AFC South: Mat Hasselbeck

Jared Cook wary of saying too much

October, 10, 2012
Jared Cook sounds miserable.

The Titans tight end was a guest on my Nashville radio show, The Midday 180, on Wednesday and struggled to answer some questions about the state of the team for fear of stepping on toes.

Head to the 6:00 mark for the most insightful part, which includes this:

A question from Chad Withrow about whether Cook has an open dialogue with coaches about his role that Cook responded to with seven seconds of silence as he considered his reply. It could have been longer. I was so uncomfortable with the awkward silence that I tried to throw him a lifeboat and said, “That sounds like a no.”

Finally, Cook said: “I think they’ve talked about it. There haven’t been any moves made. You can see it on film, but that’s as far -- I put my work on film. You can see my production on film. I guess I don’t know how to answer that question, really, without kind of throwing somebody under the bus. So I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said after the loss at Minnesota that he thought Cook needed to be more involved sooner. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer told the local press Tuesday afternoon that he should have gotten the ball to Cook earlier against the Vikings and intends to do so going forward.
AFC camp battles: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

An early look at the biggest training camp position battles:


Right tackle: Rashad Butler versus Derek Newton

Right guard: Antoine Caldwell versus Brandon Brooks

The Texans are reshaping the right side of their offensive line after releasing right tackle Eric Winston to save money and watching right guard Mike Brisiel take a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders.

Butler and Caldwell have experience in the system and go into training camp as favorites to win the starting jobs. But it won’t be a giant upset if one of them loses out to the promising kid in position to make a push. The team is high on Newton, who appeared in 14 games as a rookie in 2011, and Brooks, a third-round pick who was listed at 343 pounds when he was drafted and would be the team’s biggest lineman even if he slims down. We won't see Newton and Brooks as starters, but we could see one of them pull an upset.


Cornerback: Kevin Thomas versus all comers at left cornerback

The secondary is the Colts’ biggest issue, and depth beyond starting right cornerback Jerraud Powers is very questionable at corner. Thomas lined up as the second starter during spring and summer work. But the team did a lot to give itself other options for that slot as well as nickel and dime.

The Colts traded for Cassius Vaughn, claimed Korey Lindsey off waivers and signed free agent Justin King, previously of St. Louis. Those three, plus holdovers Chris Rucker, Terrence Johnson and Brandon King will look to earn roles during training camp. The team could continue to seek help at corner, too.


Cornerback: Rashean Mathis versus Aaron Ross

While Derek Cox will man right cornerback, veterans Mathis and Ross will compete for the starting job on the left side.

Mathis is a true pro who’s been a good leader for the Jaguars for nine seasons. He’s made great progress in a comeback from a shredded knee suffered in November. Ross was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams with the New York Giants and also offers leadership. The guy who doesn’t get the starting job still will be an important player on defense, lining up in the slot in the nickel package.


Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck versus Jake Locker

It’s experience versus potential in what will be one of the most-watched training camp battles in the NFL. Don’t believe Hasselbeck can’t lose the job. Coach Mike Munchak wouldn’t be setting it up as a competition for show.

To me, the question is whether Locker can be accurate enough to make his mobility too appealing to pass up. If so, he’s got a chance. If not, then Hasselbeck should retain the job. In the long run, it would be far easier to pull Hasselbeck along the way than it would be to take Locker out of the lineup. That could be a factor in what the Titans say will likely boil down to a gut feeling on whom they are better off with under center.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Andre Johnson’s ready to move from rehab back to playing, while Matt Leinart’s working on a different sort of rehab with a second act of his career, says Jeffrey Martin of the Houston Chronicle.

Danieal Manning returned to practice and could play in Jacksonville, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

The Texans worked out five quarterbacks on Monday -- Kellen Clemens, Trent Edwards, Brodie Croyle, Jeff Garcia and Chase Clement. They’ll likely sign one after they get a second opinion/verdict on Matt Schaub Wednesday, says McClain.

Football Outsiders is impressed with the Texans' balance, says Stephanie Stradley.

Indianapolis Colts

Whether it's Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky under center, the Colts’ offense must show life, show much better ball security and alleviate the pressure on a shaken team, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The 2-minute drill lacks some serious punch, says Phil Richards of the Star.

A recap of Bill Polian’s radio show from Brad Wells of Stampede Blue. You’ll find all the usual contradictions.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jack Del Rio said he didn’t have any big issues with the end-of-game sequence for the Jaguars in Cleveland. Vito Stellino of the Times-Union runs through it all.

