean house, can you provide three GM candidates and three head coach candidates who you believe could make a difference in Jacksonville?

Paul Kuharsky: I hear good things about two potential first-time GMs -- George Paton from Minnesota and Omar Khan from Pittsburgh. I won’t delve into coaches, as I think they need to hire a GM and let him make the hire. But I’d certainly be curious about Chip Kelly -- he would adapt to an NFL situation, not try to shoehorn his current Oregon offense into a pro setting if he wasn’t equipped to do so. Odds are he can get a more attractive NFL job if he wants one.

LX from Chuco, TX writes: When asked if Whitney Mercilus should be started you said (in the latest chat):"You want to sit Brooks Reed or Connor Barwin? Seriously?" If Barwin and Reed have solidified the position, why draft Mercilus?...why use a high pick on him? Did Hou never intend to pay Barwin; and lose a big defensive name for the second consecutive year? Is this a season-long audition to find Barwin a new team? Yes, the salary cap is tricky and maybe they just need insurance, but why so early and why at such a high draft pick? Was Hou anticipating the #1 draft pick to "Kareem-Jackson" for three years before finally losing his Bambi legs and becoming an OK starter????

Paul Kuharsky: For the same reason they drafted Reed when they already had Barwin and Mario Williams. There is no rule against using a high pick on a good player at a position of strength that’s an important position in your scheme (and in the league). It’s how it becomes a position of strength. You are allowed to have good players as depth and role players. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons the team broke through in 2011.

Yes, if Barwin leaves, they are covered. But they didn’t determine back in April when they drafted Mercilus they wouldn’t re-sign Barwin. They were negotiating with Barwin in the preseason and were unable to strike a deal.

Ideally, Mercilus continues to get some playing time so Barwin and Reed don’t have to overextend the way they did in 2011 after Williams went down.

Should Barwin move on, they’ve got his replacement. But they’d probably wind up drafting yet another OLB. Pass rush dictates everything, and OLB in a 3-4 is a position where wise teams have good numbers.

Also, Jackson is better than OK now.

Chris Walker from Jacksonville writes: Paul, it's been great to get an in-depth take from a non-local guy, if only to convince myself that the local guys aren't overreacting (or echoing talking points from the organization). The content is great and getting better, too. For the longest time, I didn't bother with the RTC posts, but your "to which I say" portions changed that completely. My question is: if we get a new GM, will the house-cleaning extend to all the scouts? Should it?

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the kind words.

If the Jaguars get a new GM, he would expect to hire an entire scouting staff. He’d interview some current guys, I would expect, but holdover would be minimal, I suspect. I think a new executive needs to be surrounding himself with his own people.

Drew from Fort Bragg, NC writes: I've been a fan of the Colts since I was 7 years old, and with that I've become a fan of you and your AFC South blog. I saw the season that brought Peyton Manning to our team. Of course I missed a great portion of last season because I was deployed overseas, defending our freedoms and what-not, but was overjoyed when we drafted Luck and cleaned house at Indy. I'm having great enjoyment watching this new team breathe life into what I thought was a stagnant franchise. There is a new dawn in Indy... I couldn't really think of any Luck-based analogies that weren't hackneyed. The thing is that I don't want you to screw that up. My argument is that Bruce Arians is a great coach and one definitely worthy of being a head coach. Colts fans acknowledge this ... but you don't have to. You can sweep this under the rug, and not mention it as you have. There are going to be several head coaching positions available at the end of the season and we really don't need them looking to snag our OC away from us. If they look, they look, and Bruce has done a fantastic job. I'm just saying, you know, as a veteran of a foreign war, you might just do us a solid and calm down those coach talks from your end. You know, for the veterans. The veterans who support the Colts. Like me. I'm a veteran. I support the Colts. I don't want to see BA leave. I would never try to make an emotional appeal to jeopardize your journalistic integrity, but yeah. Seriously. Shhhh.

Paul Kuharsky: We so appreciate your service on our behalfs. Thanks.

Arians is no secret around the league. He’s doing a fantasic job filling in for Chuck Pagano.

Here are two things that might put you and Colts’ fans at ease, however.

While lots of teams will be looking for coaches who can oversee the development of young, new quarterbacks, they are generally looking for young guys. Arians is 60, so he might fall outside the area where most owners will be looking. Also, he’d done great work in Pittsburgh as Ben Roethlisberger’s coordinator and potential head coaching jobs didn’t arrive for him.

Should he leave, it would hurt Luck for sure. But Luck’s head coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh, left for the 49ers before Luck’s senior year, and Luck managed to survive and advance with an altered staff.

Jonathan from Kempner, TX writes: First, let me thank you for your informative writings. I read your blog daily and eagerly await another post. I was hoping you could clear up a "rules" question I have concerning the hit on Jay Cutler by Tim Dobbins. I thought that once a QB became a runner, all hits were fair game. Just as if he were a running back. If Cutler had crossed the line of scrimmage causing an illegal forward pass, then why was the hit illegal? Wouldn't he become a runner at that point? Thanks for your time, ignore the haters, and keep doing what you’re doing.

Paul Kuharsky: I have gotten several versions of this question and should have done better answering it in the blog before now.

My understanding is, if Cutler is still in the throwing motion and has not clearly passed the line of scrimmage and become a runner, he’s still afforded the protections of a quarterback. That’s certainly the way it was interpreted in this situation.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to write.

Brian S. from Clarksville, TN writes: In reading your evaluation of the Titans during the bye week you say CJ still needs to prove himself in order to be on the team next season, using his bonus due in March as justification of why the organization would release him. My thing is, even if he only ends up like 10th or so statistically, who exactly would the titans replace CJ with? I don't think Jamie Harper or Darius Reynaud are going to make the pro-bowl as full time starters. Draft a RB hoping to find the next CJ or Muscle Hampster? It seems like too much of a risk to let CJ go, who I think has proven he still has the speed and quickness when he spots a hole to be a legit threat. I'd much rather see the titans "overpay" for CJ than to risk turning the RB position to unproven guys. Unless you're telling me the titans are on the brink of Salary Cap jail, there's no reason to "save" CJ's bonus money on some lame principle that his stats don't "justify" the money. In my opinion he may not be in the top 3, but he's still most likely going to be better than anyone else they could get. Of course if they renegotiate the bonus then kudos for them, but unless he goes out and starts committing felonies, cutting CJ shouldn't even be a thought.

Paul Kuharsky: They won’t make the decision based on what else they have or don’t have, they’ll make it based on if they think he’s worth it. The CBA will require them to spend, so I can see them saying, ‘We need to spend anyway and he was good.” But if they decide that’s too pricey, they will have plenty of time to find a back/ combination of backs who can carry the load.

One issue is: He clearly let up after he got big money the first time. Do you guarantee him more and not worry about seeing that happen a second time?

Trip from Jacksonville writes: Did Shad Khan change the primary Jags color from Teal to Black so that the fans are more appropriately dressed for their home game funerals on Sunday?

Paul Kuharsky: Home games certainly have that feel now, don’t they?

Mailbag: See me get frustrated

October, 6, 2012
Rick Shortt from Virginia Beach writes: Again I say, let’s quit jumping on the Texan bandwagon. It will not be long before they crash out at the bottom again. How long did it take them to get this far? GO COLTS.

Paul Kuharsky: I’m not on a bandwagon. I write about what’s going on.

What’s going on is the Texans are one of two undefeated teams left in the whole league. Would you like me to pretend they aren’t winning now because you think it’ll tail off?

Who should I act like is good instead? A team that got beat in it's last game by the marvelous Blaine Gabbert-Cecil Shorts tandem?

Mike W from Jacksonville Beach writes: In reference to your weekly what you think the Jags are thinking. This is what a 5 year Jag's season ticket holder is thinking: It could be argued the three most important positions for all 32 NFL teams are GM, Coach and QB. If you had their peers rank Gene Smith, Mike Mularkey, and Blaine Gabbert against others in the league, there is no way that anyone would rank them above a 27 or 28. Until any or all of these individuals are removed, you realistically cannot be successful. I've had (or heard) countless discussions with others, on sports radio, and from local media, but isn't that really their problem in a nutshell? Other comments are deflections and distractions from the root cause of why the Jags continue to lose.

Paul Kuharsky: I certainly understand your frustrations. But the guys that you’d rank in the top five at those spots were once nobodies who ranked 28th, don’t you think?

Maybe not at QB, but certainly with coaches and GMs.

Where did Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith of the Texans, for example, rank on your coaches and GMs lists three years ago? Where do they rank now? I’d suspect substantially higher. Their owner was patient with them and is now collecting dividends.

Also important: who are the guys you you want replacing Smith, who’s at least had some time, and Mularkey, who’s FOUR GAMES into his tenure with the Jaguars, and Gabbert, who’s played in all of 18 games?

Marcus in Winter Park, FL writes: I was the person who was annoyed with the lack of an upgrade at the CB spot during the Texans' off season, my username being eramthgin007. I just wanted to admit that I was wrong about Kareem Jackson's ability to improve. He impressed me long before he got that pick-6 against the Titans yesterday. I am now cautiously optimistic, for I am still not going to put all of my chips on KJ because Hasselbeck was the QB yesterday. I want him to do well against Rodgers and Flacco and Brady, then I will trust in his abilities more. But I admit to being wrong, and I look forward to seeing KJ improve even more. Oh, and I really enjoy your posts, especially your humor. Sarcasm is possibly the greatest thing to ever happen, ever. Not really but you get the point.

Paul Kuharsky: Wow. Score one for reader accountability. Rare. Dogs and cats living together.

I much appreciate the feedback.

Jackson is definitely better, but he’d still be the guy I’d go after based on how strong they are elsewhere.

Saeed Fakhruddin from Brentwood, TN writes: I am a season ticket and PSL holder of the Titans. Why does this team ignore glaring needs and go after players in the draft that don't address those needs. We ranked almost dead last in sacks last year and had almost no pass rush. We get Kendall Wright and pass on SEC defensive players in a year where there was a bumper crop of linebackers and defensive linemen. We once again have no pass rush and J.J. Watt’s has more sacks than the entire Titans defense. Mike Reinfeldt and Ruston Webster are always looking to outsmart the league. They are idiots. Why are they always trying to save Bud Adams’ money. We consistently pass on free agents that could fill holes and let go of good players who are leaders in the locker room while getting no draft picks in return. We were an elite team in the years we had a dominating pass rush with Albert Haynesworth. The Giants won the Super Bowl with a fearsome D-line. The blueprint is there but it appears the brilliant minds in the Titans front office had other ideas. They are stale and have almost no pressure to show results because the Nashville media is way too polite. Bud Adams has been out to lunch for a while. I won't even elaborate on the need to reinvigorate the O-line. Leroy Harris is a liability. David Castro would have been worth moving up in the draft. Thank you.

Paul Kuharsky: No, thank you. You’ve given me great fodder.

They’ve missed on a lot of players, for sure.

But they didn’t miss on leting Haynesworth walk -- did you see what he did after he got that giant contract? Would you somehow feel better if they’d wasted $40 million guaranteed on a guy who was going to mail it in from there just to prove to you a willingness to spend? And they got a third-round compensatory pick for losing him.

They didn’t do enough at defensive end, but didn’t do nothing. Kamerion Wimbley was an expensive free agency.

They passed on J.J. Watt because they had to have a quarterback. We won't know if they picked the right one for a while. But they were hardly alone in not jumping on Watt.

I don’t know what they would have had to do to draft David Castro, but they wouldn’t have had to move up for David DeCastro. They passed on him and he went four spots later. I would have liked to have seen them make that pick too. But of course if they took him, you’d be complaining about not having enough depth behind Kenny Britt at receiver or still ranting about defensive end. (The guy the Titans may really regret passing on is DE Chandler Jones.)

Drafting strictly for position of need has proven to be a bad strategy. You draft players, not positions. Last year were you bemoaning the selections of Jurrell Casey and Colin McCarthy and Karl Klug?

If you want to crush the Titans, crush them. They deserve it. I’ve been doing it. But how about you crush them accurately?

Rick in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL writes: Two questions: 1. Do you think Jack Del Rio kept a tight leash on Dirk Koetter's offense in Jacksonville? With David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars were (and still are) a 3-yards and a cloud of dust offense. Koetter goes to Atlanta and the Falcons light up the scoreboard. He has better offensive players in Atlanta, but still the Jags were so predictable. 2. Have you ever been to Roberts Western World on Broadway in Nashville? Do locals go there?

Paul Kuharsky: 1) Yes. Koetter didn’t have a lot of talent to work with and I don’t think Del Rio let Koetter do everything he would have liked.

