AFC South: Anthony Smith

Early thoughts on the Titans' players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents come March 13, with thanks to Mac’s Football Blog, where you can find complete team-by-team lists that include exclusive rights and restricted free agents.

The Titans have already re-signed three players who were heading for free agency: tight end Craig Stevens, tackle Mike Otto and receiver Lavelle Hawkins.

Fullback Ahmard Hall -- He’s a great locker room guy, but did not have a great season and the Titans have Quinn Johnson in house.

Wide receiver Donnie Avery -- Couldn’t push his way into action and presuming the team drafts at least one receiver, it should have no interest.

Guard Jake Scott -- Team will say thanks for solid service and look to get younger and better on the interior.

Defensive end Dave Ball -- He’s not the solution, but he’s a quality complementary part who can get into the backfield.

Defensive end William Hayes -- Just hasn’t panned out. The team needs at least one new end and there won’t be room for him any longer.

Defensive lineman Jason Jones -- Was not as good at end in the new defense as he was at tackle in the old one. He can still be a very good player.

Linebacker Barrett Ruud -- Didn’t play well before he was hurt, then got displaced by rookie Colin McCarthy.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan -- I don’t think the Titans want him at anything near what he’ll be able to command.

Safety Jordan Babineaux -- Played well enough that safety-starved Tennessee should want him back.

Safety Michael Griffin -- Does the best when everything around him is going well. But the price he’ll want gets paid to a leader, not a follower.

Safety Chris Hope -- Made a difference on the field and in the locker room for a long time, but his time is now past.

Other UFAs:

RTC: Rookie DTs impacting Titans

November, 3, 2011
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Duane Brown and Brian Cushing said they didn’t play dirty against the Jaguars, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

McClain’s midseason award winners.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts' run defense has been very unpredictable, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Indianapolis has turnover issues, which are making it very difficult to get on track for a win, says Phil Richards of the Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Sims-Walker second stint with the Jaguars lasted two games as he’s now on IR. The team added Brian Robiskie off waivers from Cleveland, says Vito Stellino.

The schedule eases up after the bye, says Tania Ganguli of the T-U.

Tennessee Titans

Rookie defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug are very different, but they are both making big contributions to the Titans, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Safety Anthony Smith got fined $7,500 for a hit on Curtis Painter, reports Wyatt.

As we await word, cut questions ...

September, 3, 2011
Cut questions as we wait for news on who’s in and who’s out …

Houston Texans

I’ve confirmed outside linebacker Xavier Adibi will be released, which is a surprise. The Texans are going younger at the spot, which could mean good things for undrafted Bryan Braman. He is raw and probably best suited for the practice squad, but may have done too much to risk cutting first. Can Steve Slaton stick? Odds are against him as he ranks as the team’s fourth back, at best. But he’s got to be a hard guy to let go even after a preseason limited by injury. He’ll be scooped up for sure by a team in need at the position. And he likely still qualifies as one of the team’s best 53 players.

Indianapolis Colts

I know a lot of fans want to see the end for players like Donald Brown, Jerry Hughes and Anthony Gonzalez. But we must ask who are the better options? I’m not sure about Gonzalez, but I suspect that Brown and Hughes are on this team. One guy we presume to have made it who might not is veteran defensive tackle Tommie Harris. One guy we presume not to have made it who might is undrafted rookie tight end Mike McNeill.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Former sixth-round pick Scotty McGee, a return specialist, was among the cuts we learned of Friday. They also included undrafted receivers Armon Binns and Dontrelle Inman. Does that mean another receiver, Jamar Newsome, separated himself and will make it? A team that loves to keep an undrafted guy or two may not this time around. Larry Hart, a 2010 fifth-round defensive end, is probably in trouble.

Tennessee Titans

There looks to be a battle for a backup safety slot between Vincent Fuller, Robert Johnson and Anthony Smith. I wish I had a better feel and could pick a favorite there, but I can’t. It’s a tough call to whittle down from seven receivers, too. Can recent addition Kevin Curtis dislodge Justin Gage and does the team still have patience for Lavelle Hawkins? I can’t see Gage getting cut, even though he is due $3.5 million. Linebacker Rennie Curran sounded like a goner in Mike Munchak’s news conference Friday.

