AFC South: Reynaldo Hill
Best: Dunta Robinson, taken 10th overall in 2004, lived up to his first-round pick status for a good segment of his career. He tops three categories in the team’s record books, with six picks as a rookie, 13 in his career and two seasons leading the team in interceptions. I understood not paying him big bucks and allowing him to leave as a free agent before the 2010 season. But the Texans failed to sufficiently replace him and had a brutal pass defense last season.
Worst: Fred Bennett (fourth-rounder in 2007) had some well-documented struggles and Antwaun Molden (third in 2008) has never lived up to his initial training camp, but Vontez Davis wins the honor here. A sixth-rounder from 2004, he also got a look from Chicago and time on the practice squads in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh but never played a game in the NFL. (Nevertheless, this autographed picture of him as a Texans still goes for $15.99.)
Best: Perhaps it’s projecting a bit, because his best football is surely ahead of him, but Jerraud Powers was an excellent find out of Auburn in the third round in 2009. He was the team’s best cornerback last season before suffering a season-ending right forearm injury and looks to be the kind of piece that continues to sustain the franchise -- a real find outside of the first couple rounds.
Worst: Daymeion Hughes was a third-round pick out of Cal in 2007 who later became known as Dante Hughes. Under either name, he never proved he could cover effectively for Indianapolis. He played in 24 games in two seasons and couldn’t stick beyond that. He’s been with San Diego the past two seasons.
Best: Rashean Mathis was a little known guy coming out of Bethune-Cookman in 2003. But the Jaguars spent a second-round pick on him and got a starter from Day 1. He has started every game he’s played, and has missed just a dozen games in eight seasons. In the past two years, a new regime swept out a lot of veteran guys. But Mathis has remained a fixture.
Worst: Scott Starks was a third-round choice out of Wisconsin in 2005 who never really qualified as more than a nickelback and hardly provided what Jaguars with an answer in the secondary. He lasted five seasons and played in 54 games, but started only one and recorded only two interceptions. Sure you’d like the Jaguars to have found a gem out of Steve Smith (seventh-rounder in 2002), Chris Roberson (seventh, 2005) and Dee Webb (seventh, 2006) but expectations for all of them paled in comparison to a third-rounder like Starks.
Best: The Titans did much to bail themselves out of failed first-round picks at the position like Pacman Jones and Andre Woolfolk by hitting on Cortland Finnegan out of Samford in the seventh round in 2006. While he has dropped off since an All-Pro 2008, he still ranks as a ridiculously good find with the 215th pick.
Worst: The Titans needed Woolfolk to become a fixture in the secondary when they spent the 28th overall pick in the 2003 draft on him. But he never showed any consistency and ultimately qualified as a bust, with just 11 starts and three interceptions in four years. He failed to emerge as a player who ranked ahead of a seventh-rounder like Reynaldo Hill.
Jon in silver spring writes: Paul, love the blog...have a question about the Texans draft needs. Im an old school Houston guy, and have been watching this team since they been in existence and one MAJOR aspect thats lacking is secondary...yet all i hear is them picking another LB or DL...when Malcolm Jenkins is out there, the guy from Mizzou is out there...what gives? Thanks.
Paul Kuharsky: I think it's that the linebackers are perceived to be more worth the 15th pick than the corners -- this corner class is getting middling reviews. I agree it's a need, especially when there is no guarantee of Dunta Robinson beyond this year. And they could well take a corner at No. 15. Really, it's too bad there is no first-round caliber safety. That would be a real solution, but this draft doesn't appear to have one. "The guy from Mizzou," I presume, is safety William Moore. He's rated as a second- or third-rounder and they could go for him there.
Chris Kirk from parts unknown writes: I've been waiting to see what you had to say about Rhodes leaving for Buffalo but I decided to go ahead and e-mail you for your thoughts. This move has to move Running Back up on the list of the Colts priorities to address in the draft right? I'm as big an Addai-hater as you'll find among Colts fans so I've been hoping for them to address that position anyway. That being said I could have seen Polian standing pat(no matter how much I disagree) since between Rhodes, Addai, and Ball/Simpson we would have had a nice mix of youth and vets in our Running Back corps. Looking back at most of the Addai apologists from your column about replacing a Colt a lot of them brought up Rhodes potential presence in a two-back system as a reason to expect better production from Addai. With Rhodes gone our already anemic run game just went on life support leaving us with one barely proven runner. With a number of mock drafts having Wells and /or Moreno available at twenty-seven and two Receivers already on the roster good enough to start for most teams how can the Colts possibly put Receiver as a higher priority than Running Back?
Paul Kuharsky: I don't think they are crestfallen that Rhodes is off the market, but I think they would have loved to have retained the option of coming back to him after the draft as a low cost guy for sure. This is one of the toughest questions of the offseason -- how much was Joseph Addai responsible for the Colts' run struggles, how much was on the line and how much was it that both were banged up?
I think a third receiver still ranks as at least as big of a need as a second running back, if they still see Addai as the lead guy -- and I expect they do. Look at it this way -- in which situation would you be more confident:
A) Addai goes down and they have to make do with Mike Hart, Lance Ball, Chad Simpson, mid- to low-draft pick or undrafted rookie.
B) Reggie Wayne or Anthony Gonzalez goes down and they have to rely on Roy Hall, Pierre Garcon, mid- to low- draft pick or undrafted rookie.
I think they survive A better than B, which leads me to conclude they spend a value pick on a receiver over a back. Also I think this is a much better draft for receivers than backs and there will be more attractive wideouts at 27 than runnning backs..
Hey, we could see receiver and running back as two of the first three. Bill Polian may think he can fix defensive tackle and linebacker with less than premium picks.
- Gary Kubiak's hoping Mario Williams will compete for defensive player of the year, writes John McClain.
- Owen Daniels thought about skipping the Texans' offseason workouts because of his contract situation, reports McClain.
- A recap of McClain's chat.
- In light of Kellen Winslow's deal, how much is Daniels worth? Alan Burge ponders.
- Nothing so far for Marvin Harrison, writes Mike Chappell.
- Bill Polian is a piece of Skip Wood's story on the additional pressure teams face in a bad economy to get the draft right.
- A look at the Colts' first round in 2002 and Dwight Freeney, from John Oehser.
- Kelvin Hayden is different than a lot of other Colts corners, Oehser says.
- The top 25 picks of the Polian era gets to Oehser's No. 19.
- A thorough look at Missouri defensive tackle Evander Hood, courtesy of Oehser.
- Polian talks to colts.com about shuffling the draft board this month.
- Gene Smith's first free-agent addition, Sean Considine, likes the GM, says Cole Pepper.
- Reggie Williams is free on bail after a Sunday arrest for allegedly possessing a half gram of cocaine, says Dale Lezon.
Our NFC West ace Mike Sando has been keeping track of free-agent movement by division and put together this excellent chart, which doesn't factor in any deals that may have been completed Friday morning.
The most significant names by team, with asterisks denoting players still believed to be of interest by their current clubs:
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
By popular demand, here's the list of the Titans' unrestricted-free-agents-to-be.
|AP Photo/John Russell|
|When the dust settles this offseason, Albert Haynesworth could be the richest defender in the NFL.|
They are in rough order of importance, with comments.
We'll give you similar lists for the Texans, Colts and Jaguars soon.
- Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth: In line to be highest-paid defender in football. A critical piece of what the Titans do.
- Quarterback Kerry Collins: The right guy for this team right now, on the field and in the locker room.
- Nickelback Vincent Fuller: Has provided continuity and steady play at a crucial spot.
- Tight end Bo Scaife: A quality target, but could end up being overpriced.
- Kicker Rob Bironas: Big, strong leg has been clutch for the most part.
- Return man/cornerback Chris Carr: Provided a huge boost to return games and was quality depth on defense.
- Punter Craig Hentrich: Has been great for them, but his game had dropped off some and he's talking retirement.
- Offensive lineman Daniel Loper: They like him a lot as a versatile backup.
- Cornerback Eric King: Finished hurt, but provides excellent depth when healthy.
- Wide receiver Brandon Jones: Coming off his steadiest season, but may be a No. 3 at best.
- Quarterback Chris Simms: He likes the team, the team likes him. But the No. 3 job is probably all the Titans can offer.
- Wide receiver Justin McCareins: Hard to imagine they can't or won't upgrade opposite Justin Gage.
- Cornerback Tyrone Poole: A veteran who was added late as insurance but never really needed.
- Cornerback Reynaldo Hill: The team made it clear by hurrying him to IR that he's got no standing left.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Carr played a wonderful game last week in the Titans' win in Jacksonville.
But coming off the bench as a third-string corner is a whole different deal than being in line to start all week. With Nick Harper (ankle) on the shelf, Carr is in the lineup at left cornerback against the Jets.
Will he play to last week's level or will he struggle in a tougher matchup and bigger game?
Tyrone Poole joined the team late this week, but is likely rusty after a long stretch of being inactive. Tuff Harris, a safety and special teamer, got the nod for the other roster spot ahead of practice squad corner Cary Williams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
For the final installment, I bring you the Tennessee Titans.
