AFC South: Kings of Leon
Paul Kuharsky: I think so. A terrible finish could change that. But if they play as they have, even with the inconsistency, it looks as if they will finish well beyond expectations. I think they’ve squeezed more out of a deficient roster than could have been reasonably expected. They have a lot of reasons to feel good about their direction, but a lot of work to do.
Chris Mohammadi in Indy writes: Paul, I’m getting upset of the continuing talk of the Colts secondary. Every time they are mentioned it is said that three-fourths of our starting secondary is out/injured. I would like to argue (or just vent) that Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, Antoine Bethea, and Melvin Bullitt are the starting secondary. They have been getting it done all year. Bob Sanders has done nothing for this team all year. Marlin Jackson didn't start a single game (played nickel). Kelvin Hayden has appeared in only four and has exited early in a couple of those. The guys playing are our starting secondary and think it's time they were allowed out of the shadow of players we have barely seen this year. Thanks for the release Paul. Paul Kuharsky: I know how healthy venting can be, so I hope that helped.
I see your point and almost agree. I think the “loss” of Sanders has been overblown and Bullitt’s a largely unknown commodity for most people but an excellent player. I’d agree about rating Bullitt and Powers as starters. I think Lacey’s done well, but think they’ll be in better shape with Hayden back as least as the nickel or maybe eventually ahead of Lacey. That would bump Jennings back to dime.
And you have to be talking about five defensive backs, not four, because nickel is so important.
Matt in Dallas, TX: Fine, fine, fine, I'll be your Texans respondent. Texans thoughts/questions for you to blog: percent chance you think Dunta Robinson collects a Houston paycheck next season. What running backs do you think Houston might/should target for the draft? Chris Brown's just not cutting it and I don't know what to do with Steve Slaton. Bernard Pollard's been great in the secondary. Can you talk about what's going on at the other safety spot -- besides, ya know, musical chairs? Thanks for all you do. I generally don't like much about ESPN, but I think you do a fantastic job. Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the compliments and stepping up with some questions.
I’ll go only 20 percent on Robinson being back, though that’s my gut not from anything I’ve been told. It just seems to me he’s not lived up to the financial demands this year. He hasn’t been an elite corner, has he?
I don’t know about college backs. I wonder what it would be like if they had a backfield of LenDale White and Slaton splitting duties. I also wonder about taking Antoine Bethea away as a free agent and pairing him with Pollard.
Barring big free agent moves, I think the Texans should focus on running back, cornerback and free safety in the draft and show a willingness to move on at those two spots in the secondary.
Will from Franklin, TN writes: Do the Titans have a chance at making the playoffs if they beat the Indianapolis Colts? Paul Kuharsky: Sure they do. More certain, they don’t have a chance if they don’t beat the Colts.
Chris Kirk in Indianapolis, IN writes: Could you look into how many touchbacks on kickoffs the Colts have been getting since inserting Pat McAfee as a kickoff specialist? It seems like he's really pounding the ball. I almost expect a touchback every time. Do you think this drop in the number of returns against our special teams and improved field position have played into our resurgence on kickoff coverage (relatively speaking) and stiffened defense, if at all?
Paul Kuharsky: McAfee has 14 touchbacks already. Adam Vinatieri had eight all of last season. It’s definitely a factor in improved coverage.
Cliff Butner from parts unknown writes: Well, you seem to have taken your time, listened to your beloved talking heads, and decided it might be possible that VY is a good quarterback. Way to go, Chief! You know, you could step out on a limb once in your life, and pick the improbable to happen, and not wait for others. Be a leader for once in your life. You can do it! You're smarter than us hicks from TN, heck, you're Columbia educated. Now, go show us some leadership. Paul Kuharsky: I’ll take that under advisement, Cliff.
Peter in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, two questions regarding your "Primary Complaint." To be honest, neither are football related. Paul, I couldn't help but notice that the main framed poster behind you has been different every time. What is up with that? Second, I noticed a reflection in the aforementioned frame. What were you watching on TV? Paul Kuharsky: In my office, I’ve got a collection of framed Hatch Show Prints from concerts at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Yes, I’ve been switching them up. Pete Yorn is usually in that spot and will return, but in recent weeks I’ve put Bruce Springsteen there (when he played Nashville), Kings of Leon and this week it was Mark Knopfler. Just messing around.
