AFC South: Julius Williams
Owen Daniels says this "absolutely" could be the year the Texans become a playoff team.
Steve Slaton has indicated he'll be ready to go by the time training camp rolls around.
Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson continues to grow more comfortable in his role with the team.
The Colts came in at No. 4 in ESPN The Magazine's ultimate standings.
Rushing the passer is always on Julius Williams' mind.
You have to look beyond the numbers to see how successful the Jaguars' punting game was last season.
Do Kevin Mawae's ties to the union have anything to do with the fact he is still unemployed?
Javon Ringer tried to take advantage of the added reps during offseason workouts with Chris Johnson not present.
I encourage your continued participation -- as I mention over and over, I can only answer the questions I get. (Direct access to mailbag here.)
Jason in Tallahassee/Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Who would be likely trade partners for the Jaguars to trade with? I think GM Gene Smith will trade down multiple times this April and I wouldn't be surprised if he completely traded out of the first round to recoup the spent second and to gain a handful of mid-round picks. What do you think?
Paul Kuharsky: I think it’s possible someone would want to move up to No. 10 for C.J. Spiller. But it’s very difficult to predict trade partners without knowing who’s taken with the first nine picks.
I value quality over quantity and don’t understand wanting lower picks instead of a high one. Hit a home run at 10. Also, I don’t think finding trade partners to move down is so easy.
Bryan in Afghanistan writes: Paul, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this blog. It's good to be able to read a more in-depth analysis on my favorite Division. My question was this: We all know that the Texans are "fiscally fit" and more than likely weren't going to make a splash in FA other than trying to keep their players... but some of us would have thought to have heard on contract talks with their "valuable" RFA players (i.e. Owen Daniels, DeMeco Ryans, etc...) I know they were given RFA tenders, but that doesn't really show me they want to get some deals made. Some knowledgeable insight would be appreciated, thanks.
Paul Kuharsky: Hope you’re safe over there.
They are assured they have those guys this year -- so the ticking clock isn’t very loud. A big extension right now comes knowing there is probably a lockout in 2011. I think that’s a deterrent for doing something big at this point.
But I do think that out of Daniels, Ryans and Bernard Pollard, they should really get one, if not two, done before 2010 kicks off. If Gary Kubiak got an extension, what’s your rationale for leaving some of his best players hanging?
Tony from Greensburg, Ind., writes: Mel Kiper believes the Colts will take a DT. I can't see this happening. They have gotten decent play from Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson. With the DB's depleted don't you think they will have to address this as a need?
Paul Kuharsky: I think they have the defensive tackle; he’s last year’s second-rounder, Fili Moala.
That doesn’t mean they won’t take one. Offensive line is the biggest need, defensive back depth another. But their first-round pick won’t necessarily be married to a need. They go best player available as well as anyone.
Dallas in Jackson, Minn., writes: Do you see the Texans drafting a QB this upcoming draft? Maybe a Dan LeFevour or a Matt Nichols to start grooming behind Matt Schaub who is not old but isn't a youngster.
Paul Kuharsky: I do not. Schaub’s going to be 29 in May, which is nowhere near old enough to start considering life after him.
They have plenty of other needs and a significant investment in backup Dan Orlovsky.
Trace Jackson in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Hey Paul. One of my absolutely favorite Jaguars players in the past few years has been Rashean Mathis. For awhile there, he was truly one of the great cornerbacks in the league; plus I loved that he was a local guy. He had a pretty down year in 2009, though, owing to his groin injury. Do you think he'll make a comeback in 2010, or was the injury the beginning of the end for him?
Paul Kuharsky: I think he’ll make a comeback in terms of being healthy and productive, but I do think he’s started to slip some. He’s signed through 2011. They could draft a corner this year to be third and grow into his replacement.
Chris in Wiesbaden, Germany, writes: What are the chances that if the Jags can't trade down, they draft Joe Haden, and move Rashean Mathis to free safety?
Paul Kuharsky: I don’t know that Mathis is a free safety. Most longtime corners don’t wind up safeties. It’s not like shortstops moving to third.
But Mathis, Haden and Derek Cox as the top three corners would be very nice.
Meredith in Indianapolis, Ind., writes: I'm curious about the condition of Dwight Freeney's ankle. I haven't heard anything about it in our local media. I assume no news is good news, but how severe was the injury after playing on it in the Super Bowl? Will he have any difficulties getting back to 100%?
Paul Kuharsky: Hi, Meredith. Nice to hear from you.
No new news from the team or player on this. The Colts don’t offer up a lot of injury info when they talk daily, better yet at this time of year when things are generally quiet. Unless they completely fibbed about what it was, I don’t see a reason to expect anything less than a full recovery.
With Raheem Brock gone, I do think a third defensive end is a priority.
Harsha Rajashekar in West Palm Beach, Fla., writes: I am surprised so many mock analysts have the Jags picking a wide receiver in the first round considering the amount of effort put into acquiring receivers in last year’s draft and the recent acquisition of Kassim Osgood. What’s your take on this?
Paul Kuharsky: Not impossible they look wideout. But while they need weapons, like you said, they loaded up on receivers in last year’s draft and with Osgood in free agency and need to give those guys a chance.
Meanwhile they can’t rush the passer consistently, even with Aaron Kampman in the fold.
Other needs trump receiver to me.
Joseph in Texas writes: Texans seem like they would be a fit for Nathan Vasher. They play enough mix of man and zone and I don't know of any character issues to make them shy away. What do you think? (And you better post this or the nice comment on your last mailbag defending you from being a Titan Homer disappears, buddy LOL.)
Paul Kuharsky: Dirt cheap and low risk? Sure, bring him on in.
But I’m not real excited about him as I discussed here.
Glenn in Los Angeles, Calif., writes: Hey Paul, How do you see Colts O-line situation shaping up? We let some players go and made a couple signings. Do you see us definitely picking up a center/guard early in the draft? How about our left tackle situation? Do you see us making any moves there? Thanks! Glenn
Paul Kuharsky: It’s completely up in the air. Jeff Saturday is the only guy I think we can safely say is locked in. We could see Charlie Johnson moved inside, or moved to a backup role. There is all kinds of possibilities. Pass protection will remain a priority, but all indications are they are looking for bigger guys who can also run block better.
They’ve added Adam Terry and Andy Alleman. I’d expect they’d draft a couple more linemen, bigger guys than they currently have. And I’d think we’d see one in the first two or three rounds, yes.
Greg in New York City writes: It's pretty much conventional thinking that the Jaguars will be selecting some defensive lineman this draft, as Gene Smith has not made it any secret that he thinks the DL crop is very deep. My question is if they do draft a defensive end or two, what ends currently on the team get kicked to the curb? Between Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, Aaron Kampman, Julius Williams, Bryan Smith, Jeremy Navarre, etc. there are plenty of ends currently on the roster. I'd argue Groves has performed the worst out of the bunch, could he be gone?
Paul Kuharsky: Beyond Harvey and Kampman, there isn’t a guy on your list or their roster they can’t upgrade on. None of those guys should be stopping the Jaguars from bringing in the best rush end they can find.
Groves certainly needs to make a showing in camp to solidify a roster spot and role.
I expect Raheem Brock and Keyunta Dawson will get a lot of early-down action. That would be a smart way to scale back work for their stars, who would benefit from less contact with Maurice Jones-Drew.
Only three inactive Colts were left to be determined after the team declared the status of its injured players on Tuesday. Because five guys were already declared out, there could be guys eligible or dressed tonight who hardly play -- that will be one of the story lines we’ll try to follow for you after kickoff.
