AFC South: Austen Lane

Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The five biggest questions that are still unsettled as the Texans head into their summer hiatus, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

These Texans have a better Super Bowl chance than last year’s version, says Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle.

Undrafted rookie linebacker Willie Jefferson could follow a path blazed by Bryan Braman, says Ganguli.

Guard Brandon Brooks and defensive end Jared Crick are in position to be breakout players in 2013, says Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle blogs.

July 17 is a key date for Brian Cushing, who expects to get a green light from his doctor regarding his surgically repaired ACL, says Nick Scurfield of the team’s website.

Indianapolis Colts

His high school coach rates Colts’ first-round pick Bjoern Werner as "a force of nature," writes Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star.

Will the Colts be better in 2013? They could be better but not have as good a record, says Bob Kravitz of the year after Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia gave them something to rally around. “I want to see us make the transition away from me and toward our players,’’ Pagano said. “ChuckStrong still exists because I have this unique platform now where I can help raise money and awareness, and I’ve been doing that and I’m going to continue to do that. But I’m not the story anymore. Even last year, I didn’t want to be the story. The story is the players on this team. That’s the way it should be."

The inside linebackers are a great value, says Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority.

An early stab at the Colts’ 53-man roster from Brad Wells of Stampede Blue.

Darius Heyward-Bey arrived in Indianapolis with a catch rate of 14.6 on balls thrown 20 yards or more downfield, says Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

An early attempt to shape the 53-man roster of the Jaguars, from Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. He sees the team carrying only two quarterbacks.

Former Jaguars defensive end Austen Lane was claimed off waivers by Kansas City, says O’Halloran.

Some Jaguars fans enjoyed a Father’s Day brunch at EverBank Field, says Roger Bull of the Florida Times-Union.

The offseason is over, but the Jaguars are hardly finished revising their roster, says O’Halloran. GM David Caldwell said: “I expect some more movement. I don’t know where and at what position, but everybody will have ample opportunities to claim one of those positions.”

Not having most of their draft picks signed yet is not a big deal at all for the Jaguars, says John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

A getting-to-know-you video with Denard Robinson from the team’s website.

Julian Stanford may push Geno Hayes for a starting outside linebacker spot, says Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country.

Tennessee Titans

Receiver Nate Washington is in great shape and is ready to fight for his role among a bunch of high draft picks, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Mike Munchak is doing some hands-on work with the offensive line again, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

New special teams coach Nate Kaczor is injecting life into his units, says Marc Torrence of The Tennessean.

Kicker Rob Bironas is aiming for better accuracy in 2013, says Tyler Whetstone of The Tennessean.

Single game tickets go on sale July 12, says The Tennessean.

Steelers tight end Heath Miller may not be healthy enough to play on opening day against the Titans and Music City Miracles reflects on what his absence could mean.

Links: DeAndre Hopkins impresses Kubiak

June, 14, 2013
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Houston Texans

First-round pick DeAndre Hopkins made an impression on coach Gary Kubiak during minicamp, reports the Houston Chronicle's Chris Shelton and Tania Ganguli. Kubiak: "The last three days he’s impressed me because he hasn’t had Matt [Schaub] and he hasn’t had Andre [Johnson] out here and he’s been on top of what he’s doing. He’s obviously very gifted. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got him doing what he does best."

The Texans announced Thursday that they will adhere to new NFL security guidelines that limit the size and types of bags that may be brought into the stadium on game days.

A wrap-up of the final practice of minicamp from Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts made protecting quarterback Andrew Luck, who took 41 sacks last season, a priority this offseason, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. "We have to do a premium job of protecting our quarterback," GM Ryan Grigson said. "He’s obviously an outstanding player. We don’t need him running for his life. We need him to feel as comfortable as possible."

As minicamp broke, coach Chuck Pagano's message to his players was to make good choices and not create distractions before training camp, AP reports. "The big thing was, number one, make great choices," Pagano said. "Spend time with family, do what you have to do mentally and physically, but make great choices. Don't put yourself in bad situations. Really, the only thing that would derail us from having a successful training camp and start of a great season is a distraction."

The Colts are coming off a season in which they improved nine wins over the previous one. Although history tells us to expect them to take a step back in 2013, ESPN Insider Chris Sprow writes that a combination of luck and Luck could help them buck the trend .

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars wrapped up their offseason program on Thursday but their roster is still under construction, writes Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. GM Dave Caldwell: "I expect some more movement. I don’t know where and at what position, but everybody will have ample opportunities to claim one of those positions."

The team waived defensive end Austen Lane before the start of Thursday's final practice, AP reports. Lane, who had been with the Jaguars for three seasons, compiled 103 tackles and three sacks. Th team also signed cornerback Lionel Smith and punter Ken Parrish.

The Jaguars are in no rush to anoint a starting quarterback, AP reports.

Tennessee Titans

Wide receiver Damian Williams said the Titans' new playbook is making him feel more confident in the offense, writes The Tennessean's John Glennon. Williams: "We've been able to show our talent more. We’re allowed to play fast, and we're not out there thinking all the time."

Some observations from Thursday organized team activities (OTAs) from Glennon.

The Titans agreed to terms with their second-round pick, Justin Hunter, AP reports.

Linebacker Colin McCarthy's goal this season: stay healthy, writes Greg Pogue of Fox Sports Tennessee. McCarthy: "It's good to get back out there on the field and get these injuries behind me and just focus on my game, making sure of technique and assignments and be on top of my game."

Bye week report: Jaguars' questions

October, 12, 2012
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Lingering questions about the 1-4 Jaguars as they hit their Week 6 bye:

Is Gene Smith in trouble?

The team’s general manager is a well-respected personnel man who works incredibly hard and is certainly torn up by the team’s failure to improve. But he's responsible for the team’s draft picks since he took over in 2009 and there simply isn’t enough there right now. Nothing is going to happen during the season. But Shad Khan took over ownership late last season and signed off on an extension for Smith, and Smith conducted the search for Jack Del Rio’s replacement, ultimately Mike Mularkey. If the new owner sticks with the status quo, he’s going to really struggle to market the team. The biggest question going forward, barring a turnaround, is what degree of housecleaning Khan will consider?

Where’s the improvement from Blaine Gabbert?

You see it in moments and he certainly played better at the beginning of the season. But the second-year quarterback’s numbers and results are not much better than a year ago and while he still has time to right the ship, it’s time for some tangible, consistent and results-oriented progress. I feel badly for him that he still is dealing with protection issues -- the team failed him in this department, doing nothing personnel-wise to fix the issue -- and with receiver issues. Quarterbacks lift or sink teams however, and it can’t always be about what’s lacking around him. If he sinks because there isn’t enough, that’s on the franchise, but it doesn’t make him better than he plays.

Why can’t they rush the passer?

Joe Cullen is a good and highly-motivational defensive line coach. Which leads to the conclusion that he simply doesn’t have enough talent. It’s another roster construction failure that a team that couldn’t sack quarterbacks last year still can’t. Second round pick Andre Branch has made no difference and got bumped out of the starting lineup once Austen Lane was healthy. High-motor end Jeremy Mincey got big bucks to stay but has no sacks. The team has three. Yes, three sacks in five games. A quarterback like Jay Cutler, who can be bad under pressure, had his way with the Jaguars as he went unbothered. The Jaguars desperately miss injured outside linebacker Daryl Smith, but he won’t fix the pass rush either. Interior guys Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton (also demoted) are not collapsing the pocket the way things are designed to happen. It’s been long enough not working as it is, and drastic change is needed.
Houston Texans

The loss of Brian Cushing is not a deal-breaker for the Texans, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Gary Kubiak shouldn’t have punted on fourth-and-inches as the end of the Jets game, as it exposed the one weak link of Houston -- special teams. It’s at the bottom of this Bill Barnwell piece at Grantland. (Hat tip to Nate Dunlevy.)

To which I say: The rationale for going for it is very sound. But go for it and miss and you get crushed by conventional thinkers, and conventional thinking still holds a lot of sway. Too much.

From Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus’ review of Texans-Jets: “The Texans went to the left on 21 of their 33 backfield carries and collected 5.3 yards per carry when running behind Chris Myers (+4.1 run block), Wade Smith and Duane Brown. While the right side of the offensive line settles (Houston again rotated their starters) the left side of the line is carrying the weight of the expectation."

