AFC South: Kevin Kolb

The Tennessee Titans have serious crushes on the top quarterbacks in this draft.

They love Geno Smith; they don’t see how a team can pass on him. Matt Barkley? He’s tremendous. The Bills would be crazy not to draft Ryan Nassib, and the Titans aren’t thinking second round, though that would be OK.

No, the Titans aren’t in the market for themselves.

At No. 10, Tennessee could take a guard or a pass-rusher. Of course, the Titans can surprise us with something else entirely. To maximize what they have to choose from, they want stuff coming off the board ahead of them that they aren’t interested in.

And they are completely behind Jake Locker as their starter -- whether you think that’s a smart judgment or not.

So the Titans surely hope their division rival Jacksonville Jaguars find an alternative to Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, that Cleveland’s new regime lacks confidence in Brandon Weeden, that Buffalo isn’t so big on Kevin Kolb and that even with Mark Sanchez and David Garrard the Jets fall in love with another quarterback at No. 9.

I still feel like the most likely scenario is that only one quarterback goes in the top 10, maybe none. Tennessee prefers the over.

The Colts (at No. 24) and the Texans (at No. 27) don’t need the top quarterbacks to disappear quite so soon, but as they aren’t looking for signal-callers, they’d be happy with an early run on the position, too.
Matt Hasselbeck’s been a more valuable influence on Jake Locker and a more important leader for the Tennessee Titans than most people know.

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsWith the Titans for two seasons, veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is now in search of a new team to play for this season.
But the Titans parted ways with him Monday, unable to find common ground that would drive down the quarterback's cap number of $7.5 million.

The move saves the Titans $5.5 million cap dollars but also puts them in the market for a veteran backup behind a starter who’s hardly established.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported that the team spoke to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, recently released by Buffalo, at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Hasselbeck joined the team in 2011 and brought veteran leadership from the quarterback position as the franchise tried to recover from Vince Young.

He was the starter that year ahead of Locker, but the Titans judged Locker to have won the job in 2012. Hasselbeck started five games while Locker dealt with a shoulder injury and played in eight.

I believe both sides agreed the cap number of $7.5 million and a base salary of $5.5 million were too high in the third year of a three-year deal.

The team could not find something with which both sides could be happy -- including, I believe, at least one scenario that meant adding an additional year to the contract.

Will Hasselbeck find a better situation?

The Indianapolis Colts need a backup to replace Drew Stanton, and Hasselbeck probably has a skill set that could fit in Pep Hamilton’s new system featuring West Coast principles. But Hasselbeck would get no work in Indianapolis barring an injury to Andrew Luck.

Buffalo, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Arizona are all unsettled at the quarterback position. But the Eagles and Cardinals may have their candidates for the job already assembled, and I’m not sure the Jaguars will skew older.

Maybe Hasselback gets a look from the Bills or Browns, or maybe he’s a veteran backup solution in a spot like San Francisco.

Other veteran options beyond Fitzpatrick are limited. Jason Campbell and Kevin Kolb are other possibilities. If you don’t like those, the list takes a substantial dip from there.

Tennessee still has third-stringer Rusty Smith, but he’s played in one terrible game and wouldn’t amount to someone Locker could lean on or an alternative the the Titans could count on.

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.
Andrew LuckAP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherAndrew Luck developed as a high school quarterback playing seven-on-seven ball in Texas.

It amounted to fast-break basketball on grass: a summer tournament seven-on-seven football game.

Stratford High School coach Eliot Allen watched it unfold from his usual spot in the back of an end zone, not interacting with the kids representing his school against Dez Bryant and Lufkin High.

Over two 20-minute halves with a running clock, at a furious pace at which he had to throw the ball within four seconds of the snap against coverages that had no concern for the run, Andrew Luck didn’t throw an incomplete pass.

“He’s accuracy was unbelievable,” Allen said. “That one game he didn’t have an incomplete pass. I’ve never see it before or since. He throws such a catchable ball.”

When the Indianapolis Colts inevitably make Luck the first pick in the draft on April 26, the Stanford quarterback will enter the league rated by many scouts and evaluators as the most pro-ready quarterback since John Elway.

While Luck’s refined his remarkable touch as the leader of the Cardinal, he honed it early on in Texas seven-on-seven summer ball. He participated even as a rising ninth-grader, and Allen says Luck easily played 75 such games before moving onto college, contests that were crucial to the early development of good habits and exquisite ball placement.

As coach of Cypress Falls High, David Raffield regularly saw Luck play during the summer, then coached against Stratford in regular season and playoff football during Luck’s junior and senior years.

“Watching Andrew grow and develop into a quarterback was nothing short of amazing,” said Raffield, who now coaches A&M Consolidated High School in College Station. “The seven-on-seven allowed him to really develop his game. When you are out there as a quarterback running the offense, it’s not plays being called by a coach. You’re the guy doing it. You’re becoming your own offensive coordinator. …

“His junior and senior year he had an amazing ability to place the football. The accuracy was phenomenal. He understood pass coverages. It gave him such advantages. I didn’t know he’s wind up being an NFL first-round draft pick, but I knew he was special.”

The summer before Luck’s senior year in 2007, his team finished second in Texas and played in a national tournament in Los Angeles. There, football staffs of high schools from California and Florida coached their players, Allen recalled.

It doesn’t work that way in Texas, where a state organization runs the leagues and tournaments. A high school’s coaches might help arrange leagues, tournaments and officials, but players work under the watch of others. Stratford uses former players from its team as summer ball coaches.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak was a St. Pius X High School (Houston) and Texas A&M quarterback well before seven-on-seven summers started. He joked if he had a chance to play that much, people would have discovered he wasn’t any good.

Klein Kubiak, a former Strake Jesuit High School receiver who graduated in 2009 and now plays at Rice, played in the same district and overlapped with Luck. So as Gary Kubiak followed his son, he saw Luck play in tournaments. He’s also seen just how much the competition and setting have done for Texas signal-callers.

“He was very impressive,” Gary Kubiak said. “I think there is a lot of growth going on in those leagues right now. On a Saturday afternoon, those kids might play six of those games.

“I just think you can’t get enough of those repetitions. It’s almost like having two spring balls. It’s almost gotten a little bit year-round, kind of like baseball.”

Such summer-league play takes place in a lot of states now. But Texas was a pioneer.

So it’s no coincidence that the three top quarterbacks in this draft -- Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill -- are all from Texas.

“Think about these names,” said Tennessee Titans quarterback coach Dowell Loggains, who started at quarterback for Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas, in 1997 and 1998 in both summer seven-on-seven and regular fall football. “Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton, Colt McCoy, Christian Ponder, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Kevin Kolb, Robert Griffin, Case Keenum.

[+] EnlargeDowell Loggains
Danny Murphy/Icon SMITitans QB coach Dowell Loggains attributes the recent influx of quarterbacks from Texas into the NFL to all the extra reps they get.
“I mean it’s huge. That’s why all these Texas high school quarterbacks are coming out and doing really well. They are so much further along than the rest of the states, plus they get 15 dates for spring practice just like a college. They are getting so many more reps than the rest of the country.”

Other states may be taking note and trying to copy, Loggains said. But it’ll be tough for many to match or top Texas because of the facilities and money high school football has in the Lone Star State.

Added ESPN analyst Jon Gruden when asked about Texas’ production of quarterbacks: “Obviously if you go to Texas, you can probably find passing tournaments going on right now, and if they're not going on right now, they'll be going on later this afternoon and for sure tomorrow and the next day. They throw the ball and have organized passing camps more than any place I've ever been.”

Allen said seven-on-seven forces quarterbacks to figure out ways to beat man-to-man coverage with two-deep safeties and that doing so at an early stage of their football careers is invaluable. Against such a look from the secondary in an actual high school game, a quarterback would hand off most of the time.

“You don’t win those games playing defense,” Allen said. “It reveals a quarterback’s accuracy and I don’t think you can simulate stiff coverage in a better way. Andrew was very good at it. He can throw the deep ball. A lot of people give him a hard time about not being able to throw the deep ball. He was great at it. But his deal is, he just wants to get first downs.”

As a high-schooler, Loggains said he thought the summer opportunity was “awesome.”

