AFC South: Brandon Jones

The National Football Post's Joe Fortenbaugh has a nice piece reviewing AFC South draft trends.

Here’s a nugget on each team with a thought from me:

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Colts have drafted only three offensive tackles. To put that in perspective, take note that over the last 10 years the team has spent the same amount of selections on kickers and punters (3).”

[+] EnlargeTony Ugoh
AP Photo/Darron CummingsThe Colts spent a 2007 second-round pick on Tony Ugoh but cut him last season.
Kuharsky: It’s significant and it’s time to make a substantial investment. But when a team has a left tackle who plays for nine years and goes to three Pro Bowls (Tarik Glenn) and gets steady play from its right tackle for eight years (though Ryan Diem slipped last season) there isn’t cause for huge expenditures at the spot. They failed in a second-round attempt (Tony Ugoh in 2007) to replace Glenn.

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Jaguars have drafted nine defensive ends, but only two (Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves) have been selected within the top 100 picks.”

Kuharsky: Jaguars GM Gene Smith worked to offset that by bringing in free agent Aaron Kampman last offseason. And now it appears quite possible Smith will spend the 16th overall pick on a defensive end to complete the makeover of the line that included their top four picks from 2010.

Fortenbaugh: “Since Gary Kubiak took over as head coach in 2006, the Texans have drafted exactly 19 offensive players and 19 defensive players.”

Kuharsky: It’s nice to populate the roster in a balanced fashion. But if Houston does as it should and looks to fill a load of defensive holes in this draft, these numbers will tip to the defensive side.

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2005, the Titans have selected an average of 2.0 wide receivers per draft. Tennessee has landed at least one wideout in each of the past six drafts and has selected as many as three wide receivers two times in the last six years.”

Kuharsky: The all-star receiver roster of those past six drafts: Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams, Jonathan Orr, Paul Williams, Chris Davis, Joel Filani, Lavelle Hawkins, Kenny Britt, Dominique Edison, Damien Williams and Marc Mariani. The lone Pro Bowl appearance was Mariani last year -- as a return man.
The acknowledged top prognosticator of compensatory draft picks was a little more off than in the past as far as the AFC South is concerned.

In this post on March 9, we pointed to the nearly fearless (he’d be completely fearless if he used his name) AdamJT13 who said the Titans would get a third and three sevenths and the Jaguars would get a sixth.

Adam Schefter on Monday reported Tennessee officially got a third (97th overall), a sixth (207th), and a seventh (241st). Jacksonville got a sixth (203rd) and Indianapolis got two sevenths (240th and 246th).

These additional picks are awarded based on a formula that factors in free agents lost last year, their contracts and their production in their first year elsewhere.

A third-rounder is the highest possible. Picks in the seventh round basically allow teams to lock in players they would have pursued as undrafted rookies.

The picks cannot be traded.

From the league release that followed, here are the guys who factored in:

INDIANAPOLIS
Lost: Darrell Reid, Hunter Smith
JACKSONVILLE
Lost: Khalif Barnes, Mike Peterson, Gerald Sensabaugh

Signed: Sean Considine, Tra Thomas
TENNESSEE
Lost: Chris Carr, Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Jones, Eric King, Daniel Loper, Chris Simms

Signed: Jovan Haye, Mark Jones, Nate Washington

AFC South draft rewind

December, 23, 2009
12/23/09
3:03
PM ET
NFC Draft Rewind: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft class lists: Indianapolis | Jacksonville | Houston | Tennessee

Houston Texans
Cushing
Cushing

Best get: Not everyone was sold on Brian Cushing coming out of USC, often because of his injury history at USC. He missed most of camp hurt and has missed a lot of practices, but none of it has gotten in the way of his being an impact player every Sunday. The Texans need more defenders and more players in his mold. He’s a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.

Worst unaddressed spot: The Texans had plenty of reason to expect they had a feature back in Steve Slaton, but completely misread their situation after that. Interior line injuries and a second-year slump for Slaton have made a second back even more important, and Chris Brown, Ryan Moats and Arian Foster all have proved incapable of handling the pressures of the work. A second running back ranks as one of the team’s highest priorities in free agency or the 2010 draft.

Still uninvolved: Tight end James Casey came in as a versatile fifth-rounder who was going to be a unique weapon for head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to tinker with. He’s got six catches for 64 yards in 11 games. He needs to have more of an impact, given that the Texans lost top-flight tight end Owen Daniels to a season-ending knee injury.

Indianapolis Colts
Brown
Brown

Still to be determined: First-rounder Donald Brown has shown he will be a good NFL player. But he’s missed five games with injuries, including the last three. He’s more capable than Joseph Addai of breaking off a big run. The question: Does Brown understand that looking for the big gain isn’t worth risking a play resulting in second-and-12. If Brown is healthy, he could see a lot of touches in the last two games. The Colts are 14-0 with just 59 carries, 263 yards and two TDs from their top pick. (They haven’t gotten much out of second-round defensive tackle Fili Moala, either.)

A perfect fit: Fourth-round receiver Austin Collie, not Minnesota’s Percy Harvin, leads all rookie receivers in catches. Collie's nabbed 53 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts' system, and adopted the necessary work ethic to win over and work with Peyton Manning. Whether Anthony Gonzalez re-emerges for the post season push or not, Collie’s crucial to it.

Best special teams addition: The Colts had eight touchbacks in 2008. With rookie punter Pat McAfee taking over kickoffs from Adam Vinatieri, they have 18 with two games remaining. Better kickoffs are a big factor in coverage improvements under new special teams coach Ray Rychleski. McAfee’s also got a net punting average of 38.0 yards, less than a yard off former Colts' veteran Hunter Smith’s number from last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Monroe
Monroe

Long-term solutions: Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were the top two picks and have played the bulk of the season at left and right tackle, respectively. They have not been consistent, but the team loves their skill sets and upside. And early work means they’ll get to the levels the team projected when spending such high picks on them sooner rather than later.

Eighth-rounders: First-year general manager Gene Smith needed additions beyond his draft class and found a couple: Cornerback William Middleton out of Furman and linebacker Russell Allen from San Diego State are undrafted free agents who made the team and have been contributors. In the nationally televised Week 15 Thursday night loss to the Colts, Allen led the team with 12 tackles. Smith is down a second and seventh rounder in 2010 because of trades, and he hopes to hit on some undrafteds again, and annually.

Three is key: Smith did great work in the third round, landing two small school players who’ve established themselves as productive starters with upside. Cornerback Derek Cox from William & Mary has not been intimidated by anything or anyone. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton from Temple has been a stout and reliable run stopper.

Tennessee Titans
Monroe
Britt

Biggest breakthrough: Since 1998, the Titans have spent draft picks in the top three rounds on Kevin Dyson, Tyrone Calico, Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones and Paul Williams. Dyson was involved in two of the franchise’s biggest plays in 1999 and did OK otherwise, but none of them solved the team's long-standing woes at receiver. First-rounder Kenny Britt is a great combination of size, power and speed who goes and gets the ball. Britt seems like he can be a consistently productive weapon.

Disappearing act: The Titans gave away a second-rounder to draft tight end Jared Cook in the third, and in camp he seemed like a great addition. Then he suffered an ankle injury, faded and never really re-emerged. Long-term he’s still very compelling. But the Titans sure could have used a jolt from him during their 0-6 start.

An heir: Gerald McRath seems comfortable and been effective as an outside linebacker when needed. He will start the rest of the way and, after bulking up in the offseason, stands to inherit the spot of either David Thornton (breaking down) or Keith Bulluck (free agent who tore an ACL in Week 15) next year. If both veterans are gone (a likely scenario), the second replacement needs to be a free agent or a draft pick.
 
  Getty Images
  Titans quarterback Kerry Collins has led three teams to the playoffs, but has yet to do so in consecutive years.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A year after finding a dynamic running back as fast as any in the league, the Titans set out to upgrade their passing offense.

Out went Justin McCareins and Brandon Jones and in came free agent Nate Washington and first-round pick Kenny Britt. The Titans' receiving corps, always a subject of discontent among their faithful, stands to be more explosive.

Can the veteran quarterback who led last year's 13-3 campaign be more productive with those additional targets?

Kerry Collins: By the Numbers
Quarterback Kerry Collins' playoff seasons and follow-ups, with his overall record in games that he started and his passer ratings:
Playoff season Follow-up season
'96 Panthers 9-3 79.4 '97 Panthers 6-7 55.7
'00 NY Giants 12-4 83.1 '01 NY Giants 7-9 77.1
'02 NY Giants 10-6 85.4 '03 NY Giants 4-9 70.7
It's June, optimism rules in all 32 NFL cities, so the Titans certainly believe so.

Those looking to punch holes in Kerry Collins as he prepares for 2009 point to this: He's never led a team to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

In Collins' follow-ups to three playoff appearances, he has a 17-25 record. Coincidence or trend?

"I really don't know what to say to that," Collins said. "I'm not going to sit here and act like I know the reasons for it. I don't. Trying to think back, I'll just try to avoid it this year. I don't know what the causes were or if there were any causes. It just kind of happened."

The 1997 Panthers were led by Collins, who at the time was entering a troubled personal phase in his life. Collins remembered a lot of injuries to the 2001 Giants and said he thought the 2003 Giants suffered a letdown after the Super Bowl year. His passer rating declined in each of those follow-up seasons.

With the 2008 Titans he's got a chance to prove himself again.

Now, he looks to join 10 starters across the league who've taken their team to the playoffs two years in a row or more. Twenty-three others who are in line to start or who are competing for the job have not. In terms of doing it over two or more seasons, is Collins going to wind up categorized with the likes of Tony Romo (2006-07) and Philip Rivers (2006-08), or will he be on the same list as Jake Delhomme (who can make it two in a row this season) and Carson Palmer?

After taking over for Vince Young during the season opener in 2008, Collins was cast as a game manager. Toss out the finale where he played only a little, and in 14 starts he attempted 23 or fewer passes five times. A lot of his critics focus a lot more on that than on the three games with more than one touchdown pass or the four games with a passer rating over 100.

When Chicago shut down the Titans' run game in Week 10, Collins produced his best game completing 30 of 41 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns.

