AFC South: Bob Babich

Jaguars Senior Bowl primer

January, 20, 2014
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MOBILE, Ala. -- Nearly the entire Jaguars football staff is on hand for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The Jaguars will coach the South team and the Atlanta Falcons will coach the North team, but each will switch rosters for a day on Thursday so they can interact with all the players.

Here’s a primer of what to expect:

Help wanted: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he expected his staff to remain intact, but linebackers coach Mark Duffner left the team on Sunday night to take the same position with the Miami Dolphins. Duffner just finished his eighth season with the team. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich, who spent seven seasons as a linebackers coach with the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, will work with the linebackers this week. In addition to being a college all-star game, the Senior Bowl is also part coaches convention. Unemployed assistants are here trying to land jobs and head coaches are also here trying to fill staffs.

Keep your eye on: The Jaguars certainly have a lot of needs to fill, beginning with quarterback and pass rusher. So naturally all the quarterbacks -- particularly Derek Carr, Tajh Boyd and David Fales -- are players to watch during the practices and games. Though he is unable to play because of a torn ACL he suffered in late November against Kentucky, Aaron Murray is here to participate in meetings and interviews. It’s a smart decision and one that GMs will like.

As for those pass rushers, Jeremiah Attaochu (who played linebacker at Georgia Tech), Michael Sams, Kareem Martin, Chris Smith, and James Gayle are defensive ends to watch. At outside linebacker, Trent Murphy and Christian Jones are worth watching.

Unfortunately, two of the country’s top pass rushers won’t be here. Buffalo’s Khalil Mack has opted not to participate and UCLA’s Anthony Barr will miss the week because of an undisclosed injury. Both are considered top-10 draft picks.

Some other players to watch: WR Jordan Matthews, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Jacob Pederson, G Cyril Richardson and C Weston Richburg.

What you’ll get: Each day I’ll provide Jaguars news and notes as well as observations from practice. I’ll concentrate on players at positions that correspond to the Jaguars’ top needs (QB, DE, OLB, interior OL, RB, WR) but there will be other players as well. I’ll have several blog posts a day and you also can follow me on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

ETC.: Among the other players who either opted out or cannot participate because of injury are RBs Carlos Hyde (opted out), Andre Williams (injury) and Tyler Gaffney (injury), OTs Jake Matthews (opted out) and Taylor Lewan (injury), WR Tevin Reese (injury), and DT Dominique Easley (injury).

RTC: Jeremy Mincey gets wake-up call

November, 28, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey wasn't happy about being left behind in Jacksonville last weekend as punishment for oversleeping and missing a meeting, but he said the punishment is the wake-up call he needed.

"I needed it," he said. "It's time to refocus and rededicate myself to football. Gus [Bradley] was just honest. He just made an example of me and I feel bad to be the example, but I'll always fight back and will come back and do everything right."

The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran writes that Mincey faces a significant fine but expects to be active for Sunday's game in Cleveland. And here's my story on Mincey's first comments since the Jaguars announced that he wasn't accompanying the team to Houston.

Here are some additional pieces of Jaguars content from around the web in our daily Reading the Coverage feature:
And here's a roundup of items from this blog: offensive lineman Mike Brewster is bummed because he may have lost his only chance to score a touchdown; defensive coordinator Bob Babich will be facing off against his son, Browns assistant defensive backs coach Bobby Babich, for the third time; and the weekly NFL Nation Buzz video, in which I preview the top storylines for the week.

Babich vs. Babich, part III

November, 27, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive coordinator Bob Babich has a personal winning streak he desperately wants to extend when the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Daddy 2, son 0.

Babich has bested his son, Bobby, the past two seasons when Babich’s Chicago Bears beat the younger Babich’s Carolina Panthers. It’s somewhat of a stretch, though, since the elder Babich was the Bears’ defensive coordinator while Bobby Babich was an administrative assistant for the Panthers’ coaching staff in 2011 and a defensive assistant in 2012.

But it’s a winning streak that the elder Babich is claiming anyway.

"We’re 2-0 in the matchups," he said. "I think they were going down in two-minute drill and we picked one to win the game [in 2012]. I just know that mom was happy that we won until she saw her son all sad and then she was mad at me."

