AFC South: David Jones

Early thoughts on the Jaguars scheduled to become unrestricted free agents come March 13, with thanks to Mac’s Football Blog, where you can find complete team-by-team lists that include exclusive right and restricted free agents.

QB Luke McCown -- I would think they will look to upgrade the backup so they have a fallback plan and better mentor for Blaine Gabbert.

OT Guy Whimper -- He was banged up and streaky in 2011. He’s OK as a third tackle, but doesn’t rate as a priority.

DE Jeremy Mincey -- Had a breakout year and is a high-energy pass-rusher who will be better as they add a big-time end. Probably wants more than they’ll pay.

DE Matt Roth -- They got him cheaply on a one-year deal. As they look to add a premier guy at the spot, it seems they'd like him back as part of the rotation at the right price.

S Dwight Lowery -- The No. 1 priority among their free agents. He transitioned very well from corner to safety and fixed a problem they don’t want to have to address again.

CB Rashean Mathis -- Combination of torn ACL and age (31) means they will be looking to replace him. Though he could be back late if he’s cheap.

K Josh Scobee -- A very solid kicker I feel sure they’d love to retain.

Other UFAs:

Jared Cook helps Titans stay alive

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
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CookDon McPeak/US PresswireJared Cook had eight catches for a franchise-record 169 receiving yards against the Jaguars.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer polls his quarterbacks on their three favorite plays out of each week’s game plan.

Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and Rusty Smith all voted this week for a deep crossing route.

It was a play the Titans ran with great success in a 23-17 Christmas Eve win over the Jaguars that kept Tennessee in contention for the sixth and final berth in the AFC playoff field.

The Titans need to finish in a three-way tie at 9-7 with the Bengals and Jets or with the Bengals and Raiders to earn the No. 6 seed.

The trio of signal-callers often votes the same way in separate, secret balloting which influences Palmer’s approach, Hasselbeck said.

“It’s mental telepathy or something,” he said. “We get along really well, we like the same plays. They think we’re cheating off of each other, but we’re not.”

Rarely does the favored play contribute so heavily to a favored result.

Hasselbeck leaned on it heavily and posted strong passing numbers despite two interceptions, with 24 completions in 40 pass attempts, for 350 yards and a touchdown.

Tight end Jared Cook is a big, fast, receiver-like threat. He disappears at times and has not been featured the way many of us expected he would be this season. In Week 15 he lost a deadly fumble in Indianapolis when the Titans were mounting a charge.

But he keyed this Titans win with eight catches for 169 yards and the 55-yard score on a mismatch with Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who was left in an unreasonably difficult spot by the coverage.

No tight end for the Titans or Oilers ever collected so much receiving yardage in one game. The previous record was 150 by Houston’s Dave Casper in 1980.

While the Jaguars have a strong front seven, they do not have particularly threatening edge pass-rushers. That helped the Titans feel comfortable lining Cook up less often next to a tackle, and more often in a two-by-two set, as if he were a receiver in a four-wide formation.

Nate Washington, also in a slot, typically drew nickelback Drew Coleman in coverage. Hasselbeck said that also helped get Cook into open space more often than usual.

Cook said the Titans talked all week about the opportunities they’d find against an injury-depleted Jaguars defense. The Jaguars are without both their starting corners, Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, and played Saturday minus starting safety Dwight Lowery. That meant Ashton Youboty and Morgan Trent started at corner and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was in the lineup at safety.

Youboty suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, and couldn't finish the game. He was replaced by David Jones, a player Jacksonville decided was not part of its future at the end of training camp.

Combine all that change with a gimpy Chris Johnson, who sprained an ankle last week, and the Titans decided to push it with the pass.

“We kind of looked at the first-15 script and saw there was a little change up from the normal,” Cook said, referring to the preordained 15 plays the Titans wanted to run out of the gate if the situations permitted for them. “We kind of got excited. So kudos to coach Palmer for kind of doing that and catching the defense off guard.”

Not to harp, but… While the Titans are over last week’s loss at previously winless Indianapolis, I can’t help wonder how things might be different for them had they taken this approach a week earlier against the Colts, who rush the passer better but also have a secondary minus three starters.

“It’s just hard to predict games,” Hasselbeck said.

It’s hard, too, to predict what happens in all the games that influence the Titans’ chances next week.

But the Texans are locked into the third seed, and have nothing to gain with a win and nothing to lose with a loss. If the Titans find their way in, their opponent isn’t in question. They’ll go right back to Houston for a wild-card game.

The Titans know they’ve blown a ton of chances that would have left them in a better spot.

“We’re alive,” guard Jake Scott said. “That’s all you can ask for right now. We’ve got to handle our business and hope for the help that we need.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In his first year calling plays for the Jacksonville defense, Mel Tucker’s had a solid season for the Jaguars.

He was given a huge upgrade in personnel out of free agency, and the team’s issues in a 3-8 season have been primarily on offense.

[+] EnlargeMel Tucker
AP Photo/Phil Coale, FileJaguars interim coach Mel Tucker makes his debut on Monday against San Diego.
Tonight, as he debuts as the team’s interim coach in a home "Monday Night Football" game against San Diego, Tucker will be without his three top outside cornerbacks.

Will Middleton has joined Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox on injured reserve.

While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled this season, he could be in line to make some connections at EverBank Field, where recent addition Ashton Youboty, undrafted Kevin Rutland and retread David Jones are in line to play in Jacksonville's secondary. Jones, who struggled mightily last season, was re-signed as Middleton went to IR.

Drew Coleman plays as the nickel corner and seems to be pigeonholed there, but whether Tucker likes him outside or not, the Jaguars might have to use him more.

I’m not sure what Tucker can do in the team’s remaining five games to hold on to the job. He’s respected and he’s expected by those who put him in place to do well. But after nearly nine seasons of Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars are a team in need of fresh air, and new owner Shahid Khan is likely to want to make a splash with an outsider who revamps the way the team plays.

Tucker has been assured of an interview, and many are mentioning him as a strong candidate for the post. At this stage I’d guess it’s more likely the new coach, hopefully an offensive mind, recognizes the Jags' productive defense and tries to get Tucker to return to the coordinator post.

ESPN’s Mike Tirico will do the play-by-play of tonight’s game. He watched Saturday’s practice and was part of a production meeting with Tucker.

“He’s very detailed, very organized,” Tirico said. “I think it’s definitely an approach that would be what I’d expect from a guy who’s learned from Nick Saban and Jim Tressel, among others. The practice was a crisp, well-paced practice.”

It’s been a whirlwind week. Tucker had no hint of what was coming when he reported to work Tuesday. Since then, he dismissed receivers coach Johnny Cox, shifted Mike Sheppard from quarterbacks to receivers coach and gave offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter full sway over the quarterbacks.

He’s overseen the construction and installation of a game plan. He’s dealt with Middleton’s injury.

And he’s very likely implemented some other unseen alterations to the operation.

“For that sort of fire drill for a guy who’s 39 and has never been a head coach, he’s seems pretty organized,” Tirico said.

At his first practice as the head man leading up to this game, Tucker arrived 30 minutes early. He talked of wanting to get some fresh air, but also confessed it gave him the vantage point he wanted as he began to watch everything.

The Jaguars know they’ve got new eyes on them.

What Tucker sees will be important. What Tucker shows will be more important.

Jacksonville Jaguars cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
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Click here for a complete list of the Jaguars' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Three undrafted rookies stuck -- offensive lineman Cameron Bradfield, receiver Jamar Newsome and cornerback Kevin Rutland. The Jaguars already have a deep IR, with running backs Rashad Jennings and Richard Murphy, defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith (for the second year in a row), corner David Jones and end Aaron Morgan.

No-brainers: Getting another defensive back in a trade with the Jets for Dwight Lowery was a good move. With Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, Drew Coleman and Lowery the team is deeper at corner than it was last year. But Lowery has some safety experience. Could the Jaguars want him there? The Don Carey experiment in the defensive backfield depth mix needed to end.

What’s next: This has to be the only team in the league with more fullbacks (three) than running backs (two). No matter how much Jack Del Rio talks of giving the fullbacks carries, a run-based team needs another running back. It should upgrade offensive line depth, too.
Welcome to David Garrard’s world, Blaine Gabbert.

Jacksonville’s rookie quarterback started in New England on Thursday night.

He made some good and quick decisions. But he was ultimately undone by rookie inexperience and, in part, by the same things that often helped undo the veteran he is expected to sit behind. Gabbert’s protection broke down and allowed three sacks and his targets -- including Mike Thomas, Tiquan Underwood and Zach Miller -- dropped passes.

The Patriots beat the Jaguars 47-12 in the preseason opener for both teams as Gabbert played the first half, completing 9 of 16 passes for 85 yards.

New England defensive back Patrick Chung also got in on the drop action, sparing Gabbert an interception on a poorly thrown ball behind and over Jarett Dillard in the second quarter.

At least one other problem from last season resurfaced, poor tackling by cornerbacks. Second-string corner David Jones flailed on a couple tackles in key spots and rookie Rod Issac had a bad miss early in the third quarter. Another corner, undrafted rookie Terrence Wheatley, got lost in coverage a couple times before intermission.

Gabbert was the most significant Jaguars' story, though. When he left the game it was 19-9. The Patriots poured it on from there.

He showed composure considering it was his first action in an NFL game setting, playing with first-stringers (minus some key guys) against a team that sat a large share of front-liners. He also held the ball too long at times and made some bad throws that had nothing to do with protection or the hands of his targets.

All in all, it was the sort of outing you’d expect.

It’s likely his work comes later next week against Atlanta, presuming Garrard’s back is better.

RTC: Gabbert faces long odds to start

July, 15, 2011
7/15/11
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Titans cornerback Kareem Jackson was No. 6 on Bill Barnwell's list of the 25 least valuable players in the NFL.

SI.com's Kerry J. Byrne makes the case for the Texans going after Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Saturday joined the contingent of player representatives and owners meeting at a Manhattan law firm to try to overcome the remaining obstacles to ending the fourth-month-long lockout.

With Donald Brown being the only Colts running back under contract, 2011 fourth-round draft pick Delonte Carter could have a significant role early in his career. "I just want to take my role and expand it by any means possible," Carter told Pro Football Weekly.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Coach Jack Del Rio acknowledged during a recent interview with WFXJ-AM that the lockout has compromised Blaine Gabbert's chances of competing for the starting job. Sportsradiointerviews.com has the full transcript of the interview.

Linebacker Justin Durant could be a target of the Detroit Lions once free agency begins.

Derrick Harvey and David Jones also made Barnwell's list of the 25 least valuable players in the NFL.

Rookie safety Chris Prosinski has spent the offseason in his hometown of Buffalo, Wyo., working out as often as possible and trying to "keep as much structure as I can on a day-to-day basis," according to Pro Football Weekly.

Tennessee Titans

With Kerry Collins out of the picture, the Titans will look to add a veteran quarterback. Coach Mike Munchak: "We’re not looking for a guy that’s not capable of starting and winning games for us. We need someone that can come in here and win, and then have a nice competition between him and Jake Locker and Rusty [Smith]."

Munchak said Collins was undervalued as a player. “He was great to have around, not just for young quarterbacks, but for all of us on the offensive side. People never realized the value of someone like him on your roster," Munchak said.
After he read this post Tuesday, alert reader @thezachlyons asked me via Twitter if I could flip the numbers inside-out.

So in following up an entry about how quarterbacks benefited from dropped interceptions in 2010, we look at the guys from the division who did their best to help out quarterbacks.

Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders was kind enough to share. As with the flip sides of the stat, Football Outsiders judges a drop only when a very catchable ball hits a defender in the hands or the chest.

The division didn’t boast a primary offender -- Miami’s Sean Smith, Tampa Bay’s Aqib Talib and Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson each had five. No AFC South defender had more than two.

Team-by-team here are the muffed turnover chances:
They need to be caught, of course. But they all counted as passes defensed. And while they could have been huge plays, at least they weren’t huge plays against, right?

I mean it’s bad the Texans and Colts had a lot, because they shouldn’t be dropped. But the Titans probably wouldn’t have minded a few more.
Some AFC South teams are getting some players under contract:
  • Houston signed defensive tackle Shaun Cody. John McClain says it’s a two-year, $5.75 million contract with $1.5 million guaranteed and that Gary Kubiak thought Cody was the second most consistent lineman to Antonio Smith in 2010. Cody and Earl Mitchell are slated to play the nose for Wade Phillips. I think it’s a big mistake if the team has decided that these players are sufficient and if it doesn’t look to address the position further.
  • The Texans also signed No. 2 running back Derrick Ward to a one-year deal, per McClain. Ward was solid as the primary backup to Arian Foster, averaging 6.3 yards a carry with four touchdowns on 50 carries.
  • The Jaguars signed defensive backs Tyron Brackenridge and David Jones. They are depth guys, not solutions, at safety and corner, respectively.
Tom Gower of Football Outsiders looks at deficiencies on AFC South teams Friday in this Insider piece. Insider

I’m able to share a bit of it and offer some comments.

