AFC South: Aaron Ross

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one offseason move each team in the AFC South needed to make but didn't.

Houston Texans: They still have time to extend Brian Cushing and Antonio Smith, so I can’t say they regret not having done so yet. I think they will be OK at linebacker. They aren’t going to be eight-deep the way owner Bob McNair naively suggested they should have been last year when injuries thinned the group. They are counting on two college defensive ends converting to outside linebackers (Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams). A veteran addition like Daryl Smith or Karlos Dansby could have offered assurances, but such a player could have overstuffed the group.

Indianapolis Colts: Sean Smith got roughly $2 million more over three years in Kansas City than the Colts gave to Greg Toler. Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have made largely solid personnel choices, so they get the benefit of the doubt on Toler at the start. But Smith is roughly 3 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, and he has been more durable than Toler. I’ll be comparing the two going forward. If not that move, how about Brent Grimes over Darius Butler? Grimes would have been more expensive but could have been a second or third cornerback if he fully recovers from his Achilles injury. I fear they could regret not doing more at cornerback.

Jacksonville Jaguars: For a team that moved on from Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Aaron Ross, the Jaguars had a lot of work to do to restock at cornerback. Alan Ball and Marcus Trufant are not good enough veteran answers to surround and supplement three draft picks. Sean Smith is the sort of bigger corner the Jags like and could have upgraded the position. And he’s just 26, so he would have fit the team’s desire to be young. He got a three-year, $16.5 million deal, which is probably a bit rich, and the Jags would have had to go further. But they’ve got a ton of money and could have spent more while still being very fiscally responsible.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans will rush the passer better with some new people and the influence of Gregg Williams. But defensive end Michael Bennett could have been had at a reasonable price and, as a bigger defensive end, he would have been a better addition than Ropati Pitoitua. Bennett went to Seattle for a one-year, $4.8 million deal. The Titans wouldn’t have been as attractive a destination as Seattle, but they could have gotten Bennett with a multiyear deal. Are Pitoitua and fifth-rounder Lavar Edwards enough to boost the pass-rush production and fortify the run-stopping at end?
In early March, I outlined a five-category plan for offseason moves for each team in the AFC South.

I considered finances, continuity, turnover, additions and the draft.

Today we’ll look back to see how my plan and the team’s offseason lined up and how they didn’t.

Next up are the Jaguars. Here’s the original post.

What I got right:

Turnover: "Allow the rest of the free-agent class to hit the market and wish it well. If a player like defensive tackle Terrance Knighton or fullback Greg Jones doesn’t find what he wants out there and remains available later, consider an offer down the road."

Knighton is in Denver. Jones is in Houston.

Draft: “The No. 2 spot is a toughie, because clear choices at the top of this draft have not emerged. There is defensive line talent, however, and the pass rush is a longstanding issue the new regime is inheriting. That first pick needs to be able to rush the passer or be a long-term fixture on the offensive line. Needs are so wide-ranging, there are few spots the Jaguars need to avoid. Although I'm not happy with the quarterback situation, I would not feel I had to have another one unless I saw a real value in the second or third round.”

In Luke Joeckel they got the long-term fixture on the offensive line, and they did steer clear of drafting a quarterback.

What I got wrong:

Finances: “The Jaguars have about $24 million in salary-cap room, so they don’t have a huge issue. But they are carrying several contracts that are too hefty. Laurent Robinson is overpaid, but they are a year into his deal and unlikely to bail. Tight end Marcedes Lewis and guard Uche Nwaneri are too costly, both due base salaries of more than $4 million this season. Linebacker Paul Posluszny ($6.5 million base), Dawan Landry ($5.4 million) and cornerback Aaron Ross ($3.75 million) are also costly. I’d make no money moves until my coaches have time with the team on the field for a thorough assessment and see some of the alternatives brought in.”

They didn’t wait to make money moves, parting ways with Robinson, Landry and Ross in short order.

