AFC South: Fred Graves
Did those guys underachieve as coaches, have insufficient talent, or both? And are expectations of receivers unreasonable in a run-based offense?
But new receivers coach Dave Ragone, a former quarterback who’s never coached receivers before, looks to be breathing a different sort of life into his guys so far. He’s far younger and more energetic than the four coaches who preceded him, and he’s showing a creative flair in coaching his guys. After one practice, receivers wrapped their arms around the goal post support, catching balls on the other side of it. Clever.
I think such change is very healthy. But I got excited when Graves arrived and had his guys catching bricks too, so my enthusiasm may be momentary.
Ragone also brings a cannon of a left arm.
“He’s got a Jugs machine tied to his arm,” second-year wideout Marc Mariani told The City Paper's David Boclair. “He takes pride in that. He thinks he can out-throw us and break our facemask or whatever.”
Balls are on receivers quick in practice periods when the coach is throwing, and they have to react quickly and show good hands. On the first day of practice he drilled a ball on the first throw of a period right off Nate Washington's facemask. Washington had to wipe it off before getting back in line.
Boclair accurately notes a major difference from receiver work during the Jeff Fisher regime:
"Seemingly every catch is accompanied by a whack from some sort of pad. Many throws are preceded by multiple cuts around a cone or a peak from behind a tackling dummy. Often, there’s little time to find the ball and react to it.
"'More than anything else, I hope what we do in those drills translates [to game situations] and helps them when they’re actually running their routes,' Ragone said. 'If they can’t see how it works and how it can help them, then it’s not going to be worth it to them.
'That’s more my goal … explaining why it makes sense.'"
I’ll revisit the idea of a quarterback coaching receivers after I visit with both Ragone and Frank Reich of the Colts.
For now, Ragone is definitely a guy to watch.
Paul Williams, former Titans receiver, Fresno State, 2007 third round, 80th overall
Mel Kiper, 12th receiver
“… Williams will have to step it up a notch at the pro level if he’s going to reach his maximum potential. He has a chance if a team can be patient with him, coach him up, and bring him along slowly. In that scenario, he could be competing for a spot as a starter in his second or third year in the NFL. While he’s transitioning at WR, Williams will pay big dividends with his outstanding performance on special teams. His ability in this area certainly enhances his draft rating.
“Has everything you desire at the position. Is physically one of the most gifted receivers in the draft and flashed signs of brilliance at the Senior Bowl, but will require a very patient, sympathetic position coach who can improve his confidence.”
NFL Draft Scout: 16th wide receiver
COMPARES TO: Ken Lucas, Carolina – “Williams just does not impress as a wide receiver, as you can plainly see he is not happy on offense. With his previous experience and family bloodlines on defense, he would be better served playing cornerback, but needs to sit down and do a gut-check to see if he has the heart to play the game.”
After four seasons:
Fred Graves was the sort of position coach PFW suggested Williams would need, though Williams had a harsher, less patient coordinator in Mike Heimerdinger.
Williams was cut by the Titans before the start of the 2010 season and finished the season on the Houston Texans’ practice squad.
He didn’t play at all as a rookie, appeared in just five games and made just one catch for the Titans in his second year and was a practice squad guy in Year 3, doing his part to keep the Titans' never-ending search for a quality wideout moving.
Since the Williams miss, the Titans have spent five more picks on wide receivers. It’s always easy to look at a miss and see players behind him who turned out better. In this instance, Arizona got Steve Breaston in the fifth round as the Titans drafted two more non-contributing receivers after Williams in Chris Davis (fourth round) and Joel Filani (sixth).
Sherman was on Jeff Fisher’s staff in 2005 and 2006, hardly a monumental time for receivers with the team. He was on the Oilers' staff in 1988 and 1989 as well. So Bud Adams knows him from two stints.
Now he’s a candidate for the Titans' head coaching vacancy (somehow Adam Schefter tweeted that Chris Mortensen is reporting it).
Sherman interviewed with the Cowboys, fulfilling their requirement under the Rooney Rule to discuss a head coaching vacancy with at least one minority. Skeptics will say he’s a token interview in Nashville, particularly if Mike Munchak is hired quickly as Fisher’s replacement. Munchak interviewed Monday.
John Wooten is chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that works with the NFL promoting diversity among front office executives, coaches and scouts.
He said he spoke with Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt Monday to let him know of the group's “ready list.” Sherman is one of seven remaining minorities the group promotes as ready to be head coaches. Three others from the earlier version of the list – Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera and Hue Jackson – have attained head coaching jobs.
Wooten said he’d love to see Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Packers assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss get a look from the Titans. Moss cannot interview until after the Packers play in Super Bowl XLV Sunday.
I know Jim Wyatt’s conversation with Bud Adams that I cited in this morning’s RTC entry indicated the owner sees things happening quickly. Maybe they will.
But general manager Mike Reinfeldt and senior executive vice president and general counsel Steve Underwood are sorting out the pool and doing the interviewing.
They are deliberate guys who emphasized Friday that they would take as long as they need to. That makes me think we learn the new coach later rather than sooner.
Of course, this franchise has not been in this position for some time, its lead by an eccentric owner and anything can happen.
As for minority presence: of the four assistants that are gone from Fisher’s 2010 staff, running backs coach Craig Johnson and receivers coach Fred Graves, are African American.
Now only two of the 14 assistants who are under contract to the team are minorities -- secondary coach Marcus Robertson and defensive assistant/quality control coach Rayna Stewart.
Whoever the new head coach is, he will have to consider diversity as he pieces together his staff.
Richard Justice breaks down Dale Robertson’s piece on Bob McNair, as I did earlier.
Nate Dunlevy has money on his mind, and looks at some cost questions for the Colts.
A look at the Colts' offensive tackles, with Collin McCollough.
Assessing the safeties with Brett Mock.
Jaguars’ fans will miss Jeff Fisher, says Gene Frenette.
Fisher gave the Jaguars a rival when they needed one, says Vic Ketchman.
Bud Adams is talking about a quick hire, says Jim Wyatt. I prefer what his top lieutenants said Friday, that they’d take as long as it takes.
The Titans should look to an outsider, says David Climer. I’ve said so too.
Receivers coach Fred Graves has jumped from the Titans to the Panthers.
Fisher had too much power, says Climer.
Fisher leaves behind an uncertain legacy, says David Boclair.
Peter King thinks a fresh start with a young coach is good for Tennessee, but then throws in Dom Capers’ name too. It’s been a long time since Capers was a good head coach.
That was part the coach’s gut feel for what his team needed and part necessity because he’s got some many defensive line injuries -- six of the team's nine linemen are on the injury report.
So there was not a full read on other injured guys.
But quarterback Kerry Collins (calf) ran seven-on-seven for the offense on a day when there was no team period.
And Kenny Britt, who’s been out since suffering a hamstring injury at San Diego on Halloween, said he ran 10 of 12 plays in that period, opening it up on one more than the team would have liked.
Both sounded hopeful.
But Collins is a more likely addition to the lineup a week after the team started rookie Rusty Smith in Houston and was shutout 20-0. Quarterback coach Dowell Loggains is likely to be calling plays with the ill Mike Heimerdinger absent or serving in an assistant capacity from the coaching booth. Having a veteran who can do a lot more than a rookie should make a huge difference for a first-rime play-caller.
The Titans were playing quite well before Britt got hurt and have not been playing well without him, acquiring Randy Moss in the meantime. Moss has had three different starting quarterbacks in his three games and has four catches for 49 yards.
Both Britt and Moss play the X spot, and odds are there will be some sort of time share once Britt returns and/or the team will move him around when using both at the same time.
“I’m not sure, I’ve been asking [receivers coach] Fred Graves if I need to learn another position and he said not yet,” Britt said. “I hope I’m still at the X position.”
Said Collins about the potential of having both: “I try not to involve myself too much in personnel matters. Historically, yes, they both play the same position. I’m sure we’d find a way to get both of them on the field.”
But the math in the equation is off, and this is not a simple, one-against-one situation.
If the love-struck Adams chooses his favorite quarterback, he’s not only going to lose Fisher, he’s going to lose all, or most, of Fisher’s staff.
While Adams would be making a poor choice, even he’d have to admit that Young at his best isn’t going to do much to offset the loss of some excellent assistant coaches.
All but one Titans assistant coach is working with an expiring contract, according to a Titans source. Fisher’s contract runs through 2011.
In a typical scenario, Fisher would get an extension and then line up his assistants with deals of the same length.
“We are in the process of extending contracts for the entire staff," Fisher said after practice Friday. “I don’t comment on negotiations other than to say we’re in the process.”
But there has been no word on any talks about a new deal for Fisher, and now it’s a safe bet there will not be one before the Young issues are resolved. If they come to fruition, those staff extensions could be for only one season.
And the uncertain labor situation gives Adams the potential to hold off on anything new until after things are settled between the league and the players, in case he has to withstand a lockout.
Whenever it comes around, the staff issue is more significant now given the battle between Fisher and Young and Adams’ comments to The Tennessean saying he expects the two to find a way to co-exist next season.
I think we’re past the point where that’s a possibility and Adams is going to have to make a choice. Hopefully it’s a well-reasoned one.
Munchak is one of eight members of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s a steady teacher who recognizes talent and has consistently groomed quality guys. The Titans have regularly had good pass protection and solid run blocking in large part because of Munchak’s exhaustive work.
Pick Young, and you probably sacrifice Jim Washburn.
The Titans’ defense is tied for second in the NFL with 30 sacks. They’ve come from players Washburn has rebuilt such as Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Tony Brown or guys he encouraged the front office to draft, such as Jason Jones. A large number of franchises in the league would love to add a high-energy defensive line coach who can get production from such reclamation projects and draft picks.
Those two are key coaches on a staff that’s widely regarded around the league as one of the best. A staff Fisher has been able to shape and hold onto because of his stability and the loyalty he shows -- occasionally to a fault.
His staff also includes offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who has been mentioned as a candidate for head-coaching jobs and once interviewed with San Francisco for its top post; defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil; veteran linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, who has been head coach of two teams; defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson, who had an excellent career as a safety for the franchise; special teams coach Alan Lowry, who scripted the Music City Miracle; strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson; receivers coach Fred Graves; tight ends coach John Zernhelt; running backs coach Craig Johnson; and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains.
They are not all irreplaceable superstars, of course. And with expiring contracts, some of them could be moving on even if Fisher is firmly in place.
Washburn is a Nashville fixture who appreciates the second-chance Fisher gave him in 1999. But if he becomes a coaching free agent, perhaps a team with a bad defensive line would make him an offer too good to refuse.
Still, the chances he stays in Tennessee are far higher if Fisher is in the big office. I'd be willing to bet the same would be true for all the assistants.
If Adams chooses to stick with Young and Fisher negotiates out of his contract, or if another team strikes a deal to give the Titans picks to get Fisher out of his last year, I predict all the assistants would be totally turned off by Adams’ choice.
Some might have to stay if they could to ensure themselves of a job. But given any sort of choice, I believe they’d be unlikely to sign new deals with Tennessee to work under Fisher’ replacement.
More likely, these assistants would rejoin Fisher with a new team if he is able to move on for 2011. If not, they would find jobs elsewhere. The older guys might ponder retirement or take a year off with assurances from Fisher that they’d have a job with him once he re-enters the league.
The top in-house candidate to replace Fisher with the Titans would have to be Heimerdinger, and I believe his loyalty to Fisher would mean he wouldn’t even allow his representative to talk to Adams about the post.
Even Fisher’s harshest critics have to appreciate assistants like Munchak and Washburn and acknowledge they’d be difficult to replace. (You can make a case against Fisher, sure. But in a head-to-head against Young there is no way not to choose the coach.)
If Adams makes his move against Fisher, Fisher could have solidarity from his staff of 16.
If Young is the one shown the door, he’d be walking through it alone.
Will Randy Moss, Tennessee Titan, bust it at the line of scrimmage and run every play? As much as he bristled at the question -- I was fortunate enough to ask one of four he fielded in his first meeting with the Tennessee media Wednesday after practice -- it’s not an unfair one based on his history.
Moss has not always given maximum effort. The Titans are expecting that he will.
“He’s caught passes for 15,000 yards, so he knows about playing the game,” Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “I think [the effort question] becomes kind of a product of your environment, not to speak of where he’s been and whatever. But if you watch our practices, our guys practice hard, and I think that’s a contagious thing. I think we’re optimistic that that happens."
And if it doesn’t, what does it tell a young team with young receivers like Kenny Britt, Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins?
“That’s a fair question,” Reinfeldt said. “I think the good thing is we have enough young guys that are so strong, that really work hard and with passion, I don’t think that impacts that at all. I’d be disappointed if we saw it, yeah.”
The Titans playfully sent rookie safety Robert Johnson onto the practice field in a Moss jersey before the new addition came out himself. Jeff Fisher smiled about it fooling cameramen and photographers briefly and said he thought Johnson did a nice imitation, though he wore the wrong color gloves.
Before the Titans' biggest media crowd in memory, Moss stood against a team banner and talked for 3 minutes, 4 seconds, opening by telling his family “your baby brother, your baby boy is good.”
“I’ve been through a lot the last couple weeks, but like I’ve said, I’ve got these broad shoulders. I can carry a lot of weight,” he said.
I asked, “What can this team expect from you effort-wise, snap to snap?”
Moss: “What do you expect from me, effort-wise?”
Me: “Well other people…”
Moss: “I didn’t say other people. What do you expect from me, effort-wise?”
Me: “I don’t know what to expect.”
Moss: “Well, I don’t know what to expect either. Next question.”
(I should have done better there.)
Fisher and quarterback Kerry Collins, who played with Moss in Oakland in 2005, both talked about how lack of effort from the receiver is a misconception.
Fisher immediately turned to the play against New England where Moss, then with the Vikings, didn’t really go after a ball on what was a pass interference penalty in his favor.
But that’s not what Fisher was being asked about and when pressed, he admitted as much.
Question: There have been times when Moss has jogged off the line of scrimmage, have there not?
“Yeah, there’s been times when that’s happened. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what the scenario was, I don’t know what the play call was, I don’t know what the formation was, whether he was primary or not or didn’t get a check. So I can’t comment. The only thing I can comment on is the way he’s going to play here."
Question: If he’s not primary here, you’re still expecting him to run hard off the line of scrimmage, yeah?
"He could be primary here at any time with our quarterback and his legs."
Question: So he’s expected to run?
“Yes, he is.”
Question: What if he doesn’t?
“I’m not going to deal in hypothetical. I don’t have any issues with what he’s done right now. We’re trying to get him ready to play and get him involved in this offense. And he understands we have a running back that can, literally, come out any place on the run plays. He understands that and is ready to be a part of that.”
Said Collins: “I never worry about what you’re going to get from Randy Moss. … Never once did I ever question whether he was going to give me everything he had. I expect that here. I know what kind of guy he is, what kind of pro he is, so there is no doubt in my mind what we are going to get from him.”
Hey, I hope for the Titans’ sake that no effort issues arise.
But if one does, it will set an awfully bad example for a young team that’s coached to play hard, all the time, and for the rest of the receivers who are expected to block, a lot, when the ball isn’t coming to them.
Let’s set aside, please, the concept that the not-always-playing-hard line of questioning is some sort of media creation. The media didn’t create the tape we’ve seen of snaps where he has hardly bolted off the line of scrimmage. The media didn’t make him say, “I’ll play when I want to play.” And the media didn’t put words in the mouths of people like Brett Favre.
“Did he hustle on every play?” Favre asked last week after Moss was released by the Vikings. “I don’t know if Randy has ever hustled on every play. That’s just Randy. But he knows what his value is. He figures, ‘Heck, two guys follow me everywhere I go.’ [Jets cornerback Antonio] Cromartie did a great job against him, challenged him one-on-one, but eventually we got a big one. That’s why teams don’t do that.
“They may watch and say, ‘He’s jogging, jogging, jogging.’ Boom, 70-yard touchdown. That one definitely got us a spark that night.”
Britt is out with a hamstring injury and it could be a good while before he gets back on the field. He said jogging off the line of scrimmage can’t work.
“Oh no, not here,” he said. “Especially in our running game. We want to sprint off the ball as much as we can. That’s how the defense can’t tell if it’s a run or a pass. When you start jogging off the ball they can tell it’s a run or what we are going to do on our offense.”
Might he see Moss jog off the line here?
“I hope not,” Britt said. “We’ve got rules for that. We might get a little fine for jogging on the backside or not finishing. Twenty bucks. For a dropped ball or anything like that, everybody gets treated the same.”
That’s one place where equal treatment might not be a good thing. I seriously doubt a $20 bill is going to dissuade Moss from doing his own thing if he wants to.
Fisher and the Titans have a setup in which Moss can succeed. But the coach also has set himself up for a lot of criticism if Moss doesn’t pan out. The coach has said he sees “no risk” in the addition and promised Moss won’t receive special treatment.
“Randy’s going to play hard.” Fisher said Monday. “Yeah, he’s going to look around and watch everybody play and play hard. There is not going to be a double-standard here for anybody, there never is. If players aren’t playing hard, they’re corrected -- constructively corrected.”
Who wouldn’t like to see receivers coach Fred Graves, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger or Fisher himself constructively correct a receiver who’s heading for the Hall of Fame, who has just come from time with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and who a friend and former teammate, Cris Carter, said struggles with male authority?
To hear Moss tell it, none of them will have an issue.
“I look forward to just coming out here and just helping this team,” he said. “Do whatever I can and whatever my role is, is what I am going to do. Hopefully, I fit into Coach Fisher’s team and hopefully I’m going to go out here and make some plays to keep winning.”
Cortland Finnegan is thrilled to have Moss on his team. But he’ll also advise the rest of the receivers to listen to their coaches and not necessarily look to another player as a model.
“The young players realize they have a job at stake too and they’re going to have to do things the way that they are coached to do,” Finnegan said. “And I know that Randy will, too.”
Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. considered Britt this week and said the Titans receiver’s attention to detail has helped him become a much bigger threat.
I took that to Titans receivers coach Fred Graves, who said he doesn’t think that’s been an issue for Britt.
“It’s not about him getting lower or higher,” Graves said. “It’s all about the steps that he takes. If you watch him run what we call a deep over, a dig route, he gets in and out of that -- boom. On a comeback, he’s taking a step and then he’s crossing over and that’s delaying him getting out of his route.
“We always tell them, the way you slow down to get in and out of your breaks is to drop your hips and get your shoulders down.”
But all the Titans' receivers and receivers in general run some routes better than others, Graves said.
Nate Washington is an artist on a comeback but he struggles to stop and get started again on a double move. Justin Gage runs skinny posts that are hard to follow, but has a harder time elsewhere. Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t run very good stop routes or pivot routes.
“They’ve all got good routes, bad routes, in between routes,” Graves said. “… It’s only Kenny’s second year. Jerry Rice probably didn’t get good at some routes until his third or fourth year.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
It can be too easy to go with the position coach of the first-round pick as the guy who's got to do good work to help a draftee have some instant impact.
But the Titans are returning 11 of 12 starters on offense and defense and adding an explosive playmaker on offense was a priority. Enter Kenny Britt out of Rutgers with pick No. 30.
Wide receiver coaches for the Titans are regularly subject to criticism, but I think it's tough to pin the lack of development of players at the position on them. After all, we've seen Alan Lowry, Steve Walters, Ray Sherman and now Fred Graves all hold the job. Have all five of them been bad at polishing young talent into AFL-caliber weapons?
I argue the failures at the spot fall more on Jeff Fisher for philosophically de-emphasizing the position and the front office for what they've provided those assistants to work with in that environment.
Graves has been given a first-round talent now. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger raved about how Britt comes into the league already able to get off press coverage, something most rookies struggle to figure out.
Graves is occasionally unconventional -- his guys regularly catch bricks to work on their hands.
If Britt's able to contribute early, Graves will get some of the credit. If Britt's not one of the team's top three receivers early on, Graves will get a share of the blame.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
We need to talk.
I want an open and honest relationship.
I want to do these mailbag blog entries.
But I'm thin on questions. I see my compatriots in other divisions answering your queries all the time and I start to feel lonely and unloved. Have I upset you? Failed you? Or are people from the four AFC South teams just not mailbag types?
I once wrote that Houston fans lead the mail by a lot. Since then, you've about disappeared.
Titans fans are now the most frequent mailbaggers, Jags and Texans tie for second, Colts hardly to be found. In case you were wondering.
Here's the best of my slim pickings.
Want more? Make it happen with a visit here.
I'm off to Indianapolis this morning. I'll report back to you with my impressions of Lucas Oil Stadium this evening, then see what I see during Colts-Bills.
Jim in Nashville writes: If I were the Titans, I would offer Arizona a first round draft pick, Chris Henry( to give them some local flavor) and let them pick any two of the Titans receivers for Boldin!
Paul Kuharsky: This is a hugely popular question this week -- will the Titans make a play for Boldin? Sure, Boldin is an intriguing guy. But if you know the organization, two ideas here run counter to how they operate. They don't trade high picks, or packages of them, and that's what it would take. And they don't run towards big contracts that would skew their whole salary structure.
On the first point: Why in the world would the Cards accept a first, an unproven running back and two inferior receivers for a Pro-Bowl caliber guy? It would be more like at least a first and a third.
On the second point: What Boldin wants would surely mess with the Titans pay scale.
I know many Titans fans dream of such a move and think it's the sort for which the Titans should break from their mold. But I'd be very surprised if this ever came close to happening. And I think Boldin will wind up playing for Arizona this season.
Bryan in Jacksonville writes: Do you think that as we get closer to the opening of the season that the Jags will take the approach of reducing the offer to D. Harvey? Also, do you feel his agent will start feeling additional pressure to get Harvey signed as he probably does not want to be known as the only agent who had his client hold out this long in 07? I'm assuming other agents would use this against him when recruiting clients for next year. Thanks and keep up the great work!
Paul Kuharsky: I don't see the Jaguars reducing their offer, no. That would only make things more contentious, if that's possible. I'm sure they've said it's a take it or leave it kind of deal, though there is always room to revisit. In terms of other agents using it against Ken Kremer -- he's got a long-standing reputation built over time with a lot of clients and won't likely be judged on one. And I'm sure he can sell people on the idea that he took a hard line in Harvey's best interest even if you and I might disagree.
Rick from parts unknown writes: So your criteria for the Colts is "In these polls I've closed my eyes, envisioned the logo and seen who's highlight reel flickered on my eyelids." but when it comes to the Titans/Oilers you think Bruce Matthews is the pick? Earl Campbell is king of the exciting highlight clip. Please try not to be so hypocritical.
Paul Kuharsky: Point taken, Rick. He's referring to my comments regarding the picks of fans for all-time franchise players in our SportsNation polls. I liked Johnny Unitas over Peyton Manning for the Colts, but Bruce Matthews over Earl Campbell for the Oilers/Titans.
But wouldn't you agree, Rick, that Matthew's freakish longevity does more to distinguish him from Campbell than Manning's career does so far to distance himself from Unitas?
Cathi in Jacksonville writes: I am very irritated that espn avoids any coverage of the JAGUARS! It is as though the JAGS don't exist or that the commentators seem to have forgotten the fact that though the JAGS were a wild card playoff team, they played a much better season and playoff round than the BORING colts, chargers, titans, and redundit patriots. Why is it that the comment a couple of weeks ago concerning the steelers and the obstacles they face this season do not include the team that beat them twice on their own turf and made history in doing so? When will theses sports channels give the JAGS credit for being a tough team to beat and a team that will give any opposition a run for their money? J.D., Freddy T. Paul Spicer, David Garrard, Reggie Williams: They are still football players and deserve, along with the rest of the team at least a few minutes of coverage by the bias commentators!
Paul Kuharsky: Perhaps some of the people you are upset with will read your sentiments here. I'm sorry I can't agree with you that everyone a) has an agenda and b) has an anti-Jags slant on that agenda.
As for the AFC South blog, we strive to be one-fourth Jaguars all the time.
The Great Dan Beezy in H-Town writes: At this point in there careers looking back and seeing how there teams are evolving, who would you have taken first Super Mario, or Vince?
Paul Kuharsky: At this point, if I am picking regardless of need, I take Williams. But I request a two-year grace period for changing my mind before a final decision.
Randall in Nashville writes: Heard you on 104.5 the other morning. Regarding White & Johnson's nickname... Rock & Roll. I enjoy the show & congrats on the ESPN "gig". Thanks!
Paul Kuharsky: Not bad. Randall is referring to a request for a decent name for the Titans LenDale White/Chris Johnson backfield combo. I keep using the clichéd Thunder and Lightning. I don't care for it, but I know people understand what I mean when I say it. Two other good suggestions came on my Nashville radio appearance recently: Bass and Banjo or Smash and Thrash. Have any more?
Russ in Nashville writes: Paul, What's your take on Titans WR coach Fred Graves? In all of this commentary on the lack of talent in the receiving corps, I haven't once heard anyone criticize or even really comment on Graves' role in their development.
Since 2005, we've drafted 8 receivers. I would say that of those 8, not one could start as a 1 or 2 receiver on any NFL team (Roydell when healthy the only possible exception). Are our draft selections really that bad, or is there something to be said about them being coached up to compete at an NFL level? Looking at the NFL draft history as a whole, very few teams have had much success with receivers in recent years, but something smells fishy to me.
Paul Kuharsky: Graves is only heading into his second year. I'd say he did well with Justin Gage and Roydell Williams last year, considering what they'd done the year before. Titan receivers were mediocre under Ray Sherman too, and now he looks pretty good coaching TO in Dallas. I think in this instance it's been way more about what they've been given and what the Titans have invested in the spot than it is about the position coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE - I mentioned earlier I intended to write about special teams. My conversations after practice dictated I head another direction. I'll hit on the Titans coverage teams after the roster is whittled ...
Fourth-year wide receiver Brandon Jones was getting good reviews early in camp. But he wouldn't talk about it much. Consistency has been the issue with him, and he knew he'd not had enough time to prove anything on that subject.
I revisited it with him today and also spoke to receivers coach Fred Graves.
Graves said the biggest thing he's worked on with Jones is fine-tuning some of what he does out of the slot spot. The broad point of emphasis remains the same, Graves said:
"We continually talk about being consistent. Not only now in camp, but in November, he's got to be consistent. I haven't had an issue with his [route] depth and knowing what to do and reading the coverages and those types of things.
"In the past, some days he comes out and is really aggressive, he makes big-time catches, he explodes in and out of his breaks. And then other days he's kind of rounding routes off, he's nonchalant. And those are issues that we've talked about since January. Those are things he's well-aware of and we've got to fix them."
"He knows this is the year for him, that he's got to show us what he can do, what we expect him to do. And then we'll see how it works out."
Jones didn't play much in the second preseason game. He didn't record a catch, ending up out of bounds on one drifting throw from Vince Young that he did corral.
He's likely to get extensive action as the third or fourth wide receiver Friday night in Atlanta.
Jones told me he still feels like he's doing OK, doing better at giving his all, all the time.
"I have been more consistent. I've become more a student of the game. I'm working at it more. It's all about paying attention, becoming a student of the game. It's a new offense, you've got to get comfortable in it. You've got to know the concept of the offense and how it works and then you'll be able to get comfortable in it, know where you are at all times, know what you're supposed to do and why you're supposed to do it.
"You don't make plays in this league, that's what they do, they go find other people. I've seen it happen. That's why I've got to go out there every day and give it all I've got."
Halfway through the preseason, though, it's not as though Jones or his competition got a mid-term report card.
"You don't get any updates," he said. "They've got their meetings and we've got our meetings. We go in there and we correct our mistakes and they go in there and they talk about it."
I think he's very much in the mix as the third or fourth guy, and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger may well only look to three or four once the games start to count.