AFC South: Even Mathis

Observations and thoughts out of the Jaguars’ 31-24 Week 3 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night:
  • The Justin Blackmon-Cecil Shorts receiving duo produced five catches for 70 yards playing with their backup quarterback, Chad Henne. The two looked smooth and efficient, though each had a play that rated as a drop.
  • Jacksonville’s blockers gave up seven sacks, four of them coming against Henne. That’s simply too much pressure and it’s creates too much risk of injury back there while Blaine Gabbert is already out with a thumb injury.
  • I liked the one-play, 63-yard touchdown drive after an interception. That sudden change in possession was thanks to rookie corner Dwayne Gratz’s pick -- followed by sudden change on the scoreboard thanks to running back Jordan Todman’s cut back touchdown run. But the Jaguars had just one first-half drive with more than one first down -- the opening 12-play touchdown drive.
  • Has Todman dented Justin Forsett’s status or security? Forsett injured a toe early in camp and hasn’t been seen in game action. Todman has done some good work and had an eight carry, 105-yard game with the 63-yard TD. Denard Robinson averaged 4.7 yards a carry on seven runs.
  • The Jaguars were 45 percent on third- and fourth-down conversions while holding Philly to 36 percent.
  • Linebacker Paul Posluszny and rookie strong safety Jonathan Cyprien both bit on bad play-action fake where it was not at all believable that Michael Vick was handing off to LeSean McCoy. But the early movement of Poz and Cyprien helped create the play and the space where Vick found Riley Cooper for a 9-yard scoring catch.
  • Chip Kelly’s offense seeks to maximize plays run. But they ran 70 in this game to the Jaguars’ 73. One big difference, however, was average gain per pass play, where the Eagles posted a 7.8 to the Jaguars 3.7.
  • Philadelphia gained 189 yards on kick and punt returns, meaning the Eagles had an average drive start of their own 38-yard line, 14 yards better than Jacksonville’s average start.
  • Tight end Allen Reisner made a nice 8-yard touchdown catch and his game play certainly indicates he’s going to make this team as a tight end behind Marcedes Lewis.
  • We had an Andre Branch sighting. The defensive end knifed inside and snuck by guard Evan Mathis who was preoccupied on combo block on the outside. Center Jason Kelce passed off defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, but it was too late for Kelce not to whiff on Branch storming up the middle.
One player I think will be outgoing, one player I think should be incoming, for the Tennessee Titans once free agency opens Tuesday afternoon.

I’m steering clear of the huge guys on the incoming category, as it’s easy to say a team should covet the best/most expensive player at a position of need.

Outgoing: Jason Jones, defensive lineman. I think they messed him up by insisting he was an end and not a tackle, when he clearly was able to have more of an impact inside and it didn’t ensure health. An outside team that sees him differently will be able to sell him on how impactful he can be with a move, and will likely offer him more than the Titans will.

Incoming: Evan Mathis, guard. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. is high on Mathis, calls him technically sound and sees him as a Titans kind of guy. I tend to agree. Mathis won’t cost nearly as much as Carl Nicks or even Ben Grubbs, but can help solidify the interior line if he’s able to play the way for his next team as he did for the Eagles last season.

What I'd do if I ran the Titans

February, 29, 2012
The money isn’t mine. I’m not certain about what you can afford and what the market will pay when free agency opens on March 13. I’m not positive about your plans and schemes.

But I’ve got a good sense of your team. We've looked at the free-agent list.

And here’s what I’d try to do with your major issues:

1) Let cornerback Cortland Finnegan go. He’s a good player, not a great one. The Titans will miss his feistiness more than his production, and you don’t pay huge dollars for feistiness. He’s not in the ranks of corners worth in the neighborhood of $10 million annually. Let Alterraun Verner join Jason McCourty in the starting lineup. Let Ryan Mouton, Chris Hawkins, Tommie Campbell and a draft pick and/or a mid-range veteran vie for the nickel role. (Mouton would play inside, in other scenarios Verner would move inside.)

2) Let safety Michael Griffin go. He can be a good player, but is far too inconsistent. He’s at his best when those around him are playing well. But at the price he’ll have now, he should be a guy who sets the tone, not a guy who needs it set for him. Look closely at free agents safeties like Tyvon Branch from Oakland, Dashon Goldson from San Francisco and Dwight Lowery from Jacksonville.

3) Pursue Colts defensive end Robert Mathis if he gets to free agency. He’s got a super motor and, while he just turned 31, I’d bet he can play three more good years. Structure a deal so you can get out after two if you have to and look to him to set the tone for your other primary rushers, Derrick Morgan and a draft pick.

4) Sign Philadelphia guard Evan Mathis to replace Jake Scott. Mathis is older than Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs, but will also be less expensive. In seven seasons with Carolina, Miami, Cincinnati and Philadelphia he’s played in 73 games with 37 starts. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. says he’s a great fit for Tennessee.

5) Re-sign safety Jordan Babineaux. This appears to be just about done. A rule regarding Babineaux’s previous contract prevents the team from completing a new deal before the start of the new league year. But they could have a deal ready to go on March 13.

6) Offer Jason Jones a contract based on moving him back to defensive tackle, admitting he’s better and more productive inside than out. (They’ve said they still see him as an end, and they aren’t in sync with me on this one at all.)