Preseason finale storylines

September, 1, 2011
The big storyline or two for the AFC South preseason finales, all of which will be played tonight…

Colts at Bengals

It would be silly for Kerry Collins not to start, and Jim Caldwell has said the new quarterback will play “a lot.” They should give him a reasonable amount of time with the starting line and the weapons he needs to sync up with if he’s starting on Sept. 11 in Houston. That would stray from the typical philosophy in the fourth game, but the change of circumstances dictates a change in approach. Unfortunately, Collins won’t have a chance to work with Austin Collie (foot) or Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring).

Titans at Saints

Depth decisions are the big story for Tennessee at this point. It’s a big night for wideouts Lavelle Hawkins and Kevin Curtis, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, offensive tackles Mike Otto, Troy Kropog and Pat McQuistan, linebackers Rennie Curran and Patrick Bailey and safeties Vincent Fuller, Robert Johnson and Anthony Smith. Jake Locker should see significant time and it would be nice to see him cap the preseason with a performance that shows his growth since the starts of camp.

Rams at Jaguars

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew and defensive end Aaron Kampman are both coming back from knee injuries and they will see their first action of the preseason. Odds are we don’t get great reads on either, but it’s a significant thing for them to be involved in a bit of live action. A sack, at any time, by anyone, would really help in dealing with pass rush concerns. David Garrard will only get a series or two. He can do a lot for himself and the team but putting together an effort that helps create confidence.

Texans at Vikings

We’ll see some kids play a lot, a whole game in some instances. Matt Leinart will have a big chance to show why Gary Kubiak is so high on him, and it would be good if he could connect some with newcomer Bryant Johnson. Like the Texans, the Vikings are expected to have a bunch of guys in street clothes. So while I’d like to see guys who’ve shined for Houston in a great preseason -- like Xavier Adibi, Jesse Nading, Troy Nolan -- fare well early in this game, it won't mean much more than them faring well a bit later in previous games.

My plan

From AFC South blog HQ, I expect to watch the first hour of the Colts and the first hour of the Titans and post something on those two games when they are over. The Jaguars and Texans may need to wait until morning depending on how things unfold. Odds are against me seeing all four games start-to-finish by the time I post some thoughts on them. And by "odds are against," I mean it can't happen.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The Texans see a lot of Shannon Sharpe in Owen Daniels, says Jeffrey Martin.

Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell are vying for time at nose tackle, says John McClain,

Matt Leinart continues to look sharp, says McClain.

Gary Kubiak is concerned about the injured Brian Cushing, says Martin.

It’s hard not to root for Chris Ogbonnaya, says Richard Justice.

Where does Ben Tate fit into the Texans’ crowded backfield wonders Justice.

Jason Allen can overtake Kareem Jackson, says Battle Red Blog.

Indianapolis Colts

The first depth chart says the offensive line is still developing, says Mike Chappell.

Beyond the starters, there are a lot of questions in the defensive backfield, says Chappell.

There was not a lot of new information in Jim Caldwell’s Peyton Manning update.

Indy added tight end Michael Matthews.

Mike Pollak has much to prove, says Brett Mock.

Nate Davis talked with about his progress.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert’s the starter in Thursday night’s preseason opener, says Vito Stellino.

Aaron Kampman and Maurice Jones-Drew are among key players not going to New England, says Tania Ganguli.

Jack Del Rio talked to Bill Belichick about joint practices but the lockout kept it from happening, says Ganguli. The Falcons will visit Jacksonville next week.

Todd Bouman is back, says Ganguli.

Del Rio’s had to catch himself and be patient in a camp that didn’t follow a typical offseason, says John Oehser.

Is Jason Hill a roster lock? Alfie Crow wonders.

Tennessee Titans

Stafon Johnson’s completed a second comeback, writes John Glennon.

Cortland Finnegan worked inside in the nickel package, says Wyatt.

Matt Hasselbeck looks for three specific things a day to work on, says David Boclair.

Rusty Smith is staying patient, says Wyatt.