For the Jaguars, Russell Allen will start at outside linebacker for Clint Ingram (shoulder) and Attiyah Ellison will move ahead of Quentin Groves for the start at defensive end. As expected, Montell Owens is the starting fullback with Greg Jones (ankle) placed on injured-reserve.
Here’s the full list for both teams.
- Offensive tackle Michael Toudouze
- Tight end Tom Santi
- Defensive end Ervin Baldwin
- Cornerback Jerraud Powers
- Running back Donald Brown
- Receiver Anthony Gonzalez
- Kicker Adam Vinatieri
- Defensive back Aaron Francisco
So the team estimates what players would have done had the team practiced.
In advance of Thursday’s Colts-Jaguars game, Indy said 29 players -- 55 percent of its roster -- would not have practiced and only two of them were categorized as “rested,” Antoine Bethea and Dwight Freeney.
Among the notables: Peyton Manning (glute) Gary Brackett (foot), Raheem Brock (back), Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), Kyle DeVan (shin), Ryan Diem (hamstring), Pierre Garcon (knee), Kelvin Hayden (knee), Tim Jennings (ankle), Charlie Johnson (foot), Jacob Lacey (biceps), Robert Mathis (quad), Dan Muir (hamstring), Jerraud Powers (hamstring), Clint Session (hand) and Tony Ugoh (hip).
The Jaguars said Clint Ingram (shoulder), Greg Jones (ankle) and Mike Sims-Walker (calf) wouldn’t have practiced.
Derek Cox (ankle), Kyle Forney (back), John Henderson (shoulder), Maurice Jones-Drew (knee), Rashean Mathis (groin), Zach Miller (shoulder), Daryl Smith (though) and Julius Williams (knee) would have been limited.
The Texans aren’t getting it done at the start or the finish of games, says Dale Robertson.
John Busing takes over for Eugene Wilson at safety as broken toes end Wilson’s season, says Robertson.
A sprained ankle cost DeMeco Ryans another practice, says Robertson.
The Texans' offense has slowed down.
Richard Justice wants the Texans to win to end the whining.
Jim Irsay has set up a plan for Chris Polian to eventually take over for Bill Polian, says Mike Chappell.
Peyton Manning’s been limited this week with a glute injury but his status for Sunday isn’t in doubt, says Chappell.
Phil Wilson’s matchup page.
John Oehser’s preview of Colts-Texans, in two pieces, here and here.
Dallas Clark blogged for the team site on Thanksgiving.
Matt Ellis is a Colts fan determined to show off his passion for the team, says Phil Richards.
The 49ers are allowing a ton of passing yardage, says Michael C. Wright.
It’s a homecoming game for Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jacksonville is trying to approach things as a business trip, says Vito Stellino.
Julius Williams will be the sixth starting defensive end for Jacksonville this season, says Wright.
David Climer credits Mike Heimerdinger for thinking outside the box.
Justin Gage doesn’t look like he’s close to returning yet, say Jim Wyatt and Gary Estwick.
Comparing Chris Johnson to some great backs in history, from Terry McCormick.
Kurt Warner is always going to be part of Titans’ lore, says McCormick.
A Q&A with Alge Crumpler from Estwick.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Just took a passing glance at the Jaguars game release for Seattle and found two things of interest, even if they are unofficial:
Gerald Alexander has supplanted Sean Considine as the starting strong safety and Quentin Groves has been demoted to third string.
Alexander started for the injured Considine (groin) against Tennessee and was very good, with a pick and a forced fumble in the first half. I’m not sure about Considine’s health this week, but if he’s back it appears he’ll work behind Alexander.
The Jaguars are still listing their front as if it’s a 4-3, though their base defense is now a 3-4. Derrick Harvey played as an outside linebacker rather than at end Sunday and was better. Groves apparently is not making the same progress. Those who rank ahead of him at end or outside linebacker now include two undrafted rookies -- end Julius Williams and backer Russell Allen.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky
Greetings from Indianapolis, where I will head over to Lucas Oil Stadium shortly to get ready for Seahawks-Colts.
Here's your mandatory morning pregame reading:
- Matt Schaub is compiling quality stats, writes John McClain.
- The Texans and Raiders are more alike than expected, says Dale Robertson.
- Four Texans will do their part for breast cancer awareness, says McClain.
- Anthony Hill is out of the hospital and talked to Mark Berman.
- Seattle will try to match the Colts’ tempo, says Mike Chappell.
- The running game is making strides, writes Phil Richards.
- It’s almost like Tony Dungy never left, says Alex Marvez.
- Former Colts coach Jim Mora’s grandsons lighten the mood regarding his famous “playoffs?” rant, says Phillip B. Wilson.
- The Colts will also wear a splash of pink, writes Chappell.
- Chappell doesn’t expect to see Marcus Howard back with the team during Dwight Freeney’s absence.
- John Oehser takes questions, several about Clint Session and Jordan Senn.
- Gene Frenette looks at Jeff Fisher’s staying power.
- Daryl Smith is low key but gets high marks, says Michael C Wright.
- Spillover from Wright’s interview with Smith landed in his blog.
- David Garrard and the fans lose out from Jack Del Rio’s radio decision, writes Frenette.
- End Julius Williams plays great in practice but hasn’t translated it into games yet, says Wright.
- Keys to the game from iJax.com.
- Shallow thoughts and aimless musings from bigcatcountry.com.
- The Titans cut Patrick Ramsey and elevated cornerback Cary Williams from the practice squad, writes Wyatt.
- Some Titans are concerned by the results of a recent brain disease study, writes Jim Wyatt.
- Wyatt’s breakdown of the Titans’ matchup with the Jaguars.
- Ryan Mouton’s looking for redemption, says Wyatt.
- Eugene Amano is helping with typhoon relief.
- The AP got Steve McNair’s public service announcement urging young people contemplating suicide to live to see better days.
- Long passes are not a priority for Mike Heimerdinger, says Gary Estwick.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Two pieces of injury news pertinent to the AFC South:
Indy receiver Anthony Gonzalez: Adam Schefter confirmed an NFL.com report that Gonzalez strained a knee ligament and will miss two to six weeks. That’s a big range that could mean he misses only away games at Miami and Arizona or his absence could extend to games against Seattle, at Tennessee, beyond the bye to an Oct. 25 game at St. Louis.
Jacksonville defensive end Reggie Hayward: Michael C. Wright (@jagsreporter) tweeted this -- "X-ray reveals #Jaguars DE R Hayward has fracture of lower left leg that might require surgery, Jack Del Rio just told me."
Reggie Hayward had the team’s lone sack of Peyton Manning Sunday and is the team’s top veteran presence among its defensive ends. Derrick Harvey is the team’s other starter and like Harvey, Quentin Groves is a second-year man. James Wyche and undrafted rookie Julius Williams were both inactive for Sunday’s loss in Indianapolis.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
INDIANAPOLIS -- Here are the inactives for Jaguars at Colts:
- Linebacker Cody Glenn
- Safety Bob Sanders
- Tight end Tom Santi
- Defensive tackle Fili Moala
- Center Kyle DeVan
- Tackle Dan Federkeil
- Defensive back Jamie Silva
- Quarterback Curtis Painter
Biggest surprise: The Jaguars continue to be willing to part ways with veterans who disappoint. While their depth is questionable at cornerback, they cut Brian Williams, who’s played corner, safety and nickel for them. Tyron Brackenridge, an offseason waiver claim from the Jets, joins Scott Starks and Brian Witherspoon as the depth with rookie Derek Cox likely to start opposite Rashean Mathis. Two undrafted players made it -- defensive end Julius Williams and linebacker Russell Allen, while expensive veteran offensive lineman Tony Pashos did not.
