AFC South: Pacman Jones

Quarterback Jake Locker played a confident and efficient first-half. The run game looked good again. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey turned a triple play with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery all in one swoop.

Those were encouraging developments.

That was about it for the front-liners, and those positives were swallowed up by a pretty lengthy list of bad stuff for the Tennessee Titans in preseason game No. 2, a 27-19 loss at Cincinnati on Saturday night.

A look at much of what went wrong:

Third-and-long failures. Tennessee allowed Cincinnati to convert third-and-longs and string together three long drives before halftime as the Bengals built a 17-3 lead. The headliner in third-down defensive gaffes was strong safety Bernard Pollard. He and nickelback Coty Sensabaugh missed chances to tackle Mohamed Sanu on a 24-yard catch and run to the 1-yard line that set up Cincinnati’s first score. A bit later, Pollard couldn’t bring down a crossing Brandon Tate, who ran away from him for another third-and-long conversion.

Injuries. Both strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers (right ankle) and wide receiver Kendall Wright (knee) rode a cart to the locker room after suffering first-half injuries. Both rank high on the list of players the Titans can least afford to be without. The Titans don’t have a quality, big linebacker backup for Ayers and Wright is probably the most unique receiver on the team. Ayers was on the sideline in the second half, not in a walking boot per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean on Twitter.

Drops. Receiver Nate Washington could have made a tough catch at the goal line. He was well covered by Adam Jones for a while, but the ball looked like it went through his hands. Receiver Kenny Britt let a good throw from Locker bounce off his hands. Undrafted tight end Jack Doyle had a terrible drop on what should have been an easy catch for a good gain.

Run defense. Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard looked very good (seven carries for 37 yards). He took one carry 22 yards and went the same distance for his one catch. Bernard got a lot of his work on one drive and looked to tire out the Titans' defense. On a Cedric Peerman run, the Titans missed two chances at a tackle for a loss (linebacker Patrick Bailey and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua), allowing him to escape outside.

Missing kicks: After moving ahead 3-0, the Titans missed three field goals in a row, with two of the off-target kicks coming from Rob Bironas and another from Maikon Bonani. It’s bad enough that the Titans had to settle for field goals. Bironas hooked the first miss wide-left, and the second went wide-right. The usually reliable Bironas missed time recently with a back issue and this was his first preseason action. Hopefully for Tennessee, his problems were related to rustiness.

Solid fade: The Bengals got a very nice Andy Dalton throw and Sanu catch on a 2-yard fade in the back left of the end zone. Tommie Campbell wasn’t as bad as he was in the preseason opener, and he had a good play on him here. He did get his hands on Sanu early, but Sanu just made a good play. That said, he didn’t look to seize the job in this game. Alterraun Verner made two plays in the first five minutes of the second half. Forget the physical attributes. Verner is a just better football player who understands the game better and has superior instincts.

The second half: The second and third teams fared better and produced a couple of touchdowns. One gaffe of note early in the fourth quarter, however: Right end Scott Solomon crashed to the middle of the field rather than containing on his side. Young Bengals running back Dan Herron reversed course and ran to where Solomon should have been. The result was a 39-yard touchdown scamper that wound up providing the winning margin.
Reading the coverage ...

Pete Prisco of picks every game of the NFL season.

Houston Texans

It was just a preseason game, but based on what the Chargers did against the Bears, the Texans shouldn’t have a lot to worry about in their opening weekend game at San Diego, says Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle.

Arian Foster signed with a film agency, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

Case Keenum won’t have a different approach playing as the No. 2 quarterback in the second preseason game, says Brian T. Smith of the Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

Matt Hasselbeck is with the Colts to help mentor Andrew Luck, but more importantly he can keep the team in the playoff hunt if something happens to Andrew Luck, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The front-liners will see more action in preseason game No. 2 against the Giants, says Chappell.

T.Y. Hilton has joined Twitter, says Emily Shamberger of the Star.

