AFC South: Randy Moss

Andrew Luck ready for Monday night debut

October, 10, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Like most kids who grew up as sports fans, Andrew Luck used to beg his parents for permission to stay up and watch the second half of the "Monday Night Football" game. While his family was living in Europe, Luck sometimes watched the second half when the Armed Forces Network showed the game tape-delayed.

Now the second-year quarterback will play his first "Monday Night Football" game when the Indianapolis Colts take on the San Diego Chargers this Monday.

“If you’re going to have a uniform code violation, 'Monday Night Football' is not the night to do it because they will notice,” veteran Colts backup QB Matt Hasselbeck joked. “Don’t wear your socks too low or have any other uniform malfunctions because that will be a quick $7,500 out of your wallet.”

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Luck will make his first MNF appearance
but said he won't be preparing any differently.
There have been some memorable moments on "Monday Night Football."

Terrell Owens and the Sharpie. Randy Moss' rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. Tony Dorsett's 99-yard touchdown run.

Now it's Luck's turn to have a memorable game in his unofficial coming-out party.

"Monday night, you just think back as a kid growing up, 'Dandy' Don [Meredith] and Howard Cosell," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "You couldn’t wait. Then, to be able to coach and play on Monday night. We know what a privilege it is to play and coach at this level; then, having the opportunity to play on that stage is exciting."

The Colts didn’t make any Monday night appearances during Luck’s rookie season because they were coming off a 2-14 season.

Luck alone is worth watching in this game, but the fact that the Colts are 4-1 and sitting on top of the AFC South makes it even better for them from a national perspective.

“It’s the only show in town,” linebacker Robert Mathis said. “Monday night. They heard about you, now they’re trying to see what you’ve got. You just have to put it on the table.”

Luck’s first real memory of "Monday Night Football" was watching Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre throw for 399 yards and four touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 22, 2003, the day after his father died. Luck was 14 years old at the time.

“Certain games I was able to stay up and watch, good games,” Luck said. “I had sisters to join in the group effort to convince my parents to let us stay up."

Mathis has played with the Colts his entire career. His first Monday night game was as a rookie in 2003 -- Oct. 6, 2003, to be exact.

Does a certain game at Tampa Bay ring a bell?

That was when the Colts rallied from a 21-point deficit with four minutes left in regulation to beat the Buccaneers in overtime.

“I was a young guy following the leaders,” Mathis said. “Playing football until time ran off the clock. We were able to pull it out in overtime.”

Hasselbeck threw his first career touchdown pass on "Monday Night Football." He completed a 9-yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt against Minnesota on Dec. 20, 1999.

“I wasn’t the starter then. I was backing up that guy named Brett Favre,” Hasselbeck said. “We knew we were going to call the fake beforehand. We choreographed the whole end zone dance because it’s 'Monday Night Football.' I throw the touchdown to win the game basically, and the third-string tight end goes off and does his own celebration. I’m running in the end zone to celebrate with him -- I jump up to celebrate on the pile and the pile moved. I missed everything and landed right on my face.”

Don't expect Luck to approach this MNF game differently than any other game. That’s not his demeanor. Hasselbeck said they haven’t even touched on its being a Monday night game in any of their meetings, in the locker room or on the practice field, because the goal is still the same: winning the game.

“Preparation shouldn’t change,” Luck said. “Yes, it’s a day later. We had this extra day [on Wednesday]. Flying to the West Coast, I’m glad we were able to do that with San Francisco [in Week 3] to figure that out. You don‘t want to take away from it being Monday night. You prepare the same, and you know it’s a good San Diego team.”

Marvin Harrison should make Hall of Fame

September, 12, 2013
The Indianapolis Colts could, actually I take that back, should be represented at the Football Hall of Fame next summer.

Former coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison are part of the 16- first-year-eligible modern-era candidates. The election will take place Feb. 1, 2014.

Dungy and the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006.

Harrison fell off the map after he and the Colts parted ways in 2008. The only blemish on Harrison's resume is his alleged involvement in a Philadelphia shooting in 2008. The gun that was used belonged to him, but he was never charged.

