AFC South: Rafael Little
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Titans first round of cuts are in, and none of them rank as a surprise based on what’s unfolded in training camp and the preseason.
To get their roster to 75, the team cut these four:
Receiver Dudley Guice
Running back Rafael Little
Linebacker Tyson Smith
Center Matt Lehr
There had been some early hype about Little -- some of it given volume by me. He was signed as an undrafted free agent last year as he rehabilitated a serious knee injury but has not stood out in any way since he started to practice. We knew someone would bump Chris Henry, we just didn't know it was going to wind up being a draft pick names Javon Ringer.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I took a great interest in a drill Sunday that pitted linebackers against running backs in a pass protection scenario.
I thought Stephen Tulloch was especially impressive going against the Titans running backs in the team's first practice in shoulder pads.
Here's a mini-breakdown of some of the matchups:
- Ryan Fowler ran right over Chris Johnson, and later said he intended to bull rush, which is a bit of a no-no in this scenario. He said Johnson was on him quickly and he simply did the only thing he could, not meaning to circumvent protocol.
- Tulloch just clobbered Chris Henry, who held up better in a rematch.
- Javon Ringer got beat by Colin Allred.
- After a false start, Quinton Ganther did well against Josh Stamer.
- Stanford Keglar blew past Rodney Ferguson II, which prompted Ahmard Hall to tell Ferguson "don't just stop."
- David Thornton dominated Rafael Little.
- Keith Bulluck got to the tackling dummy serving as the quarterback quickly, but Hall held him up, maybe long enough to qualify as a win.
- Keglar beat Henry to the outside.
- Ganther did well versus Gerald McGrath.
After practice, I was considering my notes/scorecard and sought clarification from running back coach Earnest Byner on what amounted to a win on a snap of the drill.
"If a guy gets good contact, shows the ability to get on a guy and then tries to run him by, that's pretty good," he said. "In that drill, the defense is supposed to win. That's really a defensive drill. If a guy can get any contact and maintain the contact for like two seconds, that's a win."
A couple important notes for context:
If they weren't on the line of scrimmage, the backs lined up very close to it. In game situations they wouldn't be so close to the defender they need to block at the snap. At a practice the backs are without one major tool -- the cut block that would take a linebacker's legs out and put him on the ground. Ganther said ideally a back will push the rusher outside, buying a quarterback who is stepping up in the pocket additional time.
"It's much easier in a game," Byner said. "You have the ability to cut block, you have the ability to use your line a little more. If you can block in that drill, the game is easy. I thought the guys did well. They sit tight, hard to the defender. I wanted that. I didn't want them to sit and be cautious and not do anything. I wanted the aggression, and I was pleased with that. We can learn from that."
Some other practice observations:
- Cornerback Tanard Davis, who finished last year on the practice squad, had a strong afternoon and has been good so far, though working against lesser players. He muscled his way in front of Chris Davis to intercept a short Vince Young pass in one-on-ones. Later, in a team period he moved in front of Paul Williams to grab another pass from Young.
- Rob Bironas, who was due back from his mystery injury, did not return. Fisher continued to decline to say what the injury was, on a day when Kenny Britt talked openly about the right hamstring that landed him on PUP. If Bironas' injury is so insignificant, than why wouldn't it be shared? It gives us all reason to believe something odd is up.
- Britt is still dealing with a right hamstring issue, so he starts out on the PUP list. Fisher didn't quite rule Britt out of the Hall of Fame Game against Buffalo, but said it's "probably unlikely." Britt sounded pretty upbeat. Fisher made it sound as if a week would be the most Britt misses.
- Jared Cook went to the ground to scoop a Young pass. He has made a lot of catches on the run or going up to get the ball, and I took note that he also looked comfortable going to the ground.
- During a two minute drill period, a sliding Nate Washington caught a Kerry Collins pass on the right with Chris Hope and Nick Harper closing. It was too close to call as to whether Washington had his right knee down in bounds before his left leg crossed the sideline. Both sides pleaded with Fisher, who got a shout out from Hope when he came to a quick verdict and the sides "split the difference" on the gain. The drive produced an Alge Crumpler touchdown catch.
- Paul Williams made a very nice, spinning, leaping sideline catch.
- Jovan Haye stepped up and crushed Henry on a carry the back tried to take up the middle.
- Ringer looks a lot better in pads, and a lot better than he did in OTAs.
The Titans had only publicly released the first week of their training camp schedule before Tuesday, when they passed out the whole slate.
As usual, practices are subject to change due to weather and when the team is forced inside to work, there is no room for fans.
Here's a list of the practices open to the public. The remote parking and shuttle from previous years is kaput, which is good news. Fans will be able to park CVS/Caremark corporate offices at 445 Great Circle Road across the street from team headquarters.