Continuity: "Re-sign outside linebacker Daryl Smith. He’s been a very solid player for the franchise, and because he was hurt for 14 games last season, his price is going to be discounted. Re-sign cornerback Derek Cox, ideally to an incentive-laden deal tied to his availability. Hope he’ll give you a chance to match if someone else gives him a better offer. He’s a great player but it’s hard to invest in a guy who misses so much time."

They had zero interest in Smith, who wound up in Baltimore. Cox might have been of interest, but the Chargers got him with a four-year, $20 million deal with $10.5 million guaranteed.

Additions: "I’d shop more aggressively than I expect the Jaguars will, based on how they’ve spoken about free agency, but I will try to stick to their parameters here. Seattle defensive tackle Alan Branch was a key piece of the defense Gus Bradley ran for the Seahawks, and new coaches typically like bringing in a guy or two who know how they will operate. I want to make at least one statement signing that addresses a big area of concern. If Sebastian Vollmer’s back checks out, he’d be my guy. He’s a top right tackle who’s been part of a successful franchise in New England. From there, I’d pursue a few more affordable types: one of two cornerbacks, Greg Toler from Arizona or Bradley Fletcher of St. Louis, and a defensive end who’s still young and has some versatility, William Hayes, also of St. Louis."

I don’t believe they showed even a degree of interest in any of the five players I listed. I can say it was hard to predict what Dave Caldwell was going to do as a first-time GM, but this is what I would have done, not necessarily what I expected they would do.

Numbers show Jags' needs at DE, CB

April, 23, 2013
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We’ve been looking at some statistical evidence that shows off team needs, and the numbers ESPN Stats and Info shared on the Jaguars are very telling.

While they have needs all over the place as they rebuild, they really need help with their pass rush and pass coverage.

On 80 percent of opponent dropbacks in 2012, the Jaguars used four or fewer pass-rushers. That was the fifth-highest in the NFL. But the Jaguars weren’t using standard pressure because it was working. They averaged a sack once every 32.9 dropbacks, worst in the NFL. The Raiders were second at 29.3.

Even as they added Jason Babin near the end of the season, they need a dynamic pass-rusher.

The reason they didn’t blitz more was because of the shaky personnel in the secondary. And since the new regime took over, they’ve parted with or declined to have back cornerbacks Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Aaron Ross as well as strong safety Dawan Landry.

Even with those players, Jacksonville’s defense struggled to defend passes along the sidelines. No team had fewer interceptions outside the painted field numbers than the Jaguars’ two. In the same territory, the team was tied for 30th in completion percentage (61.3), tied for 30th in total QBR allowed (82.9) and tied for 26th in yards per attempt (7.4).

So cornerback is a huge priority too.

If the Jaguars don’t find quality help in the pass rush as the coverage and improve only one area, the other may still not be strong enough even with the help at the other end.

A new scheme should help. But the opinion here is players make schemes far more than schemes make player.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Matt Schaub on Ed Reed: “I’ve been across from him enough to know what kind of player he is and what he brings to the defense. He can still play at an exceptional level. The leadership and knowledge he brings to the locker room can help everyone play at a higher level." John McClain spoke with Schaub in advance of his upcoming fundraiser.

In his second mock draft, McClain has the Texans taking Baylor receiver Terrance Williams.

To which I say: It may be worth noting that McClain’s a Baylor guy.

Indianapolis Colts

Quinn Pitcock ranks as the Colts’ eighth-worst draft pick, while Antoine Bethea holds spot No. 9 on the list of the best, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star.

Looking at long-term needs means considering who’s heading into contract years in 2013, says Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority.

To which I say: While this is an important piece of the overall equation, the Colts also have to anticipate the value of some of the guys who can be free agents in 2014. Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are good players in their system, but even if they have big seasons, how attractive will they be on the market?

Jacksonville Jaguars

Looking at the Jaguars’ building plan that features great restrain in terms of jumping out for costly free agents, with Dan Pompei of the National Football Post.

Aaron Ross quickly apologized for his crack that 2012 was a paid vacation for him in Florida, says Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com.

John Oehser of the team website on cornerbacks for the Jaguars: “A first glance at (Gus) Bradley’s system would indicate you don’t have to have a top-10 drafted corner to be elite there, and that the emphasis on big, physical players could allow the Jaguars to address that spot a bit later in the draft, but we shall see.”

To which I say: Plenty of great cornerbacks come into the league outside of the top 10 in the draft. But no matter how much Bradley craves size, his big corners will obviously need to be able to play.

Tennessee Titans

Bernard Pollard says Michael Griffin reminds him of Reed, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

To which I say: It’s nice work trying to boost Griffin up, I suppose. But with the way Griffin’s played the last couple years, it’s laughable to mention him in the same sentence as Reed.

Over the past five seasons, the Titans have drafted 3.8 fewer offensive linemen than an average, hypothetical team, says Tom Gower of Total Titans.
Cornerback Derek Cox and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton represented the best of Gene Smith.

The former Jaguars general manager went too far in steering away from big conferences. He liked guys from off the beaten path with nice stories.

He missed on a lot of guys who fit that.

He didn’t miss on Cox of William & Mary and Knighton of Temple, though Cox was hurt too much and Knighton didn’t play well at the end of his rookie contract.

The two were seen as valuable by other teams, and won’t be part of the David Caldwell-Gus Bradley regime.

Despite his injury history, Cox signed with San Diego for four years and $20 million, with a $5.2 million signing bonus and $10.25 million fully guaranteed in the first two years, per Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Knighton, despite questions about a season in which he was demoted from the starting lineup, got two years and $4.5 million from Denver, per Mike Klis of the Denver Post.

C.J. Mosely overtook Knighton and could start again for Bradley’s Jaguars. Cox’s replacement is not on the roster. The Jaguars like second-year cornerback Mike Harris, but three veteran corners from last season -- Cox, Rashean Mathis (not offered new deal) and Aaron Ross (released) -- are now gone.

Jacksonville needs corners, badly. Two guys who seemed to fit the sort of defense Bradley oversaw as coordinator in Seattle have already disappeared. Greg Toler signed with the Colts and Bradley Fletcher signed with the Eagles.

Alan Ball played poorly for the Texans last season, but was scheduled to visit the Jaguars. So were Washington right Tyler Polumbus and Houston running back Justin Forsett, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Other Jaguars free agents have not been tied to any suitors yet in free agency.

Linebacker Daryl Smith is the best of the lot, but the lone addition the Jaguars have made so far is an outside linebacker, Geno Hayes. Does that tell us anything about the Jaguars' interest in retaining Smith?

Greg Jones is an aging fullback, and aging fullbacks aren’t generally going to be talked about early in free agency.

The team apparently wants center Brad Meester back, but he’s not yet happy with the money available. He turns 36 on March 23.
David Caldwell inherited some contracts with the Jacksonville Jaguars that don’t match up with value and production.

While his team has plenty of cap room, the team’s new general manager isn’t automatically going to pay out for overpriced people.

Adam Schefter reports strong safety Dawan Landry will be released today.

Landry had a $6.7 million cap charge and was scheduled for a $5.4 million base salary this season. He was signed for three more years under a five-year, $27.5 million deal negotiated by former GM Gene Smith in 2011.

He played 16 games in each of his two seasons with Jacksonville collecting three interceptions, but didn’t qualify as a dynamic playmaker who warranted the salary.

An undrafted rookie, Antwon Blake, finished last season as Landry’s backup.

It’s not clear if the Jaguars think Blake or someone on the roster can start or if strong safety now qualifies as another need in Caldwell and Gus Bradley’s rebuild.

The bigger question right now is whether the move with Landry signals that more moves are coming.

Other too-expensive guys include linebacker Paul Posluszny, receiver Laurent Robinson, tight end Marcedes Lewis, guard Uche Nwaneri and cornerback Aaron Ross. I'd keep Posluszny and Nwaneri for sure. They may be overpaid, but they are among the team's best players right now.

There are not backups behind those guys who qualify yet as capable fill-ins. And one run through mid-range free agency and a draft can't fill all the Jaguars' needs, let alone the holes created with further moves.

But as Caldwell assesses his roster, making moves to get costs in line with production won't be a bad thing.
My plan for the Jacksonville Jaguars as we approach the start of the 2013 NFL calendar year:

Finances: The Jaguars have about $24 million in salary-cap room, so they don’t have a huge issue. But they are carrying several contracts that are too hefty. Laurent Robinson is overpaid, but they are a year into his deal and unlikely to bail. Tight end Marcedes Lewis and guard Uche Nwaneri are too costly, both due base salaries of more than $4 million this season. Linebacker Paul Posluszny ($6.5 million base), Dawan Landry ($5.4 million) and cornerback Aaron Ross ($3.75 million) are also costly. I’d make no money moves until my coaches have time with the team on the field for a thorough assessment and see some of the alternatives brought in.

Continuity: Re-sign outside linebacker Daryl Smith. He’s been a very solid player for the franchise, and because he was hurt for 14 games last season, his price is going to be discounted. Re-sign cornerback Derek Cox, ideally to an incentive-laden deal tied to his availability. Hope he’ll give you a chance to match if someone else gives him a better offer. He’s a great player but it’s hard to invest in a guy who misses so much time.

Turnover: Allow the rest of the free-agent class to hit the market and wish it well. If a player like defensive tackle Terrance Knighton or fullback Greg Jones doesn’t find what he wants out there and remains available later, consider an offer down the road.

Additions: I’d shop more aggressively than I expect the Jaguars will, based on how they’ve spoken about free agency, but I will try to stick to their parameters here. Seattle defensive tackle Alan Branch was a key piece of the defense Gus Bradley ran for the Seahawks, and new coaches typically like bringing in a guy or two who know how they will operate. I want to make at least one statement signing that addresses a big area of concern. If Sebastian Vollmer’s back checks out, he’d be my guy. He’s a top right tackle who’s been part of a successful franchise in New England. From there, I’d pursue a few more affordable types: one of two cornerbacks, Greg Toler from Arizona or Bradley Fletcher of St. Louis, and a defensive end who’s still young and has some versatility, William Hayes, also of St. Louis.

Draft: The No. 2 spot is a toughie, because clear choices at the top of this draft have not emerged. There is defensive line talent, however, and the pass rush is a longstanding issue the new regime is inheriting. That first pick needs to be able to rush the passer or be a long-term fixture on the offensive line. Needs are so wide-ranging, there are few spots the Jaguars need to avoid. Although I'm not happy with the quarterback situation, I would not feel I had to have another one unless I saw a real value in the second or third round.

Key injuries in the AFC South

December, 14, 2012
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A look at the key injuries and what they mean in the AFC South…

Colts

Safety Tom Zbikowski, right tackle Winston Justice, inside linebacker Kavell Conner, center Samson Satele and running back Delone Carter are out.

Of the new missing guys, replacements will be right tackle Jeff Linkenbach, inside linebacker Pat Angerer, center A.Q. Shipley and running back Mewelde Moore.

Jaguars

Running backs Rashad Jennings, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman, cornerback Aaron Ross and defensive end George Selvie are out. Montell Owens will start at running back again.

Austin Pasztor is expected to start at let guard, where Mike Brewster is done for the season and Eben Britton is seemingly out of chances. Receiver Cecil Shorts is expected to play.

Texans

Outside linebacker Brooks Reed and cornerback Alan Ball are out. Whitney Mercilus will continue to work as the outside linebacker replacing Reed.

Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, safety Glover Quin (hip) and right tackle Derek Newton are questionable. Quintin Demps would replace Quin.

Titans

Designations come tomorrow since they play Monday night. Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is not expected to play and Tim Shaw would start for him again. Receiver Damian Williams and end Scott Solomon also missed Friday practice.

Wrap-up: Colts 27, Jaguars 10

November, 9, 2012
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Thoughts following the Colts' 27-10 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday night:

What it means: The Colts are 6-3. If the Texans lose at Chicago on Sunday, Indianapolis would be just one game out of first place in the AFC South, though Houston would have the better division and conference records for potential tiebreakers. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are 1-8 and haven’t won since Sept. 23.

What I liked, Colts: They got another excellent game from Andrew Luck, who showed a national TV audience the poise, command, pocket presence, ability to handle pressure, arm and running ability Colts fans have been seeing all season. He ran for two more touchdowns and now has five rushing TDs on the year, a franchise record for a quarterback. The backup cornerbacks held up well, with Darius Butler pulling in a pick-six from Blaine Gabbert and another interception of a Chad Henne throw after it was tipped multiple times at the line. He also recovered a fumble. Interim coach Bruce Arians gave the team off until Monday but told players they'd have to play a lot better to win their next game, at New England.

What I didn’t like, Jaguars: I’m not one to point to officiating as an excuse very often and I don’t think the Jaguars were going to win on this night. But nothing went the Jaguars' way in the first half. Laurent Robinson lost a fumble right as he went down, according to the judgment of a challenge, a call I agreed with but that could have gone the other way. Worse, Luck’s second rushing touchdown appeared to come with him bobbling the ball and not getting to the goal line. In another bad break, the Jaguars were going to go for a fourth-and-4 from the Colts’ 17 until Gabbert was called for a false start. But it looked a lot more like offsides by the Colts.

Margins: It was the Colts’ first win this season by a margin larger than six points. It was the Jaguars’ fifth home loss of the season, all by at least 17 points. They've been outscored 153-44 in Jacksonville.

Super-costly: Terrance Knighton was judged properly to have roughed Luck, a gigantic penalty that undid an Aaron Ross interception. Instead of the Jaguars getting the ball, they added yardage to what became an Indy touchdown drive. And Robinson lost a fumble trying to gain extra yards, the result of a strip by Moise Fokou, which Butler recovered.

Emotion: Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey threw his call sheet (and his headset went with it) in disgust over the debated Luck TD sneak. A scoring play, it was automatically reviewed but he hadn’t gotten an indication it stood up to replay -- which maybe it should not have. It’s as hot as I’ve seen him as Jaguars coach.

Injury concern: Gabbert left the game after re-injuring his left, non-throwing shoulder. Henne finished up.

What’s next: The Colts are at New England on Nov. 18, a Sunday afternoon game. The Jaguars are at Houston earlier that afternoon.
Reading the coverage…

A nice read on the rise of the neurotic quarterback, from Johnette Howard of ESPN.com.

Houston Texans

Looking at strengths and weaknesses, it’s not hard to predict the Texans’ plan against Buffalo: Run it. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle on Arian Foster’s potential for a big day.

In Year 5, Justin Forsett is still trying to prove himself, says Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle. Forsett is likely to work as the Texans’ second back on Sunday.

To which I say: I think the guy is good enough to find a better role for himself somewhere else next year.

Inside linebacker Daryl Sharpton expects to practice next week, Ganguli said.

Wade Phillips has nothing but good things to say about his time in Buffalo, says Dale Robertson.

The path to home field is frighteningly wide open, says Houston Diehards.

Indianapolis Colts

Architect Ryan Grigson isn’t anxious for credit and just wants to be sure his team doesn’t get caught up in all the good things being said about it right now, says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. “The minute you stop and smell the roses, you take your eyes off the ball,” Grigson said.

