AFC South: Donnie Jones

Thoughts on the primary developments around the AFC South over the past 10 days while I took some time away…

Houston Texans

The Texans signed Greg Jones to replace James Casey as their fullback, plucking a player who’d been a staple for division rival Jacksonville. Jones is much more of a traditional fullback than Casey was. While he’s not the sort of pass-catching threat Casey was, he will be a better lead blocker for Arian Foster. With a one-year contract, he’s unlikely to be a long-term solution, as he will turn 32 in May.

Shane Lechler is the new punter, a free-agent addition replacing Donnie Jones. Lechler is obviously an excellent punter. The one concern is the Texans are not an excellent coverage team. While a linebacking corps that will be restocked in the draft and presumably healthier will help, I’ll be watching to see if Lechler outpunts his coverage, actually creating additional issues rather than helping to resolve them. Houston did hire Bob Ligashesky as an assistant for longtime special teams coach Joe Marciano.

J.J. Watt’s star continues to shine. After visiting troops in the Middle East, he belted home runs at an Astros batting practice and had a baby penguin in Galveston, Texas named after him.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts took a look at former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, but no deal came together. Considering how general manager Ryan Grigson has worked in free agency, it seems unlikely a deal will come together now. Indianapolis has moved quickly to bring in the guys it wants, so it would seem the Colts decided to pass, or DHB didn’t jump to agree to what they may have offered. I think the team, which has made plenty of moves in free agency, can address wide receiver early in the draft.

The addition of veteran backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck shows the Grigson-Chuck Pagano regime regard the position behind Andrew Luck differently than Bill Polian did when he was dealing with insurance for Peyton Manning late during his tenure in Indianapolis.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars didn’t become players in the trade market for quarterback Matt Flynn. Smart move. The next signal caller that lands in Jacksonville needs to be more of a sure thing, and come at a more reasonable price than Flynn. Coach Gus Bradley obviously saw Flynn up close while working for the Seahawks. If he loved him, the Jaguars would have more likely shown some interest. Maybe they love Geno Smith or another quarterback in the draft. But I’ll be fine if they work hard on building the framework around the QB, play this season with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. If neither emerges as a guy they can count on going forward, then it’s priority No. 1 a year from now.

Gabbert's talking excitedly about the competition ahead at quarterback. He didn't like comments from a nameless coach from the previous staff that called him "Blame Gabbert" and suggested the way he carries himself puts blame for his problems on everyone else. It's exactly how you'd expect him to react. But I believe there was some truth to it, and it's something the new staff could have to address.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans took a look at former Jets wide receiver Chaz Schilens as well as former Bronco Brandon Stokley and former Texan Kevin Walter. The team has been eager to add a slot guy to its group, and while Stokley is going to be 37 when this season starts, he is the one guy of these three who could give the Titans something they lack, I believe.

Ropati Pitoitua is the newest member of the Titans defensive line, an area they’ve wanted to beef up. Now Pitoitua, at 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds, joins tackle Sammie Hill (6-4, 329) to provide that size upgrade. Pitoitua was the 10th free-agent addition for Tennessee this offseason. He figures to help shore up the run defense.

I was a bit surprised the Titans signed safety Bernard Pollard, who’s a solid player against the run but also a coverage liability. He’s an outspoken guy with a big attitude and I’d categorize him as more of a Gregg Williams guy than a Mike Munchak guy.
Special teams hurt the Houston Texans last season.

“We were a big penalty team in special teams,” coach Gary Kubiak said recently. “That's a big concern of ours. If I'm looking for a reason why we fell off a little bit, our inside linebacker situation got very thin when we lost [Brian Cushing]. When you're having problems at linebacker in the NFL, you're probably going to suffer on special teams. We're not going to use that as an excuse. But it's something we have to do better.”

One guy who wasn’t really part of the problem was punter Donnie Jones.

