AFC South: Kris Jenkins
Fresh off a giant rushing day in a loss to Tennessee, Maurice Jones-Drew graciously donated 20 minutes to the AFC South Blog to chat about the latest version edition of ESPN.com’s Power Rankings.
|Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE|
|Maurice Jones-Drew weighed in with an opinion on every team in the league.|
He wound up offering more of a team-by-team commentary on the league than on the rankings, which is just fine with us.
So here is a sampling of his thoughts:
"The Saints and Colts both struggled this week, I just don’t know how long those guys can last with those high-powered offenses. It seems like New Orleans, at least, has to have a shootout every week to win, you know. So I don’t know how long that’s going to last. The Colts survived a scare. So call them the Houdinis, they find a way to win."
"Minnesota I think is one of the best balanced teams with the running game, passing game, great defense and special teams. They’re firing on all cylinders right now."
"Denver at four, I don’t know how long they are going to last with just throwing the ball all the time. You’ve got to have a balanced offense in this league, and to run the ball just 10 times [actually 19] against the Ravens was not good."
"New England’s just sneaky, I haven’t heard too much about them yet. They ranked No. 5, so you all have your eye on them."
"Cincinnati is revived, new heart."
"Pittsburgh, great defense."
"Dallas was like on the bottom half of the league last week or two weeks ago, weren’t they? [They were 19 just two weeks ago, I tell him.] I just remember everyone saying Dallas is horrible, they aren’t going to be any good. Now all of a sudden they are up there. Nineteen two weeks ago, now eight? That’s a question mark how guys can jump up that far, this is not the BCS."
"I like Philadelphia. Donovan McNabb has multiple weapons, defense is playing solid right now. They are an opportunistic team."
"Baltimore is catching their stride right now which is going to be pretty dangerous for some people. They can run, they can throw, they play great defense, their special teams are starting to come on and their head coach is a special teams guy. I like them, I think they are going to be a good team and later on they’ll be higher than 10."
"Atlanta is going to be a team that sneaks up on people to. I think they should be a little bit higher. They lost their last two, but before that they were like No. 6 or something, weren’t they? They were high up there. I just don’t know how teams drop in this week-by-week deal."
"The Packers can’t beat the Vikings. They can’t win their division it seems like."
"Cardinals live by the pass die by the pass. It’s a risky way, but if that’s what you’re going to be, know who you are."
"Texans at 14, oh man. I don’t know…"
Blogger break in: Jones-Drew gets to the security gate of his neighborhood. “Hello,” he says. “Monroe, right?” the woman asks him. “No, Jones-Drew,” he says politely. “I’m sorry,” she says. Then turning back to me on the phone: “That’s crazy, my own neighborhood doesn’t even know me. I tell you what, I’ve still got a long way to go.”
"...Texans, Matt Schaub was struggling and Ryan Moats steps up big for them in that Buffalo Bills game. I have Matt Schaub on my fantasy team and he did not play well for me."
"The Giants were the No. 1 team probably three weeks ago and they lost three now, I guess they are on a skid. Now 15, they will probably be down where they Jaguars are next."
"San Diego? Slow start. They always start slow and they always pick it up towards the middle and the end of the season. So it’s kind of surprising, people have to realize that’s how they play the majority of the time. I think they will be higher."
"I don’t know about the Bears. They’re kind of inconsistent. Matt Forte, he’s on my fantasy team, I’m glad he had a big week against Cleveland. They are just inconsistent. I think now, 16, 17 on down you’re going to get to the teams that are just inconsistent."
"Injuries are what make the Jets so low at 18, to lose Kris Jenkins is a big hit for them on the defensive side. And then you lose Leon Washington, your kickoff returner and your backup running back, one of the most explosive guys in the league. That’s tough."
"I think the 49ers are catching their stride. They played Houston tough and almost beat Houston, they came back on them. They played Indy incredibly tough with the Joseph Addai touchdown. Whenever you can hold Peyton Manning with no touchdowns, it’s real big."
"Miami, I think they are undefeated in divisional play, right? You win your division you get to the playoffs. They are the head of their division but that can beat anyone else. Divisional bullies?"
"Jaguars at 21? That’s bull. We should be No. 1. [I chime in that I understand why he says so, but he knows how it sounds to people, right?] "If I didn’t say that, it wouldn’t be right. Everyone should say that about themselves. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?"
"Buffalo, injuries. They’d be higher if they didn’t have as many injuries."
"Carolina, give the ball to Steve Smith. Give him the rock, feed him. You have a running game, but no Steve Smith. That’s why they are ranked that low."
"Seattle: listen to Houshmandzadeh."
"Washington, 25th, they’re struggling. What Haynesworth said: When they want to win, they will."
"The Titans beat the Jaguars."
"Oakland: Off the field issues."
"Kansas City: Off the field issues."
"The Lions got their first victory."
"I think St. Louis should be ranked higher than Detroit, they should flip-flop spots 29 and 30. The Rams beat them didn’t they? If two teams are evenly matched like that, usually the team that beat the other one should be right ahead of them."
"Cleveland: internal bleeding. They are firing everybody in Cleveland right now. They just traded Braylon Edwards, now you’re going to fire your GM. Who’s next?"
"Tampa Bay? [Expletive]! I know how they feel, like anything and everything you do isn’t right. You can do all the hard work in the world and it still doesn’t pay off."
"I think you guys did pretty good. Denver I understand they are high up there, they beat New England which was a big win. Other than that, most of their wins were against opponents that aren’t up there. …I obviously think we’re way too low, we beat Houston. I think Houston could be a little bit higher. At 5-3 they are a little tougher than what people think."
"Fantasy-wise, I need Antonio Gates to step up. I need Philip Rivers to throw the ball to Antonio Gates more. We play two quarterbacks, I have Matt Cassel but I hope he does bad [in Jacksonville Sunday]. I might just play one quarterback."
|AP Photo/Phil Coale|
|Atiyyah Ellison (99) hopes he's found a home with the Jacksonville Jaguars.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
In Atiyyah Ellison's media guide entry, his year-by-year bio has just a two-word edge on this lengthy transaction history:
TRANSACTIONS: Originally a third round (89th pick overall) draft choice by Carolina in 2005 NFL Draft ... Waived by Carolina on 9/3/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the practice squad on 9/5/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on 9/14/05 ... Waived by Carolina on 9/24/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the practice squad on 9/27/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on 10/31/05 ... Waived by Carolina on 9/2/06 ... Signed by Houston on 9/3/06 ... Waived by Houston on 9/7/06 ... Signed by Baltimore to the practice squad on 9/12/06 ... Signed by Baltimore to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on 12/4/06 ... Waived by Baltimore on 9/1/07 ... Signed by Baltimore to the practice squad on 9/2/07 ... Signed by San Francisco off the Baltimore practice squad on 9/5/07 ... Waived by San Francisco 8/30/08 ... Signed to San Francisco practice squad 8/31/08 ... Signed by Jacksonville off San Francisco practice squad on 12/10/08.
He shakes his head and grins when he talks about the 18 moves -- "I've been everywhere," he said -- but remains surprisingly upbeat and optimistic that No. 18 will be the big winner, that he's finally found a home with the Jaguars.
"Being a third-round pick and then getting cut and put on the practice squad, people see that and think, 'Something's got to be wrong with him' or 'Something is up with him' or 'He was drafted too high,' I honestly couldn't tell you one specific thing," Ellison said.
"Every place I've been, nobody's flat out told me, 'You're not good enough for this' or 'You're not good enough for that.' It's just I've got to put everything together and just make a run for it."
|Joe Robbins/Getty Images|
|Tony Brown's skill set brought him to Tennessee.|
Ellison is hardly alone. The league features plenty of defensive tackles who've bounced around, tantalizing teams with combinations of height and weight, speed and strength, then not fitting the style of play those clubs seek.
"Really it happens in all positions, but D tackle is kind of a fickle position as far as what exactly you are asking them to do," Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil said. "The body might look the same, but the mind and the feet react differently.
"The biggest thing is that some guys are built to go down the line and take up space and some guys are built to go upfield, be more aggressive and rush. That's two completely and totally different skills sets you are talking about."
ESPN.com's NFC West maven Mike Sando keeps track of starting lineups, and on his list of projected starting defensive tackles he found 21 drafted by one team but playing for another.
They cover a wide range. Baltimore's Kelly Gregg was a sixth-rounder in Cincinnati in 1999, but wasn't an impact guy there or in Philadelphia. Now he's a mainstay in Baltimore. Aubrayo Franklin started only one game in four seasons with the Ravens after they drafted him in the fifth round in 2003, but he is a two-year starter with the 49ers and finished last season on the upswing.
Brown wasn't drafted, but went from Carolina to Miami to San Francisco to a year out of the league to Carolina again to Tennessee.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky and Tim Graham
In advance of the New York Jets vs. Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville, AFC East blogger Tim Graham and AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky debate what this November showdown means. The Jets could make a statement by ruining the Titans' hopes of a 16-0 regular season. Graham and Kuharsky debate other factors that should be considered.
Which graybeard quarterback will carry the day?
Paul Kuharsky: Well, Timothy, it's hard to argue against Brett Favre's contagious enthusiasm, but Kerry Collins is asked to provide something entirely different for the Titans. He's calm and cool, which fits a Jeff Fisher team perfectly. Odds are he throws for under 200 yards. Odds also are he doesn't get picked off or make a big mistake that puts his defense in a tough spot.
Tim Graham: I hear you loud and clear, Brocephus. But the Jets seem to have located their offensive happy place with Favre. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has reached a comfort level in calling plays for the type of quarterback the Jets weren't used to. Favre appears to be settling into his role -- somewhere between swashbuckler and game manager. I like to call him a swashmangler.
PK: Very wordsmithy of you. I know Farve's enjoyed joining a team that upgraded the offensive line before he arrived. One key to the Titans' success has been that they consistently get pass pressure from their front four. Kyle Vanden Bosch expects to be back from a groin injury that's pretty much cost him five weeks. Side-by-side with Albert Haynesworth, they'll look to overpower and outwork the left side of the Jets' line.
TG: The Jets' offensive line has been sensational. Alan Faneca has performed as advertised. Nick Mangold is turning into an elite center. But the New England Patriots, without Adalius Thomas and Ty Warren, got to Favre three times last week. Favre went down Strahan-style.
|Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire|
|New York's run defense will be tested by Tennessee's Chris Johnson on Sunday.|
How will the Titans' running game fare against the Jets' 3-4 defense?
TG: The element of Sunday's game I'm most fascinated to see unfold is how New York's run defense handles Tennessee's running backs. Two of my favorite players to watch this year have been Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins and Titans rookie Chris Johnson. The Jets have the fourth-ranked defense against the run. The Patriots didn't even bother last week, choosing to let Matt Cassel throw 50 times. The Jets' front seven are scary.
PK: Collins threw it 41 times in Chicago, but the Titans will be determined to hand the ball off. Still, the Titans likely will continue to look to get Johnson additional touches in the passing game, trying to set him free in space against favorable matchups. I certainly wouldn't be looking to get him up the middle against Jenkins. If offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger sees the Jets selling out to reduce the risk of big-plays by Johnson, then he'll give somebody else like Bo Scaife, Justin Gage or LenDale White more chances.
TG: I wonder how much of this game will hinge on Collins' arm. The Jets have a couple of stars in their secondary. Cornerback Darrelle Revis is one of the NFL's best, and safety Kerry Rhodes is Pro Bowl-caliber. But they were concerned enough with rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery's shaky play that they signed Ty Law, who hadn't played in 11 months.
PK: The Titans will be content to dink and dunk against that crew if that's what they have to do. Patience won't be a problem. And I suspect they'll like their chances of getting Favre to try to force a couple against their own group of rising DBs who are establishing names for themselves. Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin and Chris Hope each rank at the top of the AFC with four picks. If they can get one or two here, I like the Titans' chances. If they can't, this could be loss No. 1.
Which team has more to prove?
PK: It takes a 10-0 start and Favre coming to town with the hot Jets for Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to call a game for CBS in Nashville for the first time. The Titans love to cast themselves as the under-the-radar underdogs. They know they'll be drawing a lot of eyeballs Sunday and that
if they lose, there will be people who say the Titans weren't worthy the hype.
TG: One of the more nauseating sports phenomena is when teams try to underdog each other. Every team wants to enter a game feeling as though they're not being taken seriously. But the Jets feel that way, Paul. I mean, they were so emotional last week they actually were shedding tears before and after beating the Patriots. The Jets come into Sunday's game with a chip on their shoulder even though they're from the nation's biggest media market. Don't forget, the reason they went out and made all these splashy offseason moves was because they were sick of being in the New York Giants' shadow.
PK: The Titans would take a loss to this New York team if they could trade it for a Super Bowl matchup against the other New York team. I'm with you on the artificial underdog and faux disrespect stuff. Griffin played good defense against the Jaguars, then got all twisted up in the postgame locker room. He said people get tired of teams or athletes who win all the time, that they are rooting against the Titans just like they rooted against Michael Phelps. Yeah, nobody wanted to see that guy with all those gold medals around his neck.
TG: If Mercury Morris is OK with the notion you might go undefeated, then you're not exactly Public Enemy No. 1. In my travels around the AFC East, I haven't heard any negative talk about those dastardly Titans. I think the Patriots still lead the conference in haters. But if that's how the Titans are getting themselves jacked up, so be it. As Crash Davis once scolded Annie Savoy: "A player on a streak has to respect the streak." Whatever the Titans are doing to get mentally prepared, it is working.
PK: Even the truest Titans fan has to admit there would be at least one upside to a loss: Morris would disappear for another year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Contracts can be read in all different sorts of ways depending on what the person reading them wants to see.
When the Titans failed to lock down defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth with a long-term deal by Tuesday's deadline, the statement from GM Mike Reinfeldt said the franchise tender of $7.25 million "makes him the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL in 2008."
But agent Chad Speck disputed that claim.
"I would disagree with the statement that Albert, if he signs the franchise tender, will be the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL in 2008. Shaun Rogers, Tommy Kelly, Tommie Harris, Corey Williams and Kris Jenkins will all earn significantly more than the one-year tender given to Albert in 2008."
Speck is right. Haynesworth's number might give him the highest average salary. But comparing a franchise number to a long-term contract is apples and oranges because the long-term guarantees are not factored in.
The Titans' stance is looking at average salaries or cap numbers, where only a piece of a signing bonus counts. Speck is looking at money pocketed, a number that's significantly higher after those big bonuses are collected.
Here's a breakdown of all those numbers:
All five put more in their pocket this season than Haynesworth will, which is a reasonable way to look at it.
Speck will try now to get the Titans to agree to some incentives, which, if earned, will prevent the team from franchising Haynesworth again next season.
I don't see the Titans giving that away very easily.