AFC South: Dorin Dickerson

A running list of Saturday cuts around the AFC South so far, per reports from people in the know…

Houston
Indianapolis
Jacksonville
Tennessee

Camp Confidential: Houston Texans

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
10:56
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HOUSTON -- Yes, they brought in a top-flight defensive coordinator, drafted well and signed some good-looking free agents.

Still, the Texans have been the breakout pick so often in recent years and have come up short that it’s completely fair to ask, even with those changes: Why should people believe? Why should they buy this team?

“I couldn’t sell it to anybody,” said Chris Myers, the team’s underrated center. “We’re doing what we do here in camp. If you’re a Texans fan, you’re a Texans fan. Our offense is the same offense that we’ve had and we’re going to try to make it better. Our defense has brought in who we think can change it, take it in the right direction and make us that complete team.

“That’s the pitch. If you’re going to buy it, you’re going to buy it. If not, we’re still rolling.”

To find their way to the playoffs for the first time since the franchise began play in 2002, the Texans need to find the consistency they’ve lacked on many levels -- start to finish in a game, week to week over the course of the season.

That new defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, has a great record of turning defenses around. Gary Kubiak carries questions as a head coach, but not as an offensive mind.

It’s a now or never deal for Kubiak, and he’s got a lot of talent on his roster that knows it.

Receiver Andre Johnson, one of the league’s top players, says the team’s spent the past few preseasons talking about breaking through. This time he wants less talk and more action.

THREE HOT ISSUES

1) How quickly can Phillips shape the defense?

He's coming off a poor term as head coach in Dallas, but his track record as a coordinator is excellent.

[+] EnlargeMario Williams and Wade Phillips
AP Photo/David J. PhillipMario Williams is adjusting to life as a stand-up linebacker in Wade Phillips' scheme.
Players on the Texans' defense say he’s funny, yet pointed. He’s already infused the group with confidence, and he quickly identified things that amounted to easy fixes. Mario Williams’ false step should disappear, for example, and Kareem Jackson is unlikely to be seen in press coverages.

“Wade Phillips and [linebackers coach Reggie Herring] have brought a credibility and a confidence to the system that they run,” said end-turned-outside-linebacker Connor Barwin. “I feel like it carries over to us. You know if you do what you’re coached up to do that it’s going to work.”

The change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 isn’t as extreme as some imagine, because Phillips’ 3-4 doesn’t demand a gigantic space-eating nose tackle, and it doesn’t ask linemen to be responsible for two gaps. The linemen are really playing roles akin to what they did in the previous system, with Williams now standing up as an on-the-line 'backer on the weak side.

Creating that matchup as often as possible is key, and Williams should be the centerpiece of the retooling.

Though Williams didn’t look comfortable in the preseason opener, end Antonio Smith thinks offenses will really struggle with Williams and his bull rush.

“It has not been stopped in camp yet,” Smith said. “Since he decided to do it, I ain’t seem him lose. You know what you need to do to beat a person. I think that throughout this camp, he’s figuring out how to use that. He’s added it into his bag of tricks and he’s going to figure out how to use it along with his other moves.”

Matt Schaub and Johnson have both talked about how many more balls are contested and broken up in a typical practice. That difference suggests the new philosophy’s growing on a unit that’s needed not just players like Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning but also the sort of direction Phillips is providing.

2) Will Arian Foster be able to have another big season on the ground?

It wasn’t long ago that Steve Slaton ran for 1,282 yards. He’s disappeared since the 2008 season, however.

Foster said that what he did over 16 games last season proved him capable and that the notion of a fluke is ridiculous. But for the Texans’ offense to get better, he’ll have to follow up his 1,616-yard season and rushing title with another big showing.

“When you come out and have a season like that, then everybody wants to see what you’re going to do the next season,” Johnson said. “I think that is important for him, to come out and show people that he is the guy that he was last year.

“I think he’ll do it, there is no doubt in my mind. Because he works hard and he plays with a chip on his shoulder.”

Houston’s play-action can be spectacular with Foster running as he did in 2010. His style is perfectly suited for the team’s blocking scheme, which encourages him to cut once and take all he can get.

Another big year will go a long way toward setting the Texans’ course.

3) Do enough guys have killer instinct?

The Texans' slow starts and inability to finish were major issues last season. Better personnel and coaching will need to be accompanied by a killer instinct this franchise has too frequently lacked.

[+] EnlargeDanieal Manning
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe Texans are counting on Danieal Manning to bring some veteran leadership to the defense.
“You could put it that way,” tight end Owen Daniels said. “There’s definitely never been a lack of effort. I think it’s been missed opportunities at finishing games. ... We need to find something different this year in order to close out those games.”

A guy like Johnson, soft-spoken but intense, certainly has a personality you can win with. But are the Texans, in total, too low-key? I think it’s a fair question.

“You’ve got to have that [killer instinct],” said Manning, one of the key newcomers. “... If you believe, all this other stuff is going to come into play: working together, supporting your man, pushing him, making him work hard, holding him accountable. All that stuff goes hand in hand. I’ve never seen a championship team that didn’t believe, that didn’t finish.”

BIGGEST SURPRISE

When they grabbed him during the 2010 season, I don’t think the Texans expected much from veteran cornerback Jason Allen. But the secondary was better with him than it was without him. Now, with a fresh start, he’s mounting a serious challenge to Jackson, the 2010 first-round draft pick. The team would be well served to go with Allen if things come out roughly even. Jackson’s seasoning would be better for now as a role player.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Antwaun Molden looks the part as a 6-foot-1, 200-pound corner. But the team has finally stopped talking up the fourth-year man from Eastern Kentucky. He’s not sturdy enough and doesn’t show enough gumption to be a factor in a group where he’s had a chance to add some depth. He had an interception in the preseason opener, but only after he committed a penalty that washed it away.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Joel Dreessen is consistently underrated. Dreessen can block and, while not as dynamic as Daniels, has a knack for finding open spaces and presenting himself to Schaub. The Texans have a lot of quality tight ends. Look for the team to put three tight ends on the field at times, when they can operate as a heavy package or shift Daniels, Dreessen, James Casey or Garrett Graham into space, depending on the defensive personnel. Anthony Hill is the blocker of the bunch.
  • After facing questions about durability, Schaub’s played two full seasons. Now the questions are about play in the clutch. He needs to eliminate moments like the one when he threw an overtime pick-six against Baltimore last season.
  • I expect the Texans to look closely at receivers when the league cuts down rosters. Dorin Dickerson currently looks to be fourth in line, but I saw him fighting some passes in practices and he’s still relatively new to the position. Jeff Maehl heads the undrafted group but didn’t look great, either. Receiver depth is an issue.
  • Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton could be the best non-starter on the roster come opening day. He’s in a tough spot behind DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing, though injuries are often in play with Cushing.
  • Myers is a key cog in making the Texans’ offensive line work, and he could be taking his place right alongside Jeff Saturday as an indispensable center in the division.
  • The team could be an injury away from trouble at end and safety.
  • Trindon Holliday’s speed is not enough for him to overcome his size as even a situational receiver. Plus, he seems easily hurt. The return jobs are open if the team wants to avoid using Jacoby Jones as the punt returner and Manning as the kick returner.
  • Undrafted rookie Brett Hartmann beating out veteran punter Brad Maynard is a definite possibility.
  • Count me among those not convinced that Matt Leinart can’t play. If this team needs a few spots starts, I bet he can do OK. One of the NFL’s quarterback-needy teams was foolish not to add Leinart to the mix. He’s better than a lot of guys with a chance to start some games this season.
  • Lawrence Vickers is better equipped to work as the fullback than Casey, and he should get far more frequent opportunities to lead the way for Foster.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Jacoby Jones is a prodigal son of a gun, says Richard Justice. (Great headline, Chronicle editors.)

Dorin Dickerson’s growth was helped by offseason work with Larry Fitzgerald.