Anthony Smith is ready to compete. He was really bad in Jacksonville a couple years ago.

Jaguars regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 16
Preseason Power Ranking: 25

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireMaurice Jones-Drew had more than 1,300 rushing yards for the second season in a row.
Biggest surprise: Speedy growth by the kids. Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu are not yet approaching the standard the team set for imposing defensive tackles back when John Henderson and Marcus Stroud were at their peak. But their development this season ranks as the Jaguars’ best story and they may be able to give the team that identity again in time. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, before he was hurt, were better in their second years as the starting offensive tackles as well. Mike Thomas is a reliable play-maker and once Derek Cox got out of the doghouse, he was a good cornerback on a team with safety issues.

Biggest disappointment: The offense gave the ball away too often (21 interceptions, 12 fumbles) and the defense didn’t take it away enough (13 interceptions, five fumbles). The Jaguars simply weren’t high-powered enough to be able to overcome a minus-15 take-away, give-away ratio -- 43 turnovers off the standard set by New England at the top of the lead. The offense needs to protect the ball better, but the lack of plays by the defense may have been even more disappointing. To be effective in the team’s chosen style -- a run-first offense and physical defense -- turnovers need to be more in balance.

Biggest need: Safety times two. Courtney Greene was a pretty sure tackler after he took over at strong safety, but the team’s lack of defensive playmaking traces back to both safety spots first. Converted corner Don Carey was too inconsistent and Sean Considine is too slow -- and even the better in-the-box guy has to be able to run well in today’s league. They traded Reggie Nelson early, cut Gerald Alexander twice and traded Anthony Smith. The team’s miss with the Nelson pick in the 2007 first round really hurt the Jaguars. Now they will have to do more work in the draft and free agency to make up for it.

Team MVP: Maurice Jones-Drew. Despite a knee issue from the summer, he worked his tail off and keyed the stretch where the team re-established its identity as a running force and got into contention for the division crown.

Lame ducks: Jack Del Rio is signed through 2012, but Wayne Weaver made it clear there will be a house-cleaning if the Jaguars are not in the 2011 playoff field. The assistant coaches have only a year remaining and will operate as lame ducks. I’d hope it would motivate some guys as opposed to causing problems for them. If they do good work, they’ll get a new deal if things go well on a broader scale. At least they'll be marketable if things don’t. Players will know, too. If they like the guy who runs their room, they need to produce for themselves and for him.

Wrap-up: Eagles 34, Texans 24

December, 3, 2010
Observations from the Texans' 34-24 loss to the Eagles on Thursday:

What it means: The Texans fell to 5-7 and sit alone in last place in the AFC South, awaiting the results of Sunday’s Jaguars-Titans game. The seven losses assure they cannot top last season’s 9-7 record.

The Vick factor: The Texans got quality pressure on Michael Vick at times, delivering some shots in the first half that served to slow him. But ultimately he was more than capable of making the plays the Eagles needed to win, throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns and running for another score.

Crucial spot: Tight end Brent Celek was able to spin and stretch for the first-down marker to convert a third-and-19 on the touchdown drive that put the Eagles up by the final 10-point margin. He was initially marked short, but a replay challenge by Eagles coach Andy Reid was upheld. Celek landed on top of Kevin Bentley as he made the lunge, and safety Troy Nolan, the second player with a chance to stop him short, flew past the play as he tried for a hard shot rather than worrying about Celek’s location.

What I liked: The Texans’ ability to come back -- down 17-3 early, they were ahead 24-20 in the third quarter… Some good life out of Amobi Okoye (for the second week in a row) and Antonio Smith up front… Big third-and-long conversion catches by Joel Dreessen, David Anderson and Andre Johnson.

What I didn’t like: There were a lot of failures beyond Matt Schaub for the Texans, but he had at three especially bad moments. First was a brutal interception late in the first half on a short throw intended for Arian Foster. Then there was the bounce pass toward Kevin Walter on a third-and-7 when Schaub had room to run for a conversion (on the possession after Philadelphia retook the lead). And what about the play-call and/or Schaub decision on fourth-and-5 on Houston’s last best chance, a back shoulder throw intended for Walter up the right sideline?