That’s usually how it works when fathers coach against their sons. It’s pretty much a given that coaches’ wives root for their children over their husbands, although Bob Babich was pretty emphatic that his wife, Nancy, would be rooting for him on Sunday.

"She better be rooting for me," Babich joked. "I’m the one that gives her the money to go see him."

While Bob Babich is staying with the Jaguars in the team hotel, Nancy will be staying with her son’s family. She’ll enjoy the visit, but she probably won’t enjoy the game.

"It’s tough for mom," Bob Babich said. "Me, I really don’t mind going against him. He’s a good kid and we’re proud of him. He’s a young guy in the NFL coming up. It’s fun to see his growth. It really is."

Bobby Babich is in his first season with the Browns as an assistant defensive backs coach. Prior to his two seasons with the Panthers, he was the secondary coach at Eastern Illinois from 2007-10 and a graduate assistant at Kent State in 2006. He played defensive back at North Dakota State from 2002-2005 for then-defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski said he can tell Bobby Babich was a little more animated this week.

"It’s Babich vs. Babich on Thanksgiving week," he said. "I know he’s excited and I know they talk a lot and are very close. It’s always a neat deal when you get a chance to do that."

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 10

November, 11, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans:

[+] EnlargeWill Blackmon
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesThe Jaguars went "back to basics" on defense and forced four turnovers, one of which Will Blackmon returned for a touchdown.
Simple success: Apparently, simpler is better for the Jaguars' defense. Coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich spent part of the bye week going over the defensive game plans from the first half of the season and decided that trimming the amount of coverages, blitzes and personnel groups would help. The result was the defense’s best performance of the season. The Jaguars forced four turnovers -- the most they'd had in a game in three years -- and held the Titans to just 83 yards rushing. The Jaguars were last in the NFL in rush defense (161.8 yards per game) entering the game. “We got back to basics,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “Early on or even the last couple weeks ... we had games we were trying to do a little too much, and we scaled our package down for this week. I think we had a really good plan going into the game, very basic, not complex. It was stuff that we knew really well and we felt like we could play really fast with.”

Special teams: Kick returner Jordan Todman nearly got benched this week after bobbling three kickoffs against San Francisco, but he responded with a huge game against the Titans. He averaged 33 yards on three returns, including a season-long 46-yarder. That came on his final return and it helped set up another big play on special teams, when LaRoy Reynolds downed Bryan Anger’s punt at the Tennessee 1-yard line. The Jaguars got a safety two plays later on a holding call in the end zone, which ended up being the winning margin. The Jaguars’ special teams have improved markedly since training camp, thanks mainly to an overhaul of the bottom of the roster and the addition of players such as J.T. Thomas and John Lotulelei.

No stupid penalties: Did the Jaguars make mistakes on Sunday? Plenty, such as Chad Henne’s terrible throw to Marcedes Lewis that got intercepted and Brad Meester’s shotgun snap that bounced off receiver Ace Sanders. But the Jaguars didn’t commit the stupid penalties that were a regular occurrence during the team’s first eight games. They were penalized four times for a season-low 19 yards. Meanwhile, the Titans did commit a couple of costly penalties: a holding call in the end zone for a safety and a roughing-the-passer flag on Bernard Pollard that extended a drive that ended with a touchdown.

Commitment to the run: The Jaguars didn’t have a lot of success on the ground, rushing for only 54 yards and averaging just 1.8 yards per carry, but offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch stayed committed to it all day. The Jaguars had only 56 offensive snaps and Fisch called 30 runs, including 21 by Maurice Jones-Drew. That’s the kind of balance Fisch wants in terms of runs and passes. Obviously the production needs to increase on the ground.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich doubled up, Will Blackmon stepped up, and the Tennessee Titans went down.

Babich called the same pressure package on back-to-back pass plays late in the fourth quarter and Blackmon came through with the biggest play of the season by stripping Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and returning the ball for what turned out to be the game-clinching touchdown in the Jaguars' 29-22 victory at LP Field.

On each play, Blackmon blitzed from the slot. The first time, on second-and-9 from the Tennessee 30-yard line, right tackle Mike Otto picked him up and Blackmon didn’t get close. But the pressure from the defensive line did affect Fitzpatrick’s throw, which fell incomplete.

Blackmon came again on the next play, and this time Otto didn’t pick him up and Blackmon got a clear path to Fitzpatrick. He ripped the ball from Fitzpatrick’s hands and ran 21 yards for a touchdown to give the Jaguars a 29-20 lead with 2:32 to play.

