AFC South: Paul Williams

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.
Mike Reinfeldt’s is going into his fifth draft on the GM job for the Titans.

While we usually have a pretty good sense of a guy as he starts his fifth year on an NFL job, I’m not sure we’re certain on Reinfeldt. Jim Wyatt reports Reinfeldt now has a contract extension that looks to run through 2014.

Reinfeldt’s a well-reasoned consensus builder, for sure. Indications are that he is easy to work with and for, and stays out of people’s way once they are set up to do their job. He’s clearly a favorite of owner Bud Adams, having played for the Oilers and played a role in prompting the owner to make some front-office hires and some big decisions (like the one to part with Vince Young.)

At the same time, Reinfeldt is a reserved guy in a market that still fondly remembers his outspoken, entertaining and often successful predecessor, Floyd Reese.

Reinfeldt’s worked quietly in an organization that up until recently had been fronted by coach Jeff Fisher and where the big operation is overseen by Steve Underwood, the franchise’s senior assistant vice president, general counsel and executive assistant to Adams.

But Fisher's been replaced by first-time coach Mike Munchak and Underwood is set to retire this summer.

Though the team won’t make a big deal of it, Reinfeldt is clearly gaining power and profile. How he handles it will go a long way towards determining his ultimate story as a lead executive.

I think he’s a pretty shrewd drafter who’s learned from mistakes -- two of his worst were in the his first draft, in second-round running back Chris Henry and third-round receiver Paul Williams -- and will get better.

We will get a better idea of that at the end of the month, and as we see how another class pans out.
The National Football Post's Joe Fortenbaugh has a nice piece reviewing AFC South draft trends.

Here’s a nugget on each team with a thought from me:

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Colts have drafted only three offensive tackles. To put that in perspective, take note that over the last 10 years the team has spent the same amount of selections on kickers and punters (3).”

[+] EnlargeTony Ugoh
AP Photo/Darron CummingsThe Colts spent a 2007 second-round pick on Tony Ugoh but cut him last season.
Kuharsky: It’s significant and it’s time to make a substantial investment. But when a team has a left tackle who plays for nine years and goes to three Pro Bowls (Tarik Glenn) and gets steady play from its right tackle for eight years (though Ryan Diem slipped last season) there isn’t cause for huge expenditures at the spot. They failed in a second-round attempt (Tony Ugoh in 2007) to replace Glenn.

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Jaguars have drafted nine defensive ends, but only two (Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves) have been selected within the top 100 picks.”

Kuharsky: Jaguars GM Gene Smith worked to offset that by bringing in free agent Aaron Kampman last offseason. And now it appears quite possible Smith will spend the 16th overall pick on a defensive end to complete the makeover of the line that included their top four picks from 2010.

Fortenbaugh: “Since Gary Kubiak took over as head coach in 2006, the Texans have drafted exactly 19 offensive players and 19 defensive players.”

Kuharsky: It’s nice to populate the roster in a balanced fashion. But if Houston does as it should and looks to fill a load of defensive holes in this draft, these numbers will tip to the defensive side.

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2005, the Titans have selected an average of 2.0 wide receivers per draft. Tennessee has landed at least one wideout in each of the past six drafts and has selected as many as three wide receivers two times in the last six years.”

Kuharsky: The all-star receiver roster of those past six drafts: Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams, Jonathan Orr, Paul Williams, Chris Davis, Joel Filani, Lavelle Hawkins, Kenny Britt, Dominique Edison, Damien Williams and Marc Mariani. The lone Pro Bowl appearance was Mariani last year -- as a return man.

Backward analysis: Paul Williams

April, 12, 2011
A look back at pre-draft reviews of a late-round success or an early-round miss in the AFC South.

Paul Williams, former Titans receiver, Fresno State, 2007 third round, 80th overall

Mel Kiper, 12th receiver

“… Williams will have to step it up a notch at the pro level if he’s going to reach his maximum potential. He has a chance if a team can be patient with him, coach him up, and bring him along slowly. In that scenario, he could be competing for a spot as a starter in his second or third year in the NFL. While he’s transitioning at WR, Williams will pay big dividends with his outstanding performance on special teams. His ability in this area certainly enhances his draft rating.

[+] EnlargePaul Williams
AP Photo/David RichardPaul Williams had just one catch for seven yards in his three seasons with the Titans.
Pro Football Weekly, 16th wide receiver

“Has everything you desire at the position. Is physically one of the most gifted receivers in the draft and flashed signs of brilliance at the Senior Bowl, but will require a very patient, sympathetic position coach who can improve his confidence.”

NFL Draft Scout: 16th wide receiver

COMPARES TO: Ken Lucas, Carolina – “Williams just does not impress as a wide receiver, as you can plainly see he is not happy on offense. With his previous experience and family bloodlines on defense, he would be better served playing cornerback, but needs to sit down and do a gut-check to see if he has the heart to play the game.”

After four seasons:

Fred Graves was the sort of position coach PFW suggested Williams would need, though Williams had a harsher, less patient coordinator in Mike Heimerdinger.

Williams was cut by the Titans before the start of the 2010 season and finished the season on the Houston Texans’ practice squad.

He didn’t play at all as a rookie, appeared in just five games and made just one catch for the Titans in his second year and was a practice squad guy in Year 3, doing his part to keep the Titans' never-ending search for a quality wideout moving.

Since the Williams miss, the Titans have spent five more picks on wide receivers. It’s always easy to look at a miss and see players behind him who turned out better. In this instance, Arizona got Steve Breaston in the fifth round as the Titans drafted two more non-contributing receivers after Williams in Chris Davis (fourth round) and Joel Filani (sixth).

Tennessee Titans cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of Tennessee's roster moves.

Biggest surprises: Running back Samkon Gado ran ahead of LeGarrette Blount since he was added, but Gado lost out to the unproven rookie. Tight end Sean Ryan seemed like he’d stick as insurance for Craig Stevens, whose role is now quite important and who’s had concussion issues in the past. But the Titans parted ways with Ryan. Veteran cornerback Tye Hill was surprised he was let go, according to The Tennessean. Jeff Fisher says teams need at least four corners. If you count nickelback Vincent Fuller, a safety, in the equation the numbers are OK. But otherwise unproven Ryan Mouton is fourth.

No-brainers: Chris Simms often looked confused and flustered in preseason action, and it became clear that the Titans would stick with Kerry Collins as the veteran backup to Vince Young while looking to develop rookie Rusty Smith for down the road. Collins can run the scout team at practice and step in with no practice work if and when he’s needed, and Smith’s got a lot of good qualities, including a nice arm and swagger.

What’s next: The Titans will probably look for help at linebacker, where Gerald McRath’s four-game suspension is underway, and the primary alternative, Collin Allred, has not been durable lately. Could they pursue Oakland’s Thomas Howard in a trade? The depth right now beyond Stephen Tulloch, Will Witherspoon and Allred is Jamie Winborn, Stanford Keglar and long snapper Ken Amato. With receiver Paul Williams finally gone, Keglar can be the guy fans wonder about still being around.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans wrapped camp with two lineup questions lingering. Who replaces Gerald McRath at outside linebacker during his four-game suspension? And who starts at right cornerback?

That corner battle is a big talking point among Titans’ faithful.

Second-year man Jason McCourty’s been in the spot the most, but rookie fourth-rounder Alterraun Verner is putting up a strong challenge. Cortland Finnegan (groin) has missed a lot of practice and hasn’t played in two preseason games, so there has been ample game action high in the lineup.

McCourty is faster than Verner. (Finnegan says McCourty is the second fastest corner on the roster to him, McCourty says he ranks No. 1.) Verner is regarded as more instinctive.

McCourty is steadier, though he gave up a couple plays against Arizona. Verner is more of an instinctive ball hawk and he has one of the Titans’ three preseason interceptions. While a lot of practice observers say Verner picked a ball a day in camp, others played it safer and said he averaged maybe one every two days.

“Jason knows the system, he’s worked hard, athletically he’s everything you want in a corner,” GM Mike Reinfeldt said. “He’s more confident, he’s come so far from last year. He needs more confidence, more experience. Prototypically, he’s what you want in a corner.

“Verner started late because of school, but he came in from Day One and started making plays. He’s an interesting guy because he doesn’t quite have the deep speed you might want or think you have to have in a corner. But he’s very good at making plays, being around the ball and figuring out ways so that his deep speed doesn’t matter.”

Thursday during a seven-on-seven passing period, Verner broke up a Chris Simms pass intended for Kenny Britt up the right sideline that he said he should have picked. Not long later, McCourty tipped a ball meant for Paul Williams and it popped up for Michael Griffin to intercept.

The two said there’s been no revelation about a timetable. It’d be good to have the starter in place opposite a healthy Finnegan for a few series in the preseason finale on Sept. 2 against Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense. But Fisher’s said only that he intends to roll someone out 10 days later for the opener.

My take: “Steady” and “consistent” are long-time buzzwords for Jeff Fisher. He values consistency above a lot of other qualities. While fans see Verner’s interceptions, the coach will see the other side of his ledger -- perhaps some gambles that didn’t produce big results -- more thoroughly.

If Fisher was picking right now, he’d go with steady and start McCourty.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans defensive backs shined early in the team’s Sunday practice. Go ahead and respond to my tweets about it with commentary, telling me that with that quarterback and those receivers, how could it be different?

But one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills are, by their nature, to the offense’s advantage. While there were drops -- most noticeably four by Justin Gage -- there was a lot of tight coverage and breakups from a group of DBs that is already thinned out.

Tye Hill is out with a hamstring injury and Nick Schommer and Jamar Love are on PUP, so nickelback and safety Vincent Fuller played some outside cornerback in team drills with the twos and threes.

Among the top playmakers in the secondary was Jason McCourty, the corner who was back with the first team after Ryan Mouton was in the spot the first day. A couple of them were not against Jerry Rice, they were against Paul Williams. But with opportunity to make plays he made them, and he doesn’t rank highly enough to be choosing his matchups. On his knees, he also picked off a Kerry Collins pass meant for Lavelle Hawkins in the end zone during red-zone work.

Gage had a lot of trouble pulling in the ball, several times against rookie Alterraun Verner.

But it wasn’t all about the defensive backs. Marc Mariani had a nice afternoon with slithery slot work, including an excellent diving catch down the right sideline over Verner for a gain of more than 40 yards on a throw by Chris Simms.

A couple other notes:
  • Derrick Morgan did very little, aggravated his left calf which was an issue during OTAs. He will be monitored, but sure seems likely to miss at least a couple days. Saturday night, just before the first-round pick signed his contract, he tweeted a picture of himself in the room where he waited at team headquarters. It was filled with boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts. My natural follow-up question to that was did he have any? He said he limited himself to one, original style.
  • I was a bit surprised when Jim Washburn, the notoriously loud and outspoken defensive line coach, got on safety Donnie Nickey about not attempting to get the ball out when an offensive player broke into the secondary. Is there protocol about yelling at a guy who you don’t coach? Nickey said he’s absolutely fine with it and that Washburn had a good point.
  • Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks benched 315 pounds, the measuring standard for a Titans defensive lineman, zero times when he joined the team as a second-round pick out of Auburn last year. “I didn’t even want to get up under it,” he said. Before 2009 training camp, also zero. In recent days, twice. It might not sound like a lot, but he and coaches regard it as a great improvement that shows the strength gains that will pay off for him this year.
  • Nice camp moment: Rookie safety Myron Rolle introduced his mom, Beverley, his dad, Whitney, and his brother, McKinley, to defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil and linebackers coach Dave McGinnis. Minutes later at his locker, Rolle was checking text messages McKinley sent him during practice about particular plays.
Reading the coverage ...

Pete Prisco’s list of the 26th to 50th best players in the NFL.

Houston Texans

Alan Burge looks at what’s become of Seth Wand.

Indianapolis Colts

Five things to like about the Colts' special teams, from John Oehser.

Tony Dungy talks about his top three football memories, and his No. 1 will be one a lot of Colts fans rank high, too.

Jacksonville Jaguars

If all the people who have complained about not being able to go to the scrimmage actually went to the scrimmage, the stadium wouldn’t be big enough to hold them all, says Vic Ketchman.

Amanda Warford joins Jarett Dillard and Jeremy Mincey as they visit with some kids. (Video.)

Tennessee Titans

Derrick Morgan’s been slowed by injuries, says John Glennon.

David Climer looks at Rusty Smith's chances. I think Smith is a lock for the roster, with Chris Simms’ only route to a spot being to beat out Kerry Collins for No. 2.

A sprained wrist has Nate Washington on the sideline, say Jim Wyatt and Glennon.

Paul Williams is also banged-up, says David Boclair.

This could be the best group of receivers the Titans have fielded in more than a decade, says Climer.
David from Orange Park, Fla., writes: The NFL just cancelled the remainder of the Jaguars OTA's for the spring. I believe the term used by the NFL was that the OTA's were too "intense." It's no secret that the league wants to increase the number of regular season games to 18. Is the NFL sending a signal to the players that team activities during the offseason are going to be monitored more closely to minimize the injury factor? The NFL appears to be laying the foundation for CBA negotiations to expand the regular season and to modify the offseason workout activities for their teams.

Paul Kuharsky: It’s not just the league, it’s the league and the NFL Players Association. It’s clear the players aren’t putting up with business as usual, putting the league in position to have no choice but to crack down. Someone’s reported the Ravens, Raiders, Jags and Lions. I would too. If the rules are bargained for and on the books, they should be enforced.

If they go to 18 games, the offseason work will get lightened.

Philippe Bourdon from Bristol, Conn., writes: Of course Vince Young should be disciplined. What does it matter if he received the equivalent of a Motor Vehicle citation? What did Ben Roethlisberger receive the equivalent of? Oh, that's right, the equivalent of nothing... He wasn't charged. If Goodell doesn't discipline Young, he will only emphasize what he is, and that is extremely inconsistent in his ruling. The NFLPA should never have granted him so much power when it comes to player behavior. Shame on them and shame on Goodell for abusing his power.

Paul Kuharsky: Actually Goodell’s not inconsistent with first-time offenders whose troubles weren’t major. They don’t get suspended.

Justin from French Lick, Ind., writes: Since Albert Haynesworth wants a trade, do you think the colts would have enough money to try and trade for him. He would be a big help in the middle of the field. Maybe try and package draft picks with Mathis, since we draft Hughes in the first round?

Paul Kuharsky: They drafted Jerry Hughes to learn behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, not to immediately replace one and then have no third outside rusher again.

They don’t want a Haynesworth type and they don’t generally deal picks for players.

Peter in Nashville writes: What is this I just read about a chat hiatus? Are you serious? C'mon. I work at a bank. The most exciting thing going on here is that a new Sweet Cici's is opening across the street. Cut me a break. There are only so many ways for me to waste time. Your chats got me through my statistics class last semester; help me out a little more. Thank ya much.

Paul Kuharsky: I have some vacation coming up. You want me fresh for camp and the season, no?

Jim from Greenville, S.C., writes: Who makes the roster of the three Titans WR's Marc Mariani, Dominique Edison or Paul Williams? Is there a chance two make the roster?

Paul Kuharsky: Lavelle Hawkins is the X factor to me. Presuming he holds fourth, then right now I’d guess Damian Williams will wind up fifth, Mariani sixth, Edison seventh and missing out, Paul Williams finally gone.

My brother lives in Taylors. We were down there Memorial Day weekend. Downtown Greenville is fantastic.

“Critic” from parts unknown writes: Your response to the reader questioning the media's regularly positive take of Peyton Manning and their general lack of scrutiny towards him despite his mediocre postseason totals, including his win/loss record was very unprofessional in my humble opinion. You treated the guy like it was blasphemy to even attempt to measure the greatness of a QB by his postseason play, and I know you will probably not think twice about my comments to you, but perhaps you should check your cocky, pretentious attitude at the door before you respond to your loyal readers. Just a thought

Paul Kuharsky: Of course it’s not blasphemy. But downgrading Manning’s regular season success is just silly. And people expect me to call silly, silly.

If you read me with any regularity, I’m kind of hard-nosed and sarcastic. Works well for a lot of people, not as well for others.

I always appreciate hearing from both sides -- especially when they attach their name to their email.

On the radar: Marc Mariani

May, 27, 2010
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

Marc Mariani comes into the league as a seventh-round draft pick from a less-than glamorous Montana program.

[+] EnlargeMar Mariani
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyMarc Mariani has looked impressive in early offseason workouts.
The Titans are locked in at the top of their receiver depth chart with Kenny Britt, Justin Gage and Nate Washington. Damian Williams, a third-round pick from USC, figured to rank fourth in line while working as the punt returner.

Lavelle Hawkins and Paul Williams could well have run out of time. If they figured to be battling for a potential fifth spot, their lives are now further complicated by Mariani.

Hawkins and Williams have had trust issues -- as in offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger can’t trust them always to do the right thing and be in the right place. Mariani seems to be a fast learner who’s already pretty comfortable, confident and smooth as a route runner and pass-catcher.

A guy that far down the depth chart at a position has to offer something on special teams. Hawkins and Williams don’t offer anything above average, while Mariani could be the guy to field kickoffs for a team that was disturbingly poor on kick and punt returns a year ago.

I think Mariani came in as a coaching staff favorite and already has confirmed to them that he deserves the rating. Still, any early enthusiasm over a middle- or late-round receiver has to be tempered in Tennessee by memories of names like Eddie Berlin, Jake Schifino, Darrell Hill, Jonathan Orr and Joel Filani.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans looked into trading up for Damian Williams and couldn’t pull it off. So they were thrilled he was around at No. 77 in the third round.

Jeff Fisher said Tennessee liked the fifth receiver taken in the draft so much they thought he would not make it through the middle of the second round. A skeptic might say part of that is surely to make things look better for a team that was without a second rounder, but I’m no skeptic.

Fisher called Williams an “all-around tremendous athlete,” a “complete receiver,” a good kick returner and a “very talented punt returner.”

He will have every chance to help solve things at a spot the Titans absolutely butchered last season.

His arrival surely spells doom for the long-lasting Paul Williams, the 2007 third-rounder who was on the practice-squad last year and could mean the end for slow-to-catch-on Lavelle Hawkins (a fourth rounder from 2008).
Joe in Chicago writes: The past few weeks I’ve been hearing a lot about players receiving roster bonuses. How does that work? If a player does not receive a roster bonus would it still count against the cap (if there was one) or does it work like an expiring contract that would not have any cap hit?

Paul Kuharsky: There are really two kind of roster bonuses.

If I give you a big contract now with $30 million guaranteed and a $20 million signing bonus, with roster bonuses of $5 million next year and $5 million more the year after, they amount to deferred payments. If I’ve paid you the 20, it’s pretty much assured I’m going to pay you the other 10.

The second kind come later in a contract and are there to force a decision: If you’re due $2.5 million at the start of the league year, I either have to judge you to be worth it, which pretty much ensures you’re going to be on the team this season, or I cut you to avoid it, which gives you the opportunity to go find a better gig.

If you’re cut to avoid it, it wouldn’t count against a cap.

OK, we go heavy on the Titans from here. Before the complainants from Houston, Indy and Jacksonville perk up, let me say I can only answer the questions I get and the mailbag address is no secret.


Titan4fan in Brentwood, TN writes: Why are the Titans not making any roster moves? I am a 10 year PSL season ticket holder ready to give them up, tired of watching Ravens and Jets improve dramatically while we do nothing. We are in the second wave of FA several good options available. Need a quality cornerback, safety, defensive end, quarterback and returner that can be signed at a reasonable price. We are paying a backup quarterback $7.5M that needs to retire. We could use that money plus the other $18M saved on players not re-signed that we could upgrade. Titan fans are getting tired of Bud Adams’ and Jeff Fisher’s plan, they deserve a championship. Bud spend some money, you can't take it to heaven with you!!!! Now is the time.

Paul Kuharsky: Good options are available?

OK, I’ll bite. Please give me a couple names.

They got a veteran corner, linebacker and, if the Eagles don’t match, defensive end.

That’s not bad for a team looking to build through the draft. They’ve got experienced insurance or depth, and can now go get kids with upside.

Who is it you want that’s available right now? How many FAs did Colts and Saints add last season before they went to the Super Bowl?

As for Kerry Collins’ money -- he doesn’t get a new dime until the first week of the season. (And it’s $5.5 M left not $7.5.) So with no second quarterback in play, wouldn’t it be irresponsible to make a move now?

Brad in Houston writes: PK, what is your take on Kirk Morrison? I believe he is a solid run defender and a very consistent player who would fit what the Titans do. Could something materialize with sending LenDale White to Oakland in exchange for Morrison so that no draft picks are lost? Morrison was only tendered with a 3rd rounder.

Paul Kuharsky: I like what I know of him. But it would take a third or a fourth. People don’t give away good players for your junk and a lot of the league doesn’t regard White in a good light. Also, does Oakland need a running back? I don’t think it does.

Here’s something that touched on Morrison at the start of free agency.

Jim in Memphis writes: Because the Titans are a small-market team, does that constrain their activity in free agency? They seem to want to save the bank, but have spent in the past and been burned. Steve McNair and Eddie George come to mind. It seems to me that they spend when they see something great and rarely miss.

Paul Kuharsky: No. Small market stuff is way over played. Does it hurt New Orleans or Indianapolis? They were in the Super Bowl. It’s not about saving the bank, it’s about paying what they judge someone to be worth. You think they should have spent on George and McNair? It was clear when they left they were done (McNair had one more year in him, George none) and the Titans had made the right decision rather than the sentimental one.

Gerald Ball from parts unknown writes: Four questions. 1. Will the Titans make a run at Nate Vasher, the 28 year old Pro Bowl CB just released by the Bears? 2. Will the Titans start going after linebackers who can rush the passer like South Carolina's Eric Norwood (who has a third-round grade)? 3. Jordan Shipley is very good at returning kicks and punts, and would help the Titans more at wide receiver in 2010 than Lavelle Hawkins and Paul Williams put together. Any chance the Titans have interest? 4. Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler won't be in Nashville past 2010. Are the Titans likely to get a TE in the draft? Thanks!

Paul Kuharsky: 1) Don’t think he’s a fit. Once a Pro Bowler doesn’t mean always a Pro Bowler. Doesn’t sound like a great Titans’ match. 2) They don’t rush the passer often with their linebackers, so I don’t see why that would become a focus. But sure you’d like your backers to have that skill set. 3) Sure they’d love Shipley. They just don’t have a pick anywhere near where he will get drafted, I don’t think. 4) Maybe late. But the tight ends of the future are Jared Cook and Craig Stevens, both recent third-rounders. Crumpler left between the time you wrote in and I posted this.

Darcy in Columbus, OH writes: On your recent draft update and the past you have mentioned the Titans need for a defensive end. I realize it's a primary need, but wouldn't be easier to "kill two birds with one stone" by drafting a corner/return specialist with the first pick? Such as Kyle Wilson (if he's still there) or Devin McCourty (family)? Just wanted to know your input? Thanks

Paul Kuharsky: It’d be a nice bonus. But if you don’t love him as a position player, you can’t let the return skills over-influence you. And if he’s good enough to start on defense, you’re not going to want to use him as a special teamer for very long.

McCourty shouldn’t get graded up because they have his brother.

Josh Cates in Louisville, KY writes: I have a question about RFAs, and, as a Titans fan, I'll use LenDale White as my example to make the question clear. Do the Titans have Right of first refusal by default, or do they have to tender him the lowest RFA tender to have that right? And if they don't, and he doesn't get signed by another team, is he still a Titan next year? If so, at what salary -- RFA tender salary or his current contract salary?

Paul Kuharsky: You have to tender him, but tendered at any level you get ROFR. If you don’t tender him, he becomes free to sign anywhere -- see Marlin Jackson of the Colts who jumped to Philly. (Untendered, you’re basically unrestricted, but still categorized as restricted though no one has a right to match.)

You can pull an RFA's tender at any time, but it had to be put on him by the start of the new league year. And a guy can sign it at any time.

White will sign it -- they all do. The deadline is before the draft, and a team will say, “You’re last, best chance to get traded is on draft day, and we can’t move you if we don’t have you under contract.”

David Dunston in Nashville writes: Why don't you stir someone else's pot? What say we give Vince Young a chance to continue without constantly reminding the world that he could "fall back to the things that got him demoted the first time.” I guess you media guys do that so you can say, “Hey, I warned you.” Funny you hardly ever hear someone come out and say, “Boy, I blew that one... and let's face it, in the world of "Expert Opinion" most media blows it more than they get right. And they never have to answer for it. I like your articles most of the time. I might still get the Tennessean if you were still there. But you are National now, so cut us some slack.

Paul Kuharsky: I’m giving him a chance. Why in the world would I not be allowed to use his past as a potential predictor of his future? I did it with a number of players in that post – see Kris Brown, for example.

I don’t understand the idea that I am national now so I should cut you some slack. Please explain?

As for never admitting I am wrong, please see here (for a general admission) and here (for a Young-specific example).

Mailbag: Position change requests

February, 27, 2010
Jahon in Carlsbad, CA writes: Paul, Since the Texans are letting Dunta walk, do you think they will make a play for Nnamdi Asomugha? Granted he has a huge salary, but he would also be a huge upgrade. Thanks, Jahon

Paul Kuharsky: Noooooooo.

Huge contract and would come with a steep price in draft picks. They can’t afford that with the needs they have beyond corner.

Peter in Nashville wants to know if I see the Titans chasing Dunta Robinson. “I know he isn't the shut down corner he was a few years ago, but he is still very good and would be great when paired with Cortland Finnegan. Is the price too high or will the Titans go for it? The Titans are not cheap, but certainly careful when it comes to signing players. Thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: Just because a corner with a recognizable name comes free he’s not automatically the right guy for the Titans.

It takes more than that. He’s probably on the downside -- he gave up some big plays last year, he's had a major injury. He’s going to be expensive. They are looking for upside and value. A non-match from my vantage point.

snozzberry in naptown writes: If San Diego gets rid of Darren Sproles, do you see the Colts making a move acquiring him? There is the rule of the final eight to contend with so maybe they would have to release somebody like say Bob Sanders, who would be picked by another team without a doubt. Or what about dropping Joe Addai?

Paul Kuharsky: Please list all the big-time outside free agents the Colts under Bill Polian have brought in?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Joe Addai, who’s going nowhere. Releasing Sanders doesn’t amount to having a free agent signed away, so it would do nothing to help them with the Final Eight rule.

Polian hasn’t been compelled to get a big time returner for years and is pretty set in his ways. If he changes them now, we’ll see it in the draft not with Sproles.

This edition of “My Primary Complaint” hits on some of this offseason fantasy football.

Colby in Houston writes: Hi Paul, Hoping you can clear something up for me. Assuming an uncapped year, how does D. Robinson leaving Houston affect the team in free agency? Doesn't a team have to lose a high profile free agent before they can sign another or is that just for the final eight playoff teams? Is this a signal that Houston may be willing to go after a higher profile free agent? Also, do they receive any compensation like a supplemental draft pick for losing a D. Rob? Thanks

Paul Kuharsky: It doesn’t affect them at all, except that they have a hole at corner and they are down one expensive salary.

They can sign anyone they want -- only the final eight can’t -- but I wouldn’t expect them to be major players in free agency. Maybe one big swing like they did with Antonio Smith last year, and that would leave them with one less need in the draft.

They’ll get a supplemental draft pick for Robinson in the 2011 draft.

Joseph in Kingsport, TN writes: Paul, love the column. Check it obsessively throughout the day. Keep up the wonderful work. Love the detail, insight, non-bias (or is anti-bias a better description of your view? hmmm I'm not quite so sure), and your love for the game of football itself. Being as how you covered the Titans closely for awhile, I'm sure you have plenty of memories of the Titans organization and players. I was just curious, what is your favorite memory of Steve McNair that you'd like to share with us, your faithful readers? Sorry for the nostalgia.

Paul Kuharsky: You are very kind and I appreciate it. Please keep clicking.

The first one that jumps to mind on McNair, and I’ve written about it:

In 1998, when they were still at their temporary facility on the outskirts of Nashville, he came out early for practice. Unprovoked he whimsically took a bunch of blocking pads in the offensive line area, built himself into a teepee, and sat in there doing quiet Native American style chants. Kind of makes me laugh picturing it. Just kind of symbolic of his looseness and humor.

Shaun in Nashville, TN writes: Paul, Is there any chance that the Titans move Vincent Fuller to corner, and let one of the young guys play the nickel while they mature? Does Fuller have the skill set to play corner?

Paul Kuharsky: No, he doesn’t. He’s not an outside cover guy. He’s a safety who’s very good covering an inside receiver. You weaken yourself at two spots if you try to move him outside.

Dustin in Stanford CA writes: Hey Paul, I was wondering where I could find the dates of all of the important off season events? (Combine, Start of Free Agency, Compensatory Draft Pick Announcements, Supplemental Draft, etc.) Thanks!

Paul Kuharsky: Here is a good list.

Peter in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, It seems like of all the years to trade away your 2nd round pick, this was a bad year to do it. I am not saying Jared Cook isn't going to pan out, but with a draft class this deep, it seems unfortunate. Titans could have gotten a very good insurance policy on Young by drafting a good QB in the second round without raising the scrutiny of drafting one in the 1st round. Thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: Never a great year not to have one -- second round picks are often the value/production home run. (The Titans with Cook and the Jaguars with Derek Cox both traded seconds to New England for thirds last year. AFC South helping rebuild the Patriots.) VY's their guy, so I'm not sure that second would have been a quarterback with all the needs they have.

Unless Cook turns into a Antonio Gates or Anthony Gonzalez, it’s easy to second guess. But last year you would have said nice to see them be aggressive. And it’s way too early for us to determine just what they got in Cook.

Henry Milton from parts unknown writes: I know that the Titans have needs on defense, but Kenny Britt, Justin Gage, Nate Washington, Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler aren't nearly enough catching the football even if they had Peyton Manning throwing it. Help isn't going to come from Paul Williams and Lavelle Hawkins, and they can't count on Jared Cook. What are the Titans going to do to get better on the offensive side of the ball?

Paul Kuharsky: I disagree completely.

You failed to mention the team’s No. 1 offensive weapon, Chris Johnson. And Vince Young’s a huge run threat. With those two, a receiving trio of Britt, Washington and Gage with Scaife and Johnson as additional outlets is plenty good enough to win with. Why debate the fourth receiver? Under Heimerdinger, that guy isn’t not playing unless one of the three ahead of him is hurt.

Cook may still be great. He’s going to get every chance and it’s far too early to judge.

The primary thing they are going to do to get better on offense, I think, is get better on defense.

And the Titans top three receivers would all be very good with Peyton Manning throwing to them.

larod201 in New Orleans, LA writes: Do you think Jason Jones has the skills to move to DE for the Titans, at least on running downs? A lot of people had him projected there when he came out of college and he seems to lack the bulk to play inside & stay healthy. It would give the Titans more flexibility in this year's draft if he could. What's your opinion?

Paul Kuharsky: Yes, he could play defensive end. But he’s not as good there as he is at tackle. They want him to work the weights and become sturdier, and I expect he will. If you move him, then you have a hole at tackle. So why put him at his lesser position when you have to fill a spot anyway?
Rick Gosselin’s always interesting season-ending stats column.

Cardinals-Titans and Patriots-Colts make Shutdown Corner’s list of the top games of the season.

Houston Texans

The Texans know it’s their fault they failed to make the playoffs, says John McClain.

Defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing brought the Texans the intensity and physicality they were seeking, says McClain.

Houston was denied permission by Tennessee to talk to Mike Munchak about becoming the Texans offensive coordinator, says McClain.

Battle Red Blog’s final look at Patriots-Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

“The Colts didn’t not listen to fans in recent weeks. They just opted to not do what the fans wanted,” says John Oehser.

Jeff George’s mom is battling breast cancer, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive line in the draft looks deep, which bodes well for Gene Smith, says Vic Ketchman.

David Garrard's inconsistencies have gone on too long in Jacksonville and a young replacement needs to be found as soon as possible, says Adam Stites.

The company trying to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles will target the Jaguars and Bills first. This is no surprise, and indicates nothing about Wayne Weaver being interested in selling.

Tennessee Titans

Bud Adams backs Jeff Fisher, says Jim Wyatt.