That was off-the-field stuff. The numbers Harrison put up on the field are Hall of Fame-worthy.

Here is more proof that Harrison should be giving a Hall of Fame speech next summer (and his speech would be interesting, because he wasn’t exactly a media darling, according to those who covered him).
  • His 1,102 receptions are third behind Jerry Rice and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is still catching balls today.
  • His 14,580 yards are sixth behind Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Rice.
  • Harrison’s 128 touchdowns are fifth behind Cris Carter, Owens, Moss and Rice.

So in other words, Harrison can go ahead and get sized for his tailored Hall of Fame jacket.
There is no tidy stacking, no obvious, orderly listing, no neat way to sort the receivers at the top of the upcoming NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeAllen
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsCould standout WR Keenan Allen end up with an AFC South team?
Tavon Austin of West Virginia is a DeSean Jackson/Percy Harvin type who figures to be gone by No. 20. Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee has the potential to be a freak talent-wise, but will scare some teams with his inconsistencies. He, too, figures to be off the board by the time the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock at No. 24.

In a recent conversation with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, I asked him about who would fit for the Colts there and the Texans at 27 as the two teams look for receiver help.

Here is his rundown of the next tier of guys, all of whom he said a team would ideally get in the second round.

Keenan Allen, Cal: "He’s not 100 percent, he ran a 4.7 the other day. It’s not a perfect situation. But he’s a late-first, early-second round prospect and he should play like that. On tape we estimate him at 4.53, 4.55, that range. I thin he’s going to be a really, really good No. 2 in the league.

“…He was catching the ball better than ever this past year. He knows how to use his body. He’s very athletic. He’s got size and he’s thickly built. While he’s not near a burner, he’s quick and he’s got enough speed to challenge you and to take advantage of mistakes. To me he would be the highest-rated wide receiver when Tavon and Patterson are off the ball."

Justin Hunter, Tennessee: “If you’re looking for someone who can run vertical routes and stretch the field. If New England is looking for that guy, a poor man’s Randy Moss, that’s what Justin Hunter is: 6-4, 196, can burn, can climb the ladder. He’s a silky smooth route runner and quite honestly when they needed to pick up a first down, when they needed a play at Tennessee, that’s where they went, it wasn’t to the other guy Patterson.

“And he’s the one who showed up consistently. I think he’s a better football player than Cordarelle Patterson. But with the ball in his hands, Patterson is just freakish. But he really disappears. He’ll show up with one or two big plays that just kind of blow your mind and leave you wanting more."

After Allen and Hunter, McShay groups USC’s Robert Woods, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. They are all in the rage of 6-0, 6-1, 200-212, low 4.5s.

“I think Hopkins has the best hands of the three," McShay said. "I think Woods is the quickest, best athlete and certainly he’s been productive for a long time. He’ll go over the middle, he’ll do a lot of different little things for you and I think he’s going to be a really good No. 2 receiver in the NFL as well. Quinton Patton, he doesn’t like going over the middle, but he’s very athletic. He has great hands and ball skills 90 percent of the time, but he’ll have some focus drops. He’s kind of a wildcard to me. But if he plays to his potential he may be the third- or fourth-best receiver of this group in the NFL."

After Austin, McShay would prefer all of these guys in the second round. But he said he sees Patterson going before the 20th pick, and one or two of the others going in the late first-round range.

I asked McShay about the comparisons of Woods to Reggie Wayne. He said he only sees it a little bit, that Woods doesn’t run like Wayne. Woods' ability to snatch the ball on the run, the way he can make some things happen and his ability to be savvy in coverage may be the root of the comparison. But there have been some questions about the consistency of Woods’ work ethic, and Wayne is a big-time worker.

Woods needs to land with a team where a peer in his position group will ride him regarding his work ethic and mistakes. If he’s among a more passive group it won’t bode well for him, McShay said.

So there is some deeper thinking on receivers who could be in play for Indianapolis and Houston in the 20s. It is one man’s opinion, of course, and we’re not taking into account all of the other potential context that could steer Ryan Grigson or Rick Smith somewhere else entirely.