2) Yes. Once at the end of a late night. Good spot. Mix of locals and tourists. But downtown is not where most of locals go. Try Midtown

LX from El Chuco, TX writes: Now that the Texan's are 4-0, the media/public praise almost make me forget the 10 previous seasons of inconsistency and frustration. Honestly, I expected them to win by less than a TD vs. the Titans and lose by 10+ to Peyton Manning's Broncos. Still the early success bothers me. Against Manning, as usual, the Texans folded in the fourth quarter; Peyton would have won if he had the level of familiarity with his WRs/TE in DEN as he did in IND. The Manning hex has not been lifted because the Texans have yet to win at IND; besides, they usually struggle with rookie QBs and Andrew Luck will be well experienced by Week 17. Speaking of insurmountable hurdles, the Texans have never beet two of the three teams they will face before the bye: NYJ and BAL!!! I know you love the Texans when they win, but their success remains unproven. I hope they DO lose at least one game in the next three weeks so that they can focus on reaching the SB and not fall into the Pursuit-of-Perfection BS that killed the Patriots when they went 18-1.

Paul Kuharsky: You write: “Still, the early success bothers me.” So after the 10 years you complain about, they are finally good, they are crushing people, and you are bothered by success? What do they need to do to make you happy?

Teams win all the time with some sort of statistical or personnel deficiencies. Trust me here, right now the Texans don’t have much of either. They gave up a big lead in the fourth quarter in Denver -- and still won. They beat Manning where and when they were scheduled to play him. Did you want them to petition to relocate the game to Indy?

Your team is playing great but your choice is to fret about their Week 17 matchup on the road against Andrew Luck?

I think you’re right. They probably will lose that game. Because it probably will mean nothing to them in terms of playoff positioning. How in the world will you deal with such a catatrophe?!?

I wouldn’t worry about a perfect record. They’ll lose more than one game. But if you like them, you don’t have to be compelled to root for it. Just let it happen.

Jake from Tennessee writes: How did your lover boy Matt Hasselback do for you Sunday? I bet you were devastated that he sucked and CJ performed. You might be the worst blogger, due to your always biased opinions, in ESPN history!

Paul Kuharsky: You are confused.

This will help you understand what you see as “bias.”

Did you think Chris Johnson was good in the first three games? Should I have raved about him?

Craig Adams from Lubbock, Texas writes: I've never done the fantasy thing before until this year. For some reason all your bad mouthing of MJD, who I've never really followed, stood out to me as the season approached. As of late I have looked for comments by you seeing if you had given him any kudos as of late but have not seen any? Do you have a pride issue?

Paul Kuharsky: Maurice Jones-Drew’s been everything we’ve come to expect of him. But I haven’t had any real cause to write about him. I said during his holdout that they could go 5-11 just as easily with him or without him. And they look to be on track to do it with him, again.

Also, I don’t believe I said he wouldn’t play well when he played. I never questioned his talent. He’s very talented. I said he didn’t deserve a new contact. What he’s done since he returned hasn’t really swayed my thinking on the contract or changed my reaction to how he handled things.

Romeo Hughes from Starkville, MS writes: When it comes to Tennessee Titans defense, is horrible coaching by Jerry Gray or are they just don't have the talent? They are missing way too many tackles, the safeties are lined up way too far deep, the line gets no pressure, and they don't use Akeem Ayers like they should. Thank you for your time and I enjoy reading your columns.

Paul Kuharsky: It’s a combination of both, plus a third ingredient: They’ve played four pretty good teams.

The long-awaited return of the mailbag

September, 29, 2012
Stanley from Texas writes: I do know that Chris Johnson's running has been tumultuous through the first 3 weeks (except last week, which I think was severely skewed by his final three rushing attempts) but do you think because of the respect (from coaches and defenses, not columnists and reporters) that teams have for CJ, that this may be the reason for our continued success with things such as pass blocking and passing yards. If Jake Locker is continuously getting one-on-ones in the passing game and hardly getting sacked could some of this be attributed to the defense keying on CJ and not having an extra guy to send or double in the secondary?

Paul Kuharsky: Teams are not stacking the box to stop Johnson. They don’t need to. A player isn’t leaving coverage to help with the run.

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips just said the Titans are a passing team, which is what they are and is stating the obvious.

People can talk about how dangerous CJ is over and over. But the way you show how you respect a running back is the defensive attention you give him. I’d say he’s lost significant respect from the people who matter the most when we look at their actions rather than their words.

