AFC South: Mike Singletary

When an all-time great leaves a franchise, it’s customary to hold his number out of action for at least a while.

The Colts aren’t doing that with Dwight Freeney's 93.


Should Dwight Freeney's No. 93 already be back in use for the Colts?


Discuss (Total votes: 837)

Free-agent outside linebacker Erik Walden wore 93 in Green Bay, and he’s wearing it in Indianapolis.

Linebackers wear 50s or 90s in the NFL. The Colts' current roster shows they are using every number in those ranges.

That would seem to suggest they have no choice but to use Freeney’s number.

Currently, No. 69, 70 and 77 are unused.

The Colts could have shifted a defensive lineman currently in the 90s into one of those numbers. Defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews seems to me to be the guy who should have been moved. If he parted with No. 91 and chose one of the open numbers in the 60s or 70s, that would have left Walden with 91.

However, if Mike Singletary’s No. 50 has been put back into action in Chicago, it’s hardly the end of the world for Freeney’s 93 to be in use.

Freeney is heading to the team's Ring of Honor and will have a strong Hall of Fame candidacy five years after he's finished playing. Those are way bigger honors than having his number go out of circulation.

It's not a scandal to put someone else in Freeney's number. But I'd rank it as less than ideal.

Singletary’s number was out of circulation for 20 years. Freeney’s number was out of circulation for about three months.

Second round of calls a smart idea

April, 27, 2010
While poking around for a little contact on LeGarrette Blount, I came across this very interesting item from Phil Barber.

He said that Mike Singletary makes another round of phone calls after the draft to get a new layer of information on the 49ers picks.
"You expect coaches to speak to the people surrounding potential picks -- coaches, teammates, family members -- before the draft. They call it due diligence. But guess how Singletary spent [Sunday] and [Monday]. Calling those same people to ask what he can do to get his new draft picks, and even undrafted free agents, ready to succeed at the NFL level.

"Singletary made the point that the coaches and moms, etc., have a vested interest in telling you how great a kid is before draft day. After his destination is sealed, that's when they can really help you figure out the athlete's needs and motivations. I talked to the coach for five minutes and wound up with an NFL education."

I’ve never heard of that before, and perhaps others use a similar tactic. I think it’s an excellent idea and I think the people fielding those calls have to be impressed that they are hearing from a head coach in that time frame.

If it's not a part of their routine, other coaches should consider adding it.

Final Word: AFC South

October, 23, 2009
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:
Fernando Medina/US Presswire
The Colts can expect to see a lot of Steven Jackson in Week 7.
Will Indianapolis contain Steven Jackson? St. Louis really only has one weapon, Jackson, and everyone knows it. The problem is that Jackson is superb and just keeps coming down after down. He is capable of breaking a long one at any time and is a big-time factor in the passing game. So, even if the Colts are playing with a lead, which seems likely, Jackson will not go away. In fact, the Rams might run a lot of perimeter screens to their bell-cow back in an effort to slow down Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. That being said, running backs have not produced much at all against the Colts over their last four games.

Could there be complacency on the Colts' part after the bye? Considering the level of competition Indianapolis faces this week, this is a legitimate question. But considering the level of excellence within the Colts organization, I contend that a letdown is very unlikely -- especially with Peyton Manning at the controls. This could be the week to get the running game rolling though and I wouldn't be surprised to see a Donald Brown coming out party, which just might signify the changing of the guard at the Colts' running back position. Joseph Addai should still have a significant role going forward, but I contend that Brown is the better player and the lead job should be his. This might just be the week that he makes that happen.

Who are the playmakers to fear on the 49ers? Vernon Davis has been playing great and looks to have made a substantial step up in his career under Mike Singletary. He is extremely fast for a tight end and is capable of getting behind the defense for a big play. However, Houston has been very strong in defending opposing tight ends. The other receiver who needs mentioning is, of course, Michael Crabtree who is making his NFL debut in Houston. I have a hard time believing that Crabtree is in top-notch football shape. After running numerous routes and blocking in the run game, which is required in San Francisco, I would expect fatigue to set in at some point. He probably will only run a handful of different routes. Still, he is going to play and even without NFL seasoning, he is very capable of beating any member of Houston's secondary and making a big play.

Can Houston equal the 49ers' level of physicality? That is what Singletary preaches -- to be the most physical football team on the field on both sides of the football. While I do concede that San Francisco is more physical than Houston overall, the Texans did show me a lot last week in Cincinnati with their run-stopping prowess. The Texans could stand to do a much better job of moving defensive bodies out of the trenches however and if they are unable to get a consistent push this week, Patrick Willis will have a field day against Steve Slaton and Houston's struggling rushing attack.