Back To Back
A look at NFL starting quarterbacks and whether they've taken teams to the playoffs in consecutive years:

AFC East
Bills -- Trent Edwards: No
Dolphins -- Chad Pennington: No
Patriots -- Tom Brady: 2003-07 (5 straight)
Jets -- Kellen Clemens/Mark Sanchez: No

AFC North
Ravens -- Joe Flacco: No
Bengals -- Carson Palmer: No
Browns -- Brady Quinn/Derek Anderson: No
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger: 2004-05, 2007-08 (2 straight, 2 straight)

AFC South
Texans -- Matt Schaub: No
Colts -- Peyton Manning: 1999-2000, 2002-08 (2 straight, 7 straight)
Jaguars -- David Garrard: No
Titans -- Kerry Collins: No

AFC West
Broncos -- Kyle Orton: No
Chiefs -- Matt Cassel: No
Raiders -- JaMarcus Russell: No
Chargers -- Phillip Rivers: 2006-08 (3 straight)

NFC East
Cowboys -- Tony Romo: 2006-07 (2 straight)
Giants -- Eli Manning: 2005-08 (4 straight)
Eagles -- Donovan McNabb: 2000-04 (5 straight)
Redskins -- Jason Campbell: No

NFC North
Bears -- Jay Cutler: No
Lions -- Daunte Culpepper: No
Packers -- Aaron Rodgers: No
Vikings -- Tarvaris Jackson/Sage Rosenfels: No

NFC South
Falcons -- Matt Ryan: No
Panthers -- Jake Delhomme: No
Saints -- Drew Brees: No
Buccaneers -- Luke McCown: No

NFC West
Cardinals -- Kurt Warner: 1999-2001 (3 straight)
49ers -- Shaun Hill: No
Seahawks -- Matt Hasselbeck: 2003-07 (5 straight)
Rams -- Marc Bulger: 2003-04 (2 straight)

-- Matthew Willis, ESPN Stats & Information

Now, the expectation is for more like that and more over the course of the season -- more than 12 touchdowns, more than 2,676 yards, more than an 80.2 passer rating, more than one and done in the playoffs.

"I think offensively our expectations in the passing game should be higher from what we did last year," Collins said. "We were productive when we needed to be, but if you look at the breadth of work during the season, it's not like we lit it up or anything. We were effective. We didn't need to throw it all of the time -- we ran the ball so well and we got up in games.

"I'm sure we're going to be committed to running the ball again this year, but I think we can get more out of the passing game this year with the people we brought in and the experience we've all had in [Mike] Heimerdinger's offense."

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. expects the Titans to slide this season, largely because he doesn't have great faith in Collins.

"Overall, I have a hard time completely buying into the fact that he is a totally changed guy all of a sudden," Williamson said. "His TD/INT ratio and overall decision making has been a real problem in the past. He certainly can throw the rock, but he can't get out of the way of the rush or create when things break down. The Titans' OL is excellent, but his movement skills really worry me overall. I would say that his accuracy is just average at best as well."

And this from back in May: "Remember, this is a quarterback with a lifetime passer rating of 73.8 and who has only thrown seven more touchdowns than interceptions over his long career."

Valid points in the con column for Collins.

But those are stat trends the Titans can handle if they are healthy, run well and play good defense like they did last year and like they are built to do. Jeff Fisher wants a quarterback who can lead, fight through adversity, take advantage of the solid run game, protection and defense, and Collins fits.

I took details of Collins' poor follow-up years to center Kevin Mawae and receiver Justin Gage to get their takes.

Mawae:

"You don't ever judge a guy on what he did last year. Every year it's about what can you do for us now. Whatever the history is that he had a great season and then didn't have a great season, I don't know, but it's a tough sport for anybody to have big years back to back. It happens. But it's few and far between...."

"For our situation the receiving corps was a question mark and we bring in Nate and we go draft Britt and we hope that they make a mark for us. If they do, it makes Kerry's job easier, it makes the offensive line's job easier and in return hopefully we have more success than we did last year."

Gage:

"I definitely think Kerry is going to be able to get us the ball. He has the playmakers that he's been looking for. Nate's an
experienced receiver, it's not like he's coming into something blind. Kenny is a young guy but he learns fast and he works hard. I definitely feel like this might definitely be one of Kerry's best seasons since he's been in the league.

"If everybody else knows [about the back-to-back stuff], I'm sure Kerry knows it and it's something Kerry is looking forward to and will take advantage of this year. He's a competitor, and his competitive nature rubs off on the rest of us."

"So here's comes. You've never had two good years back to back? Then you're looking forward to this year. This is the year when I usually set it back, but I am going forward this time."

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson

 
  Kenny Felt/Icon SMI
  Kerry Collins was solid in 2008 but is unlikely to improve or boost the passing game at this point.

We will examine each AFC South team's "weak spot" based on its 2008 performance. The Tennessee Titans' passing game was the weakest aspect of their game last season.

While I expect halfback Chris Johnson's role in the passing game to be enhanced this season -- making him even more dangerous overall-- I still see the Titans' passing attack as the team's biggest question mark.

Tennessee allowed veteran receivers Brandon Jones and Justin McCareins to depart. But the Titans drafted Rutgers star Kenny Britt in the first round and signed Steelers free agent Nate Washington. They also drafted an interesting prospect in South Carolina tight end Jared Cook. Consider how deep the Titans are at tight end: Cook, Bo Scaife and even veteran Alge Crumpler have excellent receiving skills. It would not be a surprise at all if Scaife were to lead the Titans in receptions again in 2009.

The peripheral options, namely Scaife and Johnson, are very strong, but it is the wideouts that I still have concerns about. But I concede that the weaponry should be more potent than it was last year.

Kerry Collins put together an impressive 2008 season and has progressed into a fine game manager. He also has a big arm and is a solid deep-ball passer, but he doesn't have a quick release and doesn't excel at making things happen when the play doesn't go to script. Collins is not the type of quarterback who enhances the production of the receivers around him. Collins completed just under 59 percent of his passes and managed only 12 touchdown tosses in 2008.

Tennessee scores points on the ground and I doubt whether Collins really has turned the corner in his 15th NFL season. Remember, this is a quarterback with a lifetime passer rating of 73.8 and who has thrown only seven more touchdowns than interceptions over his long career.

Scouts Inc.: Weaknesses
• AFC: South | East
• NFC: North | South

Washington is a big-play weapon who can get downfield, but he remains very inconsistent with his route running and drops too many catchable passes. Still, his deep abilities could be very useful considering Collins' arm strength and the excellent protection that the Titans' offensive line provides.

Wide receiver Justin Gage caught only 34 passes last year, but six of them were for touchdowns and his 19.1 yards per reception average is quite impressive. This is a player whose stock is climbing, and his size in the red zone and in other one-on-one situations is particularly appealing.

As "weak links" go, the Titans' passing game -- and the wide receivers more specifically -- is not horrible. The overall group of pass catchers should be improved from a year ago. So calling this a major weakness is a stretch on my part, but the proof will come on the field if advancements actually are a reality. But I do have my doubts.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Eric in Indianapolis writes: So, I've been hearing quite the buzz around Indianapolis about the Colts holding a private work-out with QB Sanchez. Being an armchair quarterback myself, I am a bit puzzled by that decision. It seems teams only hold those workouts if they are serious about the player, and having a 3-time MVP at the helm for at least 5-7 more years seems like this isn't the year for this. What do you think is going on? Trade bait? Manning retiring sooner (4-5 years) than later? How about the issues of needing a 3rd receiver, starting DT, starting LB, another tandem RB?? I am in dismay. Of course, the Colts for the past decade have always been 2 steps ahead of everyone and very prepared for the future.

Paul Kuharsky: Don't read too much into a workout of a get-together. Sometimes teams have such things to finish crossing a guy off their lists. Teams can have 30 guys in for visits plus locals -- that's far more meetings than draft picks.

But yeah, maybe they think he's too good to pass up if he's there for them. Few people expect he will be.


Paul Smith from parts unknown writes: Your writing is terrible.

Paul Kuharsky: Thank you for the constructive criticism. I will try to take your pointers to heart.


Ken in Las Vegas writes: Titans aren't cheap?!?!? Bud Adams is a penny pinching miser! Since 'the great purge' after our last REAL Superbowl attempt.... look at how much cap space has not been utilized - THAT'S cheap! Moulds, Givens, Nate Washington are certainly cheaper than paying for a legitimate receiving option! Justin Gage, Brandon Jones and Justin Mccareins are not a viable receiving corps in this league - period! Gage is a decent #2. Washington is at best a #2....

Paul Kuharsky: Ken refers to this blog entry.

Who did you want them to get? The free agency class of receivers was weak, not forcing it was smart.

They've got a bad approach at the position, they devalue it. But it's philosophical, not financial.


Weller Ross in Lawrence, KS writes: Now that we're a good way into free agency and I haven't heard Marvin Harrison's name mentioned hardly at all, do you think there is a chance he ends up coming back to play in Indy? I know that with the Colts cap issues he would have to play for significantly less money, but if he's not getting offers anywhere else then I would have to think something is better than nothing especially if it meant staying with the Colts. Your thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: I think it's a remote possibility at best.

I don't think Harrison surfaces anywhere until after the draft or even during camp.

If the Colts aren't satisfied with their receivers in camp or have a bad injury and he's still out there and reaches out and says he'll play for cheap, maybe. But my sense is when a guy like Bill Polian cuts the ties, he's looking forward, not back. The Colts didn't only think Harrison was too expensive, I believe they think he's also close to done.


Unknown from parts unknown writes: You have to be the most snooty, idiotic person hired by ESPN (this side of Skip Bayless anyway). Where do you get off writting with suck attitude? I mean you write a blog for god sakes, and we all know bloggers are killing sports writting as we know it. Im guessing you never even played football in your life. Oh wait, you were that kid on varsity only because he was a senior and hated everyone else for being so much better than you. Anyway, lighten up and get off your laughable high horse.

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for chiming in. Points taken. I'd take them even more, however, if you put your name on your e-mail.


Andrew Hoelscher in Richardson writes: What has Vince Young done to be compared to Pacman Jones? Does Young have a long criminal record? Has he been suspended by the league? Has he been traded away and cut? The guy got hurt and lost confidence. He's human. Everyone makes so much of Matt Cassel, but how many of you would have let him on the field before last year? Young had one bad year and one injured year, and now he's useless? Even worse than that, he's a criminal? You're pathetic.

Paul Kuharsky: I don't recall comparing them.

Of course Vince Young is different from Pacman Jones in plenty of ways.

He's the same in a few too: he turned into a distraction. He doesn't 'get it.' He's not as good as he thinks he is. He's an under-performing, very high draft pick who's gotten a lot of money and has not produced or matured as they hoped he would. He's surrounded by people who tell him he's great and everything is OK and the world is out to get him.


Jason in Philadelphia: Paul, what are your thoughts on Colts' backup QB Jim Sorgi? I would sure like to see him get a chance to play. Backing up Manning for 6 years is bound to teach you a few things here and there. He hasn't been brilliant in the time he has played, but it has been very limited, and mostly with the 2nd and 3rd team. Matt Cassel didn't show much promise until he had the opportunity to play a prolonged period of time. I honestly believe that if given the opportunity, he would play very well. Indy liked him so much that they offered him an extension last year, and Bill Polian is a pretty good evaluator of talent.

Paul Kuharsky: I think he's about mediocre. If you're a Colts fan, I can't imagine why you'd ever want to see him get a chance to play, it would mean Peyton Manning isn't playing.

Them liking Sorgi as a backup is far different than them liking him if they had to play him for six weeks. I'm sure he practices well and does good work running the scout team, which gets the defense ready each week. If he did play, they'd have to run a lot better and play a lot better defense for him.

But I don't suspect he's Manning's heir, and I don't know that it's time to start thinking about one yet.


Duane from Texas writes: It seems to me that you would prefer VY to be a failure to prove yourself right. Why is this? Do you just have a dislike for him or what? Now that the Titans have a serious weapon at RB and WR and a good TE. It just makes sense to let him have his shot as the starting QB with no excuses of not having offensive play makers around him, which he did not the first 2 years of his career. Oh in case you don't remember we made the playoffs in '07 with Vince starting. I was at the game in Houston when he won it with his legs on the 36 yard game winning run. It just seems strange that the other two big name QB's in the '06 draft (Cutler,Leinart) have yet to even reach the playoffs with MUCH better WR's than the Titans have. So will you PLEASE respond with why
you and other media mouths have such a liking of the other two and VY is chop liver as far as you all are concerned??

Paul Kuharsky: I'm not rooting against him. But I'm not on his bandwagon by any means.

My opinions are formed based on what I see and hear. And from what I've seen and heard, the light has not come on for him, he doesn't get it. His comments, when he talks, are often nonsensical or untrue. He said "'I've never been hurt before," when he hurt his knee against the Jags. Well, he missed time the year before with a quad injury. Did he forget about that, or does he simply think we'll accept all his spoken words as fact because, as he reminds us every time he talks, he's just a humble guy?

Cutler is far better than Young at this point. Leinart amounts to the same wash, but it sure feels as if the Cards feel better about him than the Titans do about Young. I don't categorize this group of QBs as good with good receivers and these as good with bad receiver, etc. A guy is either good and progressing or he isn't. Jeff Fisher's Titans are never going to have two top flight WRs. Their QB is going to have to be successful in the current brand of framework.

Sure, VY's numbers and Kerry's numbers weren't vastly different. Collins did two things Young didn't -- he won the complete confidence of his teammates and coaches (I don't know how the media has had any bearing on that) and he rarely turned the ball over, a crucial thing in the way the Titans want to work.

I am surprised how many VY apologists remain. He's got a big chance to change some minds with his work and approach this offseason. I hope he surprises us all, but I don't expect he will. Sorry if you don't care for that opinion.


ElTrain in Evansville, IN writes: I heard the tail end of something about L.T. ending up in Indy on the radio today....Any chance of this really happening?

Paul Kuharsky: I can't see him getting cut for starters. I can't see the Colts finding the money to outbid a team like New Orleans for him.


Colby from parts unknown writes: Paul, Love the blog. Keeps me up to date on the only conference that really matters in the NFL, ha.. but anyways, I'm a huge Titans fan wondering what you think about the Nate Washington pickup. The man is quick and will definitely add to the new persona the Titans seem to have tried to picked up as one of the fastest offenses in the NFL, but he has always been a third receiver at best in the NFL. Do you think he will be able to both step up to the challenge of taking on the #1 receiver slot we've been yearning for since Mason left and could this be one of those subtle picks people look over (like most people that say we should go after 30 some receivers that are "big names") that could actually materialize into a blessing? Thanks for the blogging, hope to hear from you. Colby in Columbus

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the kind words, they mean a lot.

I like the Titans' addition of Washington, especially at that somewhat reasonable price.

But I don't expect him to emerge as a No. 1. How many of those are there? Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss for sure. T.O. and Brandon Marshall maybe. Then who? It's not like every team has one, and a team like the Titans that doesn't even really want one won't have one.

If Washington plays like a No. 2 and Justin Gage keeps doing what he did last season, they'll have upgraded. They still have work to do, but they aren't shooting to have a huge No. 1. Derrick Mason developed into a clear No. 1 for them, but he was a possession guy, not a blazer/huge-play guy and he wouldn't have been a No. 1 in some other environments.


Walter Greensboro, NC: You are correct in saying that the Titans aren't cheap. Much as I love 'em, what they are is scared. They almost never take risks, and that might get you a shiny 13-3 regular season. But we're also 0-2 in the playoffs over the last two years. They can keep their wins in November and December. This team should be winning in January. And they also do a very poor job of taking care of their own. If they did this we probably would've held on to Mason and Rolle a little longer(both players proved to be effective in Baltimore). And more importantly their handling of Steve McNair was totally inexcusable after what he did for this franchise. Moreover, it seems to me that Young would be much further along in his development if his long time family friend had been there for him to sit behind and learn from for a year. And I cannot see the merit in your assessment of Young as a bust. Nothing about a 19-9 record as a starter says bust to me. Too quickly people forget that the Titans were 0-5 Vince's rookie season before they finally gave him the reigns from Kerry Collins, who's now had one good season since 2000. Vince Young is the future of this team, and the sooner Fisher gets that through his head the better.

Paul Kuharsky: I agree they are a little gun shy at times. But they didn't give up on Rolle and Mason when they did because they didn't think those guys could play, that was a salary cap purge that was based purely on finances. They weren't graceful with McNair, but their timing was probably correct, as it usually is when they decide a guy is finished.


JL Hoboken, NJ: Hey Paul, I'm sure you're busy with FA reporting but I'd appreciate it if you took the time to respond. My question is regarding Roydell Williams. I know he was a very average receiver, but hasn't he gotten a pretty raw deal (Went from a #1 on a playoff team to out of the league in a heartbeat)? Are there any updates about his health and any potential FA offers? I like to think the Titans are a classy organization but I feel like they handled this situation about as poorly as they handled McNair's. Thanks - JL

Paul Kuharsky: If the whole league judges you to be done, you're done. How is it a raw deal?

If the Titans thought he wasn't going to be able to contribute and he was cuttable, I'm not sure what your complaint is. What did they owe him? He owed them -- they paid him and he was unable to perform with any consistency.

There is rarely such a thing as a happy ending in the NFL.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

While researching and pondering some players for the Best Match blog entry Monday afternoon, I was struck by something on the day that Nate Washington wound up signing with the Titans.

Take Six
Washington is the sixth try the Titans will make at finding production out of a receiver who came out of college in 2005. The first five:
Receiver School How obtained Current locale Comment
Courtney Roby Indiana 3rd-rd. pick N.O. Six games with Colts and Saints in '08, no catches
Brandon Jones Oklahoma 3rd-rd. pick S.F. Despite inconsistencies, just got 5-year, $16.4 million deal in S.F.
Roydell Williams Tulane 4th-rd. pick not in NFL Cut by Titans before 2008 season
O.J. Small Florida Rookie free agent not in NFL Two games, one-catch as injury fill-in in 2005
Mike Williams USC Free agent in '07
not in NFL
Played two of six games, no catches

Jason Anderson out of Wake Forest, another rookie free agent, spent some time on the practice squad in 2005. Coming out of their salary-cap purge that included cutting Derrick Mason, the Titans also signed five others as undrafted free agents: Chris Bush, Vincent Cartwright, Ellis Edbrow, Earvin Johnson and Alonzo Nix.

To their credit, the Titans passed on Williams and Troy Williamson when they were so so highly touted in that draft. To their discredit, the player they took instead at No. 6, Adam "Pacman" Jones, might have been a better football player but was an even bigger headache.

The three receivers still of note from that draft -- Braylon Edwards, Roddy White and Vincent Jackson -- were selected third, 27th and 61st. The Titans' strategy was to take three and hope at least one would break through, but they didn't start spending until they took Roby 68th.

But here's what I am getting at, and I am curious what you think:

Does the fact the Titans would go a sixth time into that group to sign a player who came into the league out of mighty D-II Tiffin as an unrestricted free agent serve as a testament to just how hard it is to find the right guy in a class?

Or is it an indictment of their ability to sift through a group and find the talent?

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

New Texans defensive end Antonio Smith knows Frank Bush from their time together in Arizona. Bush is now Houston's defensive coordinator. John McClain has details.

With Smith on board, the Texans are more likely to look to an outside linebacker in the first round, blogs McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

Raymond Berry provides some context about getting older as a receiver as he considers Marvin Harrison, writes Phil Richards.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Nothing this morning.

Tennessee Titans

David Climer says Vince Young needs to watch and learn from Kerry Collins a lot more than he did in 2008.

The Titans lost Brandon Jones to San Francisco and Eric King to Detroit. Sunday, they host Pittsburgh free agent wide receiver Nate Washington, say Jim Wyatt and Gary Estwick.

A lunchtime look around

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
1:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

I can't believe this, but Oilers/Titans Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews is joining the Texans coaching staff. I would have bet a lot against that one. He must have gotten bored at home.

