AFC South: William Vlachos

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Houston Texans

Kicker Randy Bullock didn’t get his chance because of a torn groin, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

The Texans made their first round of roster moves, and it included putting linebacker Daryl Sharpton on PUP, says McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

Excerpts of what Chuck Pagano had to say after the Colts traded for Miami cornerback Vontae Davis, from the Indy Star.

Davis gives the Colts a fast, physical corner who’s only 24 says Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.

The Dolphins' trade of Davis leaves David Hyde of the Florida Sun-Sentinel asking if coach Joe Philbin is shrewd enough.

Considering Stanford after Andrew Luck, with Matt Brown of Sports on Earth.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Cameron Bradfield’s worked his way up and is now the Jaguars’ starting right tackle, says Vito Stellino.

Laurent Robinson’s troubles so far are just as much the fault of Blaine Gabbert, says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Clinton Portis sees Maurice Jones-Drew as the league’s last every-down back and thinks MJD deserves a new deal, says Vito Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

Receiver Lavelle Hawkins had a quiet camp, says Jim Wyatt and John Glennon of The Tennessean.

The Titans' first wave of roster cuts included undrafted center William Vlachos out of Alabama, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The Titans soon have to make a decision on defensive end Dave Ball, says Glennon.
The rule about an early, unofficial depth chart: At many spots, it doesn’t mean a lot.

Still we have an initial guide of how players are likely to be deployed in early practices.

So here are some notes :
  • Rather than listing Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker as joint first-teamers, the incumbent veteran is listed as the No. 1 with Locker on the second team. That’s completely appropriate and says nothing about the competition they are both entering.
  • The starting offense here is two-back, which means fullback Quinn Johnson is a starter and tight end Jared Cook is the No. 2 tight end. But he’ll be on the field as much or more than "starter" Craig Stevens, and the Titans will be in two-tight plenty as well. Hopefully far more than two-back.
  • Damian Williams is listed as No. 2 behind Kenny Britt, with Kendall Wright third. That’s typical for rookie placement on a depth chart like this. Lavelle Hawkins is second to Nate Washington on the other side.
  • Same goes for defensive tackle Mike Martin (listed third), who can certainly pressure second-teamer Shaun Smith.
  • Newly signed Aaron Francisco is the No. 2 strong safety behind Jordan Babineaux.
  • Jon Cooper, a third-year center out of Oklahoma, is listed as the third-stringer behind Eugene Amano and Kevin Matthews, but he's ahead of undrafted rookie William Vlachos from Alabama. Again, likely a seniority/ experience thing.
  • Undrafted tight end Beau Brinkley is the one rookie listed in a “starting” slot. He’s the team’s top long-snapper right now, with Fernando Velasco behind him.

I did mention we shouldn't read too much into this, right?
Steve Hutchinson/Eugene AmanoUS PresswireThe Titans' Eugene Amano, right, should benefit greatly by working with Steve Hutchinson in 2012.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Though he played poorly last year and the Titans brought a parade of potential veteran replacements through town during free agency, Eugene Amano remains in place as the Titans' center.

He had surgery on his right knee and left ankle, and said the knee hampered him all of last season. He recently returned to action, and better health should help him if he retains his spot.

But even more significant is the new guy who will line up to his left, veteran guard Steve Hutchinson.

“He’s the glue of that offensive line right now,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. “He’s a veteran that’s played a lot of snaps, he knows how to play the game and I think he settles everyone down up front…

“I’ve been very, very pleased with the run game in OTAs and minicamp, we’ve done a good job there. It looks like we’re in sync, all five guys are working well together and I’m anxious to get the pads on when we get back for camp.”

While the Titans offered QB Matt Hasselbeck excellent protection last season, the run game crumbled. Chris Johnson’s effort was ultimately questionable, but he wasn’t finding any room consistently and the ground effort ranked 31st in the league.

Coach Mike Munchak talked about how it was a collective problem that couldn’t be pinned on one or two people: Johnson didn’t always make the right decisions, the offensive line had some communication issues, the fullback and tight ends had busted plays, too. There were different mistakes on different plays and far too few cleanly executed run snaps.

Still, the way the Titans addressed personnel suggested things they thought should be fixed. Fullback Ahmard Hall is gone -- the Titans will go with Quinn Johnson or Collin Mooney. Right guard Jake Scott hit free agency and they didn’t discuss bringing him back. Leroy Harris is flipping to that side to accommodate Hutchinson, who's always been on the left.

And the Titans courted veteran centers Scott Wells, Chris Myers, Jeff Saturday and Dan Koppen but didn’t land one of them and continue to back Amano. His competition is Kevin Matthews, an undrafted free agent from 2010, and William Vlachos, an undrafted rookie.

Hutchinson’s arrival gives the Titans several things.

[+] EnlargeSteve Hutchinson
Icon SMINot only does Hutchinson push people around in the trenches, the Titans say the veteran has helped this offseason with his effort and communication skills.
In 12 seasons with Seattle and Minnesota, he’s seen it all. He’s a standard-setter at practices already. He’s helped solve communication troubles. And the team hopes that he can help Amano the way Kevin Mawae did, back when Mawae was the veteran center and Amano played guard.

Working under two Hall of Fame offensive linemen, Munchak and line coach Bruce Matthews, Hutchinson will now work to spread their messages.

Munchak said he loves the way Hutchinson runs from drill to drill and practice period to practice period. The guard does not pace himself in the early practice offensive line period, but always goes full speed.

“Guys see that and realize that’s the standard,” Munchak said. “That happens automatically. They’re going to be better players just because they see how a guy that’s had success does it.”

Said Amano: “It gives you motivation to keep up with the old guy.”

Munchak talks disappointedly about the communication problems that were a piece of the run struggles last season. He coached the offensive line for 14 seasons before he became head coach last season.

“That’s the first time in awhile we’ve had some of those issues," he said. "That’s something when you have another veteran in there you’re going to have guys that really get along well. The things they’re doing, the adjustments they are making, the calls they are making -- it’s so much ahead of where you think they’d be this time of year.”

That’s not only about line calls and adjustments that linemen need to analyze correctly and communicate clearly, Hutchison said, but about a degree of non-verbal communication and understanding the group has to have.

And the defenses the Titans face are increasingly unpredictable up front. In the AFC South, the Texans changed to a 3-4 last season and the Colts are making the switch this year. It used to be clear where guys like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis would be. Now there will be mystery to it as Indianapolis tries to create confusion.

In considering the Titans’ run blocking, I wrote recently that they don’t necessarily have to be a top-flight rushing offense in order to be a good team. A great pass-blocking unit that’s middle of the pack as a run offense can be good enough overall to win.

Hutchinson and the Titans aren’t going to co-sign that thinking.

They’ll strive for balance and want to execute every play the way it’s drawn up. But he did say there is only so much an offense can do.

“You’d like to be great at both, but there are only so many offensive yards you can get a game,” he said. “If you’re throwing the ball for 300-plus yards a game, you’re not going to run the ball that much. If you have the ball for 45 minutes in a game and running for 200 yards on the ground, you’re not going to throw the ball that much.

“You strive for a good balance of both, you want to be good at both. But you just want to get the yards, you want to win the game.”

AFC South links: Colts pining for Luck

May, 17, 2012
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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 NFL.com.

AFC South links: MJD wants extension

May, 16, 2012
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Houston Texans

The Texans don't plan to hand the starting kicker's spot to rookie Randy Bullock, drafted out of Texas A&M in the fifth round. Rather, special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano told SportsRadio 610, Bullock will have to beat out veteran Shayne Graham. "He has to compete to make the team first," Marciano said, per the team's official site. "If he can beat Shayne out, then I think he’s going to be very good for us."

Defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo, a free-agent signee from BYU, hopes to impress coaches during upcoming rookie camps. “I’m excited to compete with a top-notch offense and defense,” Fangupo said. “I’m ready to learn all I can from coaches and players, and I believe being able to compete with such great players can help my game tremendously.”

Indianapolis Colts

Owner Jim Irsay, on Twitter, said he sees the franchise "taking shape" and that the Colts' defensive front seven "could impress" in the new 3-4 defensive scheme.