And it made it a heck of a lot easier to get time and work with receivers, who might not show up for an informal session on a Tuesday night but wouldn’t miss a chance to play in a game with a score and a title on the line.

The proliferation of seven-on-seven play actually influenced the game at all levels.

Coaches found they had quarterbacks equipped to run spread offenses in high school and moved away from traditional run-heavy, defense-centric schemes. They then fed those quarterbacks to colleges, where the spread continued to spread.

And when those quarterbacks landed in the NFL, teams had no choice but to employ some spread concepts, willingly or unwillingly, to try to take advantage of their quarterbacks’ strengths.

“When we had Vince Young, we had to mix in a lot of that with [offensive coordinators] Norm Chow and Mike Heimerdinger,” Loggains said.

Rather than an NFL idea trickling down, a byproduct of a high school idea trickled up.

And one scout I spoke with said he sees no end to it.

“That’s the new craze, the seven-on-seven stuff,” he said. “Texas has been doing it longer and it’s the most organized state. How many good quarterbacks have come out of Texas the last 10 years? A ton. The more reps you get at anything, the better you’ll be at it.

“It’s why I stink so bad at golf.”

Might Reich mean much to Manning?

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Frank Reich doesn’t hold the keys to the kingdom.

But as we take every item we can find that has even a slight connection to Peyton Manning and put it into the equations, Reich comes into play today.

He’s the Arizona Cardinals new wide receivers coach, which is the same position he had in Indianapolis last year after a term as the Colts quarterbacks coach.

Writes NFC West blogger Mike Sando: Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell “affirmed the team's intention to pay a $7 million bonus to incumbent quarterback Kevin Kolb, but his wording left open the possibility things could change." Bidwill cited rules against tampering in discussing Manning specifically.
“On Kolb and the bonus, he said this: ‘You sort of cross bridges as you get there, you know, but I wouldn't say we are going to deviate from the plan at this stage.’
“Hiring Reich only strengthens perceptions the Cardinals will pursue Manning if given the chance. Lots of other teams will likely have interest as well. Whatever edge Reich might offer will belong to the Cardinals.”

RTC: Is Hasselbeck a good fit for Titans?

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Reading the coverage ...

ProFootballFocus.com's Sam Monson and Khaled Elsayed assess the biggest areas of need and which player needs to be re-signed for each AFC South team.

Houston Texans

The team made two hires in its scouting department. The Texans promoted Mike Maccagnan to director of college scouting and named Dale Strahm a national college scout.

SI's Peter King said it would be "a huge mistake if the Houston Texans don’t go after [Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha] hard right out of the shoot” when free agency begins.

Indianapolis Colts

King also weighed in on Peyton Manning's offseason neck surgery: "I don’t think this last surgery he had was a serious surgery, but I think it’s serious that a guy who’s an absolute workout-aholic is not able to have a normal offseason. I don’t think necessarily it’s going to play havoc with how he plays early in the season. But it’s just something to worry about, especially at his age [35].”

Stampede Blue makes the case for the Colts to go after Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield in free agency.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Need more proof the Jaguars' pass defense was wanting in 2010? The team ranked 31st in the league against three-wide receiver sets, according to Football Outsiders.

Tennessee Titans

ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck thinks his brother Matt would be a good fit in Tennessee.

In the debate over who's the better quarterback -- Vince Young or Kevin Kolb -- it comes down to potential versus experience.
Is there less buzz about the upcoming NFL draft than usual?

I certainly think so. The lockout and labor impasse are putting a damper on everything. There has been no free-agency build up. And there won’t be trades involving veteran players.

ESPN Stats & Info’s Mark Malzewski sifted through the past 11 drafts to find all the draft-day trades involving players.

There have been 37 such trades, or 3.4 per draft. That included two deals involving drafted players, and those aren’t allowed this time either. (Think Eli Manning and Philip Rivers in 2004.)

These trades included significant names such as Jason Campbell, Pacman Jones, Randy Moss, Trent Green and Ahman Green.

Last year the Jaguars gave up a fourth-round pick to Oakland for linebacker Kirk Morrison and a fifth-rounder.

