AFC South: Stanford Keglar
I think it makes sense for a couple reasons.
The collection of other candidates for the spot is thin or unqualified. Kevin Bentley is coming off knee surgery. Xavier Adibi is better suited to play outside -- he was Cushing’s fill-in during his four-game suspension. Rookie Daryl Sharpton is inexperienced and fomer Titan Stanford Keglar just joined the team. Interestingly, John McClain reports that Bentley will be put into Cushing’s spot even though Adibi (groin) is expected to be available Monday night in Indianapolis.
Cushing has both a great football IQ and great instincts. I think it’ll be a relatively easy adjustment for him to make after a crash course.
This is the best way for Kubiak and defensive coordinator Frank Bush to get their best three linebackers on the field. Cushing and strong safety Bernard Pollard are good leaders who need to pick up some of Ryans’ role in that department to help offset the loss.
Seems to me Cushing will have an easier time doing so from right splat in the middle of it all.
In addition to adding Keglar, McClain says the Texans dropped defensive tackle Frank Okam in favor of Damione Lewis.
Here's what Mat Williamson of Scouts Inc. had to say when I asked him about Cushing to the middle:
"It is obviously a small sample size, but Cushing hasn't been impressive in 2010. Maybe he was just 'Getting his feet wet' or maybe he was enhanced as a rookie-and isn't now. But let's assume that the 2009 version of Cushing is on the horizon. If so, he can handle the middle. He is quick to recognize and a very good take-on player. I do think he is best off at strongside linebacker, but my guess is that Kubiak trusts him most to make all the calls and be the 'Quarterback of the D' -- which makes sense. He surely will not be as potent of a pass rusher from that spot though and this team is short on rushers other than Super Mario."
Were awarded linebakcer David Nixon from the Oakland Raiders and cornerback Jamar Wall from the Dallas Cowboys of waivers. Released linebacker Danny Clark.
Signed quarterback Tom Brandstater, defensive end John Chick, receiver Brandon James, defensive back Mike Newton and receiver Blair White to the practice squad.
Were awarded defensive tackle Landon Cohen off waivers from the Detroit Lions. Released offensive lineman Paul McQuistan.
Signed offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver John Matthews, and defensive tackle Kommonyan Quaye to the practice squad.
Were awarded linebacker Tim Shaw from the Chicago Bears and linebacker Patrick Bailey from the Pittsburgh Steelers off waivers. Released linebackers Stanford Keglar and running back LeGarrette Blount.
Signed defensive lineman Hall Davis, receiver Dominique Edison, cornerback Pete Ittersagen, center Kevin Matthews, safety Myron Rolle and linebacker Patrick Trahan to the practice squad.
Biggest surprises: Running back Samkon Gado ran ahead of LeGarrette Blount since he was added, but Gado lost out to the unproven rookie. Tight end Sean Ryan seemed like he’d stick as insurance for Craig Stevens, whose role is now quite important and who’s had concussion issues in the past. But the Titans parted ways with Ryan. Veteran cornerback Tye Hill was surprised he was let go, according to The Tennessean. Jeff Fisher says teams need at least four corners. If you count nickelback Vincent Fuller, a safety, in the equation the numbers are OK. But otherwise unproven Ryan Mouton is fourth.
No-brainers: Chris Simms often looked confused and flustered in preseason action, and it became clear that the Titans would stick with Kerry Collins as the veteran backup to Vince Young while looking to develop rookie Rusty Smith for down the road. Collins can run the scout team at practice and step in with no practice work if and when he’s needed, and Smith’s got a lot of good qualities, including a nice arm and swagger.
What’s next: The Titans will probably look for help at linebacker, where Gerald McRath’s four-game suspension is underway, and the primary alternative, Collin Allred, has not been durable lately. Could they pursue Oakland’s Thomas Howard in a trade? The depth right now beyond Stephen Tulloch, Will Witherspoon and Allred is Jamie Winborn, Stanford Keglar and long snapper Ken Amato. With receiver Paul Williams finally gone, Keglar can be the guy fans wonder about still being around.
The veteran outside linebacker has not participated in any offseason practices as he recovers from shoulder and hip surgeries. Some insiders believe while Thornton’s spirit is willing, his body simply is no longer able.
Earlier this offseason Jeff Fisher said Thornton didn’t qualify as a starter because he was unable to practice.
Gerald McRath's four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s policy against performance enhancers may just play perfectly into Thornton getting a final season with the Titans. He is due roughly $4.3 million in the final year of his contract and, if he’s healthy, he should be a better option than Stanford Keglar, rookie Rennie Curran or Jamie Winborn.
If depth is still such a question after camp, I think they will pay Thornton and play him.
Then, if he’s going well through the first month, the Titans can wait to see if, and when, he breaks down before installing McRath. If he’s not performing well or has gotten hurt, the Titans know they’ve got a healthy upgrade arriving for their fifth game.
If Thornton can’t get healthy, and the Titans had to look to another alternative, they could play Colin Allred in the middle and Stephen Tulloch outside. Will Witherspoon is in line as the other starter on the outside.
I know McRath’s suspension will spark another round of talk about the possibility of bringing back Keith Bulluck, and the politically correct Jeff Fisher tossed Bulluck’s name out again Monday.
Considering Bulluck probably won’t be back to full strength at the start of the season after an ACL tear in late Decemeber, I don’t see how his chance to return -- slim to none in my eyes -- is enhanced by McRath’s development.
Tulloch has signed his $2.521 million restricted free agent tender offer, according to Fisher.
The middle linebacker had no choice. Starting Tuesday teams can substitute tenders of 110 percent of last year’s salary for the restricted free agent offers made back in March.
I expect Tulloch will continue to stay away from the team during voluntary workouts and organized team activities to protest the lack of a long-term deal. But I don’t think he’s getting one this year, and it’ll be costly for him to stay away once training camp starts.
