AFC South: Brody Eldridge

AFC South links: Ward calls it quits

July, 4, 2012
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Houston Texans

Derrick Ward announced his retirement Tuesday. The running back rushed for 469 yards and six touchdowns during his two seasons in Houston.

Indianapolis Colts

Former Colts tight end Brody Eldridge has been suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, reports KMOV.com.

The Salt Lake Tribune has a profile on new Colts assistant special-teams coach Brant Boyer, who spent 10 years in the NFL as a player, including six seasons in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Could television blackouts of Jaguars games be a thing of the past in Jacksonville? NFL owners passed a resolution that gives teams the option of allowing local telecasts even if 15 percent of non-premium tickets are unsold, reports Morris News Service's Vito Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

Despite leading the team last season with 74 receptions, Nate Washington seems like the afterthought of the Titans receiving corps going into the 2012 season -- but that suits Washington just fine, writes The Tennessean's David Climer. “It’s kind of funny to be the old man in the room,” Washington said. “I’m very blessed to be here this long, looking forward to another season and having these guys looking to me for leadership."

The Titans selected SMU defensive end Taylor Thompson in the fifth round of this year's draft, but if things work out the way the team plans, Thompson won't take one snap on defense, writes National Football Authority's Kris Knox.

Quickly catching up

May, 21, 2012
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Some thoughts on things that unfolded while I spent some time away from the blog last week. We may circle back to a few.

Houston Texans

The Texans intend to use James Casey as both their fullback and tight end. They tout his versatility and his ability to play both as part of what makes him attractive. But his single best quality is his soft hands. The Texans have a lot of people to throw to, but wherever they are lining Casey up, to maximize him as a player, they need to target him.

Houston isn’t interested in "Hard Knocks," and that shouldn’t be a surprise. I can’t imagine a camera tracking Gary Kubiak’s private training camp moments.

Indianapolis Colts

The team claimed Andre Smith off waivers from the Bears and cut Brody Eldridge in the same week. Eldridge didn’t seem to gain any traction with the new regime, which drafted two tight ends in the first three rounds. He was claimed by the Rams.

Meanwhile, former Colt Dallas Clark visited New England. It sure wouldn’t seem there is much opportunity for him with the Patriots, who’ve already got Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and signed veteran Daniel Fells earlier this offseason. It would be a surprise if Clark landed in New England unless he’s available later and someone gets hurt. He’s also visited Kansas City.

Jacksonville Jaguars

They are still the only known team that’s interested in "Hard Knocks." There is an idea floating around that they aren’t glamorous or compelling enough. But it’s a mistake to think the show needs a glamour team. Getting a thorough behind the scenes look at any team makes for compelling television, and interesting storylines abound in any camp by the mere nature of what is playing out.

Rashad Jennings is the team’s top back with Maurice Jones-Drew not participating in OTAs. I can’t see MJD getting the new deal he wants but I don’t think he’ll have a hard time learning the new offense once he arrives. Meanwhile, the capable Jennings will get valuable time after missing last season with an injury.

Tennessee Titans

There is a ton of talk about how different the Titans will be in 2012 after a full offseason for a coaching staff that worked with a quick turnaround in its first season. Receiver Nate Washington says the offense is going to sling it and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is talking about installing his stuff rather than modifying the old stuff. We’ll see how much both of those ideas come to fruition.

Eugene Amano is rehabbing from knee surgery. But if the incumbent center, regarded as the line’s weak link, loses his job, it will be to an in-house competition. Kevin Matthews is currently in the best position to make a bid for the spot. There is bound to be some awkwardness to the competition, considering Matthews’ dad, Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, coaches the offensive line.

AFC South links: No 'Knocks' for Texans

May, 18, 2012
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Houston Texans

The Texans became at least the fifth team to beg off of being the subject of HBO's "Hard Knocks" series, John McClain reported. The Texans join the Jets, Redskins, 49ers and Falcons as teams that have declined to be on the show.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts signed Justin Anderson, the Georgia guard whom they selected in the draft's seventh round, and David Legree, an undrafted quarterback from Hampton University. Indianapolis also waived tight end Brody Eldridge.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags' offense is primed for a big jump this season, at least from the vantage point of linebacker Clint Session. "I have never seen an offense since I've been here as precise and as accurate as they are now," Session told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union. "They're looking like the greatest show on turf compared to what it was last year."

