AFC South: Jamie Winborn
Mike Keith and the Music City Miracle make an appearance in this fantastic piece on the best calls of all time by Joe Posnanski.
Examining poor offensive line play with Pete Prisco.
There is a special-teams coverage crisis, says Vic Carucci.
It’s yet another crisis game for Gary Kubiak, says Richard Justice.
It’s nasty at the bottom of a pile, says Jeffrey Martin.
John McClain wonders whether the Texans need an attitude adjustment.
Justice asks if Mario Williams is a great player.
How the Giants stopped the Texans' run game, from Lance Zierlein.
Joseph Addai is confident he’ll play in Washington, says Mike Chappell.
Phil Richards examines whether halftime speeches are really the stuff of legend.
Dwight Freeney would have played baseball if football didn’t pan out, says Chappell.
Measuring Peyton Manning and John Elway against each other with Bob Kravitz.
Five Colts storylines including containing Donovan McNabb, from John Oehser.
Jeff Fisher’s Jacksonville jabs were a long time ago, writes Tania Ganguli.
There is no way Orlando is a better sports town that Jacksonville, says Gene Frenette.
Ganguli and Vito Stellino preview Titans-Jaguars. (Video.)
Mary Garrard recently joked with Jaguars coaches about how her husband needs to play, says Stellino.
Vic Ketchman likes parity.
Alfie Crow picks up on my line of questioning with Chris Johnson about his pal Mike Sims-Walker.
Teal Monday details from Jeremy Ratliff.
John Glennon looks at the division’s four-way tie for first, and for last.
Chris Johnson rested a sore thigh Thursday, say Jim Wyatt and Glennon.
Vince Young’s TD pass to Kenny Britt was intended for Britt, maintains Young.
Young and his grandmother are juiced for "Monday Night Football," says Glennon.
Maurice Jones-Drew gives props to Dave Ball, says Wyatt.
Receivers are making more plays with Young doing his thing, says David Boclair.
Jamie Winborn is happy to be back, says Darren McFarland.
Chris Johnson and the Titans’ run blocking: All sort of explanations are rolling in, and some in Nashville are even asking for more Javon Ringer carries. That’s craziness. But Fisher had said the run game isn’t operating as it should be and with that being the case the Titans really have issues. The line needs to block better and Johnson needs to be decisive. He tweeted a pledge for a big October.
Colts safeties: Antoine Bethea is an excellent player. But he’s like to be stretched thin with the team’s three best options aside from him -- Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt and Jamie Silva -- all out now. The Colts are hoping for a late-season return from Sanders. In the meantime, their options on the roster are inexperienced DaJuan Morgan and rookie Brandon King, a converted corner who’s had a hamstring issue. Matt Cassel may not be able to take advantage of that, but I suspect Donovan McNabb and Matt Schaub will.
Jamie Winborn, Titans linebacker: He’s been workmanlike and serviceable as a fill-in, but the dynamic Gerald McRath returns from his four-game suspension this week. The Titans should plug him directly back into the lineup and hash out what they will do when they decide to use nickel personnel. But Jeff Fisher’s already spoken of the expectation of rust on McRath, which might mean Winborn retains a part time role for a bit.
Troy Nolan, Texans safety: The second-year safety had two picks in Oakland in his first action on defense, which prompted Gary Kubiak to pledge more playing time for him. I think Eugene Wilson qualifies as a weak spot for the defense and even if healthy, the team should stick with Nolan and give him a chance to be part of this young defensive backfield that’s trying to grow up quickly together.
Josh Scobee, Jaguars kicker: He doesn’t rank high on the scoring list, but he’s extended a great preseason into the regular season and four games in he hasn’t even attempted a FG from under 44 yards. He’s connected from 45, 44, 48, 51 and 59 for the Jaguars so far this season.
Both Houston’s Brian Cushing, the reigning defensive rookie of the year, and Tennessee’s Gerald McRath, a second-year player expected to be a big factor for the defense, are suspended for the first four games for violations of the league’s policy against performance enhancers.
Their first-choice replacements both have durability issues.
The Texans' Xavier Adibi and the Titans' Colin Allred are constantly nicked up. Adibi’s healthy at the right time and will start Sunday against Indianapolis. Allred’s been limited this week with an ankle injury but practiced Friday. The Titans could go with Jamie Winborn instead, but linebackers coach Dave McGinnis said Allred is ahead because he's been around longer and knows the defense better.
The drop-off at both spots is significant -- certainly more so in Houston than in Tennessee as McRath hasn’t proven much yet.
But both defenses might be quicker to go to nickel packages and take that extra backer off the field. Houston would be kicking Glover Quin inside with Brice McCain taking his spot. Tennessee would be pulling Allred or Winborn in favor of Vincent Fuller, a safety who covers slot receivers.
Against the Colts, the Texans are going to play plenty of five-defensive back sets. How much the Raiders will go three-wide with new quarterback Jason Campbell under center remains to be seen.
But for both teams, it’s something we’ll be monitoring.
Maybe after the weekend, the Titans will talk against with Oakland about trading for Thomas Howard.
Biggest surprises: Running back Samkon Gado ran ahead of LeGarrette Blount since he was added, but Gado lost out to the unproven rookie. Tight end Sean Ryan seemed like he’d stick as insurance for Craig Stevens, whose role is now quite important and who’s had concussion issues in the past. But the Titans parted ways with Ryan. Veteran cornerback Tye Hill was surprised he was let go, according to The Tennessean. Jeff Fisher says teams need at least four corners. If you count nickelback Vincent Fuller, a safety, in the equation the numbers are OK. But otherwise unproven Ryan Mouton is fourth.
No-brainers: Chris Simms often looked confused and flustered in preseason action, and it became clear that the Titans would stick with Kerry Collins as the veteran backup to Vince Young while looking to develop rookie Rusty Smith for down the road. Collins can run the scout team at practice and step in with no practice work if and when he’s needed, and Smith’s got a lot of good qualities, including a nice arm and swagger.
What’s next: The Titans will probably look for help at linebacker, where Gerald McRath’s four-game suspension is underway, and the primary alternative, Collin Allred, has not been durable lately. Could they pursue Oakland’s Thomas Howard in a trade? The depth right now beyond Stephen Tulloch, Will Witherspoon and Allred is Jamie Winborn, Stanford Keglar and long snapper Ken Amato. With receiver Paul Williams finally gone, Keglar can be the guy fans wonder about still being around.
Right guard: It’s third-year man Mike Brisiel, who missed all but the opener last season with an injury, trying to hold off second-year man Antoine Caldwell. I’d think they view Caldwell as having more upside and being more suited to the system, but it seems too close to call still.
Kicker: Kris Brown could be limited with a bit of a foot injury, but it doesn’t sound like it will factor into the decision. He and Neil Rackers have been quite even, so the question becomes does Gary Kubiak stay loyal to Brown or decide a change of scenery will be healthier and go with Rackers?
Outside linebacker: While Brian Cushing sits the first four games to serve his suspension, it's still unclear what the Texans will do. There was a lot of talk about Zac Diles playing strongside while rookie Daryl Sharpton took Diles' spot. Now the local media is talking as if Kevin Bentley is the front-runner.
Left guard: The offensive line’s been a complete scramble in the preseason because of injuries. Presuming Charlie Johnson is set to return as left tackle for opening day in Houston, this spot looks like the one most up in the air. Tony Ugoh was plugged in at the start of camp, but then wound up at tackle when Johnson was hurt. Jamey Richard could also win it, and if the Colts are being secretive, rookie Jacques McClendon could factor in.
Return man: Three newcomers -- Brandon James, Devin Moore and Ray Fisher -- have all gotten looks in games. Moore had the best results with the ball in his hands. But he's been dinged and the other two have made fielding errors with Fisher booting one against Buffalo and James doing the same at Green Bay. How they stack up in-house right now is unknown, and Thursday could certainly still factor into things.
Right guard: Has Vince Manuwai, an incumbent starter, held on to the one open spot on the line? If so he should play on the right. If not, Uche Nwaneri will probably play on the right with Kynan Forney on the left. It seems Jack Del Rio’s decided, but just isn’t sharing yet.
Safety: Both spots are hardly cemented, and it will be a bigger surprise if the team doesn’t add a safety from waivers than if it does. Anthony Smith looks to lead at strong with Gerald Alexander at free, but they have Sean Considine and Reggie Nelson and even Courtney Greene and Tyron Brackenridge in the mix too. None of them has stepped forward and made a huge push so far.
Right cornerback: Jason McCourty is steadier and faster, rookie Alterraun Verner is a bigger playmaker. Jeff Fisher’s left open the possibility of playing them both, but that’s a difficult juggling act that could slow the progress of both. It’s also a good way for the coach to keep quiet on the starter in the opener until just before kickoff.
Returner: Damian Williams is the guy they’d like to win it, but he’s been a little timid and lost a fumble during a return in Carolina. Another rookie, Marc Mariani, is the primary alternative.
Outside linebacker: While Gerald McRath serves his four-game suspension, who lines up with Stephen Tulloch and Will Witherspoon? Colin Allred would appear the leader, with Jamie Winborn the other possibility. Activating David Thornton off PUP and using him is an outside option. I don’t see it considering his scheduled salary of around $5 million, his propensity for getting hurt and his current physical status.
The second corner: Alterraun Verner challenging Jason McCourty for the second cornerback spot. They should both get extensive action since Cortland Finnegan won’t play. Carolina quarterbacks have been miserable so far, though. The Titans would probably like to see Matt Moore and the backups do more to test the secondary so they have something to judge.
Flashes from Damian Williams: He was reliable but hardly spectacular in his first preseason game Monday night. The Titans need the rookie returner to be more decisive and break off a chunk or two. If he can do it against the Panthers’ front-line coverage teams, it would boost the team's confidence that it has a return man, and he could separate him from Marc Mariani.
Plays from linebackers: It would be good to see a solid effort from a linebacker not named Gerald McRath, Stephen Tulloch or Will Witherspoon. McRath is going to be out the first four games. Now would be a great time for Colin Allred, Jamie Winborn or even Rennie Curran or Mike Rivera to have a big game that shouts “I’m your man” to Tennessee’s coaches.
The veteran outside linebacker has not participated in any offseason practices as he recovers from shoulder and hip surgeries. Some insiders believe while Thornton’s spirit is willing, his body simply is no longer able.
Earlier this offseason Jeff Fisher said Thornton didn’t qualify as a starter because he was unable to practice.
Gerald McRath's four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s policy against performance enhancers may just play perfectly into Thornton getting a final season with the Titans. He is due roughly $4.3 million in the final year of his contract and, if he’s healthy, he should be a better option than Stanford Keglar, rookie Rennie Curran or Jamie Winborn.
If depth is still such a question after camp, I think they will pay Thornton and play him.
Then, if he’s going well through the first month, the Titans can wait to see if, and when, he breaks down before installing McRath. If he’s not performing well or has gotten hurt, the Titans know they’ve got a healthy upgrade arriving for their fifth game.
If Thornton can’t get healthy, and the Titans had to look to another alternative, they could play Colin Allred in the middle and Stephen Tulloch outside. Will Witherspoon is in line as the other starter on the outside.
I know McRath’s suspension will spark another round of talk about the possibility of bringing back Keith Bulluck, and the politically correct Jeff Fisher tossed Bulluck’s name out again Monday.
Considering Bulluck probably won’t be back to full strength at the start of the season after an ACL tear in late Decemeber, I don’t see how his chance to return -- slim to none in my eyes -- is enhanced by McRath’s development.
Tulloch has signed his $2.521 million restricted free agent tender offer, according to Fisher.
The middle linebacker had no choice. Starting Tuesday teams can substitute tenders of 110 percent of last year’s salary for the restricted free agent offers made back in March.
I expect Tulloch will continue to stay away from the team during voluntary workouts and organized team activities to protest the lack of a long-term deal. But I don’t think he’s getting one this year, and it’ll be costly for him to stay away once training camp starts.
1. Reggie Nelson, Jaguars FS: Featured here before, he hurt the Jaguars’ chances at being the team to beat Indianapolis on Thursday with his misplay on Reggie Wayne’s 65-yard touchdown catch that put Indy ahead. Nelson was pretty good as a rookie after he was the 21st pick in 2007. But his second and third years have been a disappointment. Perhaps addressing his spot in the offseason will wind up ranking on the priority list.
2. Texans run game: It’s the blocking, it’s the backs, it’s the play calling, it’s everything. Arian Foster, the newest guy to get a chance, fumbled an early catch and saw minimal time. In the second consecutive game against a bad NFC West team, the Texans could not seize control by running with any consistency. A week after AFC South rival Tennessee averaged 5.3 yards a carry in a thrashing of the Rams, Houston managed a 2.2 average.
3. Titans veteran linebackers: The Titans lost both of their outside linebackers for the season. The durable Keith Bulluck tore the ACL in his left knee and will see a starting streak of 127 games end. David Thornton, who’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, was also shelved and will have surgery.
Rookie Gerald McRath can play. But the other spot and a pairing of inexperienced outside backers McRath and Colin Allred or Stanford Keglar or newly signed veteran Jamie Winborn could be a big issue.
1. Daniel Muir, Colts DT: The position was considered a big weakness in 2008, but the top three interior defensive linemen right now were on the team last year. Second-round draft pick Fili Moala was supposed to add size and impact, but Muir has filled that role.
The 312-pounder is averaging over seven tackles a game in his last six, including 10 at Jacksonville. Offenses are averaging 3.9 yards a carry in that span, an improved number for Indy.
2. Justin Gage, Titans WR: Gage’s big leaping catch in San Francisco in Week 9 ended with a crash that broke bones in his lower back. He missed four games and is now playing as the third receiver. He hardly got wide open for his two touchdown catches against the Dolphins, but when Vince Young put up perfect passes for him, he pulled them both in. If Gage plays like that, and Nate Washington holds on to the ball, those two and impressive rookie Kenny Britt could be the team’s best receiving trio in some time.
3. Gerald Alexander, Jaguars SS: Helping offset Nelson’s poor play is a summer trade acquisition. The Jaguars got Alexander from Detroit in exchange for receiver Dennis Northcutt on June 30. In his past three games, he has an interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He’s looking like a guy who could be part of a long-term answer.
The Texans' poor conference record means they are at the back of the pack of teams vying for a wild-card berth, says John McClain.
Kyle Shanahan would be in line to join his dad if Mike Shanahan resurfaces, says McClain.
Five Texans questions from Lance Zierlein.
Gary Kubiak talked to 610 in Houston, and Sports Radio Interviews provides some transcript and a link.
The Colts paused to enjoy the view from the top, says Mike Chappell.
A weekend off was good for the Colts, says Phil Richards.
Jim Caldwell is mum on plans for playing time against the Jets, says Phillip B. Wilson.
Reviewing Bill Polian’s radio show: Anthony Gonzalez will practice fully Wednesday and likely be a game-time decision, says John Oehser.
Defensive starters weigh in on perfection pursuit, from Jeremiah Johnson.
Michael C. Wright has a long talk with Fred Taylor.
Clint Ingram is on IR.
How close are the Jags? Vic Ketchman talks it through.
Eben Britton has a lot of improving to do, says Terry O’Brien. Watch his video of still shots with examples.
As they prepare for a trip to New England remember the Jaguars are bad in the cold, says Big Cat Country.
Keith Bulluck's season-ending knee injury clouds his future, says Jim Wyatt.
Wyatt talked to new Titan Jamie Winborn.
A short week limits the Titans’ schedule, says Gary Estwick.
Jeff Fisher tried again to explain why he didn’t use timeouts to force a late Dolphins punt, says Terry McCormick.
The Titans will move on without Bulluck and David Thornton, says McCormick.
There is still some bad blood between the Titans and Chargers, at least according to Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillip, blogs Wyatt.
- The team signed free-agent linebacker Jamie Winborn, replacing rookie defensive end Tim Jamison on the active roster.
- The Houston Chronicle's Dale Robertson looks at the Texans' run defense, which has markedly improved after being the league's worst through the season's first three weeks.
- The Chronicle's Jerome Solomon looks at what coordinator Frank Bush has done to key the defensive turnaround.
- The Colts' defense has responded very well after the offense or special teams has given the ball away, writes Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star.
- Peyton Manning is nearly on pace to eclipse the single-season completion rate record.
Jaguars free-agent safety Gerald Sensabaugh signed with the Cowboys, says Michael C. Wright.
A look at the status of the Colts' free agents, all still on the market except for Darrell Reid, courtesy of John Oehser.
In the first installment of a positional series, Jim Caldwell discusses the Colts at quarterback.
Patrick Ramsey isn't the Titans' lone visitor Tuesday. Linebacker Jamie Winborn is also in Nashville, reports Jim Wyatt.
The Texans hired Matt Schiotz as their assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Cole Pepper really likes the Jaguars' acquisition of Tra Thomas.