The Titans are holding on to Munchak.

A look at pending free agents, from Terry McCormick.

The Titans signed six to futures contracts, says McCormick. Remarkably, Paul Williams lives on.

The gap between Chris Johnson and the next most productive running back in the NFL was the second biggest in history, says Andy Benoit.

A profile of Kevin Mawae from a business perspective, from Drew Ruble. (Thanks to Music City Miracle for the link.)

AFC South draft rewind

December, 23, 2009
NFC Draft Rewind: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft class lists: Indianapolis | Jacksonville | Houston | Tennessee

Houston Texans

Best get: Not everyone was sold on Brian Cushing coming out of USC, often because of his injury history at USC. He missed most of camp hurt and has missed a lot of practices, but none of it has gotten in the way of his being an impact player every Sunday. The Texans need more defenders and more players in his mold. He’s a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.

Worst unaddressed spot: The Texans had plenty of reason to expect they had a feature back in Steve Slaton, but completely misread their situation after that. Interior line injuries and a second-year slump for Slaton have made a second back even more important, and Chris Brown, Ryan Moats and Arian Foster all have proved incapable of handling the pressures of the work. A second running back ranks as one of the team’s highest priorities in free agency or the 2010 draft.

Still uninvolved: Tight end James Casey came in as a versatile fifth-rounder who was going to be a unique weapon for head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to tinker with. He’s got six catches for 64 yards in 11 games. He needs to have more of an impact, given that the Texans lost top-flight tight end Owen Daniels to a season-ending knee injury.

Indianapolis Colts

Still to be determined: First-rounder Donald Brown has shown he will be a good NFL player. But he’s missed five games with injuries, including the last three. He’s more capable than Joseph Addai of breaking off a big run. The question: Does Brown understand that looking for the big gain isn’t worth risking a play resulting in second-and-12. If Brown is healthy, he could see a lot of touches in the last two games. The Colts are 14-0 with just 59 carries, 263 yards and two TDs from their top pick. (They haven’t gotten much out of second-round defensive tackle Fili Moala, either.)

A perfect fit: Fourth-round receiver Austin Collie, not Minnesota’s Percy Harvin, leads all rookie receivers in catches. Collie's nabbed 53 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts' system, and adopted the necessary work ethic to win over and work with Peyton Manning. Whether Anthony Gonzalez re-emerges for the post season push or not, Collie’s crucial to it.

Best special teams addition: The Colts had eight touchbacks in 2008. With rookie punter Pat McAfee taking over kickoffs from Adam Vinatieri, they have 18 with two games remaining. Better kickoffs are a big factor in coverage improvements under new special teams coach Ray Rychleski. McAfee’s also got a net punting average of 38.0 yards, less than a yard off former Colts' veteran Hunter Smith’s number from last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Long-term solutions: Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were the top two picks and have played the bulk of the season at left and right tackle, respectively. They have not been consistent, but the team loves their skill sets and upside. And early work means they’ll get to the levels the team projected when spending such high picks on them sooner rather than later.

Eighth-rounders: First-year general manager Gene Smith needed additions beyond his draft class and found a couple: Cornerback William Middleton out of Furman and linebacker Russell Allen from San Diego State are undrafted free agents who made the team and have been contributors. In the nationally televised Week 15 Thursday night loss to the Colts, Allen led the team with 12 tackles. Smith is down a second and seventh rounder in 2010 because of trades, and he hopes to hit on some undrafteds again, and annually.

Three is key: Smith did great work in the third round, landing two small school players who’ve established themselves as productive starters with upside. Cornerback Derek Cox from William & Mary has not been intimidated by anything or anyone. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton from Temple has been a stout and reliable run stopper.

Tennessee Titans

Biggest breakthrough: Since 1998, the Titans have spent draft picks in the top three rounds on Kevin Dyson, Tyrone Calico, Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones and Paul Williams. Dyson was involved in two of the franchise’s biggest plays in 1999 and did OK otherwise, but none of them solved the team's long-standing woes at receiver. First-rounder Kenny Britt is a great combination of size, power and speed who goes and gets the ball. Britt seems like he can be a consistently productive weapon.

Disappearing act: The Titans gave away a second-rounder to draft tight end Jared Cook in the third, and in camp he seemed like a great addition. Then he suffered an ankle injury, faded and never really re-emerged. Long-term he’s still very compelling. But the Titans sure could have used a jolt from him during their 0-6 start.

An heir: Gerald McRath seems comfortable and been effective as an outside linebacker when needed. He will start the rest of the way and, after bulking up in the offseason, stands to inherit the spot of either David Thornton (breaking down) or Keith Bulluck (free agent who tore an ACL in Week 15) next year. If both veterans are gone (a likely scenario), the second replacement needs to be a free agent or a draft pick.