How do the Texans' playmakers stack up with San Francisco's cover men in the passing game? Matt Schaub is playing at a very high level right now and his numbers over the past four games are out of this world. Obviously Andre Johnson has an awful lot to do with that, but so does Owen Daniels, who has become a consistent matchup nightmare and Slaton, who is very adept in the screen game. The good news for Houston is that opposing wide receivers have been doing a lot of damage to the San Francisco secondary, but on the other hand, the 49ers have been very stout against tight ends. Still, I like Houston's chances if Daniels is one-on-one with any of the 49ers' linebackers or safeties. Maybe this is the week that Kevin Walter breaks out of his slump and Jacoby Jones is quite dangerous. Nate Clements has been playing quite well for the most part, but Roddy White had a huge day in Week 5 and the San Francisco secondary must tackle better as a whole.
Posted by's Paul Kuharsky
Interconference Matchups
A rundown of seven observations on each division's interconference games:

Tuesday: AFC North vs. NFC North
Wednesday: AFC East vs. NFC South
Thursday: AFC West vs. NFC East

Friday: AFC South vs. NFC West

The AFC South's overall success in 2008 came in good part to its interconference matchups. They were a collective 11-5 against the NFC North with no team worse than 2-2.

What awaits the division when it faces the NFC West this season?

Last year doesn't give us too much information, but at this point in time it's hard to say anything but the matchups look favorable. In 2008 the NFC West was a collective 20 games under .500 while the AFC South was 12 games over.

Here are seven interesting storylines or factors that will come into play in AFC South against NFC West this season.

1. Slowing top receivers: Teams in the AFC South are built on the thinking that they have to be able to matchup with some pretty good receivers. Yes, Marvin Harrison is gone, but Indianapolis still has Reggie Wayne, and Anthony Gonzalez could evolve into a tough matchup. And the Colts, Titans and Jaguars know they have to try to slow the excellent Andre Johnson twice a season. Now the division also has to contend with Torry Holt. How does such defensive construction translate against a division featuring Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Isaac Bruce and rookie Michael Crabtree?

2. Super rushers in big-time matchups: Preparing for the AFC South means preparing for a big-time edge rusher off the right side. Houston's Mario Williams, Indy's Dwight Freeney and Tennessee's Kyle Vanden Bosch are relentless in their quarterback pursuit. Their matchups with Seattle's Walter Jones and San Francisco's Joe Staley should be something to see, and the ability or inability of Arizona's Mike Gandy and St. Louis' Alex Barron to slow them will be critical storylines in those games. And are AFC South left tackles assigned to stop those big rushers in two games a year -- Michael Roos, Tra Thomas/Eugene Monroe, Tony Ugoh and Duane Brown -- also equipped to handle Justin Smith, Chris Long and Bertrand Berry?

  Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMI
  The Colts' Peyton Manning could have big days against the NFC West's pass coverages.

3. Unfamiliar defenses vs. Peyton Manning: No, rank against the pass isn't a tell-all stat. But St. Louis ranked 19th against the pass last year, and that was tops among NFC West teams. The Rams, 49ers (20th), Cardinals (22nd) and Seahawks (32nd) are going to have to show they're much better and can be resourceful if they have a chance to minimize the damage inflicted by Manning. Otherwise, he may well pick them apart.

4. Getting to know Jim Mora: Mora is the new coach of the Seahawks. None of the AFC South teams played against the Mora-coached Atlanta Falcons teams in the regular season while he coached that franchise from 2004-06. But Jeff Fisher's 1999 Titans lost to a San Francisco team that had Mora as its defensive coordinator. The Jaguars beat the Niners that same year on opening day, but don't have a player or coach left from that team, so aren't likely to find any help in it. Indy will have a little organizational recall of Mora's defense from a loss to the 49ers in 2001. The AFC South doesn't have a lot to go on, either, as it prepares to face three other coaches who have not been with their teams long. Fisher does know Mike Singletary -- they were teammates on the Bears.

5. How will two teams from the Eastern
time zone and two from the Central travel West:
Including the playoffs, AFC South teams are 5-16 in games at Seattle, Arizona, San Francisco, San Diego and Oakland since realignment in 2002. That includes 0-7 for the Titans, whose playoff fate could come down their first trip to Qwest Field, a Jan. 3 regular-season finale.

