AFC South: Javon RInger

A review of the best member of the 2012 Tennessee Titans who’s still unsigned:

Will Witherspoon was a good guy in the Titans' locker room and there were Sundays when he was a good linebacker. But he was not as big a leader as the Titans may have expected when they signed him in 2010 and he was not as consistent a player as they needed him to be.

In three seasons in Tennessee he started 35 games. But in his final season he started only five and was much more of a role player.

It was his 11th season and the Titans needed to go younger and find more consistency in a veteran linebacker who could play more than one position.

Moise Fokou was signed as a free agent and could be that guy and Zaviar Gooden was drafted in the third round to back up Zach Brown on the weak side and perhaps take on a role in the nickel package.

Witherspoon said he wants to play 15 years. So far he hasn’t found a team that wants to give him No. 12.

Among others still unsigned: Guard Leroy Harris, safety Jordan Babineaux, cornerback Ryan Mouton and running back Javon Ringer.

AFC South links: MJD returns to college

March, 25, 2013
Houston Texans

Some critics say safety Ed Reed should have retired instead of joining the Texans, including San Antonio Express-News columnist Buck Harvey, who writes: "Make no mistake. One of the game's best has dropped off. Reed has nerve impingement in his neck, a chronic injury that has diminished his tackling. He also has only nine interceptions in his last 40 games, playoffs included."

While Reed may have his critics, his new Texans teammates share their excitement with's Nick Scurfield. Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing doesn't hold back, "(Ed Reed)’s probably the best safety that’s ever played the game. Anytime you get an opportunity to play with a guy like that, it’s gonna be awesome.”

Coach Gary Kubiak tells the Houston Chronicle that the Texans have signed "one of, if not the, greatest punters in this league’s history" in Shane Lechler.

Texans general manager Rick Smith, who is a member of the NFL's Competition Committee, says his son suffered a concussion when an opposing player used the crown of his helmet on the hit. “What we do and the rule changes and the things we are focused on are not only important for our league, they’re important for the game of football,” Smith said in a roundtable conversation that will air during a "Health of the Game special" at 8 p.m. ET Monday on NFL Network.

Indianapolis Colts

Craig Kelley of moves on to this week's positional series on tight ends. Wes Saunders, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen must adapt to new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's version of the West Coast offense.

Former Colts are visiting and signing with new teams. The Bears have agreed to a one-year contract with safety Tom Zbikowski. And the Broncos are in pursuit of defensive end Dwight Freeney.

The Colts signed nose tackle Martin Tevaseu, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew has returned to college in pursuit of a history degree, and Florida Times-Union Ryan O'Halloran profiles the running back's rocky holdout with Jaguars management, his season-ending injury and his time at UCLA. "It’s funny talking to kids 18 and 20 years old and they don’t know too much about the real world... Enjoy college because there is nothing like taxes and kids and dealing with things," says MJD.

For six years, Paul Posluszny has been part of losing teams going through all sorts of transition, and now the middle linebacker tells Gene Frenette that, "as players, it's time for us to buy in because if we don't, they're very willing to get someone else who will."

Should the Jaguars draft a quarterback with the second overall pick in April's draft? Is coach Gus Bradley anything like former Jags coach Tom Coughlin? senior writer John Oehser answers these questions and more in his reader mailbag.

Tennessee Titans

Is there room in the Titans' backfield for both Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene? The Tennessean's John Glennon outlines pros and cons for this partnership made on paper, but not yet on the field.

Former Titan Javon Ringer is surprised the team didn't give more chances to current running backs before signing Greene to a three-year deal.

The Titans are suddenly acknowledging that what they were doing wasn’t working, and they're becoming bigger players on the free-agency market this offseason, writes David Climer of The Tennessean.

Coach Mike Munchak suggests running could become a bigger part of quarterback Jake Locker's arsenal.
While the Tennessee Titans believe Shonn Greene can do more, if all goes well in 2013 he will be a niche back with an important niche: convert crucial short-yardage situations.

What does that mean for Chris Johnson?

