AFC South: Chip Vaughn

A Sunday evening look around

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
9:04
PM ET
A quick look around the AFC South Sunday evening…

The Colts released eight players. Gone are guard Josh Beekman, tackle Casey Bender, receiver Joe Horn (no, not the old one), running back Devin Moore, defensive back Chip Vaughn and quarterback Mike Hartline. Linebacker Cody Glenn and defensive back Mike Newton were waived injured. If they are unclaimed, their rights revert back to Indianapolis.

The Jaguars got a pep talk from Maurice Jones-Drew, who didn’t play, after they fell behind 17-0 in Buffalo Saturday night. "I thought we were pressing a little bit too much,” he told Tania Ganguli. “There were certain things I was seeing that were very uncharacteristic of our offense. I kind of pointed those things out and said we don't practice like this, we don't work like this so why play like it? The guys, they settled down, they played well. Sometimes you just gotta point out certain things and guys understand it.”

The Texans seem optimistic about Arian Foster and his left hamstring. “Everything was positive today,” Gary Kubiak said. “It looks like we’re dealing kind of with the same thing we were dealing with at the start of camp. Hopefully get him back on the rehab train and get him ready for opening day. He’ll be day-to-day. I’ll keep you guys up to date, but we feel like we’re fortunate.”

The Titans plan to get Kenny Britt working with the first team Monday in practice. “The only reason he hasn’t been at times is just because when we got into getting ready for the game mode or the carded-periods, there was no reason for him to take away reps from someone who was actually going to play in the game,” Mike Munchak said. “I think it will be a little bit different the next couple of days where he will get a chance to run with the first group and get some reps and continue that on hopefully for the rest of the season.”

With Kerry Collins on the roster and poised to take over as the primary backup to Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter fared much better working with the Colts’ offense.

In a 24-21 loss to Green Bay at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night, the Packers utilized one defensive element Manning typically helps Indianapolis avoid: the blitz.
Manning is masterful at making teams pay when they subtract from coverage to add to the rush. But Green Bay rolled out a steady stream of blitzes, many of which featured cornerback Charles Woodson, with no fear of such repercussions from Painter.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Painter
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWithout Peyton Manning, the Packers blitzed again and again on Curtis Painter.
Indy’s offensive line is still being sorted out, and the group didn’t do particularly well or get particularly good help in minimizing the pressure. Painter didn’t get hit so much as he had to hurry, and he was hardly at his best in such circumstances.

Desmond Bishop got flagged for roughing on one blitz, and Painter threw a ball away when Woodson looped between left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Joe Reitz untouched. Another time, the quarterback made a nice throw to Reggie Wayne, who had a favorable matchup as Woodson came untouched.

No. 2 running back Donald Brown actually did reasonably well in blitz pickups, I thought, managing to keep himself between rushers and the quarterback on a couple of occasions. Still that rusher frequently contributed to a closing pocket.

The right side of the starting line, guard Ryan Diem and tackle Jeffrey Linkenbach, struggled with Clay Matthews, whose speed was more than they could handle.

Not every team is equipped to blitz the way the Packers are. But if it’s Collins instead of Manning on Sept. 11 in Houston, odds are the Texans will blitz more often and with less fear. And the Colts and Collins will have to be prepared to handle it.

Some other thoughts on what was nearly a rare Colts preseason win:

  • While Painter was better, it took a blown coverage that left Wayne wide open for a 57-yard touchdown to get him going. His second touchdown pass, to Chris Brooks, was very nice. Earlier Painter suffered because of a drop by Wayne and another by Pierre Garcon.
  • Ernie Sims was active in a lot of first-half action, his first since he signed with the Colts. Tommie Harris played for the second time, and made some plays with a sack and a tipped pass.
  • Jermichael Finley's touchdown catch on Pat Angerer was great. Angerer was tight but not turned. There aren’t many linebackers who could make a play against that.
  • According to CBS, Robert Mathis injured his hamstring in the first quarter hamstring and did not return. His counterpart at end, Dwight Freeney, made things very difficult on Green Bay tackle Chad Clifton, bulling over him a few times before using the patented spin move.
  • Diem, who false started too much last season at right guard, got called for one. An injury forced him from the game for a time, but he returned to action. Mike Pollak stepped in briefly. Jeff Saturday was the lone offensive lineman who didn’t play into the third quarter, as Pollak replaced him. Then the second-team offensive line was, left to right, Michael Toudouze, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richard, Mike Tepper and Ben Ijalana. Richard was flagged for holding but it was declined.
  • I expect good things out of rookie running back Delone Carter, mostly because I very much like the idea of Carter. This team needs a short-yardage goal-line back. He was hardly working against front line defenders, I understand. But he not only got a tough yard -- converting a third-and-1 when there was nothing there -- but he had a couple of nice longer runs. A lost fumble was overturned by challenge, and a wide run with a spin move suggested he can be more than just a between-the-tackles pounder. He did look lost in one pass-protection situation.
  • Defensive back Chip Vaughn was waved off the field by Jim Caldwell after back-to-back penalties. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty worth 15 yards and a taunting penalty worth 11 yards, the Colts gave up a touchdown and a two-point conversion, lost an onside kick and saw Green Bay move to a game-winning field goal. Vaughn will not have a good weekend. And the Colts just about refuse to win in the preseason.
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
7/29/11
12:02
PM ET
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

Austin Collie out for Chargers-Colts

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
6:26
PM ET
The Colts just issued their weekly Tuesday injury update:
"Defensive back Bob Sanders (biceps) and wide receiver Austin Collie will be out this week against San Diego. Collie will be held out as a precautionary measure. After being cleared medically to participate at New England, he encountered symptoms from his previous injury at Philadelphia (concussion), though there was no recurrence at New England. Running back Joseph Addai will progress to practice this week for conditioning purposes. Addai will participate in non-contact drills only, and a timetable for a full return to action is uncertain. The club has placed defensive back Chip Vaughn (ankle) on injured reserve, and defensive back Al Afalava has been signed as a free agent."

The Colts will use Blair White as the third wide receiver. We wrote about him earlier today.

Notes from Texans-Saints practice

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
12:45
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- The Texans-Saints practice this morning was poorly attended, relatively short and pretty uneventful.
  • New Orleans dropped more passes than you’d expect from a defending Super Bowl champ, which made life easier on rookie corner Kareem Jackson in seven-on-seven work than it should have been.
  • In a team period I saw Jackson break well on a ball aimed for Lance Moore and he made it difficult for the receiver to pull in the 12-yard pass which wound up on the turf.
  • The other most notable pass play I saw exposed an area that I see as a great concern -- depth at free safety. Dominique Barber went for a sideline pick against tight end Tory Humphrey, whiffed and allowed the reception and significant yards after the catch.
  • Trindon Holliday’s had some issues, but looked very comfortable to me fielding punts. His lateral movement and ability to skip and hop into space can be hard to believe. I hope he can earn the role so we can see some of this in a meaningful setting.
  • Joel Dreessen made a great leaping catch of a John David Booty throw in a seam between four defenders, but it probably wasn’t as good as it looked since Chip Vaughn fell down.

I talked with Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton as well as Jacoby Jones for a project you’ll see down the road. They’ll practice again Wednesday afternoon. Stay tuned for more from Metairie.

SPONSORED HEADLINES