Jacksonville Jaguars: Bernard Pollard

Top free-agent roundup: AFC South

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
With the 2014 free-agency period starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, here is a look at top free agents in the AFC South as compiled by reporters Tania Ganguli, Paul Kuharsky, Michael DiRocco and Mike Wells. The top seven free agents are on defense, led by cornerback Vontae Davis of the Colts. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a fixture in Jacksonville for the past eight years, is looking for a new team. Is this the end of Antoine Bethea's run in Indianapolis?

1. Vontae Davis, Colts CB: Indianapolis needs a top cornerback to help a defense that finished 20th in the league last season. Davis has shown he has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He just needs to work on his consistency.

2. Alterraun Verner, Titans CB: A smart, aware corner with a knack for getting to the ball, he just lacks top speed and size.

3. Antoine Bethea, Colts S: A reliable player, having started every game he played during his eight years with the Colts. Finished with at least 100 tackles in five of those seasons.

4. Earl Mitchell, Texans NT: Solid player at the point of attack and has shown the ability to get consistent penetration. He had 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.

5. Bernard Pollard, Titans S: Played well as an in-the-box safety and provided the sort of standard-setting leadership the Titans lacked previously. Update: Signed one-year, $2 million deal to remain with Titans.

6. Darryl Sharpton, Texans LB: Led the Texans with 87 tackles but is not as good in coverage as he is against the run.

7. Antonio Smith, Texans DE: He is more of a run-stuffing defensive end than a pass-rusher, although he did record five sacks in 2013.

8. Ben Tate, Texans RB: He led the Texans with 771 yards rushing. He has been somewhat injury-prone but has produced when needed as Arian Foster's backup.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars RB: Jones-Drew started 15 games and led the Jaguars with 803 yards and five touchdowns rushing. He also caught 43 passes (third on the team) for 314 yards. He got off to a slow start then battled through ankle, hamstring and knee issues and averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry.

10. Donald Brown, Colts RB:
Brown was the Colts’ third running back twice in 2013 only to end the season as the starter. He has the speed but was too inconsistent during his five seasons in Indianapolis.

11. Garrett Graham, Texans TE: He’s not Owen Daniels, but he can line up tight or as a flex tight end. He came into his own as a receiver last season with 49 catches for 545 yards and five TDs.

12. Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts RB: A neck injury limited Bradshaw to only three games last season. It took just those three games for him to show he was the Colts' most effective running back.

13. Ropati Pitoitua, Titans DE: A giant, run-stuffing end who would be a solid, flexible piece in the hybrid front. Update: Signed 3-year, deal for $9.6 million to remain with Titans.

14. Adam Vinatieri, Colts K: The 41-year-old Vinatieri was 35-of-40 on field goals and a perfect 34-of-34 on extra points in 2013.

15. Samson Satele, Colts C: Was released by the team on March 6 after a disappointing 2013 season. He has started 98 of 102 games during his seven-year career.

Jaguars finally get to celebrate

November, 10, 2013
videoNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The noise coming from the Jacksonville Jaguars' locker room was muffled by the concrete block walls, but not by much.

Those standing outside couldn’t make out what was being said, but every 10-15 seconds there were shouts and claps and whistles and stomps. And finally, after four or five rounds of cheers, there was one final, rousing roar.

That is what it sounds like after a victory in the NFL, and it’s a sound the Jaguars haven’t made in nearly a year.

"There was a lot of talking," cornerback Will Blackmon said after the Jaguars held on for a 29-27 victory against the host Tennessee Titans at LP Field. "It’s been silent the past eight weeks."

The last time the Jaguars (1-8) celebrated a victory was Nov. 25, 2012, when they beat the Titans 24-19 at EverBank Field. That was 350 days ago, and since then the Jaguars had lost 13 consecutive games, including the first eight this season by double digits.

They were soundly thumped by Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. In three games at EverBank Field they have scored a total of 11 points: three field goals and a safety.

So damn right they celebrated. They celebrated linebacker Paul Posluszny’s forced fumble and recovery on the game’s first offensive snap, which allowed the Jaguars to take a 7-0 lead – the first time they had held a lead since early in the second quarter of a Week 5 loss to St. Louis.

They celebrated rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz’s first career interception, which led to a field goal and a 13-0 second-quarter lead.

They celebrated Bernard Pollard’s roughing the passer penalty, which nullified a third-down incompletion and extended a drive that eventually ended with Jordan Todman’s 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

They celebrated the holding penalty in the end zone by Titans rookie guard Chance Warmack, which gave the Jaguars a safety and essentially provided the winning margin.

They celebrated Blackmon’s sack, strip and 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

And they celebrated Johnathan Cyprien’s recovery of an onside kick with 38 seconds remaining.