Well, fewer carries.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesRunning back Shonn Greene had 276 rushes for 1,063 yards last season.
I’m not sure how Johnson will react to that idea. Fewer carries will probably be better for the team, but it won’t enhance his chances to get to 2,000 yards and that’s his football obsession.

On the radio in Nashville Tuesday I had a chance to ask Greene about how he expects his role will go over with CJ considering Johnson’s love for his yards.

“I haven’t talked to him about that, but seeing him play, I don’t think he needs very many carries,” Green said on 104.5 The Zone. “That guy, he’s a great football player, he’s very explosive and he can be gone with any carry. So I don’t think it’s a matter of carries. He’s very talented. So I think it’s a possibility he could still reach his goals. I’m just here to help the team win football games.”

It was a smart answer from Greene.

Given Johnson’s propensity for predictions, I fully expect him to talk about 2,000 yards yet again when the Titans reassemble. It’s a rite of spring in Tennessee. (He's already said he expects to outrun Adrian Peterson.)

So let’s look at the possibilities for Johnson with Greene on the roster.

Johnson had 358 carries in 2009 when he went for 2,006 yards, and the Titans force-fed him down the stretch.

The Titans had 378 total carries last season and 376 the year before. The most carries another Titans running back has had in those two seasons was just 59 -- by Javon Ringer in 2011.

Greene didn’t get a $2.5 million signing bonus and a three-year contract to carry the ball only 16 percent of the time the way Ringer did that season.

So let’s give Tennessee's new back 20 percent of a 377-carry season. That’s 75. Speedy quarterback Jake Locker ran nearly four times per game in his starts. Conservatively, let’s say a healthy Locker averages three runs a game for 48 total rushing attempts.

That’s 123 carries for Green and Locker, leaving 254 for Johnson if no one else gets any.

He’d have to average more than 7.8 yards per carry to get to 2,000.

Johnson averaged a career-best 5.6 yards per carry in 2009.

The highest non-quarterback rushing averages in NFL history belong to Beattie Feathers (8.4 on 119 attempts for Chicago in 1934), Skeet Quinlan (7.3 on 97 carries for the Rams in 1953), Lenny Moore (7.0 on 92 carries for Baltimore in 1961) and Hugh McElhenny (7.0 on 98 carries for San Francisco in 1952).

Like I’ve said, CJ2K 2.0 is not happening in 2013.

Cast in a lesser role, maybe Shonn Greene will be a more impressive running back.

Cast in a bigger role, perhaps Sammie Lee Hill will be a more impactful defensive lineman.

The Tennessee Titans boosted their free agent haul to four, adding Greene and Hill to guard Andy Levitre and tight end Delanie Walker.

Greene was a plodding back for the Jets, and while he topped 1,000 yards two years in a row for an anemic offense, he was not a very good lead back. He was very good, as John Glennon of The Tennessean notes, in short-yardage situations -- when the Jets faced second or third down and less than 3 yards to go, Greene got first downs on 23 of 26 attempts in 2012.

In Tennessee, that’s what the Titans will ask him to do: Convert short-yardage situations, and help the Titans control the clock in a 4-minute drill.

While I believe they could have found someone to fill that specialty role for less than $10 million over three years, perhaps it's a good thing they didn't wait for the draft considering their failure at the position in recent years. Outside of Chris Johnson in in 2008, they've bombed with fourth-rounder Jamie Harper, 2009 fifth-rounder Javon Ringer and 2007 second-rounder Chris Henry.

If just one of those guys was able to function in a capable complementary role, the Titans wouldn’t have had running back on their list of needs. They are probably better off getting a guy who’s shown he can convert in short-yardage. It's the yearly average of $3.33 million for a No. 2 running that concerns me. Let's see what he's guaranteed.

Hill should be an early-down run stopper who can penetrate some. At 6-foot-4, 329-pounds, he’s a bigger body than anyone the Titans have. He should be what the Titans hoped Shaun Smith was going to be when they brought him in a few years back.

The investment in a guy who’s been working behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in Detroit seems reasonable: Three years, $11.4 million, including $4 million guaranteed according to Adam Schefter.

