AFC South: Matt Giordano
The Titans tight end said he was embarrassed after the Jaguars won 29-27 in Nashville on Nov. 10 to pick up their first victory. Since then, the Jaguars are 3-2 with victories over Houston (twice) and Cleveland. The Titans are 1-4 with a victory over Oakland.
There seems to be much more stability in Jacksonville, too, because of the uncertain status surrounding Tennessee coach Mike Munchak.
Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky break down Sunday’s matchup at EverBank Field.
DiRocco: Some Titans players were pretty vocal about being embarrassed due to becoming the first team to lose to the Jaguars. Is that something that still stings, and how have they rebounded from that loss?
Kuharsky: It definitely left a mark. They are only 1-4 since then. It kind of set a bar for how bad they can be and re-established their propensity to lose to teams that are really struggling. The Jaguars are on an upswing since that game, and the Titans are on a downward spiral. If Tennessee losses to the Jaguars again, the Titans will be in line to finish in third place in an awful division, which is well short of their goals and expectations. The Titans are a better team than they were last year. But losing closer isn’t a really big difference in the really big picture.
Let’s turn that around. How has life changed for the Jaguars since that Nov. 10 breakthrough?
DiRocco: I could go into a lot of stats that show how much better the Jaguars are playing, but that's not what's really important. The past six games have been more about the validation of the process, establishing the foundation of the franchise's rebuild, and confidence in the new regime. Coach Gus Bradley never wavered from the plan that he and general manager David Caldwell established. His message stayed the same throughout the eight-game losing streak to start the season: trust in the process, work hard, and focus on improving and not victories, and the victories will eventually come. Because that has happened, the players appear to have completely bought into what Bradley and Caldwell want to do, and there's a confidence in the locker room that the franchise is headed in the right direction.
We talked about Jake Locker the last time these teams met, but that was before he suffered a season-ending injury to his foot. How does that change the Titans' outlook on him and are they in the market for a quarterback in the offseason, too?
Kuharsky: Locker is certain to be on the 2014 Titans. His fourth year isn’t that costly and it’s guaranteed. But they can’t execute a spring option for his fifth year that would line him up for over $13 million. A lot of his fate depends on whether Munchak is back as the head coach. It’s possible they go forward with Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick and just-signed Tyler Wilson as their quarterbacks. It’s also possible they’d draft a new guy, and depending on how high of a pick he could land in competition to start. I think it’s less likely they chase a free agent like Jay Cutler if he comes free, but they have to assess all the possibilities. How can they completely commit to Locker based on his injury history?
One side effect of the Jaguars' surge is they aren’t going to be in position to draft the first quarterback taken. What’s your sense of what Bradley and Caldwell want in a quarterback and do you expect one to arrive in the first round?
DiRocco: Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said something interesting last week. He said he wants his QB to scramble around, take off running to get yards and take some chances throwing the football. To me, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of Johnny Manziel. I'm not sure how that reconciles with the ideas of his bosses. Bradley comes from Seattle, which has the mobile Russell Wilson. Caldwell comes from Atlanta, which has the considerably less mobile Matt Ryan. My sense is that Bradley and Caldwell probably lean more toward the Wilson end of the spectrum. People think that eliminates Teddy Bridgewater, but that's not the case. He's not a runner but he can run if needed. If he's around, I'd expect them to take him. If not, then I would still expect them to go quarterback. It's their most glaring need.
You mentioned Munchak's job status. What's your take on whether he will be back next season -- and should he be?
Kuharsky: He’s shepherded improvement, but his team lacks an ability to finish. He’s 0-4 in the worst division in football, 1-9 in the past two years. His teams have lost to the previously winless Jags in 2013 and the previously winless Colts in 2011. He’s 4-18 against teams with winning records when the Titans played them and 2-19 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. To me, three years is a sufficient sample size to know what you’ve got and those numbers are the most telling thing on his resume. Keep him and they deal with all the limitations connected to a lame duck coach. I don’t know what Tommy Smith, the head of the new ownership, will do. But the fan base overwhelmingly wants change, if that’s worth anything. People still pay for tickets because they’ve got investments in personal seat licenses they do not want to throw away. But a lot of people are staying home on Sundays now.