The TV should be off during video production. Pretty sure my background noise, muted for that, was SportsNation.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Justin in Omaha,NE writes: I've seen the Draft Value Chart, but it seem like it values the #1 pick too high. Most teams wouldn't trade for the # pick. I know there are reasons for that - lack of a clear elite prospect worthy of the #1 pick, guaranteed money, and most teams would rather have two picks in the 15-35 range than the #1 overall. So why isn't there an updated chart?
Paul Kuharsky: You raise an excellent point. I've often referred to a chart from NFLDraftScout.com and I know ESPN.com has one here.
I am sure there are varied versions in every draft room.
But while the shifting feeling about the value of No. 1 may change charts, I don't know that it really changes the trade value. Precedent is set by what kind of deals have been made in the past, and I suspect a team trading for less wouldn't want to face the questions about getting "below value," even if it's perceived as the correct value in the current landscape.
Nevertheless, you've inspired an idea and I am going to see if someone in our research department is interested in reworking or rewriting the chart, factoring in the circumstances you point out. If it comes about, you'll be deserving of credit for generating the idea.
Joe Johnson from parts unknown writes: hey paul, great work, i follow your blog every day, i was just wondering, why does everyone consider vince young a bust? I mean, the guy leads his team to the playoffs, he's a hero, then the next season he gets injured, and everyone's complaining about him being a bust. I mean, what's the big idea? What are your thoughts on the whole bust idea, Paul?
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks. Please keep clicking.
You really think the only reason Young got benched was the injury? He got benched because he quit and asked out of a game when things weren't going his way. He didn't show himself to be a strong-willed enough player to handle it when things got tough, and once it was no longer easy, he became a problem. He remains a problem, and tough times will always arrive for an NFL quarterback.
Jordan in Hendersonville, Tenn., writes: Hey Paul, with all of this talk about extending the regular season, I'm just wondering when the change will come into effect if in fact it is voted for. Certainly not the upcoming season because thats too short notice, but will it be the 2010 season or will it take longer?
Paul Kuharsky: Jordan refers to this debate on an expanded regular season from this week. It would be for 2011 at the earliest, seems to me.
Daniel in Indianapolis writes: You mentioned in your colts on the clock article that Anthony Gonzalez is a "slot specialist", which is completely untrue. When Harrison was in, Gonzalez played mostly slot because Wayne had the other wide position, but that's about the only reason he was a slot player. Maybe the colts grabbed him thinking he'd fill Stokely's shoes, being a fast short white receiver, but he's really much better in the wide spot than in the slot. It might be worth writing an article about Gonzalez, comparing how he's done in the slot vs. out wide, or maybe just a more generic article about him, because all people really know about him is what they know from Ohio State, and that he's a Colts wr.
Paul Kuharsky: You are right, Gonzalez was outside plenty last season. I felt like it was as much to get Reggie Wayne inside and create problems as it was to get Gonzalez outside. I don't know that I agree he was better outside, but I was unable to watch him in a way where I could compare thoroughly his production inside and out.
Around the league, many personnel people still consider Gonzalez very much a slot guy, and surely it's not only because he might have similarities to Brandon Stokley.
You can be sure that I will write about Gonzalez down the road.
Ross in Brentwood writes: Have to let you know (after reading the chat transcript) that a couple of months ago I had the opportunity to see Kings of Leon at Madison Square Garden, and I was in shock at the following they have. I would consider myself a casual fan at best, free tickets got me there, but they put on a great show and the place was completely packed. They're huge across the pond over in the UK and Europe, I don't know why the U.S. hasn't gotten on board as much. Maybe the idea of a rock band coming out of Nashville is just too weird for many to accept...oh well, here's hoping they do get more exposure! And a quick Titans question/comment...do you really see them splitting Johnson out wide more? I think that comment from Fisher is more of his standard "You'll never get a straight answer out of me" rhetoric. Based on last season I think they could've at least split him out wide even just as a decoy (like a certain former CB who likes video games...) if they were concerned about putting too much on his plate. I would like to see it happen, but I think they view him more as a pure RB who will do everything out of the backfield, especially now that they've signed Washington to start at WR and are possibly in the mix for Holt still. Just a thought, keep it up with the blog, it's great!
Paul Kuharsky: I've seen Kings of Leon several times in Nashville -- including at the Ryman Auditorium, the best place to see a show -- and they're great live.
Funny that they're huge in Europe and only getting a bit of buzz in the U.S. They sell out big venues there in 20 minutes, I've read. (If you have no idea what we are talking about, I encourage you to listen to a couple of songs.)
As for Chris Johnson: Yes, I think they will split him out more, put him in motion more, just to make things more complicated for defenses and to try to find some mismatches. And I'd be fine with that. Though the better the wide receivers, the less necessary it might be.
John in Jacksonville writes: Hey Paul, I am an avid reader of your postings, they're great. Now what do you think about Louis Delmas of W. Michigan? I think he would be great selection for the Jags in the 2nd if Ron Brace isn't still there. I've heard he's athletic, gutsy and physical but has durability concerns due to his small frame. What say you?
Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate your clicks and the compliment, John.
Sounds like Delmas is a playmaker in coverage, but there are questions about how he would hold up as a run defender. I think the Jaguars like Reggie Nelson as their free safety and if/when they address strong safety they'll look for a more physical, durable type. Or they could put Brian Williams there and get a corner.
Walter in Greensboro, N.C., writes: OK, accepting (though reluctantly I must admit) that the Titans under Fisher will always be a run first offense and therefore employ bigger WRs who can block; would it not still be a good idea to have at least one gamebreaker at the WR position? Is there any hope of the Titans going WR in the 1st, or am I just fooling myself?
Paul Kuharsky: Of course it would still be a good idea. Easier said than done, however, in terms of finding him. They're out of range of Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, who would fit the bill. Scouts have told me Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt will be capable of contributing from Day One. But how often have we seen the Titans plug a rookie wideout into the lineup right away? I suspect with either of those two, and certainly with Percy Harvin, we'd be placing bets as to whether he'd dress for opening day, not whether he'd have a ball thrown his way.
Possible in the first, not probable. Hard to predict against a long record of doing something different.
Robert in Muncie, Ind., writes: Any chance the Colts resign Marvin Harrison? If he dosen't receive any serious offers by the start of training camp, do you think he might take a pay cut and come back to Indy?
Paul Kuharsky: My sense is the Colts have moved on. They'll draft a wide receiver high. Harrison could surface somewhere during camp. Or the league could collectively agree he's done. The chances of him returning to Indy are slim, and I think it would only happen if they suffered a slew of injuries at the position in camp.
Brian in Clarksville writes: Hey Paul I need to get something off my chest that bothers me with the so called experts who say that the Titans don't need a great #1 WR because they're a running team and whenever a fan calls for the team to address it you and people of your ilk are quick to point out how the Titans were 13-3 last year with said group of #2s and #3s. I'm sorry, but the Titans did NOT go 13-3 with their WRs, they went 13-3 with the Defence (who no longer has a certain huge DT) and because of Chris Johnson being money. We all saw how the team did in the 2nd half of the playoff game without CJ. It's not that I think the Titans need to change philosophy and become the 1999 Rams or 2007 Patriots, but theres zero doubt in my mind that a legit #1 WR would have changed that playoff game. I want you to think real hard and be honest, right now, with the current WRs the Titans have, in a playoff game against a playoff defence, how confident are you in the Titans marching 80 yards in under 1:30 to tie the game and CJ is too hurt to play. Because I don't have much confidence in that situation at all. The reason why one would have more confidence in the Colts or Steelers or Patriots or even Arizona succeeding isn't just because of Manning, or Rothlisburger, or Brady, or Warner. They can do it because they have Reggie Wanye, Haynes Ward, Santonio Holmes, Randy Moss, LArry Fitzgerald, and Anquon Bolden. So, please please please, next time you feel like saying or typing that the Titans went 13-3 with their WRs, take a moment as ask yourself, was it REALLY with those receivers, or despite them and without CJ or the defence the Titans are easily beatable. And pass it along to McClain and everyone at 104.5.
Paul Kuharsky: No, they really did go 13-3 with those receivers. With them or despite them, those were the guys on their roster and that was their record. Yes, the success was predominantly because they're built to play defense and run it. Don't get upset with analysts who are merely pointing out their philosophy.
I think that's really the issue here -- I am not telling you so much what I think they should do as what I expect they will do. If they finally drafted a first-round receiver, do you think Nicks or Britt would be in the lineup opening day? I think we'd be debating whether they would even dress him.
Certainly against Baltimore, once Johnson went down, the Titans' lack of a second dynamic playmaker was completely exposed. And I am completely on board with the idea they need another dynamic playmaker -- and it would now make sense that he be a receiver. I've thought they do poorly finding dynamic playmakers for the 12 years I've been around them.
You can't have confidence in a team's ability to drive to a crucial score just because it has a big-play wide receiver, or just because it has a capable clutch quarterback. It needs both.
Brian in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Happy Chat Day, Paul. The quarterback question has been big in Jaguar and titan camp, however I'd like to pose this with respect to the Colts. Last year they brought in Gray and Lorenzen in hopes of getting a solid backup for Manning. Peyton is going on year 12 and with knee surgery under his belt. I don't think he has lost much, if any, of what makes him so great but at what point do the Colts seriously consider drafting a guy to groom under him? The Colts don't have a load of draft picks they could leverage as trade, nor do I see them including any players in a package, but at what point does QB become a draft need? If Manning goes down there is not much to hope for coming off the bench and there isn't youth waiting in the wings.
Paul Kuharsky: They may have hoped Gray or Lorenzen proved to be better than Jim Sorgi if they needed a stopgap. In no way were they thinking one of those guys would be Manning's heir.
I believe it's too early for them to be looking for that guy. And the Jaguars are like a lot of teams -- if their top player goes down, they're in big trouble. That's why what New England did without Tom Brady last year was truly remarkable. The Colts need to use picks and resources to help Manning while he's still in his prime -- and he just won the MVP so it's hard to suggest his best football is behind him. My feeling is they can worry about the post-Manning downturn when the time comes. Bill Polian will draft a quarterback at some point that he hopes can develop under Manning in his final two seasons or so. Those seasons are a way off still.
Robert F. Ludwick from parts unknown writes: Paul, I find myself hopelessly clicking on your blog for updates several times throughout a day. What is this affliction called? Kuharskitis? Aside from actually solving the affliction, I at least have an idea that addresses the side effects -- the disappointment I feel when there are no new posts when I check. You should write more often! :D
Paul Kuharsky: I hope Kuharskitis doesn't itch.
Ah, man, the pressure.
I appreciate the clicks and encourage you to visit early and often. And I assure everyone I am not related to Robert. (I posted some bashers in a recent mailbag, I thought for the sake of fairness I'd give voice to someone who likes me.)
There will be patches where things slow a bit -- this week sure felt like it was one of those. But know, too, that sometimes when the post rate slows a bit, there will be a payoff at the end in the form of a column post (like this week on the Jaguars' leadership), an ESPN.com article outside the blog (that you can be sure the blog will point you to) or participation in a blogger debate (which I also did last week and linked to above).
Also, you and other readers can have a direct impact: A well-timed good question in the mailbag sometime demands immediate reporting or commentary and picks up the pace all by itself.
I can't thank you enough for reading and taking the time to write.
INDIANAPOLIS -- If there is a silver lining to getting shutout for the Titans, here it is: The team hasn't been shutout since 1999, and it went to the Super Bowl that season.
Miami beat Tennessee in Florida on Nov. 7, 1999, 17-0.
The Titans finished that season 13-3 -- just like finished this one after the 23-0 loss to the Colts. And their 1999 season didn't end until they lost to St. Louis in the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
One other little thing I just noticed: The song played over the speakers at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2-minute warning break was "Use Somebody," by Murfreesboro, Tennessee's own Kings of Leon.