Chad Edwards from Nashville, Tenn., writes: How long do you think it will be before a "real" ref stinks up a call like the one Monday night? You don't have to look very far in the past to find several iffy calls and no-calls made by guys we know by name. I contend that 1) The replacement refs weren't as bad as all the complaining players and coaches claim and 2) The players and coaches made this situation worse by pushing the boundaries of what's allowed more than usual and, basically, not acting very professionally. As bad as the black eye the lockout gave the NFL, I feel the players should be just as accountable in all of this.

Paul Kuharsky: They were bad. No need to debate the degree of it at this point.

The regulars will blow a call and people will complain and sensible observers will say they are the best at what they do and it could be worse and we’ve seen for ourselves.

If the rules are only enforced to a certain degree, it’s unreasonable to ask players to police themselves. In fact, it runs against their competitive natures.

Jim in Greenville, S.C., writes: Paul, Enjoy listening to you and the chiefs on 104.5 which I listen to in South Carolina on my iPhone. Impressive! I have to call you out. Last year, I wrote in that I'd take a sign-and-trade for Chris Johnson for two first-round draft picks which you balked at. You'll have to admit, I was right. My reasoning at the time was he wasn't a leader like a Keith Bulluck or Steve McNair. Running backs are largely less important than their O-lines and he didn't push to get extra yardage. As always, I enjoy the blog.

Paul Kuharsky: I’m guessing what I balked at was the sign-and-trade concept and the idea that Tennessee could have gotten two ones for him.

Two ones is part of the package for a No. 1 pick in the draft when he’s a QB, not for a running back with a big contract.

But if I balked at it and not at those things, my apologies. Your crystal ball in a completely unpredictable league is remarkable.

Leon Truss Balderas III from Houston writes: I really hope the Texans have a shot this year, but do you think with regular refs back high-flying AFC passing offenses, like the Patriots and Ravens, even the Steelers and Broncos, will be more successful because they will be getting the pass-interference calls that they were not getting, or worse the cornerbacks don’t play with a little bit of aggressiveness that makes them good?

Paul Kuharsky: Let’s not overrate what happened. The Patriots haven’t been losing because they were getting fewer pass-interference calls.

Brad from Houston writes: I am a huge Texans fan and am very excited about the team. But I must say two things: First, there's no way they should be ranked #1 right now on the Power Rankings. They have the talent, depth, and system to succeed and can go all the way if they stay healthy (I say CAN, not will). However, Atlanta has had a more impressive start and should be #1, especially given the uncertainty on the right side of the Houston OL.

Paul Kuharsky: I think Atlanta is a notch better right now. (I picked them before the season to win the Super Bowl.) But the Texans are awfully good.

Rick from Houston writes: ESPN's stats have the Texans giving up 42 points this season and ranking them 3rd in points allowed, however, the special teams have given up 7 points and the offense 2 points on a safety which, if my math is correct, means the Texan's D has given up only 33 points, the fewest allowed by any team so far.

Paul Kuharsky: Points given up are points given up. Given up by the team, for the purposes of stat keeping, are given up by the defense. There is no special place to put points scored against the offense or special teams.

Bobby from Buffalo, N.Y., writes: As bad as Chris Johnson has been running the ball for the Titans, there is at least one bright spot: he doesn't fumble too much. Looking at his stats from last year, he only had 3 fumbles out of 319 touches (runs and passes). even though he isn't gaining yards, at least he doesn't give the ball away. We don't know what we would get from a constant dose of Javon Ringer or Jamie Harper, so it's a small silver lining in Johnson's game for now.

Paul Kuharsky: So we presume the alternatives would have ball-security issues and we presume they wouldn’t run more effectively than CJ?

Johnson’s lack of production is growing tiresome. It’s time to see, at least on occasion, what the alternatives can do.

Cameron Wharton from Georgetown, Texas, writes: Can we talk about the impact of the loss of Ahmard Hall for the Titans?

Paul Kuharsky: Sure we can.

Hall was a nice leader for them for sure, and had a ton of respect. But his play had dropped off. They ran poorly last year with him on the team. They are running poorly without him this year.

Quinn Johnson subbed for him for the first four games last season and there was no giant difference. So I have no real beef with the decision to have Quinn Johnson in that role now. And Quinn Johnson is bigger, which is the type of fullback Chris Palmer likes.