AFC South: David Garrard

Blaine GabbertAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackBlaine Gabbert went just 5-22 as a starter in three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are Chad Henne's team now.

General manager David Caldwell, head coach Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch are confidently putting the offense in Henne's hands. It's not exactly handing the keys to Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but it is the correct move for the Jaguars to make.

That's why the team traded Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft and possibly a conditional pick in 2015. Caldwell said the move was more about the franchise's confidence in Henne than Gabbert's struggles.

"When we signed Chad, we made a commitment to give him a starting position and build around him," Caldwell said shortly after the trade was announced on Tuesday afternoon. "We felt like he was going to be a starter and there is a possibility we would draft a young quarterback in the draft somewhere along the line and he would come in and be the backup and learn behind Chad.

"That left Blaine to compete for that and I just felt like it was a good opportunity for us to move on and possibility get a draft pick for someone who can come in and help us this year instead of a backup quarterback."

Gabbert obviously wasn't in the team's plans once Henne signed a two-year extension last week. However, trading the former first-round pick is a shrewd move because Caldwell was able to get something for a player he was likely going to cut at some point. Plus, it frees up $3.82 million in cap space.

While the trade obviously excites fans that have been extremely critical of Gabbert, it also is an example of what can happen when you put a quarterback on the field before he's ready. Not only will he struggle, but it can set your franchise back years.

[+] EnlargeChad Henne
AP Photo/Jack DempseyChad Henne completed 60.6 percent of his passes last season for 3,241 yards. He had 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Caldwell and Bradley gave Gabbert every chance to succeed in their first season in Jacksonville. Despite Gabbert's poor play in his first two seasons -- 21 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a 5-19 record as a starter -- both gave him a clean slate in 2013. He played well enough in the preseason to win the starting job.

But injuries, as they did in his first two seasons, affected his progress. He suffered a fractured thumb in the second preseason game and played through the injury in the season opener before suffering a cut on his hand. He missed two games, came back in Week 4 and suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5. He never saw the field after that.

When he did play, he was awful, completing just 48.8 percent of his passes and throwing one touchdown and seven interceptions -- including three returned for touchdowns.

Henne didn't tear it up, but he was consistent and kept the offense out of bad situations. He made a handful of plays, including tossing the winning touchdown pass against Cleveland with 40 seconds remaining, and Caldwell believes with better offensive line play, more weapons, and another year in the offense Henne will be much better.

Caldwell didn't want to talk about why Gabbert didn't succeed in Jacksonville and that there is never just one person at fault in such a situation. He's right. There are two who bear more fault than anyone else: Jack Del Rio and Gene Smith.

Smith traded the Jaguars' first-round pick (No. 16) and second-round pick (No. 49) to Washington to move up six spots to take Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2011. The Jaguars' starter that season was supposed to be David Garrard, who was in the fourth-year of an seven-year, $60 million contract, but in a surprise move the team released Garrard just five days before the 2011 season opener.

Luke McCown started the first two games, but Del Rio made the switch to Gabbert for the final 14 games. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Gabbert clearly wasn't ready to be the team's starter and he never seemed to recover.

He went 5-22 as a starter and the team has won just 11 games in Gabbert's three seasons.

Caldwell has had nothing but praise for Gabbert, especially in the way he handled being demoted, and said he likes the former Missouri standout. That's partly why he sent him to San Francisco. He knows GM Trent Baalke, it's a stable organization, and there's no pressure.

"I know we're sending him to a good situation," Caldwell said. "That's what I told him at the end of the year. I said, ‘If something did come about, I [would] try to send you to the best situation possible.'"

It turned out that way -- for Gabbert and the Jaguars.
The Tennessee Titans have serious crushes on the top quarterbacks in this draft.

They love Geno Smith; they don’t see how a team can pass on him. Matt Barkley? He’s tremendous. The Bills would be crazy not to draft Ryan Nassib, and the Titans aren’t thinking second round, though that would be OK.

No, the Titans aren’t in the market for themselves.

At No. 10, Tennessee could take a guard or a pass-rusher. Of course, the Titans can surprise us with something else entirely. To maximize what they have to choose from, they want stuff coming off the board ahead of them that they aren’t interested in.

And they are completely behind Jake Locker as their starter -- whether you think that’s a smart judgment or not.

So the Titans surely hope their division rival Jacksonville Jaguars find an alternative to Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, that Cleveland’s new regime lacks confidence in Brandon Weeden, that Buffalo isn’t so big on Kevin Kolb and that even with Mark Sanchez and David Garrard the Jets fall in love with another quarterback at No. 9.

I still feel like the most likely scenario is that only one quarterback goes in the top 10, maybe none. Tennessee prefers the over.

The Colts (at No. 24) and the Texans (at No. 27) don’t need the top quarterbacks to disappear quite so soon, but as they aren’t looking for signal-callers, they’d be happy with an early run on the position, too.
Maurice Jones-Drew is well aware of what’s written and said about him. I’m among those who believe he’s overly sensitive about much of it.

Today, in talking with some Jacksonville reporters, he was asked about all that.

He deemed me worthy of special mention.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Jake Roth/US PresswireJacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew is due less than $5 million next season.
“It’s funny, because it seems like people want me to fail, which is awesome, because it’s been like that since I was growing up,” Jones-Drew said.

Who said they wanted to see him cut, he was asked?

“That was Paul Kuharsky, that wasn’t you guys, that was somebody else. He was like, 'He’s going to do horrible this year and I hope they cut him at the end of the year.’ I was like wow, was that personal? Was that a personal attack?”

No it wasn’t. It wasn’t a personal attack. And it wasn’t even what I said.

I do expect Jones-Drew will drop off this year based on the history of running backs following long holdouts -- see Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson and Larry Johnson. I said the team and player would wind up in the same contract dispute following the 2012 season.

But I didn’t say anything about hoping he’d be cut.

In fact, cutting him would be dumb. He’s cheap. He’s due less than $5 million next season. We all acknowledge that’s the team-friendly back end of a front-loaded deal.

This is Jones-Drew doing what he always does -- creating a perceived slight with which to be upset where there really isn’t one.

So it can’t be suggested I cut off his point, here’s the rest of that section of the interview.

Question: Is there anything written about you that you don’t read?

“I read everything because, well I don’t have to read it because people tell me. You know what I mean. It’s part of the game. I expect people to be upset. They only see the money, they only see the dollar signs. They don’t see the work that goes in. They don’t see what goes in Monday through Sunday. They don’t see David Garrard get cut a week before (the season) so teams don’t have to pay him money, right? I don’t see you guys writing those articles.

“I’m not going to get on you for that, because I understand what you guys are doing.”

There is some selective reading going on there if MJD honestly thinks Garrard getting cut so late wasn’t a big story, last year in Jacksonville or this year in Miami.

Look, he and I have talked at the Super Bowl and pretty much agreed we don't see eye-to-eye. We hardly have to. Just please don't say I've written things I haven't.

Let's forge on.

I’m ready to watch MJD play football. He’s ready to read -- or hear from someone who’s read -- about him playing some football.

Let’s go.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

When Arian Foster met with Roger Goodell, this picture was part of the result, says Nick Mathews of the Houston Chronicle.

Nick Scurfield of the Texans' web site reviews Houston’s defensive line.

Indianapolis Colts

Comparing teams just before the rebuild: The 2011 Colts have a lot more chips carrying over than the 1997 Colts did, says Nate Dunlevy of Colts Authority.

The Colts will take Andrew Luck in part because they know he can take a hit and they can’t be scared of letting him do so, says Dunlevy, this time at Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have taken care of their own on defense, and that has coordinator Mel Tucker feeling optimistic, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

David Garrard has landed in a good situation, says Stellino.

John Oehser of the team’s website defends the team’s transparency.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Munchak likes what the Titans have done so far in free agency and says the team isn’t finished yet, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The way Matt Hasselbeck reacted to the Peyton Manning chase showed class, says David Climer of The Tennessean.
Former Jaguars quarterback David Garrard told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union that he’s almost fully recovered from back surgery that kept him out of the 2011 season. Now he’s ready to return to the league.

He said he’d be OK with a backup role provided he finds the right situation, and spelling out the right situation included a jab at Jacksonville over a roster deficiency that didn’t make it the right situation:
“I’m going to make sure whatever team I go to has talent at the skill positions, so when my name is called I’ve got the best guys around me that are all proven. That city, the fans, the team itself, the skill players, the coaches, the system, all those things I get to take in account and weigh my options.

When his career with the Jaguars petered out, Garrard supporters and detractors battled over that issue. Was he a good quarterback suffering from a lack of weapons and protection or was he a quarterback not doing enough to help his weapons and protection fare better.

A year removed from Garrard, the Jaguars offense clearly suffers from all those issues -- Blaine Gabbert is coming off an incredibly poor rookie season, during which he had no consistent weapons to throw to and insufficient protection.

New coach Mike Mularkey and his staff are charged with improving Gabbert’s game while contributing to the front office’s effort to find upgrades at receiver and improve the protection by a line that run-blocked well for Maurice Jones-Drew.

Garrard should be able to find work in a league where quarterback depth is an issue. If and when he gets his chance to play again, we’ll have a new occasion to discuss the caliber of his weapons, and his play.

Jaguars regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 27
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

[+] EnlargeMaurice-Jones Drew
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesMaurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing yards despite playing with the NFL's worst passing offense.
Biggest surprise: The Jaguars added six new veterans to their lineup of top-12 defensive players and once the group jelled it played very productively. Jacksonville finished sixth in overall defense, making giant strides from 2010 and maintaining the gain even as it lost a load of quality contributors to injury. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who finished the season as interim coach after Jack Del Rio was fired, did good work in his first season as the defense's playcaller. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was the sort of centerpiece tackling machine the team envisioned when signing him away from Buffalo as a free agent.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars didn’t intend for rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to start 14 games before they felt he was ready to take over. But by cutting David Garrard (who later wound up having back surgery) just a week before the season started and bailing quickly on veteran Luke McCown, they went against their own plan and paid a huge price for it. Jacksonville’s pass offense was worse than anyone could have anticipated, averaging just 136.2 yards per game. The NFL’s best passing offense in New Orleans averaged 334.2. Gabbert may not have been much better operating behind better protection and with more dangerous weapons at receiver, but it sure would have been good for him to have had a chance to find out. Tight end Marcedes Lewis killed the team with his disappearing act after he got his payday.

Biggest need: While the defense will need a pass-rushing end and at least one cornerback, the attention has to be focused on the offense. Mike Thomas was the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2011 but slumped badly after he got a contract extension and was not equipped to work as the primary guy. He should be the third option in 2012, working primarily out of the slot. The Jaguars need big, fast and physical receivers who can threaten downfield and go get the ball for Gabbert or whoever winds up playing quarterback.

Team MVP: Unquestionably, running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s just the fifth back since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to lead the league in rushing on a team with the NFL’s worst passing offense. That means with no threat to keep defenses honest, he ran consistently against stacked boxes and still produced in a giant way. There are always worries about wear and tear on him, yet he finished very strongly with no sign of tapering off. The Jaguars need to get other guys who are good with the ball in their hands so they can rely on him less, extend his window, and increase the chance he’s on a winning team.

Still searching for pressure: How long have the Jaguars needed a consistent pass-rush threat off the edge? It seems they are always looking. Jeremy Mincey is a great, high-energy player, but he’d benefit greatly from having a player opposing offenses have to game plan around. Yes, the franchise missed badly when it traded up to No. 8 for Derrick Harvey in the 2008 draft and counted on its second pick the same year, Quentin Groves, to help rush too. They are mistakes they still haven’t made up for. Knee injuries and rehabilitation have meant Aaron Kampman has played in only 11 games in two seasons and will be hard to bank on.

Mailbag: Wrestling your tough questions

December, 17, 2011
John Lloyd from Yulee, Fla., writes: I count 24 players on jag IR. How did you get 27?

Paul Kuharsky: They placed a couple on IR that they eventually reached a settlement with. That means they can release those players while they're still injured. So they disappeared from the roster. But their seasons ended when they were put on IR.

Jason from Philadelphia writes: You get 10 Colts players to keep next year, who are they? Top 5 in order, 6-10 doesn't have to be. Manning doesn't count. Freeney Mathis Castonzo Bethea Nevis Angerer Ijalana Wayne Clark Collie. Picked the tackles and Nevis because they are new draft picks and have shown promise when healthy. I've always stayed positive but that list was harder than I thought it would be. The talent level has really dropped off. I almost put McAfee in there.

Paul Kuharsky: OK, Manning doesn’t count and I am really concentrating on having the best team I can next year. I’ve changed this a bit from when I emailed you back.

I’d go: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pat Angerer, Anthony Castonzo, Ben Ijalana, Drake Nevis and Jerraud Powers. Donald Brown just missed. I think he can actually run and will get out of the doghouse if there is a new regime. I think Dallas Clark's injuries are starting to mount and I don’t know if you can expect anything close to a full season from him.

Jimmy Bagley from Philly, Pa., writes: Looking at your rankings, I am trying to figure out why you have Houston so low.... Why wouldn't they be at the number 4 spot? Green Bay, obviously number one with a bullet. Baltimore, number two ok. N.O. should be 3 and the Texans at 4... At this point in the season, why aren't the tie breakers used to figure these in.... Houston holds the tie breaker over both Pit and NE.... They were the first team in the AFC to clinch, and have the best divisional record of all the teams.... Not to mention the number 2 defense in the league and a top 3 running game.... They have managed to win in all types of circumstances.... After last week’s come from behind win I thought for sure it would win over critics waiting for them to choke... What else is going to take for the respect to come in.

Paul Kuharsky: What you are looking for, apparently, is the official playoff order for the league right now. (If we do that, what’s the point?) What the power rankings are looking for is my opinion on where teams stand. The official playoff rankings of the moment don’t take into account a third-string quarterback as the starter. No matter how impressive T.J. Yates has been, we have a very small sample size so far. And I have a tough time ranking a team he’s leading ahead of one led by Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger, who’ve won Super Bowls. The one case you can make is that the Texans should be ahead of Pittsburgh based on having beaten them. But the Steelers are a much better team now than they were then.

Also you suggest I should rank the Texans higher because they clinched earlier and have a better division record. So they get a reward for the Colts and Jaguars stinking and the Titans being average?

I have Houston sixth. I think we differ on whether that’s good or bad. I think it’s quite good.

I am continually amazed by how people regard the issue of respect. I think, universally, analysts are impressed by what the Texans have done and think they are a very good team. Apparently some of you think we should be holding parades for them and telecasting half-hour specials about their greatness.

Scott Freistat from Hermitage, Tenn., writes: ESPN's latest ranking poll states that if the playoffs were to start today (12/13) the Texans would have the No. 1 seed. How is that possible considering they have the same records as the Ravens (10-3) and the Ravens own the head-to-head matchup? Please explain.

Paul Kuharsky: In a three-way tie, head-to-head results aren’t the top tiebreaker because it does nothing to factor in the third team. The Ravens win a tiebreaker over the Steelers being from same division. Then it’s Texans-Ravens-Patriots. If one team has swept the other two, it wins a tiebreaker. If not, then it’s conference record. The Texans win that right now.

Brian Vining from Douglas, Ga., writes: Who is Matt Williamson? So I guess this so called expert wants to give up on a first round QB who has no weapons except for Maurice jones-Drew. Gabbert was not even going to be the starter this year. He is a young QB who needs time to develop. With a good coach and a couple of WR who can catch the ball Gabbert will be great. I'm not saying the Jags is the best out of the three but if I were a coach and could go to a team with a young up and coming QB. A great RB in MJD and a much improved defense I would jump on it. That's not even to mention Gene Smith who has the right philosophy to build a team who can contend for years. National media at it again. Gabbert sucks, the Jags can't fill the stadium, Jags are moving to LA. Maybe if some of them would actually do a little homework they would know none of this is true.

Paul Kuharsky: Williamson is a former NFL scout who knows as much about current personnel as anyone in my business.

Your logic falls apart here: “Gabbert was not even going to be the starter this year.” Then why is he the starter this year? Nothing catostrophic happened. The team chose to cut David Garrard and it chose to bench Luke McCown. Those moves made Gabbert the starter. If you don’t want him starting, arrange for him not to start. I don’t know how we can say he was not supposed to start and offer amnesty based on that. They are starting him. As promising as Gabbert may be, it’s not at all inaccurate to say he’s been horrible this season.

I like Smith, but the rebuild is not moving at a fast enough pace. His philosophy starts with foundation-building and two good lines. Three years in, I don’t see two good lines, do you? And where is anything close to a late-round home run?

Mike M. from Houston writes: The next man up approach only works if the next man up has talent. The Texans have shown that they have talent beyond the 22 starters on the roster. Most have been draft picks, UDFA's, or were low level free agents when acquired (like Kevin Walter or Jason Allen). Does this make Rick Smith the front runner for executive of the year???

Paul Kuharsky: That’s an excellent point, that the next man up has to be equipped to do the job. Lots of teams without good depth get hurt and fall apart.

But let’s not make it like Rick Smith is at the powerful end of the spectrum of GMs in terms of decision-making. It’s a joint operation and he’s not bringing in anyone Gary Kubiak doesn’t sign off on. Wade Phillips had great influence on what they did in the draft and then free agency as well.

David Garrard's agent looking silly

October, 18, 2011
In Jaguars v. David Garrard, I’m going to have to go with Jaguars.

We checked in on Garrard’s odd story on Monday, wondering about the timeline that dictated back surgery this week and took him out of the mix for Oakland.

The Times-Union’s Tania Ganguli's report on Garrard today quotes his agent, Al Irby, claiming the Jaguars withheld injury information from Garrard when he was cut on Sept. 6.

It sure seems like sour grapes to me. The Jaguars evaluated Garrard’s back when he had issues during the preseason and Garrard and his camp raised no objections or concerns about him being hurt when the team let him go.

Jaguars general manager Gene Smith told Ganguli in an email that, "David went through the standard process that all players go through when released."

But Irby wants to run with a stereotype and will score with some who want to cast the Jaguars as cheap. From an email to Ganguli:
"At $500,000 per game, they knew he would be down 4-6 weeks. They didn't want to pay that bill. Now you know the difference between a first-class organization like Indy, and a sorry organization like the Jags. Indy gave their QB a contract even though he couldn't play all season. ... David was told his back was fine. So he took them for their word.

"Now he has to go to surgery, and Jacksonville is saying, 'Not my problem.' What a first class organization!"

Um, Al, did you just put Garrard in a class with Peyton Manning?

You did, and it’s utterly ridiculous.

If Garrard had a back issue when he was let go, you dropped the ball by not raising it, don’t you think?

So here’s some volume for that.
David Garrard will not re-emerge in Oakland or anywhere else this season. He told Chris Mortensen he’s got a herniated disc and will soon schedule back surgery.

Garrard missed some time in the preseason with back problems.

It’s unclear when the injury became an issue that needs surgery, but it’s a bizarre twist for the quarterback who was let go by the Jaguars just before the regular season started.

The indication when he didn’t land in Miami after Chad Henne's injury was that he was not satisfied with the role offered or the lack of guaranteed money. He clarified his rationale for passing up the Dolphins in a conversation with Mortensen.

In that interview on Oct. 9, Garrard told Mortensen: “Here's the bottom line: I'm staying in shape. I'm taking care of my body, my legs, my arm -- I'm having regular massage treatments. I'm ready to play. I'm ready for the right opportunity.”

That would suggest he had no disc problem eight days ago. Or that he had one he was hoping would settle down, one that could have been a factor in his dealings with the Dolphins.

RTC: The frustration of Jacoby Jones

October, 13, 2011
Reading the coverage …

Houston Texans

Writes Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: “[T]he thing that both excites and frustrates them about [Jacoby] Jones is that he can and should be so much better than he has been the last two weeks. He has the size and speed to be an impact player. The Texans know this because they've seen flashes of it in practice and at times in games during his first four seasons.”

Trindon Holliday will take over as the returner, to allow Danieal Manning and Jacoby Jones to focus on their primary jobs, writes McClain. I like the concept of a player taking the jobs away from key guys on offense and defense, but I’m scared of Holliday.

Indianapolis Colts

Injuries have left the Colts nearly devoid of quality defensive backs, says Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star. Cincinnati’s rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and his receivers will have opportunities against this group.

Austin Collie’s workload is down, like a lot of skill players without Peyton Manning, says Mike Chappell.

Nate Dunlevy of 18to88 says Jacob Lacey was not as bad as people think against Dwayne Bowe.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars seek a new direction with their new punter Nick Harris, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Mike Tomlin didn’t care for questions about the Jaguars-Steelers playoff game that did wonders for the careers of Jack Del Rio and David Garrard, writes Tania Ganguli of the Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was ticked off at Damian Williams for going on cruise control during the loss to the Steelers, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.
When Jacksonville cut him just before the season, the widespread presumption was that David Garrard would be quickly scooped up. But the former Jaguars quarterback remains out of work, reportedly unsatisfied with a scenario Miami recently presented.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert and David Garrard
Phil Sears/US PresswireDavid Garrard, who was replaced by rookie Blaine Gabbert, is still searching for a job in the NFL.
Jacob Ford was a pretty effective situational pass-rusher for the Titans, but didn’t rate as a fit for them as they changed their defense and went with bigger ends. When healthy, former Jaguar Vince Manuwai can be a top-flight run blocking guard. Like Garrard, they seemed like players who would land another job in relative short order.

But more than a month into the season, they and many others who may still be NFL-caliber players are floating around, jobless.


My theory is that when Team X spends a draft pick, money, time and resources to develop a player and ultimately decides he can no longer help, the rest of the league tends to think, “We’d rather develop our guy than take a chance on theirs, considering they’ve given up on him.”

“There are a lot of good players out there,” Titans defensive end Dave Ball said. “Look at guys coming through for workouts [and] not getting picked up. [Safety] Chris Horton came through here and worked out. He was playing a big role for the Redskins, a big role, a couple years ago.

“It’s tough. When you get cut, it can take a while. I got cut and it took me a year-plus to get back with somebody. I think it’s a big confidence-shaker for teams looking to pick people up.”

Teams typically have realistic views of their own players, at least in time. Fans can tend to overvalue their own.

Ball said Ford is a good pass-rusher who should definitely be on a team, and that it’s scary to look at the landscape of a league where there is not a spot for him.

As more and more teams devote themselves to building through the draft, they seem to be less interested in pulling in an outsider during the season if they don’t have a hole created by injury.

Surely former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu expected to be working again by now.

For a lot of No. 1 picks, it’s different. Aaron Maybin, a defensive end drafted in the first round by Buffalo in 2009 but cut after two seasons, was of interest to more than one team and got signed by the Jets. The Colts scooped up former Atlanta No. 1 pick Jamaal Anderson and are getting good run-down work from him. Linebacker Ernie Sims was a similar acquisition, but he’s been hurt.

“There are a lot of people who will take that first-rounder, anticipating that they may not be able to get a full 60 minutes out of him, but maybe they can get two quarters of No. 1-draft pick play out of him, kind of using him in a role,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “There are some teams that do a great job of that, take guys who have been No. 1s, plug them in and say, 'All I need is a quarter or two quarters' or 'All I need is third down from this guy' and try to utilize him that way.”

As for lesser picks who are still floating out there, Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said he thinks it’s still early and a lot of those guys will wind up playing.

The lockout also contributed to less opportunity. Reinfeldt said the draft pick a team might have given up on after spending the spring and summer with him got the benefit of the doubt as teams needed more time to evaluate.

“It was all so quick,” Reinfeldt said. “You didn’t get the opportunity to evaluate them the way you did in the past, so some made it because of who they were. This year was so compressed, I think some rookies made it just because the period of inspection and scrutiny wasn’t what it usually was. And that came at the expense of those other guys.”

Draft picks are such a premium commodity. Teams love to gather them, hate to part with them, and believe their scouting system can find them quality with each one.

Linebacker Barrett Ruud moved from the Buccaneers to the Titans as a free agent this season. He sees building your own guys as the central theme when it comes to opportunity these days.

“Teams want to develop the guy they brought up,” Ruud said. “Sometimes you’ve got a young guy and maybe it’s his first chance to start a game. You bring in someone to start in front of him and his confidence is shattered.

“I don’t think it’s a reflection so much of how somebody got cut. I think it’s more a reflection of a team wanting to develop a guy they brought in.”

What's worth over-reacting to ...

September, 19, 2011
A lot of sports talk radio shows call it "Over-reaction Monday." It’s fitting, especially early in the season. Some thoughts on what we shouldn’t be over-reacting to, and what might be OK to say out loud.

Houston Texans

Don’t over-react: To the idea that the Texans are so good running the ball that they can just plug anyone into their backfield. Yes, the Texans are deep at the spot. When Arian Foster pulled out with a lingering or re-aggravated hamstring issue, Ben Tate went over 100 yards again. Tate’s hardly just anyone. He was a second-round pick in 2010.

Indianapolis Colts

Do over-react: To the idea that the Colts without Peyton Manning simply are not very good. I know Kerry Collins has been bad, but where is the better alternative? Curtis Painter hasn’t miraculously gotten good in a few weeks on the bench. It may just be the start of one of those years. Indianapolis hosts Kansas City in Week 5. With Pittsburgh at home and a trip to Tampa Bay first, the Colts could be waiting for the Chiefs for their best chance to break into the win column.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Don’t over-react: To the idea that David Garrard would have somehow had the Jaguars in a tighter game with the Jets. That Luke McCown was terrible against New York offers no positive commentary on Garrard. Coach Jack Del Rio and GM Gene Smith felt certain McCown was BETTER than Garrard at the end of the preseason. A week ago, McCown played well enough to win. That will be considered as the Jaguars decide whether to start McCown or Blaine Gabbert Sunday in Carolina.

Tennessee Titans

Don’t over-react: To the idea that Kenny Britt is one of the NFL’s top receivers. He’s been great through two weeks, and I understand how exciting it is to see the Titans with a big-time downfield receiver. He may be on the path that gets him to elite status. But I need to see some long-term consistency before I start grouping him with the likes of Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald.

RTC: Chris Johnson to get more carries

September, 13, 2011
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Mario Williams’ transition to linebacker is good so far, writes john McClain.

Confidence is one heck of a drug, says Jeffrey Martin.

David Anderson is one of the receivers the Texans will look at today, says McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are ready to move on after a terrible start, says Mike Chappell.

Reggie Wayne thinks if the Colts can stay in third-and-manageable on offense they will be OK, says Phil Richards.

Bill Polian is talking about looking for Peyton Manning’s heir.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Luke McCown executed the plan and drew praise for it, says Vito Stellino.

Aaron Kampman’s return remains on hold, says Tania Ganguli.

David Garrard doesn’t want to be a temporary fix, says Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

“You don’t throw everything away after one game because certain things didn’t work out the way you’d hoped,” says Mike Munchak. Jim Wyatt’s story.

Chris Johnson will get more carries against the Ravens, says Wyatt.

Tempo a key for Jaguars, Luke McCown

September, 12, 2011
Luke McCown came out of Sunday’s win over the Titans at EverBank Field talking tempo.

“We were breaking the huddle, we were getting to the line of scrimmage quick and getting plays off and getting back into the huddle and getting another play called real quick,” he said. “That always lends itself to putting pressure on the defense and sometimes it gives you a little hint as to what front they’re playing, what kind of scheme so to speak of what you’re going to get.”

Crisp tempo helps keep an offense on the balls of it’s feet, it helps it build on a good play and recover from a bad one. And when the defense on the other side is not having a good day, it makes them feel it more.

Reading between the lines, tempo was not something that the Jaguars felt like was working in their favor while David Garrard was at the helm.

“Tempo, change in tempo, is something we worked on,” Jack Del Rio told Jacksonville media Monday.

“No huddle, we call red ball, is something we worked on. It really wasn’t a case where we got to a lot of it yesterday but deep shots and red ball and no huddle and some of those things are things that we’ve worked on.

“Yesterday I thought there were some good examples of getting to the line and having some tempo plays that were first-sound type deals and then there were others were you got to the line and then use double cadence or checked it. So I think we used it all and I think that’s one of the strengths that Luke brings is his command of the offense and the ability to do those things.”
Maurice Jones-Drew was happy the Jaguars won, of course. But he was honest too: He was upset the Jaguars put him on a pitch count and didn’t think Jack Del Rio needed to worry about how much he played.

Jones-Drew is coming off offseason knee surgery and a very limited training camp and preseason.

He was honest with Del Rio and the press about being upset, but also urged that his comments not be turned into a big story. I’ve given him a hard time about saying stuff and then backing off regarding both Jay Cutler and David Garrard.

But I am with him here.

He had 24 carries for 97 yards and a score, then spent a lot of time on the sidelines. Deji Karim had 14 carries for 33 yards.

“Sometimes you’re not happy in a game because you want to play more,” MJD said.

Isn’t that what you want to hear from your best offensive player? I much prefer it to him being understanding about not playing as much as he wanted to or felt he could.

To me, as per his request, end of story.