AFC South: Rod Smith
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
You write. I reply. A simple process. You may have to deal with my shortcomings here, but you won't get more personal service when it comes to mailbag replies. I try to reply to everything I get, either here, with an e-mail, or both.
Howitzer36 from Nashville writes: Whattup "Kuh?!" Just read your article about Madden NFL 10. Now I haven't bought a Madden game since the Eddie George cover, but when you say there was "nada" for running backs or defense from the AFC South are you saying AFC South teams are not worthy or you don't have that info yet? Hopefully it's the latter. Keep up the good work by the way!
Paul Kuharsky: I'm saying in the top-10 lists of their running backs and defenses they didn't include anyone from the division. They use some complex formula that gives a guy his skills in their game. AFC East gamesman (read: geek) Tim Graham told me he doesn't believe playing time factors in, so I'm confused as to how Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton aren't on there.
Nate in Indy writes: You know, it's really interesting the way this "lack of communication" thing is unfolding with Peyton Manning and the Colts. We all know he is (arguably) the best QB in the game right now. And sure, it may puzzle many to hear that he's been kept out of the loop on the whole Moore and Mudd retirement thing. But honestly, I can't imagine Tom Brady complaining openly about anything with Bill Belichik, and the reason is that Brady is a player, and Belichik is his boss, and can call the shots with or without Brady in the know (whether or not he would is a different question). Polian, Caldwell, and Manning better iron out exactly what Manning's role is in the organization. One would think that if Peyton really wanted to know, he could just speed dial Polian to ask. But then again, maybe Polian intentionally operates at a distance from even his best player.
Paul Kuharsky: Different strokes for different folks.
I think it's completely understandable that, when Manning felt like he wasn't getting as much accomplished in organized team activities (OTA) sessions because of the missing coaches and some new guys, he got frustrated. And I will never, ever hit a guy for being candid. I spend a good share of my life asking players and coaches to be forthright. I generally applaud them when they are.
Polian does not operate at a distance from Manning. The two talk regularly -- I've seen them huddled up in the locker room immediately after games, even. I think Polian explained the current situation pretty well in a recent radio appearance I linked to here.
- Clark Judge likes the Texans' draft. A lot.
- A winning season and playoff berth could get coach Gary Kubiak a contract extension; a season short of that could get him fired, writes John McClain.
- Center Antoine Caldwell was surprised to get the call from the Texans but is familiar with zone blocking concepts, says Alan Burge.
- A recap of McClain's recent chat.
- The Colts are close to bringing back linebacker Freddy Keiaho, reports Mike Chappell.
- Bob Kravitz on running back Donald Brown.
- Chappell takes questions.
- A look at the Colts' undrafted free agents, from John Oehser.
- Pondering the status of Ryan Lilja in an Oehser mailbag.
- In discussing Curtis Painter, Oehser tells a good story about drafting a quarterback viewed as a value when you may not really need one.
- Will the Colts be able to stretch the field? Oehser's thoughts.
- A look at cornerback Derek Cox from a Virginia perspective, from John Harvey.
- Jim Wyatt talks to former Pro Bowler Rod Smith about receiver Kenny Britt.
It's fairly common for personnel folks, scouts and coaches to lean on friends in the business and to place extra value on their opinions.
Jacksonville offensive line coach Andy Heck was an assistant at UVA when the Cavaliers staff recruited Monroe out of Plainfield (N.J.) high school.
"Being in Indianapolis for the NFL combine, I got to be around him," Heck said. "I was actually on the field working these guys. I did go to Virginia's campus and work Eugene out. Even back from my days as a coach at Virginia I had some exposure to Eugene as a high schooler.
"I have gotten a chance to know Eugene and I'm close to the Virginia program having been there and this is a top-flight character guy. The things I'm most excited about are his work ethic, determination, serious approach to football and anything he wants to be good at, really."
While Monroe worked out of a two-point stance a lot at Virginia, he comes into the league as a top-flight pass protector whom the Jaguars say has the characteristics that will allow him to grow as a run-blocker.
The Titans were helped by input from a former offensive lineman, Tom Ackerman, in 2005 when they grabbed left tackle Michael Roos out of Eastern Washington in the second round. This time they had insider insight on Britt at No. 30.
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger worked with receiver Rod Smith in Denver, and as Britt prepared for the draft in Arizona, he said he worked three times a week with Smith.
Heimerdinger squeezed all the information he could out of Smith, and it helped him add to what the scouting department already had gathered.
"[Smith] told me about his work ethic and the way that Kenny had worked for him and the things that he had tried to help Kenny with," Heimerdinger said. "He said Kenny did all the things that he was trying to help with and improve on. We had talked and did the background on him. I really wanted to find out from Rod what his work ethic was like, plus his brain. Rod said he handled everything good. Everything he gave him and every challenge he gave him, he worked hard at."
Additionally, quick notes on Indianapolis and Houston at the end of the first day:
-- In Indianapolis, the Colts passed on Evander Hood in the first round, but moved up five spots in the second round to address their hole at defensive tackle, tabbing USC's 6-foot-4, 304-pound Fili Moala.
I counted and came up with 98 total draft picks for Bill Polian running the Colts since 1999 -- including two Saturday.
Moala is just the fifth defensive tackle and only the second taken as high as the second round. Larry Tripplett was the 42nd pick in 2002. Moala was 56th. Polian gave up a fifth-rounder, No. 165, to move from No. 61 in the second round.
-- Texans new defensive coordinator Frank Bush said Brian Cushing was Houston's target for a good while. And while he didn't want to pressurize the expectations, Bush also couldn't help mentioning Cushing's qualities remind him of two very big names he's worked with.
"He was my guy ever since I've watched him early in this season and throughout the combine," Bush said. "I guess he reminded me of another player I coached a little while ago. His demeanor, his intensity, and the way he played the game -- he reminded me of a player I coached at Denver. I like everything about him and hopefully he can bring us some impact on the defense."
"Who?" asked a reporter. "Al Wilson?"
"Al Wilson was one of my favorite players. Bill Romanowski, that type of intensity. I say that tongue-in-cheek because I don't want to put all that other stuff on that kid so that he plays football that way."