AFC South: Maurice JonesDrew
Most significant move: The team kept six wide receivers as it looks to make dramatic strides in the passing game with quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Laurent Robinson was the big free-agent acquisition and Justin Blackmon was the high draft pick. Brian Robiskie is a reclamation guy and Mike Thomas is a survivor who needs to regain form from early in his career. Cecil Shorts seemed to have stage fright a year ago when he got chances. Kevin Elliott is an undrafted rookie free agent who often shined and is deserving of a spot and some playing time. Only Thomas and Shorts are holdovers from a year ago.
Onward and upward: Several underdogs fill in some roster cracks, including three who caught my eye early in training camp -- Elliott, undrafted rookie linebacker Julian Stanford and running back Jalen Parmele. Parmele is one of four running backs the team kept with Maurice Jones-Drew holding out, along with Rashad Jennings, Montell Owens and Keith Toston. They’ve also got fullback Greg Jones. Other underdogs still standing are undrafted rookie safety Antwon Blake and defensive end George Selvie, who’s already spent time with three different teams, including the Jags once before.
What’s next: Guard Will Rackley was placed on injured reserve. He suffered a high ankle sprain early in camp and, according to AP’s Mark Long, reinjured the ankle. Eben Britton, who the team projected as the right tackle all offseason and at the start of the preseason, is now the left guard. Cameron Bradfield, undrafted a year ago, is now the right tackle and the backup left tackle. Middling veteran Guy Whimper is the backup right tackle, while undrafted rookie Mike Brewster and Josh Beekman, formerly of the Bears, are the interior backups. It sure looks like the team would benefit from adding someone with more of a resume.
After a high school fight left him in legal trouble and cost him a shot at top-tier NCAA football, rookie free-agent linebacker Shawn Loiseau is doing "everything 100 miles an hour, sideline to sideline" in his attempt at making the Texans' roster, he tells John McClain.
A new NFL rule that makes wearing thigh and knee pads mandatory starting in the 2013 season is not a popular one among Houston players.
The Colts signed offensive tackle George Foster, a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2003, and waived fullback Ryan Mahaffey, the Star reported.
Just because 3,000 season tickets still remain unsold, the Colts aren't anticipating any of their home games being blacked out this season.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew isn't as explosive as he used to be, team sources told CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco -- who concurred after watching game tape, noting that Drew, who is sitting out organized team activities in hopes of getting a new contract, often "turned potential 20-yard gains into 7-yard gains."
The Jaguars agreed with defensive end Andre Branch, their second-round pick from Clemson, on a four-year, $5.1 million contract, Tania Ganguli reported.
Hays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union: "You have to feel sorry for the Jaguars. The franchise seeks out an opportunity to increase its non-existent national profile by being the focus of the popular HBO series 'Hard Knocks,' only to be passed over for the Miami Dolphins."
The Tennessean has video of defensive tackle Shaun Smith teaching a hot yoga class.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner is looking forward to testing what he's worked on this offseason when OTAs begin Wednesday.
Matt Schaub isn't in the elite Tom Brady-Peyton Manning class of NFL quarterbacks, but with the talent Houston has assembled around him on both sides of the ball, he's good enough to take the Texans to a Super Bowl. That, anyway, is the contention of SB Nation's Brian McDonald, taking issue with fans' grumbling about Schaub.
The NFL Network confirmed a Boston Globe report that former Colts tight end Dallas Clark worked out this week for the New England Patriots. But it looks like the Pats are just doing their due diligence, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss writes -- noting that the team has signed a tight end since Clark's been on the market.
The team claimed Zane Taylor off waivers from Philadelphia -- the third offensive guard the Colts have so taken from the Eagles, Pro Football Weekly observes. They cut guard Matt Murphy to make room.
New offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski says skipping this week's organized team activities isn't doing Maurice Jones-Drew any favors. "It's certainly not helping him," Bratkowski, who's installing a new scheme, said of the running back, who often skips such OTAs, but this year wants a new contract. "Whether it’s hurting him or not, that remains to be seen."
With Jones-Drew absent, running back Rashad Jennings has been working with the starters, writes John Oehser of the team's web site.
Safety Markelle Martin, a sixth-round draft pick from Oklahoma State, signed with the team, CBSSports.com reports.
The Texans don't plan to hand the starting kicker's spot to rookie Randy Bullock, drafted out of Texas A&M in the fifth round. Rather, special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano told SportsRadio 610, Bullock will have to beat out veteran Shayne Graham. "He has to compete to make the team first," Marciano said, per the team's official site. "If he can beat Shayne out, then I think he’s going to be very good for us."
Defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo, a free-agent signee from BYU, hopes to impress coaches during upcoming rookie camps. “I’m excited to compete with a top-notch offense and defense,” Fangupo said. “I’m ready to learn all I can from coaches and players, and I believe being able to compete with such great players can help my game tremendously.”
Owner Jim Irsay, on Twitter, said he sees the franchise "taking shape" and that the Colts' defensive front seven "could impress" in the new 3-4 defensive scheme.
Indianapolis grabbed tight end Andre Smith off waivers from the Bears; he's expected to be part of new coordinator Bruce Arians' five-tight end offense, Brad Wells notes for Stampede Blue. The Colts also waived cornerback Mike Holmes.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, absent from the Jaguars' voluntary workouts, wants a contract extension, coach Mike Mularkey said. "I wish he was here. He knows we wish he was here," Mularkey said. "His teammates have talked to him about it. It's a personal decision. There's nothing I can do about it."
Tuesday's first day of organized team activities saw Jacksonville's first-round draft pick, receiver Justin Blackmon, going full speed with quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the first team, according to the Jags' official site. A sore foot that bothered Blackmon during rookie minicamps seems to have been helped by new cleats.
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton apologized Tuesday for the club incident last month in which he suffered an eye injury that has kept him out of offseason workouts. Knighton said the vision in his injured eye has improved substantially. “It’s progressing a lot faster than they thought it would,” Knighton said. “I plan on being ready by training camp."
A number of players, including quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, have signed on for coach Mike Munchak's "Strikes to Stop Diabetes" charity bowling event, set for June 14. The tournament will pair a Titans player or coach with a four-person team, with proceeds going to the American Diabetes Association, the team's site reports.
Center William Vlachos, a free-agent signee from Alabama, has been impressed with the Titans' O-line after doing some film study. “I've been watching film for a couple days and my jaw's on the floor,” Vlachos said. “They're just so physical, the effort they bring every play is outstanding.”
We can’t undo those last two duds and while they killed momentum we’re still not in bad shape. Everyone’s going to write us off as one-and-done in the playoffs, and maybe that’s a better way for us to head into it than as a popular pick. We certainly have issues to iron out. Scoring is down 10 points per game since we lost quarterback Matt Schaub, which means the margin for error is down. The defense played poorly on Indianapolis’ game-winning drive, but before that it was fine. So we’ll maintain belief in our run game and defense and get Andre Johnson back — and we will be better than people expect going forward.
We’re not losing on purpose to ensure we get the No. 1 pick. Get that out of your head. Don’t allow oxygen to feed that flame anywhere. It’s utterly ridiculous. We’re professionals who are continuing to build resumes. If you think “lose-on-purpose” is the message trickling down from above, you’re nuts. If it was, and you think guys like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea, Pat Angerer, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark would fall in line with it, you’re also nuts. We’ve got a chance to carry a three-game win streak into the offseason, and that’s what we intend to do.
Let’s put the garbage to rest. We won’t be losing intentionally to the Colts to create the possibility that they don’t get the first overall pick in the draft so as to keep Andrew Luck out of the division. We aren’t paid to factor in long-term potential personnel developments. We are paid to prepare as best we can and do all we can to win football games. That’s what we will spend our week thinking about. Our secondary is in shambles. Theirs is too. We need to protect Blaine Gabbert and let him make some throws. We can also get Maurice Jones-Drew the rushing title, something the entire franchise will take a great deal of pride in.
We can’t waste time or energy looking back on all the things we could have done to enhance our standing now. All we can do is go to Houston and beat the Texans, then hope we land in a three-way tie with Cincinnati and the Jets or Cincinnati and Oakland, because we’d win either of those to get the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs. We’ll enjoy Christmas anticipating a great week of work, a big result in our finale and a 9-7 record. And we will do all the wishing and praying possible for the other results that we need in order to get a return trip to Houston, which would be our wild-card round matchup.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Peter King hits Matt Schaub and Steve Slaton a bit in MMQB and also shares this nugget: The 2008 Colts were the only team of the last decade with no sacks by linebackers or defensive backs.
Richard Justice believes Brian Cushing can be a quick impact player.
Tim Bulman continues to work hard and search for the right role, says John McClain.
Jordan Godwin considers Mario Williams' work ethic.
Antonio Smith apologized for a heated exchange with Bill Kollar that fans overheard, reports Anna-Meghan Riley. It seems like it took a little longer than it should have, but from a distance it's hard to know what factored into the timing.
James Casey's already filling in at fullback as well as tight end, writes McClain.
Day 3 observations from Alan Burge.
As he drove to Terre Haute for his first training camp, Jim Caldwell got an encouraging text from Tony Dungy, writes Mike Chappell. From the story on the new head coach: "The inspection of Caldwell -- how he runs practice and interacts with the players, how he commands the sideline during games -- undoubtedly will be an on-going process."
Donald Brown signed in time to be on time, says Chappell.
Reggie Wayne's arrival signals the hard work ahead, writes Chappell.
As he drove to camp, Peyton Manning contemplated Dungy and Marvin Harrison, says John Oehser.
Adam Vinatieri says after hip and knee surgery he'll be ready for opening day, writes Oehser.
Charlie Johnson expects to return from pectoral surgery near the end of camp, according to Oehser. Johnson's key depth they need to have ready.
Maurice Jones-Drew is spearheading a beard-growing drive in the locker room. Great headline here on Vito Stellino's piece.
Looking to freshen things up, Jack Del Rio is moving his team into the visitors' locker room at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the first two weeks, says Michael C. Wright.
A look at Mike Walker from Jon Loesche.
Jonathan Hutton puts forth a smart proposal for how to give Vince Young a true preseason test. I like it, but don't expect the Titans to do it.
Kenny Britt starts out on the PUP list, says Jim Wyatt.
Javon Ringer makes the battle for third running back much more interesting,
Jacob Ford's having an MRI on his hamstring, says Terry McCormick.
Titans Radio looks at the offensive line.
Last week, the Jaguars cut Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence. The moves were a giant "our bad" from the organization, which invested significant money and hope in the free agents last year and wound up seeing their lack of production paired with their prices turn into a major issue in a locker room that went sour.
Monday, the Jaguars cut Fred Taylor in a move with a far different set of repercussions.
He has been an underappreciated player throughout his career. He got a reputation as injury prone in his first four seasons, but played in 100 of 112 regular-season games since. He's fifth all time among running backs with at least 10,000 yards with an average of 4.64 yards per carry.
According to ESPN.com researcher Andrea Williams, the next-best average among active backs belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson who's at 4.4. Taylor's been a quarter yard better per carry than Tomlinson. Bet you can win a bet armed with that next time you get together with the gang.
In Jacksonville, Taylor was a stand-up guy, super-accountable and unselfish -- willing to work as a duo with Maurice Jones-Drew after having had the lead role to himself. Those are qualities Jack Del Rio and new GM Gene Smith will be looking to infuse into a restructured locker room, and it has to be hard for them to let go of a guy whom they could point to as a model.
(Here's a link to a December entry on Taylor when he went on IR with a thumb injury.)
This season, I heard from many fans who wondered if Jones-Drew should take over as the starter. I didn't believe that would have solved anything at all. Taylor and Jones-Drew were good running backs working behind a line gone bad because of a slew of injuries, and the Jaguars possessed no receiving threat to make defenses back off.
|Jaguars RB Fred Taylor topped the 11,000-yard mark in a Week 10 win over the Lions.|
Is Taylor finished?
Old running backs aren't a popular commodity, and he's not the one-cut-and-go type that's becoming increasingly popular. He's not been a major pass-catcher in recent years as Jones-Drew has been on the field more in situations where the Jaguars would throw to a back.
But with his shiftiness, Taylor could fit someone's vision for a veteran piece of a backfield. If it's a low-risk, high-reward, incentive-laden contract, then here's an occasion where maybe the general running back age concerns can be put on hold long enough for Taylor to go through training camp and show what he's got left.
Here are quotes from the release the team sent out:
Taylor: "I want to thank Wayne Weaver and the coaches and the Jaguars organization for 11 great years. I feel healthy and I'm determined to continue my career. I understand the team's decision to move on, and I have nothing but warm feelings for the Jaguars organization."
Del Rio: "I have nothing but love and respect for Fred Taylor. In the six years that we've been together he has been a pro, a leader and a great teammate. Out of respect for Fred we went to meet with him face-to-face this morning in south Florida. He made it clear that he wants to continue playing, and we are making this move now so that he can continue his career."
Smith: "This was a difficult decision to come to, but a decision that had to be made despite how we all feel about Fred. We all respect and appreciate what Fred has done, and we feel that he can still play in the NFL, but in our current situation we believe this is the right move at this time."
Owner Wayne Weaver: "Fred Taylor's place in Jaguars history has been clearly established. He is not only the standard-bearer for many team records, he is and has been a leader and one of the most important people in the 15-year history of this franchise. Fred came to us as a promising, talented and soft-spoken rookie from Florida, and today he can look back at his 11-year career with pride in all that he accomplished both on the field and off the field. I want to thank Fred for all that he has contributed to this franchise and this city. He is a true professional and a champion."