AFC South: Jordan Palmer

Drew Stanton knows Bruce Arians’ system quite well from working as Andrew Luck’s backup, and could have a chance for some playing time in Arizona.

His departure to the Cardinals means the Indianapolis Colts have a new need: A No. 2 behind Luck. It's hard to envision Chandler Harnish, the last pick of last year's draft, seizing the job. He'll be learning a second offense in his second year.

The list of free-agent quarterbacks is a poor one.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was just cut in Buffalo. Jason Campbell could be a functional spot starter.

The Colts might need to pounce on one of them given the other options: Josh Johnson, Charlie Batch, Rex Grossman, Kellen Clemens, Byron Leftwich, Tyler Thigpen, David Carr, Josh McCown, Brady Quinn, Luke McCown, Caleb Hanie, Matt Leinart or Jordan Palmer.

I’m thinking the same thing you’re thinking: I sure hope Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas upgrade Luck’s protection, because the Colts can’t afford for him to be hurt.
I was part of a Nashville media conference call with Chad Henne late this morning, during which he told us he hoped to play well Sunday against the Titans and earn the job for the rest of the season.

Henne
Henne
He might have known it already, but we saw John Clayton’s tweet that Blaine Gabbert had been placed on IR before Henne hung up and told him that and that he was in fact in line to start the rest of the season.

A bit later, coach Mike Mularkey said that while Gabbert’s new injury, to his right forearm, won’t require surgery, the left shoulder injury he initially suffered Oct. 21 at Oakland might.

The new injury to Gabbert is "significant enough for him to miss considerable time,” Mularkey said. That plus the lingering shoulder issue prompted the team to make the IR move. The team also put receiver Laurent Robinson on IR. The Jaguars signed Jordan Palmer to serve as Gabbert’s backup, and added receiver Carlton Mitchell.

Ten games was enough for a judgment on Gabbert in Mularkey’s offense. He was better than in a very bad rookie year, but not better enough. When he’s next in line to play, the Jaguars could have a new front office, and if they do, they could also have a new coaching staff. He could face new competition for the job.

Henne guarantees no drastic improvement. But he provided a big spark Sunday, in his second relief effort of the season, throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 43-37 overtime loss at Houston.

He placed the ball better and found a rhythm with a heavy dose of three-step drop passing that effectively minimized the team’s consistent protection issues.

For the Jaguars to break into the win column Sunday against the Titans at EverBank Field, Henne will have to do more of the same.

He’ll also need his receivers to hold on to the ball better. Mularkey said his team has dropped 46 passes this season, including five in Houston, three on third down.

Whether or not GM Gene Smith and Mularkey are still in place and calling the shots next summer, what Henne does in the next six games will go a long way toward determining his standing for the 2013 Jaguars.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak intends to play starters into the third quarter against the Saints on Saturday night, says John McClain.

In Randy Bullocks versus Shayne Graham, the Texans have a kicking controversy, says McClain.

Notes from Kubiak's Sunday news conference from Nick Scurfield of the team's website. Brian Cushing has sore ribs.

Indianapolis Colts

It is not too early to get giddy about Andrew Luck, says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. “Yes, it’s preseason. But we are seeing things, already, that presage imminent greatness.”

Injuries to Austin Collie, Cory Redding and Robert Mathis are a concern for the Colts coming out of the preseason loss in Pittsburgh, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

Chappell was impressed with Luck’s bounce-back qualities.

Grading out the Colts against the Steelers, with Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars shift into regular-season practice mode today, and Mike Mularkey was pleased with what was accomplished at camp, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Chad Henne isn’t challenging Blaine Gabbert for the starting spot, he’s working to hold off Jordan Palmer for the backup role. Mularkey says Henne remains the No. 2, says Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

Linebacker Gerald McRath is going to get his knee fixed, which means he’s out for the season, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. There is an element of good fortune here, actually. I don’t think McRath was going to make the team, and now he gets his 2012 salary and rehabilitates on the team’s watch.

Chris Johnson says he underestimated the impact his holdout would have on his play last season, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Some thoughts on the Jaguars’ 27-24 win over the Saints Friday night in New Orleans:

Justin Blackmon looked the part: I saw a physical, confident receiver who made himself available for Blaine Gabbert. On an early catch, he stopped and went backwards to allow a tackler to miss and gain some extra yards. And he pulled in a dart from Gabbert on a third-and-7, skipped a defender who tried for the ball and bolted into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. He wound up with four catches for 48 yards and the score. I thought it was a strong start that showed us a bit about who he can be.