"The second time I kind of held my disguise a little bit and ended up blitzing and he [Otto] didn’t see me at all," Blackmon said. "I tried to go in. I saw Fitzpatrick step up and that’s where I was able to go ahead and go after the ball.

"He bobbled it and he was trying to pick it back up and I just took it out of his hands."

Fitzpatrick still isn’t sure what happened.

"I don’t know if it bounced on the ground or if he just ripped it out or what happened," he said. "Obviously, I saw him running but I can’t let that happen in that situation."

That was the fourth turnover the Jaguars forced on Sunday and it made Blackmon look a little like a prophet. Before the game he wrote down several goals on a small piece of paper and put it in his sack. One was to get a victory for first-year coach Gus Bradley. Another was to force a fumble.

After the game, Blackmon showed reporters the crumpled-up piece of paper.

"I’m not saying all my goals. One of them was one caused fumble, he said. "I’ll show you that, too. See right there: 'I will have one caused fumble.' [Another goal is]: 'We will win as a team.'"

Jaguars missing too many tackles

November, 7, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had a lot of issues to address on Monday when coach Gus Bradley brought the team together for what he called a State of the Union message.

One of the biggest was missed tackles.

The Jaguars have missed a lot, especially in the past two games, and it’s one of the reasons they’re last in the NFL in rush defense and scoring.

"We’re missing far too many tackles, and it’s leading to explosive plays," Bradley said.

[+] EnlargeZac Stacy
Scott Kane/USA TODAY SportsThe Jaguars, last in the NFL in rushing defense, have put an emphasis on limiting explosive plays.
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich said tackling was emphasized on Monday and Wednesday and he has seen an improvement in practice. The problem is a lack of fundamentals, not only in terms of wrapping up -- which seems to be a problem throughout the NFL -- but taking proper angles and good positioning.

The Jaguars’ tackling woes were most visible against San Francisco on Oct. 27 when they missed 12, including three on Kendall Hunters' 41-yard run. Safety Josh Evans whiffed, safety Johnathan Cyprien didn’t wrap up, and cornerback Alan Ball went along for a ride. Had Evans been able the make the tackle, Hunter would have only had 11 yards.

Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said the defensive front isn’t doing a good job of staying in assigned gaps, which leads to longer runs where the running backs get into the open field and are able to make a move to juke potential tacklers.

"We went in and saw that we need everybody to be accountable," Marks said. "That’s our main thing, because we’ll play games and there’s only three runs that get out on us for 30, 40, 50 yards. We take those runs away where we make contact at 8 yards, 9 yards then the rushing yards average will go down.

"We’ve got to be accountable and make tackles. That has been our biggest thing. Tackling hasn’t been emphasized as much as it should. We’ve been doing that a lot this week. Guys making sure we are where we’re supposed to be and we make tackles."

That’s especially important against the Titans and Chris Johnson on Sunday. He’s one of the most dangerous backs in the NFL. With his speed and elusiveness, he needs only a small crease to break a big run -- and he’s done that a lot. He has six touchdown runs of 80 or more yards, the most in NFL history. No other player has more than three.

Johnson also has 11 career rushing touchdowns of 50 or more yards, and three career touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards.

He had been pretty quiet this season until last Sunday’s game against St. Louis, when he ran for a season-high 150 yards and two touchdowns. The Jaguars are giving up a league-worst 161.8 yards per game rushing. That’s two reasons the Jaguars can’t afford to miss tackles at LP Field.

"We put a big emphasis on it the first two practices of this week and it seems to have gotten a lot better, but we’ll see Sunday," Babich said. "It’s a problem. It was a concern and we addressed it. We need to get it right, period."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It has been an ugly first half of the season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

They’ve lost every game by double digits -- the average margin is 22 points -- and are riding a 13-game losing streak that dates back to a Nov. 25, 2012, when they beat Tennessee. They rank last in the NFL in total offense and rush defense, 31st in rush offense, and 27th in total defense.

They haven’t scored a touchdown at EverBank Field since the first quarter of the 2012 regular-season home finale.

Ugly, indeed.

There have been slivers of good work in parts of the team in the first eight games, but the overall body of work deserves an F.

In breaking that grade down, it's clear this midseason report card isn’t going to be pretty. In fact, it’s the kind of report card that gets you grounded for weeks:

Rookie safeties ready for Manning

October, 9, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars rookie safeties Josh Evans and Johnathan Cyprien grew up watching Peyton Manning shred NFL defenses.

On Sunday they’ll try to stop him from doing it their defense.

In preparing to play against Manning and the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Evans and Cyprien were struck by the situation. They’ve admired Manning for more than half their lives and now they’re going to be on the same field with him.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Cyprien
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceRookie safety Johnathan Cyprien is trying to treat Sunday's game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos like any other game.
Playing against him. Trying to confuse him. Hoping to pick off one of his passes.

"I wouldn’t say it’s weird, but it is amazing to grow up watching him," Evans said. "I think he got drafted when I was like 9 or something, so now I’m going to play against him is kind of crazy."

Cyprien said he had a similar feeling two weeks ago when the Jaguars played host to the Indianapolis Colts and he had to cover Reggie Wayne, a player he watched at Miami while growing up in North Miami Beach, Fla.

But being on the same field as Manning is another level.

"There’s been a couple players that I felt weird about like that," Cyprien said. "Reggie Wayne, growing up and watching him play and then I played versus him. I went through the weird process. It’ll probably be a different type of weird when I see [Manning]. But it is what it is and it’ll be time to play football."

Don’t get the idea that Evans and Cyprien are starstruck. They are most certainly not. They’re respectful of Manning and his ability, but they’re not approaching Sunday’s game any differently than they did the St. Louis game last Sunday. Practice, meetings, film study.

"We’re going against a lot of veteran guys who are pretty crafty and know what they’re doing, as you can see leading the league in passing," said Evans, who has 15 tackles and one pass breakup. "So now it’s just going out there and figuring out a way how we can stop them."

That’s not going to be easy. Manning has thrown 20 touchdown passes and only one interception, the Broncos are averaging nearly 50 points per game, and they’ve won 16 regular-season games in a row, including all five games this season by an average of 18.2 points.

Plus, don’t you think Manning is eager to go after a pair of rookie safeties?

"Maybe he is," said Cyprien, the Jaguars’ second-round pick last April. “He’s a competitor and he probably has that mindset, but me and Josh have a mindset as far as going into the game, too. If that’s the case I hope we have a lot of opportunities to make some plays."

Defensive coordinator Bob Babich admits it’s not an ideal situation to have two rookies on the back end of the defense in a game against Manning. He’s not going to overload Evans and Cyprien with information or have them show several coverages before the snap in an attempt to confuse Manning. That would more than likely end up confusing them more.

"The thing with Peyton is he’s so smart," Babich said. "Obviously he does a great job of finding out exactly how a defense wants to attack him, so you want to try to do things to try to stop that a little bit with maybe some disguises or blitzes or whatever. The younger you are obviously the tougher it becomes but our guys, what we’re going to do is we’re going to go out, use our fundamentals, and see where it takes us."

Evans, the team’s sixth-round pick, and Cyprien were expected to eventually become the starting tandem and backbone of the secondary. Cyprien was immediately inserted into the starting lineup in training camp and has responded with 35 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles. Evans played just four snaps combined in the first two games but hasn’t missed one since Dwight Lowery suffered a concussion against Seattle.

He’s not coming out either. The team put Lowery on injured reserve on Tuesday and coach Gus Bradley said Wednesday the plan is to cut Lowery once he has been declared healthy.

So it’s Evans and Cyprien for the rest of this season -- and beyond.

"We’ve been very pleased with their development," Babich said. "They’re young guys that are extremely athletic and they’re playing extremely hard. They’re making mistakes, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time they’re making plays so the more they play the better they’re going to get."
Johnathan CyprienRobert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsSecond-round safety Johnathan Cyprien is one of five draft picks the Jags added to their secondary.
With the second pick in the first round, the Jacksonville Jaguars got themselves a rock of an offensive tackle in Luke Joeckel.

What did they get with the first pick of the second round?

A team in dire need of cornerstones might have found one for the defense in Johnathan Cyprien, the strong safety out of Florida International.

Initial reports out of Jacksonville are very solid. It’s obviously early, but Cyprien could be the linchpin of a young secondary that grows up together, helping slow the run and cover the sort of tight ends who are increasingly posing matchup issues around the league.

“The thing we really enjoyed about evaluating him was his football instincts," said DeWayne Walker, the Jaguars' defensive backs coach. “Some guys, they have that halo effect where they kind of feel the game, and he has a real good feel for the game.

"We’re going to have to smooth him out, and we’re going to have to polish him up a little bit. At the same time, he definitely brings a lot of good tools to the table.”

Not too may years ago, the AFC South had a major dearth of quality safeties. Gradually, the position has gotten better. If Cyprien can be an impact guy, he and free safety Dwight Lowery can make the position one of the Jaguars’ most solid.

Cyprien comes across as a polite, confident young man eager to learn and to prove himself. He grew up admiring Sean Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas, who went to the same high school and ranks as a friend who has offered a great deal of encouragement.

A late bloomer at North Miami Beach (Fla.) High School, Cyprien dreamed of playing at Texas, but had just two scholarship offers -- from Central Michigan and FIU. He stayed in Florida, and a big senior season in college turned him into a borderline first-round pick.

The Jaguars surely could have gotten good value by trading out of the 33rd position in the draft, but stayed put and jumped on him.

“It’s a big position, a big role in this defense,” Cyprien said. “You’re allowed to do a lot of things. You’re allowed to have a lot of fun. I’m planning on having a lot of fun playing that position.

“I guess you could say it could be hard for a rookie to be a leader. I wouldn’t define it as that, personally. I’m just taking it head on.”

Of eight picks in the draft, the Jaguars spent five on defensive backs: Cyprien in the second round; UConn cornerback Dwayne Gratz in the third; Florida free safety Josh Evans in the sixth; and New Mexico State cornerback Jeremy Harris and Appalachian State cornerback Demetrius McCray both in the seventh.

The Jaguars have a handful of guys with experience for the kids to look to.

Marcus Trufant, a 10-year veteran corner, played on coach Gus Bradley’s defense in Seattle, and could be the nickelback. Another free-agent cornerback, Alan Ball, has played five seasons, but struggled in Houston last year. Safety Chris Prosinski, a fourth-rounder from 2011, should be a backup at best with Cyprien on board. Mike Harris could be a nice nickel candidate in his second season.

Given the uncertainty at the position, I rank the Jaguars’ cornerback group as the most competitive unit in the division.

If Jacksonville is going to be any good on the back end, it’s likely to be because of the draft class’ contribution.

“I think it’s fun for all of us,” Walker said. “These guys were needed. We’re going to be pretty young. It’s fun for all of us to get this group and develop it and prove people wrong …

“Being able to talk with them about the league, these guys are pretty mature. Coach Bradley, [defensive coordinator] Bob Babich, all of our coaches do a good job saying the right things to these guys to get them acclimated. So I think all of our rookies, not only the rookies in the secondary, have come into a situation where we are here to help them, we are here to develop them to be competitive football players.”

Walker, who was the head coach at New Mexico State from 2009 to 2012, where he posted a 10-40 record, left in January to join Bradley's staff. Previously, Walker coached defensive backs for the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, New England Patriots and at Cal. He was also defensive coordinator at UCLA.

The assistant coach is a straight shooter who has been telling the rookies about the identity he wants his players to have, Cyprien said. They need to be sound in the techniques they are taught, and they should all look the same on tape.

“I think it’s a challenge for him, I think it’s good for him,” Cyprien said of the influx of youth in the secondary. “I know we have him excited, because we just want to run around, and we’re hungry to learn and we’re asking a lot of questions.”
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

With the draft in the rearview mirror, what is the most pressing issue on each AFC South team’s agenda?

Houston Texans: Get DeAndre Hopkins up to speed. The Texans like their first-round draft pick’s experience and think he will be a contributor right from the beginning. So they need to get the receiver on an accelerated program as quickly as possible. The crash course will include time with Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. Rookie minicamp is May 10-12. Then there are OTAs May 20-21, May 23, May 28-30, June 3-6 and the team’s mandatory minicamp June 11-13. Those will be crucial days for Hopkins to get up to speed. The more he can get out of the spring and summer work, the better off he will be for training camp and the preseason. The more he can get out of all of that, the better the chances he’ll be making plays for the Texans' offense on Sept. 9 in San Diego.

Indianapolis Colts: It’s not as if there are quality veteran cornerbacks out on the market waiting on teams to step forward. But the Colts should continue to consider outside options. They signed Greg Toler as a free agent, re-signed Darius Butler and kept youngsters Cassius Vaughn and Josh Gordy. Safety John Boyett, drafted in the sixth round, can be a help in sub packages as a cover man. But the Colts are going to need a contribution from a fourth corner at some point, and neither Vaughn nor Gordy did much to gain confidence last year. Maybe they make leaps in their second year in the system. But Indianapolis should be looking to add to the group to improve competition and options.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Teach and teach some more. The team’s offseason work will be heavy on getting players up to speed on the new systems of coach Gus Bradley and coordinator Bob Babich on defense and Jedd Fisch on offense. The defense will be something like Seattle’s with the corners asked to be really physical at the line and a hybrid outside linebacker/end keying the rush with speed as a Leo. The offense will put Blaine Gabbert on the move more and look a bit like what Houston does. It’s different. So holdovers, new veterans, draft choices and undrafted rookies all have a lot to learn and get comfortable with.

Tennessee Titans: Begin to jell. It’s not a process that can be accelerated, but the Titans could have as many as seven new starters. They have 12 free-agent additions and eight draftees added to the mix. They need the newcomers to meld with the guys in place, forge offensive and defensive identities and establish who will lead and who should be followed. Only so much of that can happen before camp. But in a rookie orientation camp, the remaining OTAs and minicamp, a lot of important seeds can be planted that might be able to take root before training camp starts in late July to get ready for a crucial season.
NFC combine preview: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation previews the 2013 scouting combine by identifying the most important thing for each team to learn about its greatest area of need.

Houston Texans: Andre Johnson still dictates matchups, but the Texans lack sufficient options in the receiving group after him. Last year they tried to fill out the position with a third-rounder (DeVier Posey) and fourth-rounder (Keshawn Martin). Both have promise, but aren’t especially dynamic. And Posey is recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in the playoff loss at New England. So the combine question is, can a receiver who can stretch the field and qualify as a No. 1 guy in a few years be there for them at No. 27? Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee and Keenan Allen from Cal could be gone. Does DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson have enough speed? Does Tavon Austin of West Virginia have enough size?

Indianapolis Colts: How do the cornerbacks run? The Colts have a lot of needs, but none ranks bigger than cornerback, where they need a second starter and perhaps a nickel, as well as depth. Alabama’s Dee Milliner seems largely regarded to be the top guy at the spot heading into the combine. Odds are he’ll be gone by the 24th pick. So how do the next guys run, and how capable are they of playing man-to-man coverage? I think sorting through that for Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, Washington’s Desmond Trufant and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks could be the biggest thing Indianapolis needs to do at this combine.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Who are the two best pass-rushing defensive ends in this draft class for a Gus Bradley/Bob Babich defense? That’s the biggest question for the team holding the No. 2 pick in the April draft. Because if the Chiefs take a pass-rusher first overall, then the Jaguars can do no worse than get their second-favorite guy. Certainly they can go in virtually any direction given the state of their roster. But coming off a season that saw the Jags produce fewer sacks (20) than J.J. Watt had by himself for Houston (20.5), they need to answer a long-standing problem. A new defense simply has to get to the quarterback more than the old defense did. Is Bjoern Werner from Florida State or Damontre Moore of Texas A&M a potential answer?

Tennessee Titans: A pass-rusher and a strong safety are big needs. But they won’t help Jake Locker the way an interior offensive lineman (or two) can. So the Titans need to see if they rate Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper as highly as many analysts do, and if they find one or both worth the No. 10 pick if they are available. If they don’t think they are, is there a second- or third-round prospect they believe can be an immediate and long-term starter? If Tennessee doesn’t find a guard scenario it loves, perhaps it will be more likely to shop for a free agent for the interior.

AFC South links: Jags prepared to strike

February, 15, 2013
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Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports speculates about how teams will approach the franchise tag this offseason. Houston and Tennessee fall into the "Might use it" category.

Houston Texans

Nick Scurfield continues the team website's review of the season with a look at Arian Foster and the running backs.

Indianapolis Colts

Kevin Bowen of the team's website takes a closer look at the 19 tight ends invited to this year’s NFL combine.

NFL.com columnist Adam Schein lists Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and backup quarterback Drew Stanton among this year's underrated free agents.

Jacksonville Jaguars

New GM Dave Caldwell says preparation is the key to the offseason, writes John Oehser of the team's website. Caldwell: “The important thing is for us to be prepared, and when opportunity presents itself, we’re ready to strike on that. We may not be overly active chasing (players), but we’re going to be active looking for the right opportunities, whether that’s in the draft or free agency.”

Tennessee Titans

Kentucky guard Larry Warford, 6-foot-3, 330 pounds, might be a good fit for the Titans, writes John Glennon of the Tennessean. According to some projections, Warford could be a first-round pick after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl last month. Said Lake Dawson, vice president of player personnel for the Titans: “He’s a big, powerful man, and he’ll be intriguing not only to the Titans, but to the other 31 teams."

RTC: Jaguars' Babich has solid roots

February, 14, 2013
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The Texans' website starts its season in review with a review of quarterback Matt Schaub from Nick Scurfield.

Indianapolis Colts

Pep Hamilton has a lot of work ahead, but the Colts' new offensive coordinator knows that Andrew Luck will have a handle on what the revised offense wants to do, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich is from Aliquippa, Penn., which has produced some big-time players. “Those guys were great players,’’ Babich told Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union. “My name is never mentioned with them.”

Tennessee Titans

The Titans hosted free-agent safety George Wilson on Wednesday and have offered a contract to defensive tackle Chris Canty, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

While Kareem Jackson made great strides, the Texans' defensive backfield gave up a lot of plays and yards, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

With J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith up front, “defensive end was perhaps the Texans' strongest position and certainly the defense's strength,” says Ganguli.

Indianapolis Colts

Bruce Arians was the reason the Mike Wallace to Indy talk started, and Arians’ departure should also be the reason that it ends, says Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue.

To which I say: That’s a very good point. And Wilson also points out that T.Y. Hilton’s production is much like Wallace’s.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida-Times Union tracked Gus Bradley at the Senior Bowl. “I have this image that we’re going to be extremely tough and play with a lot of poise. That keeps popping into my mind -- guys that are passionate about the game.”

Coordinators Jedd Fisch and Bob Babich face tough challenges, but will feed off of Bradley’s energy, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

The safeties might be the strongest group at the Senior Bowl, and that’s good for the Titans, says John Glennon of the Tennessean.

Breaking down snaps with Tom Gower of Total Titans on offense and on defense.

To which I say: Very interesting to look at the offensive numbers where he breaks down the differences in playtime when Chris Palmer was offensive coordinator and when Dowell Loggains took over.
Every first-time NFL head coach need an experienced guy or two on his staff he can really lean on.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley has his.

Bradley once served on the staff of Bob Babich at North Dakota State. Now Babich is Bradley’s defensive coordinator.

Babich has spent the past nine seasons with the Chicago Bears, where he served six years as linebackers coach and three as defensive coordinator under head coach Lovie Smith.

He will undoubtedly be a key lieutenant for Bradley as he takes over the Jaguars and looks to shape his team.

But since Bradley is a defensive guy, his other early hire likely ranks as even more important.

Jedd Fisch is the Jaguars offensive coordinator. He spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Miami.

He and Bradley know each other from 2010 in Seattle, when Fisch was quarterbacks coach.

Fisch worked as a graduate assistant for Steve Spurrier at Florida. And in nine seasons of NFL work, he’s been on the staffs of Pete Carroll, Mike Shanahan and Brian Billick as well as Dom Capers.

In an August 2011 interview with Steve Gorten of the Sun-Sentinel, here’s how Fisch described those influences on him and the offense he intended to run at Miami:
“I would say the greatest influence on our offense would be Coach Shanahan in regards to what we do,” Fisch said. “I think Coach Billick has the greatest impact in terms of how we do it, and I think Coach Spurrier’s impact is that in the back of mind always it’s OK to take a chance and go for it. I really think it’s the trifecta.

“If you turned our film on, Coach Shanahan would recognize the plays more than anyone else because it’s from the book we ran in Denver and Seattle. If you stood in our meeting room, Coach Billick would recognize how it’s being installed and the terminology.

“Play-calling is probably the closest to Coach Spurrier in terms of I hope to one day be as good as him and take on that approach of ‘Hey, you can take some chances and they’ll work if you believe in what you see.’”

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