What I couldn’t tell: If Schaub actually got hit in the helmet by Joselio Hanson on that fourth-down play, which would have warranted a flag and produced a first down. Schaub and Gary Kubiak certainly thought there was a missed call.

What’s next: The Texans host Baltimore on "Monday Night Football" on Dec. 13.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

October, 20, 2010
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


1. Jack Del Rio, Jaguars coach: His team fell flat on its face on national television, appearing to lack playmakers, creativity and fire. And his timeouts at the end to extend the misery and create a situation where the Titans could add a touchdown didn’t make a lot of sense.

2. Pat McAfee, Colts punter: A public intoxication charge from early Tuesday morning is a blow for a guy who’s been an effective punter and kickoff specialist for the Colts since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2008. It’s not a large-scale crime, but it draws the wrong kind of attention to a team that prides itself on being squeaky clean. He’s a free-spirited, fun guy. I suspect he’ll be less so with the public and the press going forward.

3. Veteran Jaguars safeties: Anthony Smith and Gerald Alexander had five starts between them this season. Now they are both gone. Smith was traded to Green Bay Saturday for a conditional seventh-rounder and Alexander was cut for a second time after the Titans game. Sean Considine must be healthy, and we’ll see if Don Carey and/or Courtney Greene prove an upgrade.


[+] EnlargeOwen Daniels
AP Photo/Dave EinselTight end Owen Daniels had some key catches in the Texans' win over the Chiefs last Sunday.
1. Owen Daniels, Texans tight end: Six games into his return from his third ACL operation, he looks to be running better. He’s clearly hungry to prove he’s all the way back and worthy of a new contract. He had five catches for 79 yards in the win over the Chiefs, including key 24- and 27-yard catch-and-runs that helped set up one of the fourth-quarter touchdowns.

2. Alterraun Verner, Titans cornerback: The rookie is playing very solidly as the Titans' second starter. In fact, he’s outplaying the team’s No. 1 cornerback, Cortland Finnegan. Jason McCourty edged Verner out for the starting job in the preseason, but once McCourty recovers from a fractured forearm, Jeff Fisher’s going to have to find a way to keep Verner in the lineup.

3. Pierre Garcon, Colts receiver: Drops and some route problems or miscommunications caused some early concerns, as did a hamstring injury that cost him some games. But he was an X factor in Indianapolis’ win at Washington, with the 57-yard touchdown early and the one-handed, leaping grab -- a catch-of-the-year candidate for sure. The potential for those sort of big plays is why they like him.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars’ weak spot is safety. The expectation is it’s a position they’ll target in the draft in April right along with quarterback.

We could see a complete overhaul at the spot akin to what the Jaguars did this offseason on the defensive line.

For the second time this season, Gene Smith has taken a player at his team’s worst position and turned him into something for later.

First, he sent Reggie Nelson to Cincinnati for cornerback David Jones and a conditional draft pick. On Sunday, Smith shipped Anthony Smith to Green Bay for a conditional seventh-rounder.

Late picks aren’t gold, but stockpiling whatever he can get for players who don’t have long-term futures here is smart and smooth.

In the meantime, the Jaguars will try to stay competitive this season with what they have. Gerald Alexander, who was cut but later re-signed, will remain at free safety tonight against the Titans. Courtney Greene and converted corner Don Carey are expected to see time at strong safety.

The Jaguars also have Sean Considine and Tyron Brackenridge and recently added Mike Hamlin to their practice squad.

They hope Nelson and Smith will do what’s needed to meet the conditions that net them the picks, and that they'll be able to use those picks to maneuver for guys they like in April, or to find a late-round surprise or two.
NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 4:

[+] EnlargeTiquan Underwood
AP Photo/Stephen MortonTiquan Underwood was instrumental in the Jaguars' game-winning drive.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran well. David Garrard made smart and safe throws. Anthony Smith and Gerald Alexander combined on a couple of takeaways. And Josh Scobee boomed a 59-yard field goal as time expired to give Jacksonville an upset over the Colts at EverBank Field on Sunday.

The one significant contributor we haven’t talked about a lot who did a great deal to spark the final scenario was receiver and return man Tiquan Underwood.