No-brainers: Nate Hughes was productive all through camp and in his preseason action and on a team that drafted three receivers and brought in Torry Holt, he still had to make it. He stayed and could start, while the third of the drafted wideouts, Tiquan Underwood, was cut. Ernest Wilford, brought back recently when he was let go in Miami, made the team as a tight end ahead of Richard Angulo, who was seen by some as “just a guy.”
What's next: Backup quarterback was going to be one big concern, but the team dealt an undisclosed draft pick to Tampa Bay for Josh McCown. Todd Bouman will likely be gone once McCown passes his physical. With fullback Greg Jones likely to be the top alternative for carries to Maurice Jones-Drew and rookie Rashad Jennings the only other running back on the roster after Alvin Pearman and Chauncey Washington were cut, the team is thin at the spot. Expect a practice squader, or two, at least.
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|The Jaguars know they want to give the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew and run the ball often. Beyond that, however, Jacksonville is still searching for an identity. |
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars always intend to be physical.
Beyond that, coach Jack Del Rio isn't looking to shoehorn his team into a predetermined personality.
"What it was when we got here with Marcus Stroud and John Henderson was the Twin Towers," he said. "And that got talked up quite a bit, and now that's changing. Marcus is not here. That's kind of not been what we are. What we are gets described by other people. What I want us to be is a team that works at it, shows tremendous commitment, focus, unselfishness and then we see how people want to label it.
"I'm not concerned with putting a label on it now and then living up to it."
Still, the Jaguars must answer the most basic NFL questions, the ones that provide the fallback plan when things are difficult: Who are we? And what do we do?
They will be a run-centered team, keyed around trying to build big drives with good line play from a group that's healthy and has reinforcements and looks to spring feature back Maurice Jones-Drew. They will be a linebacker-centered team, looking for three athletes to start showing up as big playmakers.
Beyond that, a 5-11 team from 2008 that has a new general manager in Gene Smith and 32 new players on the roster is still feeling things out, and could be for a while.
That search isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's ultimately fruitful.
"The team identity right now, I really can't answer that question," said Greg Jones, the fullback who's expected to get carries behind Jones-Drew. "I think if you ask me a month from now, a week into the season, I probably can. I think we are still trying to find ourselves, we are still trying to get this train going. We still are working towards it, working hard. We're rejuvenated, and excited about a fresh start. New logo, new uniforms, new GM -- we're just trying to have a fresh start and a great year."
Del Rio's positive disposition comes from the roster turnover. Gone are the team's primary character issues and high-paid players who didn't live up to their contracts. Smith's worked with his coach to retool with high-character guys who have good football smarts, who will buy in and fight through tough times.
In a division where the other three teams won at a .688 clip in 2007, the Jaguars aren't expecting Tennessee, Indianapolis or Houston to come back to them. Ultimately, they will have to track those teams down.
"This team has been flipped upside-down," defensive tackle Derek Landri said. "Everybody is searching themselves for who they are, who they want to be and what they want to accomplish in this league. As a whole, our identity is yet to be made, yet to be found.
"Which is, I think, a scary thing but in a good way. Because nobody really knows what we're capable of. I think we've got something special here that is up and coming, and for a lot of people that's bad news. It's good news for us."
|Steve Mitchell/US Presswire|
|Can David Garrard prove this season he is the team's franchise quarterback?|
1. Is David Garrard the guy?
Two years into his tenure as the starter, the question is unresolved. In 2007, he was 9-3 as a starter with a 102.2 passer rating. Last year, behind a broken line and with shaky weapons, he was 5-11 with an 81.7 rating.
The Jaguars don't want him to try to carry the team, just to orchestrate things. He talks of getting the ball into his playmakers' hands. But at crucial moments, can he make the right decisions and throw the ball to the right spots?
If he can't, the franchise will be looking for a quarterback in 2010 and Tim Tebow's name will ring out in Jacksonville from just 115 miles away in Gainesville.