Houston Texans

FO:Brian Cushing will be another of the starters at linebacker, but he was much less impressive after his return from a season-opening suspension. His skills are better suited for an inside linebacker position next to Ryans [in the new 3-4], as he probably doesn't have enough burst to get around even right tackles. If Cushing does indeed move to the inside, the Texans need another outside linebacker. There is no good candidate on the roster for the role, so that is a position the Texans must address in free agency or the draft.”

“Once they find enough players to run their preferred defensive scheme, the Texans also need to fix their secondary. The best place to start is by finding a good free safety, something they have lacked in the nine years of the franchise's existence. Eugene Wilson started 13 games there this year but didn't play well, and Troy Nolan also doesn't appear to be the answer.”

PK: Connor Barwin is intriguing as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, though I think offenses will try to make him prove he can sufficiently contribute to stopping the run. I’ve been on the free safety bandwagon for some time, and rank it as the single biggest position of need for the franchise.

Indianapolis Colts

FO: “Reggie Wayne had another good year in 2010, but is 32 years old. When Marvin Harrison was 32, Wayne was around to help him carry the load -- it's not clear who might play that role for Wayne. Anthony Gonzalez seemed like he might be that player when the Colts made him a first-round pick in 2007, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy, appearing in only three games in the past two seasons. Pierre Garcon started opposite Wayne, but put up below-average numbers and appears better suited as a complementary player (although he did give signs of hope by improving significantly in the final month of the season). Like Gonzalez, third wideout Austin Collie has serious injury issues after suffering multiple concussions in 2010.

PK: That’s why I’ve been saying after offensive tackle, I rank receiver as the Colts' biggest need. It won’t matter as much if they improve Peyton Manning's protection for the remainder of the prime of his career if he doesn’t have that lead receiver, and I’d get the next guy in the Harrison-Wayne chain on the roster ASAP. Then I’d get more even more offensive linemen.

Jacksonville Jaguars

FO: “[Cornerback David] Jones started five games and yielded an average of 12.2 yards per play when he was in coverage before being relegated to the bench. For a better idea of just how bad that was, only three other corners gave up more than 10 yards per play, and passes completed against holes in zone coverage netted only 11.6 yards per play.

“Unfortunately for the Jaguars, the starter opposite Jones, Rashean Mathis, was another member of that elite quartet of corners that gave up at least 10 yards per play. Mathis turns 31 in August, and the Jaguars shouldn't count on him to play as well in 2011 as he did in 2010 -- or to be healthy for all 16 games, as he was for the first time since 2006. Jones' replacement, Derek Cox, wasn't as bad, but Jones' insertion in the starting lineup in the first place was a sign of the Jaguars' displeasure with Cox's lack of development.

“Good safety play would undoubtedly help the Jaguars' corners perform at a higher level, but unfortunately even competent safety play was lacking for Jacksonville in 2010.”

PK: Safety is as big a concern for Jacksonville as it is for Houston. What kind of long-range planning have the two franchises done knowing they’re facing Manning twice a year and not having a single safety between them who can effectively defend the pass with any consistency? It’s worse for the Jaguars, because they also have to face Matt Schaub twice a year and he’s also able to exploit the weakness.

Tennessee Titans

FO: “Moving directly from position coach to head coach, he hasn't defined his style as a coordinator and exactly what sort of offense or defense he wants to run is largely a mystery. Who he hires to fill the coordinator positions should help answer those questions -- and should help dictate what kind of personnel changes the Titans need to make this offseason.

“Whichever direction Munchak chooses to go, at offensive and defensive coordinator and in acquiring a quarterback, he must be sure to choose… wisely: wrong choices could lead him to the unemployment line, and right choices could lead to another long-tenured head coach for the Titans franchise.”

PK: We know the least about the Titans than any team in the division because of the transition at head coach and the uncertainly at quarterback and both coordinator posts. It makes it an exciting time to follow the team, because the charting of new courses and the follow through will be interesting. But the labor impasse means we’re going to have to hit the pause button on personnel questions for some time.

Bye Report: Jacksonville Jaguars

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
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Our 10-point bye report on the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Major issue: Inconsistency. They looked great in wins over Dallas and Indianapolis and did what they needed to against Denver and Buffalo. But they were terrible against San Diego, Philadelphia, Tennessee and Kansas City. To have a chance in the AFC South, the Jaguars will have to be a steadier team in the second half.

Playmaker update: Marcedes Lewis has been outstanding with seven touchdowns in 25 receptions and Mike Thomas is developing well and leads the team in catches. Still, this team needs to develop the stable of guys beyond Maurice-Jones Drew to consistently threaten a defense.

Protection issues: David Garrard plays a lot better when he’s well protected, and the pass protection has been up and down. Right tackle Eben Britton is out for the season, replaced by Jordan Black. In the Dallas game, Vince Manuwai may have wrestled the left guard spot away from Justin Smiley.

Score more: The Jaguars have been outscored 226-165. Jack Del Rio has said a blowout or close loss are the same to him, but they shouldn’t be. Playing well in a loss is much healthier than playing poorly. The only teams with worse point differentials are Buffalo, Arizona, Carolina and Denver. That’s not who you want to be bunched with.

Automatic: Josh Scobee is a perfect 19-for-19 on field goals, and nine of them have been from 40 yards or longer. He’s the only kicker in the league with more than six attempts who’s perfect. And his 59-yarder to win the Colts game on the final play was a kick he’ll have a hard time topping in his career.

Safety concerns: They’ve played them all -- trading one away and cutting another, twice -- and are going with kids Courtney Greene and Don Carey right now. It’s good experience for them, but it’s hard to imagine that this spot won't a huge offseason project. All the uncertainty at safety has made things harder on cornerbacks Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and David Jones, who haven’t always been as bad as they have looked at their low moments.

Star performance: Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 4.0 yards a carry, but he actually has more passing touchdowns (two) than touchdown runs (one). He’s got two games over 100 yards and two games under 50. Deji Karim seems to have the coaches’ confidence and can lighten some of MJD's load to ensure he’s as healthy as possible late in the season.

Developing well: Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu are developing into a top-flight interior defensive line tandem. Knighton is remarkably quick for a gigantic man and is a handful for multiple blockers. Alualu penetrates well and is getting better week to week. We’ll mention outside linebacker Justin Durant here, too. He’s played great since returning from an ankle injury.

About those blackouts: Turn your attention to San Diego and Oakland, please. The Jaguars have played four home games and they’ve been on local TV four times. They have issues, but drawing enough people to ensure they’re seen on TV has not been one of them to this point.

What’s to come: Out of the bye, the Jags have home games against Houston and Cleveland. They need good results there, because trips to the Giants and Titans follow.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Greetings from EverBank Stadium.

Derek Cox had earned his way back into the Jaguars starting lineup, but a hamstring injury means David Jones is back in the spot and Cox is inactive.

That’s the lone surprise on either list:

Jaguars: Cox, FB Brock Bolen, LB Jacob Cutrera, OT Kevin Haslam, DL C.J. Mosley, DE Aaron Morgan, DT Landon Cohen, CB Chevis Jackson

Titans: QB Rusty Smith, WR Justin Gage, CB Jason McCourty, S Robert Johnson, LB Rennie Curran, OL Troy Kropog, G Ryan Durand, DT Amon Gordon.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Facing gut-check time, the Texans responded with a win in Oakland, says John McClain.

Troy Nolan was opportunistic with two interceptions in Oakland, says McClain.

Offensive backups like Joel Dreessen performed, says Dale Robertson.

Brian Cushing returns this week, says Robertson.

The Texans overcame obstacle after obstacle, says Richard Justice.

McClain’s interactive report card.

Dreessen could make Owen Daniels expendable long-term, says Lance Zierlein.

Indianapolis Colts

The Jaguars kicked the Colts in the gut, says Mike Chappell.

Defensive failures helped set up Jacksonville’s winning field goal, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Even with the Colts' pedigree, serious flaws are hard to overcome, says Bob Kravitz.

The Colts have suffered at the foot of Josh Scobee before, says Wilson.

A franchise-record 15 catches were lost on Reggie Wayne in the loss, says Chappell.

Kravitz’s report card.

The two turnovers in the red zone were killer, says John Oehser.

Sorting out the Colts’ late, odd timeout with Nate Dunlevy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

“It wasn't just a field goal, it was a burst of light on a season in trouble, that very spark the Jaguars had talked about needing all week long after two consecutive blowout losses.” Tania Ganguli’s game story.

Scobee gave the Jaguars the kick start they were searching for, says Gene Frenette.

Maurice Jones-Drew burned the Colts yet again, says Vito Stellino.

Gerald Alexander and Anthony Smith returned to make some big plays, says Stellino.

David Jones was upbeat after Wayne’s record day, says Jeff Elliott.

Tiquan Underwood was a key guy on the final drive, says Gary Smits.

Frenette and Stellino review the game in this video.

The Jaguars saved their season, says Vic Ketchman.

Scobee saved the Jaguars from moral victory talk, says Brian Fullford.

Tennessee Titans

Tennessee let a winnable game slip away because its offense was inept in the second half, its defense was worn down, and its special teams committed a blunder at the worst time, says Jim Wyatt.

The defense tired out in the second half, says John Glennon.

Marc Mariani’s gaffe offset his big play, says Glennon.

Chuck Cecil’s gesture will draw a fine and Kyle Orton thinks the Titans are cheap, say Wyatt and Glennon.

The aura of the Titans' home field is about gone, says David Climer.

An inept offense bears the burden for this one, says Joe Biddle.

Penalties played a role in the Titans giving up their most points yet, says David Boclair.

Something is not right with Chris Johnson or the offensive line, says Bob McClellan.
Gerald AlexanderKim Klement/US PresswireGerald Alexander was in on two key defensive plays, including this fumble return in the second half.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On Sept. 26, from a doubtlessly plush couch in his Jacksonville home, Gerald Alexander was like most area residents: alarmed by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ play in a steamrolling by the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I was here in Jacksonville, right over the bridge, on the couch,” said the safety who was released after the preseason on Sept. 4, nodding in the direction of his home. “I saw the same game everybody else did from the couch. And it didn’t look good.”

On Sept. 27, the team re-signed Alexander, hoping he could help a banged-up secondary that had done its part for the Jaguars to qualify as the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense. Against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, he was in the lineup in place of Sean Considine, a scratch with a hamstring injury.

Don’t think for a second that Alexander cast himself as a savior. Peyton Manning certainly found plays where he beat Alexander and strong safety Anthony Smith. But in a shocking 31-28, last-second Jaguars win, the safeties teamed up on two huge plays that had a big bearing.

Alexander popped Brody Eldridge, who coughed up a 19-yard pass at the Jaguars’ 4-yard line. Smith plucked the ball off his ankle and returned 47 yards in the third quarter. And when Reggie Wayne fumbled in the fourth quarter as he reached for extra yards following a 13-yard gain to the Jaguars’ 10, Alexander scooped it and returned it 43 yards.

“Turnovers in the red zone?” Alexander said. “That’s huge. That team is going to drive up and down the field on some people. Their offense is like clockwork.

“We didn’t give up too many deep shots, which they live off of. That’s when things get out of hand with the Indianapolis Colts, when you give up deep balls. Tackle the guy in front of you, keep everything in front of you and get turnovers. That’s the key to victory.”

Defensive end Aaron Kampman called it “an urgent win.” The Jaguars are 2-2 and tied with the Colts and Tennessee Titans for second in the AFC South. That's a lot better than being 1-3 and alone in the division's basement.

Manning hit Wayne for gains of 42, 26 and 21 yards. Everything else the Colts got came in chunks smaller than 20 yards.

“We weren’t as efficient as we should have been.” Manning said.

Another Jaguars defensive back, corner David Jones, was a close-range witness to Colts history. He lined up against Wayne as the receiver pulled in 15 catches, more than Raymond Berry or Marvin Harrison ever had in a Colts game. Those catches produced 196 yards, the best total the four-time Pro Bowler had ever accumulated.

Jones was credited with forcing Wayne’s fumble, and he could have done a lot to ice an easier win if he didn’t drop an interception on Indy’s final drive.

“I tasted the ball it was so close,” he said.

But the Jaguars withstood that dropped pick. They withstood all those catches and all those yards by Wayne. They withstood a fierce pass rush that can create all sorts of problems for all sorts of offenses, holding the Colts without a sack of David Garrard by giving ample help to young tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. They withstood three lost leads, finally beating the visitors thanks to Josh Scobee's final-play 59-yard field goal.

They showed a fortitude that was severely lacking in whippings suffered at San Diego and to Philadelphia. And, according to Maurice Jones-Drew, they put an emphasis on moving on from bad plays, not feeling stressed out and just having some fun.

The Jaguars didn’t force the Colts to kick field goals or conquer them in time of possession, which are usually part of the formula for beating them.

Other elements of the blueprint did, however, fall in line. Jacksonville ran 13 more times than it passed, averaging 5 yards a carry. The Jaguars didn’t turn it over while they had those two red-zone takeaways.

“We wanted to pound the rock and use the pass to supplement the run, really,” Britton said. “We had a great game plan and I think we executed it really well and kept David upright.

“To put all that work in that whole game and not come out with a W, that would have been heartbreaking. We needed to win that game. We needed it as a team. We needed it to validate all the hard work we put in.”

As he spoke, tight end Marcedes Lewis stopped by for a fist bump.

“I’m proud of you,” Lewis said.

Britton said he was proud of Lewis, too.

Does a win over the long-time division rulers change things for the Jaguars? Does it do anything to wash away a 38-13 loss to the Chargers or 28-3 pounding by Philadelphia? Does it help get Jacksonville ready for a Week 5 trip to Buffalo?

“That remains to be seen.” Alexander said. “We’ve just got to go out there and get back to work. We can’t live off this victory.”

I have a strong feeling that Alexander soon was back on his couch, thinking entirely different things than he was seven days before.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Titans offense: That was a pitiful display against Pittsburgh. And it wasn’t just the poor quarterback play. Or the seven turnovers. Jeff Fisher admitted the game plan included too much. Nate Washington wasn’t sharp on routes. A top offensive line got pushed around. Etc., etc., etc.

2. Vince Young and David Garrard: A week ago they shared a rising slot. In Week 2, they each got pulled in favor of his backup. Their inconsistent play is a big part of the issues their teams have and the Titans and Jaguars cannot endure those type of drop-offs at quarterback.

3. Jaguars rushmen: Position coach Joe Cullen calls his guys rushmen, and their opening day effort was good. In San Diego, Philip Rivers simply had too much time. He was sacked once by Daryl Smith and hit once by Aaron Kampman. Beyond that things weren’t good enough as he threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns, more than enough to offset two picks. The secondary needed to do better on Antonio Gates.

RISING

[+] EnlargeKevin Walter
AP Photo/Nick WassKevin Walter has shown he's still a potent part of Houston's offense.
1. Kevin Walter, Houston wide receiver: Jacoby Jones is getting his chances and is a big part of the offense, but people who thought he’d displace Walter as the No. 2 can look to Walter’s performance in Washington to see why he maintains his standing. For Matt Schaub to have a guy he can connect with 11 times on top of a dozen completions to Andre Johnson is really something.

2. Colts offensive line: They may still have banged up guys up front, but they sure did a lot better against the Giants in pass protection and run blocking than they did a week earlier in Houston. Props too, to Brody Eldridge, as mentioned here.

3. David Jones, Jaguars cornerback: Acquired in a trade with Cincinnati on Sept. 4 for Reggie Nelson, he played 24 snaps on opening day, then replaced Derek Cox in the starting lineup in San Diego. Against the Chargers he played 54 of the team’s 61 defensive snaps and snatched an interception in the end zone off the hands of Antonio Gates. He’s still learning, but is a smart guy who looks like he can maintain a prominent role.

Notes on inactives for Jaguars, Texans

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
4:05
PM ET
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t just scaled back Derek Cox’s responsibilities in Week 2. Jack Del Rio has benched the second-year corner.

Cox was expected to be a cornerstone guy in Year 2, along with defensive tackle Terrence Knighton. But the Cox's poor play in the season opener got him benched for the second half in last week’s win over Denver.

In San Diego, Cox is inactive and David Jones is in the starting lineup. Injured safety Anthony Smith is out, with Courtney Green in his spot.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Texans won’t face defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is inactive.

Texans defensive tackle, Amobi Okoye, is active.

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