AFC South: Fili Moala

INDIANAPOLIS – New Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones didn’t want to reveal too much when asked about if he would be playing more defensive tackle than end next season.

Jones
Jones
Colts coach Chuck Pagano answered the question during the NFL owners meetings earlier this week.

Well, sort of.

“I’m not going to pigeonhole by saying he’s an inside guy or an outside guy,” Pagano said. “He brings position flexibility to our front. He’s a sub-rusher on third down. He can give you inside push, he can beat guys one-on-one. He has sack numbers for an inside guy.”

Pagano was Jones’ defensive coordinator during his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Jones went from having 20 tackles and zero sacks his rookie season to having 53 tackles and four sacks last season, and now he’ll try to be just as effective in Indianapolis.

“He’s really matured as a young man,” Pagano said. “He knows our scheme. Terminology won’t be an issue. It’ll be a seamless transition for us.”

Pagano’s goal is to have a defensive front that has players who can play multiple positions so that they can constantly rotate them in so in the fourth quarter they’ll still be relatively fresh. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who missed part of last season with a foot injury, can play on the end.

The Colts were abysmal at stopping the run last season, finishing 26th in the league in that category, and linebacker Robert Mathis had 19.5 of their 42 sacks.

“You can never have enough defensive linemen,” Pagano said. “We roll those guys all the time and try to keep them fresh. If you can play with six, seven guys in the defensive front by the time fourth quarter comes around and everybody is still fresh, it’s going to play to your advantage.”

The Colts currently have seven defensive linemen on the roster: Montori Hughes, Ricky Jean Francois, Arthur Jones, Fili Moala, Jeris Pendleton, Cory Redding, and Josh Chapman.
INDIANAPOLIS -- We’ve all witnessed Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's ability to strap his team on his back and lead it to come-from-behind victories during his first two NFL seasons.

Luck has developed a nice continuity with young receivers Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen to go with T.Y. Hilton in recent weeks.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
AP Photo/Ric TapiaRobert Mathis and the Colts have allowed just 20 total points over their past three games.
Luck, however, is not the reason behind the Colts’ three-game winning streak. Don't get me wrong, Luck has been good, but you have to look at the defense when it comes to giving credit to the team’s recent success.

The Colts head into Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs having forced eight turnovers and feasting on opposing quarterbacks like they’re at a buffet, registering 12 sacks in their three-game winning streak.

“Accountability. No personnel shifts. No change in schemes. No world-changing type of deals. It’s just holding guys accountable,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “If you’re not doing your job, you’re going to be called out within ourselves, not in the media or anything like that. It’s guys being accountable.”

The Colts have given up an average of 6.7 points, 292 yards and 24.3 percent on third down in the past three games.

Those numbers are a drastic change from when they were giving up big plays, a lot of yards and a lot of points prior to the winning streak.

The Colts went through a six-game stretch where they gave up an average of 30.8 points, 397 yards, including three games of at least 410 yards, and opponents converted 46.9 percent of third-down opportunities. The defensive players didn’t trust each other, forcing too many players to try to do too much by themselves.

“I just think any time you give up a long run, a big pass in the secondary or whatever, a big pass play, it’s just all the guys have to be on the same page,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Everybody has got to do their job. It only takes one breakdown. Ten guys can be doing exactly the right thing, and one guy could be not on the same page.”

Indianapolis sacked Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith five times and forced four turnovers in its victory against the Chiefs on Dec. 22.

The defense should be relatively healthy Saturday, as defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) are the only two players listed as questionable for the game.

“To be a good defense, you got to get turnovers,” Mathis said. “That’s one of the foundations of being a good defense, getting the ball into your quarterback’s hands. And we have a quarterback that can do some good things with it. So to be able to wrestle the ball away from the offense and get those extra possessions, it helps our team tremendously.”
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts had their top cornerbacks on the practice field Wednesday, a day after only having three available in Tuesday's practice.

Cornerbacks Vontae Davis (groin), Darius Butler (quad) and Greg Toler (groin) were full participants in practice, giving an indication that the Colts could have a healthy group for Saturday’s wild-card playoff matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Davis injured his groin in last weekend’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“They still have to get their feet under them,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “They looked pretty good [at practice Wednesday]. Still evaluating and see how it goes come Saturday.”

The Colts are becoming healthy at the right time.

Defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) were the only two players not to practice Wednesday. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) was limited in practice.

Pieces are coming into place for Colts

September, 5, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts are a step closer to having their starting offensive line together for Sunday’s season opener against the Oakland Raiders.

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, out since injuring his knee in the Aug. 24 game against Cleveland, returned to the practice field Thursday. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that the plan all along was for Castonzo, who is responsible for protecting quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side, to practice Thursday and then play against the Raiders as long as there weren’t any setbacks.

Guard Mike McGlynn is also practicing after missing time with a knee injury.

Barring any injuries between now and Sunday, the Colts will have the starting lineup they envisioned on offense and defense heading into training camp in late July together against the Raiders now that Castonzo is practicing.

Other injury updates from practice Thursday:

What to watch for: Colts-Bengals

August, 29, 2013
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Here’s what to look for in tonight’s preseason finale between the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

Actually, here’s what not to look for first.

Don’t expect players like quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Cory Redding to play much if they even play at all. Coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that some players may not play. He didn’t mention any specific names, but it’s easy to assume he was talking about the team’s key players.

Thursday’s about players trying to make one last run at solidifying a spot on the 53-man roster. Rosters have to be set by 6 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Here’s a look at several players who can help their chances to make the roster by having a strong performance against the Bengals.
  1. LB Caesar Rayford: Barring a complete collapse, Rayford should be on the 53-man roster. But don’t expect him to take things lightly against the Bengals considering the road he’s taken to even reach this point. The 27-year-old rookie has spent his career playing in the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues. Rayford leads the Colts with a team-high five sacks in the preseason.
  2. WR Griff Whalen: Whalen, a former teammate of Luck’s at Stanford, started training camp strong before a groin injury set him back momentarily. But he bounced back strong by catching four passes for 57 yards against the Cleveland Browns last weekend. Another strong performance will likely solidify the fourth receiver spot for Whalen because the team’s current fourth receiver, LaVon Brazill is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance policy.
  3. DE Fili Moala: A knee injury has hurt Moala in more ways than one. The 2009 second-round pick started eight games last season before suffering the season-ending knee injury. He missed most of training camp while recovering from knee surgery to put him further behind the competition for a roster spot. There’s no guarantee Maola will play against Cincinnati, which could hurt his chances even more.
  4. WR/KR David Reed: The Colts acquired Reed when they traded running back Delone Carter to Baltimore on Aug. 21. Reed’s best attribute is his kick return skills because he's only caught five passes in his first three seasons. He led the league in kick-return average in 2010. Expect Reed to get an opportunity to return kicks against the Bengals.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Saturday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns will be the closest thing to a regular-season game for the Indianapolis Colts.

The starters will likely play the entire first half and probably a series or two into the third quarter after some adjustments are made at halftime.
“Again, depending on how many plays we play will determine how we handle that situation,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We always take it case-by-base. If we got a veteran guy that is over a number that we’ve deemed from a play count before the half, then we likely get a guy out.”

One player you won’t see Saturday -- and possibly at all in the preseason -- is running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw practiced in full pads for the first time in training camp Tuesday. The Colts continue to take a cautious approach with him as he works his way back from offseason foot surgery.

“In a perfect world, that’d be great,” Pagano said when asked about having Bradshaw play in the preseason. “He is a pro. He understands what it takes to be ready once the season opener hits on [Sept. 8 against Oakland]. If we get that, that’s a bonus. If not, I’m not worried about it.”

Injury update:
  • Tight end Dwayne Allen (foot), offensive lineman Hugh Thornton (ankle), defensive lineman Fili Moala (knee) and receiver Griff Whalen (groin) practiced in full pads Tuesday. Receiver LaVon Brazill wore a walking boot on his right foot during practice. Linebacker Lawrence Sidbury is getting a second opinion on his injured (shoulder).
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The highly respected Andre Johnson seeks the ultimate team goal, not more personal ones, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Arian Foster isn’t going to rush to return from his lingering calf strain, says McClain and Tania Ganguli.

To which I say: And he shouldn’t. But it’s hard to forget in June he said the only reason it was attention-worthy was because it was a slow news cycle and the press needed headlines. If it was such a little a deal as he maintained then, he’d be practicing now, right?

Two injured candidates for the right tackle job, Derek Newton and rookie Brennan Williams, have worked their way back from knee injuries, says Dave Zangaro of CSH Houston.

The Texans' Week 3 game against Baltimore will come against a team missing tight end Dennis Pitta, who suffered a serious hip injury Saturday, says CSN Houston.

In these nuggets from Drew Dougherty of the team’s website: Johnathan Joseph’s new workout routine, video of Foster talking about his movie role, Brooks Reed on J.J. Watt practicing his motivational speeches, and receivers catching tennis balls.

Indianapolis Colts

With his traditional opening day arrival theatrics, Reggie Wayne got to Anderson, Ind. by helicopter, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The newest member of the Colts, rugby player Daniel Adongo, started off by learning some basics -- like Practice details from Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tell us of a far better day for Chad Henne than Blaine Gabbert.

To which I say: Fans who watched it and are reading about it should be upset that Gabbert was struggling just to take snaps. Even if it's just one afternoon, he should be past such things.

Was Gabbert’s bad practice a big deal, asks O’Halloran.

Gus Bradley said how Gabbert bounces back can be the biggest thing to come from Saturday, says John Oehser of the Jaguars website.

Low expectations of the Jaguars offense gives first-year coordinator Jedd Fisch an opportunity to formulate a creative offense, says Gene Frenette.

Marcedes Lewis wants to forget about the past two years, says Mark Long of AP.

First-year guard Drew Nowak tweeted that his car got hit on the way to the team hotel, but that he’s fine, say O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Two newcomers from Super Bowl teams -- Bernard Pollard and Delanie Walker -- see great expectations with their new team, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

Details of Saturday’s practice fight, from John Glennon of The Tennessean, who also touches on Brian Schwenke’s hamstring, Coty Sensabaugh's surge, and the return of navy blue jerseys for a couple games. Here’s a picture that gives you a sense of the fight -- from a fan who took it during a period of practice when media was not allowed to take pictures or shoot video.

Pollard says part of what the Titans' defense has to do is get a kid receiver like Justin Hunter ready for action. (With video from Wyatt.)

If cornerback Tommie Campbell pans out, he could be like Seattle's Richard Sherman, says Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.

The coordinators talked of early standouts, on the other side of the ball, says Glennon.

The Titans' offense is streamlined under Dowell Loggains, says Teresa Walker of AP.
We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine defensive lines.

Williamson’s AFC South defensive line rankings:
1) Texans (J.J. Watt, Earl Mitchell, Antonio Smith, Jared Crick, Chris Jones)
2) Titans (Ropati Pitoitua, Sammie Hill, Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Mike Martin, Lavar Edwards, Antonio Johnson)
3) Jaguars (Jason Babin, Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Tyson Alualu, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Andre Branch, Jeremy Mincey)
4) Colts (Cory Redding, Josh Chapman, Ricky Jean-Francois, Drake Nevis, Fili Moala, Aubrayo Franklin, Montori Hughes, Brandon McKinney)

I struggled a bit as I sort through that and consider how my own list should look. Ultimately I co-sign what Williamson has done here, and will explain it a bit after we talk with him.

SportsNation

Matt Williamson's ranking of AFC South defensive line units is:

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Discuss (Total votes: 616)

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:

Your overall assessment of the AFC South defensive lines:

“Overall, I wouldn't say this is a fantastic division for defensive line, but I think the Jags' defensive line is a little underrated since they produced so few sacks. With Watt in the picture, Houston is pretty strong with their 3-man front.”

Does judging a couple 3-4s vs. a couple 4-3s complicate things here?

“Judging varying schemes isn't difficult, but it is hard to overlook that teams that run a 4-3 have more starting caliber linemen and of course the opposite is true when evaluating linebackers in a 3-4, but I just look at it as to how well these players do their respective jobs”

Can you rank them in order of depth?

“Just in terms of depth, I would go: Tennessee, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Houston.”

Can you name a potential breakout player?

“Morgan could break out, he pressured the quarterback well last year but didn't get home quite enough. I also think Babin is still a very good player and while he has already ‘broken out,’ he could be perfect in this new Jacksonville D.”

How big a gap do you see between Houston and Tennessee?

“As I noted, I see Tennessee as deeper than Houston, but the Texans have the star power. Watt just might be the best defensive player in football and Smith is no slouch either. Like the entire Titans' D, their defensive line is solid, but they lack a true star or difference maker.”

Are you not a believer in the Colts new additions and newfound health with Chapman and McKinney?

“It’s hard to say on the Colts. They have a lot of bodies, but who will step up? Better health of course is important, but I have a tough time handicapping their defensive line overall right now.”

As for me…

The Texans should get the biggest production and have the best player in Watt and a candidate for the second-best player in Smith. The Titans and Colts seem certain to be equipped to slow the run far better. With the change of scheme and personnel additions in Jacksonville things will improve against the run and pass.

It’s difficult for me to put the Colts last as they’ve added a lot and get Chapman and McKinney back healthy. Their crop of defensive linemen are now all 3-4 guys.

I want to bump the Titans down as I like their depth but not their lack of proven sack guys, but look behind them and it’s not as if the Jaguars or Colts do, either.

Reassessing the Colts' needs

April, 3, 2013
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The Colts have restocked their roster in a big way since free agency opened, adding 10 veterans from the outside.

Some are sure to be upgrades, like right tackle Gosder Cherilus and safety LaRon Landry. Others require a wait-and-see approach as we find out how strongside linebacker Erik Walden and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois fare with expanded roles.

Despite an 11-win season, Indianapolis headed toward the second season of Ryan Grigson as the general manager, Chuck Pagano as the head coach and Andrew Luck as the quarterback with some significant holes.

With all the additions, the pressure to find answers at certain spots in the draft is significantly lightened. That makes for a far better atmosphere in which to draft.

Here’s my assessment of what they’ve done to fill roster gaps and what now rank as the team’s primary needs with the draft drawing near.

[+] EnlargeGosder Cherilus
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsGosder Cherilus, left, provides an infusion of talent to a Colts O-line that was lacking it last season.
Offensive line -- Cherilus is a physical player who can help change and set a better tone for a position that simply didn’t have enough talent last season. Donald Thomas will upgrade a guard slot as well. Is it enough? I think they should add at least one more lineman in the draft who can contend for a guard spot or at center.

Cornerback -- Greg Toler could be a fine second starter, but they qualify as three deep at best with Vontae Davis, Toler and Darius Butler. They have to have another solid guy in the mix, and the draft should provide someone who will automatically qualify as better than Cassius Vaughn.

Wide receiver -- Can they get more out of Darrius Heyward-Bey than they got out of Donnie Avery? I would think so. Is DHB going to be the ultimate successor to Reggie Wayne? I highly doubt it. They need to be looking for that guy to go with T.Y. Hilton, their lone long-term sure thing at the position.

Safety -- LaRon Landry is a significant upgrade over Tom Zbikowski. He and Antoine Bethea should be a nice tandem. Joe Lefeged is fine as depth. But in a good safety year and with Bethea heading into his eighth season, I think it would be a good move to add a young player at the spot.

Outside linebacker -- Walden was a controversial addition, but they’ve emphasized his ability to set the edge. That does not make for much of a pass rush opposite Robert Mathis. I hope they aren’t counting on big production from Jerry Hughes or Lawrence Sidbury. They still need a pass-rushing outside 'backer.

Defensive end -- They resigned Fili Moala and hope Cory Redding will be more durable. Newcomer Ricky Jean Francois could start outside and move inside in nickel. Another guy in that mix wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Running back -- Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter are the three-pack that will return. Ballard showed a lot of promise, but the other two are not sure things. Bruce Arians’ offense didn’t throw to backs much. Pep Hamilton’s offense will do so more. If Grigson sees a versatile back as a value, I expect he’ll add one.

Defensive tackle -- Went from being a need to not being a need. Jean Francois will play some tackle and some end. Aubrayo Franklin can be an early-down run-stopper. And they expect Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman to be healthy and equipped to contribute. They could have a lot of options at this spot who fit the 3-4 front.

Quarterback -- They did well replacing Drew Stanton with Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup. The No. 2 was never going to come from the draft.
In just his second season, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is going to have linemen far better equipped to play his 3-4 front.

A team that already added the versatile Ricky Jean Francois, who can play all three spots, has now signed Aubrayo Franklin. Not too many years ago he was a hot, hot property. Now he’s changed teams four times in four years, from San Francisco to New Orleans to San Diego to Indianapolis.

Here’s what Scouts Inc. has to say about him.
Franklin has a wide body with above-average initial quickness, agility and short-area agility. He plays with good knee bend and natural leverage as he keeps his pad level down to get under opponents' pads and leverage the play. He does a good job of recognizing blocking schemes and will feel and fight back through pressure. He is a good technician who knows how to use his hands to control and shed blockers and keeps his feet active as he works his way to the ball. He lacks top lateral range and makes most of his plays in the guard-tackle box. He is not going to give anyone a top pass-rushing threat from the inside.

So he’s an early-down run-stopping option for a team that now has swingman Jean Francois, ends Cory Redding, Fili Moala and Drake Nevis, nose tackle Martin Tevaseu and two other nose tackles coming off injury, Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman.

The addition of Franklin would seem to end any hopes Antonio “Mookie” Johnson, who transitioned from 4-3 tackle to 3-4 nose last season, may still have of being re-signed.

Franklin played four years with Baltimore and four with the 49ers before the one-year terms with the Saints and Chargers. This will be his 11th year.
The figures I have access to said the Colts had $43.427 million of salary-cap room back on Feb 21. There may have been some jiggling of that number before free agency opened on Tuesday.

Since then, they’ve re-signed defensive lineman Fili Moala and cornerback Darius Butler, and brought in seven free agents: Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, safety LaRon Landry, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, cornerback Greg Toler, outside linebacker Erik Walden, guard Donald Thomas and outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury. The Colts also put a franchise tender on punter Pat McAfee at $2.977 million.

Collectively, they will count $34,330,333 against the cap.

The team cut safety Tom Zbikowski today, gaining $1.158 million against the cap. So the Colts have roughly $10.181 million in salary-cap room remaining.

Still enough to make some acquisitions if they want to.

General manager Ryan Grigson, who was named NFL Executive of the Year in his first season, said in a news conference this morning that he feels great about the roster work the Colts have been able to do.
"I really feel like you need to strike a balance [with free agency and the draft] and if there’s players that you can get and help create more competition and raise the bar and you know is going to make your team better as a whole, you have to at least explore those options. Even from the beginning, just seeing guys that we played against, the scout in me, you see guys and I say, ‘Wow, this guy plays hard, or this guy has a great inside move.’ You take mental notes of all your opponents. We played against LaRon this year. We played against Walden. We watched the film. We go through a process with all the pro scouts and then the coaches remember who they couldn’t block. It’s an entire process. You whittle it down, you target your guys and you look at how much money Jim [Irsay] is willing to spend, and as opposed to last year, we were in a completely different situation, so why not take advantage of that? I had the complete support of a great owner who’s been ultra-supportive in this whole process. He’s as passionate, if not more passionate than any of us. When you talk to him, he wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to be aggressive. Chuck [Pagano] did, because we want to win. I think you have to take these opportunities to acquire talent wholeheartedly, and I feel we did as an organization.”
My plan for the Indianapolis Colts as we approach the start of the 2013 NFL calendar year:

Finances: The team has more than $43 million of cap room, which means there's no need to search for savings. Still, one contract appears to be too big. Center Samson Satele needs to be a lot better in his second year to prove he's worth the free-agent deal he got in 2012 that calls for a $2.8 million base salary in 2013. Cutting him would save only $668,000, however, and at least until the line is restocked, the team should keep options alive, not kill one off.

Continuity: They already held onto defensive end Fili Moala with a new contract. I’d re-sign Jerraud Powers to a one-year, incentive-laden deal, but that requires that no one else gives him something better. If he stays healthy, he can be a productive contributor. If he doesn’t, the Colts will have given him every chance.

Turnover: Nose tackle Antonio Johnson did good work but isn’t ideal for a 3-4. Josh Chapman and Brandon McKinney are on the roster, rebounding from injuries and better suited to do what the role requires. Receiver Donnie Avery was a nice reclamation project, but the Colts can and should be looking for an upgrade beyond Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.

Additions: I’d target these four players, hoping to land three. Ravens outside linebacker/end Paul Kruger played for Chuck Pagano in Baltimore and is coming off a Super Bowl win. He could fill out a nice linebacking corps and boost the pass rush. Provided that Atlanta’s Brent Grimes is on the right path to recovery from a torn Achilles, he could be great opposite Vontae Davis as a second starting cornerback. Houston safety Glover Quin could be a nice takeaway from the team the Colts are chasing in the AFC South and has enough versatility to fit with Antoine Bethea and ultimately take over his role. On offense, San Diego’s Louis Vasquez is the sort of guard who could help settle a line that has to be far better.

Draft: What was missed in free agency? The emphasis should fall on that, be it outside linebacker, corner, safety or offensive line. Ryan Grigson did well with Hilton and needs to find another receiver for Andrew Luck, this time an outside guy who will bring potential to succeed Wayne eventually. Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins would be a very nice fit if he’s there at No. 24. Also: at least one offensive lineman, a 3-4 end (or two), outside linebacker depth and additional corners.
Reading the coverage around the AFC South…

Houston Texans


J.J. Watt will visit U.S. military bases as part of a USO tour this offseason, says Nick Scurfield of the team’s website.

The Texans didn’t use their franchise tag, says Scurfield.

Arian Foster says he’s done with Twitter, the Houston Chronicle points out.

To which I say: I’ll believe it when I see it over the long-term. But he’s a disciplined guy, so if there is a reason he wants off he can stay off.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts extended defensive tackle Fili Moala, retaining a guy who can continue to help a reshaped front once he gets healthy. The team’s website has the press release.

Jeff Saturday will retire as a Colt on Thursday, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts added a “Thanks for the memories” stripe to the Dwight Freeney banner hanging on Lucas Oil Stadium, says Chappell.

To which I say: Know it's not the first time they've done such a thing, but still classy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

A former Jaguars coach said Blaine Gabbert had a habit of passing the buck, a habit that earned him the nickname Blame Gabbert, says Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports.

To which I say: Wow, actual criticism of Gabbert from someone who's worked with him. The franchise has done incredible work shielding him from such things in his first two seasons.

Best player available doesn’t fit the reality of most draft rooms in the NFL, says John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

Tennessee Titans

Sidetracked by the Peyton Manning chase a year ago, the Titans didn’t want to expend energy fighting with Jared Cook over the level of his franchise tag. That’s one reason the Titans bagged the tag, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

You could say the Titans got their money’s worth out of their defense in 2012, because they didn’t spend much, says Wyatt.

Contract details for George Wilson, from Wyatt.

Priority one: Indianapolis Colts

January, 23, 2013
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Today we look at the biggest issues facing each team in the AFC South and give you an opportunity to assess priority one:

Pending free agents of note: Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, cornerback Jerraud Powers, punter Pat McAfee, right tackle Winston Justice, defensive lineman Fili Moala, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson.

Weaknesses: The offensive line wasn’t great and played better than the sum of its parts. The team needs a major overhaul on the line. The secondary needs a lot of work -- at least two new corners and one new safety. The defensive line suffered a lot of injuries and needs depth or more depending on what happens with Moala and Johnson in free agency.

Unsettled starting jobs: Left cornerback Cassius Vaughn was a constant target once he “settled in" as the starter when Powers was lost for the season, Tom Zbikowski and Joe Lefeged aren’t good enough at strong safety. Pick a spot on the offensive line besides left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

SportsNation

What should be priority one for the Colts?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,008)

Depth issues: The secondary needs options for nickel and dime packages and needs to be able to survive some injuries. Outside linebacker -- minus Freeney, who’s not expected back -- needs to be restocked, even if Jerry Hughes is deemed worthy of Freeney’s starting spot.

Health concerns: Powers hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and that could mean the Colts don’t re-sign him. He’s recovering from a toe injury. Moala is coming off a torn ACL and defensive tackle Josh Chapman, who didn’t make it back during his season from a college knee injury, is a wild card going forward.

Unseen issue: Reggie Wayne was fantastic in his first season with Andrew Luck as his quarterback. T.Y. Hilton had a great rookie season. But Donnie Avery is going to be a free agent and is hardly a long-term answer and we’re not sure what LaVon Brazill is yet. The Colts need to continue to add at receiver, knowing Wayne won’t last forever.

RTC: On Texans' unsung heroes

December, 2, 2012
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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.

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