Cecil Shorts is done and Maurice Jones-Drew is uncertain. How can the Jaguars threaten on offense without their two best weapons?
DiRocco: They were able to put up 20 points and post their second-highest yardage total of the season, including a season-high 159 rushing, in last Sunday's loss to Buffalo. Running back Jordan Todman stepped up big time and ran for 109 yards (Jones-Drew cracked 100 only once in the first 13 games) and tight end Marcedes Lewis was more involved in the passing game than in previous weeks (four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown). But I'm not sure that is sustainable. Teams will certainly concentrate on stopping Lewis and make quarterback Chad Henne move the ball with three receivers who have a combined 75 career catches. Todman doesn't scare anyone, either. The Jaguars will have to be creative on offense (they've run gadget plays the past three weeks) and capitalize on every opportunity they get.
Posted by ESPN's Paul Kuharsky
- Richard Justice welcomes Dunta Robinson back and says he makes everybody better.
- Rex Grossman is fired up that Gary Kubiak called the backup quarterback competition even, says John McClain.
- The Colts' success is usually built on a hot start and a roll as the hunted team, writes Phil Richards.
- Jim Caldwell is a meticulous note taker, says Phil Richards.
- Bob Kravitz has the Colts going 12-4 and not losing a division game.
- Five things the Colts must do to regain control of the division, from John Oehser.
- Oehser’s roster analysis.
- The Colts signed safety Aaron Francisco, claimed linebacker Glenn Cody and cut safety Matt Giordano, says Mike Chappell. I'm sad to see Giordano go so soon after he helped me out with this.
- GM Gene Smith decided to go with newcomer Cade Luke McCown as the lone backup quarterback, leading Michael C. Wright to wonder about what happens if David Garrard gets hurt in the opener.
- Maurice Jones-Drew is the face of the franchise, says Wright.
- The Jaguars’ ticket troubles are a national story, says Vito Stellino.
- Smith’s work as GM so far has been nothing if not bold, says Vic Ketchman of jaguars.com.
- The Mike Smith connection: Brian Williams, cut by Jacksonville, signs with Atlanta.
- A cutdown analysis from Jonathan Loesche.
- LenDale White doesn’t regret stomping and would stomp again, he said in a discussion of the Terrible Towel controversy of 2008. Jim Wyatt and Terry McCormick both wrote it. Warped logic from White that he can buy whatever house he’s in. Unless he got a bonus I don’t know about, I’m pretty sure he couldn’t afford Heinz Field.
- Chris Hope doesn’t know what to expect in his first trip back to Pittsburgh, says Gary Estwick.
- Quinton Ganther’s injury was significant, says Wyatt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Here’s a team-by-team look at what happened on waivers that touched the four teams of the AFC South:
Houston Texans: Claimed defensive back Anthony Smith (Syracuse) from Green Bay, but he was awarded to St. Louis.
Indianapolis Colts: Claimed and were awarded linebacker Glenn Cody (Nebraska) from Washington. To make room for him, waived defensive back Matt Giordano.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Claimed defensive back Anthony Smith (Syracuse) from Green Bay, but he was awarded to St. Louis.
Claimed defensive back Marcus McCauley (Fresno State) from Minnesota, but he was awarded to Detroit.
Waived linebacker Tim Shaw was claimed by Dallas, but Dallas was awarded a different player under the priority claim system.
Waived running back Chauncey Washington was claimed by Dallas, but Dallas was awarded a different player under the priority claim system.
Tennessee Titans: Waived defensive lineman LaJuan Ramsey was claimed by and awarded to St. Louis.
Waived punter A.J. Trapasso was claimed by and awarded to the Jets.
Waived tight end Matthew Mulligan was claimed by and awarded to the Jets.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Don Banks ranks backup quarterbacks.
- What to make of preseason rip-offs, from the vantage point of Jerome Solomon.
- Expect a quarter and a half for the starters tonight against the Saints, writes John McClain.
- Ten reasons the Texans can make the playoffs, from Richard Justice.
- Former Hurricanes caught up during the Texans and Saints time together, says Jordan Godwin.
- Some game expectations from Alan Burge.
- Austin Collie's strong showing is making the case for him to be the No. 3 receiver, writes Phillip B. Wilson.
- The Colts are evaluating Chad Simpson (shoulder), Mike Hart (ankle) and Matt Giordano (groin) and has yet to determine if any would miss much time, says Wilson.
- A review of Jim Caldwell's game review, from John Oehser.
- Left tackle is a major concern, says Deshawn Zombie.
- A visit to the top preseason theme for the Colts: Preseason results don't mean a whole lot. Tom James' look at it.
- We've already posted the video, but here's Chris Mortensen's write up on the Jags.
- The Jaguars are looking to run it, knowing when they have done it well in the past they've won, says Michael C. Wright.
- Saturday night's game is not on TV in Jacksonville, says Jeff Elliott.
- Storylines to follow as the Jaguars play the Buccaneers, from Wright.
- The third preseason game is the one to look forward to, says Vic Ketchman.
- Don't expect any 2009 sellouts, says Michael David Smith. This picks up on something Vito Stellino wrote recently, saying the team had announced the whole season will be blacked out. He later explained via Twitter that because Wayne Weaver said it, he considered it "announced."
- The Titans were bad on offense and defense as Dallas' first guests in the new stadium, says Jim Wyatt.
- Kevin Vickerson and Tony Brown got fined for plays in the game against Tampa Bay, reports Wyatt.
- Wyatt's look at Javon Ringer before his nice night against the Cowboys.
- Chuck Cecil isn't what you might think, says Pete Prisco.
- The video board issue from Friday night's game prompted this Kuharsky-Matt Mosley collaboration.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Matt Bowen runs through issues in the division as camps draw near.
A video report on the Texans' outlook at quarterback, with John McClain.
Travis Johnson had surgery to repair a sports hernia three weeks ago, reports Mark Berman.
Read of the morning: KC Joyner considers 10 reasons Peyton Manning isn't as revered as he should be.
Will Bob Sanders stay healthy? John Oesher examines it as part of his 20 Questions.
Mike Chappell says the Colts generally don't crank up contract negotiations for draft picks until about 10 days before camp.
A breakdown of safety Matt Giordano from Oehser.
Marvin Harrison's accuser is reportedly shot again, says the AP.
"There are not 32 backs out there who are better than me," Edgerrin James tells David Dorsey.
Aaron Schatz considers whether backs who get a big increase in carries like Maurice Jones-Drew will stand to drop off.
KC Joyner thinks offensive line injuries masked other issues for the Jaguars last year and became a blanket excuse.
A preview of the Titans offensive line from Jim Wyatt.
A quick Q&A with Michael Roos.
- Michael Oher's story is an improbable one, writes John McClain.
- Lance Zierlein ranks the top 10 prospects by position on offense.
- What's become of Darius Walker, asks Alan Burge.
- Peria Jerry and Evander Hood are possibilities for the Colts in the first round, writes Mike Chappell.
- No. 6 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Bill Polian era.
- Bringing back Matt Giordano was a good move for the Colts, writes Oehser.
- A look at defensive end in the draft, from Oehser.
- Polian says he is rarely surprised by what unfolds in the first round, says Colts.com.
- The Jaguars got a No. 1 receiver in Torry Holt, writes Michael C. Wright.
- A breakdown of receivers in the draft, from Wright.
- Vic Ketchman's mailbag from Jaguars.com.
- Five players the Jaguars could consider at No. 8, according to Cole Pepper.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Mike Silver's annual ultimate mock draft allows teams to pick anybody.
- The top two running backs in the draft are hardly flawless, writes McClain.
- A look at a local: John McClain on Brandon Pettigrew.
- The case for Matthew Stafford as the No. 1 pick, from McClain.
- Teams get drug test results from the combine Monday, says McClain.
- Natalie Meisler looks at Gary Kubiak's participation at a clinic at Colorado State, where two of his sons play. (Thanks for Alan Burge for pointing out the link.)