To which I say: To this point Grigson’s earned an A. Sorry, Ryan, to do anything to add to the positive press. We can't help it. (Thanks to Kravitz for the unnecessary shout out.)

Robert Mathis will be back in the lineup Sunday against Miami, says Mike Chappell. The double whammy of Dwight Freeney and Mathis has not been on the field together enough, so it rates as a big development.

The Dolphins-Colts game amounts to an impromptu playoff matchup, says Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Starting cornerbacks Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis are likely to miss Sunday’s game against Detroit, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

To which I say: William Middleton, Mike Harris and Aaron Ross did good work last week against Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Odds of a second good game in a row? Not high, I am guessing.

Red-zone offense tells a lot about the Lions, who have struggled but have gotten better, says O’Halloran.

The Jaguars have not been good at sustained drives, so a big play or two from Cecil Shots can be crucial, says Dunlevy in a game preview.

Tennessee Titans

Halfway through the season, Michael Griffin rates his play as terrible, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

To which I say: I give Griffin credit for being a lot more stand-up than he used to be. And at least the arrow is pointing up after his best game of the season, against the Colts.

“Tight end Jared Cook sounded more like a determined player than a disgruntled employee on Thursday,” says John Glennon and Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Team officials have met with him to smooth things over after an early week trade request.

Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has a lot of guys who want and need the ball, and said all he can do is plan game to game, writes David Climer of The Tennessean.

The Titans are badly banged up on the offensive line, says Glennon.

 

RTC: Where has that mouthpiece been?

October, 19, 2012
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Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The Ravens are as vulnerable as they will ever be, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Johnathan Joseph and Gary Kubiak are both optimistic the cornerback will play on Sunday, says Tania Ganguli of the Chronicle.

To which I say: The question isn’t really about whether he will play. The question is about how well he will play. The last two weeks he’s been well below his standard.

Dale Robertson of the Chronicle considers what’s going wrong in the Texans’ secondary.

An inability to play well from behind is one thing that could hold the Texans back, says ESPN.com’s John Clayton.

Texans merchandise is moving, says David Barron of the Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

Mouthguards are exposed to all sorts of nasty stuff during the course of a football game. Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star takes a thorough look at one of the NFL’s dirty, little secrets. “The unpleasant and self-evident truth is this: if a player removes and reinserts his mouth guard, he might as well be sticking his fingers or gloves in his mouth.”

The Colts defense needs to be ready for a full dose of rookie running back Trent Richardson, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

To which I say: Richardson is a lot better than Shonn Greene, so the Colts have to play a lot better run defense than they did against the Jets.

Previewing Browns-Colts with Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

As the Jaguars prepare for a game at Oakland, they know they’ve played their best football away from home, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

To which I say: But their work on the West Coast in recent years has been bad.

Jacksonville is seeking a boost in the punt return game from Aaron Ross, writes O’Halloran.

More info on how exactly the Jaguars stand to cash in on being the team that plays multiple years in a row in London, from ESPN.com’s Kristi Dosh.

Tennessee Titans

Alan Lowry “remains persistent in devising ways to outsmart and defeat opponents,” writes Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean of the Titans special teams coach.

To which I say: To this point, the Titans have gotten more big plays out of special teams than is fair to expect.

The Titans take the NFL’s worst rushing offense to Buffalo to face the league’s worst rushing defense. Wyatt wonders what will unfold.

CBS analyst Phil Simms is picking the Titans to beat the Bills, knowing Matt Hasselbeck can catch and/or pass his career TD total of 199, says Wyatt.

A breakdown of Titans-Bills from Dunlevy.

 
Aaron Ross is in line to start at left cornerback for the Jaguars on opening day at Minnesota, with Rashean Mathis as the nickel back, coach Mike Mularkey told the team’s press corps Monday.