The Jaguars didn’t offer injury updates for defensive end Matt Roth or linebacker Clint Session, says Tania Ganguli of the T-U.

Tennessee Titans

Matt Hasselbeck had a sore elbow and forearm but is expected to start Sunday against the Buccaneers, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The Titans let LeGarrette Blount go after training camp last year. Now they’ll try to stop a guy who runs angry when they face the Bucs, says Wyatt.

One play snapshot of Chris Johnson

October, 24, 2011
The first mistake may have been Javon Ringer's. After getting the ball three times in four plays, he may have tapped his helmet to ask for a rest.

I don’t want my second-string running back asking to be taken out so quickly. He should be able to handle more.

Whether it was him asking out or a coach pulling him out, it was the wrong move and it got the anemic Chris Johnson back in the game just before the Titans got their long touchdown of the day.

If you want a snapshot of Johnson and his questionable effort, it comes shortly after that at 7:07 of the third quarter.

Johnson lined up to the left of Matt Hasselbeck, who was in a shotgun formation. The Titans had a tight end and two receivers to the right and one receiver to the left.

Texans outside linebacker Connor Barwin timed up the snap nicely and got the corner on Titans left tackle Michael Roos. Johnson was in the area, hesitated and didn’t appear certain about whether he was supposed to help on Barwin or slip into the flat to be a quick option for his quarterback.

The snap from center Eugene Amano surprised Hasselbeck and seemed too early, and maybe that threw Johnson off as well. But his effort after the snap was insufficient. He stuck his hand right hand out and touched Barwin to no effect, stepping back a yard and then backpedalling a bit toward the flat. It amounted to standing around.

Even if he was completely surprised by a premature snap, instincts should tell him to either invest in blocking Barwin or quickly get into space.

He did neither, as Hasselbeck threw quickly to Lavelle Hawkins on the other side for no gain.

Maybe that amounts to a tough review of Johnson on one snap. But based on how unproductive he’s been, he’s got to know we’re watching every move at this point. And he didn’t make an effective move there at all.

Wrap-up: Titans 31, Browns 13

October, 2, 2011
Thoughts on the Titans 31-13 win over the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium:

What it means: The Titans share the lead in the AFC South with a 3-1 record after an impressive road win. They showed the loss of Kenny Britt won’t ground them as three different players caught touchdown passes and Chris Johnson ran for more than 100 yards for the first time this season.

What I liked: Matt Hasselbeck completed 10 passes, but three of them were for touchdowns. The Titans got a lot of yards after the catch and they jumped ahead 31-6 after safety Jordan Babineaux added a 97-yard interception return for a score. Johnson finally found something to build on. The Titans made Cleveland one-dimensional as Colt McCoy attempted 61 passes, absorbing four sacks.

Upside down: The Titans usually love to win time of possession. But losing time of possession big -- like 36:53 to 23:07 -- is just fine when you don’t hold the ball long because you’re making big plays in a hurry. Tennessee has touchdown drives of six, one and four plays.

Debut: Rookie quarterback Jake Locker got in late and handed off a bunch. He also threw his first regular season pass, an incompletion in Nate Washington’s direction.

What’s next: The Titans are on the road in Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in the middle of their four consecutive games against the AFC South. Pittsburgh’s beaten Indianapolis and lost to Houston so far.

Three things: Bears-Titans

August, 27, 2011
Three things to look for in tonight’s preseason game for the Titans against the Bears at LP Field, where kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT.

The Titans need some plays from receivers. Through two games they’ve been without Kenny Britt and he won’t play tonight either. Their other top four -- Nate Washington, Justin Gage, Damian Williams, Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani -- don’t have a play of more than 28 yards. Gage doesn’t have a catch and Washington has only one. Kevin Curtis was just added yesterday, so odds are he doesn’t play. Matt Hasselbeck may key on Jared Cook, but he’s got to develop some feel with receivers too. Playing beyond the half will afford that chance. Red zone efficiency is an area that can improve.

The running backs will be led, again, by Jamie Harper. With Chris Johnson holding out and Javon Ringer (hip) hurt, the Titans will still be looking to run. Harper made great strides from his first game to his second. Now he’s got a great chance to give the team even further assurance that if Johnson’s not around, he can be the alternative to Ringer on offense.

Defensive end depth will have a chance to make an impression. The Titans want to be bigger there, but with the injured Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones they lose their top big ends. Pannel Egboh (6-6, 287) will have a tough time making the roster because there is little room. But he was good last week and will probably have a chance to impress again. If you don’t see him much it means they hope to get him on the practice squad.