MAC in Nashville writes: The biggest problem I have with Vince Young, is his actions off the field & after the play. Spiking the ball for a delay of game penalty, complaining about the media, not taking respondsability, until he can fix those things I don't think he can succeed on the field
Paul Kuharsky: You have to use "actions off the field" carefully. In today's NFL that usually means arrests and trouble, so let's be clear: Vince Young has no such issues. As far as responsibility and accountability, those remain issues for him and it's fair to expect progress in those departments in Year Three.
Jon in Franklin writes: If Obama had not named his running mate, Jeff Fisher should have received strong consideration. Classic spin doctor, able to make any bad situation look good, better, off the chart great. His continued insistance, "Touchdowns will come", "We have time, no need to panic." "We have not schemed for that defense" "Vince is making the right reads" Jeff's half-glass full rhetoric is over flowing. Behind closed doors he has to be wondering what is up with VY. His longest completions are to his tight ends. VY will always be compaired to Steve McNair in his development, and the McNair to Wycheck combo was potent. But Steve did have great chemistry with Derrick Mason, will anyone from our current roster of wideouts will that need?
Paul Kuharsky: The team will never say anything negative about Young publicly, that's just the way it works. Which is why he might be wise to be more self-critical. Young has shown chemistry in the past with Justin Gage. But there is no McNair-Mason feel to anything yet, no.
Garo in Lexington, TN writes: What is your take on NFL Network's Jamie Duke's point that the Titans shouldn't have drafted Chris Johnson, despite admitting Johnson is a great player? His claim is that the Titans should've drafted a WR in the 1st round instead? Is this not a little assine especailly considering the potential of Lavelle Hawkins? Why is it that no one seems to believe Hawkins can develope into #1, is it because he was a 4th round pick instead of a 1st or 2nd? Before his injury, he looked to be the only WR with serious playmaking skills on the Titans roster.
Paul Kuharsky: I say: Give me a name. Who is this receiver they should have drafted? It's not like they went out on a limb by passing on a WR in the first round. Everyone did! If there was a Calvin Johnson out there, then yes, they should have done everything possible to get him. But there wasn't. They don't necessarily believe in having a No. 1. Check out this blog entry from earlier in the week on the topic of No. 1 receivers.
Bill in Nashville writes: Paul, I have watched all of the Titans preseason games multiple times. Vince isn't the only one struggling with the new offense. Kerry Collins has looked just as bad sans the one long pass to Hawkins against scrubs. I see Vince's hot reads not look for the ball on the blitz's. I've seen Vince throw balls that are 5-10 yards off target. The only explanation of this is that either Vince didn't remember the route or the WR/TE did not. This offense is completely out of sync. What is your thoughts on the overall impression of the team's grasp on Dinger's passing.
Paul Kuharsky: That's the root of the problem. Things are not clicking and syncing up as well as they need to. I speculated early that Young might get worse before he got better following the coordinator change. I suspect that's what we're seeing now, with him and the whole passing offense.
Please leave an email address next time Bill, so I can try to write you back personally too.
Jenny in Brentwood, TN writes: Okay Paul. You asked for questions. Here you go. How important do you think it is that former Titans DC Gregg Williams is now working for the Jaguars? Is he spilling trade secrets to the competition? Also, Tennessee worked out Byron Leftwich before he signed with Pittsburgh. Any Jags secrets given to the Titans that day? Do players, coaches, etc. sign confidentiality clauses? It would be next to impossible, I suppose, with all the switcheroos that happen each offseason, but I've often wondered if there were "meetings" and "hires" for the purpose of information gathering. And how do you keep a playbook secret? Really. So many players come and go. Enlighten me
Paul Kuharsky: Jenny, good to hear from you.
Coaches move around all the time and trade secrets are overrated. The Titans have one player on defense, Keith Bulluck, who played for Williams. He knows how Jeff Fisher and Jim Schwartz like to operate, but so do a lot of coaches they play against and they have a similar knowledge of him. Having Williams will be a good thing for Jacksonville, which needs his blitzing style to get more heat on the AFC's best quarterbacks.
Players get signed by teams all the time right before a team plays his former club. Consensus is there isn't a whole lot to glean, and the old team certainly changes signals, etc. to cover for any possible giveaways. Leftwich was far enough removed from Jacksonville I'm certain it was not the point of the meeting. Wouldn't he have been upset if they were wasting his time while he was trying to create some buzz and find work?
There are pretty strict protocols in place about playbooks. You turn the big one in at the end of camp, you turn the weekly one in at the end of the week, you get giant fines if you lose them, etc. Would you risk your job security or ticking off your boss in order to put a copy on your bookshelf for down the road? I believe most guys wouldn't/don't mess with the code,
Jesse in Nashville writes: Reynaldo Hill has not shown me anything new this training camp. He gets burned so often I find myself thinking fondly of our days with Denard Walker. I think its a great possibility that Nick Harper will not go the distance this season - meaning Rey-Rey will get the starting nod and opposing offense will begin to salivate as he takes the field. Do you see anything out of Eric King or Chris Carr that leads you believe that either of them (or someone else) can provide that much needed depth at cornerback? Also Vinny Fuller and Steven Tulloch have really been bright spots so far this pre-season. It seems that both of these guys are ready for a breakout in their 3rd year. What opportunities and possible new roles to see them filling this coming season?
Paul Kuharsky: I think King would rank ahead of Hill in such a situation now, though King had tackling troubles in one preseason game. They could look to upgrade at Hill's spot through waivers. Fuller is entrenched as the nickelback and the only concern with him is durability over 16 games. Tulloch is the fourth linebacker. He'll play in some goal line packages, be on most or all special teams and get the call if anything happen to Ryan Fowler, Keith Bulluck or David Thornton.
Dirk in Nashville writes: Paul, did you hear Norm Chow on the radio with Mark, Kevin and Frank this morning? It was fascinating to hear that he was fired over the phone in a 15 second conversation. Also, he was as blunt as I've heard him saying that he believed Matt Leinart was the guy they should have drafted and when they went with Vince he told his wife his "days were numbered" in Tennessee. That hire clearly did not work out from the beginning. I really wish they would have asked Norm's opinion on Vince's current struggles because clearly he had his doubts all along
Paul Kuharsky: I did hear it. I mentioned it in a "Reading the Coverage" blog entry. I like Norm Chow, hope he's someone I can call to talk football with for years to come. I am not saying Norm was treated properly.
I do think it's time to let go, at least publicly. He's told that story multiple times.
And we always need to be careful about not having both sides. Jeff Fisher's never given his side of that chat, and he could have offered a number of things to Chow that might have extended their talk or made it appear less harsh. Again, not that it would have made things right, just a little less striking.
Corey in Waverly writes: The Titans obviously have a top three defense (barring injury). The question is Vince Young. If he can have a even a mediocre year, is this a Potential Super Bowl team?
Paul Kuharsky: Not to me, no.
I see them in the playoffs. To win in the playoffs, they'd have to score points and I just don't see them scoring a lot of points. They are in a group of teams a solid notch below New England, San Diego and Indianapolis.
Jeff in Augusta writes: How do you see the Titans doing so well (2nd in the AFC south), when they have a quarterback who has yet to prove he's a consistent NFL caliber quarterback? Payton Manning-check, Matt Shaub-no Manning but a 87.2 passer rating isn't shabby, David Gerrard-102.2 pass rating and finally Vince Young-71 pass rating with a 9/17 td/int ratio. Young doesn't have "it" yet, and Kerry Collins is not much better. The Bears might have gone to the Super Bowl without a QB, but the Titans defense is definitely not the same caliber as the Bears defense was. I like the Titans running game (a lot), but Young at QB will bring the Titans down to a distant third in the AFC south. Anyway, thanks for doing this AFC south blog as it's a quick and easy reference for the news and notes.
Paul Kuharsky: Vince Young and the passing offense were really bad last year, and the Titans went 10-6 in the toughest division in football and made the playoffs.
The defense has 10 starters and the nickelback returning. The running game got better with a rookie back, Chris Johnson, who looks like an excellent addition to a rush attack that was fifth in the league last year.
Under Jeff Fisher they've often started slowly and then made a charge. It could unfold the same way.
Glad you like the blog, thanks.
J.D. in Austin writes: On the Titans: with the reported concerns over the receivers' failure to create separation, do you feel like the Titans will shop for anyone after this weekend's cuts? And are you getting feedback that Chris Henry is starting to learn his position or is he just getting to hang out as a recent second round pick?
Paul Kuharsky: They better do some shopping. They'll look at guys who come free, not make some big trade. Though until someone is hurt, I wouldn't expect to see them dipping deep in a receiver rotation.
On Henry, I have to say it's the latter. I think his 2009 replacement may all ready be on the roster: Rafael Little is rehabbing a knee injury suffered at the Senior Bowl and is on the Titans' non-football injury list. (Yes, it was a football injury but not in football with the Titans, who signed him as an injured undrafted rookie out of Kentucky.)
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I got such a good question during my chat on Monday that I asked for it to be sent to the mailbag, where I could give it more thorough consideration:
Tom in Chicagoland writes: Which veteran player on each team is in the most danger of getting cut? Could the Reynaldo Hill Experience finally end with the Titans? I mentioned Hill primarily because (1) I don't think he's very good, and (2) I believe he's in the last year of his rookie deal, so whether or not they'll keep him around is based solely on how productive he'll be in 2008, not his 2008 production and cost plus his expected 2009 production and cost (which is why I think Chris Henry is bulletproof, no matter what some Titan fans think). I think you're right he'll be around, but I still think he fits the profile of a guy who might be cut, plus I wanted to mention a player who might be on the bubble.
Paul Kuharsky: Well, the main reason Chris Henry is safe, I believe, isn't because of his cost but because there is no one on the roster to really challenge him for his spot. If LenDale White and Chris Johnson get the bulk of the running back work and if Henry makes minimal progress, I feel certain there will be a competent challenger next year.
It's a great question, Tom. After taking a hard look at the rosters and asking around, here's your list. Since we've seen one of these teams play one preseason game, things are obviously subject to big change.
(I'm going in reverse alphabetical order, just because I am feeling crazy).
Fullback/ tight end Casey Cramer: No, he's not a big name, but he is heading into a fourth year. He's been a valuable guy in a limited role. He's versatile and good on special teams. But the Titans may not be able to afford such a luxury any more. They are probably going to carry four tight ends -- Alge Crumpler, Bo Scaife, Craig Stevens and Dwayne Blakely -- as well as fullback Ahmard Hall. Blakely is the only one who's not an absolute lock. Last year they finished with three tight ends and three fullbacks, but one of the fullbacks was a long snapper who wouldn't have ever been lined up in the backfield. If Hall is hurt, they'll just go to two-tight end sets that much more often.
Others: Receiver Roydell Williams is way behind and will have to play through pain after ankle surgery last year -- something many question whether he can do. But he did tie for the team lead in receptions last year and probably sticks. Same for Hill, who'd have to fall behind seventh-round rookie Cary Williams to be in any sort of jeopardy.
Wide receiver Matt Jones: Many thought his arrest on drug charges before camp would be the end of him, but the team stuck with him going into camp. With Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams recovering from surgeries, Jones is getting a lot of time to show he can be a consistent contributor. But if everyone is healthy, he probably wouldn't be in the top five and would be wrestling with players like D'Juan Woods and John Broussard for the sixth spot.
Others: Tight end George Wrighster isn't back from a knee injury yet. He's 27 and fighting a field of younger guys.
Running back Kenton Keith: This is not an old roster, and there are no graybeards sputtering out. Keith is 28, and had four years of experience in the CFL before making the Colts last year, when was the team's second-leading rusher with 533 yards and a 4.4-yard average. But he had just 13 catches. Dominic Rhodes has returned after a year in Oakland and Mike Hart may be a more well-rounded back with more upside even if his measurables aren't great. The Colts could go with a running back lineup of Joseph Addai, Rhodes, Hart and Clifton Dawson, a good special teamer who's a pretty good pass protector.
Others: I don't see any, do you?
Defensive end N.D. Kalu: He'll be 33 on Aug. 3 and though he's an excellent locker room guy and a great effort player, he could lose out. Roosevelt Colvin was brought in for a similar third-down pass rushing role and the team likes two younger ends who've been good early in camp, Earl Cochran and Tim Bulman.
Others: Guard Fred Weary has been slow to return from a broken leg suffered late last season and the transition into Alex Gibbs' blocking scheme that emphasizes agility has been difficult. DeMarcus Faggins was bad last season, but has worked hard to redeem himself. He's missed time recently with a hamstring issue and could lose out to Derrick Roberson.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Titans have drafted a cornerback in the sixth or seventh round four years running.
They agreed to terms today with the most recent, Cary Williams, a seventh-rounder out of Washburn. Washburn, as you well know, plays as the Ichabods.
Williams got a four-year deal with approximately $48,000 to sign.
Will he go the way of Cortland Finnegan, the 2006 seventh-rounder out of Samford who was excellent in his first year as a starter last year? Will he be like Reynaldo Hill, the 2005 seventh-rounder out of Florida, who has started 26 games in three seasons but tends to play much better in zone than in man? Or will he miss out like Ryan Smith from Florida, a 2007 seventh-rounder who didn't make it out of camp?
Several people have said that Williams equaled or surpassed Aqib Talib's performance when he worked out at Kansas State's pro day. Talib went 20th overall to Tampa Bay, while Williams went 209 spots later.
The Titans signed defensive back and kick returner Chris Carr away from Oakland as a restricted free agent, and he basically took the roster spot that opened when the team released Kelly Herndon. Williams -- who is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds and has run a 4.4 -- may force them to make more room.