2. Where's the pass rush coming from?
The Jaguars traded up for Derrick Harvey at No. 8 in 2007 and drafted Quentin Groves in the second round. They are trying to spark Henderson back to form while sifting through the options for the rest of the defense tackles. Collectively, they must generate a consistent pass rush that alleviates pressure on the secondary and allows linebackers the team keeps praising to start making plays regularly.
Maybe there is a surprise contributor or two. Undrafted rookie Julius Williams out of UConn drew early raves.
3. How will J
ones-Drew do as the No. 1 guy?
In letting Fred Taylor go, Jacksonville was opening more possibilities for MJD. The Jaguars will work hard to get the most out of Jones-Drew, but they also must be conscious of monitoring his workload to maximize the chances of getting the same November and December production as they get in September and October.
That means Jones or rookie Rashard Jennings or another back must prove a viable second option who can take a share of the running back touches on a weekly basis.
The company line is that third-year free safety Reggie Nelson is entrenched as a starter and set to be a key cog in the defensive scheme. But there was a big drop from his first season to his second.
There is a growing buzz among some close to the team and scouts that Nelson isn't the player the team hoped he would be and could even slip out of the starting 11 if he underperforms once the season is under way. Gerald Alexander arrived recently in a trade from Detroit and could make a push for the job if Nelson doesn't recover and find better footing. Still, it's hard to imagine he doesn't get a third season to prove himself.
Newcomer to watch
The Jaguars gave the Patriots a 2010 second-rounder to take cornerback Derek Cox out of William & Mary in the third round. With no clear starter opposite Rashean Mathis on the outside in the secondary, Cox has an early opportunity to stake a claim.
He was carrying himself with confidence early in camp and already working to break a habit he brought from college: a tendency to refocus on the quarterback too soon, giving a receiver a chance to break away.
Kicker Josh Scobee was hitting the ball great in the first week of camp, a good sign for a team likely to win close when it wins. ... Of the three rookie receivers, seventh-rounder Tiquan Underwood has been the most impressive. Meanwhile, fifth-rounder Jarret Dillard has struggled with drops. ... Tackle Tony Pashos reacted just the way a team that drafted two tackles and brought in a free agent (Tra Thomas) would want him to. He lost weight, re-committed and looks quite good. ... Defensive tackle Rob Meier will give great effort, but the team realizes it overextended him last season and will limit him to 20-25 plays a game. ... Left guard Vince Manuwai didn't have a full load early in camp but will be ready to go in the opener. The loss of the line's best run-blocker to a torn ACL in last year's opener began the team's downfall. ... Justin Durant has moved to middle linebacker and it's time for him. Between him, and the outside backers, Clint Ingram and Daryl Smith, a defensive leader must emerge and set a tone. ... While they know they can shift him to safety if they need to, the Jaguars are working Brian Williams at cornerback and nickel and expecting him to be in one of those spots or provide depth there. ... Receiver Mike Walker worked in the weight room on his legs and is confident he can keep them healthy. Now the question is whether he gave up any of his shiftiness by bulking up below the waist. ... Marcedes Lewis is best on routes where he can track the ball the whole way instead of having to find it. If he can catch more consistently, he can do some things after the reception. And yards after the catch may be key for this team considering deep balls aren't Garrard's specialty.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
- Antonio Smith thinks the Texans are playoff bound, writes Brian McTaggart.
- Complaints from Houston about a lack of national coverage pause briefly as people read this Jeff Chadiha piece on Steve Slaton.
- Marlin Jackson and Mike Hart are working their way back from knee injuries, says Mike Chappell.
- Jackson talks about defensive changes under new coordinator Larry Coyer, says John Oehser.
- Bill Polian says lawyers are still sorting through the possibilities for Tom Moore and Howard Mudd as consultants, writes Oehser.
- Who's set up for a better 2009: Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? Don Banks considers the question.
- Are things finally over for Mike Vanderjagt?
- Jaguars.com looks at undrafted rookie defensive end Julius Williams.