Both Indianapolis and Houston need to add a receiver somewhere in this draft, though based on what they have in house, the Texans are more needy than the Colts.

RTC: A case for keeping Cox and Smith

February, 11, 2013
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Nose tackle Shaun Cody is out of the hospital after spinal surgery, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Cody is heading toward unrestricted free agency.

When J.J. Watt saw a groom’s cake made in his image, he tracked down the bride before the wedding.

Indianapolis Colts

Former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore has new knees and a new energy to take on fulltime work with Bruce Arians in Arizona, says the AP.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars will be better off keeping cornerback Derek Cox and linebacker Daryl Smith, says Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union. Cox’s injury history is a major concern. Said GM David Caldwell: “That’s the hardest thing as a personnel person to evaluate is the presence of injuries and the future of injuries.”

The alternative to Blaine Gabbert is to “overdraft another not-ready-for-prime-time prospect and relive the whole mess for another three years instead of just one,” says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report. “Or they could overpay for an aging veteran who isn't very good and add salary-cap problems to their litany of road blocks to contention.”

Tennessee Titans

Randy Moss thinks Kenny Britt can shine if he can get his head right, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

If Mike Munchak goes down, he’ll do it surrounded by people that he knows and trusts, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

Reviewing Moss' time in Tennessee

January, 31, 2013
Randy Moss' short time with the Titans in 2010 still stirs debate in Nashville.

The team was hardly stacked at receiver, claimed Moss off waivers, then hardly used him.

It’s still a punchline that former coach Jeff Fisher and his staff, once Kenny Britt was healthy that year, said they couldn’t find a way to play both Britt and Moss at the same time because they played the same position.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
Jim Brown/US PresswireRandy Moss played in eight games for the Titans, catching just six passes for 80 yards and no scores.
The fact was that the Titans determined Moss couldn’t run. Once that was the case, it seemed to me they should have cut him. But cutting him wouldn’t have gone over well in the locker room because most of the team loved him.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean asked Moss, now with the 49ers and preparing to play in the Super Bowl, about the weird time in Tennessee.

He said he was blackballed.

“Why they claimed me, I really don’t know. There were some things where I could really tell I really wasn’t liked, and that was coming from the coaching staff. To be able to still make plays … there were some things going on in-house that I probably won’t speak upon until I write my book.”

But Jeff Fisher had what I thought was a reasonable answer, one that he didn’t offer publicly in 2010.

Writes Wyatt:
(Offensive coordinator Mike) Heimerdinger was undergoing cancer treatment, and three weeks after Moss arrived there was upheaval at quarterback — Vince Young suffered a thumb injury, threw a tantrum in the locker room, fell out of favor and wound up on injured reserve. Kerry Collins took over as the starter.

“From Randy’s perspective, I can see where he thought it might have appeared to be a little dysfunctional,” Fisher said on Wednesday. “But he did everything we asked and he was OK when he wasn’t getting playing time.”

It’s clear with what happened since Moss left that he is hardly the playmaker the Titans hoped he might be when he came in. Still it was silly that they didn’t make more of an effort to get him on the field and throw to him.

As for now?

Moss isn’t dramatically different from Damian Williams, who ranks as the Titans' fourth wide receiver.

In San Francisco this season, Moss caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns.

In Tennessee, Williams caught 30 passes for 324 yards and no TDs.

Final Word: AFC South

January, 4, 2013
NFC Final Word: East | West | North AFC: North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about wild-card weekend:

Rematch in Houston: This is the fourth time under the current playoff format that teams are meeting in the wild-card round in back-to-back seasons. In each of the previous three instances, the team that won the first game also won the second game. Houston won on Jan. 7, 2012, at Reliant Stadium 31-10. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. Every other NFL franchise has won a playoff game since then. Cincinnati is 0-5 all-time on the road in the postseason, tied with the Saints (also 0-5) for the worst road record in NFL postseason history. If the Bengals lose, Marvin Lewis will become the first head coach to lose his first four playoff games since Wade Phillips (now the Texans' defensive coordinator) lost his first four before earning his postseason victory in 2009.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiColts QB Andrew Luck hasn't thrown an interception since Dec. 9 in a win against Tennessee.
Playing cleaner: Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led the NFL with 23 turnovers in his first 13 games. But in the last three, he’s protected the ball well and not turned it over at all. Can he stay clean against the Ravens and ball hawking safety Ed Reed, or does he fall back into bad plays? Luck has thrown 10 interceptions on passes 15 or more yards downfield this season, tied with Mark Sanchez and Drew Brees for most in the league. Seven of Luck’s interceptions on such throws have come on the road, the most in the NFL.

Big plays from Andre: Andre Johnson has 10 receptions of 30 or more yards this season, tied for fourth most in the league. The Bengals' defense has allowed only 10 such passing plays all season, the fewest in the NFL. The Texans' ability to find such a play could be a gigantic factor in what I expect to be a defensive game. Matt Schaub has looked to Johnson too much in the Texans’ three recent losses. If the Texans are able to spread the ball around better, it can actually increase opportunities for the throws to Johnson to result in back-breaking, field-flipping plays.

Wayne in the end zone: As good as Reggie Wayne has been this season, less than 5 percent of his 105 catches and less than 3 percent of his 180 targets have been for touchdowns. ESPN Stats & Info says his one touchdown every 36 targets is Wayne’s lowest touchdown rate in the past five seasons, and the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL this season among receivers with at least three touchdowns. (The Colts' Donnie Avery has the fourth lowest with one touchdown every 38.7 targets.) Wayne needs 162 receiving yards to pass Cliff Branch for the third most in NFL postseason history and he needs one touchdown reception to tie Fred Biletnikoff, Antonio Freeman, Randy Moss and Hines Ward for third most touchdown receptions in NFL postseason history.

Also: A.J. Green has four touchdown catches this season on play-action passes, tied for third most in the league. Andy Dalton has not thrown a touchdown pass to any other receiver out of play-action this season. … The Ravens are trying to become the fourth team in NFL history to win a playoff game in five straight seasons. … Of the 16 teams he has faced more than once since 2008, Schaub’s Total QBR of 89.4 against the Bengals is his best against any team. … Arian Foster’s 285 rush yards are the most ever by a player in his first two career playoff games. … Joe Flacco’s not been pushing the ball downfield as much since Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator.

Wayne hopes era of diva WRs is over

December, 7, 2012
If you're talented enough, plenty of teams will still accept diva behavior from a wide receiver.

But rattle off the league's best guys now, and they all are far more mellow than showy, including the AFC South's two best guys: Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne. Add Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Wes Welker and while you might want to get your popcorn ready to watch them play, none of them will be heading to the sideline to propose to a cheerleader after scoring a touchdown.

I asked Wayne this week if the era of the diva wide receiver is over.

"I don’t know, I would assume so," he said. "Those guys you named, they are hard-working guys. They aren’t into all that diva stuff. I got kind of upset a couple of years ago, somebody put me into that category. I don’t even know what it means. As a professional football player at the receiver position, you know how much running and how much hard work it is that you have to dedicate yourself to, to be successful. Whenever you say those names that you did, I respect all of those guys. I respect everybody in this league, period. As far as the diva stuff, man, I hope it is gone. I hope you get more guys out there that like to work hard and go out there and enjoy playing football."

That thinking struck up a conversation with my colleague from Yahoo! Sports, Michael Silver on the radio this week.

He pointed out that if you're a quality receiver who's easy to have around, like Derrick Mason was, you can have a 15-year career. If you're Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson and you bring a tiresome act, those years at the end when you're more average aren't likely to get tacked onto your resume because of the hassle.

Randy Moss is getting one of those years now in San Francisco, but only because he appears to have come to an understanding of what he has to be at this stage.
Trace in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: I keep seeing all these things about making Mario Williams the "highest paid defensive end in NFL history." Why is this? I mean, he's definitely good, but he's coming off an injury, and he's not even the best DE in the league, much less "in NFL history."

Paul Kuharsky: Not just the highest-paid defensive end in league history, but the highest-paid defender in league history.

It isn’t about being the best defender in league history. It will be the product of several things: He’d be the most impactful defensive free agent coming available. Such commodities can rarely be had for just money. Prices go up each year and the best guy in each, more expensive year, has a chance to get near the top. Williams' physical skill set and body are ridiculous. Pass-rushers may be at an all-time high in value -- it’s such a quarterback league that flustering the quarterback is the next most important thing to having a quality QB.

It’s also not about what he’s done, it’s about what he will be expected to do.

And the next time a top pass-rusher comes available, Williams will become the highest-paid in history. A lot of it is dumb luck on the timing and coming free.

Kevin in Richmond writes: Will the Titans still be eligible for a compensatory draft pick if Randy Moss is signed by another team or does his retirement negate that?

Paul Kuharsky: While the compensatory draft pick formula is complicated and secret, it’s intended for a team to be compensated if the free agent losses it suffered outweigh the free agent gains it made.

What loss did the Titans suffer with Randy Moss? They let a guy they didn’t play reach free agency, and he wasn’t signed elsewhere. I can’t imagine he factors into the compensatory draft pick formula on their behalf.

Ryan in Omaha writes: I read up on that article about Josh Scobee possible on the franchise candidacy for Jax and I can't see that as making any sense at all! Can you explain the logic of throwing 2 million dollars to an upper echelon kicker for a year when we could tag Jeremy Mincey or more likely Dwight Lowery for a year and get a lot more bang for that buck, am I right?

Paul Kuharsky: Two million isn’t a lot in relative terms. I don’t see how you can complain about spending $2 million on Scobee and say you’d rather spend $10.6 million on Mincey. Mincey is not worth close to that. Lowery is good and needs to be re-signed. But $6.2 million seems pretty high for him too.

Tony in Austin, Texas, writes: I agree with your assessment that Titans Safety Griffin has been inconsistent and underperforming. But to upgrade, they need someone better to replace him. Do you see any F.A. candidates? Their draft position doesn't lend itself to picking up either of the top 2 safeties without reaching. I think they need to Tag Griffin, no?

Paul Kuharsky: Well two upgrade candidates have disappeared. SF’s Dashon Goldson and Oakland's Tyvon Branch have been tagged. Washington’s LaRon Landry and Jacksonville’s Lowery may still hit the market.

Even if you don’t get one of them: Do you pay Griffin $6 million out of some sort of fear? You don’t think they can find a safety who can play as poorly for say, $3 million?

Kyle in Kihei, Hawaii, writes: Are there NFL rules prohibiting teams from loaning players to other teams? If Peyton is healthy, why not keep him for a couple more years and loan Luck to the Redskins for cash considerations. I can't get Schefter or @JimIrsay to pay attention to me (although the Rams and Eagles scouts said this was a creative idea) so forward this to the Colts brass so they can at least get it rejected by the competition committee themselves.

Paul Kuharsky: What would the Redskins gain by borrowing Luck? They could develop him to hand him back to the Colts only to have a gaping hole at the spot, again?

What would the Colts gain by lending Luck (beside borrowed time for Manning)? A team isn’t going to hand a guy of such value over to a rival to train in different methods, to get hurt in a different stadium, etc.

Can you imagine the Colts playing the Redskins and setting their own pass-rushers free on their loaned-away franchise quarterback?

It works for some international soccer clubs, not for the NFL.

Mr. Marsh in Dallas writes: Wow, I originally thought this was a comparison article. The column started out discussing RG3 and Luck and their interview performances. But somehow it ended up being an propaganda piece for Luck. One more example of why more diversity is needed within the media.

Paul Kuharsky: I presume you are talking about this piece, though you did not specify.

I don’t really get how diversity is at question when I am writing from my point of view and what I believe will be the Colts’ point of view. Luck is better. I believe so. Every scout and coach I have talked to believes so. The Colts are going to draft him, which more than suggests they believe so.

I don’t know why I would pretend otherwise. Writing well of the best guy is now propaganda, huh?

Joe in Louisiana writes: I seen one story about a month ago about Titans fans trying to advertise for Peyton to come back to Tennessee.... is this talk a dead trend or is there still a chance he could come and be a Titan in the state where he had so much success?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t really understand the state part of it. Surely he could have success in Washington or Florida as easily as in Tennessee, no? I don’t see geography playing any role in linking the previous and future success.

Some fans have pushed for it. The Titans have made it clear it’s not going to happen.

RTC: On Jason Jones outside or in

February, 16, 2012
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Shaun Cody’s wrap-up episode of “On the Nose” features a turn to song. While amusing, it’s also somewhat difficult to listen to, so brace yourself. It's very cool that he invested the time and energy he did in these videos all season long. They really gave a lot of Texans a chance to show off a different side of their personalities and gave us a hint about the team's camaraderie.

Indianapolis Colts

Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star hopes Jim Irsay won’t say another public word until Peyton Manning’s farewell news conference.

Irsay is desperate for a way to get rid of Peyton Manning without losing paying customers, says Greg Couch of (Hat tip to Bob Kravitz on Twitter.)

Jacksonville Jaguars

GM Gene Smith is accumulating opinions, says John Oehser of the Jaguars' team website.

Tony Boselli is pumping up the passion of the Jaguars’ fan base, says Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

John Glennon of The Tennessean writes that Mike Munchak sees Jason Jones playing outside and inside if he re-signs. While Jones can be a swing guy, I think Munchak overemphasizes Jones as both an end and a tackle. Jones played nearly twice as much at end as at tackle last season. The Titans would be best served to admit a mistake and play him inside if they are able to sign him.

Glennon recounts what Randy Moss did not do during his time with the Titans.
Titans fans are panicked as they consider the team’s options in the wake of the news that wide receiver Kenny Britt tore up his knee against Denver and is lost for the season.

Should the team contact Terrell Owens? Turn back to Randy Moss? Bring back Justin Gage?

Jim Wyatt reports the Titans do have plans to work out Buster Davis and, if he doesn’t sign with a team he promised to visit first, Donnie Avery. Titans beat writers tweeted from Mike Munchak's news conference that the coach said that Moss and Owens are not likely to get a look but that Gage is a possibility.

Davis, Avery or Gage wouldn't jump into the team’s rotation. The Titans expect Nate Washington, Damian Williams, Lavelle Hawkins and tight end Jared Cook to take on more.

Washington has been excellent the past two weeks.

It’s a bit ironic.

In Pittsburgh, he excelled as a scramble option for Ben Roethlisberger. The Titans saw him as a great fit for Vince Young, presuming they’d work the same sort of magic on freelance plays. But it never really panned out and Washington was wildly inconsistent in his first two seasons in Tennessee, dropping far too many passes.

Now, playing with a more conventional pocket passer in Matt Hasselbeck, Washington has found something different. He’s had at least six catches in all three of the Titans’ games so far, with a total of 21 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown. He’s earning the trust of receivers coach Dave Ragone, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and Hasselbeck.

It’s one thing being the No. 2 receiver when a top-level threat such as Britt is drawing attention. Now the Titans need Washington to show he can continue to produce while ranking as the top guy.

It’s not an ideal scenario. But it looks a lot better than it did before the Munchak regime got started.
Randy Moss’ retirement isn’t a big surprise to anyone who saw him up close during the last half of the 2010 season when he was with the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee claimed him on waivers from Minnesota, and believed he’d help stretch the field and create room for Chris Johnson. But they quickly stopped trying to use him.

Jeff Fisher and his offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger couldn’t rationalize why, but it became clear they thought he was done. Others who saw him work said he had simply lost the high-end speed that made him such a threat. The Titans have talked of the possibility of adding a veteran receiver, but never so much as considered that guy being Moss.

He wound up with six catches for 80 yards with Tennessee.

As time passes and the highlights run, the lowlight finish will became a faint memory.

Scoring and tracking free agents

July, 26, 2011
Our free-agent tracker is up and running. Sort through the available talent pool by team or by Scouts Inc. grade. If you’re an Insider, you can also get a scouting report.

