AFC South: Raheem Brock

Links: MJD gives Jags reason to smile

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
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Houston Texans

Valued at $1.3 billion, the Texans are the 13th most valuable sports team in the world, according to Forbes.

The team's website, doing a series featuring interviews with Texans position coaches to get their respective thoughts on the projected starters, continues with quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell discussing starter Matt Schaub.

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star continues his series on the All-Time Colts team with a feature on defensive tackles Ellis Johnson and Raheem Brock.

Kevin Bowen continues the team website's series profiling the burning questions at each position with a look at quarterback. Should Colts fans worry about a sophomore slump from Andrew Luck? Bowen has the answer.

Jacksonville Jaguars

As training camp nears, the Florida Times-Union’s Ryan O’Halloran breaks down the Jaguars’ depth at every position. Up first is running back, and O'Halloran says starter Maurice Jones-Drew is giving coaches a reason to smile.

The Jaguars officially signed fourth-round draft pick Ace Sanders, according to the team's website. Sanders, a wide receiver/punt returner, was the 101st overall pick in the draft following a trade with Philadelphia.

Tennessee Titans

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean says the Titans have as much talent at wide receiver as any point since the team moved to Tennessee in 1997.

John Glennon of The Tennessean analyzes the Titans' defensive line entering training camp.

NFL Twindex: Cleveland WR takes crown

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
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Mohamed MassaquoiTom Cammett/Getty ImagesMohamed Massaquoi tops this week's Twindex.

It was a good week for pictures from NFLers on Twitter.

We had tourist shots of Larry Fitzgerald at the Lincoln Memorial and at The White House, a picture of Antonio Garay driving a Hello Kitty car, a shot of a receipt showing off just how much Michael Huff’s dad spent for groceries on his son’s credit card and a freeze frame of Josh Scobee’s locker on TV.

We at the NFL Twindex are in favor of all sharing. We seek insight into football lives, and do our best to weed through a lot of junk to find it.

If you see good humor, good explanations or yes, good pictures from an NFL player or coach or mascot or anyone on Twitter, please make sure we see it by calling our attention to it. Twindex headquarters can be found at @ESPN_AFCSouth and @PaulKuharsky.

To our new edition.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., -- When the Titans and Cardinals broke into pieces early in practice, injured Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn’t stick with the quarterbacks and receivers in seven-on-seven.

He watched the Titans defensive linemen work against Arizona’s large offensive line. There were many good battles, and the Cards fared a lot better at fending off the rush in the drill than they did Monday night in a preseason loss at LP Field.

My thinking about the Titans is turning a bit -- they may be better than I've been expecting. And the biggest force behind it is the defensive line.

And that’s with four key guys currently out or limited: Derrick Morgan, the No. 1 pick; William Hayes, perhaps the best edge rush prospect; Jacob Ford, who has 12 sacks in 29 games; and Tony Brown, probably the best all-around interior lineman.

It still looks like a very deep group that will find ways to get to the quarterback without blitz help, though the Titans worked the blitz a good deal against the Cardinals in the game.

The rest of the group is also a pretty anonymous gang, part draft picks, part reclamation project free agents: ends Jason Babin and Dave Ball; tackles Jason Jones, Jovan Haye and Sen’Derrick Marks.

That’s five quality ends before Raheem Brock or Eric Bakhtiari, who's likely to be on a 53-man roster. That’s four quality tackles before seventh-round rookie David Howard.

High motor end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who set the Titans’ standard for work, left as a free agent for Detroit. Albert Haynesworth is heading into his second-season of drama in Washington.

And defensive line coach Jim Washburn may be just fine without them. The rotating won’t be based as much on situations -- though you want your best pass rushers on the field on third down, first down hardly qualifies as a “run down” any more -- as it will be on freshness. Tired linemen are expected to remove themselves from action, making way for the next guy while recovering.

Jeff Fisher said he’s very happy with the group’s depth and his counterpart at Thursday’s practice was impressed.

“I think they’re good, I think it’s one of the better defensive lines, I’ve always thought that.” Ken Whisenhunt said. “I know what coach Fisher’s mentality’s been with defense. They play hard. They do a very good job with their twists and their stunt game. Definitely when you play a team like Tennessee, it makes your O-line better. Because if you don’t work hard, you’re going to get embarrassed.”

Cardinals guard Alan Faneca also talked about twists and stunts, saying he thinks the Titans are using them more instead of relying on juggernauts like KVB and Haynesworth to pave the road.

“I think they’ve mixed in a lot of guys, they all seem to play pretty good with each other,” Faneca said. “…To me it seemed like they were working a lot on their inside games and stuff. With Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth, they really let those guys work so that really wasn’t as big of a staple of theirs. They mix it up. You can’t anticipate one thing, you’ve got to anticipate a couple things, and that slows your reaction down.”

I don’t know how much more the Titans may game and stunt -- this could just be a time in camp where they’ve emphasized it. I am certain they all want to and believe they can line up and beat the man across from them while using stuff to keep blockers off balance. A year after the team had 31 sacks, a drop off of 13 from 2008, I'll be surprised if the number isn't up.

“We’re very deep right now,” Jones said. “Right now we still have interchangeable parts, athletic guys on this D-line. When the hurt guys get back it’s going to be full force… We still have the same pride. When we get our rushes we expect to get to the quarterback or at least hit him and cause some havoc.”

Camp Confidential: Tennessee Titans

August, 22, 2010
8/22/10
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 18

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Since 2002, Jeff Fisher’s Tennessee Titans have had a losing record in the first month five times. Last season, it wasn’t just a bad start, it was a miserable 0-6.

Fisher and his staff have often been masterful at guiding a team’s climb out of a hole, but starting off on more level ground is a necessity if the young 2010 Titans are to re-emerge as a playoff team.

“Camp’s different than it was last year, we have four preseason games rather than five, we had injuries to deal with,” Fisher said. “We’re going to work on a couple opponents [earlier], prepare for them a little differently.

“We need to get off to a good start this year.”

A lot of recognizable names are gone, and that’s fine if a youth movement is as stocked as they believe it is. But it’s the sort of roster that could need time to settle in, which could mean early struggles again.

THREE HOT ISSUES

Will there be sufficient leadership?

[+] EnlargeAhmard Hall
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesAhmard Hall is a likely candidate to help fill the leadership void in Nashville.
Even if Kyle Vanden Bosch, Keith Bulluck, Alge Crumpler and Kevin Mawae were all starting to tail off and even if the Titans feel they have an upgrade over each, that is still as big a loss of collective leadership in one offseason as I can recall. The people in place to lead now -- guys like safety Chris Hope and fullback Ahmard Hall -- have to maintain, or increase, their level of production to attain and maintain the credibility that batch had.

Linebacker Will Witherspoon was the biggest veteran addition, and he looks to be a top candidate to take on a leadership mantle. But as a newcomer he’s got to figure out how to fit himself smoothly into the mix.

“With me it’s more about deciphering how to approach individuals,” Witherspoon said. “…Those are the kind of things you have to figure out. You look at the stages of leadership and different types of leadership. I’m not the guy who’s a loudmouth, getting down a guy’s throat.

“But I will, if I feel like I need to, take a guy aside and say look, ‘Here’s what I see, here’s what going on and here’s how people feel about it. Here’s what I can tell you is going to change it or you’re just going to end up with a real problem.’”

Vince Young needs to play a solid 16 games.

He’s got the league’s most explosive back behind him, an excellent offensive line protecting him and the franchise’s best crop of wide receivers in some time. Things are set up for Young to succeed as the team’s starting quarterback.

The Titans need to know they can count on him to bounce back from play-to-play, series-to-series, day-to-day and week-to-week. They need improved accountability, accuracy and consistency. They need for him not to provide reasons for fans to debate whether Rusty Smith is actually the team’s quarterback of the future.

There are more questions on defense, and the Titans need to do some scoring to allow for the sort of mistakes some of the young defenders are bound to make, especially early on.

Can the pass rush and secondary improve?

[+] EnlargeChris Hope
AP Photo/Stephen MortonChris Hope and the Titans' secondary will have to defend better against the play-action pass.
The pass rush was insufficient and the secondary failed to hold up when it needed to last. Fisher said the back end needs to be better on play-action but that the regular rush against drop back passes should be improved with a deep crop of defensive linemen.

“If we can get back to where we were with the guys rushing up front in the rotation, they’ll be fine,” Fisher said. “The play-action pass, that’s got to get done by the secondary. You don’t get as quick pressure on the quarterback in the play-action pass. We gave up too many plays in the play-action passing game last year. That’s going to require better play from the linebackers and the secondary.

“On drop backs we should really be able to do some more things.”

They don’t have clear-cut guys as the primary rushers or for the No. 2 corner spot. But they have the next best thing in what appear to be a deep pool of young options.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Harris and Stevens: Offensive lineman Leroy Harris and tight end Craig Stevens might prove more effective than Mawae and Crumpler, the two guys they are replacing. Harris is actually at left guard, with Eugene Amano sliding inside to center. Stevens doesn’t have Crumpler’s girth but can fend off a would-be tackler and/or slip out into a route so long as concussion issues don’t surface again.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Morgan out: First-round pick Derrick Morgan has been sidelined for camp with a calf injury. The defensive end has missed so much installation and work it will be tough for him to contribute. The Titans have to hope some combination of William Hayes (once he’s healthy), Jacob Ford, Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Raheem Brock can effectively rush off the edge from the start.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeLavelle Hawkins
    Don McPeak/US PresswireLavelle Hawkins has been impressive during the preseason, but can the fourth-year receiver rise on the team's depth chart?
    Offensive line coach Mike Munchak consistently develops talent, but the Titans have virtually no experience behind their starting offensive line. Mike Otto could be sufficient as the backup swing tackle, but they could look for a veteran interior swing guy after cuts.
  • Lavelle Hawkins has gotten great reviews and is more of a traditional slot receiver than Justin Gage. It’ll be great for the team if Hawkins provides an option inside, but I’ll wait until he’s deployed in a meaningful game before buying the hype.
  • Babin is a new reclamation project for defensive line coach Jim Washburn. He’s suited for the team’s go-get-the-quarterback mentality and in practice, and in the first preseason game, appeared to be getting off the ball with excellent speed.
  • Jared Cook is only now starting to flash and create the buzz he generated at this time a year ago. The second-year tight end is a physical specimen and an attractive target, but word is he’s not as reliable as he should be. One thing that can hurt his cause: Stevens, while nowhere near Cook as an explosive threat, has been catching the ball well.
  • Dowell Loggains was promoted to quarterbacks coach when Fisher shuffled his staff a bit with the late departure of running back coach Kennedy Pola. Loggains has used some creative new methods to keep things fresh for his guys. It seems small but can make a big difference.
  • Ryan Mouton is not on par with the more consistent Jason McCourty or the more instinctive rookie Alterraun Verner among the cornerbacks vying for the No. 2 spot. I expect McCourty to start opposite Cortland Finnegan with Verner backing up the effective, but oft-injured, Vincent Fuller at nickelback. Verner’s ability to find a pick almost every day is one of the big stories of camp.
  • Sen’Derrick Marks is significantly stronger than he was as a rookie and could be an influential player for a defensive line that’s expected to be much more productive.
  • The Titans saw young defensive coordinators Gregg Williams and Jim Schwartz reach new comfort levels in their second seasons. Chuck Cecil expects to follow a similar course. Cecil knows that if he doesn’t, he’ll face another season of uncomfortable questions.

Three things: Titans at Seahawks

August, 14, 2010
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Three things I’ll be looking for in Titans at Seahawks:

Vince Young and Michael Griffin: I consider the two veteran first-round picks from Texas to be the keys on each side of the ball. No, they won’t play much. But a show of poise and production from each could provide the very first kernels of confidence in them for 2010. Let’s see some rhythm from Young and no mistakes from Griffin.

The new ends: Thinned by injuries, the Titans just added Raheem Brock and Chris Harrington. They could get a lot of work chasing Seattle quarterbacks. Will they start to make a charge for roster spots, or are they going to turn out to be bodies the Titans can plug in for a time while they await the return of William Hayes and Derrick Morgan.

Young cornerbacks: Cortland Finnegan won’t play, which means expansive opportunities to put things down on film for all the candidates to start opposite him -- Jason McCourty, Ryan Mouton, Alterraun Verner and Tye Hill. Make some plays, create or expand your buzz. Verner, in particular, has been getting good practice reviews as of late.
Brian in Austin, Texas, writes: Thoughts on the Texans trading Jacques Reeves or Fred Bennett to the Ravens for Troy Smith to shore up our backup quarterback situation? I know the mindset is that Dan Orlovsky has all the tools and physical makeup, but every time I've seen him in a game he looks lost. I think I'd rather have a guy who can manage a game with his arm and legs to manufacture wins if Schaub goes down.

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t know that Troy Smith is a sure thing as a quality backup either, or that Baltimore, needy as it might be in the secondary, wants Reeves or Bennett.


Jim in Greenville, S.C., writes:Chances Raheem Brock makes the Pro Bowl? Better yet, chances any of the defensive line besides Tony Brown making the Pro Bowl?

Paul Kuharsky: Brock has to worry about making the team before making the Pro Bowl. Brown would be most likely. One of the kids could have a big year and get in when they go eight deep at his position the way they do these days.