1. Reggie Nelson, Jaguars FS: Featured here before, he hurt the Jaguars’ chances at being the team to beat Indianapolis on Thursday with his misplay on Reggie Wayne’s 65-yard touchdown catch that put Indy ahead. Nelson was pretty good as a rookie after he was the 21st pick in 2007. But his second and third years have been a disappointment. Perhaps addressing his spot in the offseason will wind up ranking on the priority list.
2. Texans run game: It’s the blocking, it’s the backs, it’s the play calling, it’s everything. Arian Foster, the newest guy to get a chance, fumbled an early catch and saw minimal time. In the second consecutive game against a bad NFC West team, the Texans could not seize control by running with any consistency. A week after AFC South rival Tennessee averaged 5.3 yards a carry in a thrashing of the Rams, Houston managed a 2.2 average.
3. Titans veteran linebackers: The Titans lost both of their outside linebackers for the season. The durable Keith Bulluck tore the ACL in his left knee and will see a starting streak of 127 games end. David Thornton, who’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, was also shelved and will have surgery.
Rookie Gerald McRath can play. But the other spot and a pairing of inexperienced outside backers McRath and Colin Allred or Stanford Keglar or newly signed veteran Jamie Winborn could be a big issue.
1. Daniel Muir, Colts DT: The position was considered a big weakness in 2008, but the top three interior defensive linemen right now were on the team last year. Second-round draft pick Fili Moala was supposed to add size and impact, but Muir has filled that role.
The 312-pounder is averaging over seven tackles a game in his last six, including 10 at Jacksonville. Offenses are averaging 3.9 yards a carry in that span, an improved number for Indy.
2. Justin Gage, Titans WR: Gage’s big leaping catch in San Francisco in Week 9 ended with a crash that broke bones in his lower back. He missed four games and is now playing as the third receiver. He hardly got wide open for his two touchdown catches against the Dolphins, but when Vince Young put up perfect passes for him, he pulled them both in. If Gage plays like that, and Nate Washington holds on to the ball, those two and impressive rookie Kenny Britt could be the team’s best receiving trio in some time.
3. Gerald Alexander, Jaguars SS: Helping offset Nelson’s poor play is a summer trade acquisition. The Jaguars got Alexander from Detroit in exchange for receiver Dennis Northcutt on June 30. In his past three games, he has an interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He’s looking like a guy who could be part of a long-term answer.
Keith Bulluck, who’s started 127 consecutive games, is out for the year with a torn ACL in his left knee. David Thornton, who has battled a shoulder injury in recent weeks, is also finished, Jeff Fisher said Monday at his news conference. Thornton will have shoulder and pectoral surgery in the next few days.
Bulluck’s been a defensive stalwart for the team and is heading for unrestricted free agency. If the injury suffered Sunday against the Dolphins was his final moment with the Titans, it’s a sad ending.
A speedy linebacker who has been especially good in coverage, he has also served as a no-nonsense team spokesman since early in his tenure as a starter.
Without him or Thornton, the team is OK with rookie Gerald McRath. But now Colin Allred’s in line to start in a trio led by middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who will stay on the field in nickel situations. Second-year man Stanford Keglar is the primary backup.
That’s a significant downgrade to the Tennessee defense.
The Titans face San Diego at LP Field Christmas night before finishing at Seattle. Two wins could get them to 9-7 after an 0-6 start, but they’d also need a bunch of help because their poor conference record won’t help them in playoff tiebreakers.
Bulluck was the team’s leading tackler with 113 with three tackles for a loss, three interceptions, eight passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
He posted these three messages on his Twitter account (@kbull53) this afternoon:
"Yo so y'all heard the news torn ACL...after 127 str8 games u already kno I ain't go'n out like this. My spirits r gr8 thanx 4 the love cont."
"and support all this year."
"I think my rehab hobby is gonna be to finally learn to play my guitar..."
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Inactives and what they mean for Titans-Jets.
Tight end Bo Scaife -- Jared Cook is up and they hope they'll be able to get more out of him than last week.
Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks
Punter Craig Hentrich -- The Titans signed Reggie Hodges to fill in.
Linebacker Stanford Keglar
Receiver Lavelle Hawkins
Quarterback Vince Young -- He was sick during the week and so the Titans put Patrick Ramsey ahead of him.
Tackle Troy Kropog
Defensive end Dave Ball
Left guard Eugene Amano is active. But he was also sick this week. Leroy Harris will start in his spot.
Cornerback Lito Sheppard
Cornerback Donald Strickland
Quarterback Eric Ainge (third)
Quarterback Kevin O’Connell
Linebacker Jamaal Westerman
Guard Matt Slauson
Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua
Receiver David Clowney
With Shepparad and Strickland out, Dwight Lowery starts at right cornerback and Drew Coleman, a short guy not rated as a high-quality corner, will be the nickel.
1. Tempo and rhythm: Kerry Collins had a lot of slow starts in 2008 and we know he and the first team offense aren't going to play very long. Tennessee's offense looks to have significantly better personnel than Tampa Bay's defense. Can the Titans first-team offense find a good flow?
2. A corner to stand out. Has one of the four candidates to be the chief corner backup stepped forward yet? I've not been with the Titans for a while, but haven't heard any great buzz yet either about Cary Williams, DeMarcus Faggins, Ryan Mouton or Jason McCourty.
3. Young linebacker play. Ryan Fowler will start in the middle with Stephen Tulloch (knee) out. Josh Stamer probably works with the twos in David Thornton's spot on the left with Stanford Keglar taking over for Keith Bulluck on the right. Rookie Gerald McRath should see significant time outside as well. Keglar or McRath could have a big opportunity in a year if Bulluck's not re-signed. Do either show signs?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I took a great interest in a drill Sunday that pitted linebackers against running backs in a pass protection scenario.
I thought Stephen Tulloch was especially impressive going against the Titans running backs in the team's first practice in shoulder pads.
Here's a mini-breakdown of some of the matchups:
- Ryan Fowler ran right over Chris Johnson, and later said he intended to bull rush, which is a bit of a no-no in this scenario. He said Johnson was on him quickly and he simply did the only thing he could, not meaning to circumvent protocol.
- Tulloch just clobbered Chris Henry, who held up better in a rematch.
- Javon Ringer got beat by Colin Allred.
- After a false start, Quinton Ganther did well against Josh Stamer.
- Stanford Keglar blew past Rodney Ferguson II, which prompted Ahmard Hall to tell Ferguson "don't just stop."
- David Thornton dominated Rafael Little.
- Keith Bulluck got to the tackling dummy serving as the quarterback quickly, but Hall held him up, maybe long enough to qualify as a win.
- Keglar beat Henry to the outside.
- Ganther did well versus Gerald McGrath.
After practice, I was considering my notes/scorecard and sought clarification from running back coach Earnest Byner on what amounted to a win on a snap of the drill.
"If a guy gets good contact, shows the ability to get on a guy and then tries to run him by, that's pretty good," he said. "In that drill, the defense is supposed to win. That's really a defensive drill. If a guy can get any contact and maintain the contact for like two seconds, that's a win."
A couple important notes for context:
If they weren't on the line of scrimmage, the backs lined up very close to it. In game situations they wouldn't be so close to the defender they need to block at the snap. At a practice the backs are without one major tool -- the cut block that would take a linebacker's legs out and put him on the ground. Ganther said ideally a back will push the rusher outside, buying a quarterback who is stepping up in the pocket additional time.
"It's much easier in a game," Byner said. "You have the ability to cut block, you have the ability to use your line a little more. If you can block in that drill, the game is easy. I thought the guys did well. They sit tight, hard to the defender. I wanted that. I didn't want them to sit and be cautious and not do anything. I wanted the aggression, and I was pleased with that. We can learn from that."
Some other practice observations:
- Cornerback Tanard Davis, who finished last year on the practice squad, had a strong afternoon and has been good so far, though working against lesser players. He muscled his way in front of Chris Davis to intercept a short Vince Young pass in one-on-ones. Later, in a team period he moved in front of Paul Williams to grab another pass from Young.
- Rob Bironas, who was due back from his mystery injury, did not return. Fisher continued to decline to say what the injury was, on a day when Kenny Britt talked openly about the right hamstring that landed him on PUP. If Bironas' injury is so insignificant, than why wouldn't it be shared? It gives us all reason to believe something odd is up.
- Britt is still dealing with a right hamstring issue, so he starts out on the PUP list. Fisher didn't quite rule Britt out of the Hall of Fame Game against Buffalo, but said it's "probably unlikely." Britt sounded pretty upbeat. Fisher made it sound as if a week would be the most Britt misses.
- Jared Cook went to the ground to scoop a Young pass. He has made a lot of catches on the run or going up to get the ball, and I took note that he also looked comfortable going to the ground.
- During a two minute drill period, a sliding Nate Washington caught a Kerry Collins pass on the right with Chris Hope and Nick Harper closing. It was too close to call as to whether Washington had his right knee down in bounds before his left leg crossed the sideline. Both sides pleaded with Fisher, who got a shout out from Hope when he came to a quick verdict and the sides "split the difference" on the gain. The drive produced an Alge Crumpler touchdown catch.
- Paul Williams made a very nice, spinning, leaping sideline catch.
- Jovan Haye stepped up and crushed Henry on a carry the back tried to take up the middle.
- Ringer looks a lot better in pads, and a lot better than he did in OTAs.
Quick hits with Titans coordinator Chuck Cecil on some key questions about the Tennessee's defense:
Losing Albert Haynesworth:
"Disappointing, but we'll be OK."
Sorting through defensive line depth:
"Great situation. Solid players. We're very good."
"A concern, definitely a concern. But again, I think we have a lot of candidates, including the three rookies."
Depth at outside linebacker:
"Expected. Those guys didn't luck into it last year, they are just good players and they played well. So I expect it to continue."
Expecting more points from the offense:
"Not my area. It'd be nice, absolutely. I'm all for it."
Jeff in Jacksonville writes: paul do you plan to visit the AFC South teams for OTA's or any of there off-season practices. I see you have already performed one for the titans, I really hope you make it around to all of them especially the Jags, I want to get your opinion on derek cox. I honestly feel kind of bad for the guy, he is going to be the most scrutinized player on the team this year becuase of the jags giving up a 2nd round pick and is only a rookie.
Paul Kuharsky: The plan as of now is that I will visit each team, yes.
The Titans have scattered open OTAs so I'll see them here and there. I will be at Colts minicamp in early June, a few days of Jags OTAs in early June and the Texans minicamp in mid-June.
I look forward to watching and meeting Cox in Jacksonville.
Chris Kirk in Indianapolis, IN writes: First I gotta say I love our draft. We addressed the individual needs of run offense/defense while improving the physicality of our team as a whole. Brown's not a punisher but any yards on the ground are physical yards and at 6?2 207 Collie's got some size to go over the middle. Even that G/T we drafted out of Maryland has some size. The two tackles are going to step in at least eat some space and let us pay bigger up front. For running downs I can already see us moving Dawson out to an end like he played in college and then with the two Rookies and Freeney that makes it a bit harder to run. My two questions are: How much do you see the two rookies DTs playing this year? Do you think it'll be situational or you think they'll go straight into the trenches? And do you see Okwo competing for playing time? I remember hearing some good things about him coming out of college with the Bears but that was during a contract dispute with Lance Briggs so it may have been for leverage purposes. Do you have any insider knowledge on the guy's chances? It seems like he was an awful high pick to have been given up on so soon by the Bears so I wanted your thoughts.