Breaking down what Kerwynn Williams did in the Colts' first preseason game, with Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars’ approach makes it clear they want Blaine Gabbert to win the quarterback job, says Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union. “But like every carton of milk, non-elite quarterbacks have expiration dates on how long they get to truly be in the starting mix.”

Gabbert hasn’t won the job, but he’s being given every opportunity to do so, says Hays Carlyon of the Times-Union.

Second-round safety Johnathan Cyprien is ready for his preseason debut, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Don Banks of found a “hopeful, upbeat” environment around the rebuilding Jaguars when he visited Jacksonville.

Tennessee Titans

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean looks at the best and worst of Titans training camp so far.

“The Titans hope (Delanie) Walker might be able to start practicing in some capacity as early as next week, but he acknowledged there’s a chance he will miss all four preseason games,” writes Wyatt.

Mike Munchak gives Adam "Pacman" Jones credit for getting things together and surviving in the league, says Wyatt.

Breaking down the Titans' corners, with Tom Gower of Total Titans.
Put stars on a high school prospect and they may stick with him for life.

I’m not a big believer in the ability of rating services to accurately project the college career of a high school kid. And like the rest of the NFL world I just saw Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco remind all the 49ers how they were once viewed and present his guys a chance to either reinforce a good opinion of their football capabilities or rewrite a bad one years later.

On national signing day, I just spent some time at plugging names into their database.

It only goes back to 2002, and while I just looked to pick a five-player sample for each team, I didn’t include anyone I couldn’t find. I purposely looked for one guy who didn't pan out with the team that drafted him, denoted here by asterisks.

Houston Texans
LB Brian Cushing -- Four stars

LT Duane Brown -- Three stars

DE J.J. Watt -- Two stars

DT Amobi Okoye* -- Two stars

CB Kareem Jackson -- No stars
Indianapolis Colts
QB Andrew Luck -- Four stars

OL Winston Justice -- Four stars

TE Dwayne Allen -- Four stars

WR Anthony Gonzalez* -- Four stars

RB Vick Ballard -- Two stars
Jacksonville Jaguars
LT Eugene Monroe -- Five stars

DE Derrick Harvey* – Five stars

OT Eben Britton -- Four stars

RB Maurice Jones-Drew -- Four stars

DT Tyson Alualu -- Three stars
Tennessee Titans
OLB Akeem Ayers -- Four stars

S Michael Griffin -- Four stars

DE Kamerion Wimbley -- Four stars

CB Jason McCourty -- Two stars

CB Adam (Pacman) Jones* -- Two stars

How gap between Titans, Ravens grew

January, 28, 2013
The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens used to be bitter rivals, closely matched.

Then Tennessee collapsed in a playoff game after the 2000 season at what now is LP Field, losing 24-10 despite dominating the game in a lot of ways.

Since that fork in the road, the teams have gone in very different directions.

Writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: “The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and they will play for a second championship on Sunday in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers. The Titans, meanwhile, haven’t won a playoff game in nine years and are coming off a 6-10 season.”

But that’s not the line of demarcation I’ll use.

The 2008 Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The sixth-seeded Ravens won in Miami to earn another playoff trip to Nashville. And Tennessee lost that divisional round game in a similar fashion to the game in 2000, even though the score was a lot closer, 13-10.

Since then:
  • The Titans are 29-35 (.453) with no playoff appearances.
  • The Ravens are 43-21 (.672) with a 6-3 playoff record.

That playoff meeting in Nashville was Joe Flacco’s second playoff game, and while he’s had his ups and downs, he’s now a Super Bowl quarterback.

Since then, the Titans have started Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and, in an emergency situations, Rusty Smith.

Instability at quarterback is only part of the reasons the teams have been so different.

John Harbaugh has developed into a steady coach while Jeff Fisher’s tenure fizzled out and Mike Munchak hasn’t established any solid footing after two seasons.

Led by one of the NFL’s top general managers, Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have continued good roster building.

The Titans actually have more starters and contributors out of their last four drafts, but it’s partly because of previous failures -- think Young, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, Paul Williams -- that so much opportunity is available.

Baltimore’s gotten far more production out of outside veterans it’s brought in: Center Matt Birk, receiver Anquan Boldin (via trade), fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, resurgent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, receiver/returner Jacoby Jones.

Compare that to Tennessee’s veteran additions: Receiver Nate Washington, linebacker Will Witherspoon, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, safety Jordan Babineaux, guard Steve Hutchinson, end Kamerion Wimbley, returner Darius Reynaud.

The Titans fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and didn’t see much change with Dowell Loggains promoted to replace Chris Palmer.

The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and got a major boost from Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron.

It’s a copycat league, and the Ravens were already a model franchise in many ways.

The Titans are one of a long list of teams that need to look at how the Ravens work and borrow some ideas.

Quarterback is the key, but the gap between these two teams was a playoff field goal just four years ago. It’s a deep moat now.

RTC: Jaguars' position battles

June, 18, 2012
Reading the coverage...

Houston Texans

With OTAs and minicamp wrapped up, Stephanie Stradley of the Chronicle offers this assessment of the team by position.

What has to happen for the Texans to win the Super Bowl? First and foremost, they have to stay healthy, says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Indianapolis Colts

Former Colts punter Hunter Smith has put together a new book with other people connected to the Colts’ Super Bowl win, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star. It aims to cast a proper perspective on a sports crazy culture.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Five positions where things will get ironed out in training camp, from Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union. Most intriguing to me: Rashean Mathis and Aaron Ross for the second starting cornerback slot, with the non-starter becoming the nickel.

Tennessee Titans

David Climer of The Tennessean gives Adam "Pacman" Jones credit for getting it together. Jones needs to keep it together for longer than he has to prove to this skeptic that he’s changed.

Jason McCourty will also speak at the symposium, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

RTC: Peyton Manning will fail physical

December, 21, 2011
Reading the coverage …

Houston Texans

As he prepares to face his former team, Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky is proud of what the Texans have done, says Jeffrey Martin of the Houston Chronicle.

The Texans should lean heavily on the run to get on track in Indianapolis, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

Andre Johnson is out for Thursday night’s game in Indianapolis and Owen Daniels might be too, says McClain.

Shaun Cody put on an excellent production exploring the old age of Jeff Garcia and Jake Delhomme.

Indianapolis Colts

Bill Polian says Peyton Manning will fail his physical after the season and then be in line to continue his rehabilitation with the team, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Things are a lot different since the Colts played Houston on opening day, say Phil Richards and Chappell.

Football Outsiders says the Colts have an 89.8 percent chance of drafting first overall.

One-time Colts tight end Ben Utecht is experiencing memory loss, says Erik Brady of USA Today.

Jacksonville Jaguars

In his 12th season and at 34 years old, center Brad Meester wants to return and be part of a Jaguars turnaround, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Gene Frenette of the T-U offers a review of Shahid Khan’s podcast with Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

The Jaguars put another defensive back on injured reserve, says Tania Ganguli of the T-U. Does safety Darcel McBath qualify as part of the injury trend when he didn't have a real role and just joined the team last week?

John Oehser of expects the Jaguars to become more of a passing team.

Tennessee Titans

This should have been the Titans' time, writes David Boclair of The City Paper. If Pacman Jones and Vince Young panned out and were in their prime, at worst Tennessee would be right there with Houston in the AFC South.

Matt Hasselbeck practiced and Chris Johnson rested on Tuesday, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Pressuring Blaine Gabbert is one of the keys for the Titans on Saturday, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Titans won't get to face Pacman Jones

November, 6, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans won’t have the pleasure of facing cornerback and return man Pacman Jones, as the former Tennessee first-round ddraft pick is a scratch for the Bengals at LP Field.

He looked good during extensive warm-ups, but was limited during the week by a hamstring injury.

I was surprised that a top-ranking Titans community relations official and a Nashville Metro police officer who works closely with the team were among those who went out of their way to greet Jones during warm-ups. Jones, after all, did more community relations damage than anyone during his tenure with the Titans.

The Titans will start Derrick Morgan for Dave Ball at defensive end, though Ball is active.

Cincinnati has Donald Lee starting at tight end for the injured Jermaine Gresham and Dan Skuta at middle linebacker for Rey Maualuga.

The full lists of inactives:

Chris JohnsonJim Brown/US PresswireThe Titans have a decision to make when it comes to the contract of franchise running back Chris Johnson.
The Titans are in a scary place.

In the first season of the Mike Munchak regime, they’ve said they intend to be a run-based offense keyed around Chris Johnson behind an offensive line expected to perform as it did two years ago when he topped 2,000 yards.

But Johnson's heading into his fourth season. Regarded as one of the league’s most explosive players, he’s due to make just an $800,000 base salary. The final two years of his deal can max out at roughly $2.7 million. Last year, he sought a new contract but settled for a shuffling of money he had coming later that boosted his 2010 salary by $1.5 million to $2.05 million.

He indicated that was a one-time deal and he’d expect the team to give him his second contract before 2011. Even if a labor deal is in place, an old rule that could carry over said the team can’t give him a new contract until a year has passed since that 2010 renegotiation, which happened last July.

At the player-organized minicamp practices earlier this month, he largely dismissed the contract issue, saying it wasn’t on his mind, how he was focused on being a good teammate and getting good work in.

He’s also said he’s willing to take more carries as the team works out its quarterback situation, where the team hopes a still to-be-signed veteran will handle things while rookie Jake Locker learns on the sideline. But Johnson expects Locker to be the starter sooner, and knows it means the run game could be even more important than it has been.

If the Titans don’t show a willingness to give him a significant pay increase and he decides to hold out, who will have the advantage?

Let’s look at both sides.

Here’s what gives Johnson the advantage:

The Titans do not have another skill player who approaches Johnson’s explosiveness or dictates what a defense does like Johnson. They’d be looking at Javon Ringer and rookie Jamie Harper as their primary backs.

The other guy they consider a major weapon, receiver Kenny Britt, spent the lockout getting himself into different variations of trouble and is likely to be suspended early on by the team or the league.

Munchak is an unproven commodity as a head coach who could do a lot for himself and the team with some good early results that show that his plan can work. Those are far more likely to arrive with Johnson as the primary weapon than without him.

Reports say the new CBA will force teams to spend much closer to all of the money under their salary cap. Rookie salaries are also in line to be more manageable. The Titans can spread some of that to veteran free agents, but could also use a share of it to extend their best players. Johnson would head the list.

If he’s not one of a kind, he’s close. In any survey about players with breakaway speed and the potential for a home run on any touch, he’s right at the top.

Here’s what gives the Titans the advantage:

While Bud Adams is eager to win a Super Bowl before he passes away and teams can turn things around quickly in today’s NFL, it’s not reasonable to expect the Titans to be very good in 2011. The guy they hope to be the new face of the franchise is Locker, who needs refining. Even with a big free-agency haul, they are likely to lack leaders and playmakers. They could well believe they’d endure life without Johnson more easily than Johnson would endure life without a paycheck.

They went 8-8 with Johnson topping 2,000 yards and 6-10 as he ran for over 1,300. General manager Mike Reinfeldt could tell Johnson the franchise could manage such win-loss records with the other backs on the roster taking the handoffs.

Although Johnson has done well setting standards of production, he has not showed great leadership qualities. He’s not looked to as a guy to be followed, he doesn’t spend his offseasons in Nashville, and although it’s not been with bad intentions, his constant talk about being faster than other speedsters and running for ridiculous yardage totals can amount to distractions the team could be well-served to be without. Those things make the team less willing to open the vault as wide as Johnson is going to want.

Although he had a solid season numerically, Johnson’s want-to was questioned at times last year. Yes, he was getting hit a ton, but there were a good share of runs where he seemed to surrender, and what sort of message does that send?

Money makes guys more of what they are. Does Tennessee have cause to worry about that with CJ? He’s flamboyant and sometimes selfish. Can you shell out big bucks if you expect to see more of that emerge as a result of the puffed up checkbook?

My thinking

The Titans need Johnson. He’s the guy their fans and the league want to see right now, and the biggest cause the franchise has for hope. I don’t see him getting the $30 million guaranteed he spoke of a year ago, but it’s not at all unreasonable for him to expect a big guarantee. Running back shelf lives are short and his time is now.

The new cap rules will force everyone to spend. The Titans invested the 24th pick in the 2008 draft on him. Having struck out with their first-rounders in 2005 (Pacman Jones, sixth) and 2006 (Vince Young, third) and with Britt (30th in 2009) on shaky ground, it’s not like they have a lot of guys in line for big deals.

Does Johnson bring some risk? Yes. It’s fair to wonder how big dollars will affect him when the Titans can’t get him to plant himself in town in the spring and summer and haven’t seen him lead the way they’d like.

He’s the guy they’re pinning a lot on, though, and guys like that cost significant money. Although having him disgruntled may be motivating, having him happy can be far healthier for the franchise.

Tennessee took the gamble on a small school-speedster in 2008 and proved smart. It may be hard to write the check, but the time to reinvest has arrived.
The Pro Bowl is a watered-down disaster and has no more outspoken critic than I.

But it’s still used as a measuring stick, and since it’s a watered-down disaster for everyone, it’s not unreasonable to look at for comparison purposes. (And it didn't used to be quite as diluted.)

The Texans released this team-by-team list of draft picks and college free agents who’ve gone to the Pro Bowl since 2002. If a team drafted a player or signed one as an undrafted free agent and he went to the Pro Bowl with another team, he still counts.

There are some quirks in the list. It gives the Texans credit, for example, for having drafted Jason Babin. But Houston traded up to draft Babin and then completely miscast him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He was a bust for the Texans. But he went to the 2010 Pro Bowl after becoming a productive pass rush end with the Titans.

The Texans have found Pro Bowlers in top picks, as you’d expect -- Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing and Babin. Owen Daniels was the 98th pick and Jerome Mathis was 114th. Those are the more impressive Pro Bowlers to me.

The Jaguars have only found a couple of Pro Bowl-caliber players with lesser picks or in college free agency. David Garrard was drafted 108th and Montell Owens was undrafted. (Yes, Garrard did have one Pro Bowl-worthy season.)

The Colts and Titans have fared better in this category.

Indianapolis found Robert Mathis 138th, Cato June 198th and Antoine Bethea 207th. Mathis and Bethea remain key players.

And Tennessee unearthed Marc Mariani 222nd and Cortland Finnegan 215th. The two have combined to help fill the crater left by the No. 6 pick in the 2005 draft, Pacman Jones.
When I did some homework on this piece, I had a chance to chat with Gil Brandt, who helped shape some great Cowboys teams and now offers his insight for

[+] EnlargePacman Jones
Geoff Burke/US PresswireAn emphasis on scouting and information might have helped the Titans avoid the headaches they experienced with former first-round pick Pacman Jones.
One of the things that became clear to me out of that conversation was that Dallas in the 1960s and 1970s had a huge advantage in scouting. The Cowboys realized that by seeing a much broader pool of prospects, they could find super values. So they did things like have a scout assigned to historically black universities.

And such front-office architecture helped them find a player like guard Herb Scott, drafted 330th out of Virginia Union in 1975.

Dallas thought he was the 50th best player available. The Cowboys drafted him 330th and he was a two-time first team All Pro who played in three Super Bowls.

It’s hard to have that easy of an advantage anymore, of course.

But lest you think no rock goes unturned, consider this piece by Jack Bechta on how spending on scouting is not what you might imagine.

The fact is, plenty of owners used to spending big bucks on players, coaches and executives see scouting staffs as a place to save. Bechta says, and I'll bet he's right, it’s an area where spending more could actually pay big dividends.
"If I ran a team I would have the highest R&D cost in the league because I know it will save my team money in the long run and give me more wins. I would allocate more money on intelligence testing, character/social habit evaluations and practice habits. I would use more private investigators and even hire former highly respected coaches (and former strength coaches) to gather hard to get information from college coaches.

"Of course the second part of this equation is that you have to find coaches who can develop your draft picks. Why not hire a scout to exclusively evaluate other coaches and keep scouting reports on them?

"It baffles me that I can ask one of my current players (or even a college coach) about a prospect he played with or coached in college and he may tell me to “stay away” because of some obvious reason. However, an NFL team will never get the same Intel I received by just doing a little diligence. It also amazes me how one NFL team can pick up on a major character, work ethic or physical deficiency while others won't catch it."

At least one recent AFC South development has shown a scouting department shrinking, not growing. In May of 2009, the Colts eliminated the jobs of longtime player personnel official Dom Anile and several others in the scouting department. The moves came as part of restructuring efforts aimed at cost-cutting.

As for the sort of things that happen in scouting players, here's one that Bechta would certainly appreciate from the Titans and their bungled pick of Pacman Jones in 2006. The team gave some weight -- I’m not saying a lot, but it was part of its equation -- to the endorsement of a guy who’s West Virginia career overlapped with Jones’ who happened to be the son of a Titans assistant coach.

When investing huge dollars and a valuable pick into a guy who allegedly smashed in someone’s face with a pool cue at a bar, I’d say the team could have done a far more thorough investigation that would have steered it elsewhere.

I'd like teams to have such well-equipped scouting staffs that a recommendation like that would be diluted to the point where the people involved in the decision couldn’t try to soften the blow years later by talking about it.

If I’m a bad team looking to close the gap on the guys making regular visits to the playoffs, I’d consider really ramping up my expenditures for what Bechta refers to as a team’s research and development department.

My team would still miss in the draft -- it’s an “inexact art” as Bill Polian calls it. But I am guessing it would miss a bit less. And I’d want to know just how much that difference could mean to my franchise.
Is there less buzz about the upcoming NFL draft than usual?

I certainly think so. The lockout and labor impasse are putting a damper on everything. There has been no free-agency build up. And there won’t be trades involving veteran players.

ESPN Stats & Info’s Mark Malzewski sifted through the past 11 drafts to find all the draft-day trades involving players.

There have been 37 such trades, or 3.4 per draft. That included two deals involving drafted players, and those aren’t allowed this time either. (Think Eli Manning and Philip Rivers in 2004.)

These trades included significant names such as Jason Campbell, Pacman Jones, Randy Moss, Trent Green and Ahman Green.

Last year the Jaguars gave up a fourth-round pick to Oakland for linebacker Kirk Morrison and a fifth-rounder.

We’ll see no such movement in this draft and it certainly takes away one layer of intrigue. Allow trades for veterans in this draft and it could be way more interesting considering all the quarterback uncertainty around the league.

Quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton and Matt Flynn, who could eventually be traded, will not go anywhere.

Here’s the year-by-year review of the sort of trades we won’t be seeing.

Our periodic look at the best and worst draft picks by position for each team moves to cornerback. We’re looking at draft results since realignment in 2002, since that’s when the Texans came into existence and gives us the most level comparison…

Houston Texans

Best: Dunta Robinson, taken 10th overall in 2004, lived up to his first-round pick status for a good segment of his career. He tops three categories in the team’s record books, with six picks as a rookie, 13 in his career and two seasons leading the team in interceptions. I understood not paying him big bucks and allowing him to leave as a free agent before the 2010 season. But the Texans failed to sufficiently replace him and had a brutal pass defense last season.

Worst: Fred Bennett (fourth-rounder in 2007) had some well-documented struggles and Antwaun Molden (third in 2008) has never lived up to his initial training camp, but Vontez Davis wins the honor here. A sixth-rounder from 2004, he also got a look from Chicago and time on the practice squads in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh but never played a game in the NFL. (Nevertheless, this autographed picture of him as a Texans still goes for $15.99.)

