AFC South: Ryan Mathews

Colts defense fails to make the stops

October, 15, 2013
Keenan AllenDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesThe Indianapolis defense could not get off the field, as the Chargers controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the game.
SAN DIEGO -- The Indianapolis Colts' defensive unit has been in a good mood inside the locker room after most games this season.

That wasn't the case at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.

There was lots of talking among each other with voices lowered more than 45 minutes after the Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Colts had pushed the “bend, but don’t break” mind frame most of this season. That style finally caught up to them against the Chargers, and they can only blame themselves.

Penalties to give the Chargers first downs. Quarterback Philip Rivers making the necessary throw to keep a drive going. Running back Ryan Mathews finding a crease in the defense to run for 15 yards.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “We were getting the looks we wanted in every area, but we weren’t executing. It was a good example of not executing against a good quarterback. You were only going to get a look one time, and once that one opportunity was gone, they were going with it.”

Controlling the line of scrimmage and getting off the field on third down to give quarterback Andrew Luck plenty of time on the field is what the Colts have talked about on a regular basis.

They failed to accomplish their goal.

The Chargers were 7-of-14 on third down and ran for 147 yards, including 102 from Mathews.

Stopping the run didn’t suddenly become a problem on Monday.

The Colts have allowed 246 yards rushing between the tackles in their past two games. That total is only a yard less than they allowed in the first four games of the season.

“The first thing we always say is control the line of scrimmage,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “They were able to run, but as a unit we have to play better. That’s what it is. We set our standard high and we didn’t play up to that.”

Not making the necessary stops allowed San Diego to control the clock. The Chargers had possession for 38 minutes and 31 seconds, keeping Luck watching on the sideline. The Colts gave up first downs on plays of at least 10 yards on third down twice and were called for penalties on third down twice.

“We couldn’t get off the field,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We held them to a touchdown and then forced the field goals, but time of possession, that just killed us.”

You knew the Colts were in for a long night when Rivers was being lauded.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
AP Photo/Denis PoroyUntil Monday night, Ryan Mathews had not rushed for more than 100 yards since October 2011.
The San Diego quarterback isn’t mobile like Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick or Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Rivers is a pocket-passer. That meant Robert Mathis should have been able to add several sacks to his total, right?


Mathis knew that. That’s why he spent most of last week talking about how dangerous Rivers is. The Chargers quarterback is now 4-0 against the Colts in the regular season.

Rivers kept the Colts off balance by constantly changing up his snap count, and he made quick throws against the sixth-best pass defense in the league.

Rivers was 22-of-33 for 237 yards and was sacked only twice. He didn’t even have to force the ball to tight end Antonio Gates. Receiver Keenan Allen was Rivers’ go-to target. He had nine catches for 107 yards.

“Philip Rivers strikes again,” Mathis said. “I’ve been around him long enough and I know that’s what he’s capable of. We weren’t able to get to him enough, and he converted those critical third downs. He has that clock that all good quarterbacks have. He was able to get it out there.”

Don’t worry, the Colts only have to face quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday. Yes, the former Colt who is on pace to rewrite the record books this season.

“You have to make plays,” Jean Francois said. “If you don’t do it against quarterbacks like Rivers, and next week you know who we’re playing, they can jump on you. We were frustrated because we know we were doing it ourselves. They’re a good team, hats off to them.”

Double Coverage: Texans at Chargers

September, 6, 2013
JJ Watt and Philip RiversGetty ImagesJ.J. Watt and the Texans could make it hard on Philip Rivers if San Diego's offensive line does not hold up.
In the second half of the opening Monday night doubleheader, Houston is traveling to San Diego to put an end to NFL Week 1. The Chargers are in rebuild mode, while the Texans are looking to take the next step this season and become true Super Bowl contenders. While the Chargers’ fan base should be revved up for this prime-time contest, getting J.J. Watt blocked could be a very futile effort for San Diego’s offensive line.’s Matt Williamson and Houston Texans reporter Tania Ganguli bring you their Double Coverage preview.

Tania Ganguli: How has the atmosphere in the organization changed with GM Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy taking over?

Matt Williamson: A change in San Diego was certainly needed. The environment had become stale and the once wide-open window under former coach Norv Turner and a roster stocked with great players has closed. A rebuild is needed, and a new general manager and head coach are what is needed to potentially get this team back where it once was -- or maybe beyond. Has the right side of the Texans’ once-great offensive line been fixed?

Ganguli: It's certainly on its way. The Texans are rightfully very high on right guard Brandon Brooks, and right tackle Derek Newton is healthy. They didn't mind rotation in those spots last year, but stability will definitely help.

Can McCoy turn Philip Rivers (back?) into an elite quarterback?

Williamson: I feel as though we have seen the best of Rivers’ impressive career, unfortunately. That being said, the scheme change, which stresses getting the ball out of Rivers’ hands quicker, could be an advantageous move to boost Rivers. He does have a quick release and makes quick reads, making him a good fit for what McCoy is looking to accomplish.

What is the status of Arian Foster, and might Ben Tate have an expanded role for the season and to open the year?

Ganguli: Tate will have an expanded role, especially early in the year. The Texans won't ride Arian Foster too much given he missed all of the preseason, training camp and most of organized team activities (OTAs). He was working, but they're intent on being smart with his return to make sure they have him at full strength late in the season.

What are the biggest problems with the Chargers' offensive line?

Williamson: Once again, the scheme switch to a short passing game should help the protection of this line -- a line that is better-equipped to run block than protect. Still, the true problem with this line is they simply lack good players up front. They added a few free agents, but no one that is even a league-average starter, and they used their first-round pick on D.J. Fluker to play right tackle. However, I have my doubts that Fluker is quick or light enough on his feet for edge protection. Instead, I think Fluker could be a Pro Bowler at guard.

What impact does first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins have on the Texans' offense?

Ganguli: It's difficult for rookie receivers to put up big numbers, but Hopkins will have a major impact on the Texans' offense. He'll take pressure off Andre Johnson, on whom the Texans were overdependent last season in their passing game. He is very skilled on contested catches and will help Houston's red zone efficiency.

What impact does Dwight Freeney have in San Diego?

Williamson: Can he still be productive at 33? Of course it would be ideal to have Melvin Ingram in the fold as well as Freeney, who could be the perfect mentor, but Freeney has looked quite spry through the preseason and should have plenty left in the tank. The concern for me is that San Diego will be forced to play the 33-year-old too many snaps, which could lead to less effective play late in games and especially late in the season.

How big a boost to this team -- tacitly and emotionally -- is it to get Brian Cushing back on the field?

Ganguli: Cushing makes a difference in both ways. He creates mismatches in the pass rush that free up the outside linebackers. His presence in the middle makes things easier on the Texans' defensive backs, too. Emotionally, Cushing provides an edge for the Texans' defense. His maniacal intensity is contagious and the Texans feed off it.

How will Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews impact each other?

Williamson: While Mathews is a decent pass-catcher, Woodhead is an exceptional all-around contributor in the passing game. Their roles should be very distinctive, with Mathews -- who has looked excellent this preseason -- as the early-down workhorse (if he can hold up) and Woodhead being the specialty movement player that is equal parts running back and slot receiver.

Watt is a rare interior pass-rusher, but does Houston have enough pressure coming from their 3-4 outside linebackers?

Ganguli: That remains to be seen. It's definitely been a focus for the Texans' outside linebacker group. Whitney Mercilus, now in his second year, has taken over as a starter opposite Brooks Reed after the departure of Connor Barwin. Mercilus set a franchise record for rookies with six sacks last season, but he missed most of training camp and the preseason. Reed is healthier than he was at the end of last season when he returned from a groin injury. He had an offseason surgery to repair it fully.

AFC South draft analysis

April, 24, 2010
NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

We had big names (Jerry Hughes, Myron Rolle) and no names (Scotty McGee, Shelley Smith) in 32 draft picks in the AFC South.

We also had an incoming veteran (Kirk Morrison to Jacksonville) and outgoing underachievers (LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson out of Tennessee).

Everyone’s on the phone hoping to land more in the form of undrafted free agents, but they’re feeling good too. Needs they had on Thursday have been washed away over three days, and minicamps where rookies will be fitted for uniforms and yelled at by position coaches for the first time will soon arrive.

