NFL Nation: Fili Moala

INDIANAPOLIS – New Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones didn’t want to reveal too much when asked about if he would be playing more defensive tackle than end next season.

Jones
Jones
Colts coach Chuck Pagano answered the question during the NFL owners meetings earlier this week.

Well, sort of.

“I’m not going to pigeonhole by saying he’s an inside guy or an outside guy,” Pagano said. “He brings position flexibility to our front. He’s a sub-rusher on third down. He can give you inside push, he can beat guys one-on-one. He has sack numbers for an inside guy.”

Pagano was Jones’ defensive coordinator during his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Jones went from having 20 tackles and zero sacks his rookie season to having 53 tackles and four sacks last season, and now he’ll try to be just as effective in Indianapolis.

“He’s really matured as a young man,” Pagano said. “He knows our scheme. Terminology won’t be an issue. It’ll be a seamless transition for us.”

Pagano’s goal is to have a defensive front that has players who can play multiple positions so that they can constantly rotate them in so in the fourth quarter they’ll still be relatively fresh. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who missed part of last season with a foot injury, can play on the end.

The Colts were abysmal at stopping the run last season, finishing 26th in the league in that category, and linebacker Robert Mathis had 19.5 of their 42 sacks.

“You can never have enough defensive linemen,” Pagano said. “We roll those guys all the time and try to keep them fresh. If you can play with six, seven guys in the defensive front by the time fourth quarter comes around and everybody is still fresh, it’s going to play to your advantage.”

The Colts currently have seven defensive linemen on the roster: Montori Hughes, Ricky Jean Francois, Arthur Jones, Fili Moala, Jeris Pendleton, Cory Redding, and Josh Chapman.
INDIANAPOLIS -- We’ve all witnessed Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's ability to strap his team on his back and lead it to come-from-behind victories during his first two NFL seasons.

Luck has developed a nice continuity with young receivers Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen to go with T.Y. Hilton in recent weeks.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
AP Photo/Ric TapiaRobert Mathis and the Colts have allowed just 20 total points over their past three games.
Luck, however, is not the reason behind the Colts’ three-game winning streak. Don't get me wrong, Luck has been good, but you have to look at the defense when it comes to giving credit to the team’s recent success.

The Colts head into Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs having forced eight turnovers and feasting on opposing quarterbacks like they’re at a buffet, registering 12 sacks in their three-game winning streak.

“Accountability. No personnel shifts. No change in schemes. No world-changing type of deals. It’s just holding guys accountable,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “If you’re not doing your job, you’re going to be called out within ourselves, not in the media or anything like that. It’s guys being accountable.”

The Colts have given up an average of 6.7 points, 292 yards and 24.3 percent on third down in the past three games.

Those numbers are a drastic change from when they were giving up big plays, a lot of yards and a lot of points prior to the winning streak.

The Colts went through a six-game stretch where they gave up an average of 30.8 points, 397 yards, including three games of at least 410 yards, and opponents converted 46.9 percent of third-down opportunities. The defensive players didn’t trust each other, forcing too many players to try to do too much by themselves.

“I just think any time you give up a long run, a big pass in the secondary or whatever, a big pass play, it’s just all the guys have to be on the same page,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Everybody has got to do their job. It only takes one breakdown. Ten guys can be doing exactly the right thing, and one guy could be not on the same page.”

Indianapolis sacked Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith five times and forced four turnovers in its victory against the Chiefs on Dec. 22.

The defense should be relatively healthy Saturday, as defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) are the only two players listed as questionable for the game.

“To be a good defense, you got to get turnovers,” Mathis said. “That’s one of the foundations of being a good defense, getting the ball into your quarterback’s hands. And we have a quarterback that can do some good things with it. So to be able to wrestle the ball away from the offense and get those extra possessions, it helps our team tremendously.”

Colts at healthiest since Week 7

January, 3, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The only thing that would be better is if Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard and Donald Thomas dressed for Saturday's playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

That possibility ended months ago, but the Indianapolis Colts are still in the position to have their healthiest roster since Week 7 against the Denver Broncos.

Defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) are the only two players listed as questionable for the game. The other 10 on the team's injury report, which includes starting cornerback Vontae Davis and defensive end Cory Redding, are listed as probable.

The Colts have come a long way from having to bring players up from the practice squad to piece together the offensive line.

Don't be surprised if this is what the starting line looks like Saturday:

Tackles: Anthony Castonzo, Gosder Cherilus

Guards: Hugh Thornton, Mike McGlynn

Center: Samson Satele

McGlynn is a better center than guard and he's a better center than Satele.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts had their top cornerbacks on the practice field Wednesday, a day after only having three available in Tuesday's practice.