Friday, July 31 -- 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 1 -- 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 2 -- 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 3 -- 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 4 -- 8:30 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 6 -- 3:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 7 -- 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 11 -- 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 12 -- 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 13 -- 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 17 -- 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 18 -- 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 19 -- 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 23 -- 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 24 -- 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 25 -- Noon
Wednesday, Aug. 26 -- 3:30 p.m.
The following training camp autograph schedule is subject to change without notice, Designated players are schduled to sign after the practice indicated:
Players scheduled to sign autographs after Aug. 7 will be announced at a later date.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some things I noticed or thought you'd want to know from the Titans' organized training activities session Tuesday:
- Jevon Kearse, coming back from knee surgery, worked with the defensive line but not in team periods. He ran on the side on his own late and looks to be moving well.
In a one-on-one red zone period:
- Receiver Craphonso Thorpe let rookie corner Jason McCourty pry a ball free after Kerry Collins delivered a nice pass to the back left of the end zone. "He wanted it more than you," offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger told Thorpe.
- Dominique Edison gained ground with a very good first step and beat Vincent Fuller to the back right corner where he pulled in a pass from Vince Young.
- Paul Williams made a nice play to go up and take a ball away from Cary Williams, but injured his left leg on the landing. Jeff Fisher later said it's a groin injury that probably costs Williams the team's final two OTA practices.
- Fuller rebounded with an excellent play against Chris Davis in roughly the same spot. Davis went up to make a nice catch and survived Fuller's first attempt to strip it, but let it come free the second time.
In seven-on-seven work:
- Nate Washington reached down and collected a pass from Collins that fit nicely between Cortland Finnegan and Chris Hope but was still difficult to get to.
- DeMarcus Faggins broke up a pass intended for Davis (missed the quarterback, sorry), but then got up slowly. He was fine as he had another interception later in what was a very good practice for him.
- On a play that was dead, Patrick Ramsey threw up the right sideline. Michael Griffin, out of the play but watching from the boundary stepped up, picked it one-handed while holding his helmet by the facemask in the other hand, ran with the "interception" up the sideline a bit, then punted the ball. Irrelevant, but entertaining.
- David Thornton sliced into the backfield and caught Chris Johnson in a way that forced a fumble.
In full-team work:
- LenDale White got hardly any work, and Fisher said it was a matter of work distribution. Chris Henry, Javon Ringer, Quinton Ganther and Rafael Little all got some touches. Henry dropped a low pass to the flat that was behind him, but still hit him in the hands. I think I've been a little overly optimistic about Little, who didn't stand out.
- Justin Gage muscled a pass away from Nick Harper as he went out of bounds facing back to the ball.
- Rookie tight end Jared Cook dropped a backward pass in the flat and rookie linebacker Gerald McRath was smart to pounce on it. Officials worked the practice and the one near us on the sideline confirmed Ramsey's throw was a lateral.
- Tight end Matthew Mulligan drew the fury of Heimerdinger when he made a mistake lining up that forced the offense to re-huddle.
- Working in the red zone, Young rolled left and hit Craig Stevens who was moving with him just short of the goal line. Stevens booted it.
*STANDARD OTA DISCLAIMER: PUT STOCK INTO THESE DEVELOPMENTS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Bert in Danville wants to know who I see as the Colts third wide receiver and if I think they might get one in free agency.
Paul Kuharsky: There are no free agent wide receivers that would be especially attractive, and the Colts don't usually go that direction. They expect a solid third guy to emerge from Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Roy Hal.
Here is something I wrote in them during the recent minicamp:
Kingpin in Grinnell, IA writes: Paul - I know you've been visiting/covering other teams lately, but any word who might be returning kicks and punts for the Titans this year?
Paul Kuharsky: They are a long way from replacing Chris Carr. They'll be looking at a lot of people for a good while before deciding. Mark Jones probably gets best chance, but he's got to be able to play some WR too. Rafael Little could be interesting on kickoffs if he makes the team.
Ted LaDue in St. Augustine, FL writes: Hi Paul. You seem almost apologetic about having little to report on the Jags for the last several days. This time of year I think that is a good thing. My wife's birthday was a few days ago. I went to one of the local college/pro sports wear stores to purchase the new styled Jags Jersey for her. As you might imagine, the selection was very limited. Uniform design changes cost those places a lot of money. I was talking with the manager of the store about the Jags. He was dropping a few names and talking about how good things look. My reply was that the Jags are one big question mark, but I am really looking forward to the season because of that. He replied that he didn't really agree with me, and he thought the Jags were going to be much much better than last year. He seemed a bit irritated. I took another angle. I told him that I'm not a guy that would show up at a game wearing my Leftwich or Taylor in Teal Jersey, but I would wear my Mercedes Lewis in White even though it is the old style jersey. Bearing in mind that I am a thrifty individual, and what we know about the Jags today, who's jersey would you pick other than MJD, or Monroe? Based on what we know right now, who's jersey can I purchase that can most likely be worn during the 2010 campaign? He couldn't give me an answer and went back to dropping more names. Like I said, we have a lot of question marks. Can David Garrard bounce back, and can he learn to throw the deep pass? Can Drew carry the load? Henderson? Will Meester hold up for more than 1 season? Will Manawaui be effective in his key run blocking duties following his knee injury? Nelson has to have a good season. Mercedes Lewis has to have a good season. Why is Williamson still on the team? Will our 2nd year D ends develop or will they bust? Is this Cox kid going to be any good with the pads on?
Paul Kuharsky: Interesting stuff on your conversation with the store manager.
Good questions too, all to be answered.
I can say this about Williamson:
If he wasn't an attitude problem, why cut him early instead of late? You haven't paid him anything in 2009 yet. What if none of the draft picks do anything in camp or Holt falls down the stairs between now and the end of the preseason?
Why not keep options open and give the guy a continued chance? Don't cut for cutting's sake. Cut because you don't want a guy, don't need a guy, really don't like a guy or can't fit a guy.
Jon in Silver Spring, MD writes: Good god almighty! The Texans actually SIGNED Sexy Rexy? what the hell?! *slaps forehead*they are morons.
Paul Kuharsky: Easy killer. Rex Grossman's not starting. He's not even in line to back up. You can do a lot worse at third if you are looking to be three deep. I don't love him at all. I have no problem with him at that position on a depth chart, though.
Adam in El Paso writes: Hi Paul, I am a avid jaguars fan and enjoy reading your coverage on the jags (and AFC south in general). I was wondering what your take is on the recent rift that has developed between Jack Del Rio and John Henderson. Do you believe this will effect Henderson's playing time on the field? If it continues will he be traded/released? How would this affect the team in general? Thanks in advance for answering!
Paul Kuharsky: Henderson is not getting traded or released. Release him, and teams are lining up to sign a guy with that size. If he's then determined to show you what a mistake you made, you look horrible. They need him to play and play well. They are trying to light a fire however they have to, which is fine with me.
Ryan M. in Tullahoma, TN writes: Hey Paul, All this concern over teams possibly getting sponsor patches on their jerseys seems like nothing new to me...The Titans have a patch from Baptist Sports Medicine on theirs, and have had it for as long as I can remember...see here: http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/04bu3Wp7iR5al/610x.jpg
So, did the Titans get away with it simply because the practice at Baptist Sports Park?? or am I right to think that this is not a new concept? Thanks Paul, love the blog, I check it everyday. Ryan
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks, Ryan, I appreciate the loyalty.
It's not a big deal, I agree. Titans have worn them for a long time. There may be a new rule allowing it, but there was never a rule disallowing it either.
Michael in California writes: Afternoon Paul, First off, I wanted to say I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I'm a huge Steelers fan, so the AFC North is where I go to first, but of all the division writers you are my favorite. Now that that's done my question. Do you think Jeff Fisher even wanted Vince Young when the Titans drafted him? I've never felt that he was the style of quarterback Fisher desired. In hindsight, which is 20/20, it seems they would have been better off taking D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Just wondering if you had any insight. Thank you for your time, and all the best. Michael Elliott
Paul Kuharsky: In hindsight, I certainly they wish they'd taken Cutler. They couldn't have not taken one of the quarterbacks when they were needy at the position.
I don't think Young was Fisher's first choice. I think he would have preferred Leinart (who his Norm Chow also wanted).
But I do believe Fisher thought all three QBs were going to be good and that any of the three would be a long-time solution for him.
Thomas from parts unknown writes: Kuharsky how do you know that other teams had Derek Cox rated lower on their draft boards. Did you see any teams actual draft boards? Or did you think teams had him rated lower because ESPN Faux-Scouts Kiper and Mcshay figured he was a late round selection because he wasn't invited to the combine. And that they might have overlooked him all together because he was from a small school. You should maybe get off the whole Derek Cox could have been had in a later round shtick, because in reality you aren't a scout and you don't know.
Paul Kuharsky: Here's how I know: I know people with other teams whom I trust and who help set their teams' draft boards.
So I said to them, "Hey, where did you have Cox that Jacksonville spent the 2010 second to take in the third?" And two different people with two different teams said, "Oh, sixth or seventh."
The days when teams don't pay attention to small-school guys and non-combine guys are largely over. People knew who this guy was. And he could turn out to be great. We'll have to wait and see -- the Jaguars will certainly have the last word. But we do have some context for where Cox was valued by other teams and it's hardly unreasonable to say so.
Larry in Washington, D.C., writes: I know the Colts are going to miss Howard Mudd tremendously, but with the rumors that Tom Moore may follow him into retirement scares me more. What are your thoughts on the transition should he actually retire? We know Peyton had more input in playcalling than most, if not all, QB's in the league. Do you see him actually taking over the full play-calling as opposed to choosing between the 2 or 3 plays Moore would "suggest"? Thanks, and I hope the offseason is treating you well.
Paul Kuharsky: Well, the retirements are official now, though the possibility of some sort of return as consultants hasn't been erased.
I would expect Clyde Christensen (or maybe Jim Caldwell himself) to work with Peyton Manning the same way Moore has. Manning will still need some additional, outside perspective.
Ross in Brentwood writes: I'm surprised you haven't addressed the Titans bringing in Drew Bennett for a physical yet Paul, I'd be curious to know your thoughts on them potentially bringing him back, especially in the wake of this "weakness" article on their passing game. I do agree with parts of that article, but I do think there's actually going to be improvement this year, and as I've said in my "mythbuster" response, they don't need an air-it-out offense to succeed. I do, however, think Bennett is not the missing piece here. They already tried bringing back a veteran wideout who began with the Titans, and that didn't work out too well for Justin McCareins. At this point they don't need to break the bank and/or trade away multiple draft picks (high ones at least) for a Boldin or Edwards, but Drew Bennett will just be another veteran presence who won't be a game-changer...although with the youngsters now at the position, maybe that is what they need.
Paul Kuharsky: I was away for two days when Bennett passed through Nashville.
If he's the fourth/fifth guy in case Hawkins still can't do anything or someone gets hurt, I could live with that. If he takes any opportunity away from Britt or Hawkins, then no thanks.
He's certainly not the playmaker or speedster they want, but at this stage Washington and Britt are those guys and it's unlikely they will be able to add any more. The question really is, do you want Bennett now as the fifth, or will you take your chances with what will come free at the end of training camps around the league?
Josh in Memphis writes: Wouldn't the Titans be better off signing Malcolm Floyd RFA S. Diego than Drew Bennett? The two are the same size, Malcolm's younger 27 vs. 30-31, Malcolm's healthier, caught as many balls in SD last year than Bennett in STL in 2 years. Malcolm brother player WR for the Oilers back in the 94-97 years.
Paul Kuharsky: The period for signing restricted free agents to offer sheets ended April 17. Floyd had a second-round pick attached as compensation. Between that and the contract it would have taken to assure the Chargers didn't match the offer, he would have been a lot more expensive. Friday, Floyd signed his one-year deal with the Chargers.
As for where his brother was over 10 years ago, do you really think something like that would factor in to a team's personnel decision? Why?
Mauricio in Houston writes: If I may, three questions in one. Is the need for help at running back of my Texans real? If it is, would it be worth pursuing Jones from the jets and if so, what would be a reasanoble trade value in draft picks.
Paul Kuharsky: Absolutely it's real. They need someone to complement Slaton and to turn to if he's hurt.
Maybe Jeremiah Johnson or Arian Foster surprise -- I'm in Tennessee so have seen and heard a lot of Foster and don't have high expectations for him. Maybe Chris Brown can stay healthy for a stretch. Maybe they eventually add Ryan Torain or another outsider to the mix.
Thomas Jones from the Jets, I would expect, would be too expensive. If the Texans didn't spend a second-, third- or fourth-rounder on a running back in the draft, would they part with one for a back who will be 31 in August? I suspect not. Running backs over 30 are viewed as huge question marks by most teams.
Evan in Chattanooga, Tenn., writes: Paul, I enjoy the blog, keep it up. My question is about the Titans defensive line this upcoming season. With the loss of Haynesworth, will the line still have the same potency it had last year, or do you see the Titans having to start blitzing linebackers to keep the pressure on the qb? Kearse and KVB are getting older, do you see any of the Titans young DE's having the potential to be of the same caliber as these guys? I think Tony Brown is a great DT and will be starting this year, will Jovan Haye or Jason Jones be starting as the other DT? Thanks, Evan
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks, pal.
I wouldn't say the same potency. They'll miss automatic double teams and Haynesworth's size.
But a year ago they lost Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy in free agency -- a tandem that combined fo
r 14 sacks the year before. And I can't remember once in 2007 watching the Titans and saying, "They are really missing Odom and LaBoy." I still expect them to rush the passer effectively with the front four.
I expect Brown and Jones will be the starters, but there is room and time for that to change.
They may blitz more, but I don't think it will be a lot more.
Weller Ross in Knoxville, Tenn., writes: I was wondering what your thoughts were on Tom Moore and Howard Mudd retiring. How big of a hit do you think this will be to the Colts offense if at all? Thanks, Weller PS: I also blogged about it and thought you might find it interesting.
Paul Kuharsky: I've done several posts on it. I think no matter how ready they were with guys to promote, that this could be a big hit, particularly from an offensive line perspective. Does Tony Ugoh, for example, get better without Mudd? I suspect not.
Paul Kuharsky: A. I think it would take an upset for Ringer not to be on the roster. Little is an intriguing guy. Henry, in my eyes, has no chance to stick.
Farris in Nashville, Tenn., writes: Great blog Paul! I wanted to get your opinion on something. With the Titans finally giving Dinger a decent set of WR's that could possibly be a solid 4 deep, that he will open up the passing game and give Collins more opportunities to throw more vertical routes? I've got a gut feeling that Collins could possibly be in store for a 3,000 plus yard season and 20 plus TD's. It could possibly resemble the Co-MVP season of McNair. Dinger loves the deep routes and he finally has the speed to get it done. Thanks and I LOVE the blog and your segment on 104.5 The Zone!
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks very much, Farris.
Better and more open? Yes. Dramatically? I'd say no. The one big difference here is that in 2003 the Titans' 3.3 yards per carry was the worst for the franchise since 1974. Barring major injuries, this year's run game will be far better than that, reducing the need for Tennessee to open things up too, too much.
Pokerfitz in Jacksonville writes: Im not sure why you dont understand the reason they Jags love Greg Jones so much. When he gets the ball the guy has been productive. Including rushing for over a 100 yards in Pittsburgh when he was subbing for an injured Fred Taylor. He gets tough yards, Breaks tackles and can catch the ball. His only knock has been his health, not his ability.
Paul Kuharsky: Huge scouting bromide -- the best ability a player has is availability.
You know a guy who's even more proven? (And by proven I mean has more than 64 carries a year.) Taylor.
Jones has a 3.4-yard average. For comparison's sake, let's look around the division at secondary running backs: Houston's Chris Brown has a 4.3 average (but has bigger health issues than Jones); Tennessee's LenDale White has a 3.9 average (and gets the ball in extremely favorable situations); Former Colts running back Dominic Rhodes has a 4.0 average (and is now with the Bills).
That's not the be-all end-all, of course. But I'm not, or wasn't, really excited about them either. It's hardly unreasonable to say Jones is unproven as an every game, No. 2 commodity like they plan to make him. I will be interested to see him work.
Taylor in Murfreesboro writes: Hey Paul, I love the blog! But all I hear about Vince Young is the money the titans will have to be paying him for a back up QB is going to be way too much! So, why not try putting him on the field as a wide receiver, he has the skills, (6'5", athletic, fast) to be a great No. 1 wr if he were trained properly and was willing to "contribute" to the teams success instead of riding the bench, or he could run some Ohio State kinda of sets (Pryor and Boeckman in the fiesta bowl). What do you think about all of this?
Paul Kuharsky: I think it's crazy talk, really.
They spent good money on a free agent in Nate Washington and their top draft pick on Kenny Britt. Why not try to develop actual receivers? I am against anything that would take even a snap away from those two guys.
I can't understand the line of thinking that because Young is a good athlete he'd have to be a good wide receiver. You say he "has the skills" to be a great wide receiver -- then the first thing you list isn't a skill, it's his height, and the second and third things are "athletic" and "fast," qualities a ton of bad receivers possess, too.
Young's a good athlete and he's not a very good quarterback at this point -- and he's been focused on that position for his entire adult football life. But he's going to be a successful receiver?
cameron from parts unknown writes: Firstly, I want to say i am a huge fan of your blog and i am a constant reader. My question to you is that the texans are ready to make a run to the playoffs, i feel, but do you think trying to add a Plaxico Burress would to far of a reach to compliment andre johnson. Also do you think they should go after a chris mcallister because of his playoff experience and his career numbers.
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks and please keep clicking.
Burress still has legal issues to resolve and from what I've read and seen, he is unlikely to be immediately available. Complementing Andre Johnson isn't a huge issue for Houston. Kevin Walter had 60 catches and eight touchdowns last year.
You fall into a familiar trap with McAlister. He's recognizable so you think he'd help. The Texans, and every team, evaluate a guy like that based more on what he can do going forward than than "playoff experience and career numbers." I don't love their secondary, but I don't feel like McAlister would qualify as an addition that could fix their issues. He only played in six games last year and he's about to turn 32.
Paul in Iowa City writes: As far as Titans myths go, one I'd like to discuss is something of a non-myth. Its the whitewashing of the 99 draft, where we picked Kevin Dyson over Randy Moss. Dyson of course has a mythical position within the organization because of the MSM, but without that play the refusal to draft Moss stands out as a colossal mistake (which it still should). By and large though, the Titans draft well.
Paul Kuharsky: The posts with responses to AFC South myths are coming soon. This one wouldn't fit there, but seemed good for the mailbag.
By and large they draft well. Unless, of course, botching No. 6 and No. 3 overall picks in consecutive years counts against them.
Did they choose the wrong guy talent-wise for the receiver position at No. 16 in 1998? Absolutely.
But taking your logic and extending it, then I expect you'd absolutely defend their choice of Pacman Jones in 2006. He was, after all, a superior football talent to Antrel Rolle. (As then-Titans GM Floyd Reese predicted at the time, Rolle didn't even stay a corner.)
Now Jones turned out to be far more of a headache and troublemaker than Moss and couldn't keep himself eligible to play.
But if you rip the Titans for not taking Moss, by the same logic you would have had to applaud them for taking Jones.
So how's that stance working out for you?
Sam in Nashville writes: 2 comments. First, does anyone else but me think that Haynesworth isn't really that important to our defense? While he is a very good player, he is injured often and has a tendency to be unmotivated. Also, Washburn seems to turn everyone into a star DT. Second, Vince has shown that he is not the quarterback of the future through his skills. His skill set does not include good footwork or accuracy. Because of this, do you see the Titans drafting another quarterback soon? And since we'll probably be in the 20-30 pick range, who would you see as a possible fit next year?
Paul Kuharsky: I'm sure there are others who think as you do. I think you are overreaching on Haynesworth not being that important. He was very important, often the best player they had on the field and made life easier for the other 10 guys.
If he took plays off, as a Titans beat guy named Terry McCormick has pointed out, the defenses assigning double teams to him didn't know which ones they would be. Haynesworth looked plenty motivated to me over the last two years. That doesn't make him worth the contract he got, and it doesn't mean he's irreplaceable.
The Titans are now a smallish interior D, at least among their best guys.
Washburn turns a lot of guys into good players, absolutely. You might be overstating just a little to say he turns "everyone into a star DT." Randy Starks ring a bell? Antonio Johnson? Jesse Mahelona? Jared Clauss?
I would expect the Titans will be looking to draft a QB next year. He doesn't have to be a first-rounder, and I can't pretend to know who would fit.
Nathan in N.Y. writes: How are the Texans going to break .500 if glass-jawed Matt Schaub can't manage to start 16 games and they replaced maligned but halfway decent Sage Rosenfels with a guy last seen running out the back of his own endzone?
Paul Kuharsky: Schaub staying healthy is a must for the Texans. I wasn't big on the Dan Orlovsky signing either -- even if you love him, you overpaid and messed up the backup quarterback market. But ...
The "halfway decent" Rosenfels you mentioned wasn't regarded as much when he arrived in Houston, either. Gary Kubiak is pretty good with signal-callers, and gets the benefit of the doubt here that he will be able to turn Orlovsky into something better and the Texans will still have a chance to win a game if Schaub can't go.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE -- Here's my prediction for the Titans' running back pecking order after the first three games of a five-game preseason this summer:
- Chris Johnson: The once and future king.
- LenDale White: Likely to bust his hump in a contract year and still get a lot of carries in situations favorable to posting impressive statistics.
- Javon Ringer: Picked as a fifth rounder who can carry when needed who will likely take over for White in 2010 but can contribute regularly on special teams in the meantime.
- Rafael Little: Spent last year working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in his final year at Kentucky and could wind up on the practice squad if they can't squeeze him onto the 53-man roster.
- Quinton Ganther: A hard worker who does what's asked but won't be able to climb higher than this to maintain a roster spot or a role if the three veterans ahead of him are healthy.
- Chris Henry: A second-round workout warrior from 2007 when he was drafted 50th overall, who's heading for the waiver wire before the Titans are due to cut him another pay check.
I recently asked Titans fans what started they would most like to see replaced.
As you'd expect with a team that has a pretty solid starting 22, the answers were quite varied.
A sampling of comments and mailbag entries, with some of my reaction interspersed:
MILANRULES2009: Nick Harper, please. Doesn't have to be by a pro bowler, but at least someone who could cover a guy like derrick mason.
avespucci: Nick Harper and Jevon Kearse. Both via draft. They produced for years, but both are in their 30s and production is slipping.
Titanfan109: Eugene Amano. I know he's young, but by far the weak spot on the line. His footwork and instincts on stunts are terrible. It puts a lot of pressure on Mawae.
Redding in Nashville: Lendale White, he doesn't get nearly enough credit for making the 07 offense as pathetic as it was. He averages 3 yards per carry behind one of the best lines in football and makes a living stealing CJ's TDs. Whichever O lineman (Amano I think) kept letting CJ get blown up in the backfield.
Unknown in Santa Fe: I would like to see Lendale White replaced. I think he is an above average back, but his attitude does not fit a Jeff Fisher team. I feel like we could possibly trade or draft a replacement for him.
Paul Kuharsky: White wasn't really the starter last year -- he started two games. But he got 200 carries to Chris Johnson's 251 and the Titans consider themselves a two-back team, so we'll give voice to White's detractors here. He is heading for free agency next year if it's not an uncapped season, and I'm not certain the Titans will look to retain him. A lot depends on this season -- does he drop the weight, show a good attitude, continue to maximize opportunity? They could draft yet another back to prepare to replace him.
dkill6464: LenDale deserves only 2 yard and goaline consideration. He is sloppy and lazy. Besides two miracle distance runs, which were against the two best defenses in the league in Kansas City and Detroit, he is a two hit back (the first defensive player then the ground). To be called such a 'power back' he goes down way too easily. It is like he gets motivated by special situations, ie chances to show off his terrible touchdown dance, but when a 1st and 10 shows up its a 2 yard gain and a smile on the face. Chris Henry, although split carries in college and hasn't played much in the pros since his draft, displays 10 fold effort and will increase explosiveness and speed. Watch Chris Henry in preseason, yes it is preseason and you cannot always gage the play correctly, but his rookie season I was so excited after watching him in preseason. He reminded me of Marion Barber, but alas he did not get any playing time. I look forward to seeing him play more. I am all for less LenDale Fatty White. Oh, nd to say he is cutting weight is blasphemy to 'The Biggest Loser' because that is the same thing that has been said about this kid since he left USC and while enrolled in college, yet he still looks the same.
PK: Wow. Anti-White is no surprise. Pro-Henry is a huge surprise. Is this a relative? Henry has shown very little and I expect Rafael Little or someone else to take his roster spot in training camp.
Gunter in parts unknown: I'd like to see Lendale White get replaced. Although you can't ignore his redzone productivity last season, I don't think he's been worth his weight a lot of times.. punn intended. I've heard a lot about this thing called weight loss and lendale's name put in the same sentence a few times this offseason, but I also hear it's his contract year, as well as a ton of other titans, and i see him as another albert with slightly higher, consistent production over his time in TN.. but I think he's looking to follow the money since he knows TN doesn't pay stars. But I'll hold my judgement entirely until I see him perform, but I'm looking forward to watching 3 players in this years preseason, Patrick Ramsey, Nate Washington, and Rafael Little.
PK: I disagree with several things you said. No way has White been more productive than Haynesworth. No way does he ranks as a star. Ask Kyle Vanden Bosch, Michael Roos and Cortland Finnegan if the Titans pay.
daniel ceniceros: regarding your titans starter replacemnt question....i think it has to be jacob ford replacing jevon kearse i mean ford is a nice fresh young de with speed of the edge just like kearse use to but im not comparing ford to kearse in his prime....also how about scaife over crumpler i mean c'mon scaife wasnt even on the pro bowl ballot last year thats a joke.. i think harper is a solid cb and a good tackler and good against the run unfortunately doesnt have the speed u need to have at cb
TitanFanWV: ...The player I'd like to see replaced would have to be either Nick Harper or Jevon Kearse. Harper not so much for lack of playing ability more along the lines of age. We need to get a new young corner to play opposite of Cortland.
Jevon just isn't the same as his early days in Tennessee. Hayes or Ford could work better as pass rushers like Odem and LaBoy used to do for Tennessee. They don't exactly have the ability to stop the run but they could add another element to our pass rush
ranmanpats: Why does everyone think Harper is the weak link on the secondary? Would you consider Michael Haynes or Hanford Dixon weak links? Sure Lester Hayes and Frank Minnifield had the 'numbers', but that was because no one wanted to throw @ Haynes or Dixon. Do you think Finnigan has the 'numbers' for the same reason? I think Harper has been invaluable to our defense.
So, who to replace? I would like to see Jevon Kearse replaced. This is not a condemnation of Kearse, but a desire to see Jacob Ford or William Hayes make that next step and force us to start them. This would also give us a rested Kearse who could reduce his snaps but have fresh legs when he is in.
PK: I agree with you on Harper
-- I think he takes way too much heat from fans. I think he's been a pretty good piece of the secondary. Teams are going to complete some passes, and a decent number of them will be to his side with quarterbacks avoiding Finnegan. The secondary isn't going to pitch shutouts.
Darren in TN: Saw your post on "Which Titans starter to replace". Here's mine: I would like to see Jevon Kearse get replaced by a young DE possibly obtained in the draft, or a guy like Jacob Ford, who's working hard. Many would probably pick Nick Harper, but really we don't have much depth beyond Finnegan, Griffin, Hope, and Harper in the secondary. We have great D-line depth, so get someone to replace Kearse. By the way, if Eric Berry ( SS, Tennessee ) comes out in 2010, Titans need to draft him to replace Hope. Haha.
PK: I can see the Titans using Ford more in rush situations, but that wouldn't take Kearse out on first down which is where you get to rank as a starter.
Cameron in Monterey, CA: I am probably one of the only people in the world that is going to say this, but I would like to see Collins replaced with VY. A lot of people are going to say i'm crazy, but the sooner they figure out if he's worth keeping or letting go, the younger all of our guys will be to move forward with said QB. Maybe this year isn't the best year to do it with so many people going into a contract year, but that is just my opinion.
Zach in Dana Point: I want to see the titans replace kerry collins. I know it won't happen because he just re-signed, but personally I would've love to have seen the Chris Simms thing work out. I mean granted collins did well last year he's just another year older, and he didn't do anything in the playoffs to reassure titans fans of anything but his inability to win a superbowl. I wish the titans let him walk and go pursue his country career. Thank you for everything he did last year, but he is just too old. I mean I'd rather even give Vince Young another chance then just rely on someone who has at most two years left in the tank.