Says Dale Robertson: “Maybe everyone having to keep their distance for the last six months will prove to be a positive. You couldn’t ask for a fresher start.”

Michael Lombardi doesn’t like the Texans' toughness, says David Barron.

Stephanie Stradley found Eric Winston’s reaction to the soft accusations.

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Gonzalez; ‘This may be one of my last opportunities (with the Colts), if not the last opportunity." Mike Chappell’s story.

Tommie Harris isn’t much of a spin move guy, says Chappell.

Training camps are smarter now, says Bob Kravitz.

Tom Moore will be a good resource for the Jets offense, says Peter King. I do not buy the idea I’ve heard that he’ll be a big factor in helping New York deal with Peyton Manning.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jack Del Rio started easing his new guys into the lineup Thursday, says Vito Stellino.

David Garrard should be OK and Aaron Kampman may switch sides, says Tania Ganguli.

Paul Posluszny’s transition bears watching, says Gene Frenette.

Brad Meester and Jaguars PR man Ryan Robinson have helped inspire 6-year-old Luke Akerstrom to walk again. Watch the attached video.

Blaine Gabbert could ultimately be a top five quarterback, says John Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

Matt Hasselbeck put down the sweet tea and got to work, says John Glennon.

Mild-mannered offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has a stern side, writes Jim Wyatt.

Jake Scott says players have issues with the HGH testing company, writes Glennon.

Kenny Britt is disappointed yoga didn’t help him avoid hamstring troubles, says Wyatt.

RTC: Will the Jags still lean on MJD?

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
10:16
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Dorin Dickerson's blog debuted Monday and in his first entry he talked about what he'd been doing during the lockout.

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Beacom takes a close look at fourth-rounder Delonte Carter and what the rookie running back can offer the Colts.

Rookie corner Chris Rucker is pleased with the team that drafted him. Rucker: "I feel like this is a good situation for me. It's not too far away from home, and it's a good organization to be a part of because they have great leadership."

Jacksonville Jaguars

Is the Jaguars' offense going to lean less on Maurice Jones-Drew this season? Black & Teal's Andrew Hofheimer isn't buying it.

Tennessee Titans

Receiver Kenny Britt appeared in Hoboken (N.J.) municipal court Tuesday after being arrested last week and charged with fourth-degree obstruction, fourth-degree tampering or fabricating evidence and third-degree resisting arrest with force. The charges were later reduced to disorderly charges offenses.

Running back Stafon Johnson is supporting a new campaign promoting healthier meals and better attendance in Los Angeles schools.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Dorin Dickerson is a guy a lot of people are pinning hopes on. Nick Scurfield writes about the receiver here.

Indianapolis Colts

Justin Snow (family fun center) and Ryan Diem (high performance auto shop) are tackling the world of small business, writes Phil Richards.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Catching up with Eddie Robinson, from John Oehser.

Considering key questions on offense that the Jaguars may be asking when camp opens with Andre Hofheimer.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Munchak is reconnecting with Carl Parlavecchio, writes Jim Wyatt.

Texans put Mario Williams on IR

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
3:38
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The Texans and Titans have slim playoff possibilities, but they’ve waved the white flag in terms of having veterans push through injuries.

Houston put Mario Williams (sports hernia) on IR along with receiver David Anderson (shoulder) and right guard Mike Brisiel (shoulder), according to John McClain.

That means increased opportunities for Mark Anderson, Dorin Dickerson and Antoine Caldwell. No news yet on filling the roster spots.

The Titans put center Eugene Amano (neck) on IR Tuesday and defensive tackle Tony Brown (knee) followed him there Wednesday.

Fernando Velasco will take Amano’s place at center, while the Titans look to get Sen'Derrick Marks, Marques Douglas and perhaps Malcolm Sheppard, just signed off the Texans' practice squad, some time on the interior.

The Titans promoted interior offensive lineman Kevin Matthews off the practice squad. Matthews, son of Oilers/Titans Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, is an undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M.

Bruce Matthews is an assistant offensive line coach for the Texans, who play in Nashville on Sunday.

“It’s a great coincidence,” Fisher said. “Kevin gives us the ability to have someone who can play both center and guard since basically that’s what we lost in Eugene. It allows us to minimize moves if we have a problem up front.”

Greetings from Reliant Stadium

December, 13, 2010
12/13/10
7:16
PM ET
HOUSTON -- Greetings from Reliant Stadium where we’ll have a closed roof Monday night.

So that you are not alarmed when they take the field on your TV, here’s a public service announcement. It’s Battle Red Day, which means the Texans will be in head-to-toe red uniforms. They look good when they win in them.

As far as altering any national perception, a good performance by the Texans will get dented as the New York and Minneapolis markets will likely be watching the rescheduled Giants-Vikings game from Detroit. People with the full NFL package on DirecTV will also be able to flip between the games.

The Texans have Owen Daniels active, but will start Joel Dreessen at tight end. The Ravens have Todd Heap inactive and will start Ed Dickson at tight end.

Be sure to join our Monday Night Live chat.

Inactives:

Texans: QB Matt Leinart, WR Dorin Dickerson, CB Brice McCain, S Quintin Demps, G Kasey Studdard, G Shelley Smith, TE Anthony Hill, TE Garrett Graham.

Ravens: CB Fabian Washington, FB Jason McKie, ILB Jason Phillips, ILB Daniel Ellerbe, DT Arthur Jones, OL Bryan Mattison, TE Todd Heap, DT Lamar Divens.

Checking in on AFC South draft picks

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
10:00
AM ET
A look at AFC South draft picks heading into opening day …

Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
  • First-rounder Jerry Hughes is in line to work as the third or fourth defensive end.
  • Second-rounder Pat Angerer is a backup linebacker and special-teamer.
  • Third-rounder Kevin Thomas (knee), a cornerback, is on IR.
  • Fourth-rounder Jacques McClendon is the backup right guard.
  • Fifth-rounder Brody Eldridge is the starting H-back.
  • Seventh-rounder Ricardo Mathews is a backup defensive lineman.
  • Seventh-rounder Kavell Conner is a backup linebacker and special-teamer.
  • Seventh-rounder Ray Fisher, a cornerback and return man, was cut. (Not put on IR as I originally wrote.)
Jacksonville Jaguars
  • First-rounder Tyson Alualu is a starting defensive tackle.
  • Third-rounder D’Anthony Smith (Achilles), a defensive tackle, is on IR.
  • Fifth-rounder Larry Hart is the second-string right defensive end.
  • Fifth-rounder Austen Lane is the third-string left defensive end.
  • Sixth-rounder Deji Karim is the third-string running back and the top kick returner, though he could be slowed early with a thumb injury.
  • Sixth-rounder Scotty McGee is the punt returner.
Tennessee Titans
  • First-rounder Derrick Morgan is part of the rotation at defensive end.
  • Third-rounder Damian Williams is the second return man and the fifth or sixth receiver.
  • Third-rounder Rennie Curran is a backup linebacker and special-teamer.
  • Fourth-rounder Alterraun Verner could be part of a rotation at right cornerback.
  • Fifth-rounder Robert Johnson is a third-string safety.
  • Sixth-rounder Rusty Smith is the third-string quarterback.
  • Sixth-rounder Myron Rolle, a safety, was cut and is on the practice squad.
  • Seventh-rounder Marc Mariani is the return man and the fifth of sixth receiver.
  • Seventh-rounder David Howard, a defensive tackle, was cut.

Thoughts on Buccaneers 24, Texans 17

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
12:18
AM ET
Some bullet point thoughts on the Texans’ 24-17 loss to the Buccaneers Thursday night:
  • Houston sat 29 players.
  • Neil Rackers hit a 21-yard field goal while Kris Brown was short on a 56-yarder in the final chances in the kicking competition. Expect the guy who doesn’t stick to find work with relative speed.
  • Jeremiah Johnson turned three carries into 20 yards while Chris Henry needed 15 carries for 51 yards as the Texans got a look at their third and fourth backs. I like Johnson as the third.
  • After Dan Orlovsky threw two interceptions to Corey Lynch -- one for a 91-yard touchdown -- John David Booty threw two touchdown passes. Gary Kubiak expressed continued confidence in Orlovsky after the game, but what is he supposed to say?
  • The Texans went for it on fourth down five times and converted four.
  • Even without Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, Arian Foster and Steve Slaton Houston managed 417 total yards. The Texans ran 76 plays compared to 49 for Tampa Bay, though time of possession was only 32:55 to 27:05.
  • Dorin Dickerson’s one-handed 27-yard reception from Booty was the best catch I remember seeing from an AFC South player in the preseason.
  • Rookie linebacker Darryl Sharpton got the start and was credited with six tackles and a sack. Xavier Adibi started on the strong side. The Brian Cushing replacement strategy looks like it will be Adibi in his spot or Sharpton at weakside with Zac Diles moved to strong.
Jimmicane in Cardiff, Calif., writes: After visiting Jacksonville's camp, what's your overall feeling about the team? Did they change your expectations for them this season at all? What did you see that surprised you the most? Thanks.

Paul Kuharsky: When Joe Cullen said during organized team activities that his defensive line was going to lead the team, I thought it a little ambitious. But for long stretches I couldn’t take my eyes off the high-energy group. I don’t know how good it’ll be, but they will play awfully hard and with good technique.

David Garrard is the same, and until protection is shored up and a second receiver emerges, I don’t know that we can expect too big an improvement. Free safety is a huge concern.

I think they might be better but don’t know if it necessarily shows up in their record.


Peter in Nashville writes: It is really unfortunate that Michael Griffin had to endure so much criticism without being able to reveal the extent of his injury, not to say his injury was the full cause … With this new information, do you believe he will bounce back and have a strong year, or do you think he will have another rough year? Also, at the end of your article you threw in the possibility of Johnson stepping in for him. Do you really see that as a possibility? Clearly you are better connected than I am, but I just don't see Jeff Fisher doing that after one bad, injury plagued year, particularly not to a young former 1st round pick who has showed he can be great. Thanks Paul.

Paul Kuharsky: Griffin would have to be bad and Johnson would have to be very good for Griffin to get benched. I’m not ready to attribute all of last year to the injury -- a bad shoulder doesn’t lead a guy to bite on play-action, does it? But the defensive coordinator, Chuck Cecil, was a safety and if he thinks a change is needed he will push for it, I believe.

I think Griffin’s a complicated guy and can make excuses and I don’t know if he’s got everything sorted out.

So I am certainly not ready to pronounce he’ll be back to that Pro Bowl form. We’ll have to wait and see.


Randolph Kahn in New Jersey writes: I'm interested in knowing how Mitch King and Fili Moala look in camp.

Paul Kuharsky: Me too. Moala’s development will be interesting to chronicle, and the team’s expectations will rise after what amounted to a red shirt year.

King, like Antonio Johnson, actually got his start in Tennessee. He went to the Titans last year as an undrafted rookie despite a crowd at defensive tackle, largely because he thought working with Jim Washburn might line him up for success down the road no matter where he wound up. Then he was hurt.

I’ll be sure to let you know how they are looking next week.


Brian in Houston writes: What are the chances Dorin Dickerson pushes Jacoby Jones or David Anderson for their job this season?

Paul Kuharsky: Low. He’s a developmental guy changing over from tight end. I think expectations for Jones are too high generally, but they should be a lot higher than expectations this year for Dickerson. And David Anderson can be very good at what he does. Barring injury I cannot see Dickerson getting snaps in front of either during meaningful action this year.


Tyler in Charlotte, N.C., writes: Do you believe Dominique Edison will get a chance this year for the Titans? I remember him making an amazing touchdown catch in preseason game his rookie year. I believe he deserves a chance. Do you?

Paul Kuharsky: Yeah. What he’s getting right now in training camp is called a chance. Is that how poor the expectations have gotten for Titans receivers? One catch last year in the preseason has you hopeful?

He could force them to keep seven receivers, but then would likely not play barring injuries. That would mean they have to judge him a better football player than the last guy at another position.


Tony in Austin writes: In "Reading the Coverage" you never link to article on titansonline.com. Is it because they are too biased?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t look too much to the team websites for interesting reads. Bias is the wrong word, but you’re not generally going to find critical or discerning eyes there. Vic Ketchman is an in-house analyst for the Jags and that makes him different. The other three teams don’t have that sort of voice from the inside.
Reading the coverage:

Michael Lombardi breaks down the AFC.

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak’s father passed away, according to KHOU.

The Texans reached a deal with rookie Dorin Dickerson, says Mark Berman.

Andy Benoit previews the Texans and thinks the depth is a lot better,

A look at the Texans zone coverage from Battle Red Blog.

Indianapolis Colts

John Oehser wonders if Anthony Gonzalez will start.

A look at what Football Outsiders says about the rest of the AFC South, from Nate Dunlevy.

Nick Yeoman gives us five reasons the Colts won’t win the division.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags reached a deal with Larry Hart, their first draft pick to agree, says Vito Stellino.

Benoit’s Jaguars preview isn’t filled with optimism. Cue a new round of the linebacker debate. He thinks Russell Allen in the best Jacksonville’s got.

Vic Ketchman expects an improved offense.

Ketchman expects the Jaguars to draft a quarterback next year no matter what David Garrard does.

Tennessee Titans

Damian Williams knows about climbing to the top of a talented group of receivers, says Mark Wheeler.

David Howard pleaded no contest to an assault charge.

Avoid Chris Johnson in your fantasy draft, says John Lindinger.

On the radar: Dorin Dickerson

June, 10, 2010
6/10/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

[+] EnlargeDorin Dickerson
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe Texans drafted tight end Dorin Dickerson to play him at receiver.
HOUSTON -- When the Texans drafted Dorin Dickerson in the seventh round with the 227th overall pick, many people immediately questioned why they would take yet another tight end after James Casey and Anthony Hill last year and Garrett Graham three rounds earlier.

But Houston quickly said Dickerson would be a receiver, not a tight end, in the NFL. He certainly looks well cast in the part at Texans OTAs.

At 6 foot 2, 230 pounds he’s about Andre Johnson’s size. Dickerson was productive at Pitt with 10 touchdown catches last season.

While he could have opportunities to produce on special teams, he also might be positioned to be a developmental guy. Johnson, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and David Anderson are assured of spots ahead of him and those four accounted for 97.3 percent of receiver catches for the team last season. (Andre Davis had six, but worked as the primary kickoff return man.)

Davis could be in jeopardy now, as Jones or seventh-rounder Trindon Holliday should be better as kick returners. Dickerson could offer more long-term upside as a receiver.

The team carried six wide receivers last year.

If Holliday can be a reliable returner and he and Dickerson show potential, they could bump Glenn Martinez and Davis off the roster. The team would have to have enough confidence in one of them to step in and see some action on offense if one of the top four receivers gets hurt.
I'm not going to lie to you. I misunderstood a Saturday assignment and initially, instead of filling these categories with just one selection for the whole division, I did one per team.

And so, after another run through, I present to you a broader look at the AFC South's drafting.

Houston Texans

Best move: The Colts didn't touch their their return man issues until taking cornerback Ray Fisher in the seventh round. The Titans convinced themselves they can get both receiver and return contributions from Damian Williams and Marc Mariani. But the Texans, already more threatening when fielding kicks and punts, jumped at Trindon Holliday from LSU in the sixth-round. He’s tiny at 5-5 and 169 pounds, but he could earn a few touches on offense and is the sort of special teams player the rest of the AFC South could wind up chasing all over the field.

Riskiest move: A lot of people expected them to take running back Toby Gerhart in the second round, but they made two trades to drop down eight slots and went with Auburn’s Ben Tate instead. Those two will likely be measured against each other for a good while and the Texans really need to have nailed it.

Most surprising move: See earlier post.

File it away: Fourth-rounder Garrett Graham out of Wisconsin and seventh-rounder Dorin Dickerson out of Pitt could be part insurance plan, part plan for 2011 and beyond. Owen Daniels is a world-class pass catcher. But he’s coming off his third ACL tear and is a restricted free agent seeking a big contract. They drafted a blocking tight end last year in Anthony Hill and a receiving tight end in James Casey and still took two in nine picks in this draft.

Indianapolis Colts

Best move: See earlier post.

Riskiest move: Bill Polian didn’t fare real well with two recent second-round picks on the offensive line (Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollak), so he went back to what’s worked better. The Colts took Tennessee guard Jacques McClendon in the fourth round (No. 129), where they’ve landed Ryan Diem and Jake Scott a little deeper in the team’s past. He didn’t register on some other teams’ radar at the same level. Polian said it was a weak tackle group after the top guys.

Most surprising move: Many probably didn’t list tight end as any sort of need considering the team has Dallas Clark, Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi on the roster. But Robinson’s not been as consistent a help in run blocking as they need and Santi’s been hurt too much. Enter fifth-rounder Brody Eldridge from Oklahoma, who’s 6-foot-5 and 261 pounds. I love this pick and the thinking behind it.

File it away: Polian opened the door, at least a little, for cornerback Jerraud Powers to be involved in the return games. Polian said a return specialist was a luxury they’re not convinced was necessary and one they won’t lose sleep over missing out on. But are they pushing it asking Peyton Manning to drive the offense so far so often? Fisher might be a big piece in the equation now too.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best move: I like the trade for Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison, a tackling machine. He may not be super-sturdy against the run, but with the Jags’ emphasis on defensive tackles he should get some room to work. Morrison has a reputation as a good guy and a good leader, and the Jaguars are trying to fill their locker room with both.

Riskiest move: See earlier post.

Most surprising move: A second defensive tackle in the second round. D’Anthony Smith came on the heels of No. 10 pick Tyson Alualu and last year’s third-rounder Terrance Knighton. Gene Smith is a foundation builder with a deep pool of defensive tackles and the picks meant the Jaguars parted with John Henderson on Monday.

File it away: Gene Smith’s getting hit for not trading down in the first or third round before grabbing Alualu or Smith, but he was a capable trader. He got a fifth-rounder from Oakland recently for failed second-round end Quentin Groves and pulled off a trade with the Raiders for Morrison during the fourth round.

Tennessee Titans

Best move: See earlier post.

Riskiest move: Not taking a corner before the fourth round and 103rd pick. Alterraun Verner sounds like a good prospect, but he’ll be part of a five-person competition for the starting job opposite Cortland Finnegan. There is some safety in numbers. There is a bit more safety in having a clear-cut front runner for such a crucial spot.

Most surprising move: I thought they’d take a quarterback in the middle or late rounds. I didn’t expect it would be Florida Atlantic’s first draftee, Rusty Smith. Mike Heimerdinger will have a chance to develop a guy they’ve characterized as a true pocket passer, and may be lining themselves up with an alternative if Vince Young doesn’t pass the final audition of his rookie contract this season.

File it away: See earlier post.

The Texans review their draft

April, 25, 2010
4/25/10
10:24
AM ET
Some post-draft notes from the Texans:

    [+] Enlarge Ben Tate
    John Reed/US PresswireThe Texans used the 58th overall choice on Ben Tate, the highest pick used on a tailback in team history.
  • Ben Tate, chosen 58th overall, was the highest pick in team history used on a running back. The previous high was in 2005 when Houston picked RB Vernand Morency out of Oklahoma State in the third round with the 73rd overall pick. Tate became the sixth running back drafted by the Texans.
  • Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was asked about Tate’s patience and vision as a runner: “His skills as a runner are good. He was asked to be in a spread formation, which is a little bit different from what we’re going to ask. Most of the tight zones will be similar to him because that’s all you can really do from the spread gun. The wide zones will take a little bit of an adjustment with his running skill I think. With time and working, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
  • Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, Houston’s third-round draft choice (81st overall), grew up in Galena Park outside of Houston and went to North Shore High School. Mitchell is the 12th Texans draft pick who grew up in Texas and the sixth since head coach Gary Kubiak was hired in 2006. Three players from 2009 had Texas roots: James Casey, Anthony Hill and Brice McCain.
  • Guard Shelley Smith, the first of two sixth-round picks (187th overall), played collegiately at Colorado State. Smith becomes the fifth former Ram on the Texans roster, joining receiver David Anderson, guard Mike Brisiel, Joel Dreessen and defensive end Jesse Nading.
  • Kubiak on seventh-rounder Dorin Dickerson: “He’s got 43 1/2-inch vertical and he runs a 4.5 so he’s got a chance to be a big receiver, and we’re going to line him up behind Andre [Johnson] and he’s going to learn from the best. We’ve got a long way to come with him, but he’s going to be a great project for us.”
  • Kubiak on the health of his tight ends: “Owen [Daniels] will be coming back and he is ahead of schedule from what I understand in his rehab process. He learned how to rehab that injury. I have a lot of confidence that he will be back and will be fine. Anthony Hill had knee surgery as well and Joel Dreessen had a couple of surgeries. We expect those guys to be back, but we also want to continue to get better and when there is an opportunity to improve your football team you figure out a way to get good football players out on the field. That’s our philosophy and that’s why we acquired the players that we have.”
  • Kubiak on plans for Trindon Holliday: “We think we have a returner that can change the field for us. As punt and kick returner we think he could do wonders for our football team. I think we could teach him the back position and certain wide out positions.”
  • GM Rick Smith on filling needs: “I think in a lot of respects we filled some needs. The way I approach the offseason, I don’t think you can always fill every need that you have and I think it’s unrealistic to think that you do. Because a lot of times you make mistakes if you try to reach or do something to fill every need. But I think we were successful at addressing the areas on our football team that we needed to improve and it is up to these guys to go out there and coach them up.”

Kiper's grades: Jags the worst

April, 25, 2010
4/25/10
12:10
AM ET
Mel Kiper’s draft grades are in. Insider

Here's my standard draft grade disclaimer. Yes, grades before a guy sets foot on an NFL practice field are a silly concept. Still, they are what a huge percentage of fans will be looking for Sunday. So here are my notes from Kiper's Insider file.

Texans

He calls first-round corner Kareem Jackson “a predictable, safe pick” and said Ben Tate looks even better as a value at 58 considering Minnesota traded up to take Toby Gerhart at 51. Sixth-rounder Trindon Holliday “could be the next Dante Hall.” Even seventh-rounder Dorin Dickerson “has promise at tight end if he can add strength.” (The Texans are going with him as a wide receiver to start.) “Nothing amazing, but plenty of promise.”

Kiper's grade: B

Titans

No end has the “polish and versatility” of Derrick Morgan and he fills the hole left by Kyle Vanden Bosch. He questions Damian Williams' speed, and while he likes Rennie Curran, he called him “a slight reach” in the third. And “between math whiz Alterraun Verner and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle, they'll have the smartest secondary in football if both stick.”

Kiper's grade: C+

Colts

He likes Jerry Hughes but thought Pat Angerer was a reach in Round 2 and “could have been around even at that No. 94 slot where Indy picked Kevin Thomas.” He rates Thomas a risk because of injury history. In general, nothing flashy. “But I'm never going to believe Bill Polian won't prove me wrong on at least one of these guys.”

Kiper's grade: C

Jaguars

Kiper calls GM Gene Smith’s second draft disappointing, starting with the over-valuing of Tyson Alualu at No. 10. “To take a guy you could conceivably get 15 to 25 slots later, you're cheating yourself not just out of sixth- and seventh-round guys, but potentially a late second- or third-rounder. You have to know not just the pick, but the relative value.” Of the Jags' six picks, only Alualu rated in Kiper’s Top 100.

Kiper's grade: D

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