Gabbert: A smooth and efficient night for the second-year quarterback. If he plays like this, the Jaguars are going to be a competitive team that surprises a lot of people making the too-easy prediction the Jags will struggle. He connected on 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards, two touchdowns and a 135.4 passer rating. Those numbers were enhanced a bit by replacement officials who were too quick with pass interference flags. But Gabbert was not sacked and he looked confident and in command, stepping up to deliver the ball with minimal concern about what might have been closing in on him. He fired one pass to Mike Thomas even as he was getting hit by Junior Galette. Take it all as a major cause for encouragement with him as he built on last week’s good showing.

Rashad Jennings and the run game: The Saints were not in a tackling mood, and the Jaguars took advantage. Jacksonville averaged 5.5 yards on the ground, with Jennings turning 11 touches into 62 yards. He continues to look like a starting-caliber back to me in the absence of Maurice Jones-Drew.

The rush: Defensive end Jeremy Mincey is not Jared Allen or Julius Peppers. But he’s not “just” a high effort guy, either. He was a real pain in this game, hounding Drew Brees as a consistent presence in the backfield. He can really be a tone setter. We also saw some flashes of just how dangerous Andre Branch’s speed can be coming off the other edge.

Coverage: The Jaguars got picked apart by Brees at times -- particularly on the nine-play, 85 yard drive that cut the Jags lead to 17-10 -- but that’s what the Saints can do. Jacksonville was without Derek Cox (hamstring) and Rashean Mathis (resting knee on turf) so the corner depth got work. William Middleton was draped on Devery Henderson when he made a strong, one-handed catch of a perfect 8-yard touchdown throw.

Winning it: Preseason results don’t mean much, of course. But you’d rather have the late drive to win a game than not, and Jordan Palmer provided it -- a 12-play, 74-yard march that ended with an 11-yard TD pass to undrafted rookie Kevin Elliott with 13 seconds left to provide the winning margin.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The Texans got a good result but left themselves plenty of room to get better with a win in Carolina, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Trindon Holliday knows his highlight reel touchdown isn’t enough for him to seal up a job, says Keith Cannon of the Chronicle.

Defensive tackle Shaun Cody came out of the game with a back issue, says McClain.

How the Texans reacted to the game on Twitter, via the team’s website.

A game review from the Toro Times’ Huy Nguyen.

Indianapolis Colts

Five things to watch in today’s preseason opener, from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Sorting through the running backs with Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue.

General manager Ryan Grigson isn't sure what he will be feeling when he gets to Lucas Oil Stadium for today's preseason game, says Craig Kelley of the team's website.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars presented Mike Mularkey with the game ball after winning the preseason opener over the Giants Friday night, writes Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Running back Rashad Jennings has faith that his way is the right way, writes Gene Frenette of the T-U.

What we learned from the preseason opener, according to John Oehser of the team’s website.

Jordan Palmer gave the Jags a big boost as the No. 3 QB, says Luke Sims of Black & Teal.

Tennessee Titans

It was not a pretty return to Seattle for Matt Hasselbeck, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Has Jake Locker closed a gap in the QB competition? Wyatt hits it.

Chris Johnson’s drops were part of a sloppy game against the Seahawks, says Wyatt.

Something went awry on the very first play for the Titans, says Wyatt.

The Titans invited the family of O.J. Murdock to their preseason home opener, says Wyatt.

Some quick thoughts on the Jaguars 32-31 preseason win over the New York Giants at EverBank Field Friday night:
  • Quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed good command and made good throws on the Jaguars’ first series, converting several third downs and leading a touchdown drive. He got time, stepped up and found Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts, hitting Shorts for a short TD that produced a 7-0 lead. It was an encouraging showing from the second-year quarterback. Gabbert did lose a fumble later when he got swarmed. He simply needs to go down and be sure to hold on.
  • Shorts offset his TD catch with a fumble of an end around that started a long stretch of super starting field position for the Giants. The receiver was holding the ball with his inside hand and was too easily stripped. It’s the sort of mistake the receivers have been making in camp.
  • Other errors the Jaguars probably won’t be able to withstand against premium competition in meaningful games: a dropped interception by safety Dwight Lowery right at the start; a big kickoff return allowed following the touchdown pass that put the Giants near midfield; William Middleton holding down an arm of receiver Jerrel Jernigan in the end zone (that went uncalled); end Jason Pierre-Paul's too-easy rush inside left tackle Eugene Monroe en route to a tackle for a loss; punt fielding issues by undrafted rookie Mike Brown.
  • Rashad Jennings ran just fine: 12 carries for 56 yards including a 17-yarder around the right corner. Jaguars’ brass will not wake up Saturday morning feeling any differently with regard to Maurice Jones-Drew as a result of anything that happened here.
  • Tyson Alualu didn’t play, and the Jaguars started D'Anthony Smith and C.J. Mosley at defensive tackle. Terrance Knighton was in with the twos, and on several snaps he looked like a player a notch above the guys he was on the field with and against.
  • Rookie defensive end Andre Branch's speed off the edge was apparent a couple times. Once his presence prompted David Carr to step up into a sack by Knighton. Encouraging.
  • Bryan Anger's big, second-quarter punt tied up Jayron Hosley, who fumbled it. The big hang time meant Antwon Blake had time to get in position to pounce and recover the loose ball, setting up a quick Chad Henne-to-Brian Robiskie TD that cut the Giants lead to 24-14. Anger prompted Jernigan to botch a punt as well, and Blake recovered that one too.
  • Thomas and Robiskie made plays for third-string QB Jordan Palmer in the third quarter. More baby steps -- the Jaguars have receivers who can have success against second- and third-team guys in coverage.
  • Good consistency by the replacement officials. They consistently failed to give signals to declare what happened on plays that begged for such authority. It’s not that they failed to convey the message. It’s that they didn’t know what to convey.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There is at least some national perception that things are a mess here, that the Jaguars are falling apart.

It’s not true.

Mularkey
Mularkey
Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout for a new contract is a big story, for sure. Justin Blackmon’s absence as the team continues to negotiate with the No. 5 pick in the draft is significant, too. Marcedes Lewis is out of shape. Blaine Gabbert hasn’t come out on fire. A Mike Mularkey's policy setting up $10,000 fines for players talking about injuries drew criticism, including from me.

Still, I’ve walked the grounds and don’t see any rubble. There is no crumbling go on. The crumbling happened last season, when a coach who had lost his players’ faith and couldn’t always spell out the rationale for what he was doing was fired. Jack Del Rio is defensive coordinator in Denver now.

Mentions of him here tend to be subtle, and can often be read as digs.

When I was here during OTAs, Lewis mentioned how Mularkey “actually cares about you.” Fair or not, that could be interpreted as Del Rio not having cared in the same way.

As for Mularkey ...

You don’t take over a situation like this and find bouquets of roses lining the path you have to travel.

Mularkey might or might not prove to be a good NFL head coach in his second go-round. But players believe he's wants what's good for them and can win, and such faith goes a long way when rebuilding a football team.

The guy’s got a plan. He’s got a staff that is an upgrade from the one before his. And he’s done a lot of good work since he was hired to set policies and shape his team, explaining himself to players and winning their confidence. (Some of it, like the fines for injury talk, might be heavy-handed and controlling. We’ll have to see how it plays out.)

Players don’t have much choice, of course. You buy in or risk being gone.

The tone, though, is upbeat. The offense is struggling so far, having trouble keeping up with a much better defense. The offense isn’t moping, it’s praising a measuring stick and working to look better against it.

Guys aren’t hanging their heads over MJD and Blackmon. They look forward to those guys joining them and know they can make significant progress now even without them.

“There is a movement going on here, some exciting things, a lot of new stuff,” reserve quarterback Jordan Palmer said.

It’s not accurate to suggest things are bad in Jacksonville three days into camp. There is no score up on the board on the fourth day of camp.

Things are new. New is good.
Reading the coverage …

Houston Texans

Owner Bob McNair’s challenge is to keep contract extensions for coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith at a manageable length “so that he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger if the time does come that he has to make a move,” writes Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle.