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts made several roster moves, says Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star. Chief among them, nose tackles Antonio Dixon and Jerry Brown were added, as Fili Moala (knee) and Martin Tevaseu (foot) are expected to miss time. And nickelback Justin King was let go.

To which I say: The Colts must have really liked the work of Cassius Vaughn against the Packers and feel like Darius Butler can contribute as corner depth.

From Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus’ review of Packers-Colts: “Former first round pick Anthony Castonzo (-5.1) was once again an issue at left tackle as he struggled to keep Clay Matthews quiet. He coughed up three sacks, a knockdown and three more hurries on his own, making life very difficult for Luck in the pocket. The line combined to allow 17 total pressures on their rookie quarterback with the team down to bare bones and replacement players across the unit. The Colts need to start dedicating some major resources into securing linemen going forward.”



Jacksonville Jaguars

Maurice Jones-Drew takes losses hard, and he hasn’t been on a winning team since 2007 and says he’s sick of losing, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

To which I say: It’s crazy for anyone to give MJD a hard time for a postgame hug with Matt Forte. Such things offer no indication of how a guy is absorbing a loss, and we shouldn’t try to interpret these small snapshots or give them broad meaning.

From Nathaniel Peters-Kroll of Pro Football Focus’ review of Bears-Jaguars: “One of the only solid performers was Austen Lane (+2.6), who was fortunate to face off against (Gabe) Carimi. His ability to come off the edge with speed was a problem for Carimi, who struggled to move backwards as Lane came around him, seeing the Jaguar end up with a sack, a hit, and two hurries of Jay Cutler.”

Tennessee Titans

Five reasons the Titans are failing from John Glennon of The Tennessean.

To which I say: Being too young is definitely an issue, and the roster construction that didn’t put enough quality veteran leaders in place is a definite issue.

From Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus’ review of Titans-Vikings: “Slot corner Ryan Mouton (+2.4) for example had a great game as he didn’t allow a catch, and had two passes defended. The problem came once the Vikings caught the ball, and were making moves after the catch. As a team, the Titans missed 13 tackles which is far too many, and every single coverage defender in the Titans’ nickel defense had at least one missed tackle. The chief culprit on the day was Michael Griffin (-5.1) who missed four tackles; three of which led to Vikings first downs, and the fourth leading to a touchdown."

RTC: No shakeup coming for Titans

October, 9, 2012
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We have returned to the home base. Sleeplessly, we offer this edition of Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The Texans played down to the competition, timid on offense and confused on defense, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

The only thing that matters is that the Texans won, says Randy Harvey of the Chronicle.

On the big stage, the Texans rediscovered their running game as Arian Foster had a giant night, writes Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle.

Clark Judge of CBS Sports wrote about the Texans without Brian Cushing as I did, but took a different tact.

Indianapolis Colts

“Days like Sunday are why (Bruce) Arians decided to hold off on a life of perpetual golf. Days like Sunday, when a team of brothers comes together and plays above its talent level, a day when a team becomes a family and dedicates its heart and efforts to a fallen leader.” Bob Kravitz’s column from the Indianapolis Star.

Five positives Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star pulled out of the win over the Packers.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Mularkey’s team can’t produce and lacks talent, but he’s not at a point where he’s discounting the playoffs, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Austen Lane and C.J. Mosley started on the defensive line against the Bears and fared well enough that they will stay in those spots, writes Ryan O’Halloran of the T-U.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are in need of a spark, but it is not going to come from any sort of shakeup, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Matt Hasselbeck will start Thursday night against the Steelers as the Titans look for a possible return for Jake Locker on Oct. 21 in Buffalo, say Wyatt and John Glennon of The Tennessean.

 

Assessing the injury reports

September, 14, 2012
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What we know about Sunday’s lineups based on Friday’s injury reports:
  • Jacksonville will be without outside linebacker Daryl Smith, right tackle Cameron Bradfield, running back Rashad Jennings, defensive ends Austen Lane and George Selvie. Smith is a big absence, especially considering the way the Jaguars struggled to tackle. Corner Derek Cox (hamstring) is questionable and could help in that department as well. Left guard Eben Britton (ankle) is also questionable. With Bradfield out, we’ll see Guy Whimper (or, if they surprise us, waiver claim Troy Kropog) on the right side. Undrafted rookie interior lineman Mike Brewster wasn’t bad last week when called into duty.
  • The Texans have 12 players listed as probable and are in pretty good shape. Outside linebacker Bryan Braman (hamstring) is questionable. His absence could affect special teams, but barring injuries to front-liners it won’t affect the defense.
  • The Titans will be without play-making middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle), with Will Witherspoon shifting to the middle and Zach Brown and/or Zac Diles on the weakside. They should get much-improved defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks back from a knee injury. San Diego won’t have nickel corner Shareece Wright and will use Mike Harris at left tackle with Jared Gaither (back) out. Harris should mean a favorable matchup for pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley.
  • Dwight Freeney is out for the Colts, which means Jerry Hughes and perhaps Mario Addison will work as the rush linebacker in the 3-4. Major drop off. Left guard Joe Reitz (knee) is out again, so we could see Seth Olsen again or newcomer Trai Essex. T.Y. Hilton is probable and should get some return work as well as receiver snaps. Austin Collie, still coming back from a concussion, had a setback and is doubtful. The Vikings don’t have anyone listed as a starter categorized as worse than probable.

Assessing the injury reports

September, 7, 2012
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Tennessee defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (knee) didn’t practice all week and is doubtful. He was looking very solid in the preseason and will be missed. New England running back Shane Vereen is out and tackle Sebastian Vollmer is one of six questionable Patriots.

Indianapolis left guard Joe Reitz is out, and Seth Olsen will fill in. Tough downgrade. Coach Chuck Pagano said receiver Austin Collie (back from a concussion) “could be” a game-time decision. Indy clearly would like the Bears not to know if he’ll play.

Houston running back Arian Foster (knee soreness) and outside linebacker Brooks Reed (hip) didn’t practice for the second day in a row on Friday and are both listed as questionable. Foster assured Texans beat reporters that he will play against Miami but is considered a game-time decision. Houston could plug Ben Tate in and be OK. First-round pick Whitney Mercilus would play for Reed. Dolphins left tackle Jake Long (knee) is probable.

Jacksonville will be without outside linebacker Daryl Smith (abdomen), a big loss. Kyle Bosworth is listed as his backup. Ends Austen Lane and George Selvie are also out, leaving Aaron Morgan as the only end behind Jeremy Mincey and rookie Andre Branch. We’ll see a tackle or two take snaps at end. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (knee) is questionable. The indications have been that he would play, but sparingly.
The Houston Texans didn’t make the cut as one of the three deepest teams in the NFL, according to Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders.

But the AFC South is well represented in his three shallowest teams : Both the Colts and the Jaguars make the cut.

A look at his rationale:

COLTS

McCown: “Perhaps the most telling indication that this team has little depth is that the recent foot injury suffered by inside linebacker Pat Angerer could lead head coach Chuck Pagano to seriously consider elevating Moise Fokou or Greg Lloyd to the starting lineup. You may remember those names from August 2nd, when the Colts traded Kevin Thomas and a seventh-round pick for them in an ‘our castoffs for your castoffs’ deal.”

Kuharsky: I don't think Lloyd is in the mix to sub for Angerer; it's Jerrell Freeman and Fokou. Name the deepest spot on the Colts. Outside linebacker? If Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney transition well and Jerry Hughes emerges, they’d be three-deep, which is really the minimum number of functional outside backers you need in a 3-4. Receiver? Maybe -- if Austin Collie stays healthy, Donnie Avery rebounds and rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill pan out.

JAGUARS

McCown: After addressing the offensive line, which we hit recently, he turns to defense. “The Jaguars do have Aaron Ross and can field a respectable back end with their corners and safeties, but Russell Allen may have to ascend to the starting lineup due to Clint Session's post-concussion issues, and top young defensive line backups Austen Lane and D'Anthony Smith have been underwhelming and injured, respectively.”

Kuharsky: Allen can be OK as the third linebacker, but the question is who’s fourth? Rookie Julian Stanford is hopefully better than Kyle Bosworth. I think they have some talented young corners and can be good on the interior defensive line, where C.J. Mosley outranks Smith. Quarterback, offensive line, receivers, safety and end all have depth issues. But I am not sure there aren’t three teams less deep than the Jags.
Some notes on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first unofficial depth chart, released in advance of their preseason opener against the Giants on Friday night at EverBank Field. Take note, it’s common for seniority to determine close spots on paper at this stage.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you care to think the Jaguars are a mess and going to be in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, they’re fine with that.

As they worked through the early days of Mike Mularkey’s first training camp, they repeated the new coach’s mantras (like, “we just want to get a little bit better every day”), fell in line with his policies (like potential $10,000 fines for answering media inquiries about injuries) and gave team-first answers to questions about the absence of their two biggest names -- Maurice Jones-Drew (holding out for a new contract) and Justin Blackmon (unable to strike a rookie deal).

Sure, they don’t have much choice but to buy in, but there is an undertone that suggests they have a secret to spring on the league in a couple of weeks.

Every team at this stage of camp thinks it can be good. In Jacksonville, a significant improvement from 5-11 is certainly possible, no matter what the popular storylines are. Honest.

Theirs is a defense loaded with quality, front-line talent. Beyond middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, most of it remains largely unknown. But if you don’t know linebacker Daryl Smith or cornerback Derek Cox or defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, that’s not the Jaguars' concern.

“If anyone feels we are not in a proper place or we have problems, that’s OK,” Posluszny said. “We feel like inside these walls we’re doing everything that we can to be a very successful team.

“Mularkey’s done a great job for us. He’s a former player who’s been through it. To me, that all means a ton, because he knows exactly what we are going through and what it takes to be successful.”

While the offense is being revamped, and Mularkey and his assistants are trying to reformat quarterback Blaine Gabbert after a horrific rookie season, the defensive system and bulk of the staff have been in place for a while now.

Gabbert has nice moments, but his overall inconsistency at practice halts any proclamations that he made a significant offseason jump.

No matter how much players and coaches talk about his gains in leadership, no matter how much faith the organization has in him, no matter how patient they are, it comes down to making throws under pressure.

The early snapshot says the defense can be really good, but that a limited offense could be the obstacle to the surprise the Jaguars would so like to produce. There is a lot of time to work on what’s been installed, to find what works and to run it better than it’s been run so far.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Phil Sears/US PresswireBlaine Gabbert finished his first season with 12 TD passes, 11 interceptions and a 50.8 completion percentage.
1. Is Gabbert good enough? He folded under pressure too often last season, but the rush wasn’t all he was facing. The team drafted him 10th overall intending for him to sit and learn for a season, but that plan didn’t pan out and Gabbert was hurried into the starting role for 14 games during which he had poor pass protection and very limited receivers.

There were big distractions off the field, too: Jack Del Rio got fired and the team was sold.

Mularkey was hired in large part because he’s developed quarterbacks, and he, coordinator Bob Bratkowski and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson have to get steadier play from Gabbert and get his arrow pointing up. His good moments look very nice, but there are still too many bad ones that leave you shaking your head. A kneel-down would seem less disheartening in many of those instances.

It’s a slow process, installing a new offense and rebuilding a quarterback’s confidence. Exactly how slow is the question we need answered.

Mentions of mechanical or technical adjustments by his coaches have been well-received, and he acts on them quickly. That’s great, but when the rush turns live and the pocket starts collapsing, will he have open people he can stand in and find? We simply can’t know yet.

2. The missing pieces. Jones-Drew is demanding a new contract. The Jaguars have said they won’t give him one with two years left on the old one. Boom -- a stalemate. I can’t see the team altering its stance unless he holds out into the season and it struggles horribly without him. He’s got an ego that will make it hard for him to return without any contract alteration, so this could drag on.

Blackmon is a rangy target who can go get the ball, and missing early camp is helping no one. He got a DUI after being drafted fifth overall, and the team wants insurance against any further troubles. Blackmon's unwilling to give the Jaguars what they are looking for, though.

So we’re seeing second-year man Cecil Shorts work in the Z spot where Blackmon will eventually be, with veteran addition Laurent Robinson at the X. Rashad Jennings is the lead back without Jones-Drew in camp, and is a bigger guy who also ranks as a power runner. I liked what I saw and heard from him.

3. Will there be enough of a pass rush? The Jaguars had 31 sacks last season, and to reach their potential on defense they need more in 2012. More consistent pressure and more sacks will come with improved coordination from the defensive linemen.