Paul Kuharsky: I think a team has to expect its second-rounder to play more than a situational role pretty soon, especially if those at his position can't do the job super-effectively.
So I'd look for Moala to be in there early and often. The expectation is different for a middle rounder, and for Terrance Taylor it'll depend on how quickly he catches on and how the rest of the crew of DTs are doing.
Michael Okwo isn't a guy I've heard a lot about. I don't imagine they're picturing him as a front line guy, but who knows? They wouldn't be telling us if they think they've found a gem. The Colts defense is different than virtually anyone's, so we'll have to see if he's a guy who fits it well and how the rest of the group does.
Scott in Ottawa writes: Paul, I am intrigued by the Mitch King signing. This guy was an ultra-productive 4 year starter in a good program at Iowa. Everything I read about the guy suggests that he has a high motor and a passion for the game. He sounds to me like a Vanden Bosch or Ball clone. Your article only talks a about him as a defensive tackle, but what about his propsects to make the team as a defensive end who could also play tackle on passing downs?
Paul Kuharsky: Why move him? It's not like the Titans are thin at end this season, either -- not that he's in the competition outside, but he'd have to beat out a very good player just to be the fifth end and barring injury couldn't get any higher than that. Jim Washburn, but the way, is not interested in swing guys right now. He announced at the OTA practice I attended this week that his tackles are tackles and his ends are ends.
Peter in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, I just read your article on the new body types in Madden 10 for the Wii. While I agree with your basic idea about putting these body types in the minds of children, I think the nature of the Wii changes those perceptions. The Wii is the only gaming system that will have these body styles, and that is only because the Wii focuses on such charachters. The Wii is not the same kind of gaming system as the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3. Those systems are strongly focused on tying to be as realistic as possible and creating a lifelike experience. The Wii is all about good fun. The difference in the body types of Barbie and the body types of the players on Wii Madden is expectations of the child. For Barbie, children see her as an icon and try to mimic their lives after hers. That is a problem. In Wii games, the children recognize that it is not intended to be realistic. Because of the child's ability to distinguish between the two, I do not think the new body types in Madden 10 for the Wii will be a problem. Thanks for your time. I love the blogs. Keep up the good work.
Matt in Huntsville writes: Just to comment on the body style debate on the Wii. The current generation of video game hardware has a very interesting gap. The Wii is significantly underpowered compared to the Playstation 3 and the XBox 360. So while the remarkable graphics on the latter systems are growing more lifelike, the comparisons between those versions and the Wii version could become heavily focused on the graphics, especially as the primary word of mouth tool is screenshots and video. One of the way's the "cheat" the lower polygon count (or complexity) that the Wii forced the designer to conform to is to stylize the graphics. Thus, while less realistic, the game can still be viewed in a positive manner. As there is also a higher resolution, more realistic version, the side by side comparisons are no longer possible thanks to the difference in graphical style. Love the blog and thanks to Google Reader I don't miss anything.
Paul Kuharsky: Peter and Matt refer to this post on the graphics of Madden on Wii, and I much appreciate your feedback.
I also encourage other readers to follow Matt's lead with the RSS feed.
Nate in Indy writes: I suppose that it may be fair to say that the Colts as an overall team is slightly weaker because of the coaching change. Personnel-wise, I think this team goes into camp in a stronger position. Injuries, retirements, and dismissals from last year's team made it weaker than expected going into the season. The Colts played a rapidly-declining Marvin Harrison more than they should have in an offense still largely written around him. By position: The QB is the QB. The RB's are stronger because of the monumental upgrade of Brown over Rhodes. The WR's are slightly weaker because without Marvin, since they suddenly seem less deep, if not less talented (as an overall unit). The OL can't possibly be worse than last year, can it? The LB's are slightly stronger because of the development of Philip Wheeler. The DB's are the same (maybe improved if Melvin Bullitt gets even better). The DL seems better because they now have depth and size at the DT position. Even if only one of Polian's picks makes it, it's an upgrade. And the TE position see
ms the same. The biggest question mark to me is special teams: as lousy as they were last year, it sure seems possible to get worse. Perhaps the rookie class and coaching change improves their lot. In short, I disagree with your assessment of the Colts.
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the note.
I have them as capable of winning the Super Bowl, so I hope you don't find it too negative an assessment.
I understand Jim Caldwell has been a good disciple and that the plan is for the tone to change very little. But still, in the first time of crisis and the times after that, even with Manning and Saturday and Freeney setting a locker room and huddle tone and Polian maintaining an organizational tone, we don't know what to expect from Caldwell. And we knew exactly what to expect from Dungy.
Maybe it's a change for the better. But my feeling right now is it makes them a little less of a known quantity. Now it's further clouded with Howard Mudd and Tom Moore heading out.
Rob in Richland, WA writes: Hey Paul, Do you think that now that the Titans have brought in Washington, and Britt along with Justin Gage staying healthy that they will be more of a balanced offensive team? Letting Collins have the ball in his hands more often? Thanks and i love the column.
Paul Kuharsky: I much appreciate the kind words.
I expect Heimerdinger will gradually work to open things up. There will be more occasions where they can open it up by plan or because the formula isn't working.
But the formula will be the same as it has been on good Jeff Fisher teams: run it, eat clock, play good defense, be in it in the fourth quarter.
Ryan in Charlotte writes: If you think David Garrard can't handle pressure situations and is not a legit franchise QB, consider this -Garrard's line was patchwork at best and he was the most knocked down QB in the league, statistically. -His WR's lead the league in drops. -The locker room stituation was awful -The year before he was able to win in Pittsburgh twice in the same season, only QB ever to do that (those games demanded clutch 4th quarter drives in cold, adverse weather). If Garrard's line can hold up, he gets some production from Holt and the young draft picks at WR/TE, and the defense can hold a 4th quarter lead or two, Garrard could be a pro-bowl QB, even from a small-market team.
Paul Kuharsky: I'm not saying he's a bust, but I am certainly not ready to say he's made it. Good quarterbacks do it more than one year, and they can lift their teams even in the face of poor protection and bad weapons. Sure, last year provided a lot of difficult circumstances for Garrard. But I didn't watch him and say, "If they were protecting him and he had receivers, he'd be fantastic."
Doesn't mean he can't be.
And even if I said he'd be fantastic with better line play and weapons, granted you that he could not have excelled on the field, couldn't he have done more to monitor, police and maintain the locker room? I suspect even he would say in hindsight there is more he could have done and asked the other key guys to do.
While the line injuries and poor wide receivers must be mentioned, I disagree with the segment of Jaguars' faithful who seem to think it's sacrilegious or unfair to say Garrard was not very good last year and to say he's not a sure thing going forward.
Tony in Austin says: Do you think the Titans will show interest in Foote now that he is available? Or do you think the Titans are comfortable with the future of Keglar and McGraf?
Paul Kuharsky: The Titans aren't desperate for linebacker help, they just wanted to give themselves some options for beyond this year with Keith Bulluck not under contract beyond '09. Why would they have considered Foote and why would Foote, who's signed in Detroit since you wrote, have considered them? He'll be a well-paid full timer for the Lions.
The Titans hope Stanford Keglar and Gerald McRath turn out to be good players, but if they are in need next year they have the draft and free agency to find a guy.
Greg from parts unknown: You are clueless when answering these questions Tra Thomas is a veteran Left Tackle with great ability. For him not to start over Eugene would be criminal.
Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate your opinion, if not your delivery of it, while remaining firm in mine. Top 10 picks on the offensive line don't need to sit behind a veteran, particularly when both players are perceived to be lesser run blockers than pass protectors. If you're going to invest playtime in a guy who learns as he goes, it should be the long-range guy, not the band aid.
Daniel Ceniceros from parts unknown: who do u think will have a bigger impact this year for the TITANS kenny britt,sen'derrick marks or jared cook....do u think they will utilize cook a lot more becuase it's scaife's contract year and they want to see what they have in the rookie just in case they cant resign scaife??? also i want to hear your grade for the titans 09 draft.... P.S. thank u for taking time to answer my questions
Paul Kuharsky: I can't tell you that. I would hope Britt.
They aren't going to give Cook time based on what may or may not happen with Scaife. They're going to play the best people who can help them win this game, right now. There will be room for both to play, and no matter what he does or doesn't do as a rookie, Cook should be ready to take on Scaife's role in 2010 if that's what they need him to do.
Garrison in Indianapolis writes: Hey Paul, good chat yesterday. Sorry I missed it. Got one thing I wanna comment on/ ask about- You (and several others) seem to think that having a third wide receiver is necessary for the Colts offense to function properly. I simply don't think that is true. Going back to the season the Colts won the Super Bowl, the top 7 pass catchers on the team were: Harrison, Wayne, Addai, Utech, Rhodes, Clark, and Fletcher. Conspicuously missing from that list of top 7 is... a third wide receiver! Stokely and Moorehead both had 8 catches apiece. The Colts drafted a few TEs last year and Brown as the number 2 running back this year. I think they're planning on going back to the balanced 2 RB, 2 TE sets where the Colts can be most dangerous. The guys over at 18to88 did a mini-piece on this very thing. Check it out http://18to88.com/2009/04/back-to-the-future.html Thanks again, keep up the good work.
Paul Kuharsky: Good stuff, thanks. In recent weeks I've been able to spend more time looking at sites like 18to88.com and to better distinguish where the thoughtful analysis and debate takes place (they have plenty of it there) and where you find predominately over-emotional rants and irrational stances.
Even if the Colts don't use a third receiver much, isn't it a depth concern should Reggie Wayne or Anthony Gonzalez go down?
Austin from parts unknown: Paul - GM question: I heard a lot of talk that LeDale Whi
te lost weight because its a contract year for him. But this is his third year, so he'll be a restricted FA, so its unlikely he'll leave the Titans next year. Moreover, if the labor contract with the players does not get resolved, players don't become FA until year six. I'm I right on this? To me, White and other others, are just growing up and being professionals. I respect that for men in their early 20s.
Paul Kuharsky: This will be White's fourth year, so if free agency stays the same he will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. If there is no cap, then yes it changes for him. Just growing up and being professional often coincides for these guys, not by accident, with contract years.
Tyler in Beloit, WI: Reading through your comments about the London Super Bowl I would like to ask whether you would be for it taking place in London if the city would be willing to pay the NFL a certain percentage of money upfront for the right to host the game. And if London believes it can generate significantly more revenue than a U.S. city they may be willing to pay the premium (assuming the NFL charges them a premium for the right to take the game off U.S. soil). I could see this working once ever 4 years or so, in the down years between the Olympics and World Cup. This may even globalize football, for better or for worse.
Paul Kuharsky: No. I don't think such an arrangement should be or will be a deciding factor in how this ultimately shakes out.
A few more comments on the debate on a London Super Bowl:
Brian in Clarksville writes: Hey Paul, Just got done reading the Double Coverage blog entry with yourself and Pat Yasinskas. I was glad to see you were arguing the con. I don't understand why Goodell or the rest of the NFL think that Europe is some great untapped market. Sure, an occasional game once a year or Superbowl will sell out, but if the grand scheme is to one day make an actual full time NFL team or teams in Europe, I just don't see any logical way that can happen. If they ever were to establish a team or team over there and they have a Houston Texan start of not being any good for 5+ years, the honeymoon will be over quickly and I don't see Londoners supporting a bad team of a sport they don't know or love the way an expansion team in the US would. If Europe is at all interested in American Football, let them start their own league, the same way America started the MLS for soccer. MLS isn't an expansion of any European leagues, it is the US's own product and the success or failure of the league or individual team isn't going to effect any European league. If the NFL were to expand into Europe and fail, it could have a huge negative backlash on the league and owners, not to mention the waste of the players' years there. So it's not a question of if a Superbowl could work in London, because we know it can, but any pipe dream of making millions buy establishing teams over there is nothing more than a dream. Are there really people in the NFL offices, or in the media, who honestly think there's long term success of the NFL in Europe?
Mad Mike in Houston: Paul: They should never play a Super Bowl on foreign soil until there are foreign teams in the league. I have to travel internationally on a fairly regular basis and the body clock adjustment would not be easily dealt with as being there a number of days early, there is also the return trip home and the re-adjustment. I would recommend that they use the Pro Bowl a week prior to the Super Bowl as a teaser for the internationals. The NFLPA would have to be a huge part of this and revenue sharing would also be a component. Of course, you would not have any Super Bowl participants in the Pro Bowl, but we don't now. The NFLPA has to be part of it to be sure the guys who should be there and are not injured are there, that is how to do the international thing......MM
stephen in nashville writes: Hi Paul. Love your stuff and listen to you in the mornings with Frank, Kevin, & Mark. I am a little confused as to how all these teams are "signing" these undrafted players immediately after the draft. What happens if they sign to the minimum then get cut? Are they paid on a daily basis somehow? It just doesn't make much sense to me, especially in how it would apply to the cap. Or does it not apply to the cap until they hit a certain day right before the season starts? thanks, stephen
Paul Kuharsky: Only the most expensive 51 players count against the salary cap at this point in time -- it kicks up to 53 at some point late in the preseason so teams have to be prepared to make that fit.
All these guys get now are small signing bonuses. (Some of them are not that small, but compared to the ones the picks get, they are). None of the minimum base salaries they are slated to earn materialize with regard to cap or have any real-dollar impact if they aren't on the roster when the season starts.
As of last year, rookies got $800 a week during camp, veterans $1,100. That is not cap-counted salary.
Tom in Nashville writes: What exactly has been the rap on the Titans' Chris Henry? I know his selection was something of a surprise, apparently based on his impressive physical scores (speed, etc.) as demonstrated in the combine and workouts and not based on his actual output in college. Clearly he hasn't delivered. Why not? What does he lack? Where has he shown to be deficient in actual game situations? Just curious...
Paul Kuharsky: He lacks instincts and vision. Doesn't seem to know how to find daylight. I remember him getting nailed by Darrell Reid on a kickoff return in the 2007 season finale in Indianapolis. That kind of sums him up. He thought that in an NFL game it was appropriate to stop, as if the Red Sea would magically part in front of him, and he'd be able to start again.
Travis in Boston writes: Hi Paul -- I've read a couple places that the Texans are shifting to the 3-4 this season. Do we know this for sure? The only mentions I've seen hint that it's a definite possibility, but I havnen't seen anything concrete. Would love to hear your thoughts. Travis
Paul Kuharsky: Selective writing is never going to happen, but we need more selective reading, I think.
The Texans have no such plans to my knowledge and I'd be very surprised if they did. They don't have the personnel for it.
Aaron in NJ writes: Loved the help and hurt section. I kind of see Jason Jones as a similar player as Justin Tuck. I also know that JJ has experiance as a DE. Because of the crazy depth at DT the Titans now have, do you think they would consider moving Jones to the end position, similar to what the Giants did with Tuck? Appreciate it.
Paul Kuharsky: The Garden State is close to my heart.
They could kick Jones out some if they like a matchup or feel like things stack up well that way. But long term, when they have issues at end and not at tackle, I doubt they'd move him full-time for how much they've talked of him being a tackle.
Brian in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: The Cox pick is really stirring up some interesting dialogue. Per Ask Vic today it appears that he was coveted and the selection may not have been as much of a reach as some thought. I'm still withholding judgment until I see him play but I'm curious as to what you're hearing about how liked him and where in the draft they wanted him.
Paul Kuharsky writes: I wouldn't expect anyone from inside team HQ to say anything different. I've heard Cox was viewed as a sixth-rounder or seventh-rounder by a lot of people. The Jags need to know not just how they like him, but how everyone else likes him so as to not overdraft him.
We have to wait and see how he looks, of course.
But if you get him in the sixth and talk him up, the expectations are still on a sixth.
If you take a guy viewed as a sixth-rounder in the third, trading a second to get the pick, well, before he does a thing he's viewed with second-round expectations and will get third-round money. Things are tougher on both sides as a result.
Cameron from parts unknown: I know that the Texans selected a lot of defensive help during the draft, except for the two tight ends. Although they had the third best offense and twenty second ranked defense, do you think that not taking a skill position such as a quality Wide Receiver to go along with Andre Johnson will hurt the Texans' chance of making the playoffs?
Paul Kuharsky: No, they are in good shape at receiver. A late pick might have been insurance for Kevin Walter, who could be in line to be an unrestricted free agent next year.
Brian in Lynchburg, Va., writes: Hey Paul, as a Titans fan looking at our roster after the draft I'm noticing a few positions that seem really crowded, first is running back, which you dealt with a little bit in an earlier blog post, but there were two others I'd be interested in your perspective on, tight end and defensive line. Right now we have four tight ends that could get a roster spot (ESPN shows five on our roster, but the top four are clearly Scaife, Crumpler, Stevens, and Cook) but I don't think we'd carry four tight ends into the season so I'm wondering how you would sort those guys out. At defensive line I feel that we've kind of overcompensated for the loss of Haynesworth and now have too many dlinemen, I see 11 that I feel could make an impact given the opportunity (ESPN lists 16 players among DEs and DTs, but I think the top 11 are Kearse, KVB, Brown, Jones, Marks, Haye, Ball, Ford, Hayes, Vickerson, and King) but obviously we won't keep 11 defensive lineman. Since we have so many guys at these positions I feel like we're going to have to cut a few quality players at those three positions, who do you think makes the cut at RB, TE, and DL?
Paul Kuharsky: They won't have a problem carrying those four tight ends if they need to, and they'll need to barring they decide Crumpler is finished. Ahmard Hall doesn't and won't have a backup fullback. If he goes down, they go tight-end heavy and they kind of buy themselves the space there. (They ended the season with four, if you count Casey Cramer as a tight end instead of a fullback, which is how they continue to label him for some reason.)
I hit the running back pecking order in the post you mention.
Defensive tackle: Tony Brown, Jason Jones, Jovan Haye, Sen'Derrick Marks, Kevin Vickerson.
If all are healthy and those 10 need to become nine -- they finished with nine last year -- I presume Vickerson would be the odd man out. Second most at risk would probably be Ball. It's possible they could get a pick for one of those guys if they time things up correctly and someone is in dire need on the line.
Nick in Columbus, Ind., writes: I wish all of the pundits would stop "hinting" at the fact that the Donald Brown pick was an indictment on Addai. Everyone is doing this without even mentioning the fact that we lost Rhodes to the Bills. Rhodes has been an integral part of the Colts run game for I believe 7 of the last 9 seasons. 1 year he was injured, the other year he spent in Oakland. That may have something to do with this pick, and the fact that they won the Super Bowl with a 2 back system, and are probably going to return to the 2 TE 2 RB sets, as opposed to the 3 wr sets. I would just like one "expert" to mention one of these facts. Did Addai struggle last year? Sure. He was also running behind a horrible line and was dealing with injuries. In fact I think most of Rhodes big contributions last year came through the air. I am willing to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt for one year, after he ran for over 1000 yds his first 2 season in the league. That being said, Joseph needs to prove to his doubters this year that last year was the fluke, and the first two years were him. Should be fun to see him and brown together, if Gonzalez can step up and one of the other TE's can be servicable on the opposite side of Clark, this could be a great offense. Always enjoy the blog! GO COLTS!
Paul Kuharsky: I don't believe I've hinted that Addai is in any sort of jeopardy. They want to be like a lot of teams and have two good options. Anytime a first-rounder is spent on your position, it likely means at least something about your standing. It's certainly different for Addai than if they'd re-signed Dominic Rhodes, wouldn't you agree?
But if Addai's drop-off was more than him being hurt and the line being a mess, it'll be nice to have a top-flight alternative in crunch situations, no?
Bishoy in Nashville writes: There are many rumors that Tennessee is pursuing Anquan Boldin. How valid are these rumors, especially since the Titans just drafted a receiver in the 1st round. Wouldn't Tennessee be an ideal organization for him as they are one player away from going to the super bowl, and he would have almost no competition to be the number one guy and he could also help the Titans mold Kenny Britt into a polished receiver? Wouldn't it make sense for both sides?
You ask if it doesn't make sense for both sides, but offer no indication of what Arizona's side would be.
Adam in Alexandria, Va., writes: Hey Paul, two questions: Is there anything to preclude teams from drafting a player with a compensatory pick, then immediately trading him to another team? Are agents generally able to negotiate any additional cash/guaranteed money for players drafted in a certain round where the team traded a higher pick in the following years' draft to get that pick?
Paul Kuharsky: It comes into play for negotiations for sure. But I think in a broad sense, guys get paid based on where they were actually drafted. You'll hear a lot of GMs and coaches not offer up where they had a guy rated, because they know if they say their sixth-rounder had a fourth-round grade, the agent will come in saying he deserves fourth-round pay. Fact is, there is a rookie pool and if guys outside the first round don't sign until last of their class, they run the risk of getting less than their share.
Good question on compensatory draft picks being used, then traded. I don't know the letter of the law, but that sure seems to break the spirit and I don't recall seeing it happen.
Brian in Clarksville writes: Hey Paul, So I had head and read that the Titans could have picked an OLB on the first day as a potential replacement for Keith Bulluck as he has one year left on his current contract. Of course with them taking an ILB, and not until the 4th round, I'm hoping that means the team feels like they can sign him (which I hope, he's easily my favorite player of the past 8 years). Is that the case? Also, I don't know how well you follow it but how does next year's LBs draft class look?
Paul Kuharsky: I don't think they know if they want to sign him or not -- have to see what he's got left and the parameters of what he's looking for. But no, they don't have a replacement on the roster unless Stanford Keglar makes a huge leap. No idea on next year's LBs, sorry.
And finally, a shoutout to Kyle in Santa Barbara. He sent me his mock draft before things started, and nailed three out of four AFC South first-round picks, missing only Britt. You'll have to take my word for it, though, because I'm obligated not to link to him as he was a bit profane.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Often times mock drafters or fans (or mock drafter fans) who aren't fully aware of a team's depth chart will connect the easiest dots.
The Titans, for example, lost Albert Haynesworth, therefore a lot of people presume they automatically need a replacement defensive tackle and put them down for one at No. 30.
|Mitchell Layton/Getty Images|
|Just because the Titans lost Albert Haynesworth through free agency doesn't mean they are dead-set on a replacement in the first round.|
Except that the Titans drafted Jason Jones in the second round last year and he was impressive as a rookie, with five sacks in 13 games. They signed free agent Jovan Haye, a favorite of defensive line coach Jim Washburn. They like starter Tony Brown very much, and they like Kevin Vickerson as their biggest body -- enough so that he got a contract extension during the 2008 season.
The Titans may well be in best-player-available mode and if Evander Hood is there at their spot and they see him as a great value they could take him.
But it's hardly a foregone conclusion.
Similarly, I believe it's a mistake to cross left tackle off the list of potential picks for Jacksonville just because they signed free agent Tra Thomas. They still need a long-term solution, and if the best tackle at No. 8 is a better value to them than what's left at receiver, defensive tackle or cornerback -- or if they aren't taking a quarterback or trading the pick to someone who wants one -- they may well take a potential offensive line anchor.
The Scouts Inc. needs board looks pretty good to me, so I'd keep an eye on that. It gets adjusted based on any new developments.
Meanwhile, here's an up-to-date rundown of the primary needs, in my view, for the teams of the AFC South:
Defensive tackle: Amobi Okoye needs some help inside to be the player the Texans envisioned, and an effective tackle who demands attention will help the continued push to upgrade the line and produce more consistent pass pressure.
Defensive back: There is evidence that Jacques Reeves wasn't as bad as portrayed last year as the corner opposite Dunta Robinson once Robinson returned from injury. But competition for the second and third spots would be good to add with Reeves and Fred Bennett. And none of the top three safeties are overwhelming -- Eugene Wilson at free and Dominique Barber at strong are the starters, with Nick Ferguson as depth. The Texans should add the best overall defensive back they can find, maybe a couple.
Outside linebacker: The Texans can use a bigger, more rugged outside 'backer who can rush the quarterback and drop into coverage.
Running back: Steve Slaton was a godsend in the third round last year. Now the Texans need to find a bigger guy to take some of the carries and serve as a heavier changeup.
Defensive tackle: The Colts lost the big bodies in the middle of their line, space-eating run-stuffers Quinn Pitcock and Ed Johnson, right at the start of last season and they need to spend to get quality replacements.
Receiver: Anthony Gonzalez can become a full-time guy with Marvin Harrison gone, and he or Reggie Wayne can kick into the slot in the often featured three-wide sets. Still, a third quality wideout is a necessity, and it won't be a surprise if Bill Polian uses No. 27 to address the position.
Outside linebackers: This group needs to be replenished as two guys who've seen significant time in the last two seasons, Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler, appear out of the picture. But the Colts restock their linebackers often through the draft and with undrafted rookies.
Running back: Was Joseph Addai banged up and suffering behind an injured line, or is he not going to be able to carry the load? The Colts like Mike Hart, who's coming off a bad injury. But they haven't re-signed Dominic Rhodes and need more.
Receiver: A perpetual need. They are down Reggie Williams, a free agent they have no interest in, and Matt Jones, who was cut after a new round of trouble. To get a true read on David Garrard, he needs real weapons on the outside.
Defensive tackle: GM Gene Smith has talked a lot about building from the inside-out and the Jaguars thrived when John Henderson and Marcus Stroud gave th
em an identity. Their plans to replace Stroud after a trade failed, and they need a better partner for Henderson that will help toughen them and could be a good influence on him.
Cornerback: Brian Williams can play opposite Rashean Mathis or he can play safety. Free-agent safety addition Sean Considine is an X factor here. But even if he's in the lineup and the Jaguars have their two starting corners, they need nickel candidates and depth badly.
Left tackle: As mentioned above, the addition of Thomas does not mean the Jaguars are done addressing this spot. Garrard needs not only better weapons but better protection and the offense is built around running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who needs consistent long-term blocking.
Receiver: They hope for big things from free-agent addition Nate Washington, but considering how long they've lacked a dynamic weapon outside, they can't have enough candidates for the role. A legitimate big-play threat can help create things for Chris Johnson, the running back who's the centerpiece of the offense.
Cornerback: Beyond starters Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper and nickel Vincent Fuller, the Titans have only unproven Cary Williams. The expectation is the Titans will draft a corner who would be in line to replace Harper in 2010 and they need the depth now after losing Eric King and Chris Carr in free agency.
Outside linebacker: Stalwart Keith Bulluck is heading into a contract year and should the Titans have trouble holding on to him or decide not to, they could use an heir in place and it's unclear if Stanford Keglar can be that guy. Better depth and a player who could be a big special-teamer will be nice to have in 2009.
Offensive tackle: Daniel Loper was a versatile swing guy who backed up both Michael Roos and David Stewart and could move inside to play guard. He went to Detroit as a free agent. Maybe Mike Otto is the new third tackle, but a versatile lineman is a need for depth.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Greetings from Jacksonville. In order to join the Jaguars Tuesday morning, this edition of Reading the coverage is of the quick-hitting variety...
- Steve Campbell on Ahman Green: "Green's time with the Texans has been maddening for everybody involved, no doubt. Still, it's not as if his presence on the roster is keeping the next great running-back hope out of camp."
- The Colts will have a dry run at Lucas Oil Stadium on Aug. 19 to get the logistics down. They play their first game there on Aug. 24.
- The time is near for Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders. They could begin practicing this week, writes Mike Chappell.
- Can blazer Brian Witherspoon of Stillman College boost the Jaguars return games?
- Matt Jones pleaded not guilty to a felony cocaine possession charge in Arkansas, and now has an Oct. 10 trial date.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Tennessee Titans signed their first 2008 draft pick Friday by agreeing to a four-year contract with linebacker Stanford Keglar. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The fourth-round pick from Purdue University started 13 games and finished with 70 tackles last season.
"He is excited to be the first Titan [to sign] and wanted to show how serious he is by signing early," said Keglar's agent, Jeff Chilcoat.
Tennessee has six draft picks left to sign before players report to training camp on July 25.