NFL Nation: AFC South mailbag
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I got such a good question during my chat on Monday that I asked for it to be sent to the mailbag, where I could give it more thorough consideration:
Tom in Chicagoland writes: Which veteran player on each team is in the most danger of getting cut? Could the Reynaldo Hill Experience finally end with the Titans? I mentioned Hill primarily because (1) I don't think he's very good, and (2) I believe he's in the last year of his rookie deal, so whether or not they'll keep him around is based solely on how productive he'll be in 2008, not his 2008 production and cost plus his expected 2009 production and cost (which is why I think Chris Henry is bulletproof, no matter what some Titan fans think). I think you're right he'll be around, but I still think he fits the profile of a guy who might be cut, plus I wanted to mention a player who might be on the bubble.
Paul Kuharsky: Well, the main reason Chris Henry is safe, I believe, isn't because of his cost but because there is no one on the roster to really challenge him for his spot. If LenDale White and Chris Johnson get the bulk of the running back work and if Henry makes minimal progress, I feel certain there will be a competent challenger next year.
It's a great question, Tom. After taking a hard look at the rosters and asking around, here's your list. Since we've seen one of these teams play one preseason game, things are obviously subject to big change.
(I'm going in reverse alphabetical order, just because I am feeling crazy.)
Fullback/ tight end Casey Cramer: No, he's not a big name, but he is heading into a fourth year. He's been a valuable guy in a limited role. He's versatile and good on special teams. But the Titans may not be able to afford such a luxury any more. They are probably going to carry four tight ends -- Alge Crumpler, Bo Scaife, Craig Stevens and Dwayne Blakely -- as well as fullback Ahmard Hall. Blakely is the only one who's not an absolute lock. Last year they finished with three tight ends and three fullbacks, but one of the fullbacks was a long snapper who wouldn't have ever been lined up in the backfield. If Hall is hurt, they'll just go to two-tight end sets that much more often.
Others: Receiver Roydell Williams is way behind and will have to play through pain after ankle surgery last year -- something many question whether he can do. But he did tie for the team lead in receptions last year and probably sticks. Same for Hill, who'd have to fall behind seventh-round rookie Cary Williams to be in any sort of jeopardy.
Wide receiver Matt Jones: Many thought his arrest on drug charges before camp would be the end of him, but the team stuck with him going into camp. With Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams recovering from surgeries, Jones is getting a lot of time to show he can be a consistent contributor. But if everyone is healthy, he probably wouldn't be in the top five and would be wrestling with players like D'Juan Woods and John Broussard for the sixth spot.
Others: Tight end George Wrighster isn't back from a knee injury yet. He's 27 and fighting a field of younger guys.
Running back Kenton Keith: This is not an old roster, and there are no graybeards sputtering out. Keith is 28, and had four years of experience in the CFL before making the Colts last year, when was the team's second-leading rusher with 533 yards and a 4.4-yard average. But he had just 13 catches. Dominic Rhodes has returned after a year in Oakland and Mike Hart may be a more well-rounded back with more upside even if his measurables aren't great. The Colts could go with a running back lineup of Joseph Addai, Rhodes, Hart and Clifton Dawson, a good special teamer who's a pretty good pass protector.
Others: I don't see any, do you?
Defensive end N.D. Kalu: He'll be 33 on Aug. 3 and though he's an excellent locker room guy and a great effort player, he could lose out. Roosevelt Colvin was brought in for a similar third-down pass rushing role and the team likes two younger ends who've been good early in camp, Earl Cochran and Tim Bulman.
Others: Guard Fred Weary has been slow to return from a broken leg suffered late last season and the transition into Alex Gibbs' blocking scheme that emphasizes agility has been difficult. DeMarcus Faggins was bad last season, but has worked hard to redeem himself. He's missed time recently with a hamstring issue and could lose out to Derrick Roberson.