AFC South: Justin Durant

The Colts often develop linebackers, then let them walk, hesitant to reinvest.

When Mike Peterson left in 2003, they got to see him twice annually for six years as a member of the Jaguars. When David Thornton bolted in 2006, they got to play against him as a member of the division rival Titans.

Bill Polian offered a classic quote after one of those early matchups against Thornton on Tennessee, saying the Colts' best linebacker was wearing No. 55 for the other team.

Is Indianapolis about to endure another chapter of losing a quality linebacker to a rival?

Tania Ganguli reports that the Jaguars are in serious talks with Clint Session.

Session is an explosive player the Colts missed last season after a serious elbow injury knocked him out of the lineup. He likely has not played his best football yet.

The Jaguars already have struck a deal with Buffalo free-agent middle linebacker Paul Posluszny.

Session would be in line to replace Jacksonville free agent Justin Durant.

If the Jaguars started a lineup with Daryl Smith and Session flanking Posluszny, they’d likely have the best linebacking corps in the division, although Houston would want to argue it.

I’m guessing a one-time NFL linebacker named Jack Del Rio is liking the sound of that.

Scoring and tracking free agents

July, 26, 2011
Our free-agent tracker is up and running. Sort through the available talent pool by team or by Scouts Inc. grade. If you’re an Insider, you can also get a scouting report.

I scanned though it for guys in the division who Scouts Inc. believes rate a 75 or better plugging into its rating scale:

90-100: Elite Player

Player demonstrates rare abilities and can create mismatches that have an obvious impact on the game. ... Premier NFL player who has all the skills to consistently play at a championship level. ... Rates as one of the top players at his position in the league.

80-89: Outstanding Player

Player has abilities to create mismatches versus most opponents in the NFL. ... A feature player who has an impact on the outcome of the game. ... Cannot be shut down by a single player and plays on a consistent level week in and week out.

70-79: Good Starter

Solid starter who is close to being an outstanding player. ... Has few weaknesses and usually will win his individual matchup but does not dominate in every game, especially when matched up against the top players in the league.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC South team:

Houston Texans

1. Finally fix the secondary: Not only was the Texans’ secondary awful in coverage last season, but it also needs some stabilizing veteran leadership on the back end of this revamped defense. A safety like Eric Weddle could help cure both issues. There are quite a few safeties in this crop of free agents who would be clear upgrades for Houston. Of course, we have to discuss Nnamdi Asomugha -- and the Texans should certainly be right in the thick of those negotiations. If they can’t land Asomugha, the Texans could pursue Johnathan Joseph or Ike Taylor, who could help fix some leaks.

2. Work the cap: Houston is pretty tight up against the cap as it stands right now. But the team has serious needs on defense -- particularly in the secondary. In order to get the help they need, the Texans might have to restructure a few contracts or let a current player or two go.

3. Lock up Vonta Leach: This offense pretty much has it all. Wideout Andre Johnson makes everyone around him better in just so many ways. And the running game was exceptional last season. But Leach is a key component in that running game. And no fullback opens holes like this guy. Houston should bring him back and dedicate the rest of its free-agent moves to the defense.

Top five free agents: Leach, WR Jacoby Jones, S Bernard Pollard, DE Mark Anderson and QB Matt Leinart.

Indianapolis Colts

1. Get Peyton Manning’s extension done: Manning has been franchised and had surgery again on his neck recently. But there is little doubt who the face of this franchise is. Getting him locked up long term is something that Indianapolis just needs to get done.

2. Get a starting safety signed: Melvin Bullitt is a free agent. He is a solid player, and bringing him back makes a lot of sense. Outside of Antoine Bethea, who is vastly underrated, Indy has very little at this position. The Colts need to get a starter under contract. Also on defense, bringing back linebacker Clint Session, who is a superb fit in this scheme, and adding defensive tackle help also should be priorities if they can fit it under the cap.

3. Add running back help: This could come in the form of bringing back the reliable Joseph Addai. Well, he is reliable when he is healthy. And Addai has a great grasp of the Colts’ offense. I am very high on 2011 draft pick Delone Carter and maybe the light goes on for Donald Brown. But the Colts do need someone in their backfield who can pass protect and can be trusted. In this capacity, Addai seems to be worth more to the Colts than to any other team.

Top five free agents: Manning (franchised), Session, Addai, Bullitt and OT Charlie Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Address holes at linebacker: Linebackers Justin Durant and Kirk Morrison are up for free agency. I would suggest bringing one of those two back and then finding an upgrade from a coverage standpoint at a starting linebacker position to go along with the steady Daryl Smith. James Anderson would be an excellent target, and if healthy, so would another Panther -- Thomas Davis.

2. Address holes at safety: Jacksonville featured one of the worst secondaries in football last season. The Jags tried many bodies at safety, but it yielded minimal results. This is a very strong free-agent safety class, and the Jaguars need to add a starter or two they can count on week after week.

3. Spend! The Jaguars have quite a bit of money to spend in free agency, and under the new rules, they will have to spend. This free-agency period is like none we have ever seen and the action could be fast and furious. Jacksonville needs to stay the course and make wise financial decisions as it tries to add players who can mostly upgrade a hurting defense.

Top free agents: Marcedes Lewis (franchised), WR Mike Sims-Walker, Durant and Morrison.

Tennessee Titans

1. Revamp the Interior offensive line: Although they didn’t play great in 2010, I have faith in the Titans’ offensive tackles. But the interior of the line is a train wreck. That won’t do with a rookie quarterback behind center and in an offense that will be extremely run-heavy. Chris Johnson had little room to run last season. That needs to change. Marshal Yanda and Harvey Dahl would be great targets here.

2. Add a veteran quarterback: Needless to say, the Titans cannot enter the season with just the quarterbacks they currently have on their roster. They must bring in a veteran with some experience. Donovan McNabb would be high on my list. Matt Hasselbeck might also fit the bill.

3. Fortify every level of the defense: Presently, Tennessee is very young at linebacker, just adequate at safety and could lose three of its defensive ends. Making matters more difficult, the team is also installing a different version of the 4-3 defense. The Titans do have some money to spend in free agency. It would be wise if they used those funds on young free-agent talent, as it appears this team is now rebuilding from the ground up. Every level of the defense could use reinforcement.

Top five free agents: DE Jason Babin, LB Stephen Tulloch, WR Randy Moss, DE Dave Ball and DE Jacob Ford.

RTC: Gabbert faces long odds to start

July, 15, 2011
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Titans cornerback Kareem Jackson was No. 6 on Bill Barnwell's list of the 25 least valuable players in the NFL.'s Kerry J. Byrne makes the case for the Texans going after Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Saturday joined the contingent of player representatives and owners meeting at a Manhattan law firm to try to overcome the remaining obstacles to ending the fourth-month-long lockout.

With Donald Brown being the only Colts running back under contract, 2011 fourth-round draft pick Delonte Carter could have a significant role early in his career. "I just want to take my role and expand it by any means possible," Carter told Pro Football Weekly.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Coach Jack Del Rio acknowledged during a recent interview with WFXJ-AM that the lockout has compromised Blaine Gabbert's chances of competing for the starting job. has the full transcript of the interview.

Linebacker Justin Durant could be a target of the Detroit Lions once free agency begins.

Derrick Harvey and David Jones also made Barnwell's list of the 25 least valuable players in the NFL.

Rookie safety Chris Prosinski has spent the offseason in his hometown of Buffalo, Wyo., working out as often as possible and trying to "keep as much structure as I can on a day-to-day basis," according to Pro Football Weekly.

Tennessee Titans

With Kerry Collins out of the picture, the Titans will look to add a veteran quarterback. Coach Mike Munchak: "We’re not looking for a guy that’s not capable of starting and winning games for us. We need someone that can come in here and win, and then have a nice competition between him and Jake Locker and Rusty [Smith]."

Munchak said Collins was undervalued as a player. “He was great to have around, not just for young quarterbacks, but for all of us on the offensive side. People never realized the value of someone like him on your roster," Munchak said.
If the new CBA takes the shape that’s currently being reported, unrestricted free agency would arrive after four years. That was the standard number for players with expired contracts to hit free agency until 2010 -- the final year of the old CBA -- when players needed to have six years of experience.

So Independence Day could arrive for players who were trapped by the rule change in the final year of the last deal.

Here’s a team-by-team look at notable players who stand to be unrestricted now who didn’t know what their fate would be in a new labor agreement.

Houston Texans

OT Rashad Butler -- Was not great playing filling in for four games for a suspended Duane Brown, but they like him as their third tackle.

WR Jacoby Jones -- Flashes make him appealing, inconsistency makes him dispensable if someone wants to pay him more.

QB Matt Leinart -- Likely to move on to a place where he can rank better than No. 3.

Indianapolis Colts

RB Joseph Addai -- Has more value to the Colts because of system fit, so perhaps he won’t get a more attractive offer elsewhere.

S Melvin Bullitt -- There are a lot of safety-needy teams in the league, including the other three in the AFC South and he’s very steady.

DT Antonio Johnson -- Probably would only rank fourth on the inside. Has not been real effective but team seems to like him.

OL Charlie Johnson-- Versatility makes him valuable, but like Addai he may not fit other teams as well.

DT Daniel Muir -- Could still rank as the second interior lineman depending on development of third-round pick Drake Nevis.

LB Clint Session -- The Colts have a long history of letting young linebackers move on and plugging in the next guy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

LB Justin Durant -- All indications are the team is ready to find a veteran linebacker in free agency to take his place.

QB Trent Edwards -- No hope of a return with David Garrard, Blaine Gabbert and Luke McCown on the roster.

TE Marcedes Lewis -- He’s franchise tagged and that’s expected to hold in the new agreement, so he won’t really become free.

P Adam Podlesh -- They could do better, they could do worse.

WR Mike Sims-Walker -- The team told him before the lockout they’d be going another direction.

Tennessee Titans

DE Jacob Ford -- The Titans know his situational pass rushing value but are also looking to beef up and emphasize stopping the run.

FB Ahmard Hall -- An important guy for Chris Johnson and a rock on a team with little leadership even if he’s not an every-down guy.

G Leroy Harris -- The team’s faith in him as the starter at left guard appears to be unwavering.

LB Stephen Tulloch -- I suspect his view of his value and the league’s view are quite different.
I find the incumbent AFC South linebacker crop a largely unimpressive bunch.

A healthy DeMeco Ryans is excellent, as is Gary Brackett. Mario Williams is now a linebacker, so we need to mention him. Daryl Smith is beloved by the Jaguars staff but not everyone’s reviews of him line up with the team's. I think he’s good, but I don’t notice he's consistently great. [LATE ADDITION: Football Outsiders says Smith was especially good at third-down stops in 2010.]

Others who deserve singling out: Brian Cushing (see previous post) and Clint Session.

Two second-rounders will have a chance to make an impact, Akeem Ayres in Tennessee and Brooks Reed in Houston.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. reviews the division’s linebackers in an Insider piece Monday. We’ve gotten clearance to do some sharing and offer a bit of his team-by-team review in the same order he ranks the groups.


“To me, Cushing is the prototypical strongside linebacker in a 4-3. He will be asked to play inside next to Ryans in the 3-4, but he is an inside/outside 'tweener in this odd front. He isn't the dynamic edge pass-rusher for the outside and he is cut a little high to take on blocks from the interior. You could certainly do worse than Cushing -- especially if he regains his 2010 form -- but he isn't a natural fit. Cushing does have a very good feel for coverage for such a young linebacker. Expect Wade Phillips to move him around quite a bit."


“Last year's second-round pick, Pat Angerer, showed well as a rookie and looks like a starter for years to come, either on the strong side or in the middle if Brackett were to go down or further decline. Angerer is far from a finished product, though, and his route-recognition skills and ability to turn and run with elusive running backs and tight ends is questionable. He might only be a two-down linebacker.”


“The Titans' best linebacker, Stephen Tulloch, is up for free agency, and after they selected two linebackers in the draft it doesn't appear the Titans will bring him back. Still, losing Tulloch would be a huge blow to this defense, especially against the run. Few play the run as well as Tulloch, and he is sure to command a lot of money for a guy who really is best suited to be a two-down linebacker. Tulloch was a major reason the Titans were the best defense in the division against the run last season.”


“After struggling early on, [Kirk] Morrison played well in the middle, especially as a run defender. But by the looks of its draft class, it seems Jacksonville is building for tomorrow, which might make Morrison more valuable to another team. [Justin] Durant has plenty of ability, but he has been too inconsistent with the Jaguars. Still, if Jacksonville -- or his next team for that matter -- could improve Durant's coverage recognition and overall skills, he could be a heck of a linebacker. Bringing him back would make some sense for the Jaguars, even if only as a two-down player.”
What wasn’t addressed in the draft and could be a free agency focus for the Jaguars:

Linebacker: The team didn’t think it was a great draft for linebackers, but clearly has plans to address the position in free agency. The Jaguars could be looking to add two as it doesn’t appear Kirk Morrison or Justin Durant are in their plans going forward. The line gets a lot of blame for the lack of rush and the secondary takes the fall for the pass coverage, but an upgrade at linebacker can have an affect on both.

