AFC South: DeMarcus Faggins
In a recent conversation with former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist, he pointed to an article he once read in Ourlads by Joe Landers. Apologies, I couldn’t find the link.
“Using some common sense and a little investigative research, you'll find that it's rare, at least according to Landers’ study, to find a cornerback or running back or wide receiver that's really going to help you in the last three rounds,” Sundquist said. “And yet you'll find teams constantly take a reach on one of these positions.
“Evidence shows you're more likely to find a defensive tackle, offensive lineman, safety or tight end in the later rounds. Why? Most conventional wisdom says don't draft a safety or tight end high due to escalating rookie salaries and the going market at the position. As for defensive tackles or offensive linemen, it’s probably because of the greater numbers at the position. Both circumstances force down talented players at those positions.”
I went back and combed over the AFC South drafts since 2002, to see how many picks they spent on each side of the ledger Sundquist sets forth and how often the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans did well with a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick at those spots. This is, of course, highly unscientific. Metrics guys can probably shred it. But I thought it worth fiddling with.
Notables are players who played significantly, even if it’s been with another team, or recent picks who appear on track to contribute.
WRs, RBs. CBs: 9
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 14
Most: Six safeties, four receivers, corners and defensive tackle
- Cornerback Brice McCain, 2009 sixth round
- Safety Dominique Barber, 2008 sixth round
- Receiver David Anderson, 2006 seventh round
- Safety C.C. Brown, 2005 sixth round
- Corner Demarcus Faggins, 2002 sixth round
- Defensive tackle Howard Green, 2002 sixth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 7
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 13
Most: 13 offensive linemen
- Tight end Brody Eldridge, 2010 fifth round
- Receiver Pierre Garcon, 2008 sixth round
- Guard Jamey Richard, 2008 seventh round
- Tackle Charlie Johnson, 2006 sixth round
- Safety Antoine Bethea, 2006 sixth round
- Guard Jake Scott, 2004 fifth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 12
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 9
Most: Five receivers, four offensive linemen
- Tight end Zach Miller, 2009 sixth round
- Running back Rashad Jennings, 2009 seventh round
- Guard Uche Nwaneri, 2007 fifth rounder
- Defensive tackle Derek Landri, 2007 fifth round
- Safety Gerald Sensabaugh, 2005 fifth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 14
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 16
Most: Seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers
- Corner Cortland Finnegan, 2006 seventh round
- Running back Quinton Ganther, 2006 seventh round
- Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, 2007 fifth round
- Offensive lineman Daniel Loper, 2005 fifth round
- Tight end Bo Scaife, 2005 sixth round
- Guard Jacob Bell, 2004 fifth round
- Center/guard Eugene Amano, 2004 seventh round
- Safety Donnie Nickey, 2003 fifth rounder
- Guard/center Justin Hartwig, 2002 sixth rounder
Of the notables from the division drafted since 2002, 73 percent (19) have been from the positions Sundquist says teams should concentrate on late while 27 percent (seven) play positions he believes should generally be avoided.
I'd be fine with the Titans not wasting yet another late pick on a receiver and with the Texans using late-rounders on something other than corners and receivers for sure. But it's not like Houston's spending late picks on safeties or the Colts use of such selections on offensive linemen have paid huge dividends either.
I'd love to read your thoughts.
But as Green Bay prepares to play for the NFC title in Chicago on Sunday, it’s a good time to note that the Texans had one of the league’s best young cornerbacks on their roster in 2006.
The Texans had the foresight to bring Tramon Williams in as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech on May 8, 2006. Unfortunately, their ability to see big things in him ended after training camp and he was released on Sept. 6, 2006.
He was available to everyone in the league for months before the Packers signed him to their practice squad on Nov. 29 for the final five weeks of the season. In 2007 he was a training camp surprise, earning a roster spot. He’s played in every game since, with 16 interceptions. In the same span, the Texans don’t have a player with more than five interceptions.
Here are the guys who played cornerback for the 2006 Texans: Dunta Robinson, Dexter McCleon, Demarcus Faggins, Lewis Sanders, Kevin Garrett, Von Hutchins and Dexter Wynn.
Every team in the league let go of someone it wishes it held on to.
The Texans will be watching their prime example play in the NFC Championship Game, then either the Super Bowl or the Pro Bowl.
But with such an approach, Tennessee needs a veteran option who could play if none of those guys are ready, or to step in when someone gets hurt.
The Titans secured theirs Friday by re-signing Rod Hood.
It’s a far better plan than last year’s, when Jeff Fisher and the Titans decided a corner they’d burned for years when he was a Texan, DeMarcus Faggins, could fill that role. Faggins didn’t make the roster, and the Titans suffered from lack of depth at corner until they eventually added Hood.
He played well in some situations, OK in others. Fans who wanted to blame everything on a slipping Nick Harper, however, canonized Hood in a way he didn’t deserve.
If he’s the second corner, he’ll be hard pressed to rate as well as Denard Walker, Andre Dyson or Harper did as previous No. 2 cornerbacks.
At their peak, they were all sufficient, even as critics marveled at how opposing offenses actually completed passes in games while perhaps steering away from Samari Rolle or Finnegan.
So the insurance plan is in place.
It’s time now for the Titans to focus on offseason progress for McCourty and Mouton and on drafting a guy in the first or third round who can prove a better alternative than all the existing options.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Titans’ official list of cuts:
DE Larry Birdine
LB Rocky Boiman
TE Casey Cramer
CB Tanard Davis
G Ryan Durand
CB DeMarcus Faggins
FB Rodney Ferguson
LB Ryan Fowler
RB Quinton Ganther (injured)
S Tuff Harris
WR Mark Jones
DT Mitch King
T Cory Lekkerkerker
WR Phillip Morris
TE Matthew Mulligan
G Jason Murphy
DT LaJuan Ramsey
S Nick Schommer
LB Josh Stamer
P A.J. Trapasso
OL Fernando Velasco
WR Paul Williams
Jim Wyatt spent the day digging on Titans’ cuts and came up with a list of 16 cuts. That leaves Tennessee with six more moves to get to 53 on Saturday.
Among those already notified of their fate are return man Mark Jones, who told me Thursday night after a solid game as the return man that he felt he’d made the team, and veteran cornerback DeMarcus Faggins, the Former Houston Texan.
Those two veterans each signed two-year deals with $200,000 signing bonuses, so the Titans hardly took a bath for the right to have them in camp. The team may like rookie alternatives like Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty to Faggins as depth at corner. But there is no clear cut return man on the roster.
Rookie running back Javon Ringer looks to have nice potential fielding kicks. Mouton can return punts, but has been out with an ankle injury. The team could look to a veteran defensive back like Cortland Finnegan or Michael Griffin for the job Thursday night before sorting it out further.
Also gone are the team’s top undrafted rookie, defensive tackle Mitch King, and punter A.J. Trapasso, who scored on a 40-yard fake punt in the Hall of Fame Game and hit the scoreboard with a punt during the first game in Cowboys Stadium.
Head here for a Jaguars-only mailbag.
Jake Large from Singapore writes: Dear PK, As a Colt fan I have some concerns about this season (not a surprise). Rather than ask you about the left tackle (too obvious), I'll ask instead about the receivers. In particular, if Austin Collie is starting in the slot and Gonzalez on the outside along with Wayne, I can't help but think we have one of the slowest WR corps in the league. Will this lack of explosiveness be a major source of weakness for my team this year? It's weird to feel really good about the D but really nervous about the O for the first time in a decade! Jake
Paul Kuharsky: A door prize, please, for a guy who’s traveled furthest to ask his question. Great to hear from you, Jake.
I think that's where some of Garcon's value is, in his speed.
But it's not so much about running away from people as it is about getting open, and we know Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, and let's include Dallas Clark, can get open. So while it might not be ideal, I don't think it'll be deadly. Now if the run game returns to decent form and people get sucked up by play-action, that can go a long way toward making everyone in the receiving corps seem faster, wouldn't you agree? I don’t know that it’s a big issue, and I’m more convinced after consulting with Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson.
Here’s what Williamson said on the subject:
"I wouldn't say it is a weakness though at all. Collie is probably the slowest of the bunch and yes, I would say that Garcon is the fastest, but he is more of a build-up guy than Wayne and Gonzo, who go 0 to 60 quite abruptly. Don't sleep on Gonzo's flat out speed. He can really run. As can Wayne of course. I wouldn't say that any of these guys has the blow-past-you-speed that Marvin Harrison did in his prime though. Still, not a weakness."
"Also, Dallas Clark is as much WR as he is TE and is amongst the fastest TEs in the league."
Kurt from Vancouver, B.C., writes: I have Chris Johnson as a keeper on my fantasy football team but he's done "nothing" this pre-season to impress. Since you cover them and get to see them more so than I do, is there anything going on to be concerned with or do you think that once Mawae returns and they start game planning for their opponents that things will come together for the running game? I could only keep 2 RBs and opted for Steven Jackson and CJ, but I had to throw Jacobs back. This will really suck if the Titans run the ball as poorly in '09 as they have done so far! Thanks, Kurt
Paul Kuharsky: I think you'd be crazy to make any moves regarding a top-flight player from a team that's going to be good based on anything he did or didn't do in the preseason. I have no doubt, barring major injury, that the Titans will run the ball well over the course of the season. That said, with those three, there are going to be weeks where you'll regret making the choice you did.
Kevin Cunningham from Portland, Ore., writes: Paul-A few weeks ago when we signed Jeff Zgonina I emailed you saying I thought it was an indictment of our poor D-line play, not an camp body due to injuries as the Texans brass said. With today's trade of Travis Johnson, what does this say about the Texans D-Line? Do you read it as an endorsement of Okam, Cody and Robinson? Could TJ have been just the odd man out, and we figured we'd get something for him? Was he that deep in the Kubiak doghouse? What is your take?
Paul Kuharsky: An unimpressive performance by the group again Monday night. I am surprised at the lack of progress under Bill Kollar, though obviously they could come out and be great against the Jets on opening day.
He’s a vet who knows what he’s doing for sure, but I would think they can find a better final piece in cuts than Zgonina, though, no? I think Johnson must have been that deep in the doghouse and that Kollar was not excited about him.
Glenn Gruber from Cumberland, R.I., writes: I realize this is the time of year that all GMs will be scouring the waiver wire. With the lack of depth at CB, do you see the Titans trying to scoop up a veteran like Ron Hood fill the gap and provide stability? Glenn
Paul Kuharsky: Well, Hood’s already been scooped up by Chicago.
Ryan Mouton is in the mix once he’s healthy. The Titans finished with four corners and five safeties last year. If they went that route now, it'd be Cortland Finnegan, Nick Harper, Mouton and TBD with Michael Griffin, Chris Hope, Vincent Fuller, Donnie Nickey and a wild card (Tuff Harris, Nick Schommer). I think they could keep Jason McCourty as the TBD corner and then be in the market for a ninth DB expecting an upgrade on DeMarcus Faggins, Cary Williams, Harris or Schommer.
Eric from Denver, Colo., writes: PK! I'd like your take on why teams don't try moving underperforming players to other positions. As a Titans fan, I've watched Chris Henry struggle as an RB. He just isn't instinctive. Why not try him out at LB or SS? Appreciate your thoughts, Eric
Paul Kuharsky: I don't understand why so many people are fascinated with this idea.
If a guy can't be an effective player at the spot he was drafted to play, the spot where he likely played his entire college career, then why should a team think he will play a different position better than guys who've spent their football lives playing that other position? Do you want Chris Henry as a linebacker who’s not close to game-ready or someone like Stanford Keglar or Colin Allred? Give me Keglar or Allred, please.
Byron from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Just reading the chat transcript and you said that the better McRath looks the less chance of Bulluck staying. I was thinking about how much it would cost to keep him. If Nashville were a larger market team then I believe that Keith would get more coverage thus more pro bowls and more recognition as one of the key players on a perennial top defensive squad. My question is, does market size and coverage affect the going price for solid players who enter free agency? Would Keith be looking at a much better payday if he had the exact same career but been in Dallas or Pitt? (I realize that a lot of small market players get paid: AH, Laboy, Odem, and the like, but what would be the difference in them and a larger market player). Thanks
Paul Kuharsky: Does it impact the price for some guys? Yes. Should it? No.
Teams should be putting a value on a guy based on their evaluations of his play, and once the ball is kicked off, the market size of a guy's team has no bearing on how he performs or doesn't perform.
Sean from Arlington, Va., writes: Music tip (based on your other tastes): Mic Harrison and the High Score (based in Knoxville). Mic was formerly of the V-Roys and Superdrag. Good rootsy, rockin alt country. Check out "The Right Side of the Grass" or "Push Me On Home."Best songs:"Hey Driver""Never Gonna Drink Again""He Gets High""Long Time"
Paul Kuharsky: Loved the V-Roys (find “Just Add Ice,”) love Scott Miller (find “Amtrak Crescent.”) Didn't like what I heard of Harrison after the breakup, but I will circle back.
The Titans lost at Cleveland Saturday night, but took a lot of good developments out of their fourth, and most important, preseason game. Some thoughts from the 23-17 loss:
- It's been clear for some time they will wind up carrying four tight ends -- Bo Scaife, Alge Crumpler, Jared Cook and Craig Stevens. Scaife and Cook on the field together caused some difficulties for the Browns. Stevens did some nice things in the second half of this game. So did the versatile Quinton Ganther, who is going to make them keep four running backs too. No way he's not one of their best 53 players.
- Mark Jones could have gotten away with all types of stumbles in his first action as the primary return man candidate. Fumbling one return away was not one of them. A year removed from a very solid year for the since-departed Chris Carr, the return jobs remain a giant question mark. Titans Radio said Jones suffered a stinger later when he was smothered on a kickoff return.
- In relief of Kerry Collins, Vince Young had one great run and threw the ball decisively much of the time he was in the game. But his two bad plays were big. The first was a lost fumble at the goal line just before the half. And the pick-six interception he threw deep in the Titans' own end was the sort of gaffe that does an awful lot to offset the good. It was good that he bounced back to lead a touchdown drive and threw a scoring pass to end it. Patrick Ramsey, who's dealing with sore ribs, didn't play.
- Cornerback Cortland Finnegan worked on the left instead of his usual spot on the right, getting some work in case the Titans need to shuffle or for an occasion when he might draw a particular receiver and have to follow him over there. Corner depth remains an issue -- Cary Williams started in place of Nick Harper, who sat out, and didn't fare particularly well. DeMarcus Faggins did well to force Braylon Edwards out of the end zone before he could get a second foot down during a remarkable one-handed catch.
- Cleveland played starters into the fourth quarter, while the Titans' went only to halftime.
Saturday night in Cleveland the Titans' front-liners will get their biggest load of preseason work. Here are three things I will be looking for:
Some effective running: If the Titans don't run the ball well, I'm not going to sound the alarm. But I'd like to think there will be a little bit of scheming for this game that will allow Chris Johnson to show a glimpse of what he looked like last year. I don't love the idea of him gong through four games (they play five this preseason) with virtually no effective live work before the opener in Pittsburgh.
The return game: Mark Jones was signed to be the answer when Chris Carr left, but hasn't played yet. He could do a lot to secure the job with a solid night. And if he can do something in chances at receiver too, that would be big. I don't believe the Titans are big on the idea of a return specialist who can't contribute elsewhere if needed.
The backup corners: With rookie Ryan Mouton out with a high ankle sprain, the cornerback depth is an even bigger question. Can Demarcus Faggins, Cary Williams or Jason McCourty do much here to help alleviate those concerns? If not, corner should be the primary position the Titans comb over when final cuts go down around the league Sept. 5.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Jeff Fisher tosses and turns, this is the kind of football game unfolding in his head.
Dallas is up 14-10 at the half of a preseason opener that's the first football played at Cowboys Stadium
If possession (or yardage) produced points, Dallas would be blowing the Titans out. Overall in the first half, Dallas moved 249 net yards in 22:13, the Titans 78 in 7:47.
The Titans had hoped to get Vince Young some time with the first team offense, but as it only got 17 plays, he didn't make it off the bench -- except for when Fisher sent the Titans who played their college ball at Texas to midfield as captains before the game.
A few other thoughts:
- Javon Ringer returned 15 kicks as a collegian, none as long as his first-quarter 51 yarder, when he bounced to the left sideline and took off. He continues to impress and will be able to contribute in a number of ways. On the Titans' next special teams play, he was lined up second from the right on the kickoff coverage unit. His 16-yard run with the first team offense late in the first quarter was a thing of beauty too. He had a nice one-handed catch too. Don't want to read too much into it, but as we've been talking about Nate Washington and Jared Cook upping the dynamic weapons. Kenny Britt's going to be on that list, and Ringer could be working his way on it too. At this early stage, the draft class is looking quite impressive.
- With Vincent Fuller (hamstring) and Ryan Mouton (ankle) out, Tanard Davis was the first nickel. On a third-and-3 against Patrick Crayton in the slot, Davis allowed for too much separation and Crayton crossed to the left and caught a 15-yard pass. A bit later Davis gave up a 9-yard pass to Crayton and Dallas converted the resulting fourth-and-1. The Titans aren't three deep at nickel right now. Ultimately someone with a better chance at a roster spot -- DeMarcus Faggins, Cary Williams or Jason McCourty -- needs to be ready to go there in an emergency.
- Chris Johnson has 3 yards on two carries and one catch for no gain. But it continues to be clear that the Titans aren't doing anything schematically to help spring him. On a first-and-15 in the first quarter, Collins threw to him short on the right and he was swarmed by -- I promise I am not exaggerating -- five Cowboys without a Titan any where nearby to even try to throw a block. Come meaningful games, they will be doing far, far more to get him into space.
- Everything is big here, except the small corner pieces of ribbon boards where the Cowboys post the down and distance. I got a headache trying to read it. Have any Tylenol?
Bad news from Tennessee: Rookie cornerback Ryan Mouton was carted off the practice field this morning and it's unclear what the extent of the left ankle injury is or how long it will keep him out.
Here's Jim Wyatt's report.
Mouton, a third-rounder out of Hawaii, appeared to rank at the head of the line among four players bidding to be the Titans third corner. He was working behind nickelback Vincent Fuller, a safety, and started in place of the injured Fuller on Saturday night in the team's second preseason. He played in the third quarter outside.
Cornerback depth is one of the few roster issues for Tennessee.
If Mouton is lost for a long time and none of the three candidates for depth show especially well in the three remaining preseason games, I expect the Titans to comb through corners cut elsewhere to try to bolster their depth in the days leading up to their Sept. 10 opener at Pittsburgh.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vince Young was the lead story for the Titans Sunday night in a 27-20 preseason win over Tampa Bay. When owner Bud Adams took a couple questions about the backup quarterback's future, that landed in a news story you'll find here.
|Don McPeak/US Presswire|
|Titans quarterback Vince Young was more confident in Saturday night's exhibition game.|
"I know what it feels like, all these people doubting all the time. Can Vince do this, is Vince going to be the No. 2? ... He goes out there and shows exactly why we drafted him, because he makes plays," said running back LenDale White, who saved Young from his one bad play, kicking a lateral out of bounds.
Said Kerry Collins: "I thought he operated well, he did what he can do, stepping up and making plays. I thought for the most part he made a lot of good decisions."
Beyond Young, here's a six-pack of what struck me from the Titans' performance at LP Field:
1. Britt left the game limping with a right ankle injury but said he'd merely been stepped on and anticipates missing no practice time. The TD was nice, but he's got to be able to score when he's left all alone thanks to coverage mishaps. I thought his first catch, a 38-yard reception up the middle, was the play that showed a lot more. He got cracked just after pulling it in by defensive back Will Allen and held on.
2. Collins said he didn't see the safety on his first interception, a bad ball intended for Nate Washington in the middle of the end zone that was picked by Sabby Piscitelli. His other interception came on a pretty good play by defensive end Stylez White, who leapt to deflect the pass, then managed to corral it on his way to the ground.
"That's what preseason's about, you make mistakes and learn from them and it doesn't cost you big," Collins said. "I need to make a couple better decisions, but this thing is a work in progress."
3. Third-round pick Ryan Mouton, the cornerback from Hawaii, jumped a pass from rookie Josh Freeman aimed for Patrick Carter and turned it into a 29-yard touchdown. Mouton played nickel in the first half with Vincent Fuller out with a groin injury, then moved outside for the third quarter.
"For a couple plays they'd been throwing the hitch out there and trying to get the three step game, so I got a good read, the coaches do a good job telling us to get the three step read," Mouton said. "I picked up on a three strep read and just broke on the ball."
None of the corner candidates behind Cortland Finnegan, Nick Harper and Fuller have stood out for the Titans so far. Maybe this is the play that sparks Mouton in the competition with Cary Williams, DeMarcus Faggins and Jason McCourty.
4. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson didn't want to beef about his unnecessary roughness penalty for a takedown of Byron Leftwich late in the second quarter. I initially thought Vickerson hit Leftwich in the head, but replays showed he didn't. The penalty was for the way he drove the QB into the ground.
"I've just got to get there faster I guess," Vickerson said. "He just told me it was how I landed on him, I guess that I used a little force. But I'm 310, that's hard to turn in midair when you're going down and Byron Leftwich is not a little quarterback. That's how you play it, right?"
5. The Bucs average gain per pass play, and there were 36 of them, was a whopping 3 yards.
6. White provided the best Twitter fodder of the night for @espn_afcsouth: "#Titans RB LenDale White with line of night, saying owner Bud Adams could turn 'Smash and Dash' into 'Smash, Dash and Cash.'"
1. Tempo and rhythm: Kerry Collins had a lot of slow starts in 2008 and we know he and the first team offense aren't going to play very long. Tennessee's offense looks to have significantly better personnel than Tampa Bay's defense. Can the Titans first-team offense find a good flow?
2. A corner to stand out. Has one of the four candidates to be the chief corner backup stepped forward yet? I've not been with the Titans for a while, but haven't heard any great buzz yet either about Cary Williams, DeMarcus Faggins, Ryan Mouton or Jason McCourty.
3. Young linebacker play. Ryan Fowler will start in the middle with Stephen Tulloch (knee) out. Josh Stamer probably works with the twos in David Thornton's spot on the left with Stanford Keglar taking over for Keith Bulluck on the right. Rookie Gerald McRath should see significant time outside as well. Keglar or McRath could have a big opportunity in a year if Bulluck's not re-signed. Do either show signs?
DeMarcus Faggins, known widely as Petey, was rarely at his locker after Titans OTA sessions.
In the early days of camp I finally tracked him down, and had a chance to ask him about the differences between Houston, where he spent his first seven years, and Tennessee, where he signed as a free agent during the offseason.
His answer hit on a topic that could be an issue for the Texans as they look to breakthrough, surpass 8-8 and get into the playoffs.
"Right now in this locker room, it's a lot more laid back -- players, coaches, the organization. In Houston, it's a little bit tense. I don't know if that's good or bad, but being there seven years, I experienced a lot. We were just trying to get a win, make the playoffs and do things like that for the first time that had never been done.
"Coming here after the season they had last year, it's pretty laid back. There is a been-there, done-that confidence, that's a good feeling coming off 13-3. ... I think it's harder to play tense, it's like walking on egg shells. You never know when it's going to break down on you or you're really not concentrating on what you've got to do, you're worrying too much about what a coach is going to say, if you're going to lose your position or your spot. If you go out there and just play relaxed and the coaches are relaxed instead of yelling and cussing, they come in and let you know what you did wrong and what the results can be if you do it right."
Faggins was part of the Texans' secondary problems last year, a player teams like the Titans may have targeted if given the chance. But the Titans believe he has skills better suited for playing off and in zone rather than trying to jam and play man the way the Texans prefer.
They signed him because they are unsure about their depth at corner after the free-agent defections of Eric King (Detroit) and Chris Carr (Baltimore), but if he's out played by youngsters Cary Williams, Ryan Mouton and/or Jason McCourty he might not stick.
If those kids don't flash and indicate they'd be ready if needed, Faggins is the veteran security blanket.
Defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson has been working with Faggins on his backpedal.
"Backpedalling is like a lost form or art," Robertson said. "What we try to do is minimize wasted motion, wasted steps or false steps in the secondary so we can put ourselves in position to make plays. So one thing we're working on with Petey is just trying to keep him in the backpedal. A lot of cornerbacks these days get into a shuffle-shuffle technique and in doing that they don't allow themselves to be able to make plays on all the different angles that come out of the route tree."
Faggins said he feels like he's making the necessary changes.
"It's not hard to change, it's just something you've got to work on in order to get better," he said. "Coming from Houston, we just always did press, no matter what the call was. It's just getting out of that and getting comfortable playing off. ... There are still things I need to work on of course, but compared to when I first got here, I've gotten much better."
|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. -- Some quick thoughts out of the first practice of Titans training camp, which was not especially eventful.
First, the two things I tweeted (@espn_afcsouth):
- No contract for Kenny Britt meant the first round pick, a wide receiver, wasn't on the field. Chris Davis and Lavelle Hawkins got the additional work. No real indication of where negotiations stand except the standard optimism.
- Vince Young had a nice day, you'll find one detail about it below, and outperformed Patrick Ramsey by a good bit on the first day. If it's the start of a trend it'll be a good development, but let's not read a whole lot into a one day sampling of anything.
- Yes, LenDale White has kept the weight off. I would have thought he would have been in the locker room advertising the number, which could be under 230. White looks impressive.
- Speaking of running back size: I said during OTAs that I thought rookie Javon Ringer was not well-served by being assigned No. 3, which made him look too thin for the part of a physical back. He looks a lot better, honest, in his new No. 21.
- Kicker Rob Bironas was not in uniform, Jeff Fisher said he was going to be held out for a few days with a slight pull, then called it soreness that "is nothing to be concerned about." He declined to reveal a body part. Undrafted rookie A.J. Trapasso kicked during a field goal period and was unimpressive, but Fisher emphasized Trapasso is a punter first, a kickoff guy second and a place kicker third. If we don't have to be concerned about it, why does it have to be top secret?
- Bironas got bigger in the offseason and I know I risk some wrath here, but I have to be candid and say it's not all muscle.
- Hard not to find symbolism when Paul Williams, very likely on his last legs, drops the first pass thrown to him, in a period with quarterbacks and no defenders. Same result for undrafted rookie Dudley Guice. Later, Williams got scolded by offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. If the coach is making hand gestures about the course you should have taken as opposed to the one you took before you even get back to the line of scrimmage, that's not a good sign.
- Bud Adams watched some practice from the balcony off the second-floor executive office, which has a new awning to provide some shade. He pulled out binoculars to check out the action on the field furthest from him, where the main action happened to take place. Earlier in the day he reminisced about the AFL on a national media conference call.
- During receiver work, Nate Washington, Dominique Edison, Hawkins and Phillip Morris lined up on the left and Justin Gage, Davis, Williams, Mark Jones and Guice were on the right.
- Washington breaks down smoothly and makes sharp cuts. He did some coaching of Edison during the receivers' period alone with the quarterbacks. I want to see him run all out, which I haven't seen for myself yet.
- In seven-on-seven work, Chris Hope broke up a quick pass for Chris Johnson from Kerry Collins. Then Hope and Cortland Finnegan broke up a bullet of about 10 yards from Collins intended for Alge Crumpler, who was moving downfield. Hope topped things off by picking off a mid-range pass intended for Davis, also from Collins.
- No lineup surprises at all that I saw. Leroy Harris is at center for Kevin Mawae (elbow), who said he's start getting into the swing of things in two weeks and ideally needs a little preseason time but is concerned only with being ready for Sept. 10 in Pittsburgh. Tony Brown started off at right defensive tackle -- Albert Haynesworth's old spot -- next to Jason Jones.
- Young hit rookie tight end Jared Cook with a nice midrange pass up the left sideline over linebacker Colin Allred and was generally on target from the pocket and on the move.
- DeMarcus Faggins moved quickly to come from behind Gage, dive and break up a pass delivered from Young on the run
- It seemed like the offense didn't complete anything deep, which is always what a crowd wants to see. The first team defense flew around and clearly had the better day, picking up where it left off at the end of OTAs. But it was just one day.
- Check out Keith Bulluck on Twitter -- @kbull53. He's doing live chats with video, though Friday's was postponed: "No show this evening folks,got things 2 do @ work. Hopefully I get the kinks worked out b4 the next episode. Good day @ prac tho. I'll holla." He was being coy about it, and is clearly looking to grow his own thing without any advertising from an outlet like this one. Sorry Charlie.