PK: Two years is two years, and he's better than the alternatives. He wasn't great against the Ravens, but he was good enough to win. He threw a costly pick, but he wasn't losing fumbles deep in Baltimore territory, that was Alge Crumpler and White.
As for Young, you are hardly alone. He had a great deal of support in the response to this. Lots of people running on faith more than performance, it appears.
Unknown from Saint Louis: What starter should be replaced? S. Tullock. I know MLB doesn't play much in their scheme, but get a guy who can play the pass and run.
PK: Whoever the MLB is, a good share of Titans fans always want to debate him and a good share of those want him replaced. The context is important -- he's on the field for roughly half the snaps as the Titans move into nickel so frequently.
x21dre: Honestly, I vote for Amano, Tulloch (or the MLB flavor of the year), or Scaife. These are probably less toted choices because Tennessee's perennial holes (A young gun-slinger QB, A deep-threat WR, or a shut-down corner) are more obvious.
However, Tennessee does not have a pass-first offense or a defense that necessitates a shut-down corner. They are a run-first offense with a front-seven heavy defense.
Amano is the weak-link in that O-Line, his ability to play multiple positions is the biggest reason he's been kept around. He's too slow a guard to create outside holes for C.J. and giving C.J. one more hole a game and might result one more touchdown a game.
Tulloch will get exposed this year in Haynesworth's absence and is, I believe, the weakest link on the entire defensive unit. Personally, I would have loved to see Tennessee make a run at Jerod Mayo last draft... but I have to admit C.J. (who I feared was another Chris Henry) turned out to be a brilliant pick.
Finally, Bo Scaife is a stud... as a #2 tight-end. Next to Heath Miller, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, and Todd Heap (other playoff AFC team's tight ends), he is a little out-classed. A stud TE would elevate the play of the entire offense. Imagine play-action passes where Gage or Washington only receive single coverage because the safety is having to look underneath for that pesky, but dangerous TE crossing route.
Good luck writing this article Paul, you'll probably get every starter named by the end.
PK: Not quite every starter, but almost.
sublog713: While Harper is the weak link in the secondary, he is still pretty good as long as he gets help over the top. Since we run a lot of cover 2 shell, it works out well.
I would have to say I would like to see Mawae replaced by Harris. I like what Mawae brings to the table, but I think Harris is a better run blocker at this point.
Crumpler really showed nothing last year, he was a big disappointment on the field. Not that we have any better options to replace him with, though.
And I would like to see Kerry Collins replaced by someone too, although that person is not on our roster at the moment.
Andy Baggett in Nashville, TN: Dear Paul Thanks for the awesome blog, and intriguing question. Although it pains me to say it, the Titan I would like to see replaced is Kevin Mawae. Mawae is a excellent player, his resourcefulness and knowledge has helped the the young offensive line during the lowest point of the franchise. I believe the year he signed with the titans they were coming off a 4-12 season. But Mawae has missed the end of the past two regular seasons as well as both playoff losses, to San Diego and Baltimore respectively, due to injury. I though Leroy did a excellent job, against a Ravens front that loves to move around and keep the O line guessing. I think that going with a younger player at that position would allow the titans a greater chance of getting that allusive playoff win.
Chris from Idaho: I am gonna go out on a limb for what starter for the Titans should be replaced. I think it's time for Mawae to call it a career. I remember him getting beat up by Jenkins(Jets) all day. I also remeber LeRoy Harris(backup) handling Casey Hampton. The only downside is losing Mawaes recgonition of defenses, but I beleive in Munchanck enough to be ok with that. Let's get Harris in the mix and get chemistry with Scott and Stewart going!
PK: I think Harris is good, probably ready and stronger. But Mawae's leadership is a big factor, and he's going to be in there.
Jon in Franklin, TN: Punter Craig Hentrich should be replaced. His production was down last year, and his age is only going up. He is also prone to back probl
ems, with increased age, can occur at any time. He has been a great asset, but now has a diminishing return. Offseason would give a new holder time to get comfortable with Bironas. Sorry Craig, thanks for the memories.
Ross in Brentwood: In response to replacing a Titans' starter... Harper is the easy choice yes, mainly because of his age (which is why I expect them to go CB early in the draft, and have several of them when done) and because the Titans' secondary is so strong that he is relatively the "weakest link". Honestly I would like to see Bo Scaife replaced. I know he's been one of the more "reliable" targets in recent years (which isn't saying much considering the Titans' pass catchers), but statistically he is average at best, with last season being his best so far. He's certainly no Antonio Gates, not even a Frank Wycheck. He's been solid, but I think they could do better, and I think he probably has a higher value of himself than the team and will want more money next offseason when he comes off the tag, and thus will be gone.