"Just a long time coming," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "Long overdue. It was good. Everybody was excited and happy."

And a little relieved, too.

Head coach Gus Bradley had been adamant about staying true to the plan he, the coaching staff, and general manager Dave Caldwell had implemented. Keep practicing the way we’ve been practicing, keep doing things the way we want you to, keep working hard. Trust that if you do all those things, the results will come.

Well, they didn’t. It hadn’t even been close, either, until a cool, cloudless Sunday in the Music City.

"To have the ability to stay the course, stay true to who we are and come out and execute the way we did is an awesome deal and an awesome feeling for our guys," Bradley said. "I just appreciate them staying tight with it and really holding true to it."

There was something else in the locker room as well: a bit of defiance. Guard Uche Nwaneri expressed it, but he surely isn’t the only one who felt that way. Through the first eight weeks, the players patiently answered question after question about the team’s poor play. They answered questions about whether they were expecting to be traded. They answered questions about whether there was any feeling that the players were beginning to tune out Bradley as the losses continued to pile up.

Of course, they also answered questions about 0-16.

They saw the stories and tweets about how pathetic they were, about how this was one of the worst teams in NFL history. They heard the jokes and the analysts’ remarks. Each one was an attack on their pride.

So when the clock finally hit zero on Sunday afternoon, Nwaneri was finally able to vent.

"Finally validating the work we’ve put in and getting this win today, it did feel like a breath of fresh air," Nwaneri said. "It was kind of like [giving the] middle finger to all the people who want talk about the Jaguars not winning the game or being the worst 0-8 team in history.

"It’s kind of, ‘Eat this.’ That’s kind of how it feels."

It feels, he said, pretty good. Winning always does.

Get to know the Tennessee Titans

November, 5, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Tennessee Titans may have one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL in Chris Johnson and one of the league’s ascending, young quarterbacks in Jake Locker, but this team is built on defense.

The Titans rank 12th in the NFL in total defense and are giving up just 20.9 points per game. They’ve already scored three touchdowns on defense, have recorded 22 sacks, and opponents have managed just seven passing touchdowns in eight games.

On Sunday they’ll get a Jaguars offense that is managing only 66 yards per game rushing, just lost its best playmaker in receiver Justin Blackmon, and has scored touchdowns on only five of 20 trips in the red zone.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST and the game will be televised on CBS.

Here’s a look at the Titans:

Record: 4-4.

Last week: Beat St. Louis 28-21.

Coach: Mike Munchak, third season (19-21).

Offensive coordinator: Dowell Loggains.

Defensive coordinator: Jerry Gray.

Series record: Titans lead 20-16.


QB Jake Locker: Maybe it’s because he plays in the same division as Andrew Luck and a Houston Texans team that is imploding, but nobody seems to notice how well Locker has played this season. He’s the AFC’s fifth-highest rated passer and is completing 61.4 percent of his passes. He isn’t putting up monster numbers (eight TD passes) but he isn’t making many mistakes, either (three INTs).

RB Chris Johnson: Johnson has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in five consecutive seasons and is on pace for No. 6 (516 yards through eight games). He is coming off his best game of the season (150 yards vs. St. Louis) and has to be eager to get a crack at a Jaguars defense that is allowing 161.8 yards per game on the ground.

WR Nate Washington: He failed to catch a pass last Sunday against St. Louis, which snapped his streak of 85 consecutive games with at least one reception. He has 26 catches for 439 yards and is averaging a team-high 16.9 yards per catch.


S Bernard Pollard: He leads the Titans with 75 tackles in his first season with the team after spending the past two with Baltimore. He is coming off a 14-tackle performance in the Titans’ victory over St. Louis last Sunday.

CB Alterraun Verner: The fourth-year player from UCLA leads the Titans with four interceptions and a team-high 14 pass breakups. He picked off two passes and recovered a fumble against the NY Jets, making him just the third Titans player since 1999 to record three turnovers in a game.

DT Jurrell Casey: The 6-foot-1, 305-pound Casey is giving the Titans a good pass rush up the middle. He leads the Titans with 6.0 sacks and is tied for the team lead with six QB pressures. He has a pair of two-sack games this season (Pittsburgh and St. Louis) and has recorded at least one sack in his last two games.


Tennessee’s schedule has been rated the seventh-toughest in the NFL. Opponents have combined for a .574 winning percentage. … The Titans’ pass defense ranks seventh in the NFL (217.8 yards per game) and their third-down defense ranks fifth (34.0 percent). … Johnson has six touchdown runs of 80 or more yards, the only player in NFL history with more than three. … Kicker Rob Bironas ranks second in NFL history in field goal percentage of kicks of 50 or more yards. He’s at 71.0 percent, behind only Jeff Wilkins (72.2 percent).