AFC South: Donovan McNabb

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In Minnesota, Christian Ponder's talked of his respect for Donovan McNabb but his desire to start.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
AP Photo/Rick WilsonThe Jaguars have a plan in place for rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Jake Locker's echoed the same sentiment with regard to Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee.

Blaine Gabbert's on a different road. He’s a competitor, he wants opportunity, but he identified himself more than once on Tuesday after the Jaguars' morning practice as a No. 2 quarterback.

“Being a backup quarterback in the NFL is the easiest job in the world because everybody thinks you are better than the starter,” he said. “That couldn’t be more wrong. That changes real quick when you start playing in the football field.”

He said he wants to compete with David Garrard and Luke McCown and have fun doing it.

I’m not sure what the exact right balance is, what the right things to say are for a guy in Gabbert’s situation.

But after a couple days with the Jaguars and conversations with general manager Gene Smith, coach Jack Del Rio, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Garrard and Gabbert, I can say it’s a very healthy situation right now and I believe they have an effective plan.

Koetter said that plan includes getting Gabbert some work in preseason games with the Jaguars' first-string offense, and hopefully against a first-string defense.

It’s important for the coaches to be able to correctly evaluate where Gabbert is.

“Two nights ago we go two-minute offense, he’s with the twos, we’ve got a corner route,” Koetter said. “The guys busts the coverage, we’re wide open, the crowd goes wild, Blaine’s the greatest player ever. He had the exact same route last night against the exact same coverage except guess what? The DB was all over him. He threw it away.

“I’m trying to tell him every time, ‘OK, when we get to real football, this won’t be this wide open.'”

A couple more things worth knowing from Gabbert:

  • He said the press gives Garrard too hard a time and that he is “a hell of a quarterback.” How does he know? "That’s just the buzz in the locker room,” he said.
  • The transition from a shotgun-heavy offense at Missouri to the Jaguars' offense is not as big a deal as it can be made out to be, he said. He estimated the Jags are running 50 or even 60 percent shotgun. (They’ve certainly worked more pass than run and are willing to hand off out of shotgun.) Gabbert said he thinks taking a snap from under center is actually easier than taking one in the shotgun.
  • He thinks his hair might survive any sort of rookie orientation. “I still have the flow, a lot of guys on the team do,” he said. "Hopefully that will stay.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Matt Hasselbeck can’t participate in any physical activity at Titans headquarters until Thursday. The way the Titans read the rules, that means even his conditioning will take place off the premises.

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyTitans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck answers questions Friday during a news conference after signing with the team.
That’s OK, Hasselbeck said as he was introduced as the team’s big free-agent acquisition.

“It’s a little tough,” Hasselbeck said. “But I’ve got enough to do in terms of getting to work. I’ll be busy no matter what.”

In the meantime, Jake Locker will take the lead in workouts that start Saturday with the veteran merely watching.

Earlier Saturday, Hasselbeck will try on a helmet and shoulder pads, getting sized and feeling like it’s his first day in school.

He said the offensive line was a huge draw as he considered his options, joking that he fielded interest from the other 31 teams, too, and that the Patriots made an especially strong push.

Part of Hasselbeck’s job now is to set an example for Locker, the team’s first-round pick and someone he already knows some.

“The best way to teach is to do your job with excellence each and every day,” he said. “And I am sure there are things I can learn from him.”

Locker said his feeling is much like the one fellow first-rounder Christian Ponder expressed in Minnesota after the Vikings added Donovan McNabb.

“You want to play,” Locker said. “I have the same stance. I respect Matt. He has had a great career, he has been very successful. I’d be doing him a disservice if I am not pushing him and trying to win that starting job.”
» NFC: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC South team:

Houston Texans

1. Finally fix the secondary: Not only was the Texans’ secondary awful in coverage last season, but it also needs some stabilizing veteran leadership on the back end of this revamped defense. A safety like Eric Weddle could help cure both issues. There are quite a few safeties in this crop of free agents who would be clear upgrades for Houston. Of course, we have to discuss Nnamdi Asomugha -- and the Texans should certainly be right in the thick of those negotiations. If they can’t land Asomugha, the Texans could pursue Johnathan Joseph or Ike Taylor, who could help fix some leaks.

2. Work the cap: Houston is pretty tight up against the cap as it stands right now. But the team has serious needs on defense -- particularly in the secondary. In order to get the help they need, the Texans might have to restructure a few contracts or let a current player or two go.

3. Lock up Vonta Leach: This offense pretty much has it all. Wideout Andre Johnson makes everyone around him better in just so many ways. And the running game was exceptional last season. But Leach is a key component in that running game. And no fullback opens holes like this guy. Houston should bring him back and dedicate the rest of its free-agent moves to the defense.

Top five free agents: Leach, WR Jacoby Jones, S Bernard Pollard, DE Mark Anderson and QB Matt Leinart.

Indianapolis Colts

1. Get Peyton Manning’s extension done: Manning has been franchised and had surgery again on his neck recently. But there is little doubt who the face of this franchise is. Getting him locked up long term is something that Indianapolis just needs to get done.

2. Get a starting safety signed: Melvin Bullitt is a free agent. He is a solid player, and bringing him back makes a lot of sense. Outside of Antoine Bethea, who is vastly underrated, Indy has very little at this position. The Colts need to get a starter under contract. Also on defense, bringing back linebacker Clint Session, who is a superb fit in this scheme, and adding defensive tackle help also should be priorities if they can fit it under the cap.

3. Add running back help: This could come in the form of bringing back the reliable Joseph Addai. Well, he is reliable when he is healthy. And Addai has a great grasp of the Colts’ offense. I am very high on 2011 draft pick Delone Carter and maybe the light goes on for Donald Brown. But the Colts do need someone in their backfield who can pass protect and can be trusted. In this capacity, Addai seems to be worth more to the Colts than to any other team.

Top five free agents: Manning (franchised), Session, Addai, Bullitt and OT Charlie Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Address holes at linebacker: Linebackers Justin Durant and Kirk Morrison are up for free agency. I would suggest bringing one of those two back and then finding an upgrade from a coverage standpoint at a starting linebacker position to go along with the steady Daryl Smith. James Anderson would be an excellent target, and if healthy, so would another Panther -- Thomas Davis.

2. Address holes at safety: Jacksonville featured one of the worst secondaries in football last season. The Jags tried many bodies at safety, but it yielded minimal results. This is a very strong free-agent safety class, and the Jaguars need to add a starter or two they can count on week after week.

3. Spend! The Jaguars have quite a bit of money to spend in free agency, and under the new rules, they will have to spend. This free-agency period is like none we have ever seen and the action could be fast and furious. Jacksonville needs to stay the course and make wise financial decisions as it tries to add players who can mostly upgrade a hurting defense.

Top free agents: Marcedes Lewis (franchised), WR Mike Sims-Walker, Durant and Morrison.

Tennessee Titans

1. Revamp the Interior offensive line: Although they didn’t play great in 2010, I have faith in the Titans’ offensive tackles. But the interior of the line is a train wreck. That won’t do with a rookie quarterback behind center and in an offense that will be extremely run-heavy. Chris Johnson had little room to run last season. That needs to change. Marshal Yanda and Harvey Dahl would be great targets here.

2. Add a veteran quarterback: Needless to say, the Titans cannot enter the season with just the quarterbacks they currently have on their roster. They must bring in a veteran with some experience. Donovan McNabb would be high on my list. Matt Hasselbeck might also fit the bill.

3. Fortify every level of the defense: Presently, Tennessee is very young at linebacker, just adequate at safety and could lose three of its defensive ends. Making matters more difficult, the team is also installing a different version of the 4-3 defense. The Titans do have some money to spend in free agency. It would be wise if they used those funds on young free-agent talent, as it appears this team is now rebuilding from the ground up. Every level of the defense could use reinforcement.

Top five free agents: DE Jason Babin, LB Stephen Tulloch, WR Randy Moss, DE Dave Ball and DE Jacob Ford.

Free-agency outlook: Titans

July, 14, 2011
The Titans have plenty of areas that could use an upgrade. And they look to have a fair amount of money to spend to improve their roster.

I list their top three needs as interior offensive line, middle linebacker and wide receiver when considering star-in-the-making Kenny Britt’s off-the-field issues. But Tennessee absolutely needs to find a veteran quarterback. And it could use more help at tight end behind Jared Cook, safety and defensive tackle. The Titans also have to get Chris Johnson’s contract situation squared away.

[+] EnlargeMarshal Yanda
Larry French/Getty ImagesMarshal Yanda would be a nice fit for new coach Mike Munchak.
Marshal Yanda: Yanda would be a favorite of head coach Mike Munchak and O-line coach Bruce Matthews. He is tough, smart, versatile and technically sound. And he might just be the best offensive lineman up for free agency. In fact, I bet Yanda would be a favorite of Jake Locker and Johnson, too. A fantastic consolation prize would be Harvey Dahl. Nasty to the core, Dahl would be a great addition at guard for Munchak’s squad.

Donovan McNabb: I can’t find many good fits for McNabb around the league at this point. But Tennessee does seem like a logical landing spot. Plagued with accuracy problems during his career, but also possessing very good strength and movement skills, McNabb and Locker have many similarities. McNabb might be the perfect bridge quarterback until the rookie is ready. Matt Hasselbeck would also be a suitable option as a mentor to Locker.

Mike Sims-Walker: Fully counting on Britt doesn’t seem too smart right now. But just think of the skill-player talent Tennessee would have with Britt, Sims-Walker, Cook and Johnson out of the backfield. That could make Locker’s transition to the pros much smoother. Of course, Sims-Walker isn’t the easiest guy to count on either, but his talent is obvious and his wide catching radius could be ideal for Locker. James Jones would also be a suitable option here.

Stephen Tulloch: Although he doesn’t make many big plays and is just average in coverage, Tulloch is a tackling machine who is in the prime of his career. Tennessee is going to be bigger on the defensive line and should be able to protect its linebackers better with this new scheme. A stabilizing force like Tulloch would help a very young group of second level defenders for Tennessee.

Vonta Leach: Despite his reputation, Ahmard Hall was not effective enough as a lead-blocking fullback for Tennessee last year. Leach is the best in the business at this skill. And stealing him away from Houston should greatly weaken the Texans’ ground attack. A bruiser like Leach would fit the new coaching staff’s persona to a T.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.
Co-hosting “The Wake Up Zone” in Nashville this morning, I was part of an extensive conversation with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. about the Titans’ roster.

We focused on free agency.

Some of his larger points:

  • Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is a good, physical player against the run but is pretty much a two-down player who’s a liability against the likes of Dallas Clark, Owen Daniels or Maurice Jones-Drew. Williamson thinks the Titans are ready to move on without Tulloch.
  • Of ends Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford, the Titans are most likely to bring back Ball. He’s bulkier and would fit best with the team’s push to get bigger. Williamson thinks Babin will break the bank somewhere else.
  • Chris Hope can be part of an average secondary, and addressing the safety position shouldn’t be very high on the Titans list. If they pursued a free-agent strong safety, Baltimore’s Dawan Landry could be an affordable upgrade and pair up nicely with Michael Griffin.
  • Fullback Ahmard Hall is coming of a poor season (along with the interior line) and is unlikely to draw much free-agent interest. Williamson rates Houston’s Vonta Leach, also a free agent-to-be, as a superior player. But generally, teams that utilize fullbacks don’t want to invest a lot in the position, feeling they can always find someone adequate.
  • Williamson likes Donovan McNabb as a place-holding veteran quarterback option, and expects him to be cut by Washington. McNabb’s style and strengths line up nicely with what Jake Locker does. I don’t believe the Titans are interested in McNabb, who might not embrace a caretaking role and has an ego that would need some managing. If the team brings back Kerry Collins, Williamson points out the Titans will be doing different things for an immobile veteran than they will eventually be doing for Locker, who excels at throwing on the move. [UPDATE: Collins announced his retirement later in the day.]

Double Coverage: Pats vs. Colts in 2015

November, 18, 2010
Colts and IllustrationPeyton Manning and Tom Brady have been at the center of arguably the best rivalry of the past decade. Who will carry it on when they step away from the game?
The annual AFC showdown is upon us, and with it come the recurring storylines.

That's right, the Indianapolis Colts will meet the New England Patriots on Sunday for an eighth straight season. The NFL's greatest ongoing interdivisional rivalry showcases two of the great organizations of this generation and renews the discussion about Peyton Manning's stats versus Tom Brady's championships.

We've decided to rekindle the debate, but before you throw your head back and groan in anticipation of the clichés, hold your horseshoes.

The purpose of this debate is to eliminate Manning and Brady and look into the future.

Which team has the better long-range outlook once Manning and Brady move on?

For the purpose of this discussion, we've set the target for 2015 -- one year beyond the length of Brady's latest contract extension -- to examine which team has the better infrastructure to cope with life minus its iconic quarterback.

Tim Graham: Time to get after it, Paul. But no weapons this time, please. I've just recently completed the physical therapy from our last debate.

Paul Kuharsky: Well, this back-and-forth will be less physically taxing, and since there is so much forecasting, you may actually be able to put your Jedi training to use.

Graham: Get this debate started we shall, hmmm?

Kuharsky: So what do the Colts and Patriots have now that's going to be a big factor for them in five years?

Jerry Hughes
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWill 2010 first-round pick Jerry Hughes develop into a cornerstone on the Colts' defense?
I count eight guys who are in their first, second or third year with the franchise who I expect will still be prime contributors in 2015. But only three of the eight fit into the framework of the four most important positions on the field -- quarterback, left tackle, defensive end and cornerback. Those players would be corners Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey and defensive end Jerry Hughes.

Hughes is still unproven, but it's early and Colts president Bill Polian saw the potential for him to ultimately replace a Dwight Freeney or a Robert Mathis.

Others who may still be staples when Manning is gone: receiver Austin Collie, linebacker Pat Angerer, tight end Jacob Tamme, tight end Brody Eldridge and punter Pat McAfee. Can that group be the core of a team that continues to win? I wish I could offer a solid yes or no instead of a tepid maybe.

Beyond that, we've got five drafts to consider, right? And Polian regularly finds undrafted gems. I don't doubt the Colts will have talent. But they'll need new Freeney-, Dallas Clark- and Reggie Wayne-caliber stars, plus the replacement quarterback.

Graham: Patriots overlord Bill Belichick has drawn deserved criticism for his draft failures. He has swung and missed at his share of Terrence Wheatleys and Kevin O'Connells and Chad Jacksons in the early rounds.

But when you accumulate as many picks as the Patriots have and have elite football minds evaluating the talent, those bad decisions are going to even out eventually. The Patriots appear to be warming up when it comes to successful drafting.

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
AP Photo/Paul Spinelli Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez ranks second on the Patriots in catches and receiving yards.
The Patriots went into Heinz Field and manhandled the Pittsburgh Steelers with four rookies in their starting defensive lineup (defensive end Brandon Deaderick, outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and left cornerback Devin McCourty) and a rookie tight end (Rob Gronkowski), who caught three touchdowns. Another rookie tight end (Aaron Hernandez) ranks second on the team in catches and receiving yards. Their punter is a rookie.

They don't have as many second- and third-year contributors, but inside linebacker Jerod Mayo was defensive rookie of the year in 2008. Among the sophomores are starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and receivers Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman, who also handle return duties.

Without question, there will be a drop-off at quarterback when Brady retires, but the Patriots are loaded with core youth.

