AFC South: Jonathan Willard

Tennessee Titans cut-down analysis

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

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

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

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

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

The most important thing is that Cheri Hubbard, her three kids and the family dog are safe.

They are safe because Tennessee Titans undrafted rookie linebacker Jonathan Willard alerted her that her car was on fire on a Tennessee interstate highway Tuesday, and because he and another person pulled them from the burning car.

A heroic act has put a spotlight on Willard as the NFL's offseason comes to a close and camps open. That offseason included a lot of bad news for players off the field, topped by a murder charge against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Willard’s story got him on Thursday morning’s edition of “Good Morning America.”

As it fades, it will have one giant, lasting effect on his training camp.

Every NFL town usually has one undrafted rookie long shot emerge as a fan favorite. As my colleague Jonathan Hutton from “The Midday 180" said Wednesday during a conversation with Willard on 104.5 The Zone, Willard is that guy for Nashville now.

RTC: Bradshaw on PUP for Colts

July, 24, 2013
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

If the Texans can be a top-five defense, they’ll have a good chance at doing more in the playoffs than they have the past two seasons, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

To which I say: It’s a realistic goal for the defense, provided it can fare far better in the healthy department.

Single game tickets go on sale Thursday, says the Chronicle.

Film study of Trevardo Williams by Brett Kollman of Battle Red Blog shows he’s not much of a bull-rusher but can show tremendous lateral agility.

Indianapolis Colts

Ahmad Bradshaw is on PUP and John Boyett is on NFI for the start of training camp, says Mike Chappell.

Receiver Donald Jones meets with the Colts today, says Chappell. Jones would be competition for a slot/ possession role with Griff Whalen, says Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority.

To which I say: They need more options at receiver, so if they like him and the price is right, they should sign Jones.

Predicting the final 53, from Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running through the Jaguars' offensive line with Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Gus Bradley on the team’s quarterback competition: “I’ll just trust my gut, along with the help of other coaches, that when the time is right we’ll make that decision.” John Oehser of the team’s web site on the quarterback situation.

To which I say: Competition is the big theme for the Jaguars. There is no reason for Bradley to make any sort of early decision at the tone-setting spot on the roster.

While Maurice Jones-Drew and Jason Babin are cleared, four Jaguars including Justin Blackmon and Johnathan Cyprien won’t be ready, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

The big Titans training camp guide from Jim Wyatt and John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Undrafted rookie linebacker Jonathan Willard saved a family from a burning car.

Tennessee National Guard members who hold season tickets to Titans games were given their tickets by a couple Titans receivers in a surprise during an LP Field tour. Samantha Hearn of The Tennessean’s story.

Thoughts on what will factor into the final 53 from Tom Gower of Total Titans.

To which I say: I can’t see Nathan Enderle, who didn’t cut it in quarterback-needy Jacksonville, making the Titans roster. It’s also difficult for me to see the “minor but useful role” on offense for Marc Mariani. If the Titans are healthy at receiver, he’s seventh or eighth in line.

Titans' undrafted rookies

May, 9, 2013
The names have been reported, but as the Titans kick off their rookie minicamp they've made it official. Here are their 15 undrafted rookie additions: