NFL Nation: Jacques McClendon
Provided the Cleveland Browns don't match whatever offer the Jaguars are expected to make to center Alex Mack on Friday, of course.
The Jaguars added Pro Bowler Zane Beadles (6-4, 305) in free agency and installed him as the starter at left guard, lining up alongside second-year tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013. Joeckel (6-6, 306) played in only five games, four at right tackle and less than a half at left tackle. He did show a lot of promise in the short time he was on the left side, keeping St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who had 19 sacks last season, at bay.
When Joeckel moved from right tackle to left tackle following Eugene Monroe's trade to Baltimore, first-year player Austin Pasztor stepped into the starting job at right tackle and held onto the job for the rest of the season. The coaching staff likes the 6-7, 308-pounder and is excited about his potential as a long-term starter.
The only question mark is what the team will do at right guard. The Jaguars released Uche Nwaneri last month and could move left guard Will Rackley, who started 12 games last season, into that spot. The Jaguars also could try Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon or Cameron Bradfield there as well, or draft a guard in the middle rounds.
Another possibility -- which seems unlikely at this point -- would be for the Jaguars to draft Greg Robinson or Luke Matthews at No. 3 and slide Pasztor to right guard.
Even taking the uncertainty at right guard into consideration, the Jaguars' new-look line has the potential to be pretty formidable over the next several seasons, as long as Joeckel continues to develop and Mack and Beadles continue to play at a Pro Bowl level.
The Jaguars haven't had a truly dominant offensive line since the 1999 season. That group was anchored by left tackle Tony Boselli, generally recognized as the best left tackle in the game at the time, and right tackle Leon Searcy. Ben Coleman, Zach Wiegert and Rich Tylski were the guards and John Wade started every game at center.
The '99 team didn't set any rushing records but long-time Jaguars observers consider that the best offensive line in team history. The Jaguars did go 14-2 that season and lost to Tennessee in the AFC Championship game.
The potential lineup in 2014 and beyond has a chance to be better than any group the Jaguars have had in the last decade. At the very least it's pretty much a guarantee that newly-acquired running back Toby Gerhart is going to be spending a large amount of time running behind the left side.
They’re confident they can find a starter among the players already on the roster, beginning with third-year player Mike Brewster.
"We felt like going through our end-of-season evaluations that Brew could hold the fort down," Caldwell said during the NFL owners’ meetings this week. "This is a big year for him. He’s going into his contract year and it felt like that it could be a year for him to really excel and be the guy. I know the players feel comfortable with him. I know our coaching staff feels comfortable with him.
Jacques McClendon, whom the Jaguars claimed last September and ended up playing in five games (two starts) at guard, also can play center. But Brewster, who was a four-year starter and Rimington Award finalist at Ohio State, gets the first chance. He missed the final two games of the season after suffering a fractured left ankle, but is expected to be healthy in time for OTAs in April.
Bradley said Brewster has worked hard in rehab alongside left tackle Luke Joeckel, who missed 11 games after suffering a fractured right ankle, and appears to have gotten bigger and stronger.
"I think that he’s in the mindset that he has the opportunity right in front of him and he’s really going to take advantage of this opportunity," Bradley said. "We’ll see. He looks the part, coming off of his injury very well, but it’s going to be competitive. We have confidence in him to play that position. We’ve talked in our offensive staff meetings and our overall staff meetings specifically about that one position, and his name keeps coming up."
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Brewster, however, has yet to play a snap at center in his first two seasons. He has played in 26 games with 10 starts since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but all have been at left or right guard.
In fact, only one of the Jaguars’ other current options at center has taken a snap. McClendon snapped once against Tennessee when Meester moved to tight end so he could catch a pass in his Jaguars finale. McClendon, a fourth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2010, has played in just nine games, five of which came with the Jaguars last season.
The Jaguars signed Lewis from Cleveland’s practice squad on Dec. 17. He has yet to play in an NFL game.
There are still 13 free-agent centers available -- led by Kyle Cook, Brian de la Puente, Mike Gibson and Rich Ohrnberger -- so the Jaguars might still add one on a bargain contract before the draft. Even if they do, however, they’ll still likely draft one in May. Starting a rookie center is not ideal because of the responsibilities of making line calls and adjustments, but signing veteran guard Zane Beadles and re-signing quarterback Chad Henne makes it more palatable, Bradley said.
