AFC South: Tony Brown

Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Why you shouldn’t expect Nnamdi Asomugha to wind up with the Texans, from Alan Burge.

DeMeco Ryans anticipates being pretty close when the season starts, says Burge.

Considering outside options as the No. 2 receiver with Joe Owens.

Indianapolis Colts

Why Reggie Wayne is likely to remain a Colt, from Joe Baker.

Predicting the 53-man roster with Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Cecil Shorts can do it all, writes John Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

A new app will let you hear Chris Johnson’s “grunts,” says Jim Wyatt.

His agent says defensive tackle Tony Brown (knee) will be ready for the season, says Wyatt.
Reading the coverage from Bristol ...

Is the stud running back dying? Jon Bois examines the question.

An agent perspective on undrafted rookies, from Jack Bechta.

Houston Texans

The Texans may stand to lose the most from the lockout, says Don Banks.

Clark Judge believes in Wade Phillips.

Five young guys who need to contribute, from Battle Red Blog.

Indianapolis Colts

Undrafted free agents who could be fits, from Stampede Blue.

Part II of Shane Clemons’ detailed look at Peyton Manning.

Chris Rucker is ready to contribute.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert will need to learn to look off defenders, says John Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

Jovan Haye thinks his talents may be better suited for the new staff, writes Jim Wyatt.

Byron Stingily comes to the Titans with one big endorsement, says John Glennon.

Tony Brown is at about 85 percent according to his agent, says Wyatt.
Nick FairleYMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesNick Fairley had 12 sacks and 56 tackles in 2010 as the dominant force on Auburn's defensive line.
Albert Haynesworth is surly. Nick Fairley is silly.

That’s the gist of a review I got from an AFC scout when I took him the idea that Fairley, the defensive tackle from Auburn who could go to the Titans at No. 8 in the draft, is like Haynesworth, the defensive tackle from Tennessee who went to the Titans at No. 15 in 2002.

Haynesworth didn’t always play hard, dealt with nagging injuries, stomped an opponent’s face and was motivated by money. But at times he was an absolutely dominant force in the middle who had a positive bearing on every player on defense and helped the Titans contend for the playoffs.

Popular thinking on Fairley now suggests a big contract could lead a collegiate one-year wonder, who took plays off during a fantastic season, to become lazy or complacent.

My scout says it’s an off-kilter comparison.

“Fairley is more happy-go-lucky, he’s not Haynesworth,” he said. “Albert played with a huge chip on his shoulder, like everybody was against him. This kid, when he hits the field, yeah, no question he’s a competitive son of a gun. But he’s not Albert …

“I think Fairley clearly has a chance to be a special player. You’ve got to remember, he’s a Southern, Southern kid. He’s a bayou-type kid. The [Titans] had a guy like [defensive end] Antwan Odom who was a bayou kid -- it can be misconstrued as not having a passion. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think this kid is a fun-loving type of kid who’s silly.”

“Yeah, he’s going to make mistakes. Are they going to be glaring or things done on purpose? His mistakes are going to come out of, pardon the expression, ignorance, just not knowing. License registration and stuff like that -- 'Oh, I didn’t even know I had to register my car.'”

Did I find one guy who doesn’t see Fairley as a concern?

Well, two other scouts also chimed in. One said he doesn't worry that Fairley could turn lazy. The other expressed apprehension, but said it wouldn't stop him from taking Fairley at No. 8 if he was with the Titans.

I knew Haynesworth at his best, and actually thought he was a bit misunderstood.

It took too long for things to click for him, but he wasn’t a bad guy in Tennessee. He wasn’t always brooding. He could be light-hearted and funny. He liked to talk about work as a travel agent and to show off his newest gadget. He got good enough that he could speak his mind without fearing the consequences, and I think a locker room needs at least one star like that.

He played his best when a contract was at stake. I was a member of the camp that didn’t care for that. I also didn't care for his tendency to need help off the field for injuries that proved less than serious. He responded very well to the Andre Gurode incident -- where he stepped on the Dallas Cowboys' center's head -- but it obviously shouldn’t have happened in the first place. He has not handled himself nearly as well in Washington, but Mike Shanahan practically poked him with a stick. Haynesworth had or has issues with anger management and fast driving.

But everyone who played with him in Tennessee wanted him on the field, doing his thing.

[+] EnlargeAlbert Haynesworth
AP Photo/ John RussellSome scouts say Nick Fairley's personality is nothing like that of Albert Haynesworth.
If Fairley can give the Titans that type of play and carries less risk of the drama, he looks like an appealing addition to a defense that needs to be revamped. After these scout conversations, I’ll offer no objection if he’s the selection.

Still, plenty of analysts continue to voice concerns.

“A lot of early round defensive tackles end up being busts,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “They are just freak human beings and even the highest levels of the college game can be easy for them. If their work ethic isn't top-notch, they often bust. Fairley seems to take a lot of plays off. He turns it off and on. That is a huge warning sign for me, especially at defensive tackle.”

Not all scouting eyes see plays off last season at Auburn, however. Charley Casserly told Jim Wyatt that playing too high and getting blocked on plays was mistaken for shutting down.

Draft analyst Mike Detillier of NFL Draft Report said he loves Fairley but has some fear of plays off. He thinks Tennessee’s new defensive line coach, Tracy Rocker, knows how to find Fairley's on switch since he coached the tackle at Auburn last season. There is risk with him, though, and work ethic after a payday is one of the hardest things to predict, he said.

That reminds me of my absolute favorite scouting maxim, one I learned from late Oilers/Titans scout Glen Cumbee: Money makes a guy more of what he is.

So good guys become better guys; bad ones become worse.

I’ve only had one interaction with Fairley, far too little to judge him on. If the Titans can plug him into their old scout's equation and not have doubt, they may have their man.

One other question about Fairley that’s come from readers is about his size. If the Titans are striving to get stouter, how does Fairley, at just under 6-foot-3 and between 290 and 300 pounds, do that when the Titans have Tony Brown (6-3, 305) and Sen'Derrick Marks (6-2, 295)?

Well, Brown's got chronic knee issues that could mean he’s only a situational player now and Marks, another Auburn guy, has not yet proven worthy of a second-round pick in 2009.

Meanwhile, Fairley has hardly maxed out.

“He’s a big, big, massive man,” the scout said. “You’ve got to realize he hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he’s going to be physically. He’s going to get bigger and he’s going to get stronger, which is scary, and he’s got great feet. He’s a big basketball guy. He really thought he was going to the NBA as a kid.”

If there are no big surprises who fall to No. 8, I suspect the Titans will go with Fairley. They may like Washington quarterback Jake Locker, but not that high. If they find a willing partner, they could move down and still stand a chance of landing Fairley a bit later with Minnesota (12th), the Giants (19th) and Indianapolis (22nd), the biggest possibilities to take him out of need.

If the Titans moved back and Fairley disappears, they could turn to a defensive end like Adrian Clayborn or J.J. Watt, or they could look to Locker.

But no one may be a better addition than Fairley.

“Does he fit Tennessee?" the scout said. "Yeah, if everything you’re hearing is true and they want to get bigger and stronger and more physical, yeah he’s all three. You can put a check next to bigger and stronger and more physical.”
Williams/GarrardAP Photo/Phil CoaleMario Williams and David Garrard are two of the 53 players under contract in the AFC South slated to make more than $1 million this season.
After being struck recently with how the NFL's labor rift has been cast as billionaires vs. millionaires, I thought I’d look at some players' salaries.

Totaling-up career earnings is quite difficult, and bonus money can be hard to nail down and sort through.

We can still get an interesting snapshot by looking at scheduled 2011 base salaries. I suspect many readers will be surprised that the vast majority of players will earn less than $1 million this fall.

Here, according to the NFLPA, are the players from each AFC South team currently scheduled to make a base salary of $1 million or more in 2011. Keep in mind guys in line for some form of free agency are not part of things here.

Fifty-three of 216 players under contract are slated to make $1 million or more. That’s 24.5 percent of the division.

Houston Texans
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 13

Total players under contract for 2011: 49

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 26.5

Indianapolis Colts
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 11

Total players under contract for 2011: 57

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 19.3

Jacksonville Jaguars
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 13

Total players under contract for 2011: 51

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 25.5

Tennessee Titans
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 16

Total players under contract for 2011: 59

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 27.1

*Young will be cut or traded, the Titans have announced.

Titans' Washburn may be Philly-bound

January, 18, 2011
Jeff Fisher critics have called for staff shuffling.

They’d have been foolish to want defensive line coach Jim Washburn to go. But Washburn, a free agent like every coach on Fisher’s 2010 staff except for Mike Heimerdinger, may be on the verge of jumping to Philadelphia, reports Jim Wyatt.

Fisher acknowledging the possibility may be an early attempt to start softening the blow.

It would be a terrible development for the organization, which has consistently seen Washburn turn draft picks and free agents, problem children and reclamation projects into productive pass rushers.

The list of guys Washburn got the best out of includes Jevon Kearse, who joined the Titans in 1999, the same year as Washburn as well as Kenny Holmes, Josh Evans, Henry Ford, Carlos Hall, Robaire Smith, Antwan Odom, Travis LaBoy, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tony Brown, Jason Jones, Dave Ball and Jason Babin.

In six seasons with four teams, Babin had 17. 5 career sacks before the Titans signed him for $1 million last offseason. Under Washburn’s tutelage, Babin posted 12.5 sacks -- the sixth-best total in the NFL. (Here’s a column on Babin and Ball from early in the 2010 season.)

A screamer, Washburn knows how to find and push buttons for his players, and he’s helped them make them a ton of money. By Wyatt’s count, 11 defensive linemen left the Titans over the past 12 years to sign big free-agent contracts elsewhere at a total value of more than $355 million.

I can think of only two guys who were better after they left. Juqua Thomas, who’s now Juqua Parker of the Eagles and could soon have Washburn as a position coach again, is not part of that big-money departure list. Randy Starks of the Dolphins is.

Virtually everyone who’s played for Washburn has good things to say about what he did for them.

Replacing him would be a huge undertaking for Fisher. A lame-duck coach, he won’t be able to offer his next defensive line coach any more than the one-year deal he was able to offer Washburn.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Wade Phillips has started to evaluate the Texans' defense, says John McClain.

Gary Kubiak will take his time hiring the rest of the defensive staff, says Alan Burge.

Examining Rick Smith’s draft record with Battle Red Blog.

Finally, a defensive direction, says Stephanie Stradley.

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Chappell takes questions, mostly about Jim Caldwell.

Jeff Saturday talked about the labor situation, says Phillip B. Wilson.

The defense is the issue, says Nate Dunlevy.

Why so few points, wonders Dunlevy.

A thorough breakdown of the Jets game and thoughts on what should have been different, from Collin McCollough.

How the Colts can fix the offensive line, from Brett Mock.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Deji Karim had surgery on his right hand, says Vito Stellino.

Dirk Koetter is scheduled to interview with the Broncos today, says Stellino.

What’s a Gene Smith scout look like? Vic Ketchman’s answer.

The offseason outlook for the offense, from Alfie Crow.

Jagsonville wants the Jaguars to draft a quarterback first.

Tennessee Titans

Tony Brown had knee surgery, says Jim Wyatt.

Kevin Kolb is not a clear-cut solution, says John Glennon.

Chris Simms is expecting a ruling today in his court case, says Jennifer Peltz.

Music City Miracles talked to Jason McCourty.

Vince Young’s top 10 games as a Titan, according to Andrew Strickert.

Texans put Mario Williams on IR

December, 15, 2010
The Texans and Titans have slim playoff possibilities, but they’ve waved the white flag in terms of having veterans push through injuries.

Houston put Mario Williams (sports hernia) on IR along with receiver David Anderson (shoulder) and right guard Mike Brisiel (shoulder), according to John McClain.

That means increased opportunities for Mark Anderson, Dorin Dickerson and Antoine Caldwell. No news yet on filling the roster spots.

The Titans put center Eugene Amano (neck) on IR Tuesday and defensive tackle Tony Brown (knee) followed him there Wednesday.

Fernando Velasco will take Amano’s place at center, while the Titans look to get Sen'Derrick Marks, Marques Douglas and perhaps Malcolm Sheppard, just signed off the Texans' practice squad, some time on the interior.

The Titans promoted interior offensive lineman Kevin Matthews off the practice squad. Matthews, son of Oilers/Titans Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, is an undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M.

Bruce Matthews is an assistant offensive line coach for the Texans, who play in Nashville on Sunday.

“It’s a great coincidence,” Fisher said. “Kevin gives us the ability to have someone who can play both center and guard since basically that’s what we lost in Eugene. It allows us to minimize moves if we have a problem up front.”
With Albert Haynesworth as one big exception, the Tennessee Titans have traditionally used less than gigantic defensive tackles. They aren’t generally big at end or linebacker either.

This year, as part of their horrific six-game skid, a banged up crew of linemen has been worn down, been on the field for long stretches while losing time of possession by big margins.

It is enough for a philosophical change going forward?

Jeff Fisher was asked about getting bigger along the front seven at his Monday news conference. You can’t put too much on what’s said in such settings and we don’t know if Fisher’s going to be around to determine the philosophy.

But he indicated it’s something that will be up for review.

“Yeah, that’s something that will be addressed,” when asked about getting bigger. “Our division is such that you’re going to need some big bodies inside. Especially when you’re playing run games like at Houston and Jacksonville.”

Tony Brown is a good player and a very good story and he got his chance as a result of Haynesworth’s 2006 suspension from the Andre Gurode incident.

But the knee problem that’s kept Brown out of practice a whole lot this season isn’t new. Did the team have the right read on it when it planned for him to be a centerpiece of the line going forward and gave him a three-year, $17 million contract in April?

It’s the sort of move that’s open for debate now while we talk of size and durability.

Final Word: AFC South

December, 3, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/Henny Ray AbramsMaurice Jones-Drew has been blowing past defenses designed to contain him.
No matter the numbers: Maurice Jones-Drew has run well this season when teams have loaded up to try to stop him, according to ESPN Stats & Information. When opposing defenses expect run and bring more defenders into the box than the offense has blockers, Jones-Drew still produces. He has 37 carries under such circumstances and his 4.7 yards per carry average is tied for the third-best in the league. Since the beginning of 2008, only Thomas Jones (18) has more rushing touchdowns against the loaded box than Jones-Drew (15).

Three more TDs: Dallas has not played in Indianapolis since Nov. 17, 2002, when the Colts beat them 20-3. It will be only the third Cowboys-Colts clash of the Peyton Manning era and he’s 2-0 against Dallas. Manning already has an NFL-record 12 seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes. He needs three more TDs to make it 13. In his last two games -- losses to New England and San Diego -- Manning has thrown six touchdown passes but also seven interceptions.

Score more: The Titans were faring great in the scoring department before their four-game losing streak. Now, over the past month, they’ve scored 25, 17, 16 and 0, a total of 58 points. That’s less than half the point production from the four games before that (121). The Titans need some lengthy drives and big plays. They’ve talked over and over about the coverage WR Randy Moss is drawing. But his previous teams found a way to get him 948 catches against difficult coverages and it’s time for the Titans to figure out how. Without Moss, they scored 30 in Jacksonville on Oct. 18.

Beat up: Yes, the Jaguars are playing far better than they were when the Titans beat them up in the first game. The biggest difference heading into the rematch could be the health of the Titans’ defensive line. Tennessee’s pass pressure has dropped off and the group is dealing with injuries. Sen'Derrick Marks is probably out and Jason Babin, Dave Ball, Jason Jones and Tony Brown are all on the injury report. I expect more time for David Garrard and more room for Jones-Drew.

Run wary: The Colts might have Gary Brackett back at middle linebacker, and they could use him. Under interim coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have shown more determination to run the ball. The undersized, undermanned Colts can certainly be run on. They’ve given up 136.9 yards a game and 4.9 yards a carry this season.

Midseason Stock Watch: Titans

November, 10, 2010
Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 16. This week: No. 11.

2010 schedule/results

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Kim Klement/US PresswireTennessee's Vince Young has shown improvement in recent weeks and now has Randy Moss to throw to.
Where they stand: At 5-3, the Titans are even with Indianapolis atop the AFC South. It’s odd to be applying division record as a tiebreaker with a team that has played one division game, but the Titans are 1-0 and the Colts are 1-2, so the edge is Tennessee’s right now. While the Titans have been inconsistent, they’ve had a good pass rush and strong red zone defense, and halfway through the season they are No. 1 in the NFL with an average of 28 points a game. And now they’ve added Randy Moss to the arsenal.

Falling: Third down defense. The Titans were holding opponents to a third down conversion rate of just under 30 percent through six games and it was a defensive hallmark. But in a win over Philadelphia and a loss at San Diego they gave third-down conversions at a rate double that. It was a point of emphasis during their bye and the Titans expect the return of defensive tackle Tony Brown from a chronic knee issue will help the cause. Miami will be a good challenge in this department, as the Dolphins offense ranks fourth in the league on third down.

Rising: Vince Young. He has been showing improvement since the poor showing against Pittsburgh, in which he was pulled. Since then, he has missed a game and segments of two others because of knee and ankle injuries. But he has seven touchdowns and no picks in that span. Enter Moss. If there is a perception among some nationally that Young doesn’t throw well deep, it’s mistaken. He’s better rated throwing long than he is throwing short. Still, connecting with an all-time great who is used to Tom Brady is another new, big challenge.

Midseason MVP: We could go several different directions here with Young and the resurgent Michael Griffin each having a solid case. If we weren’t measuring Chris Johnson against last year, we might jump at the NFL’s third-leading rusher, who is second in rushing touchdowns with eight. But after much deliberation, the call is defensive end Jason Babin, who has a career-high seven sacks already and has provided relentless pressure.

Outlook: The Titans control their own fate because they’re tied for the lead and are 1-0 in division play. But they don’t have anything that looks close to a walkover left. Jacksonville at home will likely prove a tough division contest after a blowout in the first matchup. There are two against Houston and two against the Colts along with a home matchup against Washington and trips to Miami and Kansas City. Every one of those teams is .500 or better. A playoff berth is possible, but will be difficult to grab.
Reading the coverage ...

Some '70s era Oilers are feeling the aftereffects of their concussions, says Dale Robertson.

Houston Texans

The rested Texans are in an AFC South dogfight, says John McClain.

The loved ones of players who suffered traumatic brain injuries go through life knowing the damage might have been prevented, says David Barron.

Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning doesn’t want to talk about a new contract until after the season is over, says Mike Chappell.

Next up for the Colts is a tough rematch with Houston in a week on "Monday Night Football," says Chappell.

The Colts will miss Dallas Clark’s versatility, says Phil Richards.

Anthony Gonzalez recently tweaked his ankle injury, says Adam Schefter.

Late but worth it: Some inside info from a Bill Polian talk in Fort Wayne, from Reggie Hayes. (Hat tip to Nate Dunlevy, who hat-tipped Coltzilla.)

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars might not be able to put things back together, says Vito Stellino.

Jack Del Rio rated the defensive performance embarrassing, says Tania Ganguli.

Coaches and teammates had praise for Todd Bouman, says Ganguli.

It looks like Eben Britton is lost for the season with a shoulder injury, says Tania Ganguli.

Bouman deserved a better support system, says Gene Frenette.

Mike Thomas fumbled a punt in the first quarter for the second time in three weeks, says Stellino.

Ganguli and Frenette review the game in this video.

The Jaguars thought they had a run defense, but Kansas City changed their thinking, says Vic Ketchman.

Tennessee Titans

Kenny Britt’s touchdown blitz delivered a win for the Titans, says Jim Wyatt.

The Titans are making noise in the AFC, says David Climer.

Tennessee’s defense finally figured out third down in the fourth quarter, says John Glennon.

Chris Johnson didn’t have an issue with the hit from Ernie Sims, says Climer.

The Smallest Titan, Alterraun Verner, made the biggest defensive play, says Glennon.

Kerry Collins showed his value, says Joe Biddle.

Since they weren’t running well, Mike Heimerdinger decided the Titans should sling it.

Jason Jones made the play of the game, says Bob McClellan.

How soon will Vince Young return, asks Terry McCormick.

Is Tony Brown’s knee becoming a concern, asks McCormick.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kerry Collins will start at quarterback as expected for the Titans today against Philadelphia at LP Field.

Vince Young looked gimpy in his warm-up with strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson and will be the No. 2 quarterback.

Two other changes for Tennessee: With defensive tackle Tony Brown (knee) out, Sen’Derrick Marks will start and Amon Gordon is active. And with receiver Justin Gage (hamstring) out and Kenny Britt not starting for disciplinary reasons, Damian Williams will start.

The Titans inactive list:

QB Rusty Smith, WR Justin Gage, CB Jason McCourty, S Robert Johnson, LB Rennie Curran, OL Troy Kropog, G Ryan Durand, DT Tony Brown.

The Eagles inactive list:

QB Michael Vick, WR DeSean Jackson, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Trevard Lindley, LB Keenan Clayton, T Jason Peters, TE Clay Harbor, DT Brodrick Bunkley.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

How the Texans respond to the Dallas game will tell us a lot, says John McLain.

The Texans are a week away from Brian Cushing’s return and he’s super-motivated according to Cushing’s trainer, says Jerome Solomon.

Houston’s got to crank up the defense, says Jeffrey Martin.

Andre Johnson is in limbo, says Dale Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

Speed is essential, especially in the Colts’ scheme, says Phil Richards.

Who’s the fastest Colt? “I am,” say several guys. Good idea from Richards.

Pondering Peyton Manning’s longevity, with Bob Kravitz.

With touchdown catches in the first three games, Austin Collie joined exclusive company.

A look at the matchups from Richards.

Daniel Muir considers himself a king of the kitchen, says Mike Chappell.

John Oehser wonders if Manning can keep this up.

Jason Whitlock looks at the racial makeup of the Colts offense last week.

Eighteen things to look for in Colts-Jaguars, from Nate Dunlevy.

The University of Tennessee named a classroom after Peyton Manning.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Manning is at his best against the Jaguars, says Tania Ganguli.

Deji Karim is ready to do some returning, but it’s unclear if he’ll go this week, says Vito Stellino.

Maurice Jones-Drew is trying to keep a cheery outlook, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Stellino and Ganguli preview the game. (Video.)

The difference between the Jaguars of 2007 and 2010 from Vic Ketchman.

Jones-Drew is the spark the Jaguars need to get going in this game, says Ketchman.

The Jaguars have to force the Colts to run it, says Alfie Crow.

“What I am seeing is an accumulating pile of evidence that talent evaluation and player [judgment] is seriously flawed in our team,” says Terry O’Brien.

Tennessee Titans

Chuck Cecil is helping the Titans defense gain a reputation as tough, says Jim Wyatt.

The Titans might look to lighten the load of Chris Johnson with Javon Ringer, says John Glennon and Wyatt.

The guy to compare Vince Young to in his fifth year is Steve McNair, says David Climer.

Brett Kern’s happy about the way things have worked out, says Wyatt.

The Titans are looking forward to Gerald McRath’s return, says Glennon.

Tony Brown isn’t the first guy Jeff Fisher’s rested during the week and used on Sunday, says David Boclair.

As Fisher prepares for his 250th game as the head of the Titans, Bob McClellan wonders if there is a Hall of Fame candidacy.
There is room for sentiment in the NFL. Not as much in the AFC South blog.

I generally try to steer clear of the predictable storyline about a guy playing against his old team. But on occasion it does qualify as a big deal. Keith Bulluck was drafted by the Titans in 2000 and over 10 years became wildly popular with his coaches, Titans fans and Nashville media, including yours truly.

[+] EnlargeBulluck
AP Photo/Evan PinkusGiants linebacker Keith Bulluck "misses the fans" in Tennessee.
Pick one name and one face for the Tennessee defense since the franchise’s 1999 conversion into the Titans, and he’s it.

Sunday, he will line up against the Titans as a member of the New York Giants, though we don’t know for sure what his role will be. I expect way less nickel and dime than New York played against Indy, which should mean much more Bulluck.

He said his reconstructed knee feels great and he’s determined to continue to earn a big role for the Giants.

Tony Brown and Stephen Tulloch both said Bulluck was an irreplaceable invaluable leader for the Titans who helped them a great deal when they arrived in Tennessee, and they are trying to meet his standards for production.

I had the good fortune of reconnecting with Bulluck Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium after the Colts beat the Giants.

Here are the on-the-record highlights of that conversation:

Are you missing anything about Nashville?

"I miss the fans. I miss my house. I miss my friends, mostly. But all that stuff, after the season, I can get right back in touch with it. I still have my house there. I haven’t even thought about selling it yet. I put a lot of time into it, so I need to get some time out of it. Nashville is a great spot. Have a townhouse here. That was a bachelor pad for a while in Nashville, but now it’s a house. So it’s kind of weird. I went from 7,000 square feet to 2,200 square feet in New Jersey. It’s like 15 minutes from work, just like Brentwood. Same commute."

What will this game be like for you?

"It’s going to be great. I’m going to have fun. I’m going to have a great time. We just came off this not so good loss, so we’re all going to be amped up for next week… I don’t really think about those guys. I always check the score, just to see win-loss, but I know they’re going to be alright with the work they put in in the offseason and with the approach they’ve always had down there. I know Tully [Tulloch] is playing well, he’s captain and he deserves it. I saw them in the preseason against Carolina because we played them and in the game that was on TV, Arizona. He’s running around playing well. I keep my ears to the street."

Do you worry for Vince Young that he’s still not established as the unquestioned guy there?

"I just worry for him that they’re not going to let him get settled. You take him out Sunday? I don’t know. That’s their problem. We could definitely have a conversation about that."

What are you looking forward to the most about this game?

"Playing against the best running back in the league. I’ve always prided myself on getting the opportunity to play against the best players. I’ve had a chance to play against Adrian Peterson, I played against Emmitt Smith. CJ is the best running back in the league. I’m definitely looking forward to that opportunity. I’m glad Pittsburgh broke his streak of 100 yard games or we would have had to do it."

Against Veldheer, Titans hope for leverage

September, 9, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The most intriguing matchup I see in Raiders-Titans Sunday will be right in the middle of the field: Oakland’s center, Jared Veldheer against Titans defensive tackles like Jason Jones and Jovan Haye.


Well Veldheer is a rookie, he played at Hillsdale College and he’s 6-foot-8.

When’s the last time the Titans’ interior guys saw a 6-8 center?

“Probably in the NBA,” Haye said. “He’s not your prototypical center, so it’ll be a good challenge. He’s a rookie. First game, I’m pretty sure he’ll be amped up. He’s a big boy. Normally, centers don’t come that big, they’re 6-1, 6-2.”

“I’ve never seen a 6-8 center,” said Jason Jones, who was explosive and disruptive throughout the preseason. “[D-line coach Jim] Washburn wrote that on our board and I was like, ‘6-8? That’s a typo.’ You see them at tackle, maybe guard. Not center.”

At 6-5, Jones is the Titans tallest interior lineman. Tony Brown is 6-2. Sen’Derrick Marks and Haye are 6-2.

Players are coaches that the guy who’s able to stay low and get under the opponent wins, putting him off balance and gaining the ability to move him.

But Haye said we shouldn't assume just because Veldheer can naturally be higher that he will be and that the Titans will consistently be able to tip him over.

“It’s all leverage and quickness at the end of the day,” he said. “Sometimes being the small guy ain’t the worst thing and we’re a small team with small guys great at playing with leverage ...

"You can’t necessarily say it’s easy to win leverage against him. He might be 6-8 and play 5-9, you never know. We just have to play under them, they are a big O-line.”