Indianapolis grabbed tight end Andre Smith off waivers from the Bears; he's expected to be part of new coordinator Bruce Arians' five-tight end offense, Brad Wells notes for Stampede Blue. The Colts also waived cornerback Mike Holmes.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, absent from the Jaguars' voluntary workouts, wants a contract extension, coach Mike Mularkey said. "I wish he was here. He knows we wish he was here," Mularkey said. "His teammates have talked to him about it. It's a personal decision. There's nothing I can do about it."

Tuesday's first day of organized team activities saw Jacksonville's first-round draft pick, receiver Justin Blackmon, going full speed with quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the first team, according to the Jags' official site. A sore foot that bothered Blackmon during rookie minicamps seems to have been helped by new cleats.

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton apologized Tuesday for the club incident last month in which he suffered an eye injury that has kept him out of offseason workouts. Knighton said the vision in his injured eye has improved substantially. “It’s progressing a lot faster than they thought it would,” Knighton said. “I plan on being ready by training camp."

Tennessee Titans

A number of players, including quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, have signed on for coach Mike Munchak's "Strikes to Stop Diabetes" charity bowling event, set for June 14. The tournament will pair a Titans player or coach with a four-person team, with proceeds going to the American Diabetes Association, the team's site reports.

Center William Vlachos, a free-agent signee from Alabama, has been impressed with the Titans' O-line after doing some film study. “I've been watching film for a couple days and my jaw's on the floor,” Vlachos said. “They're just so physical, the effort they bring every play is outstanding.”

Notable undrafted additions

May, 2, 2012
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Undrafted rookie free agency is a crapshoot.

But odds are good that at least a couple of players out of each AFC South class will have staying power.

Pat Kirwin of NFL.com thinks Jaguars center Mike Brewster and Titans center William Vlachos will be two of those guys.

Rob Rang of The Sports Xchange and CBSSports.com likes a bunch of defensive linemen: nose guard Chigbo Anunoby of the Colts, nose guard of Hebron Fangupo of the Texans, defensive tackle DaJohn Harris of the Titans as well as outside linebacker Delano Johnson of the Titans.

Meanwhile Todd McShay of ESPN lists 10 undrafted signees he likes in this Insider file, but doesn’t include anyone who landed in the AFC South.

I've not scouted any of these guys, I confess. But when I see teams on the field we'll check back in on who looks good and who's creating any buzz.

Spots that still need attention

April, 30, 2012
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The draft is over, the rosters are filled up.

But what areas weren’t sufficiently addressed and where can we expect to see the teams of the AFC South continue to seek help?

Some thoughts.

Houston Texans

Veteran corner Jason Allen left as a free agent. He helped the Texans cover for Kareem Jackson, who played just 55.73 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2011.

Brandon Harris was a second-round pick out of Miami last year, but didn’t show anything. The Texans look to be counting on him to contribute more. They like Brice McCain, but he's a situational guy.

But corner is a spot where the Texans need some additional depth at the very least.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts loaded their roster with offensive players -- eight of 10 draft picks went on that side of the ball.

The defensive picks were on the defensive line.

Which means the Colts still have a ton of work to do in the defensive backfield.

Jerraud Powers is a quality corner and a good leader. But after him, there are no proven corners on the roster. Is the second starter Chris Rucker? Kevin Thomas? Mike Holmes? Brandon King?

That’s not a great group to be choosing from. Look for team to give some undrafted rookies a chance and grab a veteran or two as guys come free during camp cuts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars believe a healthy Eben Britton will help fortify their offensive line and he should.

But they don’t have sufficient depth on the offensive line and should create a situation where there is more real competition.

They re-signed Guy Whimper, who is a swing tackle at best and had some bad stretches last season. They like John Estes as a reserve center, but it would be nice to have someone to compete with him for the right to take over for Brad Meester.

Tennessee Titans

The team has sent major mixed signals about its offensive line.

Tennessee courted all the top centers in free agency but did not land one. And then they didn't draft an offensive lineman. Coach Mike Munchak said it wasn’t a dire need and the team can win with what it has.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reports that among the team’s undrafted rookies is William Vlachos. Perhaps the center from Alabama can scramble the mix. But the Titans should still be adding options on the interior.

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