Cornerbacks Vontae Davis (groin), Darius Butler (quad) and Greg Toler (groin) were full participants in practice, giving an indication that the Colts could have a healthy group for Saturday’s wild-card playoff matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Davis injured his groin in last weekend’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“They still have to get their feet under them,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “They looked pretty good [at practice Wednesday]. Still evaluating and see how it goes come Saturday.”

The Colts are becoming healthy at the right time.

Defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) were the only two players not to practice Wednesday. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) was limited in practice.

Pieces are coming into place for Colts

September, 5, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts are a step closer to having their starting offensive line together for Sunday’s season opener against the Oakland Raiders.

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, out since injuring his knee in the Aug. 24 game against Cleveland, returned to the practice field Thursday. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that the plan all along was for Castonzo, who is responsible for protecting quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side, to practice Thursday and then play against the Raiders as long as there weren’t any setbacks.

Guard Mike McGlynn is also practicing after missing time with a knee injury.

Barring any injuries between now and Sunday, the Colts will have the starting lineup they envisioned on offense and defense heading into training camp in late July together against the Raiders now that Castonzo is practicing.

Other injury updates from practice Thursday:

What to watch for: Colts-Bengals

August, 29, 2013
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Here’s what to look for in tonight’s preseason finale between the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

Actually, here’s what not to look for first.

Don’t expect players like quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Cory Redding to play much if they even play at all. Coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that some players may not play. He didn’t mention any specific names, but it’s easy to assume he was talking about the team’s key players.

Thursday’s about players trying to make one last run at solidifying a spot on the 53-man roster. Rosters have to be set by 6 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Here’s a look at several players who can help their chances to make the roster by having a strong performance against the Bengals.
  1. LB Caesar Rayford: Barring a complete collapse, Rayford should be on the 53-man roster. But don’t expect him to take things lightly against the Bengals considering the road he’s taken to even reach this point. The 27-year-old rookie has spent his career playing in the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues. Rayford leads the Colts with a team-high five sacks in the preseason.
  2. WR Griff Whalen: Whalen, a former teammate of Luck’s at Stanford, started training camp strong before a groin injury set him back momentarily. But he bounced back strong by catching four passes for 57 yards against the Cleveland Browns last weekend. Another strong performance will likely solidify the fourth receiver spot for Whalen because the team’s current fourth receiver, LaVon Brazill is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance policy.
  3. DE Fili Moala: A knee injury has hurt Moala in more ways than one. The 2009 second-round pick started eight games last season before suffering the season-ending knee injury. He missed most of training camp while recovering from knee surgery to put him further behind the competition for a roster spot. There’s no guarantee Maola will play against Cincinnati, which could hurt his chances even more.
  4. WR/KR David Reed: The Colts acquired Reed when they traded running back Delone Carter to Baltimore on Aug. 21. Reed’s best attribute is his kick return skills because he's only caught five passes in his first three seasons. He led the league in kick-return average in 2010. Expect Reed to get an opportunity to return kicks against the Bengals.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Saturday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns will be the closest thing to a regular-season game for the Indianapolis Colts.

The starters will likely play the entire first half and probably a series or two into the third quarter after some adjustments are made at halftime.
“Again, depending on how many plays we play will determine how we handle that situation,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We always take it case-by-base. If we got a veteran guy that is over a number that we’ve deemed from a play count before the half, then we likely get a guy out.”

One player you won’t see Saturday -- and possibly at all in the preseason -- is running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw practiced in full pads for the first time in training camp Tuesday. The Colts continue to take a cautious approach with him as he works his way back from offseason foot surgery.

“In a perfect world, that’d be great,” Pagano said when asked about having Bradshaw play in the preseason. “He is a pro. He understands what it takes to be ready once the season opener hits on [Sept. 8 against Oakland]. If we get that, that’s a bonus. If not, I’m not worried about it.”

Injury update:
  • Tight end Dwayne Allen (foot), offensive lineman Hugh Thornton (ankle), defensive lineman Fili Moala (knee) and receiver Griff Whalen (groin) practiced in full pads Tuesday. Receiver LaVon Brazill wore a walking boot on his right foot during practice. Linebacker Lawrence Sidbury is getting a second opinion on his injured (shoulder).

Reassessing the Colts' needs

April, 3, 2013
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The Colts have restocked their roster in a big way since free agency opened, adding 10 veterans from the outside.

Some are sure to be upgrades, like right tackle Gosder Cherilus and safety LaRon Landry. Others require a wait-and-see approach as we find out how strongside linebacker Erik Walden and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois fare with expanded roles.

Despite an 11-win season, Indianapolis headed toward the second season of Ryan Grigson as the general manager, Chuck Pagano as the head coach and Andrew Luck as the quarterback with some significant holes.

With all the additions, the pressure to find answers at certain spots in the draft is significantly lightened. That makes for a far better atmosphere in which to draft.

Here’s my assessment of what they’ve done to fill roster gaps and what now rank as the team’s primary needs with the draft drawing near.

[+] EnlargeGosder Cherilus
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsGosder Cherilus, left, provides an infusion of talent to a Colts O-line that was lacking it last season.
Offensive line -- Cherilus is a physical player who can help change and set a better tone for a position that simply didn’t have enough talent last season. Donald Thomas will upgrade a guard slot as well. Is it enough? I think they should add at least one more lineman in the draft who can contend for a guard spot or at center.

Cornerback -- Greg Toler could be a fine second starter, but they qualify as three deep at best with Vontae Davis, Toler and Darius Butler. They have to have another solid guy in the mix, and the draft should provide someone who will automatically qualify as better than Cassius Vaughn.

Wide receiver -- Can they get more out of Darrius Heyward-Bey than they got out of Donnie Avery? I would think so. Is DHB going to be the ultimate successor to Reggie Wayne? I highly doubt it. They need to be looking for that guy to go with T.Y. Hilton, their lone long-term sure thing at the position.

Safety -- LaRon Landry is a significant upgrade over Tom Zbikowski. He and Antoine Bethea should be a nice tandem. Joe Lefeged is fine as depth. But in a good safety year and with Bethea heading into his eighth season, I think it would be a good move to add a young player at the spot.

Outside linebacker -- Walden was a controversial addition, but they’ve emphasized his ability to set the edge. That does not make for much of a pass rush opposite Robert Mathis. I hope they aren’t counting on big production from Jerry Hughes or Lawrence Sidbury. They still need a pass-rushing outside 'backer.

Defensive end -- They resigned Fili Moala and hope Cory Redding will be more durable. Newcomer Ricky Jean Francois could start outside and move inside in nickel. Another guy in that mix wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Running back -- Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter are the three-pack that will return. Ballard showed a lot of promise, but the other two are not sure things. Bruce Arians’ offense didn’t throw to backs much. Pep Hamilton’s offense will do so more. If Grigson sees a versatile back as a value, I expect he’ll add one.

Defensive tackle -- Went from being a need to not being a need. Jean Francois will play some tackle and some end. Aubrayo Franklin can be an early-down run-stopper. And they expect Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman to be healthy and equipped to contribute. They could have a lot of options at this spot who fit the 3-4 front.

Quarterback -- They did well replacing Drew Stanton with Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup. The No. 2 was never going to come from the draft.
In just his second season, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is going to have linemen far better equipped to play his 3-4 front.

A team that already added the versatile Ricky Jean Francois, who can play all three spots, has now signed Aubrayo Franklin. Not too many years ago he was a hot, hot property. Now he’s changed teams four times in four years, from San Francisco to New Orleans to San Diego to Indianapolis.

Here’s what Scouts Inc. has to say about him.
Franklin has a wide body with above-average initial quickness, agility and short-area agility. He plays with good knee bend and natural leverage as he keeps his pad level down to get under opponents' pads and leverage the play. He does a good job of recognizing blocking schemes and will feel and fight back through pressure. He is a good technician who knows how to use his hands to control and shed blockers and keeps his feet active as he works his way to the ball. He lacks top lateral range and makes most of his plays in the guard-tackle box. He is not going to give anyone a top pass-rushing threat from the inside.

So he’s an early-down run-stopping option for a team that now has swingman Jean Francois, ends Cory Redding, Fili Moala and Drake Nevis, nose tackle Martin Tevaseu and two other nose tackles coming off injury, Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman.

The addition of Franklin would seem to end any hopes Antonio “Mookie” Johnson, who transitioned from 4-3 tackle to 3-4 nose last season, may still have of being re-signed.

Franklin played four years with Baltimore and four with the 49ers before the one-year terms with the Saints and Chargers. This will be his 11th year.
The figures I have access to said the Colts had $43.427 million of salary-cap room back on Feb 21. There may have been some jiggling of that number before free agency opened on Tuesday.

Since then, they’ve re-signed defensive lineman Fili Moala and cornerback Darius Butler, and brought in seven free agents: Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, safety LaRon Landry, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, cornerback Greg Toler, outside linebacker Erik Walden, guard Donald Thomas and outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury. The Colts also put a franchise tender on punter Pat McAfee at $2.977 million.

Collectively, they will count $34,330,333 against the cap.

The team cut safety Tom Zbikowski today, gaining $1.158 million against the cap. So the Colts have roughly $10.181 million in salary-cap room remaining.

Still enough to make some acquisitions if they want to.

General manager Ryan Grigson, who was named NFL Executive of the Year in his first season, said in a news conference this morning that he feels great about the roster work the Colts have been able to do.
"I really feel like you need to strike a balance [with free agency and the draft] and if there’s players that you can get and help create more competition and raise the bar and you know is going to make your team better as a whole, you have to at least explore those options. Even from the beginning, just seeing guys that we played against, the scout in me, you see guys and I say, ‘Wow, this guy plays hard, or this guy has a great inside move.’ You take mental notes of all your opponents. We played against LaRon this year. We played against Walden. We watched the film. We go through a process with all the pro scouts and then the coaches remember who they couldn’t block. It’s an entire process. You whittle it down, you target your guys and you look at how much money Jim [Irsay] is willing to spend, and as opposed to last year, we were in a completely different situation, so why not take advantage of that? I had the complete support of a great owner who’s been ultra-supportive in this whole process. He’s as passionate, if not more passionate than any of us. When you talk to him, he wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to be aggressive. Chuck [Pagano] did, because we want to win. I think you have to take these opportunities to acquire talent wholeheartedly, and I feel we did as an organization.”

Assessing the injury reports

October, 19, 2012
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What we know about the most important injuries that will affect the AFC South games Sunday:

Titans at Bills

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (shoulder) and middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle) are both crucial components to the effort the Titans will need to stop the C.J. Spiller-Fred Jackson duo of Bills running backs. Both Titans defenders are questionable. Expect them to play, though they could be limited.

Ravens at Texans

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (groin) was limited Friday. He will play, the question is how much and how effectively. The Ravens will likely test him early with Torrey Smith. Right guard Antoine Caldwell needs to take a concussion test to return, but they are listing him as probable, which suggests they are expecting him to pass.

Haloti Ngata (knee) is questionable for the Ravens but expected to play. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) would need to be activated from PUP to play, and it appears unlikely to happen.

Browns at Colts

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) will play for the first time this season, seeing time in the base package in a rotation with Kavell Connor and Jerrell Freeman. Out are defensive end Cory Redding, outside linebacker Robert Mathis, nose tackles Fili Moala and Martin Tevaseu, cornerback Darius Butler, running back Donald Brown. The collective hit to the run defense on a day when it needs to slow Trent Richardson is quite large. Left guard Joe Reitz (knee), yet to play this season, is questionable. If he’s out, Jeff Linkenbach’s been the replacement.

Jaguars at Raiders

Outside linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) remains out, and receiver Laurent Robinson (concussion) and safety Dwight Lowery (ankle) won’t play either. Chris Prosinski will start for Lowery, despite his tackling troubles in his work as the third safety. The other starting safety, Dawan Landry, is probable with a knee injury.

Wrap-up: Jets 35, Colts 9

October, 14, 2012
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Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 35-9 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Colts have hardly arrived yet, and while they are capable of a wondrous upset of Green Bay one week, they can get stomped by the mediocre Jets the next. Indianapolis is now 2-3.

What I didn’t like: Indianapolis couldn’t stop the run, allowing the Jets 252 rushing yards on 44 carries for a 5.7-yard average. Shonn Greene, rated by some as the worst starting running back in the NFL, rushed for 161 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns. The Colts were down several players on the defensive front -- Cory Redding (right knee) left early and didn’t return and they started off without tackles Fili Moala and Martin Tevaseu as well as outside linebacker Robert Mathis. Meanwhile, the Colts couldn’t move the ball on the ground at all. Rookie Vick Ballard got his first start with Donald Brown recovering from knee surgery and Ballard didn’t take anything longer than 5 yards all day long. Neither did anyone else for the Colts, who managed 17 carries for 41 yards and didn’t run for a single first down.

What I didn’t like, part II: The offensive line didn’t only fail to run block, but too often it allowed rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to face pressure. He was sacked four times and was not as accurate as he is typically, missing people both from the pocket and on the move.

What I didn’t like, part III: You can’t be ready for everything, but the Jets were due to have Tim Tebow throw a pass as the personal punt protector. And he did, hitting fullback Nick Bellore with a 23-yarder. It converted a fourth-and-11 and spurred a touchdown drive that put New York ahead 21-3.

What I liked: Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman made 14 tackles and outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, playing for the injured Robert Mathis, showed additional signs of life with eight tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits. Rookie tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener look to be growing more comfortable.

What’s next: The Colts host the Cleveland Browns, who just won their first game of the season over the Cincinnati Bengals. Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson is likely to provide as much or more of a challenge as the Jets' running back did today.
We’re talked a lot about needs for the Colts, beyond quarterback which will be addressed when they draft Andrew Luck first overall: cornerback, safety, nose tackle, tight end, receiver and perhaps an offensive lineman.

We’re expecting Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney to spend most of their time at outside linebacker in a new 3-4 the Colts will be in as often as possible. If so, then some guys who were tackles in the old 4-3 will shift to end in that front. Fili Moala and Drake Nevis would head the list to work with free-agent addition Cory Redding. Nevis was not mentioned by GM Ryan Grigson recently when he talked of free-agent addition Brandon McKinney and holdover Antonio Johnson as the team’s primary answers at nose tackle.

In this scenario, the Colts are quite thin at outside linebacker.

I fully expect Jerry Hughes will get a chance there. The next most notable linebacker names on the roster for a spot that needs a great deal of depth are Kavell Conner and Scott Lutrus. And Conner may be an inside guy.

While Mathis and Freeney will surely be asked to do much of what they’ve done through successful careers as outside backers, the fact remains that there isn’t one proven 3-4 outside linebacker in that group. (And beyond Pat Angerer, there isn’t a guy we know can play inside in a 3-4 either -- though that situational job isn’t as difficult to fill.)

Freeney is also entering the last year of a very expensive contract.

The Colts have 10 picks in the draft, five in the first 136. They’ll need to address linebacker somewhere along the way.

Inactives for the Colts

October, 3, 2011
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TAMPA, Fla. – As expected, Curtis Painter will start at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.

Peyton Manning and Kerry Collins are both on the inactive list. Also inactive for the Colts are receiver Anthony Gonzalez, defensive back Kevin Thomas, linebacker Ernie Sims, guard Ryan Diem and defensive tackle Fili Moala.

The Colts said Eric Foster will start in Moala’s place. Mike Pollack will start at right guard in Diem’s place.

What I think they're thinking ...

September, 26, 2011
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What I think they are thinking in the headquarters of the four teams of the AFC South…

Houston Texans

It was one game against a great team. We’ll hardly be the only team that Drew Brees shreds this season. We have to make sure guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Jason Campbell and Joe Flacco don’t have a chance to do anything similar. Offensively, we will work and work and work on our red zone production. People talk about our lack of killer instinct and we’re sick of hearing about it, but when we kick so many field goals when we have a chance to run away from a team, it’s a fair topic. We need to get to the root of that fourth-quarter pick and the three-and-out series, which were real killers. Fullback James Casey was great playing like the tight end we know he really is. Can we get that out of him on a regular basis?

Indianapolis Colts

No, we’re not claiming any moral victory. But we sure showed we’re invested and determined and have some pride with the way we played against Pittsburgh on Sunday. There is enough there that we can turn it into winning efforts against the teams we’re about to face -- Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Cincinnati. We have to remind ourselves as we game plan and as we play, that we’re not conceding anything by handing the ball off more. And we need to dissect our run defense against the Steelers to make sure we know what we did so we can keep doing it. We’ve got other lingering questions. Does Kerry Collins’ concussion mean he’s out next week? If he’s healthy, do we have a quarterback controversy anyway? Does it mean anything that we played against the run so well with Fili Moala out of the lineup?

Jacksonville Jaguars

Coaches need to work to hold onto players this week. How much faith can we have right now when the offense was so conservative -- never mind the rookie quarterback and the rain, let’s go win the game. Then Jack Del Rio says to blame him over clock-management trouble that cost us a play at the end. If a player makes a comparable mistake, he can earn entry into Del Rio’s dog house. So does Del Rio go in there now? These other teams with rookie QBs are energized by the fresh start. We need that, but it’s going to be hard to find against the Saints. It’s time for all these new defenders to show up with a few big plays. If we don’t get some against New Orleans, it could be ugly.

Tennessee Titans

Hate to harp on it, but boy does having a true leader at quarterback make a difference. Look how good Matt Hasselbeck is helping make guys like Nate Washington. We had some moments in the win over Denver that should carry over for us, starting with the big goal-line stand. You better believe we were making a statement with that. Talk Texans all you like, but we’re 2-1, too, and feeling good about ourselves. We ought to be able to win in Cleveland even without Kenny Britt. But without him, we’re going to be counting even more on pass protection and Hasselbeck. It would be a good time to figure out and solve our run struggles.

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