The Jaguars remain a candidate to appear on HBO's "Hard Knocks" for the first time. Jacksonville participated in a similar program that aired on NFL Network in 2004, and have said they would be willing to be the subject of the HBO show.

Mike Mularkey says he has learned to stop worrying about what he can't control in his second stint as a head coach, writes Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

Citing the mad-scientist-like abilities of offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, receiver Nate Washington predicted that the Titans will be more pass-oriented than in the recent past. "Coach Palmer has been in the lab all offseason,” Washington told the Tennessean. “He’s been licking his chops to get back to us, so you can tell on his face that he has some different things up his sleeve. I think this is going to be a pretty explosive offense."

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray finally gets a full offseason to install his own schemes, writes Teresa M. Walker of the Associated Press.

The Titans want second-year linebacker Akeem Ayers to improve as a pass-rusher, writes John Glennon of the Tennessean.
INDIANAPOLIS -- At an appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium this evening, Andrew Luck said people smarter than him would be deciding on whether Coby Fleener was the guy for the Colts at No. 34.

Fleener
Fleener
Those people, led by general manager Ryan Grigson, decided Luck’s Stanford teammate was, in fact, the right guy.

Fleener is the team’s second-round pick, and will be a prime target for Luck just as he was in college.

The Colts have a couple dependable receivers in Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie. Beyond that, they’ve got a reclamation project in Donnie Avery and a tight end who’s more a blocker than a receiver in Brody Eldridge.

Fleener is a giant get and fits perfectly with the idea of surrounding Luck with weapons who will maximize his chances at success.

I wasn’t alone in being surprised he made it out of the first round.

Now I expect the Colts will start to look for defenders as they have major holes at cornerback, defensive tackle and linebacker.

RTC: No plan to turn to Jake Locker

November, 8, 2011
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Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

If the Texans truly are the real deal, Bob McNair will deserve all kinds of credit for staying the course with Gary Kubiak and seeing a larger picture, writes Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle. He believed in Kubiak when almost no one else did.

The Texans have surrendered only 2,466 yards, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Through nine games last season, they had allowed 3,687. That's an improvement of 33 percent.

Indianapolis Colts

As the Colts sink deeper, it’s misery revisited for Dan Orlovsky, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts signed blocking tight end Anthony Hill, a one-time Texans draft pick, says Chappell. We don’t know the corresponding roster move yet, but it could be Dallas Clark or Brody Eldridge to IR.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars' new wide receiver, Brian Robiskie, is convinced he can be great in the right situation, writes Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Gene Smith names Paul Posluszny, Maurice Jones-Drew and Josh Scobee as team MVPs to this point, says Tania Ganguli of the T-U.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Munchak says Matt Hasselbeck is his man and there is no plan to turn to Jake Locker, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The Titans are preparing for their second rookie quarterback in a row, but Cam Newton is a lot different than Andy Dalton, says Wyatt.
It’s not quite last season in volume, yet. But the Colts are continuing to get banged up.

They could be without their top two tight ends, Dallas Clark and Brody Eldridge, on Sunday against Jacksonville.

Clark suffered a left leg injury and Eldridge suffered a hand injury in the Colts’ loss to Atlanta in Indianapolis on Sunday.

“In both cases, I think, both guys have sustained some pretty significant injuries,” Jim Caldwell said in his meeting with the team’s press corps. “But we’ll have a report on that when we get the final findings.”

He went on to clarify what he meant by serious: “What I mean by that is more than a week or so. We’ll see what happens here in the next few days.”

Jacob Tamme, who did fine work for Peyton Manning last year after Clark was lost, is in line for more action. The Colts would have to make a move to add another tight end.

They have two on the practice squad: Mike McNeill and Dedrick Epps. They liked McNeill so much coming out of camp that he made their initial roster.
ESPN Stats & Information can now delve into playtime percentages, a great feature we will use often.

My initial reaction to the available info was merely to ask for the numbers on some key situational guys and some stars from each of our teams. Keep in mind some are influenced by time missed because of injuries.

Here’s the percentage of their team's snaps on offense or defense they’ve played.

Houston Texans: CB Kareem Jackson 74.4, CB Jason Allen 52.8, WR Kevin Walter 66.8, WR Jacoby Jones 71.5, DT Shaun Cody 35.9, DT Earl Mitchell 25.6.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Dallas Clark 86.9, TE Brody Eldridge 41.3, WR Austin Collie 59.2, CB Jacob Lacey 75.3, DE Dwight Freeney 63.1, DE Robert Mathis 64.3, DE Jamaal Anderson, 38.3, DE Tyler Brayton 45.6, S David Caldwell 44.1, S Joe Lefeged 38.1.

Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Clint Session 42.3, FB Greg Jones 40.3, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, 71.9, CB Drew Coleman 53.0, DE John Chick 25.3.

Tennessee Titans: DE Derrick Morgan 57.7, LB Will Witherspoon 83.8, DT Karl Klug 50.7, DT Jurrell Casey 56.1, TE Craig Stevens 33.6. TE Jared Cook 62.1, RB Chris Johnson 70.7.
Dallas Clark is having a tough time.

Typically among the league leaders in receptions, the Colts' tight end has missed Peyton Manning as much as anyone. He’s got just 14 catches for 136 yards. He has scored one touchdown and has a long play of 21 yards. He’s been asked to block or been taken off the field in favor of blocking tight end Brody Eldridge far more often than he’s accustomed to.

All of which has surely contributed to an alarming number of drops.

John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Info tells me that Clark has six drops this season, one fewer than he had the previous two seasons combined. Clark had seven in 2008, four in 2009, two in 2010 and five in 2001.

Roddy White leads the league with seven drops, the only player this season with more than Clark.

Among players with 25 targets this season, Clark’s ratio of drops-to-receptions (5/14 or 0.36) is highest in the league, and it’s the third-highest in the NFL among all receivers.

Jim Caldwell was asked about Clark’s drops this week.

“Every once in a while things might not go exactly as we had planned,” Caldwell said. “You run into a rough spot here and there, but the great thing about it is you recognize that it’s such and Dallas will get to work. I still think that down the line somewhere there are some big plays to be had. He’ll catch the ball and he’ll do well like he’s always down around here. Every once in a while you’ll have a little slump.”

Curtis Painter seems to be gaining confidence with more and more targets the more he plays. Clark should be next.

Wrap-up: Steelers 23, Colts 20

September, 25, 2011
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Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts are capable of competing with a good team even without Peyton Manning. But they also have little room for error. They got a giant error from left tackle Anthony Castonzo and quarterback Curtis Painter in the fourth quarter, as James Harrison stripped the quarterback and Troy Polamalu picked the ball up on a bounce and scored. And while Indianapolis pulled even, the Colts couldn't keep the Steelers from marching to a game-winning field goal at the end that dropped them to 0-3.

Things I liked: The Colts ran the ball far better than many of us thought they could (for 97 yards) and stopped the run far better than they usually do (allowing 67 yards). It makes one wonder why they didn’t fare better in both departments in their first two games. Also makes one wonder about their commitment to both moving forward.

Big question lingering for me: Why did the Colts use Dallas Clark to help block Harrison so much early on? Clark is a pass-catcher first and foremost. Brody Eldridge is a far better blocking tight end. Yet the Colts put Clark in position to block the fierce Pittsburgh outside linebacker multiple times.

Stars: It’s easy to say the Colts need to rely on Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in the absence of Manning. But a lot of other game elements have to go right for those two to dictate things. They did against the Steelers, with incredible rushing efforts and a strip sack each. Freeney also had a sack that took Pittsburgh out of field goal range.

Blame and credit: Painter was forced into action when Kerry Collins left the game with a concussion. Painter missed a wide open Pierre Garcon on a stop-and-go that beat Ike Taylor and would have been a long touchdown. And Painter didn’t sense Polamalu bearing down to strip the ball deep in the Colts’ own end. But he did orchestrate an excellent drive that produced the touchdown that pulled things to 20-20 with 5:13 remaining in the game.

Mea culpa, kinda: I wrote this week about how America was about to learn just how bad the Colts were with the first of their five prime-time appearances. They are not good. But they played a pretty good, and very entertaining, game.

What’s next: More quarterback uncertainty as Collins recovers from a concussion and the Colts sort through Painter’s performance. If Collins is out for the Oct. 3 "Monday Night Football" Game in Tampa, who’s the team’s second quarterback?

It sounds like Anthony Gonzalez will be ready to go for the Colts against the Browns Sunday.

My question is, how much will the team use its fourth receiver?

According to Pro Football Focus, Austin Collie played 33 of the Colts’ 57 offensive snaps against Houston. Indianapolis went with two tight ends more often to try to help with protection as Brody Eldridge played 20 snaps.

With that sort of distribution, where will Gonzalez fit in? Unless the Colts have a vastly different approach for the Browns than they had for the Texans, or unless the Colts suffer an injury to another receiver, I don’t envision Gonzalez getting a lot of action.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that he can’t make a big play or two when he is on the field.
TBDBrian Spurlock/US PresswireWhat are the biggest issues facing the Colts in the absence of star quarterback Peyton Manning?
Ten questions worth pondering about the Colts without Peyton Manning:

1. Who’s under the most pressure?

The obvious answer is Kerry Collins, but if the expectations are unreasonable for the 39-year-old quarterback, that’s not on him. He can still be effective, but consistency is an issue and he tends to start games slowly. That’s a problem for the Colts, who are built to jump to leads and let defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis pursue quarterbacks who are trying to throw to catch up. Those successful two-minute drills that Manning has run at the end of a half or a game won't happen as often with Collins.

2. What will we learn about Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen?

Jokes about Manning coaching the team tend to be over the top. But he certainly makes more pre-snap decisions on the field than any other quarterback in the league. Even if Collins winds up making some of those reads and determinations, Caldwell and Christensen must show they can plan effectively for him in a way they weren’t always responsible for with Manning at the controls.

3. Is the line ready to play better?

A lot of people not that familiar with how the Colts play look at the sack numbers (16 allowed in 2010) and judge Indianapolis to be one of the league’s best pass-protecting offensive lines. It’s not. The Colts spent their top two draft picks on offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana. Castonzo is slated to start at left tackle, and left guard Joe Reitz has not played in an NFL regular-season game. Ryan Diem appears to be moving from right tackle to right guard as Jeff Linkenbach, undrafted last year, takes Diem’s long-time spot. Collectively, the group must offer Collins reliable protection and block more effectively for a running game that must do more.

4. How does Collins handle blitzes and pass pressure?

[+] EnlargeKerry Collins
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesColts quarterback Kerry Collins has issues with consistency and starting slow.
Teams typically paid for blitzing Manning, but defenses will certainly try to do more to get to Collins. He didn’t move well when he was younger, and it’s certainly not a big piece of his game now. He’s not afraid to throw it away and live for another day. And former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, who coached Collins the past five years in Tennessee and game-planned against the Colts twice a year from 2002 through 2010, said Indianapolis will be equipped to counter extra blitz pressure with screens to Joseph Addai.

5. Who has a chance to shine?

Even if Manning were around, I expected the Colts to try to get the ball to rookie running back Delone Carter in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He’s different than fellow running backs Addai and Donald Brown and seems like a player who can find a tough yard even when things don’t get blocked as they should. That offensive line can get a lot of attention if it plays well. And Brody Eldridge, more of a blocking tight end, could see more time if the Colts feel like they must sacrifice three-wide sets for additional protection or run-game help.