He was 14th in the NFL with a 40.4-yard net average and put 28 of his 88 punts inside the 20-yard line. He’s got a career net average of 39.2 yards in nine seasons with four teams.

But while the team expects to add linebackers who can help special teams in the draft, it could replace Jones, a free agent, with free agent Shane Lechler, who has played 13 years for Oakland.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports Lechler will visit the Texans on Thursday.

Lechler had a 39.0 net average last season for the Raiders with 45 of 81 punts inside the 20-yard line. His career net is 39.0.

He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and a six-time first-team All-Pro.

The difference between Jones and Lechler at this point isn't significant. No matter who's punting, the team has to cover and block better.
The AFC South has six additional picks in April thanks to the NFL’s formula for compensatory draft picks.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

The Texans get a third-rounder, No. 95 overall, and a sixth-rounder, 201st overall as a result of losing Jason Allen, Mike Brisiel, Joel Dreessen and Mario Williams while signing Bradie James and Donnie Jones.

The Titans get a third rounder, 97th overall, a sixth-rounder, 202nd overall and a seventh-rounder, 248th overall as a result of losing Cortland Finnegan, William Hayes and Jason Jones. Their two prominent signings, Kamerion Wimbley and Steve Hutchinson, were cut by their previous teams. The formula factors in only players who had expiring contracts and became free agents. The Titans signed none who qualified for consideration in the league’s equation.

The Colts get a seventh-rounder, 254th overall even though they did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the formula, the compensatory free agents lost by the Colts ranked higher than the ones they signed. The formula needs annually adds 32 picks, the equivalent of a full round of picks, to the draft and the Giants and Colts got the two extra picks to fill out that number.

The Jaguars didn't qualify for an extra pick

Complete team-by-team draft orders will appear here shortly.
Football Focus places eight members of the AFC South on its AFC Pro Bowl team.

Five of them are no surprise: Houston Receiver Andre Johnson, Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne, Houston left tackle Duane Brown, Houston center Chris Myers, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt.

If I asked you to guess the other three, I seriously doubt you’d come up with Colts rookie tight end Dwayne Allen, Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey or Houston punter Donnie Jones.

On Allen PFF writes: “It was harder picking the second choice with it ultimately coming down to Allen and Heath Miller. In the end, while the staff was split, the superior blocking of Allen won out.”

On Casey: “While we appreciate how excellent Vince Wilfork has been in recent weeks, we plumped for the more consistent Casey. There’s a player who produces week in and week out.”

Special teamers get names but no write ups. Apologies to Jones.

RTC: Homecomings for Henne, Luck

December, 13, 2012
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The week after a loss tends to drag, so the Texans are happy theirs is a short one, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Among the Texans’ new injuries; A banged up plant leg for punter Donnie Jones, says Ganguli.

A plan for new digital scoreboards at Reliant Stadium is heading for a vote, says John McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

The NFL admitted it missed the call on Andrew Luck’s interception against Tennessee and that his knee was down. The replay official failed to get the definitive picture to the referee, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

To which I say: Why does stuff like this still happen? We all said in the press box that there was no way the ref could have seen the shot we were seeing, and he didn’t. Ridiculous. At least they admit their mistake.

Andrew Luck regards his trip home to Houston Sunday as a business trip, says Chappell.

Vick Ballard is in line for the bulk of the running back work, says Phil Richards of the Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Chad Henne’s returning to Miami with the same determination to win as a starter, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Mike Mularkey returned from a sick day at full speed, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union.

As Cecil Shorts returns from a concussion, he’s talked to Laurent Robinson, a Jaguars receiver whose season ended with multiple concussions, says John Oehser of

Tennessee Titans

Mel Kiper thinks the strength of the upcoming draft at defensive end lines up with a Titans’ need, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Jason McCourty was wired for sound in the Titans recent loss to Houston. (Video.)