"The center spot is always dangerous," Bradley said. "If you start with a rookie center and a rookie quarterback, I think that makes it difficult. But if you have a veteran quarterback and it happens to be a rookie center, you’ll still go through some growing pains, but it’s not to the extreme of both being rookies."
It’s Brewster’s job for now, but the Jaguars are obviously keeping their options open.
The offensive line was the Jaguars' top priority in free agency because of the retirement of center Brad Meester and the release of right guard Uche Nwaneri last week. The team obviously wanted an upgrade over Will Rackley, Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and Drew Nowak.
It's a good move by Jaguars general manager David Caldwell. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Beadles is a tough, durable player who has started 62 of a possible 64 games in the regular season since the Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. The Broncos led the NFL in total offense and were 15th in rushing (117.1 yards per game) last season.
UPDATE: Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said Beadles was the team's primary offensive line target.
"He’s very intelligent, he’s very competitive and he’s very smart," Caldwell said. "We did a lot of work on him in Atlanta when he was coming out. He’s had a heck of a career to-date. I think he’s played in every game possible in his four years in Denver. He played in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s a guy with a proven track record. He’s still only 27 years old. He’s very passionate about football. I think he checks the box for everything we look for in a player and I think you guys know what that is in this culture.”
Beadles, who will play left guard, is a good fit for the Jaguars because like the Broncos they also use a zone-blocking scheme.
Interior offensive line is the Jaguars' biggest need after quarterback and pass-rusher. The group struggled early in the 2013 season with the transition to a zone-blocking scheme and the Jaguars eventually mixed back in some man-blocking schemes.
The strength of a team's running game comes from the center and two guards and those spots weren't very productive in 2013. The Jaguars finished 31st in the NFL in rushing (78.8 yards per game) and running back Maurice Jones-Drew's 3.4 per-carry average was the worst of his career. Meester was in his 14th season and not playing at the same level as he had in the past several seasons. Nwaneri played through torn cartilage in his knee in 2012 and dealt with the lingering effects from the injury in 2013 and Rackley battled a knee injury throughout the 2013 season.
Who is on the roster: OT Cameron Bradfield, G/C Mike Brewster, OT Luke Joeckel, C Patrick Lewis, OT DeMarcus Love, G Jacques McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, G Drew Nowak, G Uche Nwaneri, OT Austin Pasztor, G Will Rackley, and OT Sam Young.
NFL free agents of interest: C Alex Mack, C Ryan Wendell, C Brian De La Puenta, G Jon Asamoah, G Geoff Schwartz, and G Rich Ohrnberger.
Need meter: 9. After quarterback and leo, the interior of the offensive line is the Jaguars’ biggest need. GM David Caldwell has said the team would like to address that in free agency, and it would be a surprise if the Jaguars didn’t sign at least two starters, including a center, within the first few weeks of free agency. It’s unlikely the Jaguars would target the big names that are available, mainly because of cost, but if those players linger on the market and the price drops, the Jaguars would get involved. Even though Joeckel is talented and seemed to thrive in the very limited time he spent at left tackle, there are still questions about him, so the Jaguars might opt to add some experienced depth at tackle. Competition for roster spots on the line will be among the more interesting training camp battles.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch and interview prospects at the NFL combine.
Here's a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on offense and some potential targets:
Quarterback: There's no question this is the Jaguars' top need, although pass-rusher is only slightly behind. Caldwell wants to re-sign Chad Henne before free agency begins next month, but Henne is a bridge player or someone who can mentor a young quarterback and begin the season as the starter if the rookie isn't ready. The Jaguars haven't completely given up on Blaine Gabbert, either, but he's entering the final year of his contract and it would be surprising if he were re-signed after 2014.
Potential targets: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Aaron Murray.
Interior offensive line: The Jaguars have to find a center to replace the retired Brad Meester and a left guard to upgrade from Will Rackley. The Jaguars will address this area in free agency as well but the team also wants to add some young talent. The Jaguars appear set at both tackles (Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor) and right guard Uche Nwaneri has two more years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to make $4.775 million in each year, though, and could be a cap casualty after 2014. Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon can play guard and center but neither appears, now anyway, to be the long-term answer. It wouldn't be surprising if the team took an interior offensive lineman in the third round, especially if the Jaguars took a quarterback earlier.
Potential targets: G Gabe Jackson, G David Yankey, G Brandon Thomas, C Marcus Martin, C Weston Richburg, C Russell Bodine.
Potential targets: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk, Dri Archer, Andre Williams.
Receiver: The Jaguars aren't planning on getting anything from Justin Blackmon in 2014 because they don't yet know his status, which is the correct way to approach his situation. Cecil Shorts is entering a contract year but has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Lamar Thomas, and Stephen Burton are complementary players. The Jaguars need to find a bigger, physical receiver. If they do that in free agency, this area drops to the bottom of the offensive needs list.
Potential targets: Josh Huff, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams.
Tight end: Marcedes Lewis came on strong at the end of the season and he should be a 50-catch player in Jedd Fisch's offense if he stays healthy. After Lewis, though, there isn't much. Clay Harbor is a flex tight end but he's a free agent and the Jaguars will have to decide if they want to re-sign him. Danny Noble is raw and needs more work. The Jaguars want a bigger tight end who can line up next to Lewis in two-tight-end formations.
Potential targets: Marcel Jensen, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Crockett Gilmore, Jake Murphy.
Brad Meester was an ironman throughout his 14-year career with the Jaguars, starting and playing in a franchise-record 209 games. He was a sure a thing as you can have in football, which is why the Jaguars never invested much effort throughout his career to find another center.
There are 19 centers who are scheduled to be free agents this offseason, with the top of the class being Cleveland's Alex Mack. New England's Ryan Wendell and Denver's Dan Koppen are also big names that could be available. It'd be a bit surprising if the Jaguars went the pricey route and signed Mack, who made $3.832 million this season and will likely be asking for $4-plus million a year.
A cheaper alternative -- and one that seems the most likely right now -- would be to look on the roster to see if there's a replacement. The Jaguars have options. They could move Brewster, Rackley or guard Jacques McClendon to center. They also recently signed Matt Stankiewitch, a former Penn State standout who signed as an undrafted free agent with New England last summer, was waived in the final cuts of training camp, and spent the 2013 season out of football.
McClendon played in three games and started two others at guard this season, but he also played one snap at center when Meester moved outside and caught a pass in his final home game.
"Gus and I kind of talked about a little bit of a quick wish list," GM David Caldwell said. "I said obviously we can't fill all of our needs through free agency and through the draft but we can we fill our needs with with people that are here right now and who will anticipate filling that center role, right guard, role, or left guard role, or whatever it might be.
"I think we need to really sit down with our coaches and say, ‘Who can we fill this need with this year?' Let's use our resources, whether it's a draft pick or free agency, to go fill another need that's more of a pressing issue."
The more pressing issues are quarterback, pass-rusher, outside linebacker, and receiver. The Jaguars are unlikely to address the quarterback situation in free agency other than to re-sign Chad Henne.
Finding a center may be something the Jaguars haven't done in a while, but the solution may already be on the roster.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When the call came in from the sideline, Jaguars center Brad Meester got nervous.
But not because he was going to get a chance to score a touchdown in his final game at EverBank Field in front of his family.
He was worried he would embarrass himself in front of 60,559 people.
"The thing that ran through my head was, 'Don't drop the ball,'" Meester said following the Jaguars 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans. "I knew I would catch a lot of flak if I got open one time in my life and I dropped the ball. That was the one thing I was focusing on is catching it."
You can understand his uneasiness. Offensive linemen don’t get to catch passes or score touchdowns very often. Tackles sometimes do when they line up as extra tight ends. But centers never do.
Until Sunday, when offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley decided to give Meester a shot as a way to say “thank you” for being a vital part of the Jaguars franchise for the past 14 seasons. They put the play -- called Pass 5 Weak Screen to Brad -- in the game plan and practiced it all week.
On second-and-8 from the Tennessee 13-yard line late in the first quarter, they called it.
He went about 3 yards down field, turned around, and caught the pass from Chad Henne, just like he had done all week. Every time they practiced the play he caught it. Not a single drop. Even if he had been tackled immediately he would have been a hero to his linemen teammates.
"Have you seen his hands?" Pasztor said. "His fingers are all bent every which way. It is remarkable that he can hold onto the ball."
The rest of the play was an example of why offensive linemen don’t catch passes. Meester ran into the back of right guard Uche Nwaneri, tried to juke a defender, and cut inside instead of outside, where Pasztor was waiting to make a block. Had he done that, he may have scored.
"He’s a lineman. You think he’s going to see that?" Nwaneri said. "He’s just like, ‘RUN! RUN!' That’s how I would have been."
Meester admitted he maybe sort of panicked.
"I couldn't figure out what to do," he said. "Am I going outside? Am I going inside? Is he moving? I stuck there for a while and finally went inside, and there were a couple of guys waiting for me."
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said he probably would have cut outside.
"Yeah it was [free outside] but his speed and my speed are a little different," he said. "I think he’s running 7s not 4s."
Jones-Drew, though, is partly to blame. At no time this past week did he give Meester any tips on reading blocks. It’s not like that’s something an offensive lineman is supposed to know.
"If you ask Drew [Nowak] he would say he played running back so he’d probably tell you he does know how to read blocks," Pasztor said. "I think the majority of us probably don’t."
Meester eventually was tackled after a 9-yard gain, giving the Jaguars a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Henne hit Marcedes Lewis on the next play for a touchdown.
Meester wasn’t bummed about not getting to score. He said it’s a play he’ll always remember, not only because it was a chance to live out every offensive lineman’s dream but because it was a sign of how the coaching staff and franchise feels about him. He’ll also never forget the crowd after the play, either.
"It also meant a lot when after the catch they started cheering, ‘Meester.’" He said. "That was pretty cool. I never had anything like that happen in my life, except maybe at the house."
Had he scored, though, it would have been pandemonium, Jones-Drew said.
"The whole team was ready to get a penalty so it was kind of good that he didn’t score because I think everyone was going to run on the field if he got in," Jones-Drew said. "The bench probably would have emptied."
The catch, as it no doubt will go down as in Meester’s household, was part of a bigger tribute to the 14-year veteran, who announced earlier this week that this will be his final season. He was the only Jaguars player introduced before the game and the team held an on-field ceremony after the game in which he and his family were presented with four framed No. 63 jerseys.
That was a fitting tribute to a player who owns the franchise record for most games played and started (208) and the two longest streaks of consecutive starts (92 and 89). Meester was grateful for the pregame and postgame honors and for Bradley and Fisch giving him a chance to live every offensive lineman’s dream.
"I didn't break down and cry," Meester said. "I did get emotional. It was an emotional time. It really started to get me when I went out for pregame warm-up. I could hear people yelling at me and I could see some signs out there. That was awesome. I never had a sign for myself and there were several.
"There was even a Fat Head out there, which my kids have outside and are excited about."
Probably more than had their dad scored a touchdown.
Grounded: One of the reasons the Jaguars had been 4-1 since the bye week was their improved rush defense. After giving up 162 yards per game in the first eight games, they had allowed opponents an average of just 71 yards in the next five games. The Bills ran for 198 yards, including 80 by Fred Jackson, 67 by C.J. Spiller and 37 by quarterback EJ Manuel. The Jaguars struggled with all the things they did well in the last five games: staying in their gaps, tackling, communication. “The biggest thing for us was the fundamentals,” defensive end Jason Babin said. “We did it to ourselves; whether it was 10 guys on the field, whether it was missed tackles, whether it was missed alignment, missed assignment, looking back I’m pretty sure when we watch the tape that’s what we’re going to see. That’s I think what makes it most frustrating, is we did it to ourselves.”
Line shuffle: With the news that backup guard Mike Brewster is out for the rest of the season with a fractured left ankle, the Jaguars’ situation on the offensive line is somewhat shaky. Brewster was in the game because starter Will Rackley did not play due to a concussion (it’s unclear how long he will be out). Jacques McClendon replaced Brewster and had an up-and-down day, committing two false starts but doing a solid job in the run game. The Jaguars likely will sign Drew Nowak from the practice squad to replace Brewster, and Nowak could be forced to start Sunday’s game against Tennessee if Rackley can’t play. Nowak has not appeared in a game in his two seasons.
Guy trouble: Winston Guy had an up-and-down day as well, but it was almost expected since he has been playing free safety all season and was forced into duty as the starting strong safety because Johnathan Cyprien (thigh) was inactive. Guy had six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, but he also missed several tackles and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin in the head, a play that’s likely to draw a fine. “He has the ability to make some big plