AFC South: Jalen Parmele

RTC: Marc Mariani is understanding

September, 1, 2013
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Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans …



Marc Mariani took the Titans' decision to put him on IR pretty well, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “…[They] felt like this was best and I don’t think they are trying to pull any fast ones. I think they are doing what’s best for the team and for me. So it’s tough to argue.”

To which I say: I think the Titans actually preferred him to Darius Reynaud as their return man, but even a couple weeks of uncertainty made it too hard for them to keep him. I think they could have managed.

Cutting Fernando Velasco saved the Titans money and gave the starting job to Rob Turner, a nastier player, says Wyatt.

Quick breakdowns on four cut Titans: Rusty Smith, Jalen Parmele, Collin Mooney and Dontel Watkins, from Pro Football Focus.

The defensive tackle depth is excellent. But drops and missed tackles are two things the Titans need to improve on from last year, says Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus.

Tennessee Titans cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: Marc Mariani came back from a vicious broken leg suffered in the preseason in 2012. A shoulder injury suffered in the preseason opener cost him the rest of camp and the preseason, and the Titans put him in injured-reserve Saturday, ending his season. He might have been ready as soon as Week 3, but the Titans clearly didn't like the uncertainty. They could have waived him injured, exposing him to a claim. In that scenario, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who was instrumental in the Titans drafting the receiver/returner out of Montana in 2010, might have wanted him. But the Rams or anyone else would have had to have added him without getting to examine the injury, and Mariani's not under contract beyond this year so a new team could have been at risk for picking up a year's salary and getting nothing out of him. If he wasn’t claimed, he would have reverted to Tennessee’s IR. By putting Mariani directly on IR, he is assured of his $575,000 base salary this season but won’t play anywhere. The move means Darius Reynaud is the returner. He showed himself to be only the team’s fifth-best running back during camp, but sticks to handle punts and kickoffs.

Wildcard: If Rusty Smith clears waivers, the Titans will want the fourth-year quarterback back on their practice squad. He’s not been on the active roster for nine games in any of his first three seasons, so he retains his practice squad eligibility. If Smith is claimed, the Titans will need to find a young quarterback for the spot, who they can work to develop as insurance and who will be able to offer an option as the No. 2 if Jake Locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick suffers an injury that results in any missed time. One team that won't claim Smith -- his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars.

What's next: I could see the Titans shopping for a veteran safety as they sift through cuts. Seventh-round pick Daimion Stafford is on the roster now, but the Titans are heavy with strong safeties and light at free safety. They’d probably like better balance and Stafford could ultimately land on the practice squad. With 10 defensive linemen plus strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers in line to play a good share of end, the last pure end -- Keyunta Dawson -- is hardly a lock at this point. Only one injured Titan, rookie linebacker Zaviar Gooden, is likely to miss the season opener at Pittsburgh.

Tennessee Titans cuts: S Al Afalava, T Daniel Baldridge, TE Brandon Barden (injured), DT Stefan Charles, DT Zach Clayton, TE Jack Doyle, LB Gary Guyton, DT DaJohn Harris, S Corey Lynch, FB Collin Mooney, DE Nigel Nicholas, RB Jalen Parmele, WR Rashad Ross, LB Tim Shaw, QB Rusty Smith, LB-DE Scott Solomon, G Kasey Studdard, WR Dontel Watkins, LB Jonathan Willard, CB Khalid Wooten, C-G Fernando Velasco

Placed on Injured-reserve: WR/returner Marc Mariani.

Titans confirm 10 cuts

August, 30, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn -- The Tennessee Titans announced in a news release their first 10 cuts, eight of which had previously been reported by The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt.

The 10:

S Al Afalava
T Daniel Baldridge
TE Brandon Barden (injured)
DT Zach Clayton
LB Gary Guyton
DT DaJohn Harris
DE Nigel Nicholas
RB Jalen Parmele
G Kasey Studdard
WR Dontel Watkins

All of these moves were predictable.

Clayton was a seventh-rounder in 2011. Harris made last year's team as an undrafted free agent, and Afalafa was a veteran backup.

My 53-man Tennessee Titans roster

August, 30, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rather than tell you this is what’s going to happen, I’ll tell you this is what would happen if I had influence in the Tennessee Titans meeting room when final cuts will be decided.

Some cuts are already trickling out from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, so check his Twitter feed.

Quarterbacks: Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick

There just is no room for Rusty Smith and there isn’t a need for a third quarterback unless things go incredibly wrong. The difference between a random third guy and Smith isn’t giant.

Running backs: Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, Quinn Johnson (FB)

Battle has to contribute on special teams, but he was better than Jalen Parmele through the preseason. Wyatt says Parmele is already gone. Johnson’s been hurt and could lose out to Collin Mooney.

Wide receivers: Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Damian Williams, Justin Hunter, Michael Preston, Marc Mariani (return specialist)

Preston is one of the best 53 players on the team. Even though he won’t be active on Sundays if everyone’s healthy, you keep extra quality depth at one spot if it’s better than weaker depth at another spot. Once he’s healthy, Mariani isn’t as explosive as a punt returner as Darius Reynaud, but will more regularly get 10 yards.

Tight ends: Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson

No need for a fourth on the 53. Sign Jack Doyle to the practice squad

Offensive linemen: Tackles Michael Roos, David Stewart, Mike Otto, Byron Stingily. Interior: Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, Rob Turner, Brian Schwenke, Fernando Velasco

Velasco is guaranteed $2.02 million under his tender contract out of restricted free agency. I’m not sure he should stick over Scott Solomon at linebacker or Stefan Charles at defensive tackle. But the big push for revamping the line and the desire for depth after last year’s slew of injuries makes me feel like they will stay loaded.

Defensive ends: Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Kamerion Wimbley, Lavar Edwards, Keyunta Dawson.

Dawson is a good guy to have. I can see him staying and the Titans going five ends as opposed to six tackles. But linebacker Akeem Ayers is a nickel end so he factors in here as well.

Defensive tackles: Jurrell Casey, Sammie Hill, Mike Martin, Antonio Johnson, Karl Klug (swing)

I’ve got Stefan Charles over DaJohn Harris but neither making it. If one of them sticks, it’s the last defensive line spot probably over Dawson. I see Charles on the practice squad.

Linebackers: Akeem Ayers, Moise Fokou, Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden, Colin McCarthy, Patrick Bailey

Scott Solomon is one of my last two cuts. I want to keep seven 'backers. The seventh guy would be a trade-off for Velasco, I think. Solomon is versatile, seems to be catching on to the position change and can still play end if needed. He’s not practice squad eligible. I just can’t fit him here. I might keep him over Bailey but I don’t think they rank him that way.

Safeties: Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Daimion Stafford

The fourth spot isn’t strong and Stafford could probably go to the practice squad. But if they choose a veteran -- Al Afalava or Corey Lynch -- as the fourth I could see them trying to upgrade it with an outsider.

Cornerbacks: Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh, Blidi Wreh-Wilson

I’d expect Khalid Wooten on the practice squad.

Kicker: Rob Bironas

Punter: Brett Kern

Long-snapper: Beau Brinkley
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jackie Battle had a 19-yard catch-and-run for the Tennessee Titans in their preseason opener against Washington. It converted a third-and-16.

That play created more buzz than anything Jalen Parmele did, though Parmele had four more touches. Parmele was coming off a bit of a knee issue, so he didn’t play any special teams. Battle played five special-teams snaps.

From what I’ve seen, both are better running backs than Darius Reynaud, who could still make the team as a return specialist. The winner of Parmele vs. Battle for the No. 3 job, however, won’t get carries if Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene are healthy, and so will need to stand out on special teams.

[+] EnlargeJackie Battle
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyJackie Battle (above) is up against Jalen Parmele for a place in the Titans' backfield and, more important, a key role on special teams.
“They are both similar in the fact that they are both extremely hard workers and bring a nice size body type; they are not small scat backs,” said Nate Kaczor, the Titans' special-teams coach. “Any time you have a third back that has a linebacker-type body, they could play the role of a linebacker [on teams] if you ever got down in depth at linebacker.”

Battle is 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. Parmele is 5-11, 225.

Battle has more momentum, having played with the starters in a couple special teams phases. In all, he worked on two punts, two punt returns and a kickoff return.

“I think I have to perform on offense, but I think most of it is determined by how I do on special teams,” Battle said.

Parmele has plenty of time to gain momentum of his own. He played for Titans running back coach Sylvester Croom in Jacksonville last season, which was a big reason why Tennessee grabbed him in favor of Jamie Harper. Parmele expects to work on all special-teams units except field goal and field-goal block.

“We have a lot of veteran running backs, which is good, we all have game experience,” Parmele said. “It makes it that much better.”

Kaczor needs to get them their work on teams early if he wants to guarantee he’s got them.

“You might have planned on playing them, but if the offense is kind of riding one of them, you can’t,” he said. “If they’re running the ball, they need to be out there running the ball."

I asked ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, to compare and contrast the two backs as candidates for the No. 3 spot.

“Parmele is a do-it-all guy that can run, catch, block and help out quite a bit on special teams,” Williamson said. “Battle is a big banger who isn't real agile but can run after he gets going. Battle offers little in passing game or on special teams. For that battle, give me Parmele, but Battle is more like Greene, if Greene were to go down.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some observations from Friday evening’s Tennessee Titans training camp, the first open to fans...

In 7-on-7 work with no linemen:

Tight end Taylor Thompson angled away from a defender and was open about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, but Jake Locker missed him with a wobbly ball that sailed too long.

Undrafted rookie receiver Rashad Ross was well-covered by corner Tommie Campbell, but quarterback Rusty Smith zipped a short pass completion to him anyway.

From his own 15-yard line, Locker looked for receiver Michael Preston but his terrible pass found cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick on Thursday.

In team periods:

Locker rolled left, against his arm, a few times by design. On one, he did very well to square his shoulders and hit Craig Stevens. On another he hit Justin Hunter, but cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson had it so well sniffed out he would have leveled the rookie receiver if allowed.

Locker threw a deep ball over Nate Washington's head up the right sideline. After he bounced one to Kenny Britt, Locker hit Damian Williams on a very nice pass down the middle for roughly 20 yards.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey showed great lateral movement and got nearly to the sideline to end one breakout running play by Jalen Parmele. Later Casey managed to knock the wind out of Shonn Greene after tracking him on a dump off pass closer to the line of scrimmage and the center of the field.

You can already see stretches where the Titans are working to mimic the sort of no-huddle, high-speed offense they will sometime have to defend. With a new batch of offensive players quickly taking over for the group that just ran routes and blocked, the defense had to race to get back into position for a snap.

On a “now” pass, the quarterback throws immediately to a receiver split wide who hasn’t really moved off the line of scrimmage. The ball has to arrive in a way that the receiver can run with it immediately. Locker threw one left to Kendall Wright, but Wright had to bend at the waste to pull it in from too low. That doesn’t lend itself to the play working.

Line of the day, from Britt to safety Bernard Pollard: “Your name’s Bernard, you ain’t THAT tough.”

Receiver Marc Mariani let a Fitzpatrick pass bounce off his hands that was picked off by linebacker Tim Shaw.

Campbell does look very confident and was in good position a lot. On another play, where Locker had someone in his face as he checked down short over the middle, Campbell closed and batted down a pass thrown for Hunter.

Backup kicker Maikon Bonani has a gigantic leg. But during the field goal period he had one atrocious miss, shanking his ball low and left and missing the wide screen set up well behind the goal posts.

I wanted to note one play in particular: Fitzpatrick lined up in the shotgun and the defense couldn’t get lined up. Multiple players were shouting calls, waving each other around and didn’t know what to do or where to line up. It’s a play where Fitzpatrick has to get his guys set -- maybe one was late, but I didn’t see it -- snap it quickly and take advantage of the defensive confusion. Instead, however, Fitzpatrick waited a long time and the defense found some semblance of organization. He wound up throwing a short incompletion that may have been a throwaway. The defense can’t win that play but did.

“Yes, we’d want him to snap it,” Mike Munchak said afterwards. “I don’t know if he was waiting for the defense or waiting for one of our guys. Generally, in a game we’d go. In a practice, I think he was making sure, because we weren’t in a hurry-up mode. The offense should have an advantage there, yes.”
We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine running backs.

Williamson’s AFC South running back rankings:
1) Texans (Arian Foster, Ben Tate)
2) Titans (Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Jalen Parmele)
3) Jaguars (Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Forsett, Denard Robinson)
4) Colts (Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Kerwynn Williams)

It’s the same order I’d choose, though I considered flipping the Colts and the Jaguars. That would have meant I was confident in Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot and not confident in Jones-Drew’s foot. And I have no inside information on either to help prompt me to swap the two teams here.

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:

What was overall thinking as you sorted through running backs? Where is the biggest gap (between 1-2, 2-3 or 3-4)?

“I thought ranking the running backs was the toughest position in the AFC South, so the gap even from 1 to 4 isn't that extreme, as I am quite fond of the stable that Indy has put together.”

Do the lead backs fall into the same order if you're ranking them and not the overall position?

“Yes, I would keep the lead backs in the same order, but MJD vs. Johnson is a real tight call for me. Both could have nice seasons, as Johnson's supporting cast is much improved and MJD is obviously going to get a lot of volume.”

How do you rank the four No. 2s?

“As for the backups, Tate is first for sure and Forsett is clearly last. I also prefer Ballard to Greene. I am not a Greene fan at all, but he should help the Titans with their short yardage issues.”

How much did you factor in the blocking you anticipate them getting? Their capabilities as pass catchers and in pass protection?

“I didn't factor in the blocking at all. I factored in the passing game. Ranking them strictly in that capacity, I would probably go: Jax, Indy, Tennessee then Houston, but that -- again -- is VERY close."

“I am also quite excited as to what Williams can bring to Indy's attack as a receiver. We might not see it this year, but he can be a real weapon.”

As for me...

I didn’t go even three deep for the Texans, as undrafted guys will fight it out for the No. 3 spot. I went deeper than three for the Colts because the have veterans and a draft pick who will be in the mix.

Jones-Drew’s volume needs to go down. To be more competitive, the Jaguars have to throw more by design and less out of need than they have the last couple years. But if he’s clearly their best offensive player, as he’s been in the past, it can be hard to resist giving it to him.

Like Williamson, I have questions about Greene. I think the Titans overpaid for him and could have found a guy who can do what he does, and more, in the middle of the draft. But he still will help them in a key area.

I like Forsett more than Williamson does, but I wouldn’t want him as my fulltime starter, something Tate (if healthy), Ballard or Greene would fare better at if called on.

Health questions abound, even beyond Bradshaw and MJD. Ben Tate’s had a lot of nagging stuff and heading into a contract year needs to prove he can stay healthy.

If the full crop is healthy, Brown or Carter won’t make the Colts. Williams should, so long as he can help on special teams.

AFC South links: Using Denard Robinson

May, 10, 2013
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Houston Texans

The team signed sixth-round draft pick Chris Jones, a nose tackle out of Bowling Green, reports the Houston Chronicle's Tania Ganguli.

J.J. Watt took to Twitter last night to dispel Internet rumors that he had been in a car accident and broken both of his legs.

Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com ranked his top 150 players for fantasy, and Arian Foster was surprising left out of the top six.

Indianapolis Colts

The team has six of its seven rookie draft choices under contract heading into this weekend's minicamp, reports the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell. The lone exception is first-round pick Bjoern Werner.

Chappell takes a closer look at third-round pick Hugh Thornton, who had to deal with the murder of his mother and sister when he was growing up.

Brad Wells of Stampede Blue isn't a fan of the trade that sent A.Q. Shipley to the Ravens for a 2014 conditional draft choice.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Are the Jaguars the most stable NFL franchise in Florida? (subscription required)

In his mailbag, John Oehser details how he expects the Jaguars will use fifth-round pick Denard Robinson.

Tennessee Titans

A video report from Baptist Sports Park as rookies report for minicamp.

The Titans' secondary may employ a pressing, more aggressive style this season, writes The Tennessean's John Glennon. “Overall this year as a defense, we’ll have a little bit more of an aggressive mentality,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “I think part of that for us as cornerbacks will be getting up at the line of scrimmage and pressing, getting our hands on the wide receivers."

The team shook things up at the running back position, waiving Jamie Harper and signing free agent Jalen Parmele.
Another player from the AFC South has switched teams in the division.

The Titans have signed former Jaguars running back Jalen Parmele, who took eight carries 45 yards in a game against Tennessee last season.

He takes the place of Jamie Harper, who was released to make room on the roster.

John Glennon of The Tennessean reported the moves.

Parmele should be a better special-teams contributor than Harper. He will have the same position coach he did last year. Sylvester Croom also jumped from the Jaguars to the Titans and surely feels Parmele is an upgrade over Harper.

The Jaguars suffered a slew of running back injuries last year. Parmele played in 11 games before a sports hernia forced him to have season-ending surgery.

The new Titans back is 5-foot-11, 225 pounds -- roughly the same as Harper was listed (5-11, 233) though I suspect he was heavier.

The Jaguars brought in Justin Forsett to be their second back and drafted Denard Robinson as another backfield option. So they weren't interested in Parmele.

The Titans will now have a backfield group of Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and Parmele.
A review of the best member of the 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars who’s still unsigned:

Daryl Smith, linebacker

Smith was a durable player for is first eight years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, playing in all but four of the team’s 128 regular-season games.

But a groin injury cost him the first 14 games of the 2012 season, required surgery and landed him on injured-reserve with the possibility of a recall. He did return to start the final two games of the 2012 season, but the layoff severely hurt his attractiveness as a free agent.

He’s 31, and I feel certain he can still make a significant contribution to a team. But older guys might be less valued than ever. He’s not as old as John Abraham, Dwight Freeney or Charles Woodson, but he’s suffering a similar fate so far.

I don’t expect the Jaguars will circle back to him, as they are going young and by the time the team around Smith is ready to contend he’d be close to the end.

It seems odd, however, that there has been minimal or no interest in him elsewhere.

He’s been somewhat well-known for being underrated, and appears to be paying a price for it now. Though someone could surely have him at a minimal price and he’d bring minimal risk.

Others still unsigned include: Wide receiver Laurent Robinson (cut), cornerback Rashean Mathis (cut), and running back Jalen Parmele.

RTC: Brown as NFL's top left tackle

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Brandon Harris was fined $21,000 for his Thanksgiving Day hit on Detroit punt returner Stefan Logan, says Dale Robertson.

In the past two weeks, Andre Johnson went from 21st in receiving yards to third behind Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne, says Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle.

The league fined Ndamukong Suh $30,000 for his kick at Matt Schaub, but the Texans have moved on, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

J.J. Watt was sick and missed practice but it won’t be an issue come Sunday, says Robertson.

The lack of outside pass rush is the root of the recent defensive issues, says Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.

Duane Brown is the best left tackle in football, says Sam Monson, and his colleagues at Pro Football focus rank Brown sixth on their offensive player of the year list.

Indianapolis Colts

Bruce Arians says if Chuck Pagano rejoins the Colts this season, he’ll be the head coach not a figurehead, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Suh has a fan in Arians despite being controversial, says Chappell.

“Barring a notable collapse from (Robert) Griffin and a five-game stretch of brilliance from (Andrew) Luck, I think RG3 is going to be the deserving Offensive Rookie of the Year,” writes Bill Barnwell of Grantland.

T.Y. Hilton’s 75-yard punt return against Buffalo “was the perfect mix of great blocking and excellent vision and quickness by Hilton,” says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Mularkey on Jason Babin: “He’s had a lot of success over the last three years and we could use some help in that area and get some pressure on the quarterback. And he’ll fit what we’re doing.” Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union says the plan is to play Babin in Buffalo.

Once again, Rashad Jennings is in line to start at running back, says Vito Stellino of the T-U.

For gutting out a groin injury, running back Jalen Parmele got a game ball just before he went on IR, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Dowell Loggains’ high school coach and college coach (Houston Nutt) as well as Kerry Collins, who played for him, all have good things to say about the Titans new offensive coordinator, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Mike Munchak says the Titans won’t be making any changes on the defensive staff during the remainder of the season, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. But Munchak said he knows “we are all on notice.”

There was something about Chris Palmer’s option routes that wasn’t working, says Jake Locker, and he expects the team will move away from them now, writes Glennon.

Colin McCarthy is now dealing with a concussion, says Glennon.

Jacksonville Jaguars cut-down analysis

September, 1, 2012
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Click here for the complete list of Jacksonville Jaguars' roster moves.

Most significant move: The team kept six wide receivers as it looks to make dramatic strides in the passing game with quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Laurent Robinson was the big free-agent acquisition and Justin Blackmon was the high draft pick. Brian Robiskie is a reclamation guy and Mike Thomas is a survivor who needs to regain form from early in his career. Cecil Shorts seemed to have stage fright a year ago when he got chances. Kevin Elliott is an undrafted rookie free agent who often shined and is deserving of a spot and some playing time. Only Thomas and Shorts are holdovers from a year ago.

Onward and upward: Several underdogs fill in some roster cracks, including three who caught my eye early in training camp -- Elliott, undrafted rookie linebacker Julian Stanford and running back Jalen Parmele. Parmele is one of four running backs the team kept with Maurice Jones-Drew holding out, along with Rashad Jennings, Montell Owens and Keith Toston. They’ve also got fullback Greg Jones. Other underdogs still standing are undrafted rookie safety Antwon Blake and defensive end George Selvie, who’s already spent time with three different teams, including the Jags once before.

What’s next: Guard Will Rackley was placed on injured reserve. He suffered a high ankle sprain early in camp and, according to AP’s Mark Long, reinjured the ankle. Eben Britton, who the team projected as the right tackle all offseason and at the start of the preseason, is now the left guard. Cameron Bradfield, undrafted a year ago, is now the right tackle and the backup left tackle. Middling veteran Guy Whimper is the backup right tackle, while undrafted rookie Mike Brewster and Josh Beekman, formerly of the Bears, are the interior backups. It sure looks like the team would benefit from adding someone with more of a resume.
Quick storylines and thoughts from the three preseason games I didn’t attend Thursday night.



Houston beat Minnesota 28-24


  • Trindon Holliday had his third return touchdown in four preseason games. He’s surely locked up a spot by now. If the Texans were to let him go, he’d get snatched up in a second by someone looking for a big boost to the return game. Maybe he’s finally got it all together.
  • Rashad Butler, who lost out on the starting right tackle job, is done for the year with a torn triceps, which could mean the Texans are in the market for a backup swing tackle in case something happens to left tackle Duane Brown or right tackle Derek Newton.
  • DeVier Posey impressively bounced off a couple tackles on his impressive 80-yard catch and run touchdown, a nice play from the guy who had the quietest preseason of the team’s three young receivers.

 

Indianapolis beat Cincinnati 20-16


  • Per Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star: They are 2-2 in preseason for first time since 2004. “Since 2005, they are 7-27 in games that don't count and are hard on the eyes.”
  • The leading passer, rusher and receiver for the Colts from this game will all likely be cut Friday. Chandler Harnish would have to prompt the Colts to keep a third quarterback. Deji Karim is the fifth running back. And Kris Adams seems more like a practice squad candidate.
  • Semi-alarming stats if it was a meaningful game: Ten penalties for 80 yards, something the Colts won’t be able to afford very often. Three fumbles, which are too many. A total of 36:47 on defense, which is too much. Eight punts in 14 possessions, also too many.
  • Will the two guys who missed tackles for the Bengals on the 42-yard TD by Dominique Jones that provided the winning margin even be in the league this year? Who know? Jones is going to be the Colts third tight end, at least at the start.

 

Jacksonville beat Atlanta 24-14


  • The Jaguars ran 45 times for 225 yards and got especially big nights from Keith Toston and Jalen Parmele accounted for 127 of the yards. How much credit they get for their yards against lower ranking Falcons defenders is hard to know. That helped the Jaguars hold the ball for 35:30, a great possession advantage.
  • Blaine Gabbert finished the preseason 36-for-59 for 355 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks. That adds up to a 95.0 passer rating. He had a clumsy fumble in the first game and a toss off the fullback at the start of this one. But the killer mistakes were way down.
  • Why did Laurent Robinson slow down when he was open and Gabbert put a good deep ball on him early? The two still have timing to work out. But that looked to be more about the receiver than thrower to me.
Some notes on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first unofficial depth chart, released in advance of their preseason opener against the Giants on Friday night at EverBank Field. Take note, it’s common for seniority to determine close spots on paper at this stage.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you care to think the Jaguars are a mess and going to be in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, they’re fine with that.

As they worked through the early days of Mike Mularkey’s first training camp, they repeated the new coach’s mantras (like, “we just want to get a little bit better every day”), fell in line with his policies (like potential $10,000 fines for answering media inquiries about injuries) and gave team-first answers to questions about the absence of their two biggest names -- Maurice Jones-Drew (holding out for a new contract) and Justin Blackmon (unable to strike a rookie deal).

Sure, they don’t have much choice but to buy in, but there is an undertone that suggests they have a secret to spring on the league in a couple of weeks.

Every team at this stage of camp thinks it can be good. In Jacksonville, a significant improvement from 5-11 is certainly possible, no matter what the popular storylines are. Honest.

Theirs is a defense loaded with quality, front-line talent. Beyond middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, most of it remains largely unknown. But if you don’t know linebacker Daryl Smith or cornerback Derek Cox or defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, that’s not the Jaguars' concern.

“If anyone feels we are not in a proper place or we have problems, that’s OK,” Posluszny said. “We feel like inside these walls we’re doing everything that we can to be a very successful team.

“Mularkey’s done a great job for us. He’s a former player who’s been through it. To me, that all means a ton, because he knows exactly what we are going through and what it takes to be successful.”

While the offense is being revamped, and Mularkey and his assistants are trying to reformat quarterback Blaine Gabbert after a horrific rookie season, the defensive system and bulk of the staff have been in place for a while now.

Gabbert has nice moments, but his overall inconsistency at practice halts any proclamations that he made a significant offseason jump.

No matter how much players and coaches talk about his gains in leadership, no matter how much faith the organization has in him, no matter how patient they are, it comes down to making throws under pressure.

The early snapshot says the defense can be really good, but that a limited offense could be the obstacle to the surprise the Jaguars would so like to produce. There is a lot of time to work on what’s been installed, to find what works and to run it better than it’s been run so far.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Phil Sears/US PresswireBlaine Gabbert finished his first season with 12 TD passes, 11 interceptions and a 50.8 completion percentage.
1. Is Gabbert good enough? He folded under pressure too often last season, but the rush wasn’t all he was facing. The team drafted him 10th overall intending for him to sit and learn for a season, but that plan didn’t pan out and Gabbert was hurried into the starting role for 14 games during which he had poor pass protection and very limited receivers.

There were big distractions off the field, too: Jack Del Rio got fired and the team was sold.

Mularkey was hired in large part because he’s developed quarterbacks, and he, coordinator Bob Bratkowski and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson have to get steadier play from Gabbert and get his arrow pointing up. His good moments look very nice, but there are still too many bad ones that leave you shaking your head. A kneel-down would seem less disheartening in many of those instances.

It’s a slow process, installing a new offense and rebuilding a quarterback’s confidence. Exactly how slow is the question we need answered.

Mentions of mechanical or technical adjustments by his coaches have been well-received, and he acts on them quickly. That’s great, but when the rush turns live and the pocket starts collapsing, will he have open people he can stand in and find? We simply can’t know yet.

2. The missing pieces. Jones-Drew is demanding a new contract. The Jaguars have said they won’t give him one with two years left on the old one. Boom -- a stalemate. I can’t see the team altering its stance unless he holds out into the season and it struggles horribly without him. He’s got an ego that will make it hard for him to return without any contract alteration, so this could drag on.

Blackmon is a rangy target who can go get the ball, and missing early camp is helping no one. He got a DUI after being drafted fifth overall, and the team wants insurance against any further troubles. Blackmon's unwilling to give the Jaguars what they are looking for, though.

So we’re seeing second-year man Cecil Shorts work in the Z spot where Blackmon will eventually be, with veteran addition Laurent Robinson at the X. Rashad Jennings is the lead back without Jones-Drew in camp, and is a bigger guy who also ranks as a power runner. I liked what I saw and heard from him.

3. Will there be enough of a pass rush? The Jaguars had 31 sacks last season, and to reach their potential on defense they need more in 2012. More consistent pressure and more sacks will come with improved coordination from the defensive linemen.

Their line coach, Joe Cullen, said they just missed on a bunch of chances last season, and another season together and the work they are doing now will result in better communication. The Jags face Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton in addition to two games against Matt Schaub and two against hotshot rookie Andrew Luck this season, and they won't win many of those without consistent pressure.