Brian Weinkauf in Houston writes: On your AFC South Blog you talk of unknown trios for the Texans as Glover Quin, Antoine Caldwell and Zac Diles. I would agree with Diles as he led the team in tackles year before last until he got hurt. Quin was the only CB in the league to not allow a TD besides Champ Bailey. I disagree with Caldwell... he's looking good at guard, but has not stood out from any other of the five guards says Kubiak. Connor Barwin led all rookie DE's last year in sacks, but only played sparingly. He's the third.

Paul Kuharsky: You are right, Barwin was an obvious choice and I missed him. Probably would have moved the Texans up on that list, too.


Chris Barber from Clarksville, Tenn., writes: First question I have involves the Colts. Every year the question arises, is this the year the Colts begin to decline. I personally think as long as #18 is taking the snaps that probably won't happen, but have you seen anything in their camp to make you think otherwise? Second, I think the Titan's offense should be good enough to keep them in most games, but I'm terrified about their defense. Do you think Derrick Morgan could have a Jevon Kearse like effect on the team? Thank you for your time. PS -- I too am terrified of the Dino Chicken.

Paul Kuharsky: I cannot understand why there is no outrage and widespread fear over Dino Chickens.

I cannot understand why anyone thinks the Colts dip. They should be very good again.

Kearse was a once-in-a-generation kind of guy. Morgan is not going to explode onto the scene in the same way. Jim Washburn has said that’s an unreasonable expectation.


Cody in Nashville, Tenn., writes: I know the Titans are considered to be in a small market, but I wasn't sure what defined that. They've sold out every season since they have been here. What defines a large market, population? Ticket sales? City? Just curious. Thanks for all your insight.

Paul Kuharsky: Sellouts have nothing to do with it. The Packers are in a tiny town -- as small market as any major league franchise in America -- and they have a monster waiting list for season tickets.

Small markets are about fan-base size and business population in terms of available sponsorship dollars.

From the general numbers I am finding, New York’s metropolitan area has over 10 times the population of Jacksonville or Nashville. It’s a lot easier to sell tickets and sponsorships and maintain an interested fan base with that sort of advantage.


Barrett in Houston writes: Paul, You are great when you are factual, but when you start to editorialize, your biases come out to a disappointing degree.

Paul Kuharsky: I certainly welcome you to be more specific. You are great when you are specific, but when you start to generalize, it’s disappointing.

I’m supposed to editorialize, chief. The blog is a bit of everything, reporting, observation, reaction, response, analysis, opinion.

I get accused of being biased against all four teams, which I usually take to mean I am doing a good job.

You’re from Houston, so I presume you think I am against the Texans.

I assure you I am not. But I also ask you and any Texans fans who share that sentiment, what have the Texans done that's deserving of any alleged missing praise?

RTC: Ahmard Hall, media darling

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Setbacks and injuries were Eugene Wilson’s story last year, but he played well when healthy and is ready to be part of a breakout season, says Jordan Godwin.

Gary Kubiak plans to get a look at all of his running backs against Arizona, says John McClain.

Jeremiah Johnson is showing good toughness, says Godwin.

Antoine Caldwell is being pushed by Wade Smith, says McClain.

Antonio Smith sees the same growth potential in Houston that he did in his early years playing for Arizona.

Indianapolis Colts

My Camp Confidential.

The Colts are well-stocked at safety, says Mike Chappell.

If Peyton Manning goes down, things will be in Curtis Painter’s hands, says Bob Kravitz.

The Colts are looking at three defenders as options for fullback snaps, says Chappell. If short-yardage is such a big concern, why don’t they ever consider a fullback for fullback?

John Oehser looks back at the first two weeks of camp.

New Titan Raheem Brock explains why he asked the Colts to release him.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Five questions about the Jags heading into their game in Philly Friday night, from Vito Stellino.

Two city councilmen skipped out on a meeting after the vote on the EverBank naming rights deal to go to dinner with some Jaguars executives, says Tia Mitchell.

The safeties are a bigger concern than the interior offensive line, says Vic Ketchman.

Tennessee Titans

Alterraun Verner is showing a nose for the ball, says John Glennon.

Brock can’t wait for a chance to hit Manning, say Jim Wyatt and Bryan Mullen. He’ll need to make the team first.

Brock wants to go to the Pro Bowl, says David Boclair.

An injury update heading into the trip to Seattle, from Wyatt.

Could a more mature Vince Young balance out the Titans' offense. Steve Wyche examines the question.

The brothers Simms are reunited in Tennessee, says Beth Rucker.