Their line coach, Joe Cullen, said they just missed on a bunch of chances last season, and another season together and the work they are doing now will result in better communication. The Jags face Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton in addition to two games against Matt Schaub and two against hotshot rookie Andrew Luck this season, and they won't win many of those without consistent pressure.

The relentless Jeremy Mincey promises the production will increase. Andre Branch was drafted in the second round to help, and looks like a quality player. Depth off the edge remains a concern. Austen Lane suffered yet another injury while I watched practices, during which John Chick walked the width of a practice field dragging heavy weight as he rehabilitated his knee.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeMike Mularkey
AP Photo/John RaouxNew head coach Mike Mularkey and his staff have made a positive impression on the players.
Mularkey and his staff. There is planning and logic to everything going on here, and the new staff has genuine concern for players on and off the field. Players are being told what the plan is and the right way to execute it. They felt that was lacking with the previous regime, and welcome it.

Position coaches like Olson, receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and one of the key holdovers, linebackers coach Mark Duffner, are true teachers, and they have guys under them who want to learn. That leadership and teaching faltered in many areas at the end of Del Rio’s tenure. It’s present in full force now. If guys follow and doing so produces results, it’ll snowball.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

A lot more is in place for Gabbert, and everyone has a stake in his performance: the GM who traded up to draft him needs him to succeed; the new coach who was hired to polish him needs him to succeed; the high-priced free-agent receiver and first-round draft pick receiver need him to succeed; the talented defense needs him to succeed.

Gabbert’s saying the right things and working hard, and you can see improvement on some drop backs. But there are still enough dud plays sprinkled into practices to make you wonder if he can succeed. The team wants him to avoid turning the ball over -- staying away from the worst-case scenarios -- and it's a smart goal, but will it make Gabbert too cautious?

Can you ask him to be careful and function as a game-manager type when the best attribute he has is a big arm that can get the ball into tight windows? It might turn out to be complicated.

Also, there is not great roster depth. I have particular concerns about the offensive line, defensive end and safety if someone goes down.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The team appears to be high on undrafted rookie linebacker Julian Stanford out of Wagner. With Clint Session’s future in doubt because of post-concussion issues, Russell Allen is likely to start opposite Daryl Smith outside. Stanford could make the team as a special-teamer who can provide depth. Brandon Marshall, a fifth-round pick, also has what looks to be an NFL-ready linebacker frame.
  • Mike Thomas needs Blackmon signed, in camp and taking the bulk of the snaps at one of the two outside receiver spots. I’m convinced that to get his head right, Thomas needs to be given the slot role and allowed to focus on it exclusively. His snaps were cut down during my visit, with Shorts working at the front of the line in Blackmon’s Z spot. The slot is what Thomas is best suited for, and his performance has slipped when he’s been expected to do more. He had a lot of drops early in camp, and Mularkey agrees with the potential for less to be more with Thomas.
  • Josh Scobee has the leg to get a lot of touchbacks and Bryan Anger has the leg to force a lot of fair catches. The Jaguars obviously still have to work on covering kicks and punts, but how often will they actually be covering kicks and punts? If the offense can produce some first downs, we should see more scoring, and more scoring will mean more kickoffs from Scobee and less work for Anger.
  • The depth at tight end is interesting after No. 1 Marcedes Lewis. Colin Cloherty got a lot of work as the No. 2 early on, and Zach Miller is another move guy who’s very intriguing, though Miller is rarely healthy. Zach Potter is giant, but hasn’t earned a lot of time, and undrafted rookie Matt Veldman is also extra large.
  • Posluszny is the centerpiece of this defense. He covers a ton of ground and makes big hits. He’s a model for doing things the right way, which is a major point of emphasis for Mularkey and his staff. Posluszny was a solid signing last season, and continues to deliver just what the team hoped for. That helps offset the fact Session, who also came to Jacksonville for a big contract in 2011, might not be on the field any time soon, or ever again.
  • The cornerbacks look good. Cox is really solid, and Aaron Ross and Rashean Mathis will be effective as the Nos. 2 and 3. The depth grew with last season's injury onslaught, and William Middleton and Kevin Rutland can play, too.
  • Branch, the rookie pass-rusher, came into the league facing questions from many teams about his ability to stand up against the run. The Jaguars have no such concern at this point. He’s got to be an effective part of a four-man group at end with Mincey, Lane and Chick. Branch certainly looks the part, but so did former Jaguars bust Derrick Harvey, so we can’t put much on the early eyeball test.
  • Along with Stanford, running back Jalen Parmele caught my eye. He’s spent time with Miami and Baltimore.

Thoughts from Jaguars' practice

August, 2, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observations and thoughts out of my final practice with the Jaguars this morning:

  • Receiver Cecil Shorts has moved up in the rotation and was prominent with both Justin Blackmon (contract dispute) and Laurent Robinson (being evaluated for a possible concussion) missing. Shorts did a lot of good things, but had at least two drops. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert said the receivers made great gains with routes in a tough practice, he saw “crisp, perfect routes.” Drops remain an ongoing issue, however. And Shorts may have run a great route on one seven-on-seven play, but Gabbert stared him down and Rashean Mathis easily slipped inside the receiver for a pick.
  • One of Shorts’ drops produced a terrible officiating situation. NFL replacement officials are here through Friday night’s scrimmage. Shorts went up on the left sideline to grab a Gabbert pass over defensive back Courtney Greene. Shorts made a fine play on the ball, but ultimately allowed it to squirt out as he went to the ground. Official No. 82 -- whose name the league didn't make available -- had no idea what had unfolded and looked up the line to Neely Dunn, an NFL supervisor of officials who had to tell him it was incomplete. Perhaps No. 82 would be looking to his teammate up the line in that situation for help, but I saw little effort to actually diagnose what happened and a big effort to get off the hook for making a call. Dunn was doing a lot of hands-on coaching of the officials. Will the league clone him and put him on the field as a reference point for these subs if they are used in actual games?
  • I can’t visit Jacksonville during camp without watching the defensive line’s period with its coach, Joe Cullen. It can be hard to look anywhere else, but I intentionally waited until today. He ran his guys through a furious session, going from drill-to-drill and working on power, cornering and getting through traffic. For the latter, they weaved through four dummies set in a tight row before turning left to hit the QB dummy and swipe at his arm. The pace was well above what you see at position drills. And yes, Cullen’s voice is about gone. His guys know how to listen to his hoarse instruction and evaluation.
  • Chad Henne has been average at best. Gabbert bashers can find ammunition, but at this point they can’t argue that the backup quarterback would give the Jaguars a better chance to win.
  • Coach Mike Mularkey said he never promotes fights but he does find value in the competitiveness that can fuel them. He went out of his way to point out that players are disciplined for fighting. He also went out of his way to share how minor that is: a $25 fine. A bit cheaper than the $10,000 hit for answering questions about injuries.
  • Gabbert is not being discouraged from running, and Mularkey sees a lot of advantages to the quarterback using his athleticism that way. “When you run the ball, you can protect yourself, you can see where the threat is coming from” as opposed to time spent in the pocket when a quarterback is encouraged to not look at the rush, Mularkey said. Certain coverages will create running opportunities that Gabbert should be considering even in the huddle.
  • Punt-returner candidates currently include Shorts, Mike Thomas, Aaron Ross, Charles Gilbert and Mike Brown.
  • Tight end Marcedes Lewis was featured in red zone team work and looked like the effective weapon we saw in that territory two years ago.
  • Rookie linebacker Brandon Marshall had a pick, reacting well to a ball batted shortly after Gabbert released it. Couldn’t ID whose paw altered the pass, sorry.
  • Injuries: Defensive end Austen Lane suffered a sprained foot and linebacker Daryl Smith has a groin injury. Mularkey is optimistic Robinson will be cleared to return but isn’t expecting the same for corner Kevin Rutland, who’s also likely dealing with a concussion.
  • Fans at Friday’s scrimmage will each get a scratch-off ticket, and 90 of them will win the jersey worn by each player on the field, which will be autographed.
  • Non-practice aside: I saw two versions of the Jaguars' commercials pushing tickets on Jacksonville’s NBC affiliate during Wednesday night’s Olympic coverage. Gabbert is featured in one, Smith and Tyson Alualu in the other. The players introduce themselves and pledge that they are “All In.” Sleek, I thought.
Aaron Kampman’s no longer a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But if some of his teammates picked up on his professionalism, his influence will linger.

And Twitter gives us a couple indications that will be the case.


Some thoughts on Kampman on the day the Jaguars released him.
  • As Mark Long of AP points out, giving up on Kampman at this stage surely indicated the team’s feeling good about second-round pick Andre Branch, and Austen Lane, who’s was on IR last year after six games. You can also include John Chick here. Those three should be the guys beyond Jeremy Mincey to take the defensive end snaps.
  • The first time I spoke with Kampman, when he was recovering from the first of two ACL tears, he spoke of the recovery in a way I’ve never heard another player talk of it. He said he found the experience “purifying,” an outlook that’s struck me as healthy and always stuck with me.
  • He certainly will go on the negative side of Gene Smith’s GM ledger. But I don’t like to hold big injury guys at positions of need against teams who go for it. The Jaguars needed a pass- rusher, they needed leadership, and they made a move to get it. They got unlucky. (The Titans did that at receiver twice, memorably, with Yancey Thigpen and David Givens.)

I hope Kampman gets healthy and gets one more look somewhere. But if he doesn’t, I hope he’s satisfied with what he did as a player.

Show me more of these four

October, 19, 2011
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Four guys I’d like to see more of starting this weekend:

Houston -- The Texans keep calling Kareem Jackson and Jason Allen both starters in their cornerback group. If you really think that way, then how does Allen disappear in Baltimore and how do you end up saying afterward you had hoped he’d play more? Are you unable to monitor who’s playing how much in the course of a game? Jackson is still not good. I’d like to see more of the alternative.

Indianapolis -- Running back Donald Brown came into the season close to being labeled a bust. While the 2009 first-round draft pick can still be overly hesitant, overall he has done a good job this season. He’s averaging 5.6 yards a carry, but has only taken 13 handoffs. I understand it’s a small sample size. Why not see what a bigger sample size looks like? I like Delone Carter a lot, but he’s more a short-yardage guy.

Jacksonville -- Defensive end John Chick has pass-rush skills. It was apparent last year when the Colts brought him in from the CFL. He spent time on their practice squad but didn’t make the final cut this season. The Jaguars picked him up and he’s showed an ability to get in the backfield when he gets on the field. With Austen Lane now out for the year, the door is open for Chick, and I expect to see production from the pass-rusher.

Tennessee -- I am not a proponent of taking carries away from Chris Johnson. The Titans need to keep giving it to him while figuring out what’s wrong with the run game. But I do believe offensive coordinator Chris Palmer ought to find a way to get rookie running back Jamie Harper some touches somewhere along the way. How? I’m not quite sure. But there has to be a way where they don’t disrupt what they are trying to get going with Johnson.

NFL Twindex: Cleveland WR takes crown

September, 23, 2011
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Mohamed MassaquoiTom Cammett/Getty ImagesMohamed Massaquoi tops this week's Twindex.

It was a good week for pictures from NFLers on Twitter.

We had tourist shots of Larry Fitzgerald at the Lincoln Memorial and at The White House, a picture of Antonio Garay driving a Hello Kitty car, a shot of a receipt showing off just how much Michael Huff’s dad spent for groceries on his son’s credit card and a freeze frame of Josh Scobee’s locker on TV.

We at the NFL Twindex are in favor of all sharing. We seek insight into football lives, and do our best to weed through a lot of junk to find it.

If you see good humor, good explanations or yes, good pictures from an NFL player or coach or mascot or anyone on Twitter, please make sure we see it by calling our attention to it. Twindex headquarters can be found at @ESPN_AFCSouth and @PaulKuharsky.

To our new edition.

Chris HarrisAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBears safety Chris Harris had an interesting take on the penalties in the Broncos-Raiders game.
Free advertising. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance?

When Randall Cobb gets his charitable foundation up and running, he’s likely to be using a logo he acquired thanks to a simple tweet.

Perhaps a young graphic artist out there will be able to add a line to his or her résumé after designing a mark for an NFL up-and-comer.

Cobb had a big debut in Green Bay’s season-opening win. Days later he decided to take advantage of the eyes on him. I’m guessing he’ll land a good logo out of it.

The smart marketing ploy gets him the No. 2 spot in this week’s NFL Twindex.

You can influence the poll by calling my attention to quality Tweers from NFLers. I’m @ESPN_AFCSouth and @PaulKuharsky.

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