6. Can the defense help more?

As we mentioned, it’s a team built to pass rush against an offense that must throw. The Colts have not been a good run-stopping team and the defense didn’t fare well at it in the preseason. Indianapolis is slated to face a bunch of top-level backs. We could see two veteran additions at end, Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton, get chances to contribute on run downs and help keep Freeney and Mathis fresher to rush. Rookie tackle Drake Nevis can help too. Overall, the philosophy of limiting big plays and making teams move it a little at a time has worked well enough. It’s not like they can make a dramatic change in it now.

7. What about special teams?

It’s been a neglected area for much of the Manning era. The offense is good at driving the ball down the field and doesn’t often get a good return to set up field position. While Manning makes big dollars, so do the team’s other stars: Freeney, Mathis, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett and Antoine Bethea. Dedicating a lot of pay to that core means the team doesn’t have a lot of veteran backups, and veteran backups make up the backbone of good special teams units. This also is an area where things can’t really be changed because they are dictated by personnel.

8. What if Collins goes down?

Curtis Painter, a sixth-round draft pick from Purdue in 2009, is the third quarterback. The team is very defensive about him, but it’s an organization that works very hard to defend draft picks. But the fact is, in his limited regular-season action and in the preseason, Painter has been ineffective. If the Colts lost their backup quarterback and had to turn to Painter, they’d be in giant trouble. I can’t see Indianapolis going after another veteran now. David Garrard, released by the Jaguars this week, should find a job better than what the Colts might have to offer. I don’t see Indy being interested in him anyway.

9. Will the offense slow down?

As experienced and as wily as Collins may be, it’s difficult to imagine him being able to play at Manning’s pace, snapping the ball to catch defenses with too many men on the field or flapping his arms while changing, or pretending to change, what’s about to unfold. The Colts, however, benefit from locking defenses into personnel groupings. If Indy doesn’t huddle or take the time to substitute, the opponent can’t either. Whether they can, or want to try to, maintain that as an advantage remains to be seen. If they huddle more, they allow defenses to adjust more, too.

10. If the season is a total bomb, would they want Stanford QB Andrew Luck in the draft?

The deal Manning just signed is for five years. But if Indianapolis vice chairman Bill Polian had a chance at a guy who’s regarded as the best college quarterback to come out since, perhaps, Manning, I don’t see how the Colts wouldn’t take him and let him learn under Manning. But a four-year wait for Luck to play couldn’t happen either, and the Colts would have to craft a long-term plan.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- It’s trendy to call the Colts aging and to view the Texans and even the Jaguars as up-and-comers in the AFC South.

But if Indianapolis is healthy, it’s awfully risky to be ahead of the curve regarding its demise.

This is a team that lost a ton of talent to injury last season and still won the division at 10-6. It’s added some nice pieces on defense through bargain-basement free-agency. It drafted two offensive tackles who should be pillars, and also selected a short-yardage back.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a big rebound year, and most teams aren’t even talking rebound when it comes to following a division title.

“I think it’s really the same team,” middle linebacker Gary Brackett said.

The same team is a major threat to win the division and compete for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Should it break through for the third Super Bowl appearance of the Peyton Manning era, a huge prize awaits: The game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Manning’s health.

Peyton Manning
Photo/Michael ConroyIt's unclear how soon Peyton Manning will return from offseason neck surgery.
He spoke after signing his contract and has been seen around the team a couple of times during training camp at Anderson University. But like in 2008 following offseason knee surgeries, he’s not practicing.

This time it’s a result of neck surgery in May. It’s the second year in a row Manning had a neck procedure after the season. But he and the team have expressed confidence that all he needs is time and rehabilitation. It’s unlikely that a five-year, $90 million contract would have gotten done if the medical staff and management had any doubts.

While the Colts move forward without Manning, his absence also puts them in limbo. No matter how strongly they spin Curtis Painter’s performance, the defense isn’t being pushed in practice the way it would be if Manning was running the other side.

And no matter how precise the routes, how good the blocking or how well-timed the play, the offense will still need to sync it all up with the star quarterback once he returns.

That knee in 2008 limited him early, when the team struggled out of the gate. Coming back from a neck injury, Manning is less likely to have any sort of mechanical issues or physical limitations that affect his passing. That’s one case for expecting a better start after so much missed time.

The timetable for his return is unknown. You know the drill: They say he’s progressing well, that they are optimistic, etc., and no one outside a very tight circle has any real idea when he will re-emerge. He was spotted once throwing with what a witness called “decent velocity.” Hey, encouraging news is encouraging news.

2. Is the secondary deep enough?

Last season, the Colts were stretched virtually everywhere. Aaron Francisco wasn’t on the team for opening day, ranking as the fourth or fifth option at strong safety, and he played a good share of the season as the starter.

Behind free safety Antoine Bethea and re-signed and healthy strong safety Melvin Bullitt, there are unproven options including Al Afalava, Joe Lefeged, Mike Newton, David Caldwell and Chip Vaughn.

And after the top three corners -- Jerraud Powers, Justin Tryon and Jacob Lacey -- there also isn’t proven depth.

“At the safety position, I’m confident that we’re going to get two guys that will emerge there,” Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said. “We see enough signs to know that there is quality in that group.

“I also think there is some quality in the backup corners. Kevin Thomas is one of them. There are some interesting guys, and they’ll play themselves on or off the roster based on the preseason. But based on what I’ve seen thus far, I’d say we’ve got a good group and one or two guys will emerge.”

They will all benefit, of course, from a better pass rush. And if Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are better supplemented by Jerry Hughes and Jamaal Anderson on the edges and Tommie Harris provides a solid nickel push in the middle, they could have one.

3. Will the passing game have enough consistent weapons?

The ability of the 2010 Colts to get production from the likes of tight end Jacob Tamme and receiver Blair White was remarkable.

Austin Collie
AP Photo/Michael ConroyThe Colts hope Austin Collie's concussion issues are in the past and that he'll be on the field for the entire season.
But if they can’t count on often-injured receiver Anthony Gonzalez or Austin Collie, who was shut down last season after concussion issues, it will be harder to make things go again.

Reggie Wayne is in fantastic shape and working hard, and will be a key target for Manning as always. Dallas Clark is back from a wrist injury. If the Colts are calling plays for those two and Pierre Garcon, Collie and Gonzalez, they can be potent. If the group shrinks, the effort is more exhausting.

Manning averaged 6.92 yards per attempt in 2010. That’s the lowest mark in his career outside of his rookie season (6.5). The Colts need to find more big plays and move the ball with a little less effort to be the kind of team they want to be.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

If the Colts get a significant contribution out of Anderson, Harris or linebacker Ernie Sims, it’ll be a win. All three signed cost-effective one-year deals that amount to low-risk, high-reward scenarios. Polian said in a normal year, the market wouldn’t have given the team an opportunity to sign players like these, veterans who are all ideally suited for Indy’s defense. If they get something from two of them, it will make for a home run. Three-for-three amounts to a grand slam. Harris looks very good so far, while Sims is recovering from an appendectomy.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Polian was singing Philip Wheeler’s praises and saying that while the team loves starting strongside linebacker Pat Angerer, it loves Wheeler too. But he failed to hold the job last season and should be able to win and hold a starting job by now. Brody Eldridge gets a mention, too. He had knee surgery after last season, and a setback means he hasn’t seen the practice field yet. They need him to be part of the run game.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Delone Carter is coming into a perfect situation as a rookie. He’s unlike any of the Colts' other running backs and should get chances in short yardage and goal-line situations. If Javarris James ran for six touchdowns last season, Carter could run for 12 this fall. The Colts can continue to praise Donald Brown, but with Joseph Addai back and Carter in the fold, when does Brown get on the field?
  • It was a surprise to find Lacey as the No. 2 cornerback at the start of camp. He was better as a rookie than in his second season. And he can be an effective piece of the secondary. But I’d bet on Tryon passing him before opening day.
  • After one long and hot afternoon practice session, two players stuck around to catch machine-thrown balls: Wayne and Bethea. Those are some solid veterans and the kind of guys any team would like to have leading the way.
  • Manning didn’t react well to TV crews that saw a recent throwing and running session. My understanding is that the Earth is still spinning, however. I understand being private, but everything and everyone cannot always be controlled. Did I miss the catastrophic outcome?
  • The buzz is good on Hughes, and with him and Anderson in the mix, the Colts may pace Freeney and Mathis better. That could make for fresher stars in December and January.
  • They won’t talk until after the season, but as of now I’d expect the Colts to try to keep both Wayne and Mathis with new contracts.
  • Jacques McClendon or Joe Reitz could be an upgrade over Kyle DeVan at left guard. The big question on the line to me -- presuming Anthony Castonzo takes over left tackle reasonably quickly -- is right guard. Mike Pollak has had sufficient opportunity, and the team can aspire to be better there. Couldn’t they be better with Ben Ijalana there until he’s ready to displace Ryan Diem at right tackle?
  • 'Tis the season for Garcon to prove he's a consistently reliable threat. He had too many drops and too many lapses last season. He needs to be more than fast. He spent more time with Manning this offseason, before the neck surgery, than he did last offseason.

Colts offer updates on injuries

July, 29, 2011
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The Colts just sent out a pre-camp injury report.

They says Peyton Manning's injury "continues to progress, but there is no timetable for his return to unrestricted activity.”

The one item of note I see here is that while most of the key players get updates that say they have “been cleared for full participation,” Austin Collie’s note on concussion recover is worded differently: He’s “been cleared to return for football activities.”

Their updates:

David Caldwell, DB
  • Injury: Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve before the start of the regular season)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Dallas Clark, TE
  • Injury: Wrist (Was placed on injured reserve on October 25, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation and will wear a splint during practices
Austin Collie, WR
  • Injury: Concussion (Was placed on injured reserve on December 22, 2010)
  • Update: All concussion symptoms have cleared and has been cleared to return for football activities
Kavell Conner, LB
  • Injury: Foot
  • Update: Has been cleared for limited participation
Brody Eldridge, TE
  • Injury: Knee
  • Update: Practice status is to be determined
Cody Glenn, LB
  • Injury: Neck (Was placed on injured reserve on November 30, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for limited participation
Anthony Gonzalez, WR
  • Injury: Knee (Was placed on injured reserve on November 6, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Kelvin Hayden, DB
  • Injury: Neck (Was placed on injured reserve on January 8, 2011)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Brandon King, DB
  • Injury: Hamstring (Was placed on injured reserve on October 19, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation

Peyton Manning, QB
  • Injury: Neck (Had surgery in the offseason)
  • Update: Injury continues to progress, but there is no timetable for his return to unrestricted activity
Devin Moore, RB
  • Injury: Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve on October 5, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Jerraud Powers, DB
  • Injury: Foot (Was placed on injured reserve on December 7, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Jamey Richard, OG
  • Injury: Hip
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Kevin Thomas, DB
  • Injury: Knee (Was placed on injured reserve on August 28, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Chip Vaughn, DB
  • Injury: Ankle and Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve on November 23, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Mel Kiper recently wrote about seven 2010 rookies he expects to have a big second year. None were from the AFC South.

Kiper mentioned seven other players, and only one plays for an AFC South team.

Of the Colts first-round pick from 2010, Kiper says: “I was shocked at how little [defensive end] Jerry Hughes saw the field. Will he rise to the challenge? The innate pass-rushing skills are there if he responds to the coaching.”

Who’s got the combination of promise and opportunity to make that second year jump?

Here’s a name for each team from me:

Houston Texans

Mitchell

Mitchell


We wrote recently about Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell (a third-rounder out of Arizona in 2010) as the guys expected to fill the nose guard role in the Texans new 3-4 deployed by new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Mitchell’s got a great outlook and will have great opportunity. While Cody will be first in line, with the new coordinator, seniority should mean less and Mitchell may have more upside once he catches on to what the Texans ask him to do. But it could take some time. He’s only been a tackle for four seasons, having played as a fullback prior to that.

Indianapolis Colts

Eldridge

Eldridge


I was big on fifth-round tight end Brody Eldridge heading into his rookie season and thought he’d have a big influence on the rushing game. He didn’t really. Injuries allowed for the emergence of Jacob Tamme, a pass catcher, and more guys involved in a three-receiver set as the team sorted through receiver injuries. I’ll say Eldridge again. With two big rookie additions to the offensive line (Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana), a new goal line style back (Delone Carter) and a healthier stable of Peyton Manning targets, he’ll have more chances to have an impact.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Smith

Smith


The Jaguars feel like their interior defensive line has turned into a strength because of the past two drafts, with 2009 third-rounder Terrance Knighton and 2010 first-rounder Tyson Alualu playing side by side. But the depth wasn’t what they’d planned on having because they lost third-rounder D'Anthony Smith early in training camp with a right Achilles injury. We don’t know what kind of pro Smith will be yet, but he stands to be an upgrade over guys like Leger Douzable, C.J. Mosley and Nate Collins, who finished last season as the interior depth.

Tennessee Titans

Williams

Williams


Mike Munchak and his offensive coordinator, Chris Palmer, simply have to find ways to get young receivers like Damian Williams to contribute earlier than their predecessors did. As a rookie third-rounder out of USC he didn’t win the return job and he didn’t get many chances at receiver, even late in the season when the Titans were foolish not to give him a thorough look. Justin Gage shouldn’t be around any longer and Williams should rank behind only Kenny Britt and Nate Washington in the Titans order, ahead of Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani. Williams had a clear connection with Kerry Collins when the two played, a result of their team working on the scout team together. Whether Collins is the veteran QB ahead of Jake Locker or not, Williams should have opportunity.
In general, we expect too much from late-round picks. (And from overall draft batting averages.)

In a recent conversation with former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist, he pointed to an article he once read in Ourlads by Joe Landers. Apologies, I couldn’t find the link.

“Using some common sense and a little investigative research, you'll find that it's rare, at least according to Landers’ study, to find a cornerback or running back or wide receiver that's really going to help you in the last three rounds,” Sundquist said. “And yet you'll find teams constantly take a reach on one of these positions.

“Evidence shows you're more likely to find a defensive tackle, offensive lineman, safety or tight end in the later rounds. Why? Most conventional wisdom says don't draft a safety or tight end high due to escalating rookie salaries and the going market at the position. As for defensive tackles or offensive linemen, it’s probably because of the greater numbers at the position. Both circumstances force down talented players at those positions.”

I went back and combed over the AFC South drafts since 2002, to see how many picks they spent on each side of the ledger Sundquist sets forth and how often the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans did well with a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick at those spots. This is, of course, highly unscientific. Metrics guys can probably shred it. But I thought it worth fiddling with.

Notables are players who played significantly, even if it’s been with another team, or recent picks who appear on track to contribute.

Houston Texans

WRs, RBs. CBs: 9

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 14

Most: Six safeties, four receivers, corners and defensive tackle

Notables: Colts

WRs, RBs. CBs: 7

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 13

Most: 13 offensive linemen

Notables: Jaguars

WRs, RBs. CBs: 12

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 9

Most: Five receivers, four offensive linemen

Notables: Titans

WRs, RBs. CBs: 14

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 16

Most: Seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers

Notables:
Of the notables from the division drafted since 2002, 73 percent (19) have been from the positions Sundquist says teams should concentrate on late while 27 percent (seven) play positions he believes should generally be avoided.

I'd be fine with the Titans not wasting yet another late pick on a receiver and with the Texans using late-rounders on something other than corners and receivers for sure. But it's not like Houston's spending late picks on safeties or the Colts use of such selections on offensive linemen have paid huge dividends either.

I'd love to read your thoughts.

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