Ahmard Hall won Bob McClellan’s informal poll for the best Titan for media to deal with. I voted Hall No. 1, Vincent Fuller No. 2 and Stephen Tulloch No. 3, though I expect Will Witherspoon will press them as I get to know him. Perhaps I should have scored Tulloch down for his inability or unwillingness to talk after some tough losses last year.
Adding former Colts defensive lineman Raheem Brock gives the Titans one thing they need and one thing they’ll take:
  • A defensive end capable of playing a lot of snaps.
  • The experience to play both end and tackle.

A day after Brock visited the Texans, he went to Nashville and signed with Tennessee.

He was a great fit for the Colts, who released him after the season because of circumstances that never became clear. And he drew no interest that came to light in a long offseason until now, when a couple of his old division rivals suffered injuries at end and needed help.

The Titans are currently without rookie Derrick Morgan (calf) and William Hayes (knee), and Jacob Ford has been limited.

To make room for Brock and another defensive lineman, Chris Harrington, the Titans cut defensive end Marcus Howard (who Jeff Fisher said had season-ending triceps surgery) and receiver Phillip Morris.

I mistakenly confused Marcus Howard with seventh-round defensive tackle David Howard in the original version of this post. Apologies to readers and the remaining Mr. Howard.

RTC: A talk with Dwight Freeney

June, 22, 2010
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Reading the coverage:

Quality reads

This makes for good discussion, I think: A reader’s proposal for how to make an 18-game season work. It's not going to happen, but interesting to talk about.

Houston Texans

Lance Briggs had some strong things to say about Brian Cushing, writes Vaughn McClure.

Defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard has been noticedby the Texans, says Chris Bahn.

Indianapolis Colts

Dwight Freeney talks with Jason Cole.

Five defensive concernsfrom John Oehser.

Clyde Christensen is one assistant Clark Judge has an eye on.

Five players who helped themselves this offseason, from Stampede Blue.

Don’t lookfor the Colts to re-sign Raheem Brock, says Stampede Blue.

The 1991 Colts rank as one of the league’s all-time worstteams, says Bob Warja.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Considering the Jaguars' depthwith Vic Ketchman.

Alfie Crow takes a look at the tight ends.

Tennessee Titans

How concerned are Titans coaches about what Chris Johnson is missing, ask Jim Wyatt.

The Titans need leadership soon, says Joe Biddle.

Jeff Fisher told Derrick Morgan to slow down, says John Glennon.

Steve McNair can finally rest in peace, says Mike Freeman.

Craig Hentrich is enjoying a busy retirement, says Jim Wyatt.

LeGarrette Blount is one of five players NFL.com will follow as he fights to make his team’s roster.

Hughes fits Colts' DE mold

April, 22, 2010
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Speed off the edge is vital in the Colts' defense.

Dwight Freeney is 30 and Robert Mathis is 29. They are still Pro Bowl caliber players, but there was no next generation behind them. A limited Freeney had a big sack in the Super Bowl, but he didn’t last at full speed the whole game because of an ankle injury, and the Colts ultimately suffered.

With the selection of TCU’s Jerry Hughes 31st overall in the first round, there is now new depth.

Hughes is a speed, edge rusher in the mold of Freeney and Mathis, a player who got in the backfield and disrupted offenses in college and projects to do the same for the Colts.

He’s not going to bounce inside and eat up snaps all over the line as Raheem Brock, let go after the season, did. But the Colts look to be three deep at end and have an eventual successor to one of their stalwarts in hand.

In his last 26 games at TCU, Hughes recorded 26.5 sacks. Those numbers are as impressive as any I’ve read about any of the first-round choices in the AFC South.

The pick addresses a need, but leaves another lingering. The Colts are likely to consider an offensive lineman at No. 63 overall on Friday. Rodger Saffold is rated by many as an ideal fit for what they do.

Might he last? Might they make a move to go get him? And can he or a lineman selected in the second, if that’s the way Bill Polian goes, break through in a way two recent second-rounders on the offensive line haven’t?

If Tony Ugoh or Mike Pollak had evolved into the players the Colts envisioned when spending recent second-round picks on them, they wouldn’t necessarily be in need now.video

Three scenarios per team

April, 20, 2010
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The Scouts Inc. crew offers up three scenarios per team and draft slot in this quality read. You’ve got to be an Insider to see it all, but you are lucky because you know me and I am both an Insider and a rebel willing to share the AFC South piece of the puzzle:

Jacksonville, No. 10

Their pick: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

Scenario 1: Age and durability along the defensive front are issues even with the arrival of Aaron Kampman, and Pierre-Paul and his upside make sense here. Derrick Morgan also would have to be a consideration.

Scenario 2: Safety is the team's most glaring need and Earl Thomas is worth the pick, but the Jaguars might not want to spend another first-round pick on a free safety after missing on Reggie Nelson.

Scenario 3: This is yet another team that would like to see Spiller fall. He would give Jacksonville the kind of versatile playmaker who could help the Jags keep up with division rivals Indianapolis and Houston.

My thoughts: Pierre-Paul seems like a project to me, and I want more than a project this high when my team needs to win and draw better. Gene Smith has been willing to swallow mistakes that the team has made, so if they judge Nelson one, they won’t be hesitant to take Thomas if they feel he is their best option. Spiller is a playmaker, and they need playmakers. Maurice Jones-Drew and Spiller would be a heck of a one-two punch, but that would be an awful lot of money invested in one spot.

Tennessee, No. 16

Their pick: Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan

Scenario 1: There is a lot to choose from at the top need positions, but the Titans have had success with undersized ends in the past, and Graham certainly knows how to get to the quarterback.

Scenario 2: If cornerback is the choice, Haden becomes the best available option.

Scenario 3: The Titans could reach to fill their need at defensive tackle, but we do not believe any tackle on the board is worthy of this pick.

My thoughts: Graham has more polish that Pierre-Paul and it’s starting to seem like Graham is more likely to be available. Joe Haden could be a guy who starts in relative short order and would be good in combination with Cortland Finnegan. I think defensive tackle is being overrated as a need here. If there was a great interior pass-rusher, perhaps he’d be intriguing. But the Titans have spent second-round picks in consecutive years on the spot in Jason Jones and Sen'Derrick Marks.

Houston, No. 20

Their pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

Scenario 1: The Texans look to a pressing need and take Haden, who is on the board in this scenario.

Scenario 2: Should Haden be taken earlier, Houston likely will choose between cornerbacks Kareem Jackson of Alabama and Kyle Wilson of Boise State, taking whichever player is higher on its board.

Scenario 3: With running back being their top need, the Texans could conceivably look at a prospect like Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, but it seems unlikely given the corners who should be available.

My thoughts: I can’t see Haden lasting this long, especially if he’s the top corner to most teams. A choice between Jackson and Wilson wouldn’t be bad. I think either would be the team’s best corner in short order. Mathews could really round out the offense, especially if there is a quality interior lineman later to block for him.

Indianapolis, No. 31

Their pick: Tyson Alualu, DT, California

Scenario 1: With no offensive tackle worth the pick on the board, the Colts opt for a defensive tackle who fits their quick, penetrating style on that side of the ball.

Scenario 2: In an ideal world Indianapolis sees a tackle like Charles Brown or Rodger Saffold fall to this point.

Scenario 3: A pass-rusher is not a pressing need, but if someone like Sergio Kindle or Brandon Graham drops, then he would be a value pick to fill what will be a need in the near future.

My thoughts: Their top scenario could happen, but I think they are a little happier with their interior defensive line than people think, especially if they like the progress of last year’s No. 2, Fili Moala. Saffold seems like a real possibility. I could definitely see them looking to a pass-rusher. With Raheem Brock gone and an injury to Dwight Freeney hurting them so much in the Super Bowl, I say it’s more pressing than these guys suggest.
Thanks much to those of you who responded to Saturday’s mailbag by firing me a lot of quality questions on the Texans, Colts and Jaguars. They prompted this bonus mailbag made up from questions that arrived only after your teams drew blanks.

I encourage your continued participation -- as I mention over and over, I can only answer the questions I get. (Direct access to mailbag here.)

Jason in Tallahassee/Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Who would be likely trade partners for the Jaguars to trade with? I think GM Gene Smith will trade down multiple times this April and I wouldn't be surprised if he completely traded out of the first round to recoup the spent second and to gain a handful of mid-round picks. What do you think?

Paul Kuharsky: I think it’s possible someone would want to move up to No. 10 for C.J. Spiller. But it’s very difficult to predict trade partners without knowing who’s taken with the first nine picks.

I value quality over quantity and don’t understand wanting lower picks instead of a high one. Hit a home run at 10. Also, I don’t think finding trade partners to move down is so easy.


Bryan in Afghanistan writes: Paul, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this blog. It's good to be able to read a more in-depth analysis on my favorite Division. My question was this: We all know that the Texans are "fiscally fit" and more than likely weren't going to make a splash in FA other than trying to keep their players... but some of us would have thought to have heard on contract talks with their "valuable" RFA players (i.e. Owen Daniels, DeMeco Ryans, etc...) I know they were given RFA tenders, but that doesn't really show me they want to get some deals made. Some knowledgeable insight would be appreciated, thanks.

Paul Kuharsky: Hope you’re safe over there.

They are assured they have those guys this year -- so the ticking clock isn’t very loud. A big extension right now comes knowing there is probably a lockout in 2011. I think that’s a deterrent for doing something big at this point.

But I do think that out of Daniels, Ryans and Bernard Pollard, they should really get one, if not two, done before 2010 kicks off. If Gary Kubiak got an extension, what’s your rationale for leaving some of his best players hanging?


Tony from Greensburg, Ind., writes: Mel Kiper believes the Colts will take a DT. I can't see this happening. They have gotten decent play from Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson. With the DB's depleted don't you think they will have to address this as a need?

Paul Kuharsky: I think they have the defensive tackle; he’s last year’s second-rounder, Fili Moala.

That doesn’t mean they won’t take one. Offensive line is the biggest need, defensive back depth another. But their first-round pick won’t necessarily be married to a need. They go best player available as well as anyone.


Dallas in Jackson, Minn., writes: Do you see the Texans drafting a QB this upcoming draft? Maybe a Dan LeFevour or a Matt Nichols to start grooming behind Matt Schaub who is not old but isn't a youngster.

Paul Kuharsky: I do not. Schaub’s going to be 29 in May, which is nowhere near old enough to start considering life after him.

They have plenty of other needs and a significant investment in backup Dan Orlovsky.


Trace Jackson in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Hey Paul. One of my absolutely favorite Jaguars players in the past few years has been Rashean Mathis. For awhile there, he was truly one of the great cornerbacks in the league; plus I loved that he was a local guy. He had a pretty down year in 2009, though, owing to his groin injury. Do you think he'll make a comeback in 2010, or was the injury the beginning of the end for him?

Paul Kuharsky: I think he’ll make a comeback in terms of being healthy and productive, but I do think he’s started to slip some. He’s signed through 2011. They could draft a corner this year to be third and grow into his replacement.


Chris in Wiesbaden, Germany, writes: What are the chances that if the Jags can't trade down, they draft Joe Haden, and move Rashean Mathis to free safety?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t know that Mathis is a free safety. Most longtime corners don’t wind up safeties. It’s not like shortstops moving to third.

But Mathis, Haden and Derek Cox as the top three corners would be very nice.


Meredith in Indianapolis, Ind., writes: I'm curious about the condition of Dwight Freeney's ankle. I haven't heard anything about it in our local media. I assume no news is good news, but how severe was the injury after playing on it in the Super Bowl? Will he have any difficulties getting back to 100%?

Paul Kuharsky: Hi, Meredith. Nice to hear from you.

No new news from the team or player on this. The Colts don’t offer up a lot of injury info when they talk daily, better yet at this time of year when things are generally quiet. Unless they completely fibbed about what it was, I don’t see a reason to expect anything less than a full recovery.

With Raheem Brock gone, I do think a third defensive end is a priority.


Harsha Rajashekar in West Palm Beach, Fla., writes: I am surprised so many mock analysts have the Jags picking a wide receiver in the first round considering the amount of effort put into acquiring receivers in last year’s draft and the recent acquisition of Kassim Osgood. What’s your take on this?

Paul Kuharsky: Not impossible they look wideout. But while they need weapons, like you said, they loaded up on receivers in last year’s draft and with Osgood in free agency and need to give those guys a chance.

Meanwhile they can’t rush the passer consistently, even with Aaron Kampman in the fold.

Other needs trump receiver to me.


Joseph in Texas writes: Texans seem like they would be a fit for Nathan Vasher. They play enough mix of man and zone and I don't know of any character issues to make them shy away. What do you think? (And you better post this or the nice comment on your last mailbag defending you from being a Titan Homer disappears, buddy LOL.)

Paul Kuharsky: Dirt cheap and low risk? Sure, bring him on in.

But I’m not real excited about him as I discussed here.


Glenn in Los Angeles, Calif., writes: Hey Paul, How do you see Colts O-line situation shaping up? We let some players go and made a couple signings. Do you see us definitely picking up a center/guard early in the draft? How about our left tackle situation? Do you see us making any moves there? Thanks! Glenn

Paul Kuharsky: It’s completely up in the air. Jeff Saturday is the only guy I think we can safely say is locked in. We could see Charlie Johnson moved inside, or moved to a backup role. There is all kinds of possibilities. Pass protection will remain a priority, but all indications are they are looking for bigger guys who can also run block better.

They’ve added Adam Terry and Andy Alleman. I’d expect they’d draft a couple more linemen, bigger guys than they currently have. And I’d think we’d see one in the first two or three rounds, yes.


Greg in New York City writes: It's pretty much conventional thinking that the Jaguars will be selecting some defensive lineman this draft, as Gene Smith has not made it any secret that he thinks the DL crop is very deep. My question is if they do draft a defensive end or two, what ends currently on the team get kicked to the curb? Between Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, Aaron Kampman, Julius Williams, Bryan Smith, Jeremy Navarre, etc. there are plenty of ends currently on the roster. I'd argue Groves has performed the worst out of the bunch, could he be gone?

Paul Kuharsky: Beyond Harvey and Kampman, there isn’t a guy on your list or their roster they can’t upgrade on. None of those guys should be stopping the Jaguars from bringing in the best rush end they can find.

Groves certainly needs to make a showing in camp to solidify a roster spot and role.
Heading toward 2010, the Colts figured they only needed minor tinkering to solidify their chances to make it back to the Super Bowl.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lilja
AP Photo/AJ MastThe Colts reportedly will save $1.83 million by cutting Ryan Lilja.
We knew some of that would be tied to changes on the offensive line.

Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com reports the Colts are releasing Ryan Lilja, their starting left guard. They will avoid what I understand to be $1.83 million in bonus money by doing so. His total salary for 2010 was scheduled to be in the $3 million range.

That’s three veterans -- Raheem Brock, Jim Sorgi and Lilja -- cut by the Colts at a savings of $2.605 million in bonuses.

Maybe those guys saw it coming, but my guess is in a salary-cap-free year they weren’t heading toward spring fearful about their job security.

The message from Bill Polian: We’re not paying for guys we feel have dropped off or aren’t going to be contributors commensurate with their money.

[UPDATE: 8:26 p.m.: Mike Chappell's report says that the Colts actually paid Lilja his bonus, which is quite a classy move. It certainly also softens my financial interpretation above.]

Kelvin Hayden's going to get a $2.25 million bonus and Robert Mathis $1 million. It appears Ryan Diem will collect $1 million he’s due as well.

As for guard -- let’s put it right at the top of the team’s need list, where a better balanced left tackle is also a need.

With Lilja, a complete class act by the way, gone, Indianapolis’ guard roster reads like this: Kyle DeVan, Mike Pollak, Andy Alleman and Jamey Richard.

DeVan, who finished the season as the starter on the right, and the just-signed Alleman were picked up off the street. Pollak is on the verge of busting as a second-rounder from 2008. Richard is a seventh-rounder from 2008.

We’re expecting Pete Metzelaars to take over for the retired Howard Mudd as offensive line coach. It’s clear as ever he’ll be working with some new young blood.

Lilja's agent, Craig Domann, gave Chappell this explanation, which is a flashing signal indicating the team's biggest pending change:
"They said they want to go bigger and apparently are going to get people who fit that philosophy."
ESPN’s John Clayton reports that Gary Brackett’s plans to dip his toe in free agent waters Friday have been scrubbed and that a new deal with the Colts is close.

Brackett
Brackett
Brackett may have been on the wish list of the New York Giants.

But perhaps no prominent unrestricted free-agent-to-be is a better fit with his original team than Brackett, a fireplug who’s size doesn’t bother Indy a bit so long as his speed and instincts help him consistently find his way to the guy with the ball and get him to the ground.

Once the Colts lock up their middle linebacker, they can move forward without any major departures from the team that won the AFC. Raheem Brock, a versatile defensive lineman in recent years, indicated via Twitter Thursday afternoon that he was being let go.

The draft will likely focus, then, on offensive tackle, a defensive end to grow up behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, restocking depth in the secondary after not tendering three players who were in line to be restricted free agents (Marlin Jackson, Tim Jennings and Aaron Francisco) and perhaps the return games.
Colts defensive tackle Raheem Brock tweeted that he's finished in Indy:
The superbowl was the last time ull see me in a colts uniform! Its been real indy!

Brock's agent, Kevin Pompey, said that Brock had asked to be released and has spoken to Bill Polian. But Pompey said he had not spoken to Colts management.

Brock signed a five-year, $23.6 million contract in 2006 with an $8 million bonus. John Clayton tells me Brock's scheduled salary this season was $3.79 million and he had a $500,000 roster bonus.

A third defensive end to supplement the Dwight Freeney-Robert Mathis duo seemed like an offseason priority before. This move would make it even moreso.

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