AFC South: Chris Jones

We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine defensive lines.

Williamson’s AFC South defensive line rankings:
1) Texans (J.J. Watt, Earl Mitchell, Antonio Smith, Jared Crick, Chris Jones)
2) Titans (Ropati Pitoitua, Sammie Hill, Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Mike Martin, Lavar Edwards, Antonio Johnson)
3) Jaguars (Jason Babin, Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Tyson Alualu, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Andre Branch, Jeremy Mincey)
4) Colts (Cory Redding, Josh Chapman, Ricky Jean-Francois, Drake Nevis, Fili Moala, Aubrayo Franklin, Montori Hughes, Brandon McKinney)

I struggled a bit as I sort through that and consider how my own list should look. Ultimately I co-sign what Williamson has done here, and will explain it a bit after we talk with him.

SportsNation

Matt Williamson's ranking of AFC South defensive line units is:

  •  
    60%
  •  
    26%
  •  
    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 616)

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:

Your overall assessment of the AFC South defensive lines:

“Overall, I wouldn't say this is a fantastic division for defensive line, but I think the Jags' defensive line is a little underrated since they produced so few sacks. With Watt in the picture, Houston is pretty strong with their 3-man front.”

Does judging a couple 3-4s vs. a couple 4-3s complicate things here?

“Judging varying schemes isn't difficult, but it is hard to overlook that teams that run a 4-3 have more starting caliber linemen and of course the opposite is true when evaluating linebackers in a 3-4, but I just look at it as to how well these players do their respective jobs”

Can you rank them in order of depth?

“Just in terms of depth, I would go: Tennessee, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Houston.”

Can you name a potential breakout player?

“Morgan could break out, he pressured the quarterback well last year but didn't get home quite enough. I also think Babin is still a very good player and while he has already ‘broken out,’ he could be perfect in this new Jacksonville D.”

How big a gap do you see between Houston and Tennessee?

“As I noted, I see Tennessee as deeper than Houston, but the Texans have the star power. Watt just might be the best defensive player in football and Smith is no slouch either. Like the entire Titans' D, their defensive line is solid, but they lack a true star or difference maker.”

Are you not a believer in the Colts new additions and newfound health with Chapman and McKinney?

“It’s hard to say on the Colts. They have a lot of bodies, but who will step up? Better health of course is important, but I have a tough time handicapping their defensive line overall right now.”

As for me…

The Texans should get the biggest production and have the best player in Watt and a candidate for the second-best player in Smith. The Titans and Colts seem certain to be equipped to slow the run far better. With the change of scheme and personnel additions in Jacksonville things will improve against the run and pass.

It’s difficult for me to put the Colts last as they’ve added a lot and get Chapman and McKinney back healthy. Their crop of defensive linemen are now all 3-4 guys.

I want to bump the Titans down as I like their depth but not their lack of proven sack guys, but look behind them and it’s not as if the Jaguars or Colts do, either.

Cap and rookie signing report

June, 10, 2013
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An update on cap space and rookie signings around the AFC South:

Jacksonville Jaguars -- $26.95 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: CB Jeremy Harris (seventh round), Demetrius McCray (seventh round).

Draft picks unsigned: Six.

Tennessee Titans -- $9.69 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: OLB Zaviar Gooden (third round), C Brian Schwenke (fourth round), DE Lavar Edwards (fifth round), CB Khalid Wooten (sixth round), S Daimion Stafford (seventh round).

Draft picks unsigned: Three.

Indianapolis Colts -- $8.5 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: G Hugh Thornton (third round), C Khaled Holmes (fourth round), DT Montori Hughes (fifth round), S John Boyett (sixth round), RB Kerwynn Williams (seventh round), TE Justice Cunningham (seventh round).

Draft picks unsigned: One.

Houston Texans -- $2.8 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: OLB Sam Montgomery (third round), OLB Trevardo Williams (fourth round), OT David Quessenberry (sixth round), WR Alan Bonner (sixth round), DT Chris Jones (sixth round), TE Ryan Griffin (sixth round).

Draft picks unsigned: Three.

AFC South links: Jags cut Owens, add Love

May, 17, 2013
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Houston Texans

The team signed outside linebacker Trevardo Williams, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, to a four-year deal Thursday. The Texans have now signed five of their draft picks.

The Texans' director of college scouting, Mike Maccagnan, sat down with Nick Scurfield to give his assessment of nose tackle Chris Jones, a sixth-rounder out of Bowling Green.

The signing of Ed Reed gave the Texans defense something it has lacked the past couple of years, said Russell Baxter of ProFootballGuru.com in an interview with SportsRadio 610 Wednesday. “Even with the improved defense over the last two years, [the Texans] have never been a big takeaway team where they’ve gotten a ton of turnovers,” Baxter said. He called Reed "one of the great ball hawks of all time.”

Indianapolis Colts

Dwight Freeney ended his visit Thursday with the Chargers without a deal, Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports.

Former Colts center A.Q. Shipley welcomes the challenge of fighting for a starting spot with his new team, the Baltimore Ravens, writes Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com. “It’s been my life,” Shipley said. “I’ve had to work for everything I’ve ever had. When it comes to competing, I enjoy it and feel very confident.”

Jacksonville Jaguars

The team cut Montell Owens Thursday, reports Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Owens played in two Pro Bowls as a special-teamer with the Jaguars.

The Jaguars claimed defensive tackle Kyle Love, who was waived by the Patriots Wednesday shortly after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, reports Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. "Having consulted with leading authorities on the effects of Type 2 diabetes, we have every reason to believe that Kyle will, in the immediate future, be at 100 percent, and will be prepared to participate in training camp in a couple of months," said Richard Kopelman, Love's agent.

Tennessee Titans

Quickly adjusting to new circumstances is nothing new to Titans rookie corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Rookie offensive linemen Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke had forged a bond well before they became teammates with the Titans. After last season, they worked out together for three months in Los Angeles in preparation for the NFL combine and draft, and the two became friends, writes Greg Pogue of Fox Sports Tennessee. "We have stayed pretty close," Schwenke said of Warmack. "It was exciting when I got picked. He texted me, and we are both really excited to be here."

Texans rookie minicamp review

May, 13, 2013
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Three of the four teams in the AFC South are coming off weekend minicamps for their rookies. It's a time of year when virtually everything that comes out is positive. The teams had different levels of media availability. But as best we can, we’ll review the primary players and themes out of those camps today, starting with the Houston Texans.

The top pick:

Coach Gary Kubiak thought receiver DeAndre Hopkins made a great first impression and that Hopkins and sixth-round receiver Alan Bonner give the Texans a chance to improve yards after the catch, writes Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle. “Right now, it’s really a matter of settling him down mentally and learning what he’s doing so all the skill keeps taking over where it’s not a bog-down process,” Gary Kubiak said. “It’s going to be a big six weeks for him.”

The No. 2 pick:

D.J. Swearinger had a “savvy pick-six” at a Saturday practice, per Nick Scurfield of the team’s website. Out of his main observations from rookie camp he wrote, “The South Carolina safety plays with a ton of confidence and clearly enjoys himself on the field, and it says something about his overall skill set that a player known for big hits shined in a non-contact setting." Additional talk of Swearinger via Scurfield here.

Quarterback review:

Kubiak always heaps praise on his quarterbacks, and second-year man Case Keenum was the lead dog at this camp and got that treatment from his coach, says John McClain. Kubiak and Keenum both liked what they saw from Collin Klein who was at camp on a tryout basis, says Ganguli.

Running back opportunity:

Behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate, there is room for a third running back. Four undrafted backs know there is a chance. In addition to Dennis Johnson, George Winn, Cierre Wood and Ray Graham, the Texans also brought in Deji Karim, who scored a return touchdown against them for the Colts last year, for a tryout over the weekend, says Ganguli.

Small schools, big hopes:

Tackle David Quessenberry and Bonner arrived in Houston from small schools with the same chance as everyone else, says Dave Zangaro of CSN Houston.

Defensive lineman Chris Jones is starting off at nose tackle but will learn all the line spots, says Zangaro.

Long-shots:

Klein is not the only former Kansas State quarterback among the team’s undrafted rookies, says Ganguli. Justin Tuggle was behind Klein and moved to linebacker. Now he’s trying to earn a spot with the Texans.

Injuries:

Sam Montgomery had some lower back tightness after bad weather forced the first workout inside the practice bubble on artificial turf, said Dale Robertson. Hopkins and Bonner dealt with some cramps Friday at their first outdoor practice but returned the next day. Third-round tackle Brennan Williams suffered a knee injury but an MRI showed it to be not surgical and he should be back to work in a week, says Ganguli.

Glimpses:

Brett Coomer of the Chronicle has a slideshow from the camp.

Outside the mainstream:

At State of the Texans, Patrick Starr had observations from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

AFC South links: Using Denard Robinson

May, 10, 2013
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Houston Texans

The team signed sixth-round draft pick Chris Jones, a nose tackle out of Bowling Green, reports the Houston Chronicle's Tania Ganguli.

J.J. Watt took to Twitter last night to dispel Internet rumors that he had been in a car accident and broken both of his legs.

Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com ranked his top 150 players for fantasy, and Arian Foster was surprising left out of the top six.

Indianapolis Colts

The team has six of its seven rookie draft choices under contract heading into this weekend's minicamp, reports the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell. The lone exception is first-round pick Bjoern Werner.

Chappell takes a closer look at third-round pick Hugh Thornton, who had to deal with the murder of his mother and sister when he was growing up.

Brad Wells of Stampede Blue isn't a fan of the trade that sent A.Q. Shipley to the Ravens for a 2014 conditional draft choice.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Are the Jaguars the most stable NFL franchise in Florida? (subscription required)

In his mailbag, John Oehser details how he expects the Jaguars will use fifth-round pick Denard Robinson.

Tennessee Titans

A video report from Baptist Sports Park as rookies report for minicamp.

The Titans' secondary may employ a pressing, more aggressive style this season, writes The Tennessean's John Glennon. “Overall this year as a defense, we’ll have a little bit more of an aggressive mentality,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “I think part of that for us as cornerbacks will be getting up at the line of scrimmage and pressing, getting our hands on the wide receivers."

The team shook things up at the running back position, waiving Jamie Harper and signing free agent Jalen Parmele.
A review of the best member of the 2012 Houston Texans who’s still unsigned:

Shaun Cody, defensive tackle

Over the past four years, Cody started 57 of a possible 64 regular-season games.

In Wade Phillips’ 3-4, he worked as the nose tackle in the base defense, surrounded by far more notable players in the Houston front. He’s 30 years old and his eight seasons of wear and tear have taken a toll. In late January or early February he had “microscopic lumbar discectomy surgery for a lumbar disc herniation," per the Houston Chronicle.

There have been no indications that the Texans are interested in having him back.

Whoever is at nose tackle isn’t a part of the Texans nickel or dime packages, and they are in nickel and dime a good share of the time.

Cody missed three games last season and wound up playing 24.06 percent of the time on defense, and Earl Mitchell played 37.41 percent.

Mitchell will take over as the starter and Chris Jones, a sixth-round pick out of Bowling Green, will have the chance to win a backup job.

Others still unsigned include: Linebacker Bradie James, cornerback Stanford Routt, guard Antoine Caldwell, linebacker Barrett Ruud, safety Quintin Demps, and tackle Rashad Butler.

Assessing AFC South draft trades

April, 29, 2013
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At Football Perspective, Chase Stuart has created a new draft pick trade calculator. He’s also got a calculator based on the older Jimmy Johnson-style trade chart.

Let’s look at the trades made by AFC South teams on both calculators to see how teams did based on the historical value of the picks involved:

Trade: Titans dealt picks 40, 216 and a third-rounder in 2014 to San Francisco for pick 34.

(A future year pick is generally one round higher than would have been accepted in this year’s draft. So for the 2014 third-rounder, I used an average-value pick.)

Football Perspective: Titans got 75.625% value.
Jimmy Johnson: Titans got 102.321 % value

The players: The Titans took Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter, while the 49ers selected Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine and used the second pick in another trade.

Trade: Jaguars dealt pick 98 to Philadelphia for picks 101 and 210.

Football Perspective: Jaguars got 107.407%
Jimmy Johnson: Jaguars got 95.74%

The players: The Jaguars took South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders and Appalachian State cornerback Demetrius McCoy, while the Eagles selected USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

Trade: Texans dealt pick 160 to St. Louis for picks 184 and 198.

Football Perspective Texans got 100%
Jimmy Johnson: Texans got 109.489%

The players: The Texans traded pick 184 and took Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones, while the Rams selected Vanderbilt running back Zach Stacy.

Trade: Texans dealt picks 184 and 233 to Oakland for pick 176.

Football Perspective: Texans got 117.241%
Jimmy Johnson: Texans got 108.808%

The players: The Texans took San Jose State offensive tackle David Quessenberry, while the Raiders selected Tennessee tight end Mychal Rivera and Missouri Western defensive end David Bass.

The Texans' four sixth-rounders

April, 27, 2013
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A quick look at the Texans’ four sixth-round picks:

176th overall: David Quessenberry, OT, San Jose State

The pick came in a trade from Oakland, but was well-travelled. It was originally property of the Titans, who dealt it to Minnesota last year. It went from Minnesota to Arizona to Oakland to Houston.

Scouts Inc. says: “Quessenberry has good length, but a bit of linear build. He played left tackle in college, but showed ability to kick inside to guard at the Senior Bowl and that might be his best fit at the next level. While he lacks a prototypical anchor, he bends fairly well to gain leverage and has enough foot quickness and arm length to shuffle and mirror to stay in front of rushers.”

195th overall: Alan Bonner, WR, Jacksonville State

Rates as below average in big-play ability and average in ball skills and separation skills, but as exceptionally competitive, per Scouts Inc.

Scouts Inc. says: “Tough and fearless working the middle of the field. Competitive runner after the catch. Shows good focus in traffic and quickly secures the ball when knowing he's going to take a hit. Works to gain positioning as a run blocker. However, simply lacks size and strength to sustain and can be easily discarded by more physical defenders. He is a heady football player though, and has a natural feel for the position. Great situational and field awareness.”

198th overall: Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green

The Texans are lacking at the position after Earl Mitchell, who only has one year left on his contract. Jones will have a chance at playing time.

Scouts Inc. says: “Plays with an edge and never backs down. Instigator that can get under blocker's skin over the course of a game. Never stops working. Makes plays chasing the run and passer despite limited range and closing burst.”

201st overall: Ryan Griffin, TE, UConn

Garrett Graham is heading into the final year of his contract, and the Texans love to bring in tight ends.

Scouts Inc. says: “Generally gets a clean release and can open up and run to stretch the middle of the field and threaten the deep seams. However, appears to be very straight line and does not have elite athleticism to elevate and adjust to win one-on-one downfield battles. Does not have much elusiveness as a runner and will need a seam to pick up yards after the catch.”

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