AFC South: Tim Fugger

Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Little changes for the Texans as they break camp, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. It’s a lot different than the old days.

Gary Kubiak is pleased that Duane Brown was rewarded with a long-term contract, says John McClain of the Chronicle.

The Texans backup nose tackles will get a more extensive look while Shaun Cody is out with a lower back strain, says Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle.

Previewing the Texans and a menacing defense with Shawne Clarke of The Sports Network.

Indianapolis Colts

Rookie Tim Fugger is transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, but he’s adapted to circumstances before, says Mark Ambrogi of the Indianapolis Star.

Reviewing the second-to-last last day of camp with Mike Chappell of the Star.

Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes are showing signs, says Nate Dunlevy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Receiver and No. 5 overall pick Justin Blackmon is ready to make his preseason debut Friday night, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Linebacker Nate Bussey, who was just claimed off waivers from the Saints, will play against New Orleans for the Jaguars tonight.

The NFL is entering a danger zone with replacement officials, says Gene Frenette of the T-U.

Tennessee Titans

David Climer of The Tennessean wonders about how casually Chris Johnson, who talks of beating Usain Bolt in a race, shrugs off his production issues. “In London, it took Bolt 9.63 seconds to run 100 meters. Based on last season’s stats, it would take Johnson the better part of two games to run 100 meters.”

Robert Johnson is flashing some big-play ability and getting first-team time at safety, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

The battle between Quinn Johnson and Collin Mooney for the Titans’ fullback spot could come down to special teams, says Alex Cate of The Tennessean.

Running back Jamie Harper is getting a bit of work at fullback, too, says David Boclair of the Nashville City Paper.

“With a nose for the ball and an ability to knife in and make plays at and behind the line of scrimmage, (Colin) McCarthy is in the process of becoming a nice player in the league, with the ability to cover in the passing game as well as to make authoritative tackles.” From Dunlevy.

AFC South links: Colts pining for Luck

May, 17, 2012
Houston Texans

Former Texans receiver Jacoby Jones welcomes his move to new surroundings in Baltimore. "Change is good in life," said Jones, whose muffed punt in last season's playoffs led to a Ravens touchdown in a game Baltimore won by seven. "It’s always good to have a breath of fresh air.”

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts appear to be feeling the absence of top draft pick Andrew Luck, who is missing this week's organized team activities and can't report to the team's facilities until after his final exams at Stanford. "For him to be here, taking snaps, building chemistry, the timing with the offense, timing with the receivers, all those kind of things ... it’s days lost,’’ coach Chuck Pagano told the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell of the quarterback. “It’s like money you never get back."

The team signed four more draft picks Wednesday: fifth-rounder Vick Ballard, sixth-rounder LaVon Brazill, and seventh-round selections Tim Fugger and Chandler Harnish.

Becoming head coach of the Colts "has been a whirlwind" Pagano says in a Q&A with Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Though he hasn't been cleared for contact, linebacker Paul Posluszny is participating in this week's organized team activities as he recovers from January shoulder surgery. "As far as working out, being functional, the strength, the stability -- everything is back," Posluszny, who expects to be at full strength for training camp, told the team's official site. "I’m still not allowed to be in contact, but other than that, it feels great. It feels normal to me."

The Jaguars don't mind practicing in the rain, writes Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert isn't taking his starting job for granted, writes Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

As expected, receiver Kenny Britt had minor surgery on his right knee in an effort to boost his return from torn ligaments suffered in September. The procedure will "probably accelerate his rehab," Titans general manager Ruston Webster told the Tennessean. Also in Jim Wyatt's notebook: The Titans have not had any contract talks with franchise player Michael Griffin, but the safety is working out with teammates. And third-round pick Mike Martin signed a four-year deal.

And after thoroughly examining other options at center, it looks like the Titans will go with one of their own this fall, writes Wyatt. Eugene Amano, the regular starter the past two seasons, will have to hold off Kevin Matthews, Fernando Velasco and rookie William Vlachos for the job, Webster said.

The Titans are in the running for former Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell, writes Terry McCormick.

Picking a starting quarterback can be a difficult proposition, but for the Titans, Webster says choosing between Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker could come down to a simple "gut feeling," writes Elliot Harrison of

Pressure point: Colts

May, 17, 2012
NFC pressure points: West | North | South | East
AFC pressure points: West | North | South | East

Examining who faces the most challenging season for the Colts and why.

The Colts are changing in a big way on defense -- they aim to be bigger, more physical and better against the run. Although they talk of being a hybrid, they want to be a base 3-4 front.

To me, the pressure point will be split between two guys: Coach Chuck Pagano, the architect of the scheme, who will have to answer for its progress. His coordinator, Greg Manusky, will help spread the message, install the system and draw up game plans. The coach and his coordinator share the pressure for a unit that is converting high-quality 4-3 ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis into outside linebackers.

The two are excellent rushers, and there is risk in asking them to stand up and change. But they’ll be charging quarterbacks from a variety of spots, and offenses probably prefer to know where exactly they’ll be lining up.

Pagano helped Indianapolis land three players he coached in Baltimore: nose tackle Brandon McKinney, end Cory Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski. The draft added only fifth-round nose tackle Josh Chapman and seventh-round end Tim Fugger.

How much of the personnel deficiencies, especially in the secondary, can Pagano and Manusky cover up with scheme?
Six positions around the league that needed addressing didn’t get attention in the draft.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. gives them attention in this piece Insider. A third of his areas of concern come out of the AFC South.

Here’s what he says, along with my thoughts:

Indianapolis Colts: Defense

Williamson: “Rome wasn't built in a day, and clearly the Colts decided to focus on surrounding Andrew Luck with a strong young supporting cast rather than building their defense, which will be transitioning from a fast-flowing Cover 2 scheme with smallish players at every position to a versatile scheme in the mold of Baltimore's defense that features power and strength. That is a very difficult transition to make. Indianapolis' first pick on the defensive side of the ball was made on Josh Chapman in Round 5. That pick presented great value for the long term, as Chapman has the makeup for nose tackle in the Colts' 3-4 or as a space-eating defensive tackle in their four-man front.

“But after that selection, Indianapolis used just one more pick on defense, grabbing Tim Fugger with the 214th pick overall. The Colts very well could have the worst defense in the NFL in 2012, but the reality is I can't be critical of what they did on draft day, as building around a young first-round quarterback is the correct decision. Rebuilding the defense will have to be a job for another day, but it will be a massive job indeed, as I see only a few players currently on the Colts' roster who can be projected as long-term answers in their new defensive scheme.”

My thoughts: I line up with Williamson’s thinking here. There is a lot of work to be done on defense, but the Colts simply didn’t have the free-agent spending money or the number of draft picks needed to sufficiently fill all the holes on both sides of the ball. So they started on offense. Next year I suspect it’ll be slanted the other way.

Tennessee Titans: Interior offensive line

Williamson: “The Titans didn't use one draft pick on an offensive lineman this year. Although they are set at both tackle spots, the interior of their offensive line needed to be upgraded. It was easy to blame Chris Johnson for his effort -- or lack thereof -- early in the 2011 season, but the blocking provided for him was far from ideal. Tennessee did add Steve Hutchinson to start at left guard. Hutchinson certainly isn't what he once was, especially as a run-blocker, but he does know every trick of the trade and should be a positive influence to this line and the offense in general.

“Interestingly enough, the Titans were as good collectively pass blocking as they were poor with run blocking. But my worries are at right guard and especially center, where Leroy Harris and Eugene Amano are the respective starters. Like the rest of their linemates, these two struggled to open holes for Johnson but did a fine job protecting Matt Hasselbeck. But I also contend that Hasselbeck is one of those quick-witted veteran quarterbacks who excels at masking problems with his protection.”

“If and when Jake Locker is going to take over behind center, Tennessee will need to effectively run the football. The Titans' offensive line depth is about as poor as any team's in the NFL, which made the lack of attention given to the guys up front even more curious, especially considering who Tennessee's head coach is.”

My thoughts: Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews are Hall of Fame offensive linemen. They continue to get the benefit of the doubt. But if this line doesn’t run block substantially better early on in this season, that benefit of the doubt will start to evaporate and be replaced by a different idea -- that they are too close to guys like Amano and Harris to recognize the need to upgrade.

AFC South draft notes

April, 28, 2012
The big draft review file will arrive shortly, but a few quick thoughts in the meantime:

Houston Texans

Three offensive linemen should help the team sort through options at right guard and right tackle. Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler are the guys moving up the depth chart, but now their challengers will include Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones at guard and Nick Mondek at tackle.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck will come in at the head of a class that also includes two tight ends, two receivers, a running back and an offensive tackle. That change to a 3-4 defense will be in hybrid mode a lot in its first season, as only defensive tackle Josh Chapman and defensive end/outside linebacker Tim Fugger arrived to help. The Colts still get the draft’s final pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars stayed with big school guys most of the way. Their first five selections came from Oklahoma State, Clemson, Cal, Nevada and Florida State. But Gene Smith got his small school guy in the seventh round, with defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton from Ashland.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans didn’t have a pass rusher and were out of picks, but traded a sixth rounder in 2013 to Minnesota in order to select Rice defensive end Scott Solomon. The team sees a relentless pass rusher who fits in their mix and thought it could afford to sacrifice a sixth next year since it expects a compensatory pick or two.