We’ll see no such movement in this draft and it certainly takes away one layer of intrigue. Allow trades for veterans in this draft and it could be way more interesting considering all the quarterback uncertainty around the league.

Quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton and Matt Flynn, who could eventually be traded, will not go anywhere.

Here’s the year-by-year review of the sort of trades we won’t be seeing.

Playing a bit of catch up on some issues connected to the AFC South:

Bowers' stock: Even before what was reported to be an unimpressive pro day Friday, the stock of Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers was falling, according to Adam Schefter:
“For starters, teams have medical questions about him and his knees. It's a real concern. Another front-office exec told me that his biggest questions about Bowers were not his medicals but his video. He watched the tape and didn't see what some others have. He said that of Bowers' 15 sacks last season, six came when he wasn't blocked and three others came from a certain kind of scheme -- so his 15 sacks last season are effectively down to six. The film also showed his effort was not consistent and his production was spotty.

“After listening to some people talk about Bowers, it will not surprise me if he falls out of the top 10 or even out of the top 20.”

I wrote last week about Bowers as an attractive option for the Titans at No. 8 overall. Would his his medical issues prompt them to pass?

Alternate plans: Mel Kiper says Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson could be a contingency plan for the Titans at No. 8 if things don’t pan out in ideal fashion for Tennessee.

Missouri linebacker Aldon Smith and UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers are secondary names Kiper likes for Houston. The Jaguars could be the team that takes the third quarterback or reaches a little on a receiver. And the Colts could consider a defensive tackle like Stephen Paea of Oregon State or Jurrell Casey of USC.

Trading Kolb: I don’t think the Titans would pay what Kevin Kolb would cost in a trade. But no one ranks as more quarterback needy than Tennessee, so the Titans have to be kept in mind in any conversation about the quarterback who could be dealt by the Eagles.

John Clayton thinks Philly should move Kolb and take advantage of the value the Eagles have created with him, while Michael Tanier thinks the team should hold on to Kolb.

Ponder vs. Locker: KC Joyner says Christian Ponder’s got a lot of things on his résumé that should put him ahead of Jake Locker in the draft.

Why is Locker still ranked ahead of Ponder by so many?
"[T]he most likely reason is that many scouts are still using the mind's eye system. Their initial mental image of Locker was as a dominant prospect and, as is so often the case, first impressions are the strongest.

"It should also be the first one to go when the metrics indicate otherwise."

Mailbag: On QBs, RBs and Posluszny

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William Grooms from Hilton Head Island, S.C., writes: I am a Jaguars season ticket holder. And you’re always fair to them. My question is, and I know we need a lot of help on defense. But if one of the top three QBS are available at 16, do you think we should use the pick on him, and take or chances in the rest of the draft on our other needs?

Paul Kuharsky: Who’s the third guy? It doesn’t seem there is a consensus on that. My feeling at this time is if Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton are gone, and I expect they will be, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett or anyone else would be a force at 16.

As I’ve written, I’d be more comfortable tabbing Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton or Ricky Stanzi in the second or third or positioning to get the one you like best with a move up.


Mike from Victoria, Texas, writes: Good running back list, but like all lists, there are always going to be questions. Why is it that you feel that LeSean McCoy is a top five back, but Arian Foster still needs to show more? They are both 2-year players and Arian had a far superior second year. In their rookie years, statistically speaking, Foster actually stacks up comparable to McCoy, despite playing only late in the season. McCoy only had more than 100 yards from scrimmage twice, the same as Foster. Foster has performed like a top-flight back ever since his number got called in Week 14 of 2009… Justify your pick.

Paul Kuharsky: Reasonable request, which I won’t fare well with. I saw Foster a lot and thought he was great, but when I looked at him with those other people, I felt like I wanted to see it for longer. I saw McCoy a couple times last year and was very impressed with his versatility -- he was a lot better than I was expecting.

So I probably overrated McCoy based on his newness to me and downgraded Foster based on his familiarity. Which doesn’t amount to a good answer at all, but it’s the one I’ve got.

These lists are somewhat brutal to put together, and ultimately each ballot is imperfect. Hopefully when eight are melded, we help smooth out one another’s mistakes. And the fact there is no right answer is what’s making for lively debate.