- Alan Burge doesn't want to hear pleas for patience from the Texans' defense.
- What tender did Owen Daniels get? Burge ponders conflicting reports.
- In Mike Chappell's mock, the Colts take Brian Robiskie.
- The Colts will continue to draft best player available. Chappell breaks down the roster.
- Dominic Rhodes is no longer an option for the Colts in the backfield. He signed in Buffalo, says Chappell.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey has studied Marvin Harrison as he's gotten ready for an NFL career, writes Chappell.
- A look at Tony Dungy's life after football from Jarrett Bell.
- No. 8 and No. 7 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Bill Polian era.
- A look at centers and defensive tackles in the draft, from Oehser.
- The Colts re-signed fifth-year veteran safety Matt Giordano.
- Chris Mortensen says the Jaguars are "nearing a deal" for Torry Holt, while team sources tell Michael C. Wright that the Jaguars are "making progress" on a contract for the veteran receiver. But agent Kennard McGuire told Jim Wyatt he doesn't know where that is coming from.
- Michael C. Wright has the Jaguars taking B.J. Raji in his mock draft.
- Wright looks at Jacksonville's needs.
- Cole Pepper also contemplates the Jaguars' needs.
- Vince Young intends to shut up and work, reports Jim Wyatt.
- David Climer makes the case for the Titans to finally spend their first-rounder on a wide receiver.
- The Titans will have good options at No. 30, writes Wyatt.
- Could Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers be a fit for the Titans? Gary Estwick takes a look.
- Some Titans chime in with Wyatt with their thoughts on the draft.
- A member of the Titans' front office is rehabbing after surgery, reports Wyatt.
Our NFC West ace Mike Sando has been keeping track of free-agent movement by division and put together this excellent chart, which doesn't factor in any deals that may have been completed Friday morning.
The most significant names by team, with asterisks denoting players still believed to be of interest by their current clubs:
A look at the members of the Colts who are heading toward unrestricted free agency, in rough order of importance and standing.
Running back Dominic Rhodes: Reunion was good, he's not going to be real expensive and Bill Polian has expressed confidence the team can re-sign him.
Punter Hunter Smith: Solid guy. They'd like back, but his future could depend on the market.
Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler: Didn't really break back into lineup after missing first six games on PUP. Would be nice to have, but he's the kind of guy they are good at replacing.
Defensive tackle Darrell Reid: Time on defense only came when they were thinned, but he was top special teams tackler.
Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff: Did some good work when called on, but he's only depth.
Safety Matt Giordano: Also quality secondary depth, but the fourth guy at his position at best.
Defensive end Josh Thomas: They'd like to upgrade, but he could be back late for a minimum deal if he's still out there.
INDIANAPOLIS -- You'll find the inactives from Titans-Colts at our league-wide link.
But here are the resulting lineup changes as a result of inactives we didn't know before this morning:
- William Hayes starts at right end for Dave Ball
- Josh Stamer starts at left linebacker for David Thornton
- Chris Carr starts at left cornerback for Nick Harper
- Leroy Harris starts at center for Kevin Mawae
- Brandon Jones starts at receiver for Justin Gage
Injury interpretation as Week 3 games approach:
If Dawson is out, the Colts would have lost their two starting interior linemen in two weeks -- Ed Johnson was cut before the second game because he got in trouble off the field. It's hard to imagine the Colts without Sanders, Johnson and Dawson. In such a scenario, Raheem Brock would surely shift inside from end.
Giordano is the lone backup safety on the roster with Melvin Bullitt filling in for Bob Sanders (ankle/ knee). Look for the team to promote Jamie Silva from the practice squad, but it's unknown where they'd gain the roster spot.
WR Troy Williamson (thigh) is out, but Jerry Porter (hamstring) is questionable. Jack Del Rio said Friday that Porter is not likely to play. If he doesn't, look for him to be designated as the team's third quarterback for a second week in a row. If David Garrard and Cleo Lemon both get hurt, Matt Jones shifts under center and Porter might be able to help a unit without Jones.
LB Colin Allred (ankle), a key special-teamer, is also questionable and a game-time decision.