I scanned though it for guys in the division who Scouts Inc. believes rate a 75 or better plugging into its rating scale:

90-100: Elite Player

Player demonstrates rare abilities and can create mismatches that have an obvious impact on the game. ... Premier NFL player who has all the skills to consistently play at a championship level. ... Rates as one of the top players at his position in the league.

80-89: Outstanding Player

Player has abilities to create mismatches versus most opponents in the NFL. ... A feature player who has an impact on the outcome of the game. ... Cannot be shut down by a single player and plays on a consistent level week in and week out.

70-79: Good Starter

Solid starter who is close to being an outstanding player. ... Has few weaknesses and usually will win his individual matchup but does not dominate in every game, especially when matched up against the top players in the league.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC South team:

Houston Texans

1. Finally fix the secondary: Not only was the Texans’ secondary awful in coverage last season, but it also needs some stabilizing veteran leadership on the back end of this revamped defense. A safety like Eric Weddle could help cure both issues. There are quite a few safeties in this crop of free agents who would be clear upgrades for Houston. Of course, we have to discuss Nnamdi Asomugha -- and the Texans should certainly be right in the thick of those negotiations. If they can’t land Asomugha, the Texans could pursue Johnathan Joseph or Ike Taylor, who could help fix some leaks.

2. Work the cap: Houston is pretty tight up against the cap as it stands right now. But the team has serious needs on defense -- particularly in the secondary. In order to get the help they need, the Texans might have to restructure a few contracts or let a current player or two go.

3. Lock up Vonta Leach: This offense pretty much has it all. Wideout Andre Johnson makes everyone around him better in just so many ways. And the running game was exceptional last season. But Leach is a key component in that running game. And no fullback opens holes like this guy. Houston should bring him back and dedicate the rest of its free-agent moves to the defense.

Top five free agents: Leach, WR Jacoby Jones, S Bernard Pollard, DE Mark Anderson and QB Matt Leinart.

Indianapolis Colts

1. Get Peyton Manning’s extension done: Manning has been franchised and had surgery again on his neck recently. But there is little doubt who the face of this franchise is. Getting him locked up long term is something that Indianapolis just needs to get done.

2. Get a starting safety signed: Melvin Bullitt is a free agent. He is a solid player, and bringing him back makes a lot of sense. Outside of Antoine Bethea, who is vastly underrated, Indy has very little at this position. The Colts need to get a starter under contract. Also on defense, bringing back linebacker Clint Session, who is a superb fit in this scheme, and adding defensive tackle help also should be priorities if they can fit it under the cap.

3. Add running back help: This could come in the form of bringing back the reliable Joseph Addai. Well, he is reliable when he is healthy. And Addai has a great grasp of the Colts’ offense. I am very high on 2011 draft pick Delone Carter and maybe the light goes on for Donald Brown. But the Colts do need someone in their backfield who can pass protect and can be trusted. In this capacity, Addai seems to be worth more to the Colts than to any other team.

Top five free agents: Manning (franchised), Session, Addai, Bullitt and OT Charlie Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Address holes at linebacker: Linebackers Justin Durant and Kirk Morrison are up for free agency. I would suggest bringing one of those two back and then finding an upgrade from a coverage standpoint at a starting linebacker position to go along with the steady Daryl Smith. James Anderson would be an excellent target, and if healthy, so would another Panther -- Thomas Davis.

2. Address holes at safety: Jacksonville featured one of the worst secondaries in football last season. The Jags tried many bodies at safety, but it yielded minimal results. This is a very strong free-agent safety class, and the Jaguars need to add a starter or two they can count on week after week.

3. Spend! The Jaguars have quite a bit of money to spend in free agency, and under the new rules, they will have to spend. This free-agency period is like none we have ever seen and the action could be fast and furious. Jacksonville needs to stay the course and make wise financial decisions as it tries to add players who can mostly upgrade a hurting defense.

Top free agents: Marcedes Lewis (franchised), WR Mike Sims-Walker, Durant and Morrison.

Tennessee Titans

1. Revamp the Interior offensive line: Although they didn’t play great in 2010, I have faith in the Titans’ offensive tackles. But the interior of the line is a train wreck. That won’t do with a rookie quarterback behind center and in an offense that will be extremely run-heavy. Chris Johnson had little room to run last season. That needs to change. Marshal Yanda and Harvey Dahl would be great targets here.

2. Add a veteran quarterback: Needless to say, the Titans cannot enter the season with just the quarterbacks they currently have on their roster. They must bring in a veteran with some experience. Donovan McNabb would be high on my list. Matt Hasselbeck might also fit the bill.

3. Fortify every level of the defense: Presently, Tennessee is very young at linebacker, just adequate at safety and could lose three of its defensive ends. Making matters more difficult, the team is also installing a different version of the 4-3 defense. The Titans do have some money to spend in free agency. It would be wise if they used those funds on young free-agent talent, as it appears this team is now rebuilding from the ground up. Every level of the defense could use reinforcement.

Top five free agents: DE Jason Babin, LB Stephen Tulloch, WR Randy Moss, DE Dave Ball and DE Jacob Ford.

Titans back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: As poor as any team in the league, simply because of bad timing. New coach Mike Munchak and his staff have not had any time with their guys and are relying completely on tape for their assessments of veterans. The team does not yet have a quarterback who is the probable starter on opening day. Although Cortland Finnegan and Jake Scott did admirable work with group workouts and a two-day minicamp, having rookie Jake Locker along with Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff as the signal-callers didn’t cut it.

Biggest challenge: Sorting out the quarterback issue. Even if the Titans wanted to go sink-or-swim with Locker from the start -- and the chances are very slim that's where they'll end up -- they have no veteran qualified to help him out. They could take a big swing at free agent Matt Hasselbeck, who would be determined to start as long as possible but also would mentor Locker, who’s already a friend. If they don’t land him, with Kerry Collins retired, the position will be a major concern.

Beyond quarterback: How actively will the Titans shop in free agency? They said they were not done at defensive tackle after the draft. They could use help at linebacker, especially if Stephen Tulloch moves on. Chris Hope is aging and expensive, and they could look to upgrade at strong safety. What goes unaddressed (like interior offensive line, likely) will tell us about their initial confidence level in multiple incumbents.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Defensive ends Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford, Tulloch, guard Leroy Harris, fullback Ahmard Hall, receiver Randy Moss.
Some thoughts on developments around the division while I was away…

Houston Texans

The team promoted Mike Maccagnan to director of college scouting and named Dale Strahm a national college scout. Previously, Strahm was director of college scouting. He’s quite a bit older than Strahm and it appears this move is a changing of the guard at the top of Houston’s college scouting flow chart. Like most people in posts like his, Maccagnan will work in the background for a large part of the year and we won’t see his work come to fruition until next spring.

Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning won’t be ready for the start of camp and could miss significant time following his May neck surgery. Being without its top player for a significant chunk of camp after a lockout will surely be a setback for the team. And it’ll make for an incredibly boring preseason when we see Curtis Painter and whoever the team brings in as a stopgap get the work. Remember Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray in the summer of 2008? It will be a challenge to get good work for guys on offense without Manning in place.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jack Del Rio put Blaine Gabbert’s learning curve into perspective on the radio with Pete Prisco. Talking about Gabbert having a playbook, JDR said: “I mean I guess I could give you a book of Chinese and a translation book of Chinese and then see how you are in a month and if you can speak Chinese or not. That’s what I equate it to.” That’s some good stuff there that we should keep in mind as we look for a quick impact from Gabbert.

Tennessee Titans

Of course Randy Moss’ agent is going to boast about Moss’ fitness. It would be news if he wasn’t in shape. It’s way less significant that he is in great shape. We can daydream about how Mike Munchak and Chris Palmer would use Moss more effectively than Jeff Fisher and Mike Heimerdinger did. But I don’t think there is any way the Titans, who talked of releasing Moss last year, bring him back no matter the regime change.