He’ll take over the starting job vacated by Sen'Derrick Marks, an unrestricted free agent whose name we have not heard connected to any suitors yet.

The Titans are expected to introduce all four of their additions at a news conference at 6 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. CT, and I’ll share some details from there.

Friday is D-Day for CJ

February, 7, 2013
Chris JohnsonAP Photo/Joe HowellThe Titans' Chris Johnson finished with 1,243 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season.
If the Titans want out from under Chris Johnson and his $10 million base salary for 2013, they have to release him by the end of Friday.

Of that salary, $9 million locks in as a guarantee if he’s on the roster past the fifth day of the waiver period, which began Monday.

A report by The Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt before the season ended said the team had no plans to cut Johnson. Since then, coach Mike Munchak has been making moves that indicate if he’s going to go down in his third year at the helm, he’s going to go down his way. That left me wondering if things might have changed.

Then Wyatt wrote this morning that Johnson was feeling good after a recent half-hour chat with Munchak.

“I am more excited about this year than any other year after talking to coach,” Johnson said today. “I feel better about some of the things we’re going to do, and I want to be a part of it. I feel like coach Munchak wants to put the team back to some winning ways and get things going in the right direction. I feel good about it.”

The most likely scenario is that the Titans look to add a big back and return to the shared-workload system they ran with Johnson and LenDale White in 2008.

But a case could have been made for moving on from Johnson, and I think there was a time Munchak would probably have liked to do so.

They can afford that salary. Ultimately, it should be framed as more of a philosophical debate than a financial one.

The Munchak-Johnson conversation indicates the decision has been made.

But it's worth considering what needed to be considered:

Home run threat: Johnson can break off huge runs, and that’s where his big value comes from. He has six career touchdowns of 80 yards or more. No other player in league history has more than three. That’s incredible, and those runs do a lot for a team. Still, if the rest of his runs are attempts to find that home run and don’t put the Titans in an advantageous down and distance, is that a sufficient trade-off? I tend to say no.

Now if Johnson is changing it up with a more physical guy who can convert third-and-2 more regularly and do more to ensure the Titans aren’t in second-and-12, that changes. Johnson is largely a boom-or-bust guy. Five years of featuring a boom-or-bust back has produced just one playoff team -- not that it’s the lone factor.

Consider that the team’s primary back in its prime years since the move to Tennessee was Eddie George, and the frequent lament was that he couldn’t break away for a big play. Now the lament with Johnson is that he isn’t productive enough down to down. See how a team can wind up in a no-win situation?

You’re rarely going to get the best of both worlds, and you don’t need a guy who can give you both to win.

So given a choice between a home run threat who’s going to strikeout more often or the style they had with George where, in his prime, he was pretty good at getting a couple yards, what do they prefer?

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireIf the Titans keep Chris Johnson, they might ask him to share carries with backup Javon Ringer or another back who isn't on the roster yet.
Replacement possibilities: Javon Ringer is coming off a knee injury, hasn’t proved himself and is a pending free agent. Jamie Harper has shown little. If the Titans moved away from CJ, the guy who would take his carries isn’t on the roster.

It’s easy to say it’s easy to find a back, that the Titans should just go get the next Arian Foster (undrafted), Alfred Morris (sixth-rounder) or Vick Ballard (fifth-rounder).

But you’d have to have an awful lot of faith in your ability to find that guy. The Titans are a team full of holes. Cutting Johnson would have created another big one, and they don’t exactly have the record of hole-filling that suggests it wouldn’t be an issue.

The scheme: Johnson did run for 2,000 yards in Mike Heimerdinger’s scheme that featured zone-running principles. Under Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator, the Titans will be more intent on returning to a similar philosophy.

It’s not the best fit for Johnson, at least not as the singular, primary ball carrier. Johnson looks to be creative in searching for room. Zone schemes call for a guy to make a cut and go, not consider and reconsider the path.

“CJ would be decent in that scheme but far from ideal,” said ESPN's Matt Williamson. “You need to be decisive and, when you see it, really hit it. And generally, that fits a bigger back. CJ can certainly hit it at times when he sees it and can take it the distance, but he is far from an Alfred Morris type that consistently churns out yardage, albeit in smaller chunks, run after run.”

If the Titans put Johnson in a timeshare, how will he react to it? My guess is not well. Will that disrupt the locker room and create a headache for coaches and management? Will it lead him to mope? It sure could.

The contract: When he was holding out in 2011, I said they needed to sign him. Most fans did, too. For a long time, the conversation was about a lack of playmakers. Well, they finally had one, and while he wasn’t at what ranks as a premium position anymore, he was the best they'd had in terms of big plays in a long time.

He got four more years worth $53.5 million with $30 million guaranteed tacked onto the two years he had remaining on his rookie deal.

There is a misperception that the Titans don’t spend. They sure spent with Johnson, and now they take heat for it. In hindsight, it wasn’t a good deal. But it hasn’t destroyed them. Keep him as is and they are fine financially, with enough room to get the other parts they need.

While he has said money didn’t change him, Johnson has been a lot more tentative since he signed that deal than he was while he was trying to position himself for that new contract.

The expectations: As Johnson campaigned for a new contract in 2011, he sold himself as not just a back but a playmaker who transcended the position. That was good for selling himself. Predicting 2,000-yard seasons consistently gets him headlines.

But what he does when he says those things is set the bar unreasonably high. He didn’t say, “I’m a playmaker, not just a running back, so long as my line is playing great or so long as I have consistency with a running backs coach.” When it circles back after the fact to those sorts of issues, they come across as excuses.

He doesn’t seem real invested. Last week as a guest on Nashville's The Midday 180 from radio row at the Super Bowl, he said there would be no bad blood if the Titans let him go. Some heard that and almost felt like he was wishing to be released. What would have come across better was, “I want to be back. I’m worth it, and I can be a big part of a big turnaround.”

For the $10 million that’s coming, it’s hardly unreasonable to want to hear that.

So do we have a verdict?

“I assume he is untradeable, but I think I would let him go,” Williamson said. “That is just so much to pay a guy that isn’t perfect for what you do at the position. Use that money on a safety or interior OL and draft a bigger RB.”

Said former Colts president and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian: “CJ cannot carry the load by himself simply because of size. … Rather than focus on system, I would focus on Javon Ringer’s health. If he can take some load off CJ as he has in the past, they become far more efficient. If his injury prevents that, then they must find an adequate replacement for Ringer.”

I’m torn about what they should have done. But I tend to think it wouldn't have been wise to create another hole. Cut him and watch him land in Detroit or somewhere else, and when he makes big plays, you’re going to take grief -- and maybe feel some, too.

I’d plan to find a guy to pair him with.

But I’m glad it wasn't my decision, or money.

Polian on AFC South's top free agents

February, 5, 2013
ESPN’s Bill Polian has a major Insider file out ranking the upcoming class of free agents.

He divided them into three tiers:
  • A Players: Worth paying big, starter-caliber money.
  • B Players: Guys I would sign but only if the value made sense.
  • C Players: Guys I'd sign for low-salary, short-term (one or two years) value, with low bonuses.

Let’s look at how Polian views free-agents-to-be coming out of the AFC South. Obviously he's got some special insight, and regard, for the Colts on this list:

A Players:

Titans TE Jared Cook

Polian: “I think he'll command some money based on his potential.”

Kuharsky: Polian mentions Cook as a franchise possibility, and I suspect that is what will happen.

Jaguars FB Greg Jones

Polian: “Can he pass a physical? And is he affordable? He is one of the few FBs who can carry the ball and do it well.”

Kuharsky: Both Super Bowl teams used fullbacks, but it’s still a position that’s fading.

Colts OLB Dwight Freeney

Polian: “I see Freeney as a fit in a Wide-9 scheme or as a 4-3 DE. I believe he still has a lot of talent, but age is definitely a concern.”

Kuharsky: He’s going to want more years than he’s going to be able to get.

Texans S Glover Quin

Polian: “If you want a safety to play man, cover ground, and go up and play in the nickel on the line of scrimmage, this is a guy who does all of that well.”

Kuharsky: Like Polian, I think the Texans will make a big push to keep Quin in Houston.

B Players:
Chris Johnson is going to have his fifth different position coach when the Titans kick off the 2013 season.

Earnest Byner was Johnson’s first position coach, but Jeff Fisher replaced him in 2009 with Kennedy Pola, a coach he’d long coveted.

Pola turned around and left before coaching a game to join Lane Kiffin’s staff at his alma mater, USC.

Fisher shifted quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson to running backs for 2010.

Then Mike Munchak took over as head coach and hired Jim Skipper, who came from Carolina.

Now, after two years with Skipper, Adam Schefter reports Munchak decided not to renew Skipper’s contract.

Does that mean Munchak thinks a position coach can get more out of CJ? Does it mean Skipper didn’t sufficiently help guys like Jamie Harper and Javon Ringer develop?

I suspect it’s some of all of it.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Once upon a time, Steelers fans invaded an NFL game in Tennessee to such a large degree, it prompted a major organizational change.

In 1997, when the Tennessee Oilers played in Memphis, so many Steelers fans filled the Liberty Bowl for the team’s finale. Bud Adams couldn’t get over it.

He negotiated out of a second year in Memphis and got the team to Vanderbilt Stadium for its final year before the franchise’s new stadium was ready.

An hour before kickoff, LP Field is still largely empty. Of those in here, most are wearing black and gold.

As it fills up, it’ll be no surprise to see much more of the same.

The Titans are passing out pink towels as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a wise choice as they look to offset Terrible Towels of another color.

The full list of inactives for tonight:


Wrap-up: Vikings 30, Titans 7

October, 7, 2012

Thoughts on the Titans' 30-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field:

What it means: The 1-4 Titans are a mess, and they were inferior in every way against a team they should be on pace with as they rebuild. They couldn’t move the ball against the Vikings and they couldn’t stop the Vikings from moving the ball, and the result of this blowout was never in doubt.

What’s hard to fathom: The Titans have now given up 34, 38, 41, 38 and 30 points in their games this season. Nothing they’ve done on defense has stopped the bleeding and the return of middle linebacker Colin McCarthy from a high ankle sprain had no bearing.

Bad hit: Safety Michael Griffin was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit of defenseless receiver Michael Jenkins at the end of the second quarter. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray called for more toughness and ownership of the middle of the field last week, and suggested players shouldn't operate in fear of fines. But this was a foolish play by Griffin, who was in position to easily aim lower and make a big hit minus the penalty or the fine that is sure to follow.

A sampling of the badness: Matt Hasselbeck’s first-down scramble was challenged in the first quarter and re-spotted for a fourth down that prompted the Titans to punt. Hasselbeck absolutely telegraphed a second-quarter interception to Antoine Winfield. Defensive end Jared Allen was inexplicably unblocked on one of the Vikings’ sacks. Cornerback Alterraun Verner was a beat late to Percy Harvin on a wide receiver screen and saw it go for a significant gain. McCarthy failed to bring down tight end Rhett Ellison, slipping off the rookie to allow a big play.

Another awful injury: The Titans saw return man Marc Mariani suffer a grotesque leg injury in the preseason. They saw another one Sunday, as running back Javon Ringer was bent awkwardly on a tackle and carted off with a left leg injury.

One good thing: Rookie receiver Kendall Wright didn’t stretch the field at all, but he was far more sure than a week ago, when he had several drops, as he caught a game-high nine passes, though he took them only 66 yards.

What’s next: The Titans have a quick turnaround with the Steelers coming to Nashville on Thursday night.

Quin knocks Locker out of game

September, 30, 2012
HOUSTON -- The Titans' formation on third-and-7 from their own 12-yard line was questionable. Safety Glover Quin lined up on the defensive left and blitzed unblocked.

The play could have a major bearing on Jake Locker's growth and progress.

Running back Javon Ringer was lined up to Locker’s left in a shotgun, and Ringer ran a pass route left while Quin came from Locker’s right.

He crushed Locker, who wound up writhing on the ground after managing to maintain possession. He left the field to get checked out. The Titans said it was a left shoulder injury and labeled his return as questionable.

I feel comfortable as labeling it just short of impossible.

Matt Hasselbeck will take over when the Titans get the ball back.

The long-awaited return of the mailbag

September, 29, 2012
Stanley from Texas writes: I do know that Chris Johnson's running has been tumultuous through the first 3 weeks (except last week, which I think was severely skewed by his final three rushing attempts) but do you think because of the respect (from coaches and defenses, not columnists and reporters) that teams have for CJ, that this may be the reason for our continued success with things such as pass blocking and passing yards. If Jake Locker is continuously getting one-on-ones in the passing game and hardly getting sacked could some of this be attributed to the defense keying on CJ and not having an extra guy to send or double in the secondary?

Paul Kuharsky: Teams are not stacking the box to stop Johnson. They don’t need to. A player isn’t leaving coverage to help with the run.

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips just said the Titans are a passing team, which is what they are and is stating the obvious.

People can talk about how dangerous CJ is over and over. But the way you show how you respect a running back is the defensive attention you give him. I’d say he’s lost significant respect from the people who matter the most when we look at their actions rather than their words.

Chad Edwards from Nashville, Tenn., writes: How long do you think it will be before a "real" ref stinks up a call like the one Monday night? You don't have to look very far in the past to find several iffy calls and no-calls made by guys we know by name. I contend that 1) The replacement refs weren't as bad as all the complaining players and coaches claim and 2) The players and coaches made this situation worse by pushing the boundaries of what's allowed more than usual and, basically, not acting very professionally. As bad as the black eye the lockout gave the NFL, I feel the players should be just as accountable in all of this.

Paul Kuharsky: They were bad. No need to debate the degree of it at this point.

The regulars will blow a call and people will complain and sensible observers will say they are the best at what they do and it could be worse and we’ve seen for ourselves.

If the rules are only enforced to a certain degree, it’s unreasonable to ask players to police themselves. In fact, it runs against their competitive natures.

Jim in Greenville, S.C., writes: Paul, Enjoy listening to you and the chiefs on 104.5 which I listen to in South Carolina on my iPhone. Impressive! I have to call you out. Last year, I wrote in that I'd take a sign-and-trade for Chris Johnson for two first-round draft picks which you balked at. You'll have to admit, I was right. My reasoning at the time was he wasn't a leader like a Keith Bulluck or Steve McNair. Running backs are largely less important than their O-lines and he didn't push to get extra yardage. As always, I enjoy the blog.

Paul Kuharsky: I’m guessing what I balked at was the sign-and-trade concept and the idea that Tennessee could have gotten two ones for him.

Two ones is part of the package for a No. 1 pick in the draft when he’s a QB, not for a running back with a big contract.

But if I balked at it and not at those things, my apologies. Your crystal ball in a completely unpredictable league is remarkable.

Leon Truss Balderas III from Houston writes: I really hope the Texans have a shot this year, but do you think with regular refs back high-flying AFC passing offenses, like the Patriots and Ravens, even the Steelers and Broncos, will be more successful because they will be getting the pass-interference calls that they were not getting, or worse the cornerbacks don’t play with a little bit of aggressiveness that makes them good?

Paul Kuharsky: Let’s not overrate what happened. The Patriots haven’t been losing because they were getting fewer pass-interference calls.

Brad from Houston writes: I am a huge Texans fan and am very excited about the team. But I must say two things: First, there's no way they should be ranked #1 right now on the Power Rankings. They have the talent, depth, and system to succeed and can go all the way if they stay healthy (I say CAN, not will). However, Atlanta has had a more impressive start and should be #1, especially given the uncertainty on the right side of the Houston OL.

Paul Kuharsky: I think Atlanta is a notch better right now. (I picked them before the season to win the Super Bowl.) But the Texans are awfully good.

Rick from Houston writes: ESPN's stats have the Texans giving up 42 points this season and ranking them 3rd in points allowed, however, the special teams have given up 7 points and the offense 2 points on a safety which, if my math is correct, means the Texan's D has given up only 33 points, the fewest allowed by any team so far.

Paul Kuharsky: Points given up are points given up. Given up by the team, for the purposes of stat keeping, are given up by the defense. There is no special place to put points scored against the offense or special teams.

Bobby from Buffalo, N.Y., writes: As bad as Chris Johnson has been running the ball for the Titans, there is at least one bright spot: he doesn't fumble too much. Looking at his stats from last year, he only had 3 fumbles out of 319 touches (runs and passes). even though he isn't gaining yards, at least he doesn't give the ball away. We don't know what we would get from a constant dose of Javon Ringer or Jamie Harper, so it's a small silver lining in Johnson's game for now.

Paul Kuharsky: So we presume the alternatives would have ball-security issues and we presume they wouldn’t run more effectively than CJ?

Johnson’s lack of production is growing tiresome. It’s time to see, at least on occasion, what the alternatives can do.

Cameron Wharton from Georgetown, Texas, writes: Can we talk about the impact of the loss of Ahmard Hall for the Titans?

Paul Kuharsky: Sure we can.

Hall was a nice leader for them for sure, and had a ton of respect. But his play had dropped off. They ran poorly last year with him on the team. They are running poorly without him this year.

Quinn Johnson subbed for him for the first four games last season and there was no giant difference. So I have no real beef with the decision to have Quinn Johnson in that role now. And Quinn Johnson is bigger, which is the type of fullback Chris Palmer likes.

Marks, Ringer are out for Titans

September, 9, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings from LP Field where the AFC South blog is very excited about getting the season kicked off.

The Titans will take on the Patriots without defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Rookie Mike Martin will start in his spot. Also out is No. 2 running back Javon Ringer (elbow). Look for Darius Reynaud to get some work when Chris Johnson is out of the lineup, perhaps on third downs.

The Titans will have no advantage from warm weather -- it’s currently 70 degrees and the forecast says it will top out at 86.

The full list of inactives follows.


Tennessee Titans cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
Click here for the complete list of Tennessee Titans' roster moves.
Most significant move: Al Afalava didn’t stick with the Colts when they were thinned out in the secondary, but he’s the Titans' fourth safety at the start. Another former member of the Indianapolis secondary, Aaron Francisco, had done some great special teams work and I thought he would win that job. Afalava may be sturdier, which could have helped his case. With end Dave Ball (concussion) and Leger Douzable (shoulder) put on IR, there was room for an additional tackle. But the Titans cut Zach Clayton in favor of DaJohn Harris on the inside rather than keeping both.

Onward and upward: Running back and returner Darius Reynaud was a big story in camp, and may have been destined to stick even before return man Marc Mariani suffered a terrible broken leg. The running back can do nice work in the screen game and should be a pretty good returner. On defense, Pannel Egboh, has floated around the practice squad circuit. Now he gets the big payoff and should get some work as the third end who takes some snaps on clear run downs while giving Derrick Morgan or Kamerion Wimbley a rest.

What’s next: The Titans third corner, Tommie Campbell, is in his second season. And beyond him cornerback depth is very inexperienced, with rookie Coty Sensabaugh and Ryan Mouton (who missed his second season hurt). A veteran corner could be a quality addition. The team is heavy at running back with Chris Johnson, Javon Ringer, Jamie Harper and Reynaud plus fullback Quinn Johnson. I’m skeptical of the need for a fullback who’s not an ace special teamer, and Quinn Johnson is not one.

Thoughts from Titans 10, Saints 6

August, 30, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few thoughts from the Titans’ preseason finale, a 10-6 victory over the Saints at LP Field.
  • Eight of the 11 players listed as starting defenders for the Saints were scratched. No matter the extent of the game plan, the Titans' first-team offense should find yards against that lineup. Yet Jake Locker missed short (a rollout well short of Kendall Wright, but also well short of a bunch of defenders) and long (overthrowing Damian Williams on what should have been a 39-yard touchdown) and wound up with the often-standard accuracy issues. His final line was uninspiring: 9 of 16 for 81 yards and a lost fumble on a scramble. Before his final series, his average per pass play was at 3.6. To be fair, he didn’t have everyone -- starters Nate Washington, Steve Hutchinson and Chris Johnson didn’t play. Backup Matt Hasselbeck took over for Locker with 1:47 left in the second quarter.
  • I know I can misperceive patience as hesitancy. But I think second-string running back Javon Ringer was more hesitant than patient on at least a couple of his carries, which was disappointing. Chris Johnson did not play, so those Ringer carries came early and he managed all of 17 yards on six carries. First-half rushing not including Locker: 10 handoffs for 33 yards.
  • The Titans have pretty much said we can expect to see both Jordan Babineaux and Robert Johnson on the field as the team’s second safety. They were both starters against the Saints, as Michael Griffin didn’t take the field.
  • I know injury concerns trump all, but I do think teams that play starters some in Week 4 rip off ticket buyers a little less -- so the Titans had that going for them. Which is nice. Sure, people know what they are buying. No, season ticket-holders don’t have a choice but to buy preseason tickets. And they’re full price. If it’s not the biggest scam in sports, it’s a contender for the title. And I am not sure what the competition is.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some thoughts out of the Titans’ 32-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field on Thursday night.
  • The Cardinals wanted to test out rookie left tackle D.J. Young as they look to replace the injured Levi Brown (triceps) for the season. Young failed this test, badly, as the Titans' big defensive free agent addition Kamerion Wimbley attacked him with great effect. Wimbley sacked John Skelton on his first play and Kevin Kolb on his first. He had a couple of hurries, too. The Cardinals' entire offensive line was bad in pass protection and the Titans rushed very effectively. Jurrell Casey is really turning into a well-rounded defensive tackle. He's an absolute handful.
  • Want variety? On the Titans' first four offensive plays from scrimmage, they lined up with an empty backfield, with two tight ends, with three wide receivers and with two backs. The only thing with the potential to make them predictable this season would seem to be down and distance.
  • Jake Locker was victimized by drops by Javon Ringer and Nate Washington, but finished the first half having hit on just 8 of 16 passes. Completing 50 percent, he still had a 115.6 passer rating since he had 124 yards and two TDs. Connections of 28, 29 and 35 yards have a way of helping out. He made better decisions and smartly took off a few times as he felt pressure.
  • On a first-quarter return, Marc Mariani suffered a gruesome broken lower left leg that was Theismann-esque. We’d been wondering about Darius Reynaud as someone putting pressure on Mariani for the return jobs. Reynaud comes out of the night as a lock to make the roster as the returner now because of Mariani’s misfortune. I don’t know whether Mariani would have been getting many, if any, receiver snaps at the expense of Kenny Britt (once healthy and when not suspended), Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Damian Williams or even Lavelle Hawkins.
  • Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy has an excellent nose for the ball. But his two interceptions of Kolb on this night were absolute gifts. The first was thrown into an area filled with Titans, and he looked like the intended receiver on the second, which he returned for a 31-yard touchdown.
  • Aaron Francisco is a special-teams demon. I can’t see how he won’t be the fourth safety on this team, unless the Titans find better defensive depth elsewhere. If they do, special-teams coach Alan Lowry would surely shed a tear over losing Francisco.
  • Camp leg/kicker Will Batson was 3-for-4 on field goals, but accounted for only three points. He hit a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter, only to see it wiped away by a holding call against Taylor Thompson. Then Batson hit from 36... only to see it wiped away by a holding call against... Thompson. Then Batson hit from 46 and made it to the sideline without seeing a flag. Britt greeted him excitedly.
  • I don’t know what’s going on with the two-tone coloring of the Titans’ light blue uniform tops. But it’s incredibly distracting that the coloration is inconsistent from player to player. Quinn Johnson and Ringer, standing side-by-side, didn’t look like they were wearing the same jersey. Honestly. Nike, are you reading?
  • The new “Titantrons” at LP Field are really impressive. It’s a big benefit of the stadium’s open-end zone configuration. -- finding room to fit giant HD video boards wasn’t an issue. Some other buildings that might want to match these won’t have a spot for them. Stadium game productions are updated and far better. But the lyrics of "Folsom Prison Blues" on the big screens, intended to produce a sing-a-long between the third and fourth quarter, appeared to fail miserably. Put that one on the shelf.