RTC: On Texans' unsung heroes

December, 2, 2012
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Stars have shined to get the Texans to 10-1, but there has also been a roster of unsung heroes like Donnie Jones, Justin Forsett and James Casey, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

John McClain of the Chronicle runs through five keys for the Texans against the Titans, with an emphasis on defensive depth and defensive performance.

Brian Cushing is unsure about the idea of eliminating blocks below the waist, says Ganguli. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on such a block, but he knows the Texans' offense is keyed on cut blocking.

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star sees Calvin Johnson against Reggie Wayne as Megatron versus Metronome.

The next test of depth comes at defensive tackle and safety where Fili Moala and Tom Zbikowski are out, says Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Harris is an improving rookie cornerback who’s getting a lot of opportunity, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “He’s been confident the whole time and knows the system inside and out,” safety Dawan Landry said.

Gene Frenette of the Times-Union marvels at how Mike Mularkey has kept the Jaguars positive during a bad season.

The Jaguars promoted running back Richard Murphy from the practice squad and waived fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Like a number of Titans, Chris Johnson is optimistic about what Dowel Loggains will be able to do as offensive coordinator, says Jim Wyatt. Also, Tim Shaw will fill in for the injured Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker.

Fullback Collin Mooney was promoted from the practice squad, says Wyatt.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 13, Bears 6

November, 11, 2012

CHICAGO -- Thoughts on the Houston Texans' 13-6 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field:

What it means: The Texans won on the road against a top NFC team in bad weather to boost their record to 8-1 and should get even more attention as a potential Super Bowl team after this effort in Chicago.

What I liked: After all the talk about the Bears’ propensity for creating turnovers, it was the Texans who proved to have more of the playmaking defense with four takeaways -- two fumbles and two picks of Chicago’s Jay Cutler. Running back Arian Foster did yeoman’s work, with 29 carries for 102 yards. He also scored the game’s lone touchdown with a pretty diving catch of a 2-yard pass from Matt Schaub with linebacker Lance Briggs covering him well. While Brandon Marshall made a big 45-yard catch, there were hardly any instances when you felt like a run or short pass by Chicago had a chance to turn into something significant and damaging.

Other good things: While a potential big return by Keshawn Martin was washed away by a holding penalty, and Donnie Jones wasn’t crushing his punts, the Texans' special teams had a reasonably good night. Coverage teams contained Devin Hester, making several one-on-one tackles. And while Chicago’s Robbie Gould missed a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have made it 10-9 Texans, Houston’s Shayne Graham hit his attempts from 20 and 42 yards.

What I didn’t like: On a rainy, windy night, Schaub and the Texans couldn’t find much through the air. A deep, bootleg pass for Andre Johnson on their first series went off his fingertips. Kevin Walter's 23-yard reception in the third quarter was the long pass of the day for Houston.

What I want to know: How much linebacker Tim Dobbins is going to get fined for the hit above the shoulders to Cutler that left the Bears quarterback with a concussion that kept him out of the second half.

What’s next: The Texans host Jacksonville at Reliant Stadium in an AFC South matchup. Houston won the first matchup at EverBank Field on Sept. 16, 27-7.

No Daniels for Texans in rain, wind

November, 11, 2012
CHICAGO -- Weather’s going to be a big issue tonight at Soldier Field.

The rain outside the press box window is moving sideways and the flags on top of the stadium and a top the goal posts are screaming “It’s swirling.” Every time I look at them they are going different directions, and one end of the stadium is different than the other.

The Texans will be working without one of their top weapons, tight end Owen Daniels, who’s sidelined with a back injury. Garrett Graham is a capable replacement, but hardly as dynamic. Fullback James Casey, who’s really an H-back, has the best hands on the team and will likely be a factor in the passing game too.

