AFC South: Calvin Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Caldwell's NFL résumé has success written all over it, from the very top all the way down to very end.

He was assistant coach and quarterback coach with the Indianapolis from 2002-08, winning a Super Bowl with them in 2006. Caldwell took over for Tony Dungy and led the Indianapolis Colts to a 14-0 start and another Super Bowl appearance in his first season in 2009.

Caldwell
Caldwell
Caldwell was fired after a 2-14 season -- and the end of Peyton Manning’s career in Indianapolis -- but rebounded nicely by being the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl in 2012.

But Caldwell admits he wasn’t sure he would end up being a head coach in the NFL again.

Those thoughts ended when the Detroit Lions (7-9 last season) named him their head coach last month.

So Manning, Joe Flacco, and now Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.

That’s not a bad group of players to coach for Caldwell.

“Fact of the matter is, very rare do you get a second opportunity,” Caldwell said. “Not only a second, but this is actually the third (time) for me if you include my stint in college as well. I was hoping, but I was also very, very satisfied working extremely hard at what I was doing in terms of coaching the position or being an offensive coordinator, whatever helped a team win. I’m not able to forecast the future. But I certainly indeed hoped that I did get another opportunity. I’m glad it happened.”

Caldwell, who was rather reserved as head coach of the Colts, noted how he’s grown as a coach from what he learned with the Colts and during his two seasons with the Ravens.

“One of things about our business is the fact that if you don’t feel like you’ve grown or developed each and every day, you’re in the wrong business," he said. "I learned something different each and every day. I had a great 10 years (in Indianapolis). We obviously had a lot of success and certainly learned a lot about what to do in terms of offensive football, learning how to develop was important in terms of how we went about doing things, but also winning consistently has a certain sound to it.”
Robert Mathis, Richard Sherman and NaVorro BowmanAP Photo, USA TODAY SportsIndianapolis' Robert Mathis, Seattle's Richard Sherman and San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman have all put up numbers that could result in defensive player of the year honors.
Denver's Peyton Manning broke passing records with his arm. Kanas City's Jamaal Charles was a treat to watch running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. Detroit's Megatron (Calvin Johnson) was simply incredible with his freakishly athletic skills at wide receiver.

But there were some players on the other side of the ball who deserve to be honored for their play this season.

The problem is deciding who deserves it more than the other players.

The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year will be named this weekend.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson discuss the top candidates for the award.

Wells: Bill, it appears that defensive player of the year is a wide-open race this season. There are a number of different players who deserve to win it. Robert Mathis in Indianapolis, Carolina's Luke Kuechly, St. Louis' Robert Quinn, Seattle's Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman, who you cover on a regular basis. Who do you think deserves the award?

SportsNation

Who deserves to win NFL defensive player of the year honors?

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    7%
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    21%
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    47%
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    19%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,271)

Williamson: Yes, Mike, there are some very solid candidates. But I have to go with the player I saw dominate for 19 weeks. Bowman is simply unbelievable. He stood out in every game. He set the tone for one of the NFL's finest defenses with his dominant play from a 3-4 inside linebacker position. Bowman had 143 tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, one he returned 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the 49ers' playoff-clinching win. Bowman excelled against both the run and the pass. He's a football player's player. Sadly, his season ended in the fourth quarter of the 49ers' loss at Seattle in the NFC title game when he suffered a torn ACL. In typical Bowman fashion, he was hurt by stripping the ball at the goal line. Mike, a player you cover, Mathis, is considered the favorite to win the DPOY. Do you think he deserves it?

Wells: I'm sure some people will call you and I homers, but I've got to give the edge to Mathis because he was a one-man wrecking crew on defense. It was personal and team oriented for Mathis. He wanted to prove the he could still be a force without playing alongside of Dwight Freeney. Mathis had no problem talking about how that added fuel to his already flaming fire. He backed it up by leading the league in sacks with 19.5. He ended up accounting for 46.4 percent of the Colts' sacks this season because they only had 42 as a team. Mathis used his infamous chop down on the quarterback's passing arm to force a league-leading eight fumbles. Those eight forced fumbles led to 35 points for Indianapolis. The Colts struggled at times defensively during the season. They would have been really bad if they didn't have Mathis on the roster. You covered games involving Seattle's Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman three times, including the NFC Championship Game. Is there a legitimate argument for either one of them to be DPOY?

Williamson: Oh, certainly on both Seattle players. Again, lots of great candidates here. Sherman and Thomas are among the best defensive players in the league and they are a big reason why the Seahawks are preparing to play in the Super Bowl. Thomas is a tone-setter at the back end of a special defense. Sherman is probably the best cornerback in the NFL and one of the best players in the game regardless of position. The 49ers tested him with the game on the line in the NFC title game and they lost because of it. There are really no wrong answers here. I can't knock Mathis or any of the other candidates. But I just think Bowman deserves to win the award because of his overall impact on the game. There's really no way for offenses to avoid him. Mike, do you think Mathis is a complete player or is he a top candidate solely on his pass-rush prowess?

Wells: This is where the argument doesn't favor Mathis. He rarely dropped back into coverage because he's a pass-rushing linebacker. I'm not saying he isn't capable of being in pass coverage, but I haven't seen him do it enough because coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense is all about getting after the quarterback with Mathis. His ability to pressure the quarterback trickles down to players like linebacker Jerrell Freeman and the entire secondary. It allows them to gamble on the ball more defensively. Some may consider Mathis a one-dimensional defensive player, but he does that one thing well. Seattle's Russell Wilson and Manning, the two starting quarterbacks in this weekend's Super Bowl, can validate that because Mathis sacked both of them during the regular season.

Is Bowman's ability to defend pass coverage the main reason you give him the edge over Mathis?

Williamson: No, it's just his overall game. Again, he impacts it in every way. Look at his stat line: There's nothing he didn't do. He was making plays on first, second and third down. And, yes, he was just as apt to make a play 15 yards downfield as he was at the line of scrimmage. In fact, on his interception return for a touchdown, he was supposed to blitz but he read the play and darted back into coverage. He had 118 solo tackles, the second most in the NFL this season. Again, there are no wrong answers here, but for me Bowman is the best answer.

NFLN survey/Super Bowl player: Colts

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The third question in the series of NFL Nation confidential survey questions leading up to the Super Bowl is: Who's the player you'd most like to see in the Super Bowl?

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson barely beat Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez in the confidential voting done by 10 players on all 32 teams in the league.

Peterson picked up 59 votes compared to Gonzalez's 56 votes. The two easily outdistanced Detroit's Calvin Johnson, who was third with 26 votes.

Peterson, one of the premier running backs in the league for years, has run for 10,115 yards and 86 touchdowns during his seven-year career. The closest he got to the Super Bowl was when the Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game during the 2009 season. The Vikings had some player named Brett Favre quarterbacking them at the time.

Gonzalez, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is the career leader in receptions (1,325), touchdowns (111) and yards (15,127) amongst tight ends.

But unlike Peterson, Gonzalez won't have an opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. Gonzalez is expected to retire after 17 years.
I have a feeling that if players could choose their own teammate, every one of the Houston Texans would have chosen Andre Johnson as the player they'd most like to see in the Super Bowl.

He's the longest-tenured Texans player, having been with the franchise since its second year, and has shared with his teammates the trials that have come with that.

But when we surveyed 320 players from around the league, they were told to choose one active non-teammate who has never played in the Super Bowl. Johnson still received 14 votes, ranking him fifth behind Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Falcons retiring tight end Tony Gonzalez, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who received votes from 15 players who will be happy to see him there this season.

Peterson (59 votes) and Gonzalez (56) were close at the top.

You get one guess on the other Texans player to get votes.

Yup, four players chose defensive end J.J. Watt.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may be 37 years old but he’s still the one person more NFL players would like to have if they were starting team from scratch -- but not by much.

Manning was named on 19.3 percent of the ballots of our NFL Nation confidential survey of 320 players, narrowly edging out Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (17.5 percent). It’s really not surprising, though, considering his record-breaking season and the importance of elite quarterbacks.

In fact, five of the top seven vote-getters in the survey were quarterbacks. Only one, however, is under 30: Luck, who turned 24 last September.

The 10 Jaguars players surveyed fell right in line with those results as well. Manning received four votes, followed by Luck (two), Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (two), New England quarterback Tom Brady (one) and Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

The Jaguars' results, and those in the overall survey, are a bit surprising because I thought the overwhelming winner in the survey would be Luck. He meets all the criteria of someone around who you’d want to build a franchise: young, talented, smart, hard working, humble, and, most of all, a quarterback.

NFLN survey/franchise player: Colts

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Quarterback Andrew Luck's NFL career consists of a total of 35 games when you add in the three playoff games he’s appeared in. It’s only taken those 35 games for Luck to earn the respect of his peers around the league.

Luck finished second behind only Peyton Manning, the player he replaced at quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts, during NFL Nation’s survey question of: If you could start a team with one player, whom would it be?

Luck received more votes than Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

And Manning, who has led the Denver Broncos to this weekend’s AFC Championship Game, barely beat Luck. Manning had 62 votes compared to Luck’s 56 votes.

I’m not surprised that so many players selected Luck. He simply knows how to win, he goes about his business the right way and he’ll be leading the Colts for at least the next decade. Punter Pat McAfee once told me that other cities have more to offer when it comes to nightlife or beaches, but if a free agent wants to win he’ll come to Indianapolis because of Luck.

McAfee is right.

Luck is 22-10 in the regular season, he’s already won an AFC South title and he won his first playoff game this season. Manning didn’t win a playoff game this early in his career.

Oh yeah, Luck’s only 24 years old.

There aren’t many other teams around the NFL who can say the same thing.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- He’s a loud, in-your-face coach, but Shawn Jefferson has had a minimal media presence.

Monday, many of us got to talk with the Tennessee Titans receivers coach for the first time in training camp.

[+] EnlargeShawn Jefferson
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyShawn Jefferson says of rookie receiver Justin Hunter: "Im really pushing the envelope with him."
He talked of tough love for a group under construction and said Justin Hunter is at a better spot right now than Calvin Johnson was at a similar stage of his career.

“With rookie receivers it’s a process,” Jefferson said. “What you have to do is you have to throw them in the fire. I’ve been putting Justin in some bad situations, I knew the odds were pretty much stacked against him. Receivers learn best when they go through the fire, so I’ve been trying to put him through as many fights or fires or whatever you want to call that so that when we get to Pittsburgh we’re battle-ready.”

Jefferson said he’s had “lesser frustrations” with Hunter than he did as the Lions receivers coach in 2007 when Johnson was a rookie.

“If we were playing golf, he’s even right now,” Jefferson said. “He’s got a really good skill set. I’m really pushing the envelope with him. I’m probably pushing it a little bit too much, but it’ll be good for him.”

Jefferson also hit on a couple other key issues pertaining to his style and his group:

His style: When he came to the Titans his wife, Marla, told him, “I hope you don’t make these kids hate you.”

He really didn’t care, though.

My goal is to make sure that they get exactly what we are trying to do on offense,” he said. “I know I am (a jerk) sometimes. I’m good with that. But I know the things I am asking them to do are vital for their growth, and it’s vital for the betterment of this team.”

How guys have responded to him: “I’m tickled inside,” he said. “They just keep giving it and giving it and giving it. I’m sitting here, waiting, thinking, ‘There’s got to be a breaking point somewhere.’ The more I ask, the more they give. They are fully bought in and they are ready to go.”

The receivers’ responsibility to young quarterback Jake Locker: “I tell my guys, ‘We are Jake’s confidence,’” Jefferson said. “Wherever Jake throws it, we have to come up with it. We have to constantly make plays for him. Because we are directly responsible for his confidence, that’s the way I feel as receivers coach.”

J.J. Watt up for an ESPY

July, 1, 2013
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Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt is a candidate for NFL player of the year in polling for the ESPYs.

You can find the ballot here.

He’s up against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

It’ll be a tough slog for Watt, and NFL MVP Peterson is the likely winner.

Watt’s the lone defender, and defenders rarely outpoint guys who accumulate statistics that help fans win fantasy leagues.

During the 2012 season, I wrote about Watt’s intention of redefining the 3-4 end position, how teams will have to build and plot to slow him and whether a defensive player will ever win MVP again.

This award is hardly as important as NFL MVP or NFL defensive player of the year, which Watt won with all but one vote.

Think he’s got a chance at it?

Gray survives Titans' staff changes

January, 17, 2013
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For a good while I’ve said I wasn’t sure defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was safe.

Now I’m pretty sure he is.

The Titans announced their staff changes this evening and Gray isn’t among them.
  • In are: Shawn Jefferson as wide receivers coach, George Henshaw as tight ends coach and Sylvester Croom as running backs coach.
  • Solidified is: Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator
  • Moving are: Dave Ragone to quarterbacks from wide receivers, Nate Kaczor to special teams coach from assistant offensive line and Chet Parlavecchio to linebackers from special teams assistant.
  • Gone as previously reported by Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean are: Frank Bush (linebackers), Alan Lowry (special teams), Jim Skipper (running backs) and John Zernhelt (tight ends).

“Over the last two weeks I have spent my time reviewing our coaching staff and interviewing numerous candidates from the college and pro ranks at a variety of positions in order to improve our coaching staff,” said Titans coach Mike Munchak in a statement. “The goal in every decision I have made has been to do whatever I believe puts us in the best position to win this year. I believe with the new coaches that we have added and some shuffling of the current coaches, we have made our staff better. We were able to add proven coaches and by moving others around, it will change the dynamic in the meeting rooms and on the field. We still have some spots remaining to fill and I am always looking to improve our staff, so it is still a work in progress.”

Notes on a few of the guys involved in the changes:
  • Ragone was one of the big surprises on Munchak’s initial staff. He came with fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer from Hartford of the UFL and deserves a great deal of responsibility for the maturation and production of Nate Washington. Now he’ll shift to the position he played and work with Jake Locker, making room for Jefferson, who’s been with the Lions the past five seasons where Calvin Johnson set a new single-season record for receiving yardage in 2012.
  • Henshaw returns to the Titans coaching staff where he spent nine seasons working with the tight ends from 1997-2005. Jeff Fisher pushed him off the staff over issues not related to the play of the tight ends.
  • Croom has been head coach at Mississippi State and has worked as an offensive coordinator and running back coach in the NFL. He was part of the Jacksonville staff last season coaching backs.
  • The fiery Parlavecchio spent the past two seasons with the Titans as the Assistant Special Teams coach. He coached linebackers at Temple from 1992-93 but after that worked as a high school coach before his Penn State teammates Munchak brought him into the NFL.

The biggest move, however, is one not made with Gray. While Munchak was quick to point out after the season that not all the points scored against the Titans were scored against the defense, the Titans gave up a franchise-record 471 points, most in the NFL.

If Munchak felt Gray did a good enough job to remain defensive coordinator, then Munchak must really feel the Titans had insufficient personnel on that side of the ball. The team needs an infusion of talent there and it can’t come strictly from the draft.

They need a free-agent class like they signed in 2006, when safety Chris Hope and linebacker David Thornton joined Tennessee from successful franchises and brought heavy doses of leadership and production.

Munchak has two years remaining on his contract. Presumably the Titans have to make the playoffs in 2013 for him to get an extension and see that last year.

He now has assembled the coaching crew with which he wants to try to meet that goal.

I suspect he’s going to be left with regret over now taking larger chances on defense.
Did Reggie Wayne get a fair shake from the Associated Press panel of 50 voters who pick the NFL All-Pro Team?

It’s easy to rant and rave and say no.

Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall are the first-teamers, with Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Andre Johnson on the second team.

Calvin Johnson got 49 votes, one short of being unanimous. Marshall got 23, Green 16.5 and Andre Johnson 8.5. Having anything less than that and having zero amount to the same thing, really.

Demaryius Thomas of Denver, Wes Welker of New England and Julio Jones of Atlanta each got one vote.

Calvin Johnson is an automatic here, with a new single-season receiving yardage record of 1,964. Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall have strong numbers though I think Johnson’s were more meaningful as they came in an offense that was ranked much higher than Chicago’s. (I know you can flip that, it’s a matter of perspective I suppose.)


Wayne had both a “low” yards per catch and a “low” touchdown total. I’m sure that’s what hurt him even as he was third in the league to Marshall and Calvin Johnson on third down with 31 catches and his third-down average (14.5) was well up from his overall average.

He was uncanny in the leadership department for a young team that has no business winning 11 games and going to the playoffs. He was a fantastic target for Andrew Luck in his rookie season. He led the way for a team that lost its head coach to a fight against leukemia for most of the year.

But most of that qualifies as intangible. Looking at the voting, panelists didn’t seem to score those sorts of things very highly.

Nothing screams unreasonable in the way things came out, though I can understand the disappointment in Indianapolis as different results would have been fair, too.

While Andre Johnson wound up a second-team choice here, two of his teammates are on the first team: J.J. Watt was a unanimous choice at defensive end while Duane Brown is one of the tackles.

Wayne hopes era of diva WRs is over

December, 7, 2012
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If you're talented enough, plenty of teams will still accept diva behavior from a wide receiver.

But rattle off the league's best guys now, and they all are far more mellow than showy, including the AFC South's two best guys: Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne. Add Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Wes Welker and while you might want to get your popcorn ready to watch them play, none of them will be heading to the sideline to propose to a cheerleader after scoring a touchdown.

I asked Wayne this week if the era of the diva wide receiver is over.

"I don’t know, I would assume so," he said. "Those guys you named, they are hard-working guys. They aren’t into all that diva stuff. I got kind of upset a couple of years ago, somebody put me into that category. I don’t even know what it means. As a professional football player at the receiver position, you know how much running and how much hard work it is that you have to dedicate yourself to, to be successful. Whenever you say those names that you did, I respect all of those guys. I respect everybody in this league, period. As far as the diva stuff, man, I hope it is gone. I hope you get more guys out there that like to work hard and go out there and enjoy playing football."

That thinking struck up a conversation with my colleague from Yahoo! Sports, Michael Silver on the radio this week.

He pointed out that if you're a quality receiver who's easy to have around, like Derrick Mason was, you can have a 15-year career. If you're Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson and you bring a tiresome act, those years at the end when you're more average aren't likely to get tacked onto your resume because of the hassle.

Randy Moss is getting one of those years now in San Francisco, but only because he appears to have come to an understanding of what he has to be at this stage.

RTC: On Texans' unsung heroes

December, 2, 2012
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Stars have shined to get the Texans to 10-1, but there has also been a roster of unsung heroes like Donnie Jones, Justin Forsett and James Casey, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

John McClain of the Chronicle runs through five keys for the Texans against the Titans, with an emphasis on defensive depth and defensive performance.

Brian Cushing is unsure about the idea of eliminating blocks below the waist, says Ganguli. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on such a block, but he knows the Texans' offense is keyed on cut blocking.

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star sees Calvin Johnson against Reggie Wayne as Megatron versus Metronome.

The next test of depth comes at defensive tackle and safety where Fili Moala and Tom Zbikowski are out, says Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Harris is an improving rookie cornerback who’s getting a lot of opportunity, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “He’s been confident the whole time and knows the system inside and out,” safety Dawan Landry said.

Gene Frenette of the Times-Union marvels at how Mike Mularkey has kept the Jaguars positive during a bad season.

The Jaguars promoted running back Richard Murphy from the practice squad and waived fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Like a number of Titans, Chris Johnson is optimistic about what Dowel Loggains will be able to do as offensive coordinator, says Jim Wyatt. Also, Tim Shaw will fill in for the injured Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker.

Fullback Collin Mooney was promoted from the practice squad, says Wyatt.

Final Word: AFC South

November, 30, 2012
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» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:

Big-play potential: The Colts' game in Detroit features the NFL’s top two players in receiving yards. The Lions' Calvin Johnson (1,257) and Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne (1,105) are the primary guys in their respective offenses. Since Johnson entered the league in 2007, they are also both in the top three in the NFL in receiving yards, with Wayne second and Johnson third behind No. 1 Roddy White. We can expect both receivers to get chances downfield. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Andrew Luck has thrown 125 passes this season that have traveled at least 15 yards downfield, the most in the league. Matthew Stafford is second with 106 such attempts. Pass defense will be an issue on both sides at Ford Field. Neither team features cornerbacks of the caliber of those receivers, which means quality pass-rushing will be extra important.

[+] EnlargeWade Phillips
AP Photo/David J. PhillipHouston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will match wits against Tennessee's Dowell Loggains, who will be calling plays for the first time.
Rematch: The Texans defeated the Titans 38-14 in Week 4. Houston is seeking a season sweep of the Titans for the second time in its history and first time since 2004. Jake Locker suffered a shoulder injury early in that game when an unblocked, blitzing Glover Quin drove Locker's nonthrowing shoulder into the ground. The big story is the coordinator matchup when the Titans have the ball. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is one of the best in the business, and he will be trying to outfox Dowell Loggains, the Titans' new offensive coordinator who will be calling his first game. The Texans have allowed more than 30 points in back-to-back games after allowing that many just once in their first nine games.

Streaking with Henne? The Jaguars seek back-to-back wins for the first time since Weeks 13 and 14 of the 2010 season. In the past two games with Chad Henne doing most of the quarterbacking, the Jaguars have jumped from 14.1 points per game to 30.5, and from 263.6 yards per game to 389.5. Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon has been a big part of that, with more receiving yards in Weeks 11 and 12 (298) than he had in the first 10 games (250). But Blackmon and the team’s other top receiver, Cecil Shorts, didn’t practice Thursday because of leg injuries; their status for Sunday’s game in Buffalo is in doubt.

Heading for 1,000: Chris Johnson needs 58 rushing yards for his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season to start his career. He would become the eighth player in NFL history to accomplish that, joining Curtis Martin and Barry Sanders (who did it for 10 consecutive seasons). The others were LaDainian Tomlinson (eight), Eric Dickerson (seven), Corey Dillon (six), Tony Dorsett and Eddie George (five each). In Johnson’s past six games, he has averaged 6.2 yards per carry and broken off 17 10-yard runs.

Also: Andre Johnson's 461 receiving yards in his past two games are the most in consecutive games in league history, per Elias Sports Bureau. With a 152-yard day, he would post the best three-game stretch ever, passing Charley Hennigan’s 612 yards for the Oilers in 1961. Johnson has been the Texans’ targeted receiver on 40.7 percent of the team’s play-action passes the past two games. Before that, he was the target on just 22.4 percent. … The Bills have been outscored by 72 points in the second half. … With a victory, Luck would become the first rookie quarterback selected No. 1 overall in the common draft era to win eight games. … The Titans rank 31st in points allowed (30.5 per game) and the Texans rank second in scoring (29.7). … Arian Foster has six consecutive 100-yard games on the road. He has scored a touchdown in every game but one.

RTC: Colts' numbers don't add up

November, 30, 2012
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Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Injuries have forced the Texans to really revamp their linebacking corps, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle.

To which I say: This includes Connor Barwin moving from weakside to strongside, which he says is kind of like moving from defensive end to linebacker. How he does in the new spot will tell us a lot about his versatility.

Antonio Smith’s fine for kicking Miami’s Richie Incognito earlier this season was reduced on appeal from $21,000 to $11,000, says Tania Ganguli.

A full injury run-through with Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

The raw numbers say Dwight Freeney is having a no-show season, says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. The film tells NFL people Freeney is having an OK season.

Both Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton are threatening Colts rookie records, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

Chappell profiles Reggie Wayne for The Sporting News. (Hat tip to Dunlevy.) "For me, motioning has helped a lot," Wayne said. "Defenses can't key on me. In the old times, they knew I'd be on the left side. There was no mystery to it. They could double me, roll coverage to my side. "Now they really have no idea where I am. That causes confusion and helps me out with matchups."

To which I say: I think Bruce Arians has been incredibly smart with the way he’s deploying Wayne.

The Colts are minus-43 in scoring differential, minus-14 in turnover ratio and 7-4 in the standings, says Chappell. Sometimes the numbers don’t add up.

Calvin Johnson will require double coverage with a safety, says Phillip B. Wilson.

“This is a bonus game for the Colts,” writes Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report. “A win would signal that perhaps they are better than they have been given credit for.”

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jason Babin found his first practice with the Jaguars refreshing, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union. The Jaguars see him as a scheme fit and are excited to add him.

Babin is low-risk, high reward, says Gene Frenette of the Times-Union.

To which I say: There was no reason for them not to try this.

This will be different than the first time Paul Posluszny went back to Buffalo to play against the team that drafted him, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union.

A year after Shad Khan’s name first surfaced in Jacksonville, the team’s owner is still making his mark in Jacksonville, says David Bauerlein of the Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Dowell Loggains “will provide a boost with his energy and attitude, players told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “In practice Wednesday, he took a hands-on approach, lining up across from receivers in one-on-one drills and playing some defense.”

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray says the next step for Kamerion Wimbley is better rushing against play-action passing, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Physical safety Al Afalava could be a good fit against the Texans, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Monte Kiffin is leaving USC after the Trojans' bowl game and will seek a return to the NFL.

To which I say: Yes, he’s 72. But his Tampa-2 style could work with the Titans' personnel. If Mike Munchak stays on as coach under his current contract which runs through only 2013 and he wants a new defensive coordinator, perhaps he’d look at Kiffin? Perhaps Kiffin would be OK with a one-year deal/audition?

RTC: Brown as NFL's top left tackle

November, 29, 2012
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Brandon Harris was fined $21,000 for his Thanksgiving Day hit on Detroit punt returner Stefan Logan, says Dale Robertson.

In the past two weeks, Andre Johnson went from 21st in receiving yards to third behind Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne, says Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle.

The league fined Ndamukong Suh $30,000 for his kick at Matt Schaub, but the Texans have moved on, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

J.J. Watt was sick and missed practice but it won’t be an issue come Sunday, says Robertson.

The lack of outside pass rush is the root of the recent defensive issues, says Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.

Duane Brown is the best left tackle in football, says Sam Monson, and his colleagues at Pro Football focus rank Brown sixth on their offensive player of the year list.

Indianapolis Colts

Bruce Arians says if Chuck Pagano rejoins the Colts this season, he’ll be the head coach not a figurehead, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Suh has a fan in Arians despite being controversial, says Chappell.

“Barring a notable collapse from (Robert) Griffin and a five-game stretch of brilliance from (Andrew) Luck, I think RG3 is going to be the deserving Offensive Rookie of the Year,” writes Bill Barnwell of Grantland.

T.Y. Hilton’s 75-yard punt return against Buffalo “was the perfect mix of great blocking and excellent vision and quickness by Hilton,” says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Mularkey on Jason Babin: “He’s had a lot of success over the last three years and we could use some help in that area and get some pressure on the quarterback. And he’ll fit what we’re doing.” Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union says the plan is to play Babin in Buffalo.

Once again, Rashad Jennings is in line to start at running back, says Vito Stellino of the T-U.

For gutting out a groin injury, running back Jalen Parmele got a game ball just before he went on IR, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Dowell Loggains’ high school coach and college coach (Houston Nutt) as well as Kerry Collins, who played for him, all have good things to say about the Titans new offensive coordinator, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Mike Munchak says the Titans won’t be making any changes on the defensive staff during the remainder of the season, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. But Munchak said he knows “we are all on notice.”

There was something about Chris Palmer’s option routes that wasn’t working, says Jake Locker, and he expects the team will move away from them now, writes Glennon.

Colin McCarthy is now dealing with a concussion, says Glennon.

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