The relentless Jeremy Mincey promises the production will increase. Andre Branch was drafted in the second round to help, and looks like a quality player. Depth off the edge remains a concern. Austen Lane suffered yet another injury while I watched practices, during which John Chick walked the width of a practice field dragging heavy weight as he rehabilitated his knee.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeMike Mularkey
AP Photo/John RaouxNew head coach Mike Mularkey and his staff have made a positive impression on the players.
Mularkey and his staff. There is planning and logic to everything going on here, and the new staff has genuine concern for players on and off the field. Players are being told what the plan is and the right way to execute it. They felt that was lacking with the previous regime, and welcome it.

Position coaches like Olson, receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and one of the key holdovers, linebackers coach Mark Duffner, are true teachers, and they have guys under them who want to learn. That leadership and teaching faltered in many areas at the end of Del Rio’s tenure. It’s present in full force now. If guys follow and doing so produces results, it’ll snowball.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

A lot more is in place for Gabbert, and everyone has a stake in his performance: the GM who traded up to draft him needs him to succeed; the new coach who was hired to polish him needs him to succeed; the high-priced free-agent receiver and first-round draft pick receiver need him to succeed; the talented defense needs him to succeed.

Gabbert’s saying the right things and working hard, and you can see improvement on some drop backs. But there are still enough dud plays sprinkled into practices to make you wonder if he can succeed. The team wants him to avoid turning the ball over -- staying away from the worst-case scenarios -- and it's a smart goal, but will it make Gabbert too cautious?

Can you ask him to be careful and function as a game-manager type when the best attribute he has is a big arm that can get the ball into tight windows? It might turn out to be complicated.

Also, there is not great roster depth. I have particular concerns about the offensive line, defensive end and safety if someone goes down.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The team appears to be high on undrafted rookie linebacker Julian Stanford out of Wagner. With Clint Session’s future in doubt because of post-concussion issues, Russell Allen is likely to start opposite Daryl Smith outside. Stanford could make the team as a special-teamer who can provide depth. Brandon Marshall, a fifth-round pick, also has what looks to be an NFL-ready linebacker frame.
  • Mike Thomas needs Blackmon signed, in camp and taking the bulk of the snaps at one of the two outside receiver spots. I’m convinced that to get his head right, Thomas needs to be given the slot role and allowed to focus on it exclusively. His snaps were cut down during my visit, with Shorts working at the front of the line in Blackmon’s Z spot. The slot is what Thomas is best suited for, and his performance has slipped when he’s been expected to do more. He had a lot of drops early in camp, and Mularkey agrees with the potential for less to be more with Thomas.
  • Josh Scobee has the leg to get a lot of touchbacks and Bryan Anger has the leg to force a lot of fair catches. The Jaguars obviously still have to work on covering kicks and punts, but how often will they actually be covering kicks and punts? If the offense can produce some first downs, we should see more scoring, and more scoring will mean more kickoffs from Scobee and less work for Anger.
  • The depth at tight end is interesting after No. 1 Marcedes Lewis. Colin Cloherty got a lot of work as the No. 2 early on, and Zach Miller is another move guy who’s very intriguing, though Miller is rarely healthy. Zach Potter is giant, but hasn’t earned a lot of time, and undrafted rookie Matt Veldman is also extra large.
  • Posluszny is the centerpiece of this defense. He covers a ton of ground and makes big hits. He’s a model for doing things the right way, which is a major point of emphasis for Mularkey and his staff. Posluszny was a solid signing last season, and continues to deliver just what the team hoped for. That helps offset the fact Session, who also came to Jacksonville for a big contract in 2011, might not be on the field any time soon, or ever again.
  • The cornerbacks look good. Cox is really solid, and Aaron Ross and Rashean Mathis will be effective as the Nos. 2 and 3. The depth grew with last season's injury onslaught, and William Middleton and Kevin Rutland can play, too.
  • Branch, the rookie pass-rusher, came into the league facing questions from many teams about his ability to stand up against the run. The Jaguars have no such concern at this point. He’s got to be an effective part of a four-man group at end with Mincey, Lane and Chick. Branch certainly looks the part, but so did former Jaguars bust Derrick Harvey, so we can’t put much on the early eyeball test.
  • Along with Stanford, running back Jalen Parmele caught my eye. He’s spent time with Miami and Baltimore.

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