We knew Eugene Wilson had a new deal. The National Football Post has contract details.

The Sage Rosenfels to Minnesota trade is official.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are now thin at linebacker, writes Mike Chappell.

Indy announced it tendered exclusive rights free agents offensive lineman Dan Federkeil, who also was offered a tender as an exclusive rights free agent in addition to running back Lance Ball, linebacker Buster Davis and defensive tackle Daniel Muir.

The team also confirmed it's added the following players since the end of the 2008 season: Linebacker Rufus Alexander, defensive back Brannon Condren, punter Mike Dragosavich (waiver claim), defensive back Brandon Foster, wide receiver Sam Giguere, tackle Corey Hilliard, defensive back Travis Key, linebacker Michael Okwo, tight end Jamie Petrowski, wide receiver Taj Smith and defensive back Brandon Sumrall.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tim Graham says choosing the Patriots over the Bills was easy for Fred Taylor.

Keeping Brad Meester was a good move, says Cole Pepper.

Tennessee Titans

David Climer would like the Titans to take a new approach at receiver.

The agent for receiver Nate Washington expects him to visit the Titans. Also interested: Lions, Buccaneers, Rams and Vikings. He's in Detroit Friday, according to Jim Wyatt.

Titans free agent receiver Brandon Jones will visit the 49ers, says Wyatt.

Defensive tackle Chris Canty is slated to visit the Titans Saturday after a stop in Washington.

The Titans have ratcheted up efforts to hold onto Chris Simms, says Terry McCormick.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Good morning from Lucas Oil Stadium. We'll heard from defensive linemen and linebackers Saturday, with some running backs and receivers spilling over from Friday.

I've been talking to a lot of people about the financial implications of Albert Haynesworth's pending free agency and will have a column on that up this afternoon.

As usual, let's start off with the significant headlines from around the division:

Houston Texans

  • The Texans tell their side of the Dunta Robinson franchise tag story. Here's John McClain's account.

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • The team's failings in drafts past and free agency leave it in need of wide receivers again, says Michael C. Wright who talked to Jack Del Rio.
  • Count Jeff Fisher among those who think Fred Taylor can still play, says Wright.
  • Gene Frenette is watching the Maurice Jones-Drew contract situation.
  • What's going to become of Jerry Porter? Our own Bill Williamson says he could wind up back in Oakland.

Tennessee Titans

  • Updates on Kerry Collins, Albert Haynesworth and Vince Young from Jim Wyatt.
  • Brandon Jones' agent says the receiver is expecting to hit the market, according to Wyatt.
  • The draft looks solid with first-round receivers, says Wyatt.
  • Young met with Jeff Fisher to talk about the future, writes Terry McCormick.
  • Nnamdi Asomugha's new contract shows that the Titans got a steal when they locked up Cortland Finnegan before the 2008 season, blogs Wyatt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

They are easy matches for mock drafters.

Give the Colts the best defensive tackle you can find at 27. Insert the top remaining wide receiver next to the Titans' line at 30.

But presuming those picks is a mistake on both counts, unless you are banking on those teams breaking from their staunch recent histories.

Indianapolis looks to draft the best player available early on, and after a couple top interior linemen go early, team president Bill Polian said defensive tackle value doesn't usually re-emerge until the later rounds.

And the Titans, who once passed on Randy Moss, haven't touched a receiver in the first round since they took Kevin Dyson ahead of Moss in 1998, giving off a vibe since that it's just too unpredictable a position to value so highly.

 
  Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images
  The Colts would be bucking a trend by picking Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry in the first round.

Indianapolis suffered on the interior defensive line last season, not because it had planned poorly, but because of two surprises: Quinn Pitcock, a fourth rounder out of Ohio State in 2007, decided to quit football before training camp last year. Ed Johnson, who'd been an impact player as an undrafted free agent in 2007, was on a zero tolerance policy, got in some trouble after one game in 2008 and was let go.

The Colts will add multiple interior linemen between now and training camp, but they will likely come with a pick or two later in the draft, and inevitably, with a potential diamond in the rough they don't even need to spend a pick on. Besides Pitcock, Polian hasn't drafted a defensive tackle since 2002, when Larry Triplett was a second rounder and David Pugh a sixth rounder. In 11 years, Polian's drafted five players at the position, only Triplett higher than the fourth round.

"I've always approached the draft as take the best player no matter what the position is," Polian said. "Don't worry about filling a need, you can do that later in the draft. Take the best player in the first two rounds, whoever he is."

So it's fair to say through much of his tenure he hasn't seen a lot of defensive tackles of value available with his highest picks?

"Yeah, that's probably correct," he said. "They go in the first 15 usually, then you see them resurface in the latter rounds -- five, six, seven."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

A newsier day in the AFC South. Here's what you need to read ...

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

  • A man who says he was shot by Colts receiver Marvin Harrison was convicted of a misdemeanor.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • New GM Gene Smith has control of the roster and contracts, reports Vito Stellino.
  • The buck now stops with Smith, says Gene Frenette.
  • Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich is hoping the Super Bowl is his last game as a backup, writes Frenette.

Tennessee Titans

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

We can talk about the Titans and wide receivers constantly -- from now until the end of Jeff Fisher's tenure as the team's coach -- and odds are, the majority of you won't be happy with what the team does.

I do my part to relay the team's MO -- it's not going to spend a first-rounder (or maybe even a second-rounder) on a wide receiver, it isn't going to chase the top guys in free agency and it isn't going to deal for a top name.

The Titans will look to add a speedy playmaker or two who will be a value and contribute beyond expectations. They will steer clear of anyone they think could underachieve, have constant hamstring problems or be an attitude problem.

That is in this team's DNA, and it would be a major departure for them to do anything differently.

Besides, as one participant in a recent AFC South chat said, why is everyone so obsessed with wide receivers? The Cowboys had them and missed the playoffs. The Titans didn't and had the best record in the league.

Fisher basically outlined his thinking about wide receivers earlier this week.

Here is the pertinent piece of the press conference (the italic and bold emphasis is mine).

On how high a priority it is to acquire a playmaking wide receiver:

Jeff Fisher: We're going to try to upgrade our roster at all the positions. I thought Justin [Gage] made plays, Brandon [Jones] came in and made plays, I thought Justin McCareins when healthy made some plays. But it will be a priority for us. I think Kerry [Collins'] play illustrated that you don't necessarily need what is referred to as a big-time weapon outside. [If] you get the ball off on time, people get to the right spots, you make plays. But certainly we're looking to upgrade that position as well as others.

On if he's disappointed that rookie receiver Lavelle Hawkins did not make a breakthrough:

JF: No, I'm not disappointed at Hawk. Hawk's going to be a good player. I'll give you an example, I had a real good conversation with a number of players as they were departing, Brandon Jones in particular. I thought Brandon Jones improved significantly this year and I reminded Brandon about Derrick Mason's road and how it took Derrick three or four years. Despite the fact that you may not care for Derrick's antics on the field, Derrick is a real good player and it took Derrick time. You just keep working. You work to get better and then all the sudden it happens for you.

Tennessee UFAs to be

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

By popular demand, here's the list of the Titans' unrestricted-free-agents-to-be.

 
  AP Photo/John Russell
  When the dust settles this offseason, Albert Haynesworth could be the richest defender in the NFL.

They are in rough order of importance, with comments.

We'll give you similar lists for the Texans, Colts and Jaguars soon.

  1. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth: In line to be highest-paid defender in football. A critical piece of what the Titans do.
  2. Quarterback Kerry Collins: The right guy for this team right now, on the field and in the locker room.
  3. Nickelback Vincent Fuller: Has provided continuity and steady play at a crucial spot.
  4. Tight end Bo Scaife: A quality target, but could end up being overpriced.
  5. Kicker Rob Bironas: Big, strong leg has been clutch for the most part.
  6. Return man/cornerback Chris Carr: Provided a huge boost to return games and was quality depth on defense.
  7. Punter Craig Hentrich: Has been great for them, but his game had dropped off some and he's talking retirement.
  8. Offensive lineman Daniel Loper: They like him a lot as a versatile backup.
  9. Cornerback Eric King: Finished hurt, but provides excellent depth when healthy.
  10. Wide receiver Brandon Jones: Coming off his steadiest season, but may be a No. 3 at best.
  11. Quarterback Chris Simms: He likes the team, the team likes him. But the No. 3 job is probably all the Titans can offer.
  12. Wide receiver Justin McCareins: Hard to imagine they can't or won't upgrade opposite Justin Gage.
  13. Cornerback Tyrone Poole: A veteran who was added late as insurance but never really needed.
  14. Cornerback Reynaldo Hill: The team made it clear by hurrying him to IR that he's got no standing left.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Peter King's All-Pro Team includes several people from the AFC South: Andre Johnson, Michael Roos, Dallas Clark, Albert Haynesworth, Cortland Finnegan and Jim Washburn. Peyton Manning is King's MVP, but not his All-Pro QB?

Meanwhile, Don Banks' All Disappointment Team features Brad Meester and Jack Del Rio, with mentions for Vince Young, Jerry Porter and Chris Myers.

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak interviewed Rod Marinelli for the Texans open defensive line coach post, says John McClain.

Richard Justice is hot and he says the dismissals of strength coach Dan Riley and trainer Kevin Bastin "rank as two of the monumental acts of stupidity in the brief history of the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Marlin Jackson is recovering well after season-ending knee surgery, writes Cliff Brunt.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Gregg Williams has started to interview for other defensive coordinator jobs. In an even bigger development, Vito Stellino actually got a comment from Williams' agent, the usually ellusive Marvin Demoff.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans expect Leroy Harris to do just fine filling in at center for the injured Kevin Mawae, writes Gary Estwick. (The team officially designated Mawae as out Friday afternoon.)

Dan Pompeii looks at Mike Heimerdinger's strong return to the Titans.

Craig Hentrich thinks he's figured out a punting problem, says The Tennessean's notebook. Also assistant coach Bart Andrus is in the mix for the CFL Argos head coaching job.

Brandon Jones and Mark Clayton were on the same side for the BCS title game, says Estwick.

Some Titans-Ravens history in pictures, from The Tennessean.

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