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Friday, July 30, 2010
Rifling through some Outsiders' notes

By Paul Kuharsky

Over at Football Outsiders, some smart folks break down everyone and everything.

I’ve been scanning through AFC South-pertinent pieces of the 2010 Football Outsiders Almanac and thought I’d share some nuggets on skill position guys. Keep in mind these are written with a fantasy value slant.

David Garrard
David Garrard's tenure as starting quarterback has been marked by inconsistent play.
David Garrard, Jaguars quarterback

Outsiders say: “The Jaguars must hope the improvement around him is enough to compensate for his personal inconsistency.”

I say: Seems like a lot to ask.

Matt Schaub, Texans quarterback

Outsiders say: He’ll throw for roughly 700 yards less, but with only three fewer TDs. They really like him in the shotgun. But also, “His greatest weakness is his pocket presence. He tends to get antsy and flustered in the pocket, sometimes by invisible rushers. He played 16 games in 2009 for the first time in his career, but it would be inaccurate to say he was healthy; he wore a brace on his shoulder and a cast on his ankle for most of the season. He’s not likely to play 16 games again.”

I say: I hate to predict bad health.

Donald Brown, Colts running back

Outsiders say: “The more they used him, the worse the results. In his three games with ten or more carries, he averaged 2.4 yards per carry, and if we take away one 23-yarder against Arizona, that figure drops to 1.8. Brown was a passable receiver, but everyone looks good catching Peyton Manning’s passes.”

I say: Brown has to have his pass protection responsibilities down so he can get on the field more so we can see what he can do.

Arian Foster, Texans running back

Outsiders say: “Even if Foster starts the year as the starting back, though, it may only take one ill-timed fumble or a minor injury for him to lose his gig.”

I say: I do not expect him to be the lead dog for long stretches.

Steve Slaton, Texans running back

Outsiders say: “There’s only one player we can find that underwent a similar procedure [to Slaton’s neck surgery]: Brad Johnson, a quarterback who played 11 seasons after suffering a herniated cervical disk in 1997. As a running back, however, Slaton will be subjected to more of a pounding than Johnson was. Slaton is wading into largely uncharted waters.”

I say: How he holds up could be one of the Texans’ biggest issues, especially if Ben Tate isn’t good.

Kenny Britt
Kenny Britt could emerge as the Titans' No. 1 receiver this season.
Kenny Britt, Titans wide receiver

Outsiders say: “Britt did his best work as a deep threat on first down. He had an increasing role as the year went on and is likely to emerge as the clear top target as soon as 2010. He will have to improve his reliability, as he struggled in the tighter windows of short and intermediate routes, especially on third downs.”

I say: We’ll monitor his third-down work closely.

Austin Collie, Colts wide receiver

Outsiders say: “He’s almost certainly the best fourth receiver in the league. Still, it’s important not to set expectations for Collie too high. Yes, his numbers are pretty, but he was attacking defenses that were focusing on [Reggie] Wayne and Dallas Clark. Peyton Manning also has a knack for making his receivers look better than they really are. Finally, despite skipping his senior season at BYU, Collie is still old for a second-year player, his arrival into the NFL delayed by a two-year Mormon mission. There’s less room for development here than you may think.”

I say: If he does what he did last year well again, even if his chances are limited, that will be enough for me to continue to count him as a good player for them.

Justin Gage, Titans wide receiver

Outsiders say: “By this point in his career, Justin Gage is what he is: a large receiver best suited as an intermediate and deep threat on high balls who lacks the speed and quickness to get away from defenders. This makes him a good target for the Titans’ preferred comeback routes, but he was utterly unreliable on any other routes (besides jump balls) in 2009. Kenny Britt has similar strengths and is better at most everything else, but Gage has enough blocking ability and veteran savvy to see playing time.”

I say: If he could be healthy and consistent week-to-week, he could be good. And they love the blocking. It would be OK if he was good and Britt was really good. At the same time.

Andre Johnson
The Football Outsiders point out that Andre Johnson had his share of down weeks in 2009.
Andre Johnson, Texans wide receiver

Outsiders say: “Johnson put up some real stinkers last season. Some of them came against the elite cornerbacks on the Raiders (two catches in eight targets for 66 yards, including one 62-yard reception against blown coverage) and Jets (4-of-7, 35 yards). Some of them came against bottomfeeders like the Jaguars (7-of-17, 99 yards) and Titans (4-of-11, 78 yards).”

I say: Rare to see someone with a negative take on AJ. I’d gladly take him on my team, real or imagined.

Jacoby Jones, Texans wide receiver

Outsiders say: “Jones certainly has more big-play ability than Kevin Walter. Despite catching 16 fewer passes, he matched him with seven 20-yard plays, and topped him in 40-yarders, three to one.”

I say: I’m not ready to spend a lot buying the idea that he’s going to be a No. 2 that makes the offense more dangerous.

Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars wide receiver

Outsiders say: “He is probably better suited as a possession receiver opposite a field-stretching number one, but as long as he stays healthy, he should once again see the majority of the work in Jacksonville and put up respectable -- if unspectacular -- numbers.

I say: It sure would be great if Troy Williamson shows up. He won’t be a No. 1 but he could be that field-stretcher.

Owen Daniels, Texans tight end

Outsiders say: “…What made Daniels so valuable was his speed -- the Texans employed a full wide receiver route tree with Daniels, including the deep posts and dig routes that tight ends rarely run. It may take a year for that speed to come back.”

I say: The passing offense fared pretty well without Daniels, so maybe he’s gravy. Especially if Garrett Graham quickly proves capable.

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars tight end

Outsiders say: “Last year, Lewis became far more effective at using his athleticism to run the seam route. The result was a huge increase in his yards per catch, as Lewis went from averaging 11.1 yards per catch as a pro to that 16.2 figure a year ago. That bump is unlikely to recur for two reasons. First, it screams regression to the mean. Even if Lewis is exhibiting a new skill that he’s going to retain, the list of players that increased their yards per catch figure by nearly 50 percent and then retained that increase over a second year is virtually nonexistent. And two, tight ends simply don’t put up yards per catch figures that high. Only five players have done it since 1990: Lewis, Alge Crumpler, Rickey Dudley, Johnny Mitchell, and Tony Scheffler. None of them managed to do it twice. If you find yourself considering Lewis on Draft Day, pay for 12 yards per catch.”

I say: Very interesting stuff. I remember talking to Dirk Koetter last summer about how much better Lewis is catching balls when he can track the flight the whole way instead of having to turn and find them. Look for more of that, no matter what sort of average the routes produce.