Quarterback Matt Schaub, kicker Shayne Graham and punter Donnie Jones will all have issues with the wind, as will their Bear’s counterparts

The full list of inactives:


RTC: On Texans' special-teams woes

October, 25, 2012
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Shayne Graham and Donnie Jones have kicked and punted well, “[b]ut kickoff returns and coverage need a major overhaul by the time the Texans return from their open date and play the Buffalo Bills in Mario Williams’ homecoming at Reliant Stadium,” writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

To which I say: Bryan Braman is an excellent special-teamer, but beyond him the team is lacking in top guys. It’s hard to overhaul the units when you don’t have new people.

Indianapolis Colts

As passing games get better and better, cornerbacks need to be bulletproof with amnesia more than ever, says Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star. Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis talk about their mindsets.

To which I say: In a scheme with more man coverage, these guys are being asked to do even more. Powers has been up and down, but he’s being asked to do much more than in the past.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Backup running back Rashad Jennings and backup quarterback Chad Henne vow to be ready to contribute for the Jaguars in Green Bay, says Ryan O’Halloran. Jennings will start for Maurice Jones-Drew, but Henne will back up the banged up Blaine Gabbert.

To which I say: Jennings went through camp as the starter during Jones-Drew’s holdout. The time has come for him to show why the team has such faith in him.

Tennessee Titans

Recent Pac-12 alumni including defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and DaJohn Harris (USC), linebacker Akeem Ayers (UCLA) and cornerback Alterraun Verner (UCLA) all have recent hands-on experience against Andrew Luck, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

To which I say: Any familiarity helps, but Luck has graduated into a different guy playing with different people in a different system at a different level, so those college experiences only mean so much.
Joe Flacco, JJ WattUS Presswire, AP ImagesHow Baltimore's Joe Flacco, left, fares against Houston's explosive J.J. Watt could be key Sunday.

The last time we saw the Texans and Ravens square off, we were watching a divisional-round playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Terrell Suggs had six tackles and a pass defended as the Ravens' rush linebacker. Houston featured third-string rookie T.J. Yates at quarterback, and his three interceptions -- paired with multiple special-teams gaffes by Texans returner Jacoby Jones -- were big factors in a 20-13 Baltimore victory.

The Texans returned home to rave reviews for their first playoff season but also couldn’t help wonder what might have been if they'd had injured starting quarterback Matt Schaub and played a cleaner game. Baltimore advanced to the AFC Championship Game in New England, where it lost to the Patriots, but a near-catch for a touchdown by Lee Evans could have won it with 27 seconds left and a missed 32-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff could have forced overtime.

This rematch doesn’t carry the same stakes but could have big implications. The winner will have the AFC’s best record at 6-1.

AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky will be watching closely.

HENSLEY: I think it's easy to say this is a battle of the two best teams in the AFC. Not really going out on a limb here because the Ravens and Texans are the only teams with winning records in this mediocre conference. I know there are going to be nine games after this one, but this is shaping up to be the Ravens' most important game of the regular season.

The result of this game could become a tiebreaker for home-field advantage or a first-round bye at the end of the season. The Ravens, who have won a league-best 14 consecutive games at home, don't want to go on the road in the playoffs. The Ravens' mindset is that they won't have to come back to Houston this year if they win there Sunday. What's the mindset of the Texans after what happened in Houston last Sunday night?

KUHARSKY: Because the Texans are so young, they've played a lot of "biggest games in franchise history." This is certainly the newest one to top the list. Their critics look at the 5-1 record and see wins over mostly softies and a pasting by the Packers on Sunday night. A victory over the Ravens validates everything they've done and regains a firm hold on Best in the AFC. A loss would create some serious concerns. They do have the cushion of playing in a terrible division they simply can't lose. But Baltimore has been an obstacle and ended the Texans' last season in the playoffs. If they meet again with such high stakes, they don't want to be traveling.

It might be a good time to draw the Ravens, too, right? I know Ray Lewis wasn't what he has been, but their first game without a leader like that and without an underrated, great corner like Lardarius Webb may make them a bit more susceptible, no?

HENSLEY: This is the most vulnerable I've seen the Ravens' defense in 13 seasons. Lewis wasn't playing like the Lewis from 10 years ago, but he was still an above-average linebacker in this league. The Ravens have given up more than 200 yards rushing in each of the past two games, and losing Lewis only makes that run defense shakier. Dannell Ellerbe, who has made seven starts since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2009, will take Lewis' spot.

Though the Ravens will miss Lewis' leadership, the bigger loss is Webb. He was emerging as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. His nine interceptions since the start of the 2011 season was tied for the league lead. So, the Ravens have taken shots to both their run and pass defenses this week. How do you see the Texans attacking the Ravens' defense Sunday?

KUHARSKY: Although they might not run first chronologically Sunday, the Texans are a run-first team. Everything they do offensively is keyed on the one-cut-and-go running of Arian Foster, who did great work running for 132 yards in that playoff game on Jan. 15. They send him left most often now, because Duane Brown and Wade Smith are steadier blockers than the guys on the right side, where they have two new starters who aren't even full time.

Spinning off that run game, we'll see play-action heavy with bootlegs and rollouts. It's always remarkable to see Owen Daniels out in space awaiting a Matt Schaub pass. Andre Johnson is certainly dangerous too, though they've not been able to feed him the ball as much as usual. He hates the talk that he's getting older and slowing down, but he hasn't looked like the same player so far this season. Two weeks ago, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie really smothered Johnson. I figured Webb would be a guy who could do similar work. If AJ sees someone like Cary Williams instead, it could be a different story.

Speaking of Schaub, let's turn to quarterbacks. He has been quite efficient this year, doing what Houston needs and not getting caught up at all in his numbers. I came into the season not sold on Joe Flacco and thinking the Ravens didn't have the right guy under center to become an offensive team. But he has done some very good work in the games I've seen and started to change my opinion. Even minus Brian Cushing, the Texans' front throws a lot at a quarterback. Green Bay might have exposed some coverage deficiencies. How's Flacco at assessing such things on the fly and taking advantage?

HENSLEY: Flacco's biggest improvement this season has been his ability to audible at the line. The Ravens are using the no-huddle more than any other time in Flacco's five seasons. It's not to the point of being Peyton Manning, but Flacco is constantly changing the play at the line. Flacco, who ran the no-huddle during his college days, is comfortable with this. He has wanted to have more control of the offense and he's now getting it.

A lot of credit goes to quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, who is familiar with this style from his days with the Colts. Flacco makes his mistakes when he gets pressured. His pocket awareness has improved and he can scramble for yards. But Flacco will rush and make poor throws when a defender is in his face. Left tackle Michael Oher (four sacks) and rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele (three sacks) have struggled at times keeping rushers away from Flacco. Is there any chance the Ravens slow down J.J. Watt and Houston's pass rush?

KUHARSKY: It sure seems like the key to the game for me. Watt is going to get his at some point, and it's not just sacks. Watch how he'll stop rushing when he knows he's not getting there and time his jump to bat down, or even pick off, a pass.

And although the numbers of the other guys aren't in his stratosphere, Brooks Reed, Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin are very effective rushers who will have a bearing on Flacco's pocket comfort. Force some mistakes with that rush, and I like Houston's chances. Get stonewalled and fall victim to the ball coming out super-fast, and I feel differently.

One note about the quicker Ravens offense: With Cushing out, Brice McCain, the nickelback, will have a bigger role in covering players such as Ray Rice and Dennis Pitta on routes. If the Ravens run hurry-up or no-huddle, they can potentially trap the Texans in base if they want McCain off the field. I am eager to see whether they try that. The Texans are obviously are familiar with Jim Caldwell's no-huddling.

How about special teams? Tell me how Jacoby Jones is now reliably explosive? The Texans have some serious special-teams issues.

HENSLEY: Jacoby Jones has been one of the bigger surprises this season for Baltimore. The Ravens were looking to upgrade the return game this offseason and failed to sign Eddie Royal or Ted Ginn in free agency. That's why they jumped on Jones when he was cut by the Texans. He has been average as a punt returner (9 yards per return), but he really keyed the win over the Cowboys on Sunday. His 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which tied an NFL record, was the big play in that game.

The only reason the Ravens turned to Jones on kickoffs was because rookie Deonte Thompson fumbled a kickoff the week before. If you think about it, it's kind of funny that Jones got his chance to be explosive because another player couldn't hold onto the ball, especially after Jones' problems fielding kicks in the past. But that really hasn't surfaced so far with the Ravens.

Baltimore's coverage teams are both ranked in the top half of the league, which is a big improvement from last year. In 2012, the Ravens allowed three touchdowns on returns. Another improvement is at kicker. Rookie Justin Tucker has made 12 of 13 field goals this season and has hit both attempts beyond 50 yards. If this game is close, the Ravens have a lot of confidence in Tucker to make a pressure kick. So, what are the issues with the Texans' special teams?

KUHARSKY: Well, Trindon Holliday was absolutely electric as their returner in the preseason. But it didn’t carry over and they gave up on him. You saw Holliday playing for the Broncos on Monday night. Keshawn Martin is the man now. The team averages only 9.8 yards a punt return and 18.5 yards a kick return.

Their average start after a kickoff is the league’s worst -- the 17.7-yard line. Their coverage isn’t that bad -- it’s 31st in the league instead of 32nd. Opponents start at the 26.9-yard line.

Donnie Jones is a middle-of-the-pack punter in net average. Shayne Graham has been good on field goals, hitting 11 of 12, but is tied for 24th in touchbacks playing at home in what amounts to a domed stadium.

It’s gambler’s logic that the Texans are due to break through against the Ravens. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. If they don’t and Jacoby Jones has something to do with it, it’ll hurt a little bit extra.

It’s certainly no stretch to predict we’ll see these teams facing off again in the playoffs. In what round and where is the question, and Sunday’s winner will lead the race to be in position to host.
Time for a run through of Scouts Inc.’s defensive rankings, position by position.

The AFC South is home to just four players in the top 10 of the five lists, though the division has a larger presence at a couple of spots as you look deeper -- particularly at defensive tackle.

Here’s a breakdown with some reflection. The first number is the positional ranking, the second the grade.

Defensive ends:
7) J.J. Watt (85)

12) Dwight Freeney (83)

17) Robert Mathis (81)

23) Jeremy Mincey (80)

31) Antonio Smith (78)

My thoughts: Freeney and Mathis are now outside linebackers in the Colts’ system, and Smith kicks to tackle in the Texans’ nickel package. Mincey may be the top guy in the division as an every-down 4-3 defensive end, and Tennessee’s Kamerion Wimbley will be here but is still rated as a linebacker.

Defensive tackles:
24) Tyson Alualu (78)

27) Jurrell Casey (78)

34) Terrance Knighton (76)

41) Cory Redding (NA)

43) Karl Klug (NA)

47) Shaun Cody (NA)

50) Brandon McKinney (NA)

My thoughts: The top three here are all likely on the rise and should rank higher going into next season. Redding is a base defensive end in the Colts 3-4. McKinney’s now on IR with a knee injury.

10) Brian Cushing (85)

23) Daryl Smith (82)

26) Paul Posluszny (81)

35) Connor Barwin (79)

38) Kamerion Wimbley (NA)

47) Brooks Reed (NA)

My thoughts: Tough to mash together inside/middle guys and outside guys and 4-3 guys with 3-4 guys, but they all fall together here. I think you can make a case that every guy here from the AFC South could rank higher.

3) Johnathan Joseph (84)

17) Vontae Davis (80)

50) Derek Cox (NA)

My thoughts: Joseph is excellent and Davis is a major upgrade for the Colts. Jason McCourty is a noticeable absence here, and Jerraud Powers would seem a top 50 guy as well.

6) Antoine Bethea (81)

10) Danieal Manning (79)

18) Michael Griffin (78)

30) Dawan Landry (76)

34) Glover Quin (75)

38) Dwight Lowery (NA)

My thoughts: Nice for the Texans and the Jaguars to get both their starters on the list. Manning gets some deserved recognition here. The two spots that are not accounted for -- either Jordan Babineaux or Robert Johnson in Tennessee and Tom Zbikowski in Indy -- could be issues.

3) Rob Bironas (76)

13) Josh Scobee (68)

19) Adam Vinatieri (62)

25) Shayne Graham (59)


4) Donnie Jones (74)

13) Brett Kern (66)

16) Pat McAfee (62)

30) Brett Hartmann (54)

Thoughts on Saints 34, Texans 27

August, 25, 2012
There isn’t a coach in the league who’s OK with fumbling. There may not be a coach in the league who’s less OK with it than Gary Kubiak.

So while Keshawn Martin is assuredly part of the Texans, the rookie receiver might have hurt his chances to be on the field early in the season with two lost fumbles over the course of the Houston’s 34-27 loss in New Orleans on Saturday night.

Return man Trindon Holliday was having a great preseason. But he comes out of Week 3 of the preseason as no sure thing after losing one fumble that was scooped for a touchdown return and dropping another return chance which he managed to recover as he went out of bounds. Those will be measured against an electric 64-yard kickoff return later in the game.

A few other notes out of the game:
  • Quarterback Matt Schaub was great (15-of-18, 194 yards and a TD) and the Texans rolled to touchdowns on their first two drives with efficient and effective play. The offense would appear ready to roll.
  • Tight end Garrett Graham looks fully capable of replacing departed free agent Joel Dreessen as the No. 2 tight end in a way that won’t leave much of a hole. (He certainly was the lesser of the two TE Grahams in this game, however. Jimmy Graham is simply something to behold.)
  • Cornerback Kareem Jackson was right with Devery Henderson on a deep completion from Drew Brees up the left side and was right with Lance Moore on a touchdown catch, even without the pass interference that was declined. Jackson will probably be getting ripped in Houston, but I was actually encouraged by the good position against top receivers taking throws from a top quarterback.
  • Right tackle Derek Newton did well at steering some pressure real wide and past Schaub. I know the Texans were seeking to get all four of the guys in competition for the two open spots on the line equal quantities of work. And Rashad Butler was mixed in early, too. But seeing him on the field late in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game didn’t leave me feeling great about his chances to claim the spot as his and his alone for opening day.
  • Sherrick McManis made a great special-teams play, stopping at the goal line to field the ball and tossing Donnie Jones’ punt back into the field, where Roc Carmichael downed it.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Rookie Randy Bullock and veteran Shayne Graham understand the competition they are having to become the Texans kicker, says Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle.

The Texans may have found a gem in punter Donnie Jones, says John McClain of the Chron.

Corner Brandon Harris has been better since a light bulb moment, says McClain. He’s still going to be stuck behind nickel Brice McCain.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck seems to hit at least one long ball per practice, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star.

Sunday against the Rams will qualify as a bit more than just the Colts’ first preseason game, says Wilson.

The Colts haven’t been running a lot, which may or may not mean much, says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Justin Blackmon’s crash course is underway, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Blackmon won on the contract, now he’s got to produce, says Gene Frenette of the T-U.

Aaron Ross got a hero’s welcome when he returned to the Jaguars after watching his wife win a gold medal at the Olympics, says Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker’s mobility amounts to a double-edged sword, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. Stay tuned for a bit on Matt Hasselbeck’s mobility in a post I’ll have up this afternoon.

With replacement offseason, get ready for a preseason – and maybe a season – of discontent, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

Receiver Marc Mariani and center Fernando Velasco were good against the Falcons, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Rookie long snapper Beau Brinkley is looking to keep a low profile, says Glennon.