AFC South: Larry Warford

RTC: Mularkey talks Gabbert

April, 16, 2013
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The upgrades of Reliant Stadium’s video boards are on track, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

James Baker, the former secretary of state who’s the honorary chairman of Houston’s Super Bowl bid committee, won’t be allowed to be part of the presentation because he’s a celebrity, says McClain.

What non-receivers make the most sense for the Texans at No. 27? Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog considers.

Indianapolis Colts

Four areas of interest as the Colts begin their nine-week offseason program, from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “We have a bull’s-eye on our chest now,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We aren’t going to sneak up on anybody. You have to prove yourself because nobody really cares about last year.”

Sizing up the Colts' status at running back as they head toward the draft, with Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars will begin to get a sense of Gus Bradley’s tempo as a voluntary minicamp opens today in Jacksonville, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Four core principals will be emphasized.

A look at the history of the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, a list the Jaguars will be adding to soon, from Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Former Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said he can’t forecast whether Blaine Gabbert will be a franchise quarterback. Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country reviews what Mularkey told PFT.

Tennessee Titans

Safety Bernard Pollard is putting his past behind him and not going to talk any more about the mutiny storyline from Baltimore, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Touring mock drafts to see who people have the Titans taking at No. 10, with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Considering Chance Warmack, Johnathan Cooper and Larry Warford as potential Titans draft picks with Tom Gower of Total Titans.

Reassessing the Titans' needs

April, 2, 2013
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We need to reserve judgment on just how well the Titans did with their free-agent haul. Several of their key additions -- like tight end Delanie Walker and defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill -- are expected to graduate into bigger roles with their new team.

The Titans project they can handle that and excel with it. We’ll have to wait and see.

What I like most about what they’ve done is this: A team with a ton of needs as the 2013 NFL year began has far fewer now.

That creates a certain draft freedom. While there are still things they need, they need them far less desperately. If a guy they really want in the draft goes off the board a couple picks before they are up, it will be less tragic.

[+] EnlargeBernard Pollard
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsThe Titans signed safety Bernard Pollard, hoping the former Raven can add fire and veteran leadership.
A review of what they needed as free agency opened, and some thoughts on what they need now.

Safety: Like it or not they are locked into Michael Griffin. So what they needed was a serious upgrade with regard to an in-the-box presence at the position who will allow Griffin to play as a center fielding free safety. Enter George Wilson and Bernard Pollard. They are veterans who are better than the options the Titans had in 2012, plus they bring leadership -- Wilson of a quieter variety, Pollard with a loud swagger. If they draft a kid to develop behind this group, that’d be fine, but it’s not a pressing need.

Guard: Andy Levitre was the best option on the market. Rob Turner and Chris Spencer are far better options than interior guys like Kevin Matthews or Deuce Lutui, who wound up playing last year. Ideally the Titans find a young stud to play right guard long term. But if the can’t get, or decide to pass on, Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper or Larry Warford they could still be OK.

Defensive end: Internally, it’s not been rated the need it was externally. They did add super-sized Ropati Pitoitua, but he doesn’t appear to be a guy who will spur the pass rush. I think they feel good about Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, and will use Akeem Ayers more as a rusher. But I’d still rank an end that can boost the pass rush as a need.

Running back: They needed a short-yardage guy to serve in a complementary role with Chris Johnson, and found a guy they liked in Shonn Greene. Darius Reynaud is back, though he’s primarily a returner. A mid- or late-round back would make sense to increase their options if Johnson’s money is an issue next year and/or to compete with Jamie Harper for a role.

Defensive tackle: They showed no interest in bringing back Sen'Derrick Marks and found the size they wanted in Hill. With Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin, that’s a nice three-pack. Karl Klug is a question mark. This is a spot where they can definitely continue to add, even if they have high hopes for Klug and DaJohn Harris.

Cornerback: The one name that surfaced as a guy they courted was Keenan Lewis, the Steeler-turned-Saint. Depth at this position is shaky. Coty Sensabaugh did OK as a rookie nickel back. But ideally the Titans would get Alterraun Verner into the slot, even if he’s starting outside in the base defense. They need a better candidate that Tommie Campbell to play outside as the second or third guy. This could now rate as one of the top needs.

Tight end: Following the breakdown in talks with Jared Cook, the team decided against using the franchise tag on him. Walker is more equipped to shift around from the backfield to the line to the slot, and the Titans want to get back to using a guy like that. No remaining need with Craig Stevens, a solid blocker, and Taylor Thompson, a second-year project, in place.

Linebacker: Depth is the issue here, especially in the middle where Colin McCarthy gets hurt. Moise Fokou might help, and ideally the main addition would be a veteran upgrade over outgoing free agent Will Witherspoon. If Ayers moves forward to rush some as a defensive end, they’ll need a quality outside guy who can cover. A need, still, for sure.

Receiver -- I wasn’t thinking it was a spot they needed to address before the draft, but they looked at a lot of guys and signed Kevin Walter. He’s a reliable route runner who can work underneath and do well against zones for quarterback Jake Locker. But Walter isn’t explosive. I expect they’d like to add a draft pick who’s a smart, quality route runner with a little more ability for yards after the catch.
On the evening of Dec. 16, 2013, in the press box of Reliant Stadium following a 29-17 Texans win over the Colts, I considered J.J. Watt’s ridiculously good game and wrote this:
For years, AFC South teams looked at how the Colts operated with Peyton Manning and drafted with an emphasis on running backs who could help them play keep-away and defensive backs who increased their chances of slowing one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

(Andrew) Luck may wind up dictating some of the same things.

But the three teams of the AFC South looking to end a two-year reign by the Texans would be wise to raise the value they put on interior offensive linemen going forward.

"You need elite offensive line play to block elite defensive linemen like Watt with any consistency," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "If you don't play near-perfect from a technique standpoint, he will eat you alive. Six-foot-six, 290 with motor and instincts. A true game wrecker."

Watt is hardly the sole reason guards were a premium position for the Tennessee Titans to address as the 2013 league year started. They were thinking far more about Jake Locker and Chris Johnson as they signed Andy Levitre from Buffalo right as free agency opened on Tuesday.

But twice a year, and conceivably again in the playoffs, to have success against Houston the Titans are going to need for Locker and Johnson to be well protected from Watt, the 2012 defensive player of the year who’s likely to be a terror in the AFC South for a good while.

Left tackle Michael Roos, Levitre, who is expected to play left guard, and right tackle David Stewart are all very solid linemen. Center Fernando Velasco is more than functional if he’s part of a good group.

I’d bet, at worst, the Titans will wind up with Kentucky’s Larry Warford -- widely regarded as the third-best guard prospect -- in the draft to play on the right side.

Refortified on the interior, the Titans will be a lot less likely to allow Watt to notch four sacks, two batted passes, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery like he did against them in 2012.

AFC South links: Jags prepared to strike

February, 15, 2013
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Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports speculates about how teams will approach the franchise tag this offseason. Houston and Tennessee fall into the "Might use it" category.

Houston Texans

Nick Scurfield continues the team website's review of the season with a look at Arian Foster and the running backs.

Indianapolis Colts

Kevin Bowen of the team's website takes a closer look at the 19 tight ends invited to this year’s NFL combine.

NFL.com columnist Adam Schein lists Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and backup quarterback Drew Stanton among this year's underrated free agents.

Jacksonville Jaguars

New GM Dave Caldwell says preparation is the key to the offseason, writes John Oehser of the team's website. Caldwell: “The important thing is for us to be prepared, and when opportunity presents itself, we’re ready to strike on that. We may not be overly active chasing (players), but we’re going to be active looking for the right opportunities, whether that’s in the draft or free agency.”

Tennessee Titans

Kentucky guard Larry Warford, 6-foot-3, 330 pounds, might be a good fit for the Titans, writes John Glennon of the Tennessean. According to some projections, Warford could be a first-round pick after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl last month. Said Lake Dawson, vice president of player personnel for the Titans: “He’s a big, powerful man, and he’ll be intriguing not only to the Titans, but to the other 31 teams."

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