He brought Pat McAfee's kickoff back 29 yards to the Jaguars’ 23-yard line with 48 seconds left in regulation, then was the target on all four of Garrard’s throws on the final drive.

Underwood accounted for 28 of the team’s 36 yards that positioned Scobee for the game-winning kick, including a 22-yard reception in which he got between Indianapolis defensive backs Jacob Lacey and Antoine Bethea to make the catch on the left sideline and get out of bounds to stop the clock.

The second-year receiver was a seventh-round draft pick from Rutgers and qualifies as Jacksonville’s deep threat. But the Jaguars conceded in this game that Garrard wasn’t going to throw the ball down the field effectively, and kept him in his comfort zone with short stuff.

Another second-year receiver, Mike Thomas, is better suited to such an approach and he was targeted seven times, leading the team with five catches for 68 yards. Garrard looked to Underwood five times, connecting on three of the attempts.

The 22-yarder at the end was the team’s longest pass play of the game.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Facing gut-check time, the Texans responded with a win in Oakland, says John McClain.

Troy Nolan was opportunistic with two interceptions in Oakland, says McClain.

Offensive backups like Joel Dreessen performed, says Dale Robertson.

Brian Cushing returns this week, says Robertson.

The Texans overcame obstacle after obstacle, says Richard Justice.

McClain’s interactive report card.

Dreessen could make Owen Daniels expendable long-term, says Lance Zierlein.

Indianapolis Colts

The Jaguars kicked the Colts in the gut, says Mike Chappell.

Defensive failures helped set up Jacksonville’s winning field goal, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Even with the Colts' pedigree, serious flaws are hard to overcome, says Bob Kravitz.

The Colts have suffered at the foot of Josh Scobee before, says Wilson.

A franchise-record 15 catches were lost on Reggie Wayne in the loss, says Chappell.

Kravitz’s report card.

The two turnovers in the red zone were killer, says John Oehser.

Sorting out the Colts’ late, odd timeout with Nate Dunlevy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

“It wasn't just a field goal, it was a burst of light on a season in trouble, that very spark the Jaguars had talked about needing all week long after two consecutive blowout losses.” Tania Ganguli’s game story.

Scobee gave the Jaguars the kick start they were searching for, says Gene Frenette.

Maurice Jones-Drew burned the Colts yet again, says Vito Stellino.

Gerald Alexander and Anthony Smith returned to make some big plays, says Stellino.

David Jones was upbeat after Wayne’s record day, says Jeff Elliott.

Tiquan Underwood was a key guy on the final drive, says Gary Smits.

Frenette and Stellino review the game in this video.

The Jaguars saved their season, says Vic Ketchman.

Scobee saved the Jaguars from moral victory talk, says Brian Fullford.

Tennessee Titans

Tennessee let a winnable game slip away because its offense was inept in the second half, its defense was worn down, and its special teams committed a blunder at the worst time, says Jim Wyatt.

The defense tired out in the second half, says John Glennon.

Marc Mariani’s gaffe offset his big play, says Glennon.

Chuck Cecil’s gesture will draw a fine and Kyle Orton thinks the Titans are cheap, say Wyatt and Glennon.

The aura of the Titans' home field is about gone, says David Climer.

An inept offense bears the burden for this one, says Joe Biddle.

Penalties played a role in the Titans giving up their most points yet, says David Boclair.

Something is not right with Chris Johnson or the offensive line, says Bob McClellan.
Gerald AlexanderKim Klement/US PresswireGerald Alexander was in on two key defensive plays, including this fumble return in the second half.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On Sept. 26, from a doubtlessly plush couch in his Jacksonville home, Gerald Alexander was like most area residents: alarmed by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ play in a steamrolling by the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I was here in Jacksonville, right over the bridge, on the couch,” said the safety who was released after the preseason on Sept. 4, nodding in the direction of his home. “I saw the same game everybody else did from the couch. And it didn’t look good.”

On Sept. 27, the team re-signed Alexander, hoping he could help a banged-up secondary that had done its part for the Jaguars to qualify as the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense. Against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, he was in the lineup in place of Sean Considine, a scratch with a hamstring injury.

Don’t think for a second that Alexander cast himself as a savior. Peyton Manning certainly found plays where he beat Alexander and strong safety Anthony Smith. But in a shocking 31-28, last-second Jaguars win, the safeties teamed up on two huge plays that had a big bearing.

Alexander popped Brody Eldridge, who coughed up a 19-yard pass at the Jaguars’ 4-yard line. Smith plucked the ball off his ankle and returned 47 yards in the third quarter. And when Reggie Wayne fumbled in the fourth quarter as he reached for extra yards following a 13-yard gain to the Jaguars’ 10, Alexander scooped it and returned it 43 yards.

“Turnovers in the red zone?” Alexander said. “That’s huge. That team is going to drive up and down the field on some people. Their offense is like clockwork.

“We didn’t give up too many deep shots, which they live off of. That’s when things get out of hand with the Indianapolis Colts, when you give up deep balls. Tackle the guy in front of you, keep everything in front of you and get turnovers. That’s the key to victory.”

Defensive end Aaron Kampman called it “an urgent win.” The Jaguars are 2-2 and tied with the Colts and Tennessee Titans for second in the AFC South. That's a lot better than being 1-3 and alone in the division's basement.

Manning hit Wayne for gains of 42, 26 and 21 yards. Everything else the Colts got came in chunks smaller than 20 yards.

“We weren’t as efficient as we should have been.” Manning said.

Another Jaguars defensive back, corner David Jones, was a close-range witness to Colts history. He lined up against Wayne as the receiver pulled in 15 catches, more than Raymond Berry or Marvin Harrison ever had in a Colts game. Those catches produced 196 yards, the best total the four-time Pro Bowler had ever accumulated.

Jones was credited with forcing Wayne’s fumble, and he could have done a lot to ice an easier win if he didn’t drop an interception on Indy’s final drive.

“I tasted the ball it was so close,” he said.

But the Jaguars withstood that dropped pick. They withstood all those catches and all those yards by Wayne. They withstood a fierce pass rush that can create all sorts of problems for all sorts of offenses, holding the Colts without a sack of David Garrard by giving ample help to young tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. They withstood three lost leads, finally beating the visitors thanks to Josh Scobee's final-play 59-yard field goal.

They showed a fortitude that was severely lacking in whippings suffered at San Diego and to Philadelphia. And, according to Maurice Jones-Drew, they put an emphasis on moving on from bad plays, not feeling stressed out and just having some fun.

The Jaguars didn’t force the Colts to kick field goals or conquer them in time of possession, which are usually part of the formula for beating them.

Other elements of the blueprint did, however, fall in line. Jacksonville ran 13 more times than it passed, averaging 5 yards a carry. The Jaguars didn’t turn it over while they had those two red-zone takeaways.

“We wanted to pound the rock and use the pass to supplement the run, really,” Britton said. “We had a great game plan and I think we executed it really well and kept David upright.

“To put all that work in that whole game and not come out with a W, that would have been heartbreaking. We needed to win that game. We needed it as a team. We needed it to validate all the hard work we put in.”

As he spoke, tight end Marcedes Lewis stopped by for a fist bump.

“I’m proud of you,” Lewis said.

Britton said he was proud of Lewis, too.

Does a win over the long-time division rulers change things for the Jaguars? Does it do anything to wash away a 38-13 loss to the Chargers or 28-3 pounding by Philadelphia? Does it help get Jacksonville ready for a Week 5 trip to Buffalo?

“That remains to be seen.” Alexander said. “We’ve just got to go out there and get back to work. We can’t live off this victory.”

I have a strong feeling that Alexander soon was back on his couch, thinking entirely different things than he was seven days before.

Notes on inactives for Jaguars, Texans

September, 19, 2010
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t just scaled back Derek Cox’s responsibilities in Week 2. Jack Del Rio has benched the second-year corner.

Cox was expected to be a cornerstone guy in Year 2, along with defensive tackle Terrence Knighton. But the Cox's poor play in the season opener got him benched for the second half in last week’s win over Denver.

In San Diego, Cox is inactive and David Jones is in the starting lineup. Injured safety Anthony Smith is out, with Courtney Green in his spot.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Texans won’t face defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is inactive.

Texans defensive tackle, Amobi Okoye, is active.

Final Word: AFC South

September, 17, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:

[+] EnlargeSean Considine
AP Photo/Stephen MortonSean Considine will have to defend against a San Diego team looking for redemption.
Picking it up: Lost in the Colts' pass protection struggles last week was the play of Joseph Addai, who showed what a versatile force and well-rounded player he is. He ran well on his rare chances and I thought he was great in pass protection. Still, I’d like to see the Colts sacrifice three-wide once in a while in order to get Brody Eldridge into the game to help in this area too. Charlie Johnson is already dealing with a bad foot, Jeff Saturday recently had knee surgery and Ryan Diem (neck) is on the injury report too. Will Indy do anything different from what it did when Houston constantly hurried and hit Peyton Manning?

Friendships and familiarity: I think too much gets made of mentor-versus-mentee games such as Mike Shanahan against Gary Kubiak. When it’s over and they shake hands, one will say congratulations and the other will graciously accept. What’s a lot more interesting to me is how Matt Schaub reads and works against Jim Haslett’s creative 3-4 and how well Arian Foster can follow up his big opening game. He’s not the only one who needs to follow up his Week 1 effort. Let’s also see that pass rush force Donovan McNabb operate faster than he would like.

Patience is the key: Chris Johnson and Vince Young often talk of playing patiently and awaiting the right play or situation to come. The Titans' offense will benefit from that approach against the Steelers. The openings against the defense may not show themselves frequently, but Tennessee has to jump into them when it has the chance. The Titans can’t afford to make mistakes while waiting for opportunities, especially with Troy Polamalu lurking, eager to hit Johnson and get his hands on Young's throws.

Safety conscious: The Chargers will be determined to get on track after an opening-week loss to Kansas City. I expect they’ll have plenty of stuff drawn up for Philip Rivers that allows him to test the Jacksonville safeties: Sean Considine and either Anthony Smith, who’s hurt, or Courtney Greene. It’s a soft spot in the Jaguars' defense, and the best way to cover for it is by rushing the quarterback, the way Jacksonville did last week.

Open the screen door: Aaron Schatz tells us that the Texans averaged a league-leading 9.0 yards on screen passes last year, and the Redskins gave up 8.5 yards per screen pass, the third most in the league. Washington had better hope its switch to a 3-4 scheme has fixed that problem. If the Texans really want to test that out, Steve Slaton could have a bigger role in this game. They love him as a pass-catcher, especially on third downs.

'Perceived very best' vs. Jags

September, 9, 2010
Out of Jack Del Rio’s press session with Jacksonville media Wednesday, I was struck by this:
“We need to be sound and solid where we’re not as talented, and where we are talented we need our players to play well. And together what we’re looking to do is play complementary football, all three phases functioning together, helping our football team win games.

“So again the difference between the perceived very best and the rest of the league is not as great as a lot of people think. It comes down to execution and it begins with preparation, so I like the way we’re attacking that and then we’ll see. We’ll need some guys to step up and play well.”

I agree with him completely on the first part.

I’m not nearly as certain about the second.

I like David Garrard, I think he’s a wonderful guy who tries his best. He’s a long, long, long way away from Peyton Manning as a talent.

So let’s have some fun and formalize this, looking at those in the division who rank as “perceived very best” and using the Kuharsky separation index to gauge the distance between them and their Jacksonville counterparts:

I’m being cute, of course. I like the way the Jaguars are building and they have more talent than they get credit for.

I just disagree with the rallying cry that gap between the perceived very best and the rest of the league is not as great as a lot of people think.

After all, in the same media session he admitted: “All systems look a little better with great players in them.”

ADDITIONALLY, at 9:04 a.m.: SicilianJag makes a very smart comment below, suggesting I could have misinterpreted Del Rio and that he could have been talking teams, not players. That's certainly a valid point and possibility, and there is more credence to that line of thinking. Still, good teams need good players, and when considering the guys above, the Jaguars don't measure up. Yet.