6. Will the Cardinals draw in North Florida: Things are not looking good for the Jaguars in the ticket sales department, and a visit by St. Louis combines with home games against Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami outside the division to make for a less-than-stellar slate to market. But the defending NFC Champion Cardinals are in Jacksonville on Sept. 20. If the combination of the Jaguars' home opener and Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald and Boldin coming to town doesn't produce a buzz and a sellout, it won't bode well for what's ahead.

2009 team schedules: AFC South
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans

7. Battle of the rookie running backs: Colts president Bill Polian once passed on Ricky Williams in favor of Edgerrin James, and came out looking very smart. In April, with Knowshon Moreno long gone, Polian tabbed Donald Brown ahead of Beanie Wells. This season the Colts head to Arizona Week 3 and will use Brown against a team that took the back Polian passed on in the first round. The Cardinals preferred Brown to Wells as well. Here we get close looks at both the backs from late in the first round in a game pitting the teams many rate as the favorites in these two divisions.

  Getty Images
  Joe Montana, Danny Abramowicz and Walter Payton were pretty good buys.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

A rookie receiver on a rookie franchise in 1967, Danny Abramowicz was halfway through the preseason when coach Tom Fears sent The Turk for him.

Defiantly, Abramowicz went to the meeting but violated the protocol.

The contract he got as a 17th-round pick out of Xavier was worth $17,000 and when he joined the team he had sought out Fears.

  Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images
  Wide receiver Jerry Rice provided pretty good value for being picked 16th in the 1985 draft.

"When I reported to training camp, I said 'Coach, I know you don't even know who I am, but all I am asking for is a fair chance,'" Abramowicz remembered in a recent phone chat from his home in Steubenville, Ohio. "He said O.K. In those days we played six exhibition games. Three games into the exhibition season I was on special teams and never got to play a down at receiver.

"The Turk knocked on my door and said, 'bring the playbook' and I did not bring the playbook. I went downstairs into coach Fears' office and I said, 'Coach, you didn't give me a chance, I'm not leaving.' He said, 'You're serious, aren't you?' And I said, 'I'm as serious as a heart attack.' So he said, 'OK, go back to your room, I'm going to give you a chance.' I walked out the door and wiped my brow and said, 'Wow, that worked.'"

Abramowicz played receiver in the next game and played well, becoming a staff favorite. In the regular season, an injury to a starter got him his next big chance, and he wound up his first season with 50 catches for 721 yards and six touchdowns. Two years later he was a first-team All-Pro.

"He caught everything he ever touched," said Eddie Khayat, the defensive line coach for those Saints. "He had great hands, he could go deep, he was so tough. And I don't think I've ever been with a coaching staff that pulled so hard for a guy to make the team, because he was all-out all the time and tough on special teams."

We break from the form for this blog entry, which includes no significant AFC South hook.

Ryan McCrystal of ESPN Research and Mark Francescutti of ESPN Stats & Information worked through a formula and came up with our list of the 50 All-Time Best Buys in the draft and we jumped at a chance to write about it.

Receiver Jerry Rice of the 49ers, the 16th player selected overall in the 1985 draft, tops the list. His teammate quarterback Joe Montana, the 82nd player selected overall selected in 1979, ranks second.

Only three players represent the AFC South division: Peyton Manning, one of just five overall No. 1 picks on the list; running back Marshall Faulk, who started out as a Colts' first-rounder; and Billy (White Shoes) Johnson of the Houston Oilers.

The Formula
Here is a complete listing of the point system used in the calculations:

MVP: 15 pts for each award

AP All-Pro: 15 pts (a one-time value for appearing on a 1st or 2nd team)

1st Team All-Pro: 5 pts for each year

SB Wins: 5 pts for each win

SB loss: 2.5 pts for each loss

Rookie of the Year: 3 points

Pick Value: Takes the average slot at which the first player at each position is chosen and subtracts it from the pick where each individual player was selected. This value is then divided by 10. For example, the first quarterback comes off the board on average at pick 10.6, therefore Peyton Manning's "pick value" is (1-10.6)/10.

-- Ryan McCrystal, ESPN Research

And the best stories are of guys like No. 33 Cleveland defensive back Ben Davis (439th in 1967), No. 30 Dallas defensive tackle Larry Cole (drafted 428th overall in 1968), and No. 25 Abramowicz.

Told he ranks ahead of Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Joe Greene, O.J. Simpson, Deion Sanders and Terry Bradshaw, Abramowicz wondered about the criteria, which factors in draft position and is explained fully with the in the box to the right.

"That must be a stacked deck, how did I get in there?" Abramowicz said. "That's awesome. I think the world of all those guys, they were great players."

Five Cowboys are on the list. analyst Gil Brandt was Dallas' long-time chief personnel man and easily recalled the stories of four All-Time Best Buys (he left the Cowboys before they drafted Emmitt Smith, No. 9 on this list), including No. 14, guard Herb Scott, drafted 330th out of Virginia Union in 1975.

Brandt said Scott had a bad body coming out of college -- not unlike Alabama's Andre Smith right now -- but film showed he never got beat in games. According to Brandt, scout Dick Mansperger deserved the credit for finding Scott. At that time, Mansperger focused exclusively on traditionally black universities.

The guard ranked 50th on the Cowboys' board, they drafted him 280 spots later and he was a two-time first team All Pro who played in three Super Bowls and won one. How's that for value?

"Coach [Tom] Landry called me in during training camp and he said, 'I want to trade John Niland,'" Brandt said, referring to the guard who'd been to six Pro Bowls. "I started laughing. He said, 'Herb Scott is an unbelievable football player. If we can trade Niland now coming off a Pro Bowl year...' Well, we traded him and that enabled us to get [receiver] Tony Hill, who was a very good player for us.

Abramowicz went on to coach for Mike Ditka in Chicago and New Orleans. Now, he's part of "Crossing the Goal", a program that airs on the Catholic Network EWTN, and he's written a book, "Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint." Married for 43 years, he's got three kids and four grandchildren.

During his best year in 1969, the Saints called on him as a fill-in punt returner, even though he'd not done it since he played at St. Peter's grade school. He fair caught the first one as he was instructed, then got brave and decided he could return the next one. He wound up hit "like a truck over a rooster," his front teeth smashed in, the start of dental issues that the 63-year old said has included 14 root canals.

But he was a quick learner when it came to NFL survival. Stitched up and sent out for a third punt in that game, he made the prudent play.

"Before the ball got through the cheeks of the center's rear end," he said, "I had both hands up in the air."

Draft Pick Value Rankings
Player Pos. School Team Rd. Overall Yr. SB
1. Jerry Rice WR Miss. Valley St. San Francisco 1 16 1985 3-1 88.07
2. Joe Montana QB Notre Dame San Francisco 3 82 1979 4-0 87.14
3. Brett Favre QB Southern Miss. Atlanta 2 33 1991 1-1 84.74
4. Peyton Manning QB Tennessee Indianapolis 1 1 1998 1-0 84.04
5. Lawrence Taylor LB North Carolina N.Y. Giants 1 2 1981 2-0 82.30
6. Jack Lambert LB Kent State Pittsburgh 2 46 1974 4-0 76.70
7. Terrell Davis RB Georgia Denver 6 196 1995 2-0 73.90
8. Tom Brady QB Michigan New England 6 199 2000 3-1 71.34
9. Emmitt Smith RB Florida Dallas 1 17 1990 3-0 69.00
10. L.C. Greenwood DE Arkansas AM&N Pittsburgh 10 238 1969 4-0 68.19
11. Shannon Sharpe WR Savannah State Denver 7 192 1990 3-0 68.17
12. Mike Webster C Wisconsin Pittsburgh 5 125 1974 4-0 68.13
13. Karl Mecklenburg LB Minnesota Denver 12 310 1983 0-3 67.60
14. Jack Ham LB Penn State Pittsburgh 2 34 1971 4-0 67.50
15. Brian Sipe QB San Diego State Cleveland 13 330 1972 0-0 66.94
16. Alan Page DT Notre Dame Minnesota 1 15 1967 0-4 65.34
17. Mark Moseley K Steph. F. Austin Philadelphia 14 346 1970 1-1 65.20
18. Herb Scott G Virginia Union Dallas 13 330 1975 1-2 65.14
19. Anthony Munoz OT Southern Cal Cincinnati 1 3 1980 0-2 64.57
20. Ronnie Lott DB Southern Cal San Francisco 1 8 1981 4-0 64.54
21. Rayfield Wright DT Fort Valley St Dallas 7 182 1967 2-3 64.54
22. Bruce Smith DE Virginia Tech Buffalo 1 1 1985 0-4 64.49
23. Barry Sanders RB Oklahoma State Detroit 1 3 1989 0-0 62.60
24. Rocky Bleier RB Notre Dame Pittsburgh 16 417 1968 4-0 61.00
25. Dan Abramowicz WR Xavier New Orleans 17 420 1967 0-0 60.97
26. Larry Brown RB Kansas State Washington 8 191 1969 0-1 60.90
27. Rod Martin LB Southern Cal Oakland 12 317 1977 2-0 60.80
28. Mike Wagner DB Western Illinois Pittsburgh 11 268 1971 4-0 60.54
29. Walter Payton RB Jackson State Chicago 1 4 1975 1-0 59.70
30. Larry Cole DT Hawaii Dallas 16 428 1968 2-3 59.57
31. Randy White DT Maryland Dallas 1 2 1975 1-2 59.04
32. Charles Haley DE James Madison San Francisco 4 96 1986 5-0 58.99
33. Ben Davis RB Defiance Cleveland 17 439 1967 0-0 58.20
34. Mike Singletary LB Baylor Chicago 2 38 1981 1-0 57.90
35. Ted Hendricks LB Miami, Fla. Baltimore Colts 2 33 1969 4-0 57.40
36. Joe Greene DT North Texas St. Pittsburgh 1 4 1969 4-0 57.24
37. Larry Brooks DT Virginia State L.A. Rams 14 355 1972 0-1 56.84
38. Robert Holmes RB Southern Kansas City 14 375 1968 1-0 56.80
39. Billy Johnson WR Widener Houston Oilers 15 365 1974 0-0 55.47
40. Marshall Faulk RB San Diego State Indianapolis 1 2 1994 1-1 55.00
41. Rod Woodson DB Purdue Pittsburgh 1 10 1987 1-2 54.74
42. Zach Thomas LB Texas Tech Miami 5 154 1996 0-0 54.50
43. O.J. Simpson RB Southern Cal Buffalo 1 1 1969 0-0 54.40
44. Ron Yary OT Southern Cal Minnesota 1 1 1968 0-4 54.37
45. Deion Sanders DB Florida State Atlanta 1 5 1989 2-0 54.24
46. Terry Bradshaw QB Louisiana Tech Pittsburgh 1 1 1970 4-0 54.04
47. Dwight Clark WR Clemson San Francisco 10 249 1979 2-0 53.87
48. Cliff Branch WR Colorado Oakland 4 98 1972 3-0 53.77
49. Thurman Thomas RB Oklahoma State Buffalo 2 40 1988 0-4 53.30
50. Rodney Harrison DB Western Illinois San Diego 5 145 1994 2-2 53.24
MVPs: Manning and Favre won three. Montana won two. Taylor, T. Davis, Brady, E. Smith, Page, Moseley, B. Sanders, Sipe, Gannon, L. Brown, Faulk, Payton, Simpson, Bradshaw and T. Thomas won one.

All-Pro teams: All except Bleier and Cole were named first- or second-team All-Pro.

Rookie of the Year: Taylor, Lambert, E. Smith, B. Sanders, Faulk and Greene earned ROY honors.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

With four teams in offseason mode, I still appreciate any notes in the mailbag pointing me to anything I may miss in a daily roundup of headlines.

Houston Texans

New defensive coordinator Frank Bush has a long list of influences, says John McClain.

Ex-defensive backs coach Jon Hoke gets the same job in Chicago.

Indianapolis Colts

Jim Caldwell is ready to put his signature on the Colts, writes Phil Richards.

Bob Kravitz says there is nothing wrong with Caldwell being a lot like Tony Dungy.

Jim Souhan looks back at Tony Dungy's first meeting with Tom Moore.

Rick Morrissey says Dungy showed Mike Singletary the way.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Four starters are heading to free agency, writes Vito Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

A Titans free agent roster from Jim Wyatt.

Change will come, but the Titans hope to hold most of their roster together, says Wyatt.

Chris Carr wants to come back and would like a bigger role, writes Terry McCormick.

Rick Gosselin ranks the missed delay of game call in the Ravens-Titans playoff game as the second worst officiating gaffe of the season.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

It comes as no surprise that Gregg Williams isn't going to be back as Jacksonville's defensive coordinator, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

He and Jack Del Rio, both strong-willed coaching personalities, never seemed a good fit for each other. Del Rio is safe because of his big contract, and he's never hesitated to make changes on his staff.

In a normal year, Williams might have hit the market and found a better situation.

But with Mike Nolan already available and other head coaches who could be fired likely to be available as defensive coordinators, it could be a tough market. That list could include names like Rod Marinelli, Romeo Crennel, Jim Haslett as well as less likely possibilities like Herm Edwards, Marvin Lewis and Mike Singletary.

Many will automatically presume Williams will land back in Tennessee, where he worked his way up under Jeff Fisher before leaving to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills after the 2000 season.

Fisher could have an opening if Jim Schwartz gets his first head coaching job. But with such a vacancy, Fisher would also look at strong in-house candidates Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil.