AFC South: Brian Russell

AFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:16
AM ET
Houston Texans

Potential unrestricted free agents: CB Dunta Robinson, WR Kevin Walter, RB Chris Brown, DT Jeff Zgonina, G Chester Pitts, S Brian Russell, S Nick Ferguson, LS Bryan Pittman, LB Chaun Thompson, QB Rex Grossman, LB Khary Campbell, G Tutan Reyes, T Ephraim Salaam, P Matt Turk.

Potential restricted free agents: DL Tim Bulman, S John Busing, OT Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, S Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans, G Chris White.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: I don’t think the Texans will jump out and make any monumental moves. But by deciding not to tag Robinson they created another hole and saved themselves big dollars. With needs at corner, running back, free safety, interior offensive line and defensive tackle they may have more than they can address in one draft. That means they could jump out for one significant free agent – like they did last year with defensive lineman Antonio Smith -- and maybe another less expensive one or two.

Indianapolis Colts

Potential unrestricted free agents: MLB Gary Brackett, K Matt Stover.

Potential restricted free agents: WR Hank Baskett, S Antoine Bethea, S Melvin Bullitt, OL Dan Federkeil, CB Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, DT Antonio Johnson, OT Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho, DT Dan Muir, CBPR T.J. Rushing.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: Brackett is priority one and the team has indicated a plan to pay him as an upper-echelon guy. The restricted list includes a lot of key guys who will remain big factors next year. Indy is not a team that looks to bring in many outsiders for big roles and it won’t start now. Bill Polian’s said the Colts will sit back and see how things unfold in the new capless landscape.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Reggie Hayward, G Kynan Forney.

Potential restricted free agents: DT Atiyyah Ellison, LB Clint Ingram, DL Greg Peterson.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Jaguars are draft-reliant, but will also shop for bargains in free agency, hoping to plug a couple holes with high-character guys with upside who fit what they are doing. As for a big splash, it’s unlikely based on their recent busts with big-name free agents like Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence and the direction they’ve moved since.

Tennessee Titans

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, C Kevin Mawae, LB Keith Bulluck, TE Alge Crumpler, CB Nick Harper, CB Rod Hood, DE Jevon Kearse, S Kevin Kaesviharn.

Potential restricted free agents: DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson, RB LenDale White.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Titans will undergo a youth movement, especially on defense where Vanden Bosch and Bulluck, who’s recovering from ACL repair, are going to be allowed to walk. Mawae been told his only chance to return is as a backup at a backup price. Brown, Scaife and Tulloch are important guys they’ll want to retain. Beyond that, expect mostly bargain shopping.
The read of the day: Football Outsiders Vince Verhei and Tom Gower look at the division.

It’s playoffs or bust for both David Garrard and Matt Schaub, says Clifton Brown.

Houston Texans

Don’t expect LaDainian Tomlinson in Houston, says John McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

John Oehser’s position-by-position analysis gets to offensive tackles.

Tony Dungy’s joined Facebook and Twitter.

Examining the credit Bill Polian gets with Deshawn Zombie.

It’s absolutely silly to me that anyone in Indiana is thinking this way. But brace yourself. Terence Moore found some who think Peyton Manning threw that pick on purpose.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Ernest Wilford’s one-year deal is worth the veteran minimum of $630,000, reports Michael C. Wright.

Montell Owens enjoyed his recent time at Harvard, says Ryan Robinson of Jaguars.com.

The draft has better tackles than guards or centers, says Vic Ketchman.

Modest free-agent additions can be big, as Zoltan Paksa shows by comparing Brian Russell and Bernard Pollard.

Tennessee Titans

Kevin Mawae is heading for free agency and Alge Crumpler hasn’t heard anything, says Terry McCormick.

Bo Sciafe’s scheduled for a big tender, says Jim Wyatt.
NFC: D. Jackson (PHI) | S. Jackson (STL) | P. Harvin (MIN) | D. Williams (CAR)
AFC: R. Brown (MIA) | D. Sproles (SD) | J. Cribbs (CLE) | C. Johnson (TEN)

Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

A look at the players opposing teams hate to see with the ball in their hands in the open field.

Chris Johnson wants to race Usain Bolt and he’s not kidding around when he says he thinks he’d beat the 100-meter Olympic gold medalist.
 
 Don McPeak/US Presswire
 Titans running back Chris Johnson has nine plays of 30 yards or longer this season.


In the AFC South, Texans receiver Andre Johnson, Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew are all feared skill guys, opponents don’t want running with the ball in their hands. But no one ranks as a bigger threat than Johnson, the Titans’ second-year running back who may be the league’s fastest player.

He leads the NFL in rushing yards (824) and is among the top-50 rushers in the league. His 6.9-yard average is tops among backs with at least 40 carries. He leads the AFC in yards from scrimmage with 961 -- an average of 7 yards a touch.

“I don’t think any team has got too many guys that can catch him,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said before New England crushed Tennessee 59-0. “He’s absolutely a threat to go all the way anytime he’s got the ball. Just look at the Houston game. We’re talking about big time here now. This is as good as we’ve seen and as good as I’ve seen in quite a while.

“This Chris Johnson, go to the Houston game, he can go 90 yards on a draw play, third-and-10, third-and-20. He just takes it to the house. You can’t give this guy any space at all. ... He’s a terrific back. He’s got speed. He’s got quickness. He makes people miss. He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s as good a back as I’ve seen in a long time.”

Johnson absorbs his share of no gains or carries for a loss, but they are part of the trade-off for his home-run potential. The Titans have 12 plays of 30 yards or longer this season. Nine them are from Johnson -- runs of 91, 89, 57, 52, 48, 40, 32, and 30 yards and a 69-yard catch. Those have produced five of the Titans’ 12 touchdowns.

Many a team finishes with the Titans and laments a failure to tackle Johnson when they had a chance. Jacksonville safety Brian Russell was a victim Sunday when the Titans got their first win. Johnson bounced off Russell en route to the end zone.

“Their guy, he’s got some juice,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “We know that. You’ve got to keep him hemmed in, you’ve got to tackle him. You have to get population to the ball.”

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

November, 3, 2009
11/03/09
11:00
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

Falling:

Slaton
1. Steve Slaton, Texans RB.

A lost fumble early in Buffalo was enough for Gary Kubiak, who promptly decided Slaton could have the rest of the afternoon off because his ball security issues had become too big.

Reliable as a pass protector and a route runner, those qualities won’t mean much if Slaton can’t re-win the coaches’ confidence and earn chances with the ball in his hands.

2. Titans and Jaguars tackling.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson are dangerous backs capable of hitting home runs that demoralize a defense. That’s even more the case when MJD chugs out of what appears a sure tackle by Kyle Vanden Bosch or Johnson bounces right off Brian Russell.

The two defenses are sure to hear a lot about sure tackling as they return to work.

Monroe
3. Eugene Monroe, Jaguars LT.

The Jaguars offensive line has been inconsistent and some players have been upset about the musical chairs feel to the lineup. Not all the changes have been dictated by injuries.

Jack Del Rio went with Tra Thomas as the starter in Nashville, and Vanden Bosch had his most productive game and first sack. The Jaguars remain high on Monroe, but shouldn’t he be far enough along at this point that they are reluctant not to play him?

Rising:

Moats
1. Ryan Moats, Texans RB.

Given 23 carries after the early benching of fumble-prone Slaton, Moats was outstanding in Buffalo. He ran for 126 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

How Gary Kubiak distributes the carries from here is to be determined, but it would be hard for him not to give Moats a significant opportunity in Indianapolis on Sunday in what qualifies as the franchise's biggest game ever.

2. Colts’ third-down defense.

Indianapolis went into the game against San Francisco allowing opponents to convert 43.5 percent of their third down opportunities, which ranked 27th in the league.

But the 49ers often wound up in third-and-long and managed only two conversions in 12 attempts. That’s 16.6 percent. An improvement they hope to build on Sunday against the team hoping to challenge them atop the AFC South, Houston.

3. Titans offensive line.

A group that had an excellent season in 2008 has not been the same in a follow-up campaign. The Titans O-line helped Vince Young make a successful start, and his mobility helped his blocker too, and punched enough holes for Johnson to set a new single-game rushing mark.

No sacks, 228 ground yards for Johnson and 305 rushing yards overall mean Michael Roos, Eugene Amano, Kevin Mawae, Jake Scott and David Stewart had a good day.

Jags-Titans inactives and changes

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
2:51
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans promised changes beyond Vince Young for Kerry Collins.

But Jeff Fisher indicated they’d be minor and they are: Jason Jones is starting at left defensive tackle for Jovan Haye, who’s inactive, and Rod Hood is starting at left cornerback for Jason McCourty.

Who's returning for Tennessee? Not Alvin Pearman, signed after Mark Jones suffered a hamstring injury. Pearman's inactive. Look for some combination of Kevin Kaesviharn and Ryan Mouton on punts -- they are fielding them now in warmups -- and either Michael Griffin or McCourty on kickoffs.

For the Jaguars, Reggie Nelson shifts to corner to start at corner for the injured Rashean Mathis and Brian Russell replaces Nelson at free safety. (Sean Considine was in line to replace Nelson, but is sick and inactive.)

Tra Thomas is starting at left tackle for Eugene Monroe.

The list of inactives:

Jacksonville
  • Receiver Tiquan Underwood
  • Mathis
  • Considine
  • CB Brian Witherspoon
  • LB Brian Smith
  • OL Maurice Williams
  • OT Jordan Black
  • DT Greg Peterson
Tennessee
  • CB Nick Harper
  • RB Javon Ringer
  • CB Cary Williams
  • OT Mike Otto
  • Haye
  • TE Craig Stevens
  • DE Jevon Kearse
  • PR-KR Alvin Pearman

Final thoughts on Jaguars-Texans

September, 29, 2009
9/29/09
10:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


Sunday game conversations shouldn’t spill beyond Tuesday. That’s an AFC South Blog rule.

We apologize we didn’t get to see the bulk of Jaguars-Texans until late Tuesday. But having seen it, we’re compelled to hit just a few points before our deadline:

Texans:
  • Kevin Walter is the sort of deceptive and crafty receiver a lot of teams would love to have, and he’s an integral part of the Texans offense when it’s firing on all cylinders. I detailed a costly pass interference call he drew at the end earlier Tuesday. But I loved a lot of his work through this game, and really took note of the fourth-down call that got him the ball with a toss into the backfield. Bravo for that one Kyle Shanahan.
  • John Busing can be deadly at the line of scrimmage or as a blitzer. But as the strong safety asked to do things in space, he sure looked like a liability. The team will say it was splitting up work, but don’t you think the door had to be opened for Dominique Barber to get back out there, as he was at least some in the second half? (Remember, he’s the guy who left Chris Johnson uncovered a week ago when he split out wide.)
  • Tim Bulman made a phenomenal play in the first quarter on a screen to Maurice Jones-Drew. He read the play, covered ground to close on MJD as he leaked out and batted David Garrard’s pass before it arrived. How often do you see that? We’re hitting the line hard for its failures in pass rush and run defense, but that’s a major flash there.
Jaguars:
  • Mike Sims-Walker can be tantalizing. He’s a good enough player to be a significant piece of what the Jags want to do on offense. Consistency and health are the issues. And when he makes a mistake, he can’t try to cover it up. Jack Del Rio’s late challenge didn’t kill Jacksonville, but his booth guy’s got to do better and Sims-Walkers got to have enough of a sense of his late fumble not to try to sell Del Rio that his knee was down. Better scenario all around: hold on to it and help the Jags avoid what JDR called all the “drama” at the end.
  • Reggie Nelson worked some as the nickel, with Gerald Alexander and Brian Russell as the safeties. While the Texans feel like they are using additional people in the secondary because they have insufficient players, the Jaguars feel like they are still mixing and matching trying to figuring out what their best combinations are. (Especially once Sean Considine was out injured.) One of the things to like about the young Jaguars is that things are fluid for them.
  • I loved what offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter did with Mike Thomas on the end-arounds and on plays that had to be defended as if they were going to be end-arounds. I hope it’s stage one of dressing up – and stretching out – some things that serve as counterbalance to the power running stuff that’s the team’s primary offensive personality. Garrard running with the ball more was a good development as well.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


The Jaguars did some roster tinkering Tuesday, adding veteran offensive lineman Kynan Forney and veteran safety Brian Russell while cutting reserve center Dennis Norman.

Also of note: While Jack Del Rio declined recently to name his starting right guard, Maurice Williams remains in the spot on the team’s newest depth chart, with Forney listed as his backup. Uche Nwaneri is listed as the backup at center and left guard.

A bit from the team on the two newcomers:

Forney, 6-3, 302, is in his ninth NFL season and has appeared in 95 games with 88 starts at right guard. The 31-year-old Forney was released by the San Diego Chargers last week. He spent seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons from 2001-07 before joining the Chargers in 2008. Forney was part of the NFL’s top rushing attack from 2004-06 with the Falcons and was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl in 2005.

A native of Nacogdoches, Texas, Forney was originally a seventh-round pick of the Falcons in 2001 and earned a starting job as a rookie. He played collegiately at Hawaii and Trinity Valley College in Texas and currently resides in Atlanta.

Russell, 6-2, 210, is in his eighth NFL season and has played in 108 games with 94 starts for Minnesota, Cleveland and Seattle. He has started all 16 games five times in his career including the last two seasons at free safety for the Seahawks. Russell, 31, has recorded 484 career tackles, 16 interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Russell originally signed as a rookie free agent with the Vikings in 2001 and spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Over the next three years he started 50 games and tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions in 2003. He joined the Browns as a restricted free agent in 2005 and played under Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for two seasons.

A native of West Covina, California, he played collegiately at Penn before transferring to San Diego State following his freshman season. He made the transition from quarterback to defensive back midway through his junior season.

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