Best moves

The Titans and Colts both wanted a productive defensive end, both sat still at their first round pick and both had a talented player who fits them fall in their laps.

Derrick Morgan’s got multiple connections with defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and the love fest is on. After losing the high-motor, classy Kyle Vanden Bosch as a free agent, the Titans look to have landed a young version of KVB.

Bill Polian said the Colts have been looking for an extra end for seven years. First-rounder Hughes from TCU looks almost too good to be true in terms of matching up a skill set with a Colts’ model for a position. He couldn’t have landed in a better spot, playing with and learning from Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Riskiest move

Tyson Alualu at No. 10 caused a big stir and raised questions about the Jaguars’ inability to move down. The defensive tackle would likely have still been available later, and the 11th, 12th and 13th picks all got deals right after their selection.

Gene Smith went very heavy on small schools and low profile programs -- Central Arkansas, Murray State, Southern Illinois and James Madison. But it’s Alualu, more than anyone, that will make or break his regime’s reputation. Will the scouts who shook their heads and dropped their jaws at the pick be surprised and revise their opinion or be proven right?

[+] EnlargeKareem Jackson
Chris Williams/Icon SMIJackson didn't miss any time with injuries as a three-year starter for Alabama.
Most surprising move

They are touting the championship pedigree of first-round cornerback Kareem Jackson from Alabama, but Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty were still on the board. If Jackson doesn’t pan out well for a team thin on talent at corner, they could regret the decision.

I think the Texans had really settled on Ryan Mathews being the guy and may not have recovered after San Diego jumped all the way up to 12 to get him. They had plenty of time to recover and re-examine, but went with Jackson, who was rising on a lot of boards as they draft drew near. There is a gaping hole he needs to help fill, and there will be a lot of second guessing if he doesn’t -- particularly if Wilson and/or McCourty play big.

File it away

Based on their conference call media conversations and the inclusion of a math whiz from UCLA (Alterraun Verner), a Rhodes Scholar from Florida State (Rolle) and an Ivy League defensive tackle from Brown (David Howard), the Titans drafted a smart class.

It’ll be a wonderful thing in meeting rooms and interview sessions. And there shouldn’t be a lot of kids confused when they first dig into the playbook. But if the brains don’t translate into the games, it won’t matter.
They missed on Ryan Mathews in the first round and they passed on Toby Gerhart when they dealt down in the second round. But with the 62nd pick of the draft the Texans got their running back -- Ben Tate of Auburn.

He’s a one-move, upfield guy who can be productive between the tackles. He should greatly upgrade the team’s short-yardage work, which has been disappointing.

But at 5-11, 220 he’s not the giant many people were thinking Houston would want to go with the speedy (if healthy) Steve Slaton, who’s 5-9, 215.

If Tate is the player the Texans hope he’ll be, the team has few questions on offense. Provided Owen Daniels (recovering from his third torn ACL) and Slaton are healthy, and that a large group of interior offensive linemen produce three starters who can perform better than last year’s injury replacements did, I’d say they’ve got a complete looking offense.

An improved running game should have a very positive effect on the team’s play-action, which really keys what Matt Schaub does.

The Texans traded out of 51st in the second round. They dropped 11 spots and allowing the Minnesota Vikings to select Gerhart while Houston gaining an extra third-rounder, 93rd overall. Then they traded back up with Arizona for 58, which they used on Tate, and giving up their fifth-rounder (150th).

I’d expect their focus to turn back to defense now. A defensive tackle who can rush, a rangy safety and another corner to go with first-rounder Kareem Jackson are pieces they still need.
Houston Texans

Once they lost out on Ryan Mathews, the Texans turned to corner and were pleased with Kareem Jackson, writes John McClain.

Jackson’s success at Alabama was a big factor, writes Richard Justice.

Jackson plans to be feisty, says Jeffrey Martin.

Stephanie Stradley’s assessment.

Indianapolis Colts

Jerry Hughes fills a seven-year need, says Bill Polian. Mike Chappell’s story.

John Oehser’s review of the Hughes choice.

Nate Dunlevy loves the pick.

A rundown of Polian’s comments.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars surprised people with Tyson Alualu, says Vito Stellino.

Gene Smith went off the beaten path again, says Gene Frenette.

“I guarantee you nobody -- and I mean nobody -- other than Jacksonville had him rated as a potential top 10 pick.” Don Banks’ Snap Judgments.

The Jaguars’ opener should sell well since Tim Tebow’s a Bronco, says Frenette.

Jacksonville’s now got a loaded defensive front, says Collin Streetman.

The Jaguars threw away their future by not drafting Tebow, says David Whitley.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans were happy Derrick Morgan was there at 16, says Jim Wyatt.

Morgan was a no-brainer, says David Climer.

Jeff Fisher’s says the door is shut on the possibility of trading for Albert Haynesworth, says David Boclair.

Climer is not convinced Jared Cook is worth the second-round pick the Titans don’t have Friday.
The Texans passed on Kyle Wilson and made Kareem Jackson of Alabama the second cornerback selected in the first round, taking him 20th overall.

Jackson is an instinctive cover guy, willing to tackle.

He should be able to step in as a starter on the outside, where the Texans are looking to replace Dunta Robinson and have a stable of unproven or inconsistent corners including Glover Quin, Fred Bennett, Jacques Reeves, Antwaun Molden and Brice McCain.

With Mario Williams (first overall) and a linebacking corps featuring two first-rounders in DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing, Jackson becomes the only defensive back drafted by Houston in the first-round on the current roster.

The Texans were high on running back Ryan Mathews, but he disappeared when San Diego traded with Miami up to 12th to get him.

Houston turned to its other biggest need.

Still to come: that running back and a penetrating defensive tackle. There could also be an interior offensive lineman, a free safety and another corner.


Quality reads

The best mock drafter in the biz, Rick Gosselin, offers his predictions.

Why the draft is a national obsession. It’s about hope, says Michael Rosenberg.

A very nice draft guide from Lance Zierlein.

Sigmund Bloom’s draft viewer’s guide.

I talked with Titans Radio about the draft for the rest of the division.

Houston Texans

Rick Smith likes the new draft format, says John McClain.

Matt Schaub and the Texans are looking to raise awareness about concussions with kids, says McClain.

Richard Justice says the Texans need to finish the deal.

The Texans are after character, not characters, says McClain.

McClain’s final mock, with Ryan Mathews to the Texans.

Justice says there is a trade coming.

Eric Winston has a mock draft. Interesting commentary.

Zierlein also has Houston taking Mathews.

Indianapolis Colts

Says Bill Polian: "It's about the entire process, not just the first round. Our focus is actually greater on the lower rounds than it is the first.'' Mike Chappell’s story.

John Oehser sifts through Polian’s talk with the press, which includes this: “But my personal feeling is that contrary to perception this is not a terribly deep offensive line draft. The top guys will go off early, and then it thins out.”

Nuggets from Polian’s press session, from Chappell.

Indy Football Report’s final mock.

A round up of mock picks for the Colts.

A look at Rodger Saffold, from Terry Hutchens.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are keeping everyone guessing, says Vito Stellino.

Gene Smith approaches the draft the right way, says Gene Frenette.

Don’t expect a quarterback, says Stellino.

Mackey Weaver was promoted to senior vice president of marketing and sales as Tim Connolly moves to Green Bay.

The Jags dealt Quentin Groves to Oakland.

Vic Ketchman gives his best-case and worst-case scenarios.

A case study on bad draft strategy, from Jonathan Loesche.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans will figure out how their philosophies fit and work in the new draft format, says Jim Wyatt.

Wyatt evaluates the Titans’ roster and needs.

Tony Brown got a three-year deal, reports Wyatt. Titans fans who constantly say they don’t re-sign anyone, please take note.

If they make a move for Albert Haynesworth, they should do it before No. 16, says Wyatt.

There will be more time to talk trade, write David Boclair.

Ross Tucker gives LenDale White a 20 percent chance of being traded.

Mike Reinfeldt doesn’t have any regrets about the Jared Cook pick, says Wyatt.

The defensive end pool is deep, says Joe Biddle.

Titans Radio’s two-hour draft preview.

Draft Watch: AFC South

April, 21, 2010
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Houston Texans

(Overboard) Dream scenario: Running back C.J. Spiller falls to them, but I cannot see that happening and I don’t see safety Earl Thomas lasting either. Next best is that they are in position to choose running back Ryan Mathews. He could work every down if needed and will be able to earn the tough yard and hold on to the ball in a way no one could last season, when the offense was very good despite its running woes. Plan B: Mathews is gone and they get a cornerback like Devin McCourty or Kyle Wilson. My inkling is that McCourty could be the guy in this situation.

Indianapolis Colts

(Overboard) Dream scenario: Center Maurkice Pouncey somehow lasts, giving the Colts a big interior presence who could help at guard and eventually succeed Jeff Saturday. Next best is that they find another lineman who’s especially well suited to what the Colts do, but brings a bit more size. That could be Rodger Saffold, who seems to project as a very good left tackle for them. Plan B: A speedy defensive end in the mold of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. TCU’s Jerry Hughes fits the bill.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Dream scenario: Someone wants the Jaguars' No. 10 pick and offers a deal that drops them down in the first round and gets them a second-rounder, which they currently lack. They’d be happy to dip down and still find a defensive end, defensive back or interior offensive lineman. Plan B: If they stay put, linebacker Rolando McClain could be too good to resist 10th overall. He can be a consistent playmaker and a face-of-the-defense guy for a team that’s still looking to develop its personality.

Tennessee Titans

Dream scenario: Get a trade offer, move back to regain a second-round pick and still be able to add a defensive end (Sergio Kindle?) or cornerback (McCourty?) early on. If they stay at 16, they’d love to see a run at offensive tackle ahead of them and Jimmy Clausen go off the board by the time their turn comes. I think they’d be happy with Jason Pierre-Paul or Brandon Graham. Plan B: Wilson, who’d have a chance to earn a spot as a starter opposite Cortland Finnegan.

Scout survey, part two

April, 20, 2010
In recent days, I asked two AFC scouts and two guys with scouting backgrounds who are now in the media the same 12 questions.

As we count down to Thursday, here’s the second of four posts with their answers, which are largely a lesson in how many different views there can be on the same subjects. (Check out part one here.)

Segment two focused on matchmaking.

The perfect fit for the Jaguars that you expect to be available at No. 10 is?

Scout A: Rolando McClain or Jason Pierre-Paul

Scout B: Pierre-Paul

Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.: Honestly, I really don't think that there is such a thing. The Jags are in no-man’s land. But if I had to pick one, I would take Earl Thomas.

Daniel Jeremiah, Pierre-Paul

The perfect fit for the Titans that you expect to be available at No. 16 is?

Scout A: Derrick Morgan or Brandon Graham

Scout B: Sergio Kindle

Williamson: Graham

Jeremiah: Graham

The perfect fit for the Texans that you expect to be available at No. 20 is?

Scout A: C.J. Spiller or Thomas

Scout B: Kyle Wilson

Williamson: This is a tough one and they should be very happy with Dan Williams, Thomas, Wilson or Ryan Mathews. But if I only get one, I will also go with Thomas, but I don't love his chances of still being on the board.

Jeremiah: Kareem Jackson

The perfect fit for the Colts that you expect to be available at No. 31 is?

Scout A: Maurkice Pouncey or Jared Odrick

Scout B: Rodger Saffold

Williamson: Saffold

Jeremiah: Pouncey

Three scenarios per team

April, 20, 2010
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.
The fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information provided predraft reminders of some sore spot issues. Here’s my take on their info, with what these numbers could prompt each team to do to address them in the first round:

Jaguars, No. 10 overall

Problem: The Jaguars sacked the quarterback just seven times when sending four or fewer rushers in 2009, the fewest in the without an extra rusher.

Potential solution: End Derrick Morgan would be a nice piece to go with Aaron Kampman and Derrick Harvey as the Jaguars look to be more threatening.

Problem: The Jags allowed one sack for every 11.9 pass attempts against four or fewer rushers in 2009, the third worst rate in the league.

Potential solutions: Guard Mike Iupati might be a bit high here and would come a year after the Jaguars spent their first and second picks on offensive tackles. Center Maurkice Pouncey could be had a bit later in a trade down and would be an upgrade over Brad Meester.

Titans, No. 16 overall

Problem: Tennessee allowed 4.5 yards per rush on attempts in the middle of the field, the second-highest average in the league.

Potential solution: Linebacker Rolando McClain. But I see them counting on better play from interior linemen and the continued growth of middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

Problem: The Titans allowed opponents to complete 31 of their 64 attempts of 21 or more yards downfield in 2009 -- the most completions allowed on attempts over 20 yards in the NFL.

Potential solutions: Cornerbacks Kyle Wilson or Patrick Robinson could start at some point in 2010 opposite Cortland Finnegan.

Texans, 20th overall

Problem: Houston recorded just 12 sacks with four or fewer rushers in 2009, tied for the second fewest in the NFL. When sending four or fewer defenders after the quarterback, the Texans recorded one sack for every 32.3 pass attempts.

Potential solutions: They are thinking pass rushing tackle, not an end. But 20 may be too high for Jared Odrick or Brian Price considering other needs and possibilities. They drafted defensive linemen first in 2005, 2006 and 2007, so this problem is especially frustrating.

Problem: With eight or more defenders in the box last season, Steve Slaton averaged just 1.86 yards per attempt -- the fourth lowest average in the league.

Potential solution: Running back C.J. Spiller won’t last, but Ryan Mathews sure looks like a guy that can get some yards even against a stacked line.

Colts, No. 31

Problem: Indy gained an average of 3.9 yards per rush against seven or fewer defenders in the box last season, worst in the NFL.

Potential solutions: They are looking to work on the blocking, not the backs. Which points to Pouncey or maybe Rodger Saffold

Problem: Nearly 14 percent of the touchdowns the Colts' defense allowed last season were against four-wide sets, the highest percentage in the league.

Potential solutions: Add a healthy Bob Sanders and Kelvin Hayden to the secondary and put Melvin Bullitt and Jacob Lacey in nickel and dime situations and things should be a lot better. Though if they like a corner at the end of the first, I don’t think they’d hesitate to take him.
Reader Ryan Burk posed an interesting Texans question in a recent exchange, and it’s one I thought would stir some debate here.

Given a choice, do the Texans upgrade the running game in the first round, rounding out the offense and helping keep the ball away from the opponent, or do they have to go defense early because of the number of positions they are looking to address on that side of the ball?

It depends, of course, on who is there for Houston at No. 20 in the first round. But presuming C.J. Spiller is gone and Ryan Mathews is the best choice at running back, how would he measure up against the top safety (is Earl Thomas gone?), corner (Kyle Wilson?), defensive tackle (Brian Price?).

My gut reaction answer is they have to go defense, and I really like the idea of Thomas.

But if they love Mathews and decided to go that direction, addressing defense with their next several picks, I suspect I’d wind up applauding the thinking.

To catch the Colts, maybe being Colt-like isn’t a bad idea. And while Matt Schaub is not Peyton Manning, he’s proved himself to be an offensive centerpiece. If Houston said, “Let’s load up on offense, looking to hold the ball more and score more points as a method of being a better defense,” it would be hard for me to be critical of the approach.

At least until the unnamed new safety and cornerback get shredded by Manning.

I’m curious, Texans faithful, what you think?

Would you object to a run-game answer at No. 20, or do you feel like Houston’s got to go defense?

Mocking you before the weekend

March, 19, 2010
Two new mock drafts were spotted Friday at Here’s a rundown:

10th, Jacksonville

Pat Kirwan: Earl Thomas, S, Texas

Bucky Brooks: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

Kuharsky says: Kiwan’s scenario would be a bummer for the Texans, who hope Thomas is there 10 picks later. I’d lean in Brook’s direction based on the depth of the pass rush issues.

16th, Tennessee

Kirwan: Morgan

Brooks: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Kuharsky says: Looks like both could help in a big way. Are they influenced by if they believe Jason Babin (if Philly doesn’t match) or Rod Hood can contribute more?

20th, Houston

Kirwan: Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Brooks: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Kuharsky says: I’m falling in love with Thomas for them if he’s there. With more needs on defense, can they afford to use the top pick for offense?

31st, Indianapolis

Kirwan: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

Brooks: Pouncey

Kuharsky says: The big need is on the line. But the Colts don’t draft the big need in the first round, they draft the best player. Chance he’s a lineman? Ten to 15 percent?