Recently cut receiver and return man Jacoby Jones signed with the rival Ravens, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

The rookie wage scale that was part of the new collective bargaining agreement means the contract for No. 1 pick Andrew Luck won’t be difficult, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback Jordan Palmer doesn’t see as much Bob Bratkowski influence on the Jaguars’ offense as he expected, says Tania Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

Matt Hasselbeck and Michael Roos have built a close friendship based on mutual respect, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Hasselbeck jokes that two bald guys spend a lot of time discussing hair styles.
Reading the coverage ...

What to expect from the cornerbacks drafted into the AFC South, from Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Houston Texans

Moving on from Neil Rackers, the Texans signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham to compete with draft pick Randy Bullock, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. He’s been with four teams the past two seasons and clearly the hope would be that the rookie can seize the job.

Wade Phillips is optimistic about the pass rush the Texans will field this fall, says McClain.

Who is the Texans’ No. 2 receiver? Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report considers the question.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck isn’t going to be able to use Jim Irsay’s plane to help him get together with other Colts before the class of 2012 is finished at Stanford, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts will return to Anderson University for training camp, with players reporting July 28, says the Star.

What the Colts need to accomplish in 2012 to consider the season a success, from Dunlevy. I’m big on his first point, developing a defensive identity.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jordan Palmer is in line to be the Jaguars’ No. 3 quarterback, says Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union. Palmer was one of the players the team signed after a minicamp included a bunch of tryout guys.

The Jets, Lions and Titans have expressed interest in recently released cornerback Drew Coleman, according to Kimberley Martin of Newsday. Rex Ryan acknowledged the Jets would look at Coleman, who played well for them before he moved on to Jacksonville.

Tennessee Titans

Running through the post-draft roster and assessing if the Titans got better, stayed the same or got worse through free agency and the draft with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Wyatt takes a closer look at fifth-round tight end Taylor Thompson.

Three Titans who should be extended in the opinion of Zach Law from Bleacher Report. I’d hold off on Jared Cook.
Mike Mularkey and his wide receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan, have had some time to consider their group and decided in the past couple days that Jarett Dillard is not part of the solution at a spot where the team is looking to upgrade.

That’s two players the Jaguars once thought would be a help at receiver they’ve dumped. Kassim Osgood, a quality special-teamer Gene Smith thought could grow into an effective receiver did not do so after he was signed in 2010 and was cut earlier this offseason.

Now Dillard is gone. He was drafted in the fifth round in Gene Smith’s first draft in 2009 when the Jaguars put a lot into receiver. Mike Thomas was a fourth-round pick, Dillard a fifth-rounder and Tiquan Underwood a seventh.

Only Thomas remains.

No. 5 pick Justin Blackmon should lead the group with free-agent addition Laurent Robinson. Thomas should now be the No. 3, which is the best role for him. They’ll round out the group with Taylor Price, Brian Robiskie, Lee Evans and Cecil Shorts in line for the fourth spot and beyond.

As for Dillard, he dealt with some injuries and never really flashed. A fifth-rounder is hardly a guarantee and has to have done more to stick heading into his fifth season considering he was due about $1.3 million this season.

The Jaguars cut five others in addition to Dillard: quarterback Dan LeFevour, safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, receiver Nelson Rosario, receiver Jarrett Boykin and defensive end Frank Trotter.

They added seven who were part of the recent minicamp on a tryout basis -- quarterback Jordan Palmer, fullback Naufahu Tahi and defensive tackle Odrick Ray, receiver Mike Brown, receiver Chris Forcier, linebacker Donovan Richard and defensive back Jeremiah Brown.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Colts lost in Cincinnati Thursday night, 38-7.

They finished the preseason 1-3. Stop me if you’ve heard before that a bad preseason record means nothing to them.

Just a few quick things I noticed out of the highlights I saw and a glance at the game book:
  • Backup quarterback Jim Sorgi, who’d missed a lot of action with a hamstring injury, had to make the team happy with his first and only work of the preseason: 11 of 19 for 119 yards and a TD.
  • Undrafted rookie corner Jacob Lacey, who’s been making a bid for a roster spot, intercepted Jordan Palmer in the second quarter on a throw intended for Chris Henry.
  • Punting late in the fourth quarter, Pat McAfee surely didn’t have top-flight guys blocking for him. But DeDe Dorsey was on him awfully fast, fast enough that the rookie should have sensed trouble, pulled the ball down and looked for an alternative. Dorsey recovered the block for a TD.

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