Kuharsky: The Colts may draft better, but they also draft less. Polian's not the draft pick wheeler-and-dealer Belichick is. Are those the guys who will be lining up the Manning and Brady successors?

It's a quarterback-driven league, and teams minus Manning and Brady will have major voids. We've got to talk about the replacements for the iconic quarterbacks, but it's hard to offer much conjecture on what kind of guy that will be without talking about who will be finding him.

Polian is 67 years old, and the last time I asked him about any sort of plan for retirement he gave me a head tilt and an uncomfortable expression.

Graham: I've noticed a lot of people do that around you.

Kuharsky: If things are neat and tidy, the suspicion is he and Manning -- the guy he hit the jackpot with when he picked him over Ryan Leaf -- will exit together. The next generation is waiting in the wings. Chris Polian is Indianapolis' vice president and general manager.

Chris Polian
AP PhotoCurrent Colts VP Chris Polian is likely play a key role in finding Peyton Manning's successor.
I'd expect Bill Polian will have a strong hand in selecting the Colts' quarterback of the future. But it will ultimately be Chris Polian who's connected to that signal-caller the way Bill Polian is connected to Manning. The younger Polian has a good reputation and good football genes, but it's hard to know how much of his father's personnel judgment he's inherited and how much he's learned. And having to replace a guy many will argue is the greatest quarterback of all time will be an awfully difficult assignment.

Graham: I don't know how long Belichick plans to coach, but even if he were to get tired of the week-to-week grind of getting his boys ready to play, it's fathomable he'll stick around to run the operation, handpicking his successor and overseeing football operations.

It would be silly to give Belichick more than a smidgen of credit for drafting Brady in the sixth round a decade ago. If Belichick truly knew what Brady was capable of, the Patriots wouldn't have passed on him until the 199th pick. So it's not like Belichick will simply wait until Brady's on the verge of retirement and automatically snag a replacement.

Kuharsky: True. But they knew more than everybody else when they finally did take him.

Graham: Belichick trusted his scout, and they unearthed a gem.

I believe Belichick's support staff is stronger than Polian's. Senior adviser Floyd Reese oversaw the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans' drafts when they picked Steve McNair and Vince Young. Player personnel director Nick Caserio, like a lot of Belichick's sidekicks over the years, will develop the tools to run his own show someday.

Kuharsky: I don't know that Belichick's got better support. It's just more well known and visible support.

Graham: And a high-profile owner who is willing to trust his front office, will spend money and doesn't dare meddle. That's another key component to New England's success over the past decade.

Kuharsky: Moving onto the replacement quarterback himself, Curtis Painter is Manning's current backup. But based on his work in a couple of regular-season games the team didn't care about winning at the end of last season and some preseason work, most people aren't forecasting anything special from him. And that would amount to quite a lengthy apprenticeship anyway.

Graham: You wouldn't think the Patriots have Brady's successor on the roster either. Brian Hoyer is an undrafted sophomore with virtually no experience so far. But you never can tell how these guys will develop while working alongside Brady for a few years. This is the team that identified Matt Cassel, a seventh-round draft choice who hadn't started a game since high school, as its top backup for 2008. He ended up going 11-5 when Brady blew out his knee.

Kuharsky: The Colts will need a guy for a super-tough replacement job. It would be awfully difficult for them to land in a Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre or Michael Vick for Donovan McNabb replacement situation.

After hitting a grand slam with the No. 1 pick in 1998, odds would suggest that it will be tough for them to line up with the right guy at the right pick at the right time. The way they build, odds are Manning's heir will be a guy who plays a full college career. So he's a college freshman or a high-school senior right now, depending on their plan for easing him in.

Graham: The Colts and Patriots finish too high in the standings every year and don't get to pick until the 20s. That will make it nearly impossible to snag some golden-armed top prospect in their assigned draft positions. But the Patriots frequently go into drafts with other teams' picks -- and an abundance of them. They often have copious draft assets to move up if they want to. Or maybe the Patriots will obtain that big-ticket pick waaaaay in advance. A year ago, Belichick traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for their 2011 first-round selection. That's the kind of creative investing that could pay off with a high-quality quarterback prospect down the road.

Kuharsky: It will definitely be more difficult for the Colts to get to the top of a draft to get a premier guy. And there may need to be a post-Manning down-cycle for the team to get up there and find the guy. Scribes in Indianapolis often wonder aloud what happens to the Colts' crazed support if they turn into a 5-11 rebuilding project. The rest of the AFC South certainly hopes that's how it works, and that the division is a lot more wide open once Manning's not in it.

And while we're forecasting five years out, I have two questions: Will Manning still be a deadpanning TV commercial superstar? And will Brady have had a haircut?

Graham: There's one unwavering prediction I can make about hair, Paul, but it's not about Brady's.
» NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 6.

Second-year cornerback Jerraud Powers was all over the field for the Colts Sunday night in Washington, playing a huge role in a tough road win and earning AFC South High Energy Player of the Week honors.

[+] EnlargeJerraud Powers
AP Photo/Nick WassColts cornerback Jerraud Powers was a playmaking machine Sunday night, recording 11 tackles.
Powers was credited with 11 tackles, matching Pat Angerer for the team high, with two for loss, two passes defensed and an interception.

That pick came on a well-read play in which he got in front of Santana Moss and caught Donovan McNabb's pass with his left hand. On a night when Pierre Garcon and Aaron Francisco made leaping one-hand catches, Powers’ play was overshadowed by those more athletic plays. But the interception came early in the game while things were scoreless, and on the very next play Peyton Manning hit Garcon for a 57-yard touchdown.

While Powers played tight coverage -- often pressing more pre-snap than Kelvin Hayden, the other starting corner -- he also played a significant role in run support as the Colts worked to contain Redskins running back Ryan Torain.

Powers looked to be at the top of his game, leaving little space for completions or ball carriers. It was an encouraging performance from a guy who’s become a key player for the Colts.

Wrap-up: Colts 27, Redskins 24

October, 18, 2010
Some thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 27-24 win over the Washington Redskins.

What it means: The Colts are 4-2, the same record as the Texans and the winner of Monday night’s Titans-Jaguars game, after a nip-and-tuck affair in Washington where they maintained a lead after going ahead in the 14-7 in the second quarter.

What I liked: The only play better than Aaron Francisco’s spectacular, game-sealing, one-handed interception was Pierre Garcon’s second-quarter, one-handed reception from Peyton Manning. Garcon’s leaping reception is a clear-cut contender for catch of the season so far. The Colts also found their rushing game, with 170 ground yards and a 5.6-yard average.

What I liked, Part II: The defense did a nice job limiting big plays -- not allowing any throws longer than 19 yards from Donovan McNabb while picking him off twice and sacking him three times. Washington converted just four of 14 third- and fourth-down attempts.

Injury of note: Joseph Addai didn’t finish for the second week in a row because of an injury. He ran for 128 yards and a touchdown before he took a big shoulder shot on the helmet a week after a neck injury knocked him out of a win over K.C. This one was initially called a shoulder injury. He’s a guy the Colts need on the field, but it’s been a tough couple weeks.

What’s next: A bye week before a rematch of the opening weekend game and a chance to avenge a tough loss when the Houston Texans visit Lucas Oil Stadium for "Monday Night Football."

Reading the coverage …

Mike Keith and the Music City Miracle make an appearance in this fantastic piece on the best calls of all time by Joe Posnanski.

Examining poor offensive line play with Pete Prisco.

There is a special-teams coverage crisis, says Vic Carucci.

Houston Texans

It’s yet another crisis game for Gary Kubiak, says Richard Justice.

It’s nasty at the bottom of a pile, says Jeffrey Martin.

John McClain wonders whether the Texans need an attitude adjustment.

Justice asks if Mario Williams is a great player.

How the Giants stopped the Texans' run game, from Lance Zierlein.

Indianapolis Colts

Joseph Addai is confident he’ll play in Washington, says Mike Chappell.

Phil Richards examines whether halftime speeches are really the stuff of legend.

Dwight Freeney would have played baseball if football didn’t pan out, says Chappell.

Measuring Peyton Manning and John Elway against each other with Bob Kravitz.

Five Colts storylines including containing Donovan McNabb, from John Oehser.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jeff Fisher’s Jacksonville jabs were a long time ago, writes Tania Ganguli.

There is no way Orlando is a better sports town that Jacksonville, says Gene Frenette.

Ganguli and Vito Stellino preview Titans-Jaguars. (Video.)

Mary Garrard recently joked with Jaguars coaches about how her husband needs to play, says Stellino.

Vic Ketchman likes parity.

Alfie Crow picks up on my line of questioning with Chris Johnson about his pal Mike Sims-Walker.

Teal Monday details from Jeremy Ratliff.

Tennessee Titans

John Glennon looks at the division’s four-way tie for first, and for last.

Chris Johnson rested a sore thigh Thursday, say Jim Wyatt and Glennon.

Vince Young’s TD pass to Kenny Britt was intended for Britt, maintains Young.

Young and his grandmother are juiced for "Monday Night Football," says Glennon.

Maurice Jones-Drew gives props to Dave Ball, says Wyatt.

Receivers are making more plays with Young doing his thing, says David Boclair.

Jamie Winborn is happy to be back, says Darren McFarland.

Final Word: AFC South

October, 1, 2010
» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

[+] EnlargeAaron Kampman
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesAaron Kampman has 1.5 sacks in his first season in Jacksonville and could cause the Colts some problems.
Containing Kampman: I believe the Colts loved what they got from offensive tackle Jeff Linkenbach in Denver last week. But I am not sure if they are ready to go with an undrafted rookie against crafty and explosive veteran defensive end Aaron Kampman or if they want to get Charlie Johnson (foot) back in the lineup to deal with Kampman. If it’s Johnson, we know they are bringing the rookie along slowly and allowing Johnson more time to heal. If it’s Linkenbach, it says they love him and he’s better than a banged-up Johnson, or has better upside than Johnson, or both.

Deep speed: Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner had a wonderful training camp and preseason, making a ton of plays. The question about him is his deep speed. And so I’d expect the Broncos to work quickly to test his deep speed in his first start in place of Jason McCourty, and to find out how well Verner and the Titans’ scheme can cover for it. The Titans are one corner injury from trouble now. The next guy up, Ryan Mouton, struggled as a rookie in 2009 and watched McCourty and Verner sprint past him in the preseason when the open job was supposed to be a three-way battle.

Survivable: The Texans aren’t getting sufficient pass rush and their defensive backfield isn’t making plays. They shouldn’t be relaxing because Bruce Gradkowski isn’t Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb or Tony Romo. But you’d think they’d be able to survive their deficiencies a bit better against Oakland than against their three previous opponents. If Troy Nolan can make the most of his work at free safety -- he and Dominique Barber are expected to split time -- he could stake a claim to the fulltime job.

Back or benched? Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox lost the team’s faith after what the coaches lauded as a great rookie season. Surely they can play better pass defense against Manning with Cox involved than without him. Cox picked off Manning to end the Colts’ first drive in the season opener in Indy last year. Jacksonville has the sort of secondary issues that would suggest a quarterback who has been practically perfect so far can carve things up.

Quick out of the gate: The Texans' defense has played OK in the first quarter, and then far worse after that, according to Aaron Schatz and Football Outsiders. To give the defense the best chance, a hot start by the offense would really be big. Get Matt Schaub in a rhythm, get Arian Foster going and get multiple scores on the board and the Raiders will have to chuck it. Given that scenario, Houston could pick off its first pass of the season just by accident.

Video: Texans-Redskins recap

September, 20, 2010

Eric Allen and Jim Basquil recap the Houston Texans overtime victory over the Washington Redskins.

Two thoughts on the Texans as they prepare for Washington:

On offense: Washington’s going to bring pressure with more extra people and from more spots than the Colts did. That means while Arian Foster will still be getting his carries and have a chance for his yards, his role in pass protection is likely to increase, too. He wants to be a complete back, and this week a complete back may need to step between a blitzing corner, safety or 'backer to buy time for Matt Schaub. We can learn a lot more about Foster’s total game this week.

On defense: The pass rush was excellent against the Colts, but Indy’s banged up line had something to do with it. Now Mario Williams and the Texans' line won’t be aiming for a relatively stationary target in Peyton Manning, they’ll be chasing a shiftier guy in Donovan McNabb. Getting McNabb off his spot isn’t necessarily a win. It may not be the first guy through who will be the key to the pass rush, but the second wave of support that prevents a McNabb escape.
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Gijon Robinson, Colts tight end: Short yardage rushing has been an issue for the Colts, and while they didn’t spend a lot on the offensive line -- just fourth-rounder on Tennessee guard Jacques McClendon -- they did look to upgrade their blocking tight end.

Fifth-rounder Brody Eldridge out of Oklahoma is a stronger point-of-attack blocker than Robinson and could make a big difference for Joseph Addai or Donald Brown on plays aimed to get around the corner. Robinson's blown block that resulted in a Peyton Manning sack late in a 2008 season playoff loss at San Diego still stings.

Eldridge could prove a big help to incumbent tackles Charlie Johnson and Ryan Diem or whoever replaces them, and his ability to help against pass rushers won’t make things any harder on Manning either.


Eugene Wilson, Texans free safety: The Texans feel better about Wilson, who was on IR with a foot injury for the last six games last year, than I do. Paired with the physical Bernard Pollard, Wilson needs to prove he can be a consistent and rangy free safety, and show better ball skills as he looks to set a tone for a group of young corners.

With nine draft picks, the Texans steered clear of selecting a safety, hitting cornerback in the first and fifth rounds. The Texans apparently are content with what they’ve got to cover the deep middle of the field against the likes of Peyton Manning (twice), Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.

The alternative at this point is Dominique Barber and perhaps Troy Nolan, who missed his rookie year with hand injury.

Houston Texans schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
Breakdown: The Houston Texans lost out on their bid to be the training camp team HBO visited with for Hard Knocks. They also didn’t get a Thanksgiving game as they hoped. But three prime time games for a team that finally broke through the .500 barrier last season means the Texans will get some quality exposure. They’ll be at Indianapolis for a Monday night game, at Philadelphia for a Thursday night game and host Baltimore for a Monday night game. The games against the Eagles and Ravens come back to back in early December. If the Texans are a contender, they’ll have a sufficient chance to make a national impression.

Complaint department: The start is a pretty big challenge, with three of the Texans’ four games against the NFC East in the first five weeks. The first five presents a potential quarterback gauntlet for Houston’s defense, which can’t start slow against Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo and Eli Manning.

Rested, but ready? After opening the season with the Colts at home, the Texans come off their bye week at the end of October for the rematch at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 1. Eight games into their schedule, the Texans will be finished playing the team they are trying to knock out of the top spot in the AFC South.

Texans Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Washington, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Monday, Nov. 1, at Indianapolis, 8:30 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, San Diego, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Dec. 2, at Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 13, Baltimore, 8:30 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Denver, 4:05 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM

Houston Texans

The Texans signed kicker Neil Rackers to a two-year deal. He'll compete with Kris Brown for the starting job.

John McClain expects an interesting battle to take place between Brown and Rackers.

Indianapolis Colts continues its draft preview with a look at the top wide receivers in this year's class.

Stampede Blue examines what the Donovan McNabb trade means for the Colts and their fans.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville started its offseason training program on Monday.

Could the Jaguars be a beneficiary of the Redskins acquiring McNabb?

Early indications are the Jaguars aren't interested in making a move for Jason Campbell.

Tennessee Titans

Tony Brown and the Titans are still working on a long-term contract.

Texas safety Earl Thomas and Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard are scheduled to visit the Titans this week.