Defensive end: It’s not easy to find an edge rusher, but a lot of us figured they’d land one in a draft that was loaded with them. They went other directions, and now can still use someone who will add pass pressure and be a final piece of the defensive line rebuild.

Defensive back: They added a free safety in Chris Prosinski and a nickel corner type in Rod Issac. Odds are that’s not the end of the moves in the defensive backfield. Safety is more pressing to me still. Relying on Courtney Greene and Prosinski would be asking a lot, and a veteran in the mix could be a boost. Overall the team could still add two to four players on defense.

If things revert to 2010 rules ...

March, 14, 2011
If the NFLPA wins an injunction that stops the lockout, Mark Maske reports the NFL’s intent will be to stay with to the rules of 2010 -- with no salary cap and tougher criteria for free agency.

If players need six years instead of four to be unrestricted, it will hold back some key players in the AFC South, restricting their ability to move and tying them to restricted free-agent tender offers.

The Titans and Texans officially announced their tenders, the Colts had several reported and all indications were the Jaguars, who had only a couple candidates, stayed away from the process.

Who will be held back in such a scenario?

It would be a great landscape for the Colts.

Here’s a team by team look at how 2010 rules could affect 2011 teams:


The team would control the movement of four players it likes: Receiver Jacoby Jones, defensive end Mark Anderson, offensive tackle Rashad Butler and quarterback Matt Leinart.

Jones is a player they would like to keep, and while he did not pan out last season the way they hoped, retaining him could eliminate or reduce the one need we can find when looking through their depth chart -- a potentially dynamic receiver beyond Andre Johnson.

Leinart was a third stringer behind Matt Schaub and Dan Orlovsky. But he could have value in a league where a lot of teams have holes at quarterback.


The Colts will fare far better at holding their roster together in this scenario, as it gives them extended control of six players who could hit the market if four years of service was the standard: running back Joseph Addai, offensive lineman Charlie Johnson, defensive tackles Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir, strong safety Melvin Bullitt and linebacker Clint Session.

Five of those players could be in the starting lineup on opening day and all of them would play significant roles. Bullitt and Session are the most likely to be attractive to other teams if they come free, and Bullitt could create a hole the team would have to address through the draft or free agency.


The two key players the team could hold on to with a tender would be linebacker Justin Durant and punter Adam Podlesh. But all indications were the team didn’t give either a tender offer.


I expect the team will be happy to hold on to fullback Ahmard Hall and guard Leroy Harris. Though Harris was part of interior line issues last season, his position coach, Mike Munchak, is now his head coach and has said he believes those issues can be fixed by the incumbents. Hall was not as good in 2010 as he’d been, but is a good blocker who’s a respected leader.

Jacob Ford could be the sort of guy the Titans move away from as they’ve talked of beefing up at defensive end, but they tagged him.

No one in the division will be more upset to see things pan out this way that middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who was unhappy he didn’t reach the market last season. I think he’d feel like a prisoner if he’s back under a tag without a long-term deal. I also suspect, even with 32 teams as possibilities, he wouldn’t land the deal he thinks he would.

Draft Watch: AFC South

March, 10, 2011
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Needs.

Houston Texans

Where to start? The defense needs a major personnel infusion, starting at safety, where this draft is weak. Eugene Wilson (cut) and Bernard Pollard (not tendered in case he would be restricted) are not going to be back. They need candidates for both starting spots.

Outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 is a void, where rehabbing 4-3 end Connor Barwin is slated to be one guy and there is a blank on the other.

The team has talked confidently about Shaun Cody, who got a two-year contract, and second-year man Earl Mitchell being capable of playing the nose for Phillips. They can certainly upgrade.

The best answer for a group of too-young cornerbacks would be a veteran, not a rookie, but who knows how the next guy arrives? And a No. 2 wide receiver better than Kevin Walter who can do what they’d hoped Jacoby Jones would do would be nice.

Indianapolis Colts

We’ve been hearing about the need to get a tough yard in a crucial situation with the run game for some time and haven’t seen the personnel changes necessary. Then Bill Polian said during the season that yes, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold (drafted by the Rams in the second round) could have helped the Colts. The team needs offensive linemen, plural. At least one high-quality guy who can contribute from opening day would be big.

When they're healthy, Indianapolis has a great four-pack of receivers in Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez. But health questions on Collie and Gonzalez will linger; none of those guys looks to be an heir to Wayne’s role, and the Peyton Manning-era Colts have spent premium picks on skill guys.

The corner depth proved pretty good, but even if they are ultimately able to re-sign Melvin Bullitt, the Colts need some depth at safety.

Jacksonville Jaguars

While Courtney Greene may be a serviceable NFL safety, Don Carey probably is not. Odds are the Jaguars draft one and sign one at a position that was a big weakness in 2010.

Linebacker is also a spot of need. Daryl Smith is locked in, but the team probably will allow Kirk Morrison and Justin Durant to walk as free agents, meaning they need a starter on the middle and the outside.

Defensive end wouldn’t seem a need considering the team drafted Larry Hart and Austen Lane last season after adding veteran Aaron Kampman. But the pass rush is not where they want it, and a rush end could well be a position they address.

Inconsistent quarterback David Garrard needs to see the team have a legitimate alternative, and he should come from this draft. And those two quarterbacks plus Luke McCown need a No. 1-caliber receiver to head a group that won’t bring Mike Sims-Walker back.

Tennessee Titans

It starts under center, where the Titans do not have a No. 1 or No. 2 quarterback. They intend to add one veteran and one rookie and could easily spend their first or second pick on a signal-caller.

The team needs to get bigger and more durable on the defensive line. A beefy tackle and a rugged defensive end are on the wish list, and both could help make things easier for the rest of the defense. The interior didn’t collapse the pocket a lot, and the smallish ends wore down. Three of them are heading for free agency -- Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford.

Stephen Tulloch is heading for free agency, and the Titans didn’t get enough plays out of the linebackers last year, so they could upgrade.

Chris Hope’s replacement at strong safety doesn’t appear to be on the roster. While it’s a thin draft at the spot, the Titans need to find a candidate.
With the season over for the AFC South, I thought I’d collect all the decisive moments we highlighted on Tuesdays.

You were giant contributors to this weekly award with your responses to my weekly post seeking input. I appreciate that.

So I'm going to ask for your feedback on this once more -- let's sort through the 17 moments recapped below and debate the merits of the one you think outranks the rest.

Make your case in the comments here or in a note to my mailbag. I will sort through what you have to say and revisit this to award the AFC South Decisive Moment of 2010.

If it's a positive play, think how much that trophy or plaque may mean to the winner? And you'll have influenced the selection. So powerful.

Here's a quick refresher course. Feel free to click through them all to assist in your recollection.

Week 1-- Houston running back Arian Foster's fourth-and-1 conversion in the Texans’ win over the Colts.

Week 2 -- Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson's 34-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-10 late in regulation during the Texans' overtime win at Washington.

Week 3-- Titans safety Michael Griffin's downing of a New York Giants’ punt at the goal line that set up the Titans for a quick nine points.

Week 4 -- The pass interference penalty against Titans safety Chris Hope that gave Denver 49 yards and set the Broncos up for a winning touchdown.

Week 5 -- Titans return man Marc Mariani's 74-yard kickoff return that set up Tennessee’s go-ahead touchdown last in Dallas.

Week 6 -- Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown catch with 28 seconds left that gave the Texans a win over Kansas City.

Week 7-- Titans defensive tackle Jason Jones and cornerback Alterraun Verner combining on a forced fumble and recovery deep in Titans territory to help keep the Titans in range of the Eagles.

Week 8 -- Jacksonville linebacker Justin Durant's big goal-line stop that capped a goal line stand against the Cowboys and preserved the Jaguars’ lead.

Week 9 -- Michael Vick of the Eagles keyed two plays that converted a second-and-26 for Philadelphia in its win over Indianapolis.

Week 10 -- Jaguars safety Sean Considine's hit and forced fumble on Houston tight end Joel Dreessen that was recovered by Durant and allowed for the Hail Mary pass that won the game for Jacksonville.

Week 11-- The Jaguars defense made a big stand and forced a three-and-out by Cleveland late in Jacksonville’s win over the Browns.

Week 12-- Kassim Osgood's offensive pass interference penalty on a short throw to Mike Thomas that did a lot to stall the Jaguars against the Giants.

Week 13 -- Reggie Wayne's drop in overtime that forced a Colts’ punt and gave the ball to the Cowboys, blowing a chance to move to the winning points.

Week 14 -- Osgood’s forced fumble and Montell Owens' recovery that set up the Jaguars for a go-ahead touchdown against Oakland.

Week 15 -- The Titans two fourth-down conversions and a fourth-down stop of the Texans in a Tennessee win over Houston.

Week 16-- Jacksonville return man Deji Karim's mishandling of the overtime kickoff against Washington left the Jaguars pinned deep and helped lead to a David Garrard interception that lost the game.

Week 17 -- Indianapolis receiver Blair White's 20-yard catch of a Peyton Manning pass that helped the Colts take advantage of a late Titans’ turnover and kick a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Greetings from Lucas Oil Stadium

December, 19, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- Greetings from Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s cold out, and the roof is closed as you’d expect.

The Colts are holding Kelvin Hayden (neck) out, which means Justin Tryon at left cornerback. Kavell Conner will be at weakside linebacker for the injured Clint Session and Donald Brown starts for Joseph Addai.

Austin Collie (concussion) is active and could be a huge piece to this game. Jerry Hughes is healthy but inactive.

The Jaguars are healthier, but without two starters on defense. Linebacker Justin Durant will be replaced by Russell Allen, but Allen won’t be part of the nickel package we will see a bunch that brings William Middleton on the field. Safety Sean Considine fills in again for Courtney Greene, and the Jaguars endure a drop-off there in sure tackling.

I tweeted this picture of the view from my seat. But don’t worry, I have binoculars.

The complete inactive lists:

Jaguars: QB Todd Bouman, WR John Matthews, WR Tiquan Underwood, Greene, Durant, OT Daniel Baldridge, DE Aaron Morgan, DT Nate Collins.

Colts: Hayden, Addai, RB Mike Hart, Session, G Jamey Richard, G Jacques McClendon, G Jaimie Thomas, Hughes.

AFC South Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Jaguars wouldn't have had the chance for David Garrard's Hail Mary pass to be knocked down by Glover Quin to Mike Thomas for the game-winning touchdown if the Jaguars hadn't gotten a huge takeaway just before that.

After tight end Joel Dreessen's false start backed them up and Matt Schaub threw an incomplete pass, the Texans faced a hopeless situation: Third-and-15 from the Jaguars’ 45-yard line with 16 seconds left and no timeouts.

They needed about 10 yards to give Neil Rackers a chance at a field goal, and coach Gary Kubiak said Monday they were basically playing for overtime there because that gain would have taken too long to be able to get the field goal team out.

They ran a play anyway, and Kubiak said Schaub went to the right place with the ball. He found Dreessen over the middle for an 8-yard gain, but Sean Considine hit him as he turned upfield and stripped the ball. Justin Durant recovered.

Garrard then hit Marcedes Lewis for an 11-yard gain to set up the final-play heroics.

Considine played 11 plays on defense as part of a dime package.

Bye Report: Jacksonville Jaguars

November, 4, 2010
Our 10-point bye report on the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Major issue: Inconsistency. They looked great in wins over Dallas and Indianapolis and did what they needed to against Denver and Buffalo. But they were terrible against San Diego, Philadelphia, Tennessee and Kansas City. To have a chance in the AFC South, the Jaguars will have to be a steadier team in the second half.

Playmaker update: Marcedes Lewis has been outstanding with seven touchdowns in 25 receptions and Mike Thomas is developing well and leads the team in catches. Still, this team needs to develop the stable of guys beyond Maurice-Jones Drew to consistently threaten a defense.

Protection issues: David Garrard plays a lot better when he’s well protected, and the pass protection has been up and down. Right tackle Eben Britton is out for the season, replaced by Jordan Black. In the Dallas game, Vince Manuwai may have wrestled the left guard spot away from Justin Smiley.

Score more: The Jaguars have been outscored 226-165. Jack Del Rio has said a blowout or close loss are the same to him, but they shouldn’t be. Playing well in a loss is much healthier than playing poorly. The only teams with worse point differentials are Buffalo, Arizona, Carolina and Denver. That’s not who you want to be bunched with.

Automatic: Josh Scobee is a perfect 19-for-19 on field goals, and nine of them have been from 40 yards or longer. He’s the only kicker in the league with more than six attempts who’s perfect. And his 59-yarder to win the Colts game on the final play was a kick he’ll have a hard time topping in his career.

Safety concerns: They’ve played them all -- trading one away and cutting another, twice -- and are going with kids Courtney Greene and Don Carey right now. It’s good experience for them, but it’s hard to imagine that this spot won't a huge offseason project. All the uncertainty at safety has made things harder on cornerbacks Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and David Jones, who haven’t always been as bad as they have looked at their low moments.

Star performance: Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 4.0 yards a carry, but he actually has more passing touchdowns (two) than touchdown runs (one). He’s got two games over 100 yards and two games under 50. Deji Karim seems to have the coaches’ confidence and can lighten some of MJD's load to ensure he’s as healthy as possible late in the season.

Developing well: Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu are developing into a top-flight interior defensive line tandem. Knighton is remarkably quick for a gigantic man and is a handful for multiple blockers. Alualu penetrates well and is getting better week to week. We’ll mention outside linebacker Justin Durant here, too. He’s played great since returning from an ankle injury.

About those blackouts: Turn your attention to San Diego and Oakland, please. The Jaguars have played four home games and they’ve been on local TV four times. They have issues, but drawing enough people to ensure they’re seen on TV has not been one of them to this point.

What’s to come: Out of the bye, the Jags have home games against Houston and Cleveland. They need good results there, because trips to the Giants and Titans follow.

AFC South Week 8 decisive moment

November, 2, 2010
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Cowboys were poised to cut into the Jaguars’ 14-3 lead and head into intermission with things turned around.

But in four downs starting at the Jacksonville 9-yard line, Dallas couldn’t break through.

Miles Austin caught a pass out of bounds. On the next play, Jon Kitna ran for 8 yards. Then Marion Barber ran off right guard and was stopped by Daryl Smith and Kirk Morrison.

On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Barber ran off left tackle and the same duo of linebackers stuffed him.

I’m not sure, however, that Barber’s second or third effort wouldn’t have broken the plane if Justin Durant had not run down the line and made the final push to rebuff the effort.

A booth challenge was upheld and the Jaguars went into the locker room fired up. They returned and built on their 11-point lead to win with ease, 35-17.

AFC South injury index

October, 6, 2010
Through four games, let’s check in with our four teams on the health front. We’ll go in order from the team in best shape to the team in worst shape …

1) Houston Texans

Rookie running back Ben Tate was lost for the year in the preseason. Andre Johnson’s dealt with an ankle sprain that’s meant he missed a game, and Owen Daniels doesn’t seem to be back to himself after ACL surgery. He had a hamstring injury on top of that. Jacoby Jones now has a calf issue. Eugene Wilson’s hamstring injury opened the door for Troy Nolan, who shined in Oakland. Overall, health hasn’t been a huge issue for the division-leaders.

2) Tennessee Titans

The Titans have the depth to handle missed games by ends William Hayes and Jacob Ford, but a season-ending ACL injury for Derrick Morgan means they are down to four-deep at the spot. Cornerback Alterraun Verner will get at least a few more starts with Jason McCourty (arm) out. Receiver Justin Gage (hamstring) could be out a bit going forward, which could open a door for Damian Williams or Lavelle Hawkins. They can’t complain at this point.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars

Second-round defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith was lost for the year in the preseason with an Achilles injury, and backup quarterback Luke McCown is out for the year after tearing an ACL in relief work. Receiver Jarret Dillard and kick returner Scotty McGee are also out for the year, while punt returner Deji Karim (thumb) has yet to play. Linebacker Justin Durant’s been out of action the past two weeks with an ankle injury. Not ideal, but nothing killer.

4) Indianapolis Colts

Bob Sanders (biceps) is out until at least November and Melvin Bullitt will soon have season-ending shoulder surgery. That puts a huge strain on the team at strong safety. Anthony Gonzalez hurt an ankle in Week 1 and hasn’t been back, and Pierrre Garcon’s got a hamstring injury that’s cost him games. The Colts have been thinned out at receiver. Clint Session missed a couple games with a hamstring, and one backup, Ramon Humber, is done for the year, as is return man Devin Moore (brachial injury). Charlie Johnson’s played with a bad foot and missed one game. Depth is being tested in a big way, again.