But it’s not that Ross has won a battle between two veterans which was set up for the winner to start and the loser to play the nickel. Mularkey said Mathis, recovering from a torn ACL suffered in November, can still use more time.

“I would say that right now (Ross will start), because I think we’re still working on Rashean to get back to the level of play,” Mularkey said. “He’d tell you the same thing. He’s probably not a hundred percent yet but he’s working his way back to it. I think he can play. I am not sure he can play at the level he’s capable of playing right now.”

That means Mathis will line up in the slot against three-wide sets.

Starting right cornerback Derek Cox won’t play in the preseason finale and is in doubt for opening day with a lingering hamstring injury.

“I don’t know yet,” Mularkey said. “It’s iffy. Again, you’ve got two weeks almost. Thirteen days to make that decision, but if it was tomorrow that would be the way we go.”

Kevin Rutland or William Middleton would fill in.

In advance of Jaguars at Ravens

August, 23, 2012
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The Jaguars kick off in Baltimore against the Ravens in just a bit.

Jacksonville has played well in getting to 2-0 in the preseason, and after a week with a lot of back and forth in the media between the team and holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew and the announcement that the Jaguars would play a home game in London for four consecutive seasons starting in 2013, they’ll be happy to get back to football.

We know preseason football results are meaningless.

But a third victory for Jacksonville would sustain some momentum, and it wouldn’t hurt the vibe about the team at home or nationally.

The Jaguars have scored on their opening drives against the Giants and Saints, and they’d certainly like to keep that streak alive. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s been very impressive outside of a fumble in the first game, and the team would love for him to build on that against another quality defense.

Monitor his protection. The Jaguars are still down two starters on the line, as left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Will Rackley are out.

On defense, Rashean Mathis plays for the first time in the preseason. It will be his first action since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in November. He and Aaron Ross are competing -- one will be the second starting cornerback, the other the nickel corner. The other starter at corner, Derek Cox, is among the players sitting out tonight injured.

The Jaguars, once deep at linebacker, will be without two players expected to start when they crafted their roster. Clint Session might not ever make it back from lingering concussion symptoms from the 2011 season. And Daryl Smith is out tonight with a groin injury.
The Houston Texans didn’t make the cut as one of the three deepest teams in the NFL, according to Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders.

But the AFC South is well represented in his three shallowest teams : Both the Colts and the Jaguars make the cut.

A look at his rationale:

COLTS

McCown: “Perhaps the most telling indication that this team has little depth is that the recent foot injury suffered by inside linebacker Pat Angerer could lead head coach Chuck Pagano to seriously consider elevating Moise Fokou or Greg Lloyd to the starting lineup. You may remember those names from August 2nd, when the Colts traded Kevin Thomas and a seventh-round pick for them in an ‘our castoffs for your castoffs’ deal.”

Kuharsky: I don't think Lloyd is in the mix to sub for Angerer; it's Jerrell Freeman and Fokou. Name the deepest spot on the Colts. Outside linebacker? If Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney transition well and Jerry Hughes emerges, they’d be three-deep, which is really the minimum number of functional outside backers you need in a 3-4. Receiver? Maybe -- if Austin Collie stays healthy, Donnie Avery rebounds and rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill pan out.

JAGUARS

McCown: After addressing the offensive line, which we hit recently, he turns to defense. “The Jaguars do have Aaron Ross and can field a respectable back end with their corners and safeties, but Russell Allen may have to ascend to the starting lineup due to Clint Session's post-concussion issues, and top young defensive line backups Austen Lane and D'Anthony Smith have been underwhelming and injured, respectively.”

Kuharsky: Allen can be OK as the third linebacker, but the question is who’s fourth? Rookie Julian Stanford is hopefully better than Kyle Bosworth. I think they have some talented young corners and can be good on the interior defensive line, where C.J. Mosley outranks Smith. Quarterback, offensive line, receivers, safety and end all have depth issues. But I am not sure there aren’t three teams less deep than the Jags.

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