AFC South: Andre Brown
- When practice began, coach Bill O'Brien didn't like how it was going, so he stopped the script and threw the team into something different. A grind-it-out, high-energy, live tackling goal-line drill. "I just put the ball at the 10-yard line and let’s play football, you know," O'Brien said. Immediately the energy at practice jumped. Jonathan Grimes took a handoff from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and scored. A few plays later, nose tackle Jerrell Powe blew up a running play, tackling running back Andre Brown behind the line of scrimmage. "It ended up being a goal-line situation. I thought that got the guys going a little bit and we ended up having a decent practice."
- Early in practice, the second-team offense incurred O'Brien's wrath after a sloppy series. The entire unit had to run a lap together.
- Rookie quarterback Tom Savage's reps have increased throughout camp. O'Brien said he is taking developmental reps and has had 130 7-on-7 or team drill reps in 11 practices. Savage's throws in practice have been a mixed bag. But his head is spinning less than it was when he arrived in Houston and that is evident. On one play, undrafted rookie defensive end Julius Warmsley arrived in the backfield in what might have been a sack if he was allowed to touch Savage. Savage coolly found receiver Travis Labhart in the end zone.
- Backup quarterback Case Keenum is working on feeling more comfortable being uncomfortable. "Does that make sense? Just pushing the limits and trying to find some continuity with the guys you’re playing with. So, it’s getting better. It’s getting better every day. Still making mistakes every day, which you know I don’t like. But I think that’s what makes you better; not making the same mistakes."
- The Texans have Wednesday off before returning to practice on Thursday and Friday. They'll face the Arizona Cardinals on the road on Saturday.
Two injured Colts are also out of the starting lineup: Joseph Addai (shoulder/neck) will be replaced as the starting running back by Mike Hart and right cornerback Jerraud Powers (foot) will be replaced by Justin Tryon. Nickelback Jacob Lacey is also out.
Kyle DeVan will start instead of Jamey Richard at left guard for the second straight game.
The Colts also let running back Andre Brown go, adding cornerback Cornelius Brown, who is active.
The Texans have no surprises among their inactives. Antoine Caldwell starts at right guard for Mike Brisiel.
The complete inactive lists.
Colts: Receiver Austin Collie, safety Bob Sanders, Powers, Lacey, linebacker Kavell Conner, guard Jacques McClendon, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson.
Texans: Quarterback Matt Leinart, receiver Dorin Dickerson, cornerback Carl Paymah, linebacker Daryl Sharpton, guard Kasey Studdard, defensive end Jesse Nading, tight end Garrett Graham, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
Major issue: Injuries. We won’t even know a full list until Wednesday. Austin Collie is not going to play a week from Monday night against Houston, and Joseph Addai might not. Antonio Johnson just had knee surgery. Anthony Gonzalez hasn’t played since opening day. Already out long term: Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt.
Invitation to run: The Colts have run the ball quite well in two games when dared to do so, with great showing from Addai in wins against the Giants and Redskins. Addai is averaging 4.4 yards a carry, his best number since his rookie season when he was the second back. The Colts need to continue to find space for their backs when teams load up with defensive backs.
A major virtue: Against those loaded defensive backfields, Peyton Manning’s shown excellent patience, waiting for the right situations to throw it and accepting those invitations to hand off. This team, at least until healthy, is likely to have to scrap and claw more to win, and he’s perfectly comfortable working to make sure no one out-scraps or out-claws him.
Leaving us wondering: The Colts began the campaign in camp, reminding us how long it takes a pass-rushing end to get comfortable. So Jerry Hughes has appeared in three games and has one special teams tackle on his resume so far. The way injuries have gone, it seems likely they’ll need him on defense at some point.
Second-year jump: Jerraud Powers has built upon a good rookie year and is playing even better this season as the starting right corner. Fili Moala pushed his way past Antonio Johnson into the starting lineup at defensive tackle. But the interior line hasn’t done a whole lot to distinguish itself so far.
Return troubles: Devin Moore is on IR and Kenneth Moore was just cut. Jim Caldwell has promised to work on the return-game issues during the bye. Justin Tryon, Javarris James and Andre Brown look to be options. They could continue to use Powers on punts.
Star performance: Manning’s got 13 touchdowns, two picks and a passer rating of 103.4 despite all the injuries among his supporting cast. Reggie Wayne leads the league with 45 catches. Robert Mathis has 5.5 sacks while Dwight Freeney has three.
Notable numbers: The Colts have just one run of 20 yards or more … Manning is 16th in the NFL on third down with a 85.9 passer rating, but has a league-best 116.5 rating in the fourth quarter … Only four teams have fewer than the Colts 26 penalties … According to ESPN Stats & Info, Indianapolis has dropped 13 balls, but no individual has three … The Colts have run more offensive plays out of three-wide sets than any team in the league.
APB: Kelvin Hayden missed a lot of time last year hurt. He figured to be a boon to the secondary, but Powers has outplayed him. Hayden’s been off his game and is a guy who needs to play better considering the team is working a third-string free safety and is going to see guys like Andre Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Wes Welker and Miles Austin.
What’s to come: The rematch with the Texans is a giant division and conference game. Three more tough ones come after that, with a trip to Philadelphia, a home game against the Bengals and a game at New England.
Thin at linebacker, the Texans are exploring possibilities, says John McClain.
Duane Brown is back from his suspension, says McClain.
Zac Diles is eager for a larger role, says Jerome Solomon.
Jim Caldwell intends to concentrate on the return-game issues, says Phil Richards.
The Colts claimed running back Andre Brown off waivers from Denver, says Mike Chappell.
The bye week arrives at a good time for the banged-up Colts, says Chappell.
Bob Kravitz grades the Redskins game.
It was a Monday night meltdown as David Garrard and the Jaguars got pounded, says Tania Ganguli.
The spotlight revealed way too many Jaguars flaws, says Gene Frenette.
Garrard’s concussion meant early action for Trent Edwards, says Gary Smits.
Marcedes Lewis had a tough second quarter, says Vito Stellino.
The Jaguars couldn’t unlock a winning safety combination, says Don Coble.
The Titans lost Vince Young to a knee injury but smashed the Jaguars, says Jim Wyatt.
Tennessee played shutdown defense, says John Glennon.
Michael Griffin and Kenny Britt stayed hot, says The Tennessean’s notebook.
The Titans didn’t miss a beat without Young, says David Climer.
Pete Prisco on the Titans' quarterback situation.
Chris Harry on Kerry Collins.
And they are about done.
"Other than depth, I don't see anything else happening in free agency," coach Gary Kubiak told reporters over breakfast at the owners' meeting this week. "Obviously, finding a complement to Steve [Slaton] is important. We went the Cedric Benson route [in free agency] and it didn't work out. It's a little nerve wracking, but you can't force something. At least we know we have a good, young one in Slaton. Hopefully, something good will happen there, but, obviously, we have to improve there."
A bigger back should help the Texans in the red zone -- where they ranked 26th in the league in TD production -- and in short-yardage situations, where they need to convert better in crucial spots and would like to limit the pounding on Slaton.
The 5-foot-9 Slaton was listed at 203 last season.
"Obviously, a bigger, more physical guy from a short-yardage and red zone standpoint would make sense," Kubiak said. "But at the same time, I expect Steve to continue to step forward and get better. He ran hard, broke tackles and moved the pile. But, ideally, we'd still like to have a larger back."
Kubiak said in a perfect world, the lead back would get 22 touches, the second guy about 10 or 12.
Where to find the second guy?
"Well, you don't know that until you evaluate the draft and set your board and see how many good ones you have rated to go in what round," Kubiak said. "Then you try to figure out who ahead of you wants one, too. If there are eight backs you really like, then you know you'll probably have to go in the first three rounds to get one. If there are 15, then you might be able to wait until the fourth or fifth rounds."
But to find a guy that fits the "big back" role -- assuming they aren't taking Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells (6-1, 235) at No. 15 -- the Texans may need to spend their second rounder -- No. 46.
Here are the top candidates who fit the bill: