AFC South: Dennis Norman
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Jaguars did some roster tinkering Tuesday, adding veteran offensive lineman Kynan Forney and veteran safety Brian Russell while cutting reserve center Dennis Norman.
Also of note: While Jack Del Rio declined recently to name his starting right guard, Maurice Williams remains in the spot on the team’s newest depth chart, with Forney listed as his backup. Uche Nwaneri is listed as the backup at center and left guard.
A bit from the team on the two newcomers:
Forney, 6-3, 302, is in his ninth NFL season and has appeared in 95 games with 88 starts at right guard. The 31-year-old Forney was released by the San Diego Chargers last week. He spent seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons from 2001-07 before joining the Chargers in 2008. Forney was part of the NFL’s top rushing attack from 2004-06 with the Falcons and was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl in 2005.
A native of Nacogdoches, Texas, Forney was originally a seventh-round pick of the Falcons in 2001 and earned a starting job as a rookie. He played collegiately at Hawaii and Trinity Valley College in Texas and currently resides in Atlanta.
Russell, 6-2, 210, is in his eighth NFL season and has played in 108 games with 94 starts for Minnesota, Cleveland and Seattle. He has started all 16 games five times in his career including the last two seasons at free safety for the Seahawks. Russell, 31, has recorded 484 career tackles, 16 interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Russell originally signed as a rookie free agent with the Vikings in 2001 and spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Over the next three years he started 50 games and tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions in 2003. He joined the Browns as a restricted free agent in 2005 and played under Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for two seasons.
A native of West Covina, California, he played collegiately at Penn before transferring to San Diego State following his freshman season. He made the transition from quarterback to defensive back midway through his junior season.
There will be picks on Saturday and Sunday that prompt brows furrowed into question marks on the faces of fans of the four teams of the AFC South.
So in advance of this weekend's draft, the AFC South Blog is here to warn you: Don't be surprised when the Colts look to cornerback; don't be shocked when the Titans turn to a tight end and/or a defensive end. Should the Texans invest a reasonably high pick in a receiver or the Jaguars dip again in to the pool of defensive ends, they won't be making redundant roster choices.
They'll be thinking more about 2010 than about 2009.
We've discussed the current needs of all four teams a lot in the build-up to the draft. But teams obviously have to look further ahead than that. They can't count on the CBA expiring and the rules of free agency changing. Because if a new labor deal is struck and free agency continues to operate in the fashion we are used to -- with players who've logged at least four years and have expired contracts hitting the free market -- teams have to be prepared to lose people, and they need to have replacements ready.
Some of those potential replacements are already lined up, of course, working as backups. But others must be targeted.
"You're not just drafting for this year, you're drafting for future years too," Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "You have to have the vision of what they might be in two or three years. ... You're always building depth on your team and you're getting, especially in the later-round guys, traits that can be developed."
Here is a look at the issues teams may be facing in terms of departing free agents in 2010 with some suggestions, courtesy of Scouts. Inc.'s Matt Williamson, on mid- and late-round picks who could fill the holes.
In Sunday's win in Detroit, they used their fourth different right guard. Dennis Norman, who's started the first six games at center while the team waited for Brad Meester to return from a biceps injury, replaced Reyes.
And Monday afternoon, Jack Del Rio made it sound as if the team could stick with the current line configuration.
"Anytime you're running and throwing the ball that means that your line has to be doing a good job," he told Jacksonville reporters. "We want to build on what we did yesterday with that group, and I thought it was as good a performance as we've had a while with our offensive line, so glad to see that.
"Dennis Norman got to start at right guard and did a nice job for us. Uche (Nwaneri) continues to improve. Khalif (Barnes) and Tony (Pashos) have been solid and Brad, it looks like conditioning and the game speed and all that that he's had the last few weeks has helped. So it was a better effort."
Can the group maintain that effort or was it largely a result of working against a defense that is part of an 0-9 team? We'll find out Sunday.
Del Rio also praised the play of Daryl Smith at middle linebacker, giving Smith the defensive game ball. Smith shifted inside to play for Mike Peterson who was deactivated after butting heads with Del Rio last week and being sent home Wednesday and Thursday.
That may not be the end of the conflict, as Del Rio indicated Smith might stay in the spot.
"There is some consideration for that if we feel like [Smith] is strong there and we're strong there," Del Rio said. "We'll give that consideration."
Asked multiple times about Peterson's role going forward, Del Rio dodged the questions by indicating he was talking about the team.
"It's not about any one guy," he said.
Before that, of course, he had spoken about 10 other players by name.
Jaguars offensive line coach Andy Heck met with the Jacksonville media today to discuss the state of his unit and all that it's been through this season.
He talked about how the line is a team within a team and how his group got whipped in the loss to Cleveland. He said he likes his guys to play with ferocity, intensity and bad intentions.
While he didn't make excuses regarding three season-ending injuries -- two in the opener -- that have cost him quality people, he did say there are "not many people on this planet that can move somebody as well as Vince Manuwai does."
Two sections of his comments, courtesy of the Jaguars public relations staff:
On recovering from the loss of players to injury:
"Certainly injuries are tough. They're tough for the individuals they happen to, they're tough for the team, but as we all know they're part of football and they occur. This year we had more than our share of injuries, especially in the offensive line. But where we stand is that we have a great group of guys with a lot of character -- guys who care about football, guys who care about their trade. When any injury occurs at any position, somebody has got to step up and that's what guys have done. They've stepped up. The guys around them need to elevate their play, help bring along the guys that are stepping in, and I'm proud of the guys that we've called on. We brought Milford Brown in here off the street and we started him two or three days later, and he did a fine job. Tutan (Reyes) has done a very nice job for us. We've won some game and he's been excellent in pass protection. Uche (Nwaneri), a young player who's grown up and doing a nice job and he's only going to get better. Certainly Dennis Norman, I can't neglect him. This is a guy we've relied on for several years now to win a lot of games with when Brad's (Meester) had some misfortune. Dennis is a true pro, prepares better than anybody in our room. He's a smart guy, of course being an Ivy Leaguer, but he comes every day, he's the same guy every day, and he's been invaluable to our team."
On the lack of surge last week -- was it an off day?
"As an offensive line we take great pride in being able to run the ball, and when things don't go well in that department we take it personally. And every guy in that room, including myself, is looking at, 'How can I do my job better?' And one of the things we need to do better as an offensive line and that I need to get more of is better surge. We need to drive some guys off the ball and give our talented runners some space to run the ball. And that's something we take pride in, that's something that when we don't get that done it stings, and we're working hard to do that and the guys, like I said, take great pride in that and we're going to be working hard to fix that."
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
A quick mid-morning trip around the division. I'll be at the Titans' only practice Wednesday afternoon, then in Jacksonville starting Thursday. What do you want to read about?
- Richard Justice has little doubt that Alex Gibbs will transform the Texans' offensive line play. Interesting stuff about how retirement just wouldn't stick for him.
- The Chronicle's notebook has Gary Kubiak's reaction to Chris Brown missing a second day with a back issue. And tells us the team will look at some running backs, including Mike Bell, and some corners.
- Mike Chappell says Joseph Addai's buzzword is consistency. Edgerrin James chimes in.
The Indianapolis Star's notebook tells us Marvin Harrison will play Sunday night in the Hall of Fame Game against Washington. (I'll be there).
- John Oehser of Colts.com says Antoine Bethea may be overshadowed by Bob Sanders, but he qualifies as the glue of the Indianapolis defense.
- If you missed it, defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock has told the Colts he's done playing.
- Vito Stellino looks at Dennis Norman, the Princeton guy who's stepping in for injured center Brad Meester. The Jaguars have returned to last season's offensive line configuration -- with Vince Manuwai back at left guard and Maurice Williams at right guard.
- Stellino also tells us that on the same day Reggie Williams came off the PUP list, he was carted off the field after reinjuring his right knee. More news on his condition will come today.
- The Florida Times-Union's "observation deck" says Jerry Porter was off his crutches and made his first appearance at practice Tuesday, riding a stationary bike.
- Jim Wyatt says Chris Johnson thinks he's the last of a dying breed and compares himself to Brian Westbrook. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger says he's not thinking of Johnson as situational, that he wants to see him on the field on first and second downs. This makes you wonder who's coming off the field, with LenDale White the obvious candidate. He says he has no problem sharing the rock, recalling his split of carries with Reggie Bush at USC.
- David Climer looks at Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan. He's going to be a Pro Bowl player, it's just a matter of when.
- Jessica Hopp examines the Titans returner situations.
- Jeff Fisher told us yesterday that No. 3 quarterback Ingle Martin will kick field goals Wednesday while Rob Bironas continues to rest a groin injury.