AFC South: Danny Clark

Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak’s got to develop a credible No. 2 quarterback says Jerome Solomon.

Kubiak might resurrect Matt Leinart’s career.

Leinart talked to Mark Berman.

Danny Clark signed with the Saints.

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Gonzalez doesn’t sound real excited about how preseason promises played out for him, writes Mike Chappell.

Brandon King is now a safety, says Chappell.

Melvin Bullitt’s attitude reveals his value, writes Bob Kravitz.

John Oehser breaks down the 53-man roster.

Jacksonville Jaguars

“For a team that started out 0-2 the last two seasons and is aiming for a fast start to build the confidence of the players and its fickle fan base, it might be the most important opening game in the history of the franchise,” writes Vito Stellino.

The Jaguars will not be blacked out Sunday in Jacksonville, says Tania Ganguli.

Sean Considine is a starter at safety and Justin Smiley is a first-team guard, says Ganguli.

Concern for players' well being has become excessive, says Vic Ketchman.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Reinfeldt won’t address Chris Mortensen’s report that the Titans are talking to the Redskins about Albert Haynesworth, writes Wyatt

The Titans know the Redskins are desperate, says Wyatt.

Chris Johnson insists 2,500 rushing yards can happen, says Jim Wyatt.

Kenny Britt’s putting the preseason behind him, says Wyatt.

Johnson recalls racing in the streets with David Boclair.
Roster and practice-squad news so far Sunday:

Houston Texans

Were awarded linebakcer David Nixon from the Oakland Raiders and cornerback Jamar Wall from the Dallas Cowboys of waivers. Released linebacker Danny Clark.

Indianapolis Colts

Signed quarterback Tom Brandstater, defensive end John Chick, receiver Brandon James, defensive back Mike Newton and receiver Blair White to the practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Were awarded defensive tackle Landon Cohen off waivers from the Detroit Lions. Released offensive lineman Paul McQuistan.

Signed offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver John Matthews, and defensive tackle Kommonyan Quaye to the practice squad.

Tennessee Titans

Were awarded linebacker Tim Shaw from the Chicago Bears and linebacker Patrick Bailey from the Pittsburgh Steelers off waivers. Released linebackers Stanford Keglar and running back LeGarrette Blount.

Signed defensive lineman Hall Davis, receiver Dominique Edison, cornerback Pete Ittersagen, center Kevin Matthews, safety Myron Rolle and linebacker Patrick Trahan to the practice squad.

Three things: Buccaneers at Texans

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
4:30
PM ET
Three things I'll be looking for in Buccaneers at Texans:

A right guard: Antoine Caldwell and Mike Brisiel are still fighting for the last unresolved starting offensive spot on the team. I have no gut feel in handicapping it and can make a case both ways for who they'd like to win it. But coach Gary Kubiak and his staff will have the last bit of film on which to decide once the night is over.

Kickers: The Texans would get killed for it, but on third-and-longs in long field goal range they should send Chris Henry up the middle and get into field goal situations. Then they should urge the crowd to pretend the attempt is to win the Super Bowl with two seconds left. Maybe that would produce something to differentiate Kris Brown and Neil Rackers.

Cushing replacement candidates: Darryl Sharpton's hype has dropped off significantly in short order and Kevin Bentley is getting talked up as the third starter during Brian Cushing's four-game suspension. Who knows if or what they can see from Xavier Adibi (groin) or Danny Clark (knee) in this game. Someone get in, play well, raise your hand and tell the coaches you want it.

Thoughts on Saints 38, Texans 20

August, 22, 2010
8/22/10
8:52
AM ET
Some bullet-point thoughts on the Texans’ 38-20 loss at New Orleans Saturday night.

Impressive:
  • Neil Rackers connected on a 52-yard field goal, a nice line on his resume as he competes for the job with Kris Brown, who hit from 43.
  • Steve Slaton had a 63-yard kickoff return. Would they be willing to use him in such a capacity during the regular season? Houston’s average drive started at the 38-yard line.
  • Reserve linebacker Danny Clark pulled in an interception of Chase Daniel.
  • Dan Orlovsky produced reasonably good numbers working behind Matt Schaub, completing 12 of 19 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
Disappointing:
  • The Texans showed a serious lack of defensive intensity and said the effort looked like what they produced in their very poor three-game start in 2009. Bad tackling was an issue.
  • Reggie Bush gashed them for a 9-yard touchdown run up the middle as if he was a power back. On seven carries he averaged seven yards.
  • Arian Foster lost a fumble. We say it over and over because it’s such an issue – the Texans have to get creative and find ways to get their backs to hold on to the ball.
  • The Texans allowed the Saints two 11-play drives and a late 18-play drive. They resulted in 17 points.
  • Saints reserve quarterback Daniel looked like Drew Brees as he threw for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Trindon Holliday hurt his campaign to win the return job with a fumbled punt.
  • Houston converted just 1-of-13 third downs and held the ball for only 20 minutes.

Camp Confidential: Houston Texans

August, 21, 2010
8/21/10
10:00
AM ET
ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 14

For three years, they’ve been picked as a breakout team. In those three years, the Houston Texans went 25-23 with zero playoff appearances.

So why are the 2010 Texans going to be different? Why do they deserve that sort of faith yet again? What’s changed when the personnel alterations have been pretty minor?

“What’s different? Experience, togetherness,” Amobi Okoye said. “I feel like by the time we will kick off, we will have the full definition of team. If there was a meter of T-E-A-M, we are right at the halfway of M… By the time the season starts, we’re going to completely spell TEAM.”

Said Bernard Pollard, the feisty safety who didn’t arrive until a few games into last season: “We have so much more team chemistry. We know and understand what we are good at. We know and understand that we can’t step out of the box and have to play our game. We’re turning that corner.”

To finally get to the postseason, the Texans have to play more complete games. They have to play better in the red zone. Perhaps above all else, they have to play better in the AFC South, where they were just 1-5 last season.

Catching the Colts is a tall task. The Texans aspire to do it, but they also know there is a route to the playoffs without a division crown. They just have to drive it more smoothly.

THREE HOT ISSUES

Can the pass rush pick it up?

[+] EnlargeMario Williams
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriThe Texans need some pass-rushing help for star end Mario Williams.
Mario Williams had nine sacks to go with a bum shoulder he’s still reluctant to talk about. He needs more support in chasing the quarterback, and the Texans need to hurry and hit quarterbacks more often to help those three young cornerbacks -- Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin and Brice McCain -- cover.

Connor Barwin should be opposite Williams on clear rush downs, and he might be the most improved player on defense. Inside, there are now alternatives to Okoye, who might just not be a good pass pressure guy. Rookie Earl Mitchell could wind up part of the nickel package along with Antonio Smith, who will shift inside to make room for Barwin.

Will the run game do its part?

Everyone is encouraged about the run game, but what’s changed? Second-round pick Ben Tate is lost with an injury. Guard Wade Smith was the only significant addition to the line, where interior issues were a big part of the problems. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is from the same school as predecessor Kyle Shanahan, and line coach John Benton learned under the departed Alex Gibbs.

“We have to get better running the football,” Andre Johnson said. “That helps win games, especially in the fourth quarter when you’re up and you want to kill the time, you have to go on those four-minute drives where you have to get those big fourth downs. We have to get better in that part of our offense.”

They are largely counting on young guys getting better, which begs the question: What if they don’t?

Are the supplementary pieces good enough?

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriHouston's stars, including Matt Schaub, match up with the best players on any NFL roster.
The Texans' stars match up with virtually anyone’s. But beyond Johnson, Williams, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans, Matt Schaub and Owen Daniels, have head coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith done enough to unearth the right sort of players on the next tier?

Pollard and Eric Winston certainly fit the bill. Antonio Smith, Kevin Walter and Zac Diles might. That next level of player might be where this team is a little short, and it’s those kinds of guys who might well be the key to transforming a good team into a very good team.

And so we’re watching the likes of Quin, Barwin, Joel Dreessen, James Casey, Jacoby Jones and the offensive line beyond Winston, because they might wind up telling the story.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Linebacker Darryl Sharpton: The Texans figured one of three veteran linebackers would be in the lineup during Cushing’s four-game suspension. But a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness has put Xavier Adibi, Danny Clark and Kevin Bentley on the backburner because rookie Darryl Sharpton's been such a consistent playmaker. He might be short, but he packs a good punch.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Injury to Ben Tate: As the Texans search for the right combination of running backs to help balance their offense, second-round pick Tate figured to be a key piece. But he was lost for the season with a serious ankle/leg injury in the preseason opener. That puts the load on Arian Foster, Steve Slaton and either Jeremiah Johnson, Chris Henry or a back not yet on the team.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Texans are regarded by some as a finesse team, but the defense is emphasizing physicality. Cushing, Pollard, Smith, Jackson, Quin and Mitchell have all joined the team in the past two years and are physical players.
  • Expect Foster to get first crack at the carries closest to the goal line as the Texans really concentrate on running better at close range. Johnson definitely could be heard from in the running game, too -- he might be the best fit for the one-cut and go zone scheme Houston uses.
  • [+] EnlargeNeil Rackers
    AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKicker Neil Rackers has a chance to beat out incumbent Kris Brown.
    If Kris Brown and Neil Rackers continue to be virtually even in the kicker competition, it makes sense for the team to go with Rackers. Sometimes guys just need a change of scenery. If Brown stays and fails on a crucial long field goal on opening day against the Colts, the thinking will be, “Why didn’t they make a change?” If Rackers does the same thing, I’ll think, “At least they tried someone different.”
  • Houston’s defensive tackles are quick, up-the-field types. But they’d sure love if their one big space-eater, Frank Okam, forced his way into action.
  • The Texans want to get the ball in the hands of Jones since he averaged 16.2 yards a catch on his 27 receptions. But I am not so sure that means he’s going to nudge ahead of Walter for the No. 2 receiver job. Walter is smart and super reliable, and reliability is awfully important. Jones might displace Walter or get a share of snaps in two-wide formations, but look for Jones most in a heavy dose of three-wide formations.
  • Troy Nolan might be a credible alternative to Eugene Wilson at free safety if Wilson gets hurt again. I’ve been critical of the team for not adding to the spot, but Nolan missed his rookie season with an injury and appears to be a high-caliber special-teamer.
  • Daniels’ speed is a big part of what helped set him apart. When he returns soon from another ACL reconstruction, will he still have it in the same way? That's the big question with him.
  • The offensive line is set with Duane Brown at left tackle, Chris Myers at center and Winston at right tackle. Guard jobs remain up for grabs. It seems to me that Wade Smith, a free-agent acquisition tailored to the system, and Antoine Caldwell, a third-rounder from 2009, would make the most sense.
  • It sounds less likely that Trindon Holliday has to be a serviceable receiver to make the team than it did during OTAs. If he convinces the team he can be a consistently special return guy, he’ll stick. He looked good to me when the Texans worked with the Saints.
When Brian Cushing's suspension came to light, Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak said pretty strongly that Zac Diles has settled in so nicely on the weak side that flipping him to the strong side while Cushing misses four games wasn’t an alternative.

Things have changed according to what the coach said to Houston media Tuesday about rookie fourth-rounder Darryl Sharpton out of Miami.

From a transcript provided by the team:
On if he’s considering Darryl Sharpton as a starter: “Well there’s consideration for him being one of our top three. He’s in the mix right now. Would we flip him to Sam? Probably we would move Zac before we move him. He’s in consideration right now and we’re going to play our three best however we go to play him.”

On if Sharpton is in the running to become a starter this season: “There’s no doubt. He’s made statements since he’s been out here in camp. Obviously, the other night he did it again.”

So while Cushing’s out, instead of seeing Xavier Adibi, Kevin Bentley or Danny Clark in his place, we could see Diles flipped and Sharpton starting -- provided Sharpton keeps playing like he’s been playing.

Maybe from there we could even see him push Diles?

I’ll have an eye on Sharpton Wednesday and Thursday when I watch the Texans practice against the Saints in Louisiana.
HOUSTON -- Some quick early impressions after watching the Texans in an organized team activities session that got pushed into their practice bubble by some serious rain.

  • As a group the running backs look good –- which they are supposed to. Steve Slaton is in a red shirt to discourage any contact as he gets back from a neck injury. He’s lighter. Further down the depth chart, Chris Henry has bulked up. Ben Tate is still catching up after missing early time. Arian Foster is still at the head of the line and could put me in a spot where I have to give him a bit more credit, though I am weary of banking on much from him off a few good games at the end of 2009. Ryan Moats is the old man of the group and he’s just 27. One OTA practice should tell me little, but I can’t help but feel a little better about their depth.
  • This was just the second day of the kicker competition, and after a draw in round one, Kris Brown was a bit better than Neil Rackers. Brown hit five of five from 38 yards, Rackers four or five with a couple narrowly inside the right upright. I love a kicker competition -- because I don’t need a lot of help to see who’s doing better. This should be a good one, but it’s hard to replicate the sort of pressure the Texans need to be sure they can handle in a way Brown didn’t last year. Gary Kubiak is certain the guy who’s not kicking for him will be kicking for another team.
  • Brian Cushing is working as the starter. Kubiak said he won’t mess with the lineup through the remainder of the offseason since Cushing is going to be around for 12 games. In camp the coach will start to juggle, and he forecasts a three-way battle to sub for Cushing between Xavier Adibi, Kevin Bentley and Danny Clark for a four-game starting stint on the strongside.
  • I don’t know what becomes of young long snapper Ryan Weeks or undrafted tackle Steve Maneri. But I feel sure that they will be telling their children and grandchildren about moments like today, when each had one-on-one coaching from Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews. Matthews, a quality snapper, helped Weeks early and stayed late to work with Maneri on pass-protection drops.
  • Matt Schaub looked crisp and confident, and I saw way more of that from backup Dan Orlovsky than I did this time last year. The visual matched up with what I’d read about Orlovsky, who was third behind Schaub and since-departed Rex Grossman the previous year, appears more equipped to play if needed.
  • Kubiak said he wanted to bring some chaos to practice, and since the team was inside, he used crowd noise for the first time this offseason. It was loud and ran pre-snap to a second after a receiver caught a pass or a running back was to the second or third level. It left me with a headache. I’m tough and will shake it off as soon as a Diet Coke finds me.
Houston Texans

Danny Clark is just trying to fit in, writes Jordan Godwin.

Andre Johnson talks about his new agent, from Godwin.

The Texans continue to groom Dan Orlovsky, writes Jeffrey Martin.

Ben Tate is way behind, says Alan Burge.

Stephanie Stradley talks corners with K.C. Joyner.

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Gonzalez is back in the mix for the Colts, says John Oehser.

Breaking down the Colts’ third-down defense in 2009 with Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are trading for guard Justin Smiley, says Gene Frenette.

Reggie Hayward was back to practice, says Vito Stellino.

The latest “Ask Vic.”

Tennessee Titans

Bo Scaife rejoined the Titans Monday and will practice Tuesday, reports Jim Wyatt.

J.I. Halsell picks up where we left off last week and puts together a two-year extension for Chris Johnson. It’s worth $19 million in new money for an average per year of $9.5 million. The deal guarantees $11 million with a guarantee per year of $5.5 million.
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Brian Cushing, LB, Texans: A four-game suspension made for an awful week for the Houston linebacker.

For the first four games of 2010 -- vs. Indianapolis, at Washington, vs. Dallas and at Oakland -- he won’t be with the team. His absence will put a big damper on the hopes for a hot start against the team that owns the AFC South and the team that has such a large following in Texas and well beyond.

Here are the likely candidates to fill in for Cushing while he is out: Xavier Adibi, Kevin Bentley and newly signed Danny Clark.

In a season when the Texans face what rates as the toughest schedule in the league based on last year’s records, they’ve got a giant challenge. And how will Cushing be when he gets back for a game against the Giants Oct. 10?

Rising

Titans helping Nashville recover: In the wake of the serious flooding in Nashville, the Titans proved themselves central characters in the drama. Waters in LP Field helped draw some national attention to an under-covered natural disaster.

At a Saturday blood drive hosted by Elise Reinfeldt, daughter of the Titans' GM, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stopped by with Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen and Nashville mayor Karl Dean.

Players, coaches and employees have been among the countless volunteers helping out those in need. And Wednesday, the team had an organized get-together working on four houses on a West Nashville street.

SPONSORED HEADLINES