AFC South: Jason Jones

The AFC South has six additional picks in April thanks to the NFL’s formula for compensatory draft picks.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

The Texans get a third-rounder, No. 95 overall, and a sixth-rounder, 201st overall as a result of losing Jason Allen, Mike Brisiel, Joel Dreessen and Mario Williams while signing Bradie James and Donnie Jones.

The Titans get a third rounder, 97th overall, a sixth-rounder, 202nd overall and a seventh-rounder, 248th overall as a result of losing Cortland Finnegan, William Hayes and Jason Jones. Their two prominent signings, Kamerion Wimbley and Steve Hutchinson, were cut by their previous teams. The formula factors in only players who had expiring contracts and became free agents. The Titans signed none who qualified for consideration in the league’s equation.

The Colts get a seventh-rounder, 254th overall even though they did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the formula, the compensatory free agents lost by the Colts ranked higher than the ones they signed. The formula needs annually adds 32 picks, the equivalent of a full round of picks, to the draft and the Giants and Colts got the two extra picks to fill out that number.

The Jaguars didn't qualify for an extra pick

Complete team-by-team draft orders will appear here shortly.

AFC South free-agency assessment

March, 29, 2012
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AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Houston Texans

Key additions: None.

Key losses: OLB Mario Williams, RG Mike Brisiel, CB Jason Allen, TE Joel Dreessen, RT Eric Winston (cut), ILB DeMeco Ryans (traded), FB Lawrence Vickers (cut), QB Matt Leinart (cut).

Keepers and finance: Not everyone got away. The Texans managed to keep two very important players. They re-signed running back Arian Foster before he reached restricted free agency. And after he'd explored the market some, they struck a deal with unrestricted-free-agent center Chris Myers, a vital piece to a line that lost the two starters on the right side when Winston was cut and Brisiel bolted to Oakland.

Ryans was not a full-time player in the 3-4 defense, and his price tag was high. While Houston takes a $750,000 hit this season, he’s cleared from the books in the future. That will help the team as it tries to make sure players like outside linebacker Connor Barwin and left tackle Duane Brown don’t get away like Williams did.

What’s next: Depth paid off in a big way in 2011 as the Texans managed to win the division and a playoff game despite major personnel losses. At several spots, like on the offensive line and at corner, the draft will serve to replenish the roster with the same kind of insurance.

But the Texans are not without need.

While they are likely to stick with Jacoby Jones as part of the team and like Kevin Walter, a more reliable and dynamic weapon to go with Andre Johnson at receiver is something they acknowledge wanting. A third outside linebacker can reduce the high-snap strain on Barwin and Brooks Reed. While they hope Rashad Butler will replace Winston and Antoine Caldwell will take Brisiel’s spot, adding a guy who can compete for one or both of those spots would be healthy.

Indianapolis Colts

Key additions: DE Cory Redding, WR Donnie Avery, C Samson Satele, S Tom Zbikowski, G Mike McGlynn, RT Winston Justice (trade), QB Drew Stanton (trade).

Key losses: QB Peyton Manning (cut), WR Pierre Garcon, TE Jacob Tamme, C Jeff Saturday, TE Dallas Clark (cut), LB Gary Brackett (cut), S Melvin Bullitt (cut), RT Ryan Diem (retired), WR Anthony Gonzalez, QB Dan Orlovsky, CB Jacob Lacey (not tendered), QB Curtis Painter (cut), DE Jamaal Anderson, G Mike Pollak.

So much we don’t know: We know background on coach Chuck Pagano and his coordinators and we know what Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson have said. But there will be a degree of mystery well into the season about what they intend to run and with whom. It’s unlikely to be a sweeping transition to a 3-4 defense, as it takes time to overhaul the personnel. But as they play a hybrid defense and move toward a conversion, they’ll need more than they’ve got -- starting with a nose tackle.

On offense, they’ve said they’ll use a fullback. That’s a major departure from the previous regime. And we don’t know if a Donald Brown-Delone Carter duo at fullback will be sufficient to run behind. They need help virtually everywhere after the cap purge and free-agency turnover. Not everything will get addressed as much as they’d like in their first offseason.

What’s next: I expect more role players like Zbikowski and McGlynn, more castoffs like Justice and Stanton and more guys who are presumed finished by a lot of teams, like Avery.

They are all guys who didn’t cost much but who have upside and can help, at least as role players. And if they don’t pan out, it’s hardly a death blow to Indianapolis' major, long-term plans. Money is limited with big dead-money charges and a $19 million cap hit for defensive end Dwight Freeney the team has indicated it's willing to carry.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Key additions: WR Laurent Robinson, CB Aaron Ross, QB Chad Henne.

Key losses: DT Leger Douzable (did not tender).

Keeping their own: The Jaguars did well to hold on to players who have been valuable to them. The top of that list belongs to safety Dwight Lowery. They traded with the Jets for him before last season, shifted him full time to safety and got good work from him before he was hurt. It was crucial for the team to stay fixed at the position where it was horrific in 2010 before signing Dawan Landry and adding Lowery.

They also re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey, a great effort defensive end who was overextended in terms of playing time last year. He’s no sack-master, but he’s going to bust it on every play, break through sometimes and make the opponent work hard to stay in his way. And with the lack of quality defensive ends who hit the market, the Jaguars did well to keep him from jumping to Chicago.

What’s next: Receiver has to be addressed beyond a change in position coach and the addition of Robinson. If it’s not in the first round, it needs to be early. The franchise is trying to maximize Blaine Gabbert’s chances to be a franchise quarterback, and few would be able to establish themselves with the current cast of wideouts.

The Jaguars are a top pass-rushing end away from being a top-flight defense. Can they find him seventh overall in the draft? They could tab someone like South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, though it’s hard to say he or any rookie would be an immediate solution. Most ends need some time to become impact guys in the league.

The Jaguars could certainly look to add in the secondary free-agent market and when players are set free late in training camp.

Tennessee Titans

Key additions: DE Kamerion Wimbley, RG Steve Hutchinson.

Key losses: CB Cortland Finnegan, DL Jason Jones, WR Donnie Avery.

Sidetracked: Did the Titans miss out on real chances to sign either Scott Wells, who went to St. Louis, or Chris Myers, who stayed in Houston, as their new center because they were focused on chasing quarterback Peyton Manning? Perhaps. But when the owner declares that his executives and coaches need to put the hard sell on an all-time great QB with roots in the team’s state, that’s what you do.

Ideally, the team will still find an alternative to Eugene Amano. If the Titans find a new center to go with Hutchinson, who replaces free agent Jake Scott in the starting lineup, the interior offensive line could see a big improvement. That could have a big bearing on running back Chris Johnson, provided he takes care of his own business.

What’s next: The Titans think Wimbley will excel as a full-time defensive end, but they can’t afford for him to be too full time. He’s a smaller guy who’s played mostly as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and shouldn’t be asked to play every down of every game. That means they still need more help at end, where the only other guys they have right now are Derrick Morgan and Malcolm Sheppard.

Look for them to address depth at corner -- where they feel fine about Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner as the starters, if that’s how it falls -- as well as at receiver. One wild-card spot could be running back. Are they content with Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper as changeups to Johnson, or would they like to add a big back?

Mailbag: A frustrated Jags' fan

March, 24, 2012
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Josh from Jacksonville writes: What where the Jags thinking going into free agency? At multiple Team Teal rallies Shad Khan said we were "All In" and we were really going to improve through FA and the draft. What happened? I don't think we fixed anything through FA and we still have the same needs going into the draft as we did going into free agency. Fans are frustrated and feel lied to. I'm not saying we should have signed everyone with a big name but we didn't even take a swing at a playmaker. I didn't realize "all in" was Laurent Robinson and Chad Henne. I'm all out of excuses for Gene Smith.

Paul Kuharsky: You raise good points, and I think your feelings reflect those of many Jaguars fans. The other key thing here is that free agency will never be this good again under this CBA. It mandates spending, and teams that have to spend will spend to keep their own players. And that means fewer good players make it to free agency.

But consider where you aim your disappointment. Is it Smith, or did Khan not fund a bigger foray in to free agency?

Matt in Indianapolis writes: What are the Colts going to do at the RB position?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t know. But if they are a better run-blocking team, I can see Donald Brown and Delone Carter being a functional combo platter.

LuvYaBlue77 from Camden, Del., writes: So Paul if you were the Titans GM would you be done in FA? I thought Tracy Porter/Jason Jones were worth a 1 yr contract. Lastly, where would you look in the draft?

Paul Kuharsky: Still look for cheap depth, maybe an offensive line candidate. Jones has a knee issue that scared them, and he was free to choose to go. I would have left too, after they couldn’t figure out my position. I like Porter, but I like Alterraun Verner too. Defensive end remains the top priority. But they could go a lot of different ways at No. 20.

Joey from San Antonio, Texas, writes: I know he isn't a current AFC South player, but I don't see why certain teams in the division shouldn't target him... So my question is why isn't the market bigger for Mike Wallace from the Steelers? He would be a nice target for Andrew Luck in Indy, and Jacksonville could use the help as well. Houston still needs a reliable #2 behind Andre, and as a Titans fan, I certainly wouldn't turn him down either.

Paul Kuharsky: Wallace isn’t an unrestricted free agent, he’s a restricted free agent. The Colts can’t get him to help Luck, because the compensation for him would be the first-round pick they’ll be using to draft Luck. The process for an RFA like Wallace: Sign him to an offer sheet, which will be expensive. If the Steelers don’t match, give up your original first round pick as compensation. Other AFC south teams: Jaguars have the seventh pick and might use it for a pass rusher, though they certainly need a receiver. Titans think they are OK at WR and have other needs. Texans have cap restrictions that would make it hard to entice Wallace.

Jeff Oxford from Denver writes: Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I love being right.

Paul Kuharsky: Hearty congrats!

Now can you please tell me what it is you were right about?

Addition and subtraction

March, 18, 2012
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A free-agency roundup for the AFC South so far. We're not including a team's own free agents that it has re-signed:

Houston

Additions: None

Subtractions: OLB Mario Williams (Buffalo); RT Eric Winston (cut, Kansas City); CB Jason Allen (Cincinnati); G Mike Brisiel (Oakland); QB Matt Leinart (cut); Lawrence Vickers (Dallas).

Indianapolis

Additions: DL Cory Redding (Baltimore); RT Winston Justice (trade, Philadelphia); S Tom Zbikowski (Baltimore); C Mike McGlynn (Cincinnati).

Subtractions: WR Pierre Garcon (Washington); WR Anthony Gonzalez (New England); QB Dan Orlovsky (Tampa Bay); QB Peyton Manning (cut); LB Gary Brackett (cut); S Melvin Bullitt (cut), TE Dallas Clark (cut).

Jacksonville

Additions: WR Laurent Robinson (Dallas); QB Chad Henne (Miami).

Subtractions: ST-WR Kassim Osgood (cut).

Tennessee

Additions: G Steve Hutchinson (cut, Minnesota).

Subtractions: CB Cortland Finnegan (St. Louis); DL Jason Jones (Seattle).
One player I think will be outgoing, one player I think should be incoming, for the Tennessee Titans once free agency opens Tuesday afternoon.

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

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

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

What I'd do if I ran the Titans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: On Jason Jones outside or in

February, 16, 2012
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Shaun Cody’s wrap-up episode of “On the Nose” features a turn to song. While amusing, it’s also somewhat difficult to listen to, so brace yourself. It's very cool that he invested the time and energy he did in these videos all season long. They really gave a lot of Texans a chance to show off a different side of their personalities and gave us a hint about the team's camaraderie.

Indianapolis Colts

Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star hopes Jim Irsay won’t say another public word until Peyton Manning’s farewell news conference.

Irsay is desperate for a way to get rid of Peyton Manning without losing paying customers, says Greg Couch of FoxSports.com. (Hat tip to Bob Kravitz on Twitter.)

Jacksonville Jaguars

GM Gene Smith is accumulating opinions, says John Oehser of the Jaguars' team website.

Tony Boselli is pumping up the passion of the Jaguars’ fan base, says Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

John Glennon of The Tennessean writes that Mike Munchak sees Jason Jones playing outside and inside if he re-signs. While Jones can be a swing guy, I think Munchak overemphasizes Jones as both an end and a tackle. Jones played nearly twice as much at end as at tackle last season. The Titans would be best served to admit a mistake and play him inside if they are able to sign him.

Glennon recounts what Randy Moss did not do during his time with the Titans.
Early thoughts on the Titans' players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents come March 13, with thanks to Mac’s Football Blog, where you can find complete team-by-team lists that include exclusive rights and restricted free agents.

The Titans have already re-signed three players who were heading for free agency: tight end Craig Stevens, tackle Mike Otto and receiver Lavelle Hawkins.

Fullback Ahmard Hall -- He’s a great locker room guy, but did not have a great season and the Titans have Quinn Johnson in house.

Wide receiver Donnie Avery -- Couldn’t push his way into action and presuming the team drafts at least one receiver, it should have no interest.

Guard Jake Scott -- Team will say thanks for solid service and look to get younger and better on the interior.

Defensive end Dave Ball -- He’s not the solution, but he’s a quality complementary part who can get into the backfield.

Defensive end William Hayes -- Just hasn’t panned out. The team needs at least one new end and there won’t be room for him any longer.

Defensive lineman Jason Jones -- Was not as good at end in the new defense as he was at tackle in the old one. He can still be a very good player.

Linebacker Barrett Ruud -- Didn’t play well before he was hurt, then got displaced by rookie Colin McCarthy.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan -- I don’t think the Titans want him at anything near what he’ll be able to command.

Safety Jordan Babineaux -- Played well enough that safety-starved Tennessee should want him back.

Safety Michael Griffin -- Does the best when everything around him is going well. But the price he’ll want gets paid to a leader, not a follower.

Safety Chris Hope -- Made a difference on the field and in the locker room for a long time, but his time is now past.

Other UFAs:

One ranking of top free agents

February, 14, 2012
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One in five of the top unrestricted free agents-to-be hail from the AFC South, according to Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.

The division was the worst in the NFL in 2011 with a combined 26 wins, and if a lot of this talent leaves the division it won’t help things improve. (Though some could leave their team and remain in the division, a la Clint Session last year.)

Here are the players Prisco lists with my gut feeling on if they will be back.

1. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans

Prisco: “The Texans used him as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker last year, but I think his best spot is as a 4-3 end.”

Kuharsky: Likely gone.

12. Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts

Prisco: “He is coming off his best season but turns 31 this month and is older than some teams would like for free agents. He has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer.”

Kuharsky: Likely gone

14. Cortland Finnegan, CB, Tennessee Titans

Prisco: "He just turned 28 this month and will be a hot commodity on the open market. It doesn't appear he's coming back to Tennessee. The Lions would seem to be a team that will make a push."

Kuharsky: Gone

21. Jeremy Mincey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars

Prisco: "This is a try-hard player who did some good things against some good tackles last season. He isn't a speed player, but he is a solid 10-sack, good-run player. He turns 29 in December."

Kuharsky: Likely gone

22. Chris Myers. C, Houston Texans

Prisco:" He was one of the better centers in the NFL last season, a perfect player for their cutback schemes. He turns 31 in September."

Kuharsky: Likely stays

31. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Prisco: "The question with Wayne is how many more years he has left to give. He can still be good for three or so, but how do you structure the contract? He turns 34 in November."

Kuharsky: Gone

34. Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts

Prisco: "He caught a career-high 70 passes last season without good quarterback play. He can fly, which will make him attractive to other teams. He turns 26 in August."

Kuharsky: Likely gone

38. Jason Jones, DT-DE, Tennessee Titans

Prisco: "He has flashed at times in his four seasons with the Titans, but he should be doing more. Has played both inside and outside for the Titans. He turns 26 in May, so he has time to become a really good player."

Kuharsky: No feeling right now

40. Dwight Lowery, S, Jacksonville Jaguars

Prisco: "This former corner made a nice home at free safety for the Jaguars last season. He played above the level of expectations. The Jaguars want him back, but in a league where safety talent is at a minimum this former Jets player will get a nice deal. He just turned 26 in January.

Kuharsky: Likely stays

46. Michael Griffin, S, Tennessee Titans

Prisco: "His play has tailed off some this past season, but he's only 27. When he's at his best, he is a good, solid player. He's never been as good as his reputation."

Kuharsky: Likely gone

Mailbag: The things on your minds

February, 11, 2012
2/11/12
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Carl from Iowa writes: I still don't understand why Miami still seems to be a favorite to land Peyton. Why would he choose to play against Tom Brady twice, Rex twice, and at least one hellishly cold game in Buffalo every season? The AFC East already has two legitimate teams, and I think if he chooses Miami he's headed straight for irrelevance (as much as Peyton could be irrelevant).

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t know that Miami will be the favorite for Peyton Manning if he’s free.

I guess New England is a sure thing to be good, but you really think Manning is fearing Rex Ryan? Or anyone?

If I am him, I’m not putting a lot of weight into what division I’m playing in. It’s not about the other guys, it’s about you and your guys.

And things change so dramatically year to year, what’s to say he goes to a “softer” division, say to Arizona in the NFC West, only to see the Seahawks emerge as a big breakout team to go along with the 49ers next season? There are surprises every year -- good teams getting bad and vice versa.


Marty from Jacksonville writes: You say you like Gene Smith but then you go on to say "it would take quite an effort to be worse" for the Jaguars in 2012. Are you saying you like Gene Smith personally but you think he's incompetent?

Paul Kuharsky: That’s quite a leap you made there. That’s not what I am saying at all.

I like him and he’s found some very good players. The defensive additions last season were excellent.

His quarterback of choice played too soon and was horrible. It doesn’t mean Blaine Gabbert is going to be horrible for life.

Good people who are good at their jobs are part of bad seasons all the time. It doesn’t make them incompetent.


Matt from Miami Fla., writes: "Independent of that, I’ve fished around to see if I should allow the idea of Tennessee pursuing Manning to breathe or do my part to snuff it out. And all indications have been that wise reporting would be to do the latter." Why don't you just report on what's happening regardless of what you consider wise? If it's happening and affecting people on your beat, report it. You won't go wrong that way.

Paul Kuharsky: I wasn't saying what move would be wise, I was saying what would be wise to report. My desire there was to be transparent. I’d gotten indications they weren't interested in Manning that I was not ready to report. Then general manager Ruston Webster said what he said, and that changed the environment and made what I had appropriate to share as a supplement to his public comments.


Jason Peters from Los Angeles writes: If we, the Titans, need a new potential free agent to lust over, it should be Mario Williams. In his prime and within the division? That's a rare opportunity. Plus we have plenty of cash to spend.”

Paul Kuharsky: Don’t get carried away with the “plenty of cash” concept. Between $30-35 million available, but a good share of that money has to fund Cortland Finnegan or a replacement, two starting safeties (Michael Griffin, Chris Hope, and Jordan Babineaux are gone or need to be re-signed), a starting guard (Jake Scott’s gone) and a defensive linemen (either Jason Jones or his replacement). If that lineman is Williams, that’s a big chunk of that money.

Yes, they can afford him. But Williams will be overpaid. And the Titans don’t generally say, “We’re willing to overpay in order to get Player X.” They generally go find Player Y instead.


Aaron M from Houston writes: Paul, first off love your blog man always have an interesting way of looking at things. My comment is has to deal with the recent celebration of Justin Tuck at the Super Bowl, where he does the Namaste bow after a sack. And as anyone that has a TV knows Arian Foster has done this almost every week since he has been in the league. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with something like this but the fact that he went on the Fallon show and coined it as "Tucking" had me at a loss for words. Just wanted to see what your thoughts were and if someone should call him out for his sticky fingers. Have at it.

Paul Kuharsky: I think it would be pretty hard to claim a copyright on the move, which happens all over the place all the time. Tuck, not Foster, is the one who got to do it on the big stage, so he gets to claim it/ name it/ whatever. But who’s going to jump on board and call bowing like that "Tucking" when it’s been called bowing forever?


Brutus from Houston: I know everyone is clamoring for the Texans to take a receiver with their first pick, but is it conceivable that they could take another cornerback or outside linebacker with that pick due to the depth at the receiver position?

Paul Kuharsky: We have to see who goes (and comes) in free agency before we know their top needs. Sure they could take another corner, though I’d hope Brandon Harris will be ready to be more of a contributor. If Mario Williams is gone, they certainly need a better third option to take some snaps off the plate of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed and provide depth at outside linebacker.

I also don’t think the Texans think themselves as receiver-needy as many outsiders do. But they should add at least one weapon.

Titans' regret: Moving Jason Jones

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
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Regrets? Everybody’s got a few. … We asked for some feedback on one thing you’d like to go back and change for each team in the AFC South.

I was thinking more of something before the season than during it, though I may reconsider in a few instances.

For the Tennessee Titans, your overwhelming response was regretting Chris Johnson's contract or the timing of it. Certainly that’s a legitimate entry, but it’s popular and obvious and we strive for a bit more nuance. So I’m going to steer away from it in favor of something I didn’t see mentioned.

Here’s my biggest second-guess about the 2011 Titans: Moving Jason Jones from defensive tackle to defensive end.

The Titans' defensive line was an overall disappointment in its first season after longtime position coach Jim Washburn left. Their top singular pass rush force, Jason Babin, was not counted as a free agent and went to Philadelphia.

Washburn was a staunch proponent of Jones as a tackle. With his big wingspan and excellent quickness he was a very good inside player. The issue was that he had a tendency to get injured and wear down. New coordinator Jerry Gray and new line coach Tracy Rocker decided Jones would fit their scheme. They looked to be more run-sound, get bigger up front and better as an end.

But Jones did not produce from the outside the way the Titans anticipated. He took one for the team with the move and it will cost him money, as he’s not as likely to get offers that are as good in upcoming free agency.

Gray was reluctant late in the season to talk about what the Titans would want to do with Jones going forward if they could keep him, and talked as if the team used him largely the same way as he was used under Washburn. But he was not inside as often. Matthew Willis of ESPN Stats and Info tells me Jones was a defensive end on 415 plays and a defensive tackle 233. On the 415 plays as an end, he managed two sacks.

I expect Jones will move on. If the Titans wanted to make a sales pitch, they’d best serve themselves to say he’s a better tackle than end and they’d like to get him back inside.

Titans regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 12
Preseason Power Ranking: 23

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck
Don McPeak/US PresswireThe Titans became a passing team this season behind the solid play of veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Biggest surprise: The 9-7 record. The team was expected to suffer from the lockout and resulting lack of offseason work, but it came together and outperformed expectations given a new coach, new staff and new quarterbacks. Matt Hasselbeck had the best passing season in franchise history by anyone not named Warren Moon despite losing WR Kenny Britt early to a torn-up knee and not getting consistent production from running back Chris Johnson. Coach Mike Munchak set a tone and showed himself to be a straight-forward, well-measured coach who won the respect of his players. With a big contribution from their rookie class, the Titans started off well under a new regime.

Biggest disappointment: Johnson secured a big new contract after he billed himself as a playmaker, not just a running back. But he and the run game were so ineffective that the Titans became a passing team even with Britt on IR. Over half of Johnson's yards came in four wins over bad teams. And although the team consistently defended him, it was completely fair to question his effort. He often went down too easily, he didn’t make a guy miss when he wound up one-on-one and he didn’t work hard enough at his responsibilities without the ball in his hands. The team is hopeful it can get him back on track with an offseason in which he’s expected to be in Nashville far more often.

Biggest need: Defensive pieces. Rookie middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, who was not part of the plan at the start of the season, was probably the best defensive player on the team at season’s end. That indicts a lot of other guys. The Titans have to rush the passer better to be more consistent on defense and they need more than Derrick Morgan, Jason Jones (who should go back to tackle), Dave Ball and William Hayes. Three safeties are heading toward free agency, so the Titans have a lot to sort through there, too.

Team MVP: Hasselbeck is the easiest choice. He played better than many of us expected and brought just the sort of leadership the Titans needed. But I’ll go with receiver Nate Washington, who became the No. 1 receiver with Britt’s injury and delivered a 1,000-yard season even with a bad ankle for the last part of the season. Washington thrived with the new coaching and new quarterbacks. His maturation serves as a symbol of what the Titans need from a lot of other guys at a lot of other spots.

Sorting out the secondary: Safeties Michael Griffin, Chris Hope and Jordan Babineaux and cornerback Cortland Finnegan all have expiring contracts. Finnegan probably draws an offer in free agency beyond what the Titans would give him. The team cannot make a long-term commitment with big money to the inconsistent Griffin. Hope is likely done. Babineaux played well and would be nice to retain. That’s a lot to decide on just in the secondary, but I’d expect a big infusion of new guys to work with young corners Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner.

RTC: Yates ready to go for Texans

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak was encouraged by the practice of quarterback T.J. Yates on Tuesday when he took the full load, says Jeffrey Martin of the Chronicle. The issue for Yates is going to be about whether his left, non-throwing shoulder can handle being driven into the ground on a big sack.

The 50 most memorable moments of the Texans' season so far, from the Houston Chronicle.

Brian Cushing was voted team MVP, Mike Brisiel returned to practice and the Texans will focus on slowing A.J. Green, says John McClain in this Chronicle notebook.

Indianapolis Colts

Says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star: “I see (Peyton) Manning reaching a gentleman's agreement with (Jim) Irsay and the next general manager, and I see (Andrew) Luck under center in September.”

Phil Richards of the Star looks at the process of finding a new GM and some potential candidates.

Phillip B. Wilson of the Star reflects on the departure of Bill Polian, with whom he and most of the local media had a contentious relationship. “Polian’s excellence masked, what I think, a tremendous insecurity I will never understand. Yeah, it has to be nothing short of maddening to have people question you when there’s no doubt you know more about your business than they could ever know. But it’s not like us common folks who worry about paying the bills each month can’t relate to that in some way.”

Robert Mathis has been added to the Pro Bowl team, according to the Star’s Mike Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mel Tucker didn’t use a Tuesday news conference to lobby for the full-time job, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union. If he doesn’t get it, he’s going to have options. “I’m not going to use any of these opportunities to campaign for a job or roll out any talking points or anything else like that,” he said.

Terrance Knighton has been told if he gets his weight under control, a big contract will happen for him, says Tania Ganguli of the Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Jason Jones feels like he took one for the team with a switch from defensive tackle to defensive end, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. How will it impact the possibility of him returning as a free agent? If they re-sign him, they should admit the shift didn’t work well and put him back inside.

Texans sitting two Pro Bowlers

January, 1, 2012
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HOUSTON -- Locked in as the AFC South’s No. 3 seed, the Texans are looking to regain some momentum.

But they are also playing it safe. While Andre Johnson returns from a hamstring injury and will get some work, Pro Bowlers Arian Foster and Johnathan Joseph are getting the day off, as is tight end Owen Daniels.

Ben Tate will start for Foster at running back, Jason Allen will start for Joseph at corner, and Joel Dreessen will start at tight end for Daniels.

The game has far more meaning for Tennessee, which needs a win and several other results to earn the No. 6 seed. If they get it, they’d return to Reliant Stadium for a rematch next week.

Tennessee is without defensive end Jason Jones, who's out with an ankle injury.

The full inactive lists:

Titans:
Texans:

Productive Klug a find for Tennessee

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
5:17
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Karl Klug is shockingly modest, which is refreshing from a defensive lineman who’s made a good share of plays.

Instead of choreographing sack dances, he’s minimizing his work in a rookie season that already includes six sacks, the fourth-most for any defensive tackle in the NFL and fifth-most for any rookie. It’s the most sacks for a rookie defensive tackle in franchise history.

[+] EnlargeKarl Klug
Don McPeak/US PresswireKarl Klug reacts after sacking Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the Titans' Week 14 game.
He’s got three in his last two games as a nickel rusher, including two in last week’s loss to the Saints.

But to hear him tell it, it wasn’t a very good effort.

“The thing is, that’s only two plays out of the entire game,” he said. “That’s all I made. I don’t really feel like I had a good game. Yeah it looks nice on the stat sheet, but I’d like to make more plays.”

He also said that half his sacks this season have been a result of great coverage that’s made the quarterback hold the ball too long.

Jason Jones’ locker is next to Klug’s, and he overheard these comments.

He said the fifth-round draft pick out of Iowa is being too modest.

“In this league, when you get a sack, you’ve got to take it how you can get it, man,” Jones said. “I’d like six sacks right now, I’ll tell you that. … You’ve got to be humble, that’s good, and he’s coming in and doing his job.”

Coach Mike Munchak said Klug’s got great hands and is doing things that go far beyond his six sacks, 26 tackles and four passes defensed.

Klug had a four-game stretch without a quarterback takedown before the production against Tampa Bay and New Orleans, but it didn’t represent a lull.

“Sometimes you play some teams where even though you’re doing well it doesn’t show up in the box score, you don’t see the tackles or the sacks, but he’s actually doing a lot of good things out there,” Munchak said.

“He creates a lot of problems out there. He’s gotten a lot of pressures, he’s forced quarterbacks out of the pocket quite a bit, he’s beaten his guy when the ball gets out. He wins one-on-one quite a bit.”

That’s a pretty good review.

The Titans’ 2011 draft class looks great so far, and so far Klug qualifies as an excellent find.

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