AFC South offseason hype awards

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
12:50
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This piece written by Stampede Blue's Brad Wells on what the Colts’ praise of Donald Brown means got me thinking. (Rare, I know.)

Barring contract disputes, we don't hear teams say anything negative about players during organized team activities and minicamps. It’s happy time.

When we hear something exceptionally positive, it may well mean something more than it seems.

[+] EnlargeDonald Brown
John Grieshop/Getty ImagesDonald Brown "is doing a tremendous job and he is having a fantastic offseason," coach Chuck Pagano told the Indianapolis Star.
Unlike Wells I don’t believe the signing of Mewelde Moore is particularly significant. He’s cheap insurance who’s hardly guaranteed of a roster spot.

But the amplitude of the praise for Brown does appear to be a team trying to convince itself, and Brown, of something.

Writes Wells of the Colts hyping Brown: “Players who are truly good don't need to be talked up to the media or the fans. Usually, if a player is being talked up in the offseason, something is going on behind-the-scenes.”

Who else in the AFC South is in a similar position?

In Tennessee, it’s return man/receiver Marc Mariani.

As the Titans wrapped up minicamp, coach Mike Munchak spoke very highly of Mariani. He was a Pro Bowl return man two years ago, but with altered kickoff rules and the addition of Kendall Wright, Mariani’s less valuable.

He’s the team’s sixth receiver, and if everyone is healthy, he shouldn’t be able to move up.

He’s purely a slot guy, and while Munchak pumped up Mariani’s quickness, he lacks ideal speed for a receiver. His roster spot could be in jeopardy. If he sticks and plays much offense, there will be complaints (starting here) about the snaps someone else is missing out on.

In Jacksonville, we could fit quarterback Blaine Gabbert or rookie punter Bryan Anger into this category. But I think either would be a force. The Gabbert talk is wishful thinking, sure, but it’s also a new staff showing off its positive outlook about its potential franchise quarterback. Anger is a third-round draft pick and they have to defend his selection.

The guy who fits this is defensive end Aaron Morgan, who was on IR last season with a shoulder injury. This is the third offseason in a row a team in need at his position has talked him up. GM Gene Smith called him a bright spot in the offseason.

He made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2010 and played in seven games. They talked him up heading into that season and a year ago before he suffered the shoulder injury in camp. The third time needs to be a charm.

Am I missing someone with the Texans? I know they continue to speak more highly than seems appropriate about cornerback Kareem Jackson, but they haven’t poured that on nearly as thick as the Colts with Brown, the Titans with Mariani or the Jaguars with Morgan.

And Jackson has played more, with greater progress, than those other guys. I call him ineligible.

If I am missing an obvious choice for Houston, set me straight.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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