AFC South: Dwight Freney
So I am able to share some of the AFC South elements of Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson’s assessments and grades of free agency.
Williamson: “I'm usually very reluctant when teams decide to switch their defensive personnel. But in this case -- seeing how Houston has handled it in the draft and free agency -- I am quite excited about the improvement that is coming on this side of the ball as the Texans make the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Plus, Houston couldn't have gotten much worse than how it played on defense in 2010.
“The team has filled needs extremely well while making this schematic transformation. Adding [Johnathan] Joseph and [Danieal] Manning to a historically poor secondary is exceptional work, and both cover men have enough versatility in their game to allow Wade Phillips to run a wide array of coverages. Joseph is the bigger name player, but Manning had a very good season in Chicago last year. [Mike] Brisiel is a vastly underrated player, and keeping him allows this excellent offensive line to create further continuity. The only big loss is [Vonta] Leach, who will deal a blow to the Texans' rushing attack. There are other lead blocking fullbacks in this league, but none like Leach.”
Kuharsky: I like what they’ve done as well, though I am taking a major wait-and-see attitude about the 3-4. Manning is the best safety the team will have had since I started covering the team in 2008 and Joseph will be the best corner. Lawrence Vickers is a drop-off from Leach, but likely a serviceable one.
Analysis: “Considering the effect the lockout could have on rebuilding teams, and considering that Indianapolis also is getting back a lot of contributors from injury, keeping the status quo should serve [Peyton] Manning & Co. quite well. [Joseph] Addai is worth more to the Colts than to any other team, but I suspect he might not be starting by the end of the year. One area of the team that will be different, however, is along the offensive line. Bringing [Charlie] Johnson back as a versatile tackle/guard would have been a great situation, but Indianapolis did use two very high picks to rebuild its ailing offensive front.
“On the other line, [Jamaal] Anderson is a curious fit. He certainly isn't in the mold of their speed-rushing defensive ends. Indy most likely will use him as a penetrating defensive tackle. Early in his career, [Tommie] Harris was the prototypical three-technique for a scheme such as the Colts'. Injuries have vastly altered his career path, but he still does flash at times. They will need to nurse him along, but he could act as a great mentor to Drake Nevis and help out in limited snaps. The pass-rushing foursome of Anderson/Harris, Nevis, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on throwing downs might be extremely potent.
Kuharsky: Three stabs into the outside veteran free-agent market -- in Anderson, linebacker Ernie Sims and Harris -- is a nice change. The risk/reward seems just right. They’re exploring a different avenue for roster improvement and deserve applause. But no points for re-signing Manning, as he was not a free agent with an exclusive-rights franchise tag.
Williamson: “There could be an argument that the Jaguars overspent on [Paul] Posluszny, but this market is difficult to get a true handle on. And I do think Jacksonville has spent wisely in terms of which players it has brought in. Along with Daryl Smith, the Jaguars now have three very solid starting linebackers, and what was a weakness now looks to be a strength. They did spend a ton of money on second-level defenders, though. [Dawan] Landry is an excellent addition as an in-the-box safety type who also can cover tight ends (like Owen Daniels and Dallas Clark).
“Although Posluszny is an every-down linebacker, Jacksonville hasn't improved itself dramatically on defense against the pass in free agency. With Houston, and especially Indianapolis, in the division, that is a serious concern.”
Kuharsky: I think that’s low. I like what they’ve done. I think a safety combination that won't include Don Carey will be better. Drew Coleman is a flexible veteran corner who should upgrade the nickel. And I think the front seven is much stronger, which should mean quarterbacks have less time.
Williamson: “I very much understand that the Titans could not open the season with just Jake Locker behind center, and throwing their first-round pick to the wolves probably isn't a recipe for success. But I also don't see the infatuation with [Matt] Hasselbeck. He hasn't played well in two years; he is a major durability risk; and the Titans' interior offensive line is vastly overrated -- not a great situation for an aging signal-caller. Plus, Hasselbeck's skill set isn't similar at all to Locker's.
“[Barrett] Ruud is another overrated player, but I am not implying that he will be a liability as the starting 'Mike' linebacker. His tackle numbers just make him out to be a better player than he truly is. Ruud should provide valuable leadership to Tennessee's young linebacker corps. I also think [Jacob] Ford's best days could still be ahead of him. Still, the Titans might be worse on defense now than they were a year ago. [Daniel] Graham will be a big help as a blocker, but [Leroy] Harris and [Ahmard] Hall were disappointing blockers in 2010.”
Kuharsky: I think a change of scenery will help Hasselbeck, and while I have concerns over the interior line, if two Hall of Famers (Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews) overseeing the group are confident it will play more like 2009 than 2010, I tend to give some benefit of the doubt. The defense remains a big concern.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Overdue to see what people are writing, so let's have a look...
Megan Manfull examines the Texans' depth at safety and the tough choice the team will have to make about whom to cut.
While Mario Williams has rushed well, the Texans haven't seen him get enough help this preseason, writes John McClain.
Harry Williams had spine surgery Sunday. We expect an update later today.
Richard Justice questions the coaching tactics of Alex Gibbs, thinks Chris Brown is a goner and says two good quarterbacks are the only good thing the team has going so far. A very good read.
Adam Schefter wants to see the Colts' cut to 53. But I don't think there is a question they'll keep a third quarterback, at least for a while.
Reggie Wayne is ready to be No. 1 for the Colts, according to Skip Wood.
Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders returned and qualified as bright spots in the Colts' miserable loss last night. I missed Freeney but did chat with Sanders, who was very upbeat.
NBC is hoping the Jaguars-Redskins game Thursday night is played in a tidy three hours, because Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention is slated for 10:00 p.m. ET.
Gene Frenette agrees with Paul Spicer regarding Derrick Harvey. I think he should sign too, but it seems to me they've oversimplified the numbers.
Cole Pepper looks at the Jaguars' lingering issues.
Albert Haynesworth has been low key so far, Jim Wyatt tells us. On his business-like approach, Haynesworth says: "I want to go out and show to those people who think that I'm a one-year wonder that I'm not. I want to go out and do it two years in a row and let everything else take care of itself."
David Climer sees plenty of cause for concern with the Titans offense and points out that Vince Young's solution is silly. Yeah, if the Titans just had "more fun" everything would time up perfectly.
Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post rates Titans running back Chris Johnson as his top fantasy sleeper, with Texans tight end Owen Daniels second. Good calls on both, but they've been talked about so much I'm not sure either qualifies under my definition of sleeper any longer.
Kicker Rob Bironas (groin) could sit out the finale in Green Bay, too.
A nice audio piece from Titans Radio reminiscing on the Titans 1999 Super Bowl season.