I appreciate the feedback.


Luke Hillis from Murfreesboro, Tenn., writes: Do you think the Titans are desperate enough to offer next year’s number one plus an early-round pick this year for Kevin Kolb? Do you think the Eagles are asking too much and should we be excited if we get him?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t think they are desperate enough, no. And if the league isn’t up and running by the time the draft arrives, they cannot do a deal for a player that involves at 2011 pick. They won’t be able to deal for a veteran until there is a new CBA, and it would be with a 2012 pick or picks.

I think Kolb will be too expensive for Tennessee.

He’s a guy groomed in a good system, and his team was ready to start him until Michael Vick landed in its lap. No guarantee. But way more ready than anyone they can draft.


Dan from Raleigh, N.C., writes: I don't view it as Jack Del Rio questioning his player's intelligence and endurance so much as him questioning his coaching. He's already discussed that he has worked the team very hard, they lost what, two weeks of OTAs last year? And his defense being too complicated I'd chalk up to him wanting his players to play up to the schemes without really maximizing the talent level on the field. Does that sound reasonable?

Paul Kuharsky: It does. But I think there is an element of pass-the-buck and campaign speech to his comments here and in the stuff he said at the combine about backing off.


Carl Follmer from Iowa City, Iowa
writes:
Just a quick note on the kickoff rule change as it pertains to the Colts: I imagine most people will think the new rule benefits the Colts because they may well not have to defend as many kicks (something they're notoriously shaky at). But another aspect that isn't as visible is that the rest of the pack may come back to the Colts' level as far as returns are concerned. I can count on one hand the number of times the Colts got a good kickoff return and began a possession at or past their own 40 last season. Peyton Manning is used to constructing 80-yard drives, so this won't have much impact on him, as opposed to teams like the Bears or Browns that have trouble scoring (to put it mildly) and rely on that extra yardage. The teams with effective offenses won't be impacted, and any offensive stagnation will only be magnified. In a world where most everyone begins at the same point on the field, I'll gladly take Manning.

Paul Kuharsky: A good way to look at it, thanks.

And now for what’s becoming a weekly section, our Friday speed Q&A via Twitter:

@damiansmith0812 I read a lot of message boards, I know bad idea, but would Tenn ever consider moving Finnegan to S? Played it in college.

PK: I'm anti-position change. Waste a lot of work at corner and could wind up weaker there. Maybe even at two spots.

@coltsjunkie Were the players (who voted the Top Ten passrushers) from the LFL? Where's @RobertMathis98?

PK: You might want to check my ballot -- left Julius Peppers off, had Dwight Freeney first when DeMarcus Ware got all the other firsts. Has Mathis on there.

@naturalJay is TCU's Dalton a good fit for the Jags at 16?

PK: I think it’s too high.

@chrisbrown44 what will be biggest difference for titans under munch?

PK: I hope accountability and discipline, which has slipped. No way to know at this stage, though.

@Hodari11 Gene Smith hinted that the MLB is the QB of the D. He wants a guy to step right in. Paul posluszny is a free agent. thoughts?

PK: Looks like a potentially great match.
Dave from Japan writes: Dude, I'm sorta bummed out about the Jags. We're leaking assistant coaches. Wayne [Weaver] looks nervous, but not about assistant coaches. Vic [Ketchman] left. Can you give us Jags fans a few encouraging words?

Paul Kuharsky: Has to be the first time in league history that someone leaving the publications area of the front office gets put into the formula people are using to say a team is sinking. You lost two assistants, and the guy you got may be better than them, who knows? Relax.


Alan Mills from Springfield, Ohio writes: Former Colts and Bills quarterback Art Schlichter latest arrest is only discussed on Ohio State's forum. Why is not on here as he played longer for the Colts then he did for Ohio State? I would really like to have an answer to that. It just puzzles me why Ohio State has to be the only organization having to deal with this.

Paul Kuharsky: Blogger’s choice, pretty much. I don’t think my readers feel connected to or concerned with him, so I choose not to go there. It would be different if they were still the Baltimore Colts, since he was a first-round selection in Maryland just before the relocation.


Tom in Brentwood, TN writes: What is up with the Chris Palmer hire? Couldn't they find some up and comer or someone that doesn't have any affiliation with the Titans. This move is going to set the Titans bad even farther than where they've been. If you're planning on going backwards for a while, I would rather have someone with a fresh perspective and an upside down the road. Seems to me, it's going to be the same ole same ole, just under a different regime.

Paul Kuharsky: Palmer’s not an exciting name. He’s got some duds on his résumé. But he has done some good work too and is said to be a good teacher, which is a major consideration for Mike Munchak. I know the inclination is to prejudge. But we have to wait and see what he does in order to deliver a verdict. It’s like with a draft pick -- you can’t declare a hit or miss until you have some work to measure.


Fred Dykes from Johnson City, TN writes: Kelvin Hayden is scheduled to make $9 million for the Colts next year. That is almost what you would pay a shutdown corner, and he is not one. I say they should cut their ties with him, or see if he will re-do his contract. [Justin] Tryon could handle his spot if needed. What do you think about Hayden's situation?

Paul Kuharsky: That’s a lot of money, but it’s also his cap number and not his salary. He’s due a $6.105 million salary and a $250,000 bonus. You’d be making a huge jump from him to Tryon. Being good as a fill-in and situational guy is a lot different than being good as a full-timer. I think they need a cornerback pool with Hayden, Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, Tryon, a healthy Kevin Thomas and maybe a draft pick.


Ty from Texas writes: I have heard that if there is a lock out then it is a full work stoppage and there would be no games. Why couldn't the league just use replacement players as they did years before?

Paul Kuharsky: Because of the very nature of a lockout. They’d be locking out players. They couldn’t choose to lock some out and sign others they would let in. The replacement players were used during a strike. Big difference if it’s the owners stopping games or the players stopping games.


Detlef from Newport Beach, CA writes: Hi Paul, it seems like you do not give any love to the Texans. They have not made the playoffs, but most sports fans would tell you when they play the Texans, it's gonna be a good fight. I think getting Wade Phillips is huge and will improve our playoff chances significantly. What about you?

Paul Kuharsky: You got me, I am a complete hater.

No. What exactly should they be getting love for? I’m not in the business of passing out love to bad teams. You’re not going to find a lot of cheerleading or sympathy for pathetic play here.

Phillips, their new defensive coordinator, should help, but they have major, major holes on defense that will be hard to fill in one year. And how many years in a row do you want people to buy the this-is-the-breakout-year talk? Better to reduce expectations.

If you missed this week’s column, it was about new secondary coach Vance Joseph.


Shawn from Arizona writes: It seems like Munchak would like to install the West Coast offense. With the biggest offseason question for the Titans being QB, how does this style of offense change our approach with acquiring both a veteran QB and one through the draft? It sounds like Kevin Kolb would be #1 on the list, followed by Matt Flynn perhaps -- who do you see in the draft fitting that offense?

Paul Kuharsky: I’ve not heard him say he wants to run a West Coast offense.

We don’t know if Munchak coveted Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements as offensive coordinator. If that was the hire, people were speculating that would be the direction. That’s a big jump to say that’s the direction Munchak wants without Clements, who we don’t even know he asked to talk to.

Munchak can’t pick the offense and then find the quarterback for it. The pool of candidates is small enough without narrowing it further. He needs to pick the quarterback, then shape the offense.


Kingpin from Grinnell, IA writes: PK - Love your work, but gotta call you out on this comment from the mailbag - "Football is usually not baseball, where you unload a guy for picks." Baseball draft picks cannot be traded; think you meant basketball. Keep up the (usually) excellent work! – Kingpin

Paul Kuharsky: Point taken. I did mean baseball, but I know in baseball you unload the star for prospects as opposed to picks. That’s the comparison I intended. Sorry I was not more clear.


Joe from Blackwater, VA writes: Paul, love the blog. Check it too many times a day! Haven't seen anything at all about CJ though in some time. Any word on the Titans getting him a new contract since they reworked it last year to make him happy?

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks much.

Chris Johnson’s renegotiation was in July. So the Titans can’t do anything else for a full year from that. Hopefully the labor issue will be resolved and we’ll be talking about it then.
Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer is ready for a change of scenery.

The Titans are in need of a quarterback.

Carson Palmer
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006.
I’d tossed out Palmer’s name after Tennessee announced it was finished with Vince Young, but once Marvin Lewis got a new contract from the Bengals and said Palmer was his guy, I backed down. Now I’ll jump on the idea again even as Mike Brown of the Bengals says they won't move the quarterback.

Palmer is no sure thing. He’s not been the same quarterback since the knee injury he suffered in the 2005 playoffs. An elbow problem that surfaced in 2008 has also been an issue.

If he’s physically OK, I would put him at the head of my wish list for the Titans. Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger have long coveted a traditional dropback passer who can scan the full field.

Heimerdinger’s health is a question going forward; he’s battling cancer. But if quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains returns or Fisher puts a coach in place who would assume Heimerdinger’s duties if needed, they’d be in line with a similar philosophy.

Those coaches would likely love to work with a healthy Palmer. His chances of rehabbing his career in Tennessee might be as good as anywhere.

If Tennessee’s offensive line gets back to form, it’s capable of providing time and protecting such a guy. If he’s handing off to Chris Johnson and throwing to the likes of Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Nate Washington and Damian Williams, I believe the Titans would have a chance to be an effective offense and their bigger issue would be defensive repair.

I’m leaving Kevin Kolb off this list because I think he’ll simply be too expensive on the trade market, or maybe completely unavailable as the Eagles worry about Michael Vick making it through a full season.

Conventional wisdom says the Titans will both draft a quarterback and find a veteran.

Here’s my veteran wish list:

  1. Palmer. Maybe I am leaning too much on my memories of him back when he was very good, but if the Titans had a chance to get him back to that form, I’d want to see it.
  2. Kyle Orton, Denver. He can really throw it. He’s the sort of hard worker and stand-up guy the Titans covet.
  3. Matt Flynn, Green Bay. The sample size is small, but the trade price might be more reasonable. There is always a Rob Johnson/Scott Mitchell issue, where you worry about getting a guy who flashed and it turned out to be just a flash.
  4. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle. He's too prone to getting beat up, but he’d have better protection with a fixed Titans’ line and is another smart guy.
  5. Chad Pennington, Miami (free agent). His health is a question and he does not have a big arm. But he’s a guy who might give the Titans enough while a rookie is developed.

Two other names that could surface: Marc Bulger (Baltimore) and Shaun Hill (Detroit).

All the Titans need now is a new CBA that would allow for trade offers and free-agent movement.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Wade Phillips has started to evaluate the Texans' defense, says John McClain.

Gary Kubiak will take his time hiring the rest of the defensive staff, says Alan Burge.

Examining Rick Smith’s draft record with Battle Red Blog.

Finally, a defensive direction, says Stephanie Stradley.

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Chappell takes questions, mostly about Jim Caldwell.

Jeff Saturday talked about the labor situation, says Phillip B. Wilson.

The defense is the issue, says Nate Dunlevy.

Why so few points, wonders Dunlevy.

A thorough breakdown of the Jets game and thoughts on what should have been different, from Collin McCollough.

How the Colts can fix the offensive line, from Brett Mock.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Deji Karim had surgery on his right hand, says Vito Stellino.

Dirk Koetter is scheduled to interview with the Broncos today, says Stellino.

What’s a Gene Smith scout look like? Vic Ketchman’s answer.

The offseason outlook for the offense, from Alfie Crow.

Jagsonville wants the Jaguars to draft a quarterback first.

Tennessee Titans

Tony Brown had knee surgery, says Jim Wyatt.

Kevin Kolb is not a clear-cut solution, says John Glennon.

Chris Simms is expecting a ruling today in his court case, says Jennifer Peltz.

Music City Miracles talked to Jason McCourty.

Vince Young’s top 10 games as a Titan, according to Andrew Strickert.

AFC South Week 7 decisive moment

October, 26, 2010
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» NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Poised to boost their lead to 23-7 or at least 19-7 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter Sunday, the Eagles had a first-and-goal from the Tennessee 3-yard line.

But Tennessee right defensive tackle Jason Jones knifed through center Mike McGlynn and right guard Max Jean-Gilles barely touched and got to quarterback Kevin Kolb, disrupting his attempt to hand off to LeSean McCoy.

Cornerback Alterraun Verner pounced on the loose ball to gain possession, continuing the Titans' excellent red zone defense. Tennessee drove 74 yards to a field goal that cut the lead to 16-10 and the flow of the game changed.

Tennessee went on to win 37-19, a score that looked like a rout.

As much as Chris Johnson and Vince Young, Jones and Verner are the kind of players who are making the Titans work and work very well right now.

Rapid Reaction: Titans 37, Eagles 19

October, 24, 2010
10/24/10
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NASVILLE, Tenn. -- A quick look at Tennesse's 37-19 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

What it means: The Titans forged a comeback on what was not their best day, winning for the third time against an NFC East opponent and improving to 5-2, the best record in the division with Houston and Indianapolis both at 4-2 and off this week.

Hero: After his alleged involvement in a bar room altercation early Friday morning, Kenny Britt didn’t play until about midway through the second quarter. He responded with an impressive performance from there, with seven catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Say what we may about his maturity off the field. On it, he’s developing into a first-rate threat that the Titans need to build plans around.

What I didn’t like: Kerry Collins threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, making things very difficult for the Titans on a day when Vince Young couldn’t play because of knee and ankle injuries. Even with heavy action late, the Titans struggled to get the ball to Chris Johnson, who finished with 24 carries for 66 yards.

Good development: The Eagles like putting Kevin Kolb on the move, but on many of his rollouts in this game Titans defenders were in hot pursuit, forcing quicker throws than he’d like or making him throw the ball away. Dave Ball’s excellent season continued as he was often the player closing in on the quarterback.

What’s next: The Titans travel to San Diego to face the Chargers before arriving at their bye week.

Final Word: AFC South

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
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» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:

Gigantic obstacle: For the Philadelphia Eagles, the 6-foot-9, 330-pound King Dunlap will play left tackle for the injured Jason Peters. Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Dave Ball would seem primed for a classic speed vs. size matchup here. But Jeff Fisher said the Eagles chip more than anyone in the league, even with receivers. So Ball can expect regularly to be knocked off course by a tight end, back or even a wideout before he gets a chance to get around Dunlap. And Kevin Kolb gets rid of the ball on time in a quick-passing offense.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Tim Heitman/US PresswireAlterraun Verner and the Titans are 4-0 when they have a turnover advantage.
Evaluate effort: The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t exactly go down swinging in Week 6 in the "Monday Night Football" home loss to the Titans. Once the Titans built a lead, it seemed clear Jacksonville didn’t think it could catch up. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7, the proper response now is to come out guns blazing. The Jaguars need to play with tremendous effort to show the team knows it’s 3-3 and has not given up on itself or coach Jack Del Rio. Rally around a substitute quarterback, facilitate a big game for tailback Maurice Jones-Drew, make sure Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is uncomfortable. It’s a test of leadership, at least to a degree.

Turnover edge: The Titans are 4-0 in games where they’ve had a turnover advantage and 0-2 in games where the other team’s had it. The Titans have seven takeaways in their last two games. But the Eagles have only turned the ball over five times this year, and have had the turnover edge in five of their six games.

Get the star going: Jones-Drew has a solid history against the Chiefs. He’s scored a touchdown in three consecutive games against Kansas City. The Jaguars need to make sure the Chiefs do not get any sort of substantial lead, so they can rely on Jones-Drew's running. That's the preferred option with backup QBs Trent Edwards or Todd Bouman starting for the injured David Garrard. MJD averages 5.0 yards a carry as a starter on the road.

Dreading it: Colts fans won’t necessarily be enjoying their team's weekend off, knowing how injury-depleted the team will be when it resumes play Nov. 1 against the Houston Texans, who also have a bye. They learned this week that Dallas Clark is finished for the season, Austin Collie will miss at least a couple of games and Antonio Johnson had knee surgery. Moving forward, they can look forward to an update on Joseph Addai, who’s dealing with a shoulder injury that can cost him time, too.

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