Indianapolis Colts

Best: Perhaps it’s projecting a bit, because his best football is surely ahead of him, but Jerraud Powers was an excellent find out of Auburn in the third round in 2009. He was the team’s best cornerback last season before suffering a season-ending right forearm injury and looks to be the kind of piece that continues to sustain the franchise -- a real find outside of the first couple rounds.

Worst: Daymeion Hughes was a third-round pick out of Cal in 2007 who later became known as Dante Hughes. Under either name, he never proved he could cover effectively for Indianapolis. He played in 24 games in two seasons and couldn’t stick beyond that. He’s been with San Diego the past two seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best: Rashean Mathis was a little known guy coming out of Bethune-Cookman in 2003. But the Jaguars spent a second-round pick on him and got a starter from Day 1. He has started every game he’s played, and has missed just a dozen games in eight seasons. In the past two years, a new regime swept out a lot of veteran guys. But Mathis has remained a fixture.

Worst: Scott Starks was a third-round choice out of Wisconsin in 2005 who never really qualified as more than a nickelback and hardly provided what Jaguars with an answer in the secondary. He lasted five seasons and played in 54 games, but started only one and recorded only two interceptions. Sure you’d like the Jaguars to have found a gem out of Steve Smith (seventh-rounder in 2002), Chris Roberson (seventh, 2005) and Dee Webb (seventh, 2006) but expectations for all of them paled in comparison to a third-rounder like Starks.

Tennessee Titans

Best: The Titans did much to bail themselves out of failed first-round picks at the position like Pacman Jones and Andre Woolfolk by hitting on Cortland Finnegan out of Samford in the seventh round in 2006. While he has dropped off since an All-Pro 2008, he still ranks as a ridiculously good find with the 215th pick.

Worst: The Titans needed Woolfolk to become a fixture in the secondary when they spent the 28th overall pick in the 2003 draft on him. But he never showed any consistency and ultimately qualified as a bust, with just 11 starts and three interceptions in four years. He failed to emerge as a player who ranked ahead of a seventh-rounder like Reynaldo Hill.

Mel Kiper redrafts 2005

January, 25, 2011
Mel Kiper has redrafted the class of 2005.

It's an Insider piece Insider, but I negotiated permission to share AFC South details. Hindsight is crystal clear, but boy did the division get some upgrades.

No. 6 -- Tennessee Titans

Took: Pacman Jones, corner and returner from West Virginia -- Despite flashes, an absolute disaster as he emerged as the poster boy for Roger Goodell’s personal conduct policy.

Redraft: Vincent Jackson, receiver, Northern Colorado -- The sort of big productive target the Titans may have finally found in Kenny Britt, five drafts later.

No. 16 -- Houston Texans

Took: Travis Johnson, defensive tackle, Florida State -- Never panned out into the stalwart the team expected from such an investment. Traded after four middling years.

Redraft: Michael Roos, left tackle, Eastern Washington -- Get to see technically sound tackle twice a year as Mario Williams tries to get through him to get to Titans’ quarterbacks.

No. 21 -- Jacksonville Jaguars

Took: Matt Jones, wide receiver, Arkansas -- Never turned into half the player they thought he would be as they passed on Roddy White and Jackson.

Redraft: Chris Kemoeatu, guard, Utah -- A strong guard who’s done solid work for the Steelers and could have really been a presence inside for the Jaguars.

No. 29 -- Indianapolis Colts

Took: Marlin Jackson, defensive back, Michigan -- A starter on a Super Bowl team, who faded pretty quickly because of serious injuries.

Redraft: Mike Williams, receiver, USC -- Has taken him a long time to become a factor, but as Kiper says, imagine if he was working with Peyton Manning from Day One.
The Jaguars are on the list of teams reportedly giving Adam "Pacman" Jones a look.

This made some Jacksonville fans panicky.

As Jonathan Loesche pointed out in an effort to calm fans before I could say roughly the same, it likely amounts to “due diligence tire kicking.”

I don’t expect him back in the league, but I can understand why a team that hasn’t seen him up close might give him a look.

If a team 's personnel people fall for yet another “changed man” routine, it will come back to bite them. A guy with this many strikes simply isn’t worth the risk. I covered Jones for his entire disastrous tenure in Tennessee and am completely comfortable saying he’s toxic.

Jags GM Gene Smith has been nicknamed "Clean Gene" by Pete Prisco on the radio in Jacksonville.

Jones wasn’t a good player last time we saw him in Dallas, and more time away is unlikely to have made him better.

For A GM who leans toward drafting college captains who can lead and fall in line with the program and who runs a team that had a bitter experience with Jerry Porter, Jones would be a complete non-fit.

UPDATE, 5:09 p.m.: Jones did not show up for the workout, which was to follow Tulane's pro day, according to James Varney. A shocker. I am sure Jones will have an excuse ready and maybe it'll even be legit. If he attempts to set up another try, the interested parties list will be even smaller. Hat tip to @brian_mcintyre for the link.

UPDATE, 5:53 p.m.: Now, according to my collegue Kevin Seifert, Jones is working out. I cannot believe that something involving Jones and his people would involve such confusion.

Draft watch: AFC South

February, 24, 2010
NFC Schemes/Themes: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Busts and late-round gems.

Houston Texans

The previous regime traded with division rival Tennessee to get Western Michigan linebacker Jason Babin with a second first-round pick in 2004 and he never became what they envisioned. The first-rounder from the next year, Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson, wasn’t good either. Johnson flashed some but wasn’t long-term help. Wide receiver David Anderson (seventh round from Colorado State in 2006) is a quality slot receiver, and probably the team’s best late-round pick.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts traded up in 2007 to take Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh 42nd overall. He was the man to replace Tarik Glenn when he surprised the team by retiring the same year. But Ugoh lost his starting job in 2009 and was often inactive. Two third-rounders from the same draft also faded: cornerback Dante Hughes from Cal didn’t make it out of camp in 2009 and Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock quit football in 2008. Late-round finds abound: Howard safety Antoine Bethea (sixth round) is a Pro Bowl talent; Mount Union receiver Pierre Garcon (sixth round, 2008) just had a breakout season; punter/kickoff man Pat McAfee from West Virginia (seventh round, 2009) is a consistent performer. And Indianapolis does consistently well with undrafted rookies, such as safety Melvin Bullitt and cornerback Jacob Lacey.

Jacksonville Jaguars

First-round busts have been a major reason the Jaguars haven’t broken through as a consistent contender: receivers R. Jay Soward of USC in 2000, Reggie Williams from Washington in 2004 and Matt Jones from Arkansas in 2005 are gone and safety Reggie Nelson (Florida, 2007) and defensive end Derrick Harvey (Florida, 2008) rank as major underachievers. Late-round gems? Purdue guard Uche Nwaneri was a 2007 fifth-rounder and has started a lot of games and Florida’s Bobby McCray was a good defensive end for a seventh-rounder in 2004. James Harris was ousted as the personnel chief and the team seems on a better track under Gene Smith, who was named GM about a year ago.

Tennessee Titans

Any list of recent high-ranking failures has to start with first-round cornerback Pacman Jones, sixth overall from West Virginia in 2005. He was probably the best defensive football player there, but the Titans failed miserably in researching his personality. Other busts who hurt them: Ben Troupe (second-round tight end from Florida in 2004), Andre Woolfolk (first-round cornerback from Oklahoma in 2003) and Tyrone Calico (second-round receiver in 2003). Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and heads any list of recent late-round gems. He was a seventh-rounder from Samford in 2006. Tight end Bo Scaife was a sixth-rounder from Texas in 2005 and promising defensive end Jacob Ford from Central Arkansas was a sixth-rounder in 2007.