AFC South: Chris Davis
Here’s a nugget on each team with a thought from me:
Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Colts have drafted only three offensive tackles. To put that in perspective, take note that over the last 10 years the team has spent the same amount of selections on kickers and punters (3).”
Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Jaguars have drafted nine defensive ends, but only two (Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves) have been selected within the top 100 picks.”
Kuharsky: Jaguars GM Gene Smith worked to offset that by bringing in free agent Aaron Kampman last offseason. And now it appears quite possible Smith will spend the 16th overall pick on a defensive end to complete the makeover of the line that included their top four picks from 2010.
Fortenbaugh: “Since Gary Kubiak took over as head coach in 2006, the Texans have drafted exactly 19 offensive players and 19 defensive players.”
Kuharsky: It’s nice to populate the roster in a balanced fashion. But if Houston does as it should and looks to fill a load of defensive holes in this draft, these numbers will tip to the defensive side.
Fortenbaugh: “Since 2005, the Titans have selected an average of 2.0 wide receivers per draft. Tennessee has landed at least one wideout in each of the past six drafts and has selected as many as three wide receivers two times in the last six years.”
Kuharsky: The all-star receiver roster of those past six drafts: Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams, Jonathan Orr, Paul Williams, Chris Davis, Joel Filani, Lavelle Hawkins, Kenny Britt, Dominique Edison, Damien Williams and Marc Mariani. The lone Pro Bowl appearance was Mariani last year -- as a return man.
Paul Williams, former Titans receiver, Fresno State, 2007 third round, 80th overall
Mel Kiper, 12th receiver
“… Williams will have to step it up a notch at the pro level if he’s going to reach his maximum potential. He has a chance if a team can be patient with him, coach him up, and bring him along slowly. In that scenario, he could be competing for a spot as a starter in his second or third year in the NFL. While he’s transitioning at WR, Williams will pay big dividends with his outstanding performance on special teams. His ability in this area certainly enhances his draft rating.
“Has everything you desire at the position. Is physically one of the most gifted receivers in the draft and flashed signs of brilliance at the Senior Bowl, but will require a very patient, sympathetic position coach who can improve his confidence.”
NFL Draft Scout: 16th wide receiver
COMPARES TO: Ken Lucas, Carolina – “Williams just does not impress as a wide receiver, as you can plainly see he is not happy on offense. With his previous experience and family bloodlines on defense, he would be better served playing cornerback, but needs to sit down and do a gut-check to see if he has the heart to play the game.”
After four seasons:
Fred Graves was the sort of position coach PFW suggested Williams would need, though Williams had a harsher, less patient coordinator in Mike Heimerdinger.
Williams was cut by the Titans before the start of the 2010 season and finished the season on the Houston Texans’ practice squad.
He didn’t play at all as a rookie, appeared in just five games and made just one catch for the Titans in his second year and was a practice squad guy in Year 3, doing his part to keep the Titans' never-ending search for a quality wideout moving.
Since the Williams miss, the Titans have spent five more picks on wide receivers. It’s always easy to look at a miss and see players behind him who turned out better. In this instance, Arizona got Steve Breaston in the fifth round as the Titans drafted two more non-contributing receivers after Williams in Chris Davis (fourth round) and Joel Filani (sixth).
- Diligent playbook studier Joel Dreessen is ready to take over for Owen Daniels, writes John McClain.
- Defensive end Jesse Nading got promoted from the practice squad and will take over some of Dreessen’s special-team’s duties, says John McClain.
- Brian Cushing is AFC defensive player of the week for the second time this season.
- Gary Kubiak isn’t committing to Steve Slaton or Ryan Moats as his starting running back.
- Kubiak talks about Mike Shanahan in Dennis Dillon’s piece about coaching mentors.
- The Colts are still striving to achieve balance on offense, which means running it better, say Mike Chappell.
- Tyjuan Hagler is out for the year, says Phil Richards.
- John Oehser’s weekly "Magnificent Seven" includes sections on how Jerraud Powers is mature beyond his years, considering if this is Dwight Freeney’s best year and another look at the debate about Peyton Manning resting.
- It’s time to give props to Jim Caldwell says Deshawn Zombie. I agree and enjoyed this piece.
- Mike Chappell takes questions, including one on Marlin Jackson.
- Phillip B. Wilson doesn’t expect to see Anthony Gonzalez anytime soon.
- The Colts are ready for the matchup with Houston, says Tom James.
- A Q&A with Joseph Addai from Matt Dollinger of colts.com.
- Take a look at Austin Collie’s numbers when considering Percy Harvin as offensive rookie of the year, says Stampede Blue.
- Reggie Nelson is looking to bounce back from a bad day against the Titans, says Vito Stellino.
- The Jaguars were in full pads, working on tackling Wednesday says Michael Wright.
- Touchdown Jacksonville, the organization that helped convince the NFL the city was ready for a professional football team, is being revived to help keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville, says Jesse Lynne-Kerr.
- Tradition takes time, says Vic Ketchman of jaguars.com.
- Terry O’Brien’s aimless musings and shallow thoughts on the Jaguars.
- The Chiefs are likely to turn to running back Jamaal Charles with Larry Johnson out.
- The man charged with shooting Richard Collier took the stand and denied any involvement.
- Second-chance quarterbacks Vince Young and Alex Smith square off Sunday, says Jim Wyatt.
- Chris Johnson creates a cars-for-yards program for his offensive linemen, says Wyatt.
- Johnson’s interview with The Sporting News.
- Wyatt runs through the Titans’ recent West Coast failures.
- Chris Davis is grateful for his second chance, says Terry McCormick.
- Kevin Mawae talks of his rap as a dirty player, from Gary Estwick.
- Gary Kubiak says playing at Indy is the Texans’ No. 1 challenge but they are all big now, says John McClain.
- The Texans' defense has made significant improvements, writes McClain.
- The Texans are in one of the week’s biggest games, says Pete Prisco.
- McClain’s midseason report card.
- Matt Schaub rates as one of Clifton Brown’s five guys who have lifted their teams by lifting their games.
- A breakdown of a 14-yard gain by Ryan Moats, from Lance Zierlein.
- What’s the story with Steve Slaton? Stephanie Stradley considers.
- Considering Slaton versus Moats, from Mike Kerns.
- Antoine Bethea is playing his best football yet, says Phillip B. Wilson.
- Manning getting some rest last Friday and not playing as well as he has on Sunday against San Francisco is nothing to get worked up about, says John Oehser.
- A breakdown of five drives that sputtered against the 49ers, courtesy of Deshawn Zombie.
- Texans-Colts will be a two-way test, says Matt Snyder.
- Blame the staff, not David Garrard, for the audible issues, blogs Michael C. Wright.
- A Q&A with Terrance Knighton, who likes the nickname “Pot Roast.”
- Denver and Jacksonville as underdogs were the right calls, says Vito Stellino.
- Sometimes progress is being made but it’s difficult to see, says Vic Ketchman.
- Seven games in it feels like last season, says Jonathan Loesche.
- How much longer will Jeff Fisher be Bud Adams’ guy? David Climer examines the relationship.
- The Titans brought back Chris Davis, the receiver and return man, cutting Cary Williams to make room, says Jim Wyatt.
- Kevin Mawae and Albert Haynesworth were named in a poll about the league’s dirtiest players, says Terry McCormick.
- Titans Radio previews the 49ers game.
- The 49ers are banged up.
- Five things Wyatt knows about the Titans, including that Vince Young will have to do more.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The quarterback news so far Wednesday from Tennessee isn’t about who will start Sunday in Jacksonville.
It’s that John David Booty, who tried out for Houston on Tuesday, became a member of the Titans’ practice squad.
The Titans are practicing right now. As they sort out first-team reps in a week when owner Bud Adams has reportedly instructed coach Jeff Fisher to start Young ahead of Kerry Collins, odds are they felt they needed scout-team assistance.
Fisher started the season with three quarterbacks on the roster, but the Titans cut Patrick Ramsey after three games.
Houston was likely updating contingency plans when it had Booty in for a look with a large group featuring quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends.
With Rex Grossman as the backup to Matt Schaub and No. 3 Dan Orlovsky in the first year of a lucrative deal, it’s hard to imagine the Texans making any changes at the position.
The Titans had made room for Booty Tuesday by cutting running back Lance Ball from the practice squad.
The other players Houston looked at: receiver Dallas Baker, tight end Carson Butler, receiver Patrick Carter, former Titans receiver Chris Davis, quarterback Bobby Reid and tight end Dezmond Sherrod.
e place, says Mike Chappell. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer says communication is the key, writes John Oehser. Oehser takes a question about the potential for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown to line up in the same backfield. Phillip B. Wilson looks at the Colts' preseason numbers. Deshawn Zombie says people shouldn't forget just how good a coach Tony Dungy was. One big difference with Coyer so far is movement on defense, says Stampedeblue.com. Jacksonville Jaguars The Jaguars' two free-agent additions make return trips to Philly to play against their old team, says Michael C. Wright. Mike Walker is now Mike Walker-Sims, writes Wright. Tennessee Titans Jean-Jacque Taylor says there is no shame for Vince Young in being a college legend who failed as a pro. The Titans are waiting on MRI results on Nate Washington's hamstring after he got hurt during practice, says Jim Wyatt. While Jeff Fisher downplayed it, Titans players feel pretty sure Chris Davis' DUI factored into him being cut, reports Jim Wyatt. Alternate versions of the Davis and Washington stories from Terry McCormick. Jevon Kearse and LenDale White suffered practice injuries, too, says The Tennessean. Chris Johnson offers assurances that he'll run fine when it counts, says Wyatt.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans had a somewhat eventful day as they head toward the conclusion of camp on Wednesday. The team released receiver Chris Davis and watched receiver Nate Washington go down hard.
Jeff Fisher said the move with Davis, recently charged with DUI, was more about his hamstring injury, which wouldn't allow the team any further time to evaluate him.
He said Washington's "got a little mild hamstring going, but we'll have to check it out."
Washington had the entire team holding its breath when he crumpled after streaking deep for a pass during one-on-ones against cornerback Jason McCourty. The news from Fisher could be worse once doctors get back to him.
I missed the mark completely when I allowed myself to read too much into Davis' big summer and speculate that he could follow a career path like Derrick Mason's.
"We're evaluating receivers, we've got a good group of young receivers and we didn't feel like Chris is going to make our club," Fisher said. "So with the injury and everything else to consider, it was the logical place to go for the roster spot.
I think the team will come to miss him more as a return man, but Fisher said the team "still has plenty of options."
Players seemed to calculate the DUI into the equation more than Fisher was willing to say the team did.
"The organization felt like they had to do it and that's just kind of part of it, we go with what they say and we move on," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "He had a real good spring and he was only here [healthy] for a short time in camp but he was definitely going to be in the mix for that last spot and returning and all that kind of stuff. But we move on."
The Titans also released injured guard/center Doug Datish and Fisher said the team would look to fill the two roster spots to help it get through the preseason.
Gary Kubiak was disappointed with what he saw on tape against New Orleans, says John McCain.
Versatile rookie James Casey is improving, writes McClain.
The defensive line will need to be a lot better for the Texans to be good, writes Dale Robertson.
In case you're spending all your time on offense or defense: Gary Kubiak said special teams failed in all 10 categories they work at, says Alan Burge.
Good notes breaking down what did and didn't happen against the Saints, from Lance Zierlein.
Taking a look at Steve Slaton with Calvin Watkins.
Richard Justice asks, "What's Houston's smartest franchise?"
There is an art to giving autographs and Peyton Manning talks about his approach with Bob Kravitz.
Clint Sessions is more aerodynamic without his dreads, says Phillip B. Wilson.
Bill Polian thinks rookie contracts are "crazy," says Mike Chappell.
Looking back at Philadelphia and ahead to Detroit with John Oehser.
The Jaguars will be entering a charged atmosphere in Philadelphia with Michael Vick in line to play, says Vito Stellino.
Troy Williamson is reviving his career, writes Stellino.
Fancy dresser David Garrard must regain the form that got him his big contract, says Alex Marvez.
Vic Ketchman questions my affection for Jacksonville's chocolate fountain. I stand firm. Love the thing.
The Titans' offense needs to get moving, says Jim Wyatt.
Chris Davis' hamstring will keep him out of the Cleveland game.
David Stewart doesn't have much to say, writes Terry McCormick.
Mark Jones says this is the week we finally see him work as a returner in a game, says Wyatt.
Vince Young practiced well Sunday, connecting a lot with Bo Scaife, blogs Wyatt.
The Titans cost themselves a couple of nights off because of penalties in Dallas, says Wyatt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
ARLINGTON, Texas -- I've seen Cowboys Stadium from a distance and will head over in a while. You'll find a post with some first impressions from there.
Meanwhile, here are three things I'll be looking for as the Titans take on the Cowboys:
1. How quickly does Jeff Fisher pull Kerry Collins? Early in the week the coach talked of Vince Young getting time with the first team, but later he indicated the plan isn't firm. I suspect if Collins is good, he'll sit relatively early and if he's not he'll play longer. Either way Young should get at least a little time with the ones, and how he fares against the Cowboys first-stringer will be of major interest.
2. What's the return game look like? One of the top punt return candidates stayed home with a hamstring injury, and Chris Davis compounded his problems with a DUI. Mark Jones might play some receiver but won't be on special teams. Ryan Mouton (ankle) will also be missing. Can any of the other guys lining up to field punts or kicks -- Jason McCourty, Javon Ringer, Rafael Little or even Tuff Harris -- make a good impression?
3. How's the pass rush? The Cowboys are slated to play starters through the first half. Do the Titans effectively rush with four, as they hope to continue to do on a regular basis, while rolling through their top defensive linemen? This should be a good indicator of how well they can track the quarterback without help from any blitzers. Two massive pieces of the Cowboys' line, left tackle Flozell Adams (340 pounds) and right guard Leonard Davis (353) can be hard to get by.
The injury to Jacques Reeves that will keep him out six to eight weeks hasn't changed Gary Kubiak's view of Dunta Robinson's absence. Unhappy with the franchise tag even though it carries a guaranteed one-year salary of nearly $10 million, Robinson hasn't signed it and is not in camp. Without him and Reeves and with Antwaun Molden on the PUP list, the team is looking at Deltha O'Neal, Jason Webster and Mike McKenzie. No word yet on an official addition.
Said Kubiak about Robinson after the team's morning practice: "I felt the same before anything happened to Jacques. We need him here. I think he needs to be here to be as good a player as he can be, and for our football team. We've got to let this situation play out, but I didn't feel any different now than before. I've felt the same way. I've wanted him here a long time ago."
The Texans practice under the lights Thursday night.
John Oehser says what he's seen from Joseph Addai so far has been encouraging and that Addai has worked hard this offseason and dealt with criticism over last year with class. I'm getting a lot of questions about who will start for the Colts, and I don't doubt it will be Addai over first-rounder Donald Brown. But I think if you've got a two-back system and a distribution plan, the guy who happens to be on the field for the first play isn't necessarily that much more important than the other guy.
Ed Johnson is happy to be in pads and working again, writes Oehser for the team's Web site.
Some thoughtful camp comments from Phillip B. Wilson.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few parting thoughts after taking in the Titans' first seven full-team training camp practices:
Chris Hope and Michael Griffin are in control: Hope may have been the best player on the field in the first five days of work. He looked to read practically everything correctly and was constantly arriving at the ball on time or early. Griffin was consistently on, too. My sense is the secondary, where Hope leads a ridiculous work ethic, is determined to prove three Pro Bowl trips last year were no fluke, and that it can make up for any potential drop off in pass rush that could result from Albert Haynesworth's departure.
Nate Washington will help more than Chris Johnson: Washington looks solid and definitely brings a speed element to the receiving group it lacked a year ago. The presumption from the time the Titans added him as a free agent has been that he will open a lot of room for Johnson. But don't overlook the positive effect he will have on Justin Gage as well. Gage is physical, increasingly comfortable and has a quality connection with Kerry Collins now. I expect big things.
This team is deep: One of the Titans scouts said he's been especially impressed with two rookies -- running back Javon Ringer and linebacker Gerald McRath. Those two help beef up the depth, which looks to be as good or better everywhere n the roster except offensive tackle and in the secondary. Right now, those are the two spots the Titans can least afford to see a starter go down.
Patrick Ramsey has a chance: Vince Young has seemed more mature and generally been more accurate. Tuesday night he was in command of a nicely executed 2:00 drill. But after a shaky first day, Patrick Ramsey has settled in. I understand the doubts about him based on his track record in the league to this point. But I also understand the confidence offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger has in him based on their relationship from Denver. Jeff Fisher said he that he expects, to be fair, to get Ramsey at least some work with the second team in preseason action. Until we see that, we won't have a great read on how the two backups to Collins compare.
Kenny Britt will have a tough time matching Jared Cook for early impact: Britt's likely to come off PUP early next week - his hamstring is better, he's just trying to regain conditioning and leg strength. Missing over a week because of his contract and then his hamstring isn't the sort of thing that should have a giant bearing on his early fate. But I don't imagine him forcing his way onto the field early in the season if Gage, Washington and Chris Davis stay on their current courses. If third-rounder Jared Cook keeps doing what he's been doing, though, the Titans will have a hard time not using the tight end in Pittsburgh on opening night. Right now, if you list the team's three most dynamic weapons on offense, I am certain Johnson is No. 1, feel confident putting Washington second and don't feel like I am stretching to place Cook third.
Enjoy @kbull53 and @ChrisJohnson28 while you can: I asked Jeff Fisher Tuesday night if there was a potential Twitter restriction or a ban during work hours in the works. He said something is coming, but declined to offer up any details until he spells things out to the locker room. It's safe guessing an organizational policy on tweeting isn't going to leave things wide open. The Chargers don't let players tweet from team headquarters. Green Bay also has a similar policy in place.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Davis is looking like he's carrying his strong OTA work over into training camp, and it's a great development for the Titans.
He's been working a lot as the team's third wide receiver and has surely benefitted from the absence at practice so far of first-round pick Kenny Britt who signed late and is on PUP coming off a hamstring issue.
I don't want to overextend, but I've been wondering if Davis might be on a growth curve like Derrick Mason experienced at the start of his career. Both were fourth round picks by Tennessee.
Mason, the Ravens receiver who recently ended a brief retirement, didn't do a heck of a lot his first two seasons (Davis has done even less), then took off as a return man in his third season and as a receiver in 2000, when he set an NFL record for all-purpose yardage.
No, I'm not predicting Davis will set any NFL records. But I could see him becoming a productive slot guy and return man.
"There are some similarities there as far as the career path is concerned," coach Jeff Fisher said. "Derrick played, he had some difficulty with injuries, he was struggling a little bit with the concepts and then got his opportunity and set the all-purpose record for yardage in a single season. Chris has a lot of abilities with the hands, he has a much better feel for what we are asking him to do and he's got tremendous ability as a returner."
The single biggest different, said Davis and quarterback Kerry Collins, is confidence.
"Chris Davis definitely is a more confident guy," Collins said. "I think he's growing into himself. He understands what he does well and he's trying to also work on his weaknesses. I like him. He's a quick guy, he's got a good feel for getting open and I think he's got some good yards after the catch ability. I hope he continues to do well, I think he's made a lot of progress."
Said Davis: "I think I have gotten better. I still have a ways to go, but I think I have progressed. Probably it's confidence -- getting the coaches and the quarterbacks behind you and believing in you too, I think I've just gained more confidence."
One play Monday afternoon was just one of several so far that illustrate his progress.
In a play-action scenario he caught a short pass on the right. Defenders were lining him up for what could have been kill shots in live action, but he's supposed to do his best to stay free and run down the field. Vincent Fuller came flying in, but Davis dodged him with a full spin, dipped his shoulder, got to the sideline and zipped along.
I thought he had another good day.
Lavelle Hawkins, who is fighting with Davis for positioning among the receivers, did not.
At the end of a drill where receivers worked on getting off a jam from a defensive back, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger called to Hawkins that "I could go over to the nursery school to listen to somebody cry all day" and went over to him to detail his complaints. Later, Hawkins was guilty of a false start in a team period and again didn't make Heimerdinger happy.
|Don McPeak/US Presswire|
|Keith Bulluck knows the window of opportunity for the Titans is getting smaller.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans believe they have all the necessary parts to contend for a championship: a top offensive line that facilitates two complementary running backs and a good decision-maker at quarterback; a swarming defense with at least one Pro Bowl talent in every unit; a clutch kicker with a big leg; a steady coaching staff under calm, cool Jeff Fisher.
But while they have a young core to build around beyond 2009, it feels like a window may be closing. Among the players in a contract year are tone-setters such as longtime linebacker Keith Bulluck, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, center Kevin Mawae, cornerback Nick Harper and defensive end Jevon Kearse.
None has played longer or more consistently than Bulluck, the outspoken 4-3 outside linebacker who has long excelled in the Titans' system with his speed, athleticism and ability to hit.
He's seen good friends and good teammates disappear from the locker room as the team judged them unaffordable or done, and lamented the losses of Eddie George, Samari Rolle, the late Steve McNair, Robaire Smith, Derrick Mason and, most recently, Albert Haynesworth.
That makes him expect he'll be next, adding to his sense of urgency: This is his last, best chance to get to a Super Bowl with the Titans.
"That window of opportunity is only open but for so long," he said. "I've been on this team going on 10 years. The window's been open two times previously and we didn't jump through it, so I feel -- for me, for the organization -- this team has to be the one to take that bound and jump through the window of opportunity. It's fair to say that."
|AP Photo/Mark Humphrey|
|The addition of wide receiver Nate Washington gives the Titans another downfield threat.|
Last year's 13-3 team returns 20 starters, and Nate Washington is an upgrade over Justin McCareins. The team is confident it has a committee that can make up for the departure of Haynesworth, and has replaced defensive linemen well through the years.
"Now it's definitely straight business and trying to win the Super Bowl," Bulluck said.
The Titans may not match last season's 10-0 start or 13-3 record. Barring injuries, they should be a playoff team and if it does prove to be Bulluck's swan song with the franchise, it's reasonable for him to expect his last game with them will be one deep in the playoffs.
1. Will the passing offense improve?
Washington gives the team a receiving speedster on the outside who should keep safeties honest, which can threaten defenses deep and help create additional room for the team's most dynamic weapon, Chris Johnson. Britt is a physical receiver who comes into the league having impressed offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger with his ability to get off the jam at the line of scrimmage. And when Cook was available 89th overall, the Titans felt he was such a value that they dealt their 2010 second-rounder to New England in order to take Cook. Such a trade is ra
re for them.
Kerry Collins will have solid protection. Now he should have better options downfield, who can do more once he delivers them the ball.
2. Will they rush and stuff the run as effectively without Haynesworth?
They will miss a player who could dominate and frequently drew double teams, and his fear-no-one, say-anything attitude gave the unit some of its swagger. But a year ago they lost their left end tandem of Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy as free agents after they'd combined for 14 sacks, and there was no talk in 2009 about how the team missed the duo. They plugged in people and moved forward.
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn has molded a lot of players into effective run-stuffers and pocket-collapsers. Free-agent addition Jovan Haye and second-round draft pick Sen'Derrick Marks are guys he wanted for the interior, just like Jason Jones, last year's second-round pick. The Titans will love it if opponents draw up protections expecting they won't be as threatening as they were with Haynesworth.
3. What will change under new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil?
Well, Fisher is a defensive coach who's overseen successful transitions at the post before. Cecil learned under the guy he replaces, current Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. So no matter how much people may want to believe Cecil will bring a blitzing mentality, the Titans won't be compromising coverage if they get sufficient pass pressure from their front four. (See No. 2 above.)
In his early days in the post, Cecil said if the Titans give up 6 yards on third-and-seven, he'll say yippee or hurrah as the defense leaves the field having held. Expect a Schwartz-like emphasis on third-down percentage and points allowed.
|AP Photo/Mark Humphrey|
|The Titans hope a lighter LenDale White can remain a steady complement to Chris Johnson.|
LenDale White said he was as heavy as 265 in 2009 and reported to camp at 228. It's a contract year and that was certainly part of the motivation, but he's matured, too, and has been a good teammate for the bulk of his first three seasons. Given the same sort of key-situation carries he got last year, when he scored 15 touchdowns, he can be an even more effective complement to Johnson.
Newcomer to watch
Bo Scaife wasn't as much of a target down the stretch last season, and while he's got a knack for a tough catch in a crucial spot, Cook brings much more upside. If he can run the sort of routes and make the type of catches he did in OTAs and the early days of camp, he could become a prominent piece of the offense in short order. If he can earn his way onto the field, he will be able to outrun linebackers and outmuscle defensive backs. First he'll have to prove to be a reliable route-runner and show he's got dependable hands.
Leroy Harris worked as the starting center at the start of camp while Mawae completed his recovery from an elbow injury. It's unlikely the stronger but less experienced Harris can win the job, but he gives Tennessee great security at center and guard. Now the Titans need to find a swing tackle to back up Michael Roos and David Stewart. ... Rookie running back Javon Ringer could quickly seize the No. 3 running back job if he can show the skills the team needs from that player on special teams. ... Rookie corner Ryan Mouton has started out as Vincent Fuller's backup at nickel. Can he also get comfortable outside and provide depth behind Cortland Finnegan and Harper? Mouton, DeMarcus Faggins, Cary Williams and Jason McCourty will jostle for spots in the pecking order with Eric King and Chris Carr gone. ... The end looks to be near, mercifully, for two ineffective third-year players on offense -- running back Chris Henry and receiver Paul Williams. What might the Titans have been if they hit on their second- and third-rounders in 2007? ... After two middling years, receiver and return man Chris Davis looks like he's gained confidence and could be in line to break out, especially if Mark Jones doesn't mount a strong case for the return jobs and the last receiver slot. ... Look for high-motor defensive end Vanden Bosch, slowed by a groin injury last year, to m
ake a strong return and rank among the league's sack leaders. ... The Titans remain hopeful that Vince Young can be a solid backup to Collins, but a roster bonus of more than $4 million in 2010 calls his future with the team into question.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I took a great interest in a drill Sunday that pitted linebackers against running backs in a pass protection scenario.
I thought Stephen Tulloch was especially impressive going against the Titans running backs in the team's first practice in shoulder pads.
Here's a mini-breakdown of some of the matchups:
- Ryan Fowler ran right over Chris Johnson, and later said he intended to bull rush, which is a bit of a no-no in this scenario. He said Johnson was on him quickly and he simply did the only thing he could, not meaning to circumvent protocol.
- Tulloch just clobbered Chris Henry, who held up better in a rematch.
- Javon Ringer got beat by Colin Allred.
- After a false start, Quinton Ganther did well against Josh Stamer.
- Stanford Keglar blew past Rodney Ferguson II, which prompted Ahmard Hall to tell Ferguson "don't just stop."
- David Thornton dominated Rafael Little.
- Keith Bulluck got to the tackling dummy serving as the quarterback quickly, but Hall held him up, maybe long enough to qualify as a win.
- Keglar beat Henry to the outside.
- Ganther did well versus Gerald McGrath.
After practice, I was considering my notes/scorecard and sought clarification from running back coach Earnest Byner on what amounted to a win on a snap of the drill.
"If a guy gets good contact, shows the ability to get on a guy and then tries to run him by, that's pretty good," he said. "In that drill, the defense is supposed to win. That's really a defensive drill. If a guy can get any contact and maintain the contact for like two seconds, that's a win."
A couple important notes for context:
If they weren't on the line of scrimmage, the backs lined up very close to it. In game situations they wouldn't be so close to the defender they need to block at the snap. At a practice the backs are without one major tool -- the cut block that would take a linebacker's legs out and put him on the ground. Ganther said ideally a back will push the rusher outside, buying a quarterback who is stepping up in the pocket additional time.
"It's much easier in a game," Byner said. "You have the ability to cut block, you have the ability to use your line a little more. If you can block in that drill, the game is easy. I thought the guys did well. They sit tight, hard to the defender. I wanted that. I didn't want them to sit and be cautious and not do anything. I wanted the aggression, and I was pleased with that. We can learn from that."
Some other practice observations:
- Cornerback Tanard Davis, who finished last year on the practice squad, had a strong afternoon and has been good so far, though working against lesser players. He muscled his way in front of Chris Davis to intercept a short Vince Young pass in one-on-ones. Later, in a team period he moved in front of Paul Williams to grab another pass from Young.
- Rob Bironas, who was due back from his mystery injury, did not return. Fisher continued to decline to say what the injury was, on a day when Kenny Britt talked openly about the right hamstring that landed him on PUP. If Bironas' injury is so insignificant, than why wouldn't it be shared? It gives us all reason to believe something odd is up.
- Britt is still dealing with a right hamstring issue, so he starts out on the PUP list. Fisher didn't quite rule Britt out of the Hall of Fame Game against Buffalo, but said it's "probably unlikely." Britt sounded pretty upbeat. Fisher made it sound as if a week would be the most Britt misses.
- Jared Cook went to the ground to scoop a Young pass. He has made a lot of catches on the run or going up to get the ball, and I took note that he also looked comfortable going to the ground.
- During a two minute drill period, a sliding Nate Washington caught a Kerry Collins pass on the right with Chris Hope and Nick Harper closing. It was too close to call as to whether Washington had his right knee down in bounds before his left leg crossed the sideline. Both sides pleaded with Fisher, who got a shout out from Hope when he came to a quick verdict and the sides "split the difference" on the gain. The drive produced an Alge Crumpler touchdown catch.
- Paul Williams made a very nice, spinning, leaping sideline catch.
- Jovan Haye stepped up and crushed Henry on a carry the back tried to take up the middle.
- Ringer looks a lot better in pads, and a lot better than he did in OTAs.