AFC South: Trai Essex

Injury-report implications

September, 21, 2012
Implications from the injury reports around the AFC South …

Indianapolis remains without inside linebacker Pat Angerer and guard Joe Reitz. Jerrell Freeman’s been a great fill-in for the defense, but Reitz’s replacement, Seth Olsen, is poor. Dwight Freeney, Cory Redding and Mike McGlynn are all questionable. Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison would work for Freeney, Ricardo Mathews probably for Redding and Trai Essex for McGlynn. Big drop-offs all.

Jacksonville will be without left guard Eben Britton, which means another start for Herb Taylor. Daryl Smith will miss his third game, putting Kyle Bosworth into the lineup as an outside linebacker. Cameron Bradfield is questionable, and should be an upgrade at right tackle if he can play and push Guy Whimper back to the bench. Cornerback Derek Cox is probable and should be a boon to the pass defense.

Tennessee will be without middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, a defensive captain. The Titans also have two questionable players on the interior defensive line: Sen’Derrick Marks and rookie Mike Martin. If both are out it’ll mean more snaps for undrafted rookie DaJohn Harris. Detroit tight end Tony Scheffler is doubtful. If he’s out the Lions could play less two-tight or use reserve Will Heller. Strong safety Louis Delmas is also doubtful. His backup is John Wendling.

Houston is quite healthy. Backup inside linebacker Tim Dobbins is questionable. Denver right guard Chris Kuper is out and Manny Ramirez is in line to replace him.

Notes from coaches' news conferences

September, 17, 2012
Notes out of coaches’ Monday news conferences:

Houston Texans: Gary Kubiak has no major injuries to report on. Reserve outside linebacker and special teamer Bryan Braman could be back from his hamstring injury this week. The Texans intend to continue to rotate Ben Jones with Antoine Caldwell at right guard. Kubiak is not concerned with the altitude in Denver, and he has plenty of insight having played and coached in the city.

Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano said the knee injury that forced center Samson Satele out of the game doesn’t look too bad. "It looks positive in our favor," Pagano said. "He feels really good." Indy shifted Mike McGlynn from guard to center and inserted new comer Trai Essex in McGlynn’s spot.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey said linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) won’t play in Indianapolis. But quarterback Blaine Gabbert (backside strain) is in line to be back in action against the Colts. Guard Eben Britton (ankle) is ahead of right tackle Cameron Bradfield in injury recovery. Cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) will get increased work and, like Britton, looks to have a chance to play Sunday.

Tennessee Titans: Mike Munchak said defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) and running back Javon Ringer (elbow) should practice this week, but indicated it could be several more weeks for middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle). Despite major coverage issues, Munchak said that Michael Griffin and Robert Johnson as the best combination for the Titans at safety.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

For the second week in a row the Texans beat a weak sister from Florida, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle.

The Texans did what they were supposed to do: easily handle a middling team. John McClain’s story from the Chronicle.

A 17-play touchdown drive in the third quarter signaled that the Texans had retaken control and weren’t going to be denied, says McClain.

A confident J.J. Watt and the Texans defense performed to their potential, says Jerome Solomon of the Chronicle.

The Texans' one-two punch of Arian Foster and Ben Tate worked just like they expect it to, says Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle.

Houston’s defense was hardly on the field, says Jeff Elliott of the Chronicle.

The Texans' muddle huddle was a success and strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith got a game ball for having the Texans ready, says Elliott.

Houston’s run game was so good, they hardly had to use stud receiver Andre Johnson, says Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.

Indianapolis Colts

Bob Kravitz’s column off the game in the Indianapolis Star: “Even after the Colts' understandably conservative offense had fallen on hard times throughout the second half, even after all those three-and-outs, coach Chuck Pagano, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the staff felt comfortable putting it in the hands of a quarterback who turned 23 years old last week. The result: A Colts' last-second 23-20 victory, the first victory of the [Andrew] Luck era.”

Avoiding 0-2 was big for this young team, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

A knee injury to starting center Samson Satele meant Mike McGlynn moved to center and Trai Essex took over at right guard, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Bulletproof Adam Vinatieri saved the day for the Colts, says Phil Richards of the Star.

Kravitz’s report card ranges from A to D.

With this interactive feature from the Star, you can compare Luck to other quarterbacks.

Luck shined in the clutch, says Dunlevy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville was simply manhandled by the Texans, says Ran O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “People will judge us by what they see,” guard Uche Nwaneri said.

The Jaguars’ optimism was washed away with one of the most dismal performances in franchise history, says Gene Frenette of the T-U.

Blaine Gabbert took a step back before leaving the game with an injury, says Vito Stellino of the T-U.

With Andre Johnson well covered, the Texans simply turned to other weapons, says Garry Smits of the T-U.

Injuries on the offensive line meant a start for left guard Herb Taylor, says Stellino.

Frenette passes out F's to run offense, pass offense and coaching.

This team isn’t deep enough to survive its current injuries, says Luke Sims of Black & Teal.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans need to make some major adjustments, and soon, writes David Climer of The Tennessean. “With their defensive shortcomings, the Titans aren’t going to scratch out any 13-10 victories. They might as well ditch the idea of establishing the run and instead put the ball in (Jake) Locker’s hands and see where that takes them.”

The Titans don’t want to be known for this, but so far they’ve got no traction this season. Jim Wyatt’s game story from The Tennessean.

Tennessee made a third-string tight end, Dante Rosario, look like an all-star, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Sustaining drives was a virtual impossibility for the Titans’ offense, says Glennon.

Poor execution means “the run game ain’t working,” Chris Johnson told Wyatt and Glennon.

Assessing the injury reports

September, 14, 2012
What we know about Sunday’s lineups based on Friday’s injury reports:
  • Jacksonville will be without outside linebacker Daryl Smith, right tackle Cameron Bradfield, running back Rashad Jennings, defensive ends Austen Lane and George Selvie. Smith is a big absence, especially considering the way the Jaguars struggled to tackle. Corner Derek Cox (hamstring) is questionable and could help in that department as well. Left guard Eben Britton (ankle) is also questionable. With Bradfield out, we’ll see Guy Whimper (or, if they surprise us, waiver claim Troy Kropog) on the right side. Undrafted rookie interior lineman Mike Brewster wasn’t bad last week when called into duty.
  • The Texans have 12 players listed as probable and are in pretty good shape. Outside linebacker Bryan Braman (hamstring) is questionable. His absence could affect special teams, but barring injuries to front-liners it won’t affect the defense.
  • The Titans will be without play-making middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle), with Will Witherspoon shifting to the middle and Zach Brown and/or Zac Diles on the weakside. They should get much-improved defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks back from a knee injury. San Diego won’t have nickel corner Shareece Wright and will use Mike Harris at left tackle with Jared Gaither (back) out. Harris should mean a favorable matchup for pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley.
  • Dwight Freeney is out for the Colts, which means Jerry Hughes and perhaps Mario Addison will work as the rush linebacker in the 3-4. Major drop off. Left guard Joe Reitz (knee) is out again, so we could see Seth Olsen again or newcomer Trai Essex. T.Y. Hilton is probable and should get some return work as well as receiver snaps. Austin Collie, still coming back from a concussion, had a setback and is doubtful. The Vikings don’t have anyone listed as a starter categorized as worse than probable.

Final Word: AFC South

September, 14, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:

[+] EnlargeAnthony Castonzo
AP Photo/Tom GannamThe Colts' Anthony Castonzo has a rather tough assignment on Sunday -- contain the Vikings' Jared Allen.
Line makeup: We came into the week thinking Colts newcomer Trai Essex could take over for Winston Justice at right tackle, but Justice seems to have bounced back from the concussion he suffered Sunday in Chicago. He’s practicing and it’s left guard Joe Reitz who remains a question. Seth Olsen is not a quality replacement, and Essex is versatile enough to play either guard or tackle spot. Perhaps he replaces Olsen rather than Justice? The No. 1 question on the offensive line will be how left tackle Anthony Castonzo can do against end Jared Allen, who was largely held in check last week by Jacksonville’s Eugene Monroe.

Line makeup, II: The Jaguars are banged up in a big way on the offensive line. Starting right tackle Cameron Bradfield and starting left guard Eben Britton could both miss the game with ankle injuries, which would mean Guy Whimper or waiver claim Troy Kropog at right tackle and undrafted rookie Mike Brewster at left guard. That’s hardly an ideal scenario against the Texans’ swarming front. It looks like a big mismatch. But often what looks like a big mismatch in a divisional game during the preparation week doesn’t turn out to be the major issue.

Struggling in Cali: The Titans have lost eight in a row against the Chargers, dating all the way to 1993. San Diego’s 3-4 front has given Tennessee problems in recent years, and first-round draft pick Melvin Ingram, an outside linebacker, is a part of packages that will be another complicated thing for Jake Locker to sort through. The quarterback will be playing with a banged-up left (non-throwing) shoulder. But he will be throwing against a banged-up secondary too, so if he can get protection he may be able to find plays downfield with Kenny Britt back in the lineup.

Playing stout: The Colts allowed 3.5 yards a carry in their season-opening loss to the Bears. That wasn’t as bad as some of us anticipated it could be. But Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson will be a different level of challenge. He found the end zone twice in his first game back with a reconstructed knee in the Vikings' win over Jacksonville. The Colts remains susceptible to the run and are going to get tested. If and when they can get the Vikings into tough passing downs, will Dwight Freeney be available to chase Christian Ponder? If his ankle injury holds him out, the Colts are then deficient in that area as well, which would be bad news.

Improvement: Good teams respond to week-to-week problems. Texans coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t pleased with the way his team ran the ball and the way it performed on special teams, even though it posted a 20-point win over Miami in the opener. His players should respond to points of emphasis and show improvement in those areas. Jacksonville’s big point of emphasis has been better tackling, and it will need to wrap up the likes of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson to have a chance in this game. Outside linebacker Daryl Smith would be a boon, but he looks unlikely to make it back from a groin/abdomen injury. If corner Derek Cox is back from his hamstring problem, coverage should be a strong suit.

RTC: Is Shorts ready to break out?

September, 13, 2012
Reading the coverage …

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak gained even more of a feel for Maurice Jones-Drew when he coached him in the Pro Bowl, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Arian Foster left practice Wednesday because he was sick, says Tania Ganguli of the Chron.

How did the Texans use Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean? Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report takes a detailed look.

Indianapolis Colts

“There's no question the Colts need a player with (Trai) Essex's pedigree,” writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star about the new offensive lineman in town. “He's 29, in his eighth NFL season and spread his 75 career regular-season appearances -- all with the Pittsburgh Steelers -- among guard, tackle and center. He's been to three Super Bowls and was part of two world championships.”

The Colts run defense is bracing for another big challenge, this time in the form of Adrian Peterson, says Conrad Brunner of 1070 The Fan.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Though it didn’t win the game, the late TD catch by Cecil Shorts in Minnesota was a major sign that he’s ready to take a major step, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Derek Cox is staying optimistic, says Ryan O’Halloran of the T-U. The Jaguars need Cox this weekend and they need him to end his string of injuries.

How did the Jaguars lose to Minnesota? Dunlevy thinks safety Dawan Landry may have screwed up on a crucial play.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker and Kenny Britt have never played in a game together, but the hope is they’ll develop quick chemistry when they finally do on Sunday in San Diego, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Locker (left shoulder) should be ready to go, but it doesn’t look as good for middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle), says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Colts have options if RT Justice is out

September, 11, 2012
Winston Justice is coming off a concussion suffered in Chicago and wasn’t playing particularly well at right tackle for the Colts before he was hurt.

Holdover Jeff Linkenbach took over for him against the Bears.

He may be in the spot Sunday versus Minnesota. But the Colts are trying to give themselves more options on the line. They signed veteran lineman Trai Essex, who played under coordinator Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh, and signed Bradley Sowell off of the practice squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sowell, 6-7, 320 pounds, is in his rookie season after being signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss.

Essex played seven seasons with the Steelers. He also brings good size at 6-4, 324. The Colts put him at backup left guard on their unofficial depth chart, but he’s played both guard and tackle.

Said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.: “Pretty much the beauty of Essex is that he is tough and very versatile -- being able to play four positions. Arians will be very familiar with him so overall, this signing makes a lot of sense. The problem is that he really doesn’t play any of the positions particularly well at all and isn’t really suited for one over the other.”

Will we see a new starter at right tackle Sunday?

I’m guessing Justice either won’t be ready or that the Colts can protect him and see a chance to make a change at the same time.

My guess is we see Linkenbach, with only an outside chance of Essex. Sowell will need some time to learn what the Colts do.
Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

Cornerback Jacques Reeves wasn't great, but he was better than a lot of fans thought, blogs John McClain.

Megan Manfull says the Texans are counting on a big Year 3 jump from Amobi Okoye.

Lance Zierlein ponders Andre Smith.

Indianapolis Colts

John Oehser says don't wait on the Colts to re-sign Marvin Harrison or Edgerrin James, if James gets out of Arizona.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Gene Frenette makes the case for the Jaguars to trade down in the first round.

Charges against free-agent receiver Reggie Williams have been dropped, reports Michael C. Wright.

Tennessee Titans

The National Football Post says a trade that would have sent Torry Holt to the Titans fell apart. I expect Tennessee will show interest now that Holt's been release, but if he wouldn't restructure his contract for a trade, he's likely going to have to reassess his value if he's to land in Nashville.

Free-agent offensive tackle Trai Essex visited the Titans Friday, says Terry McCormick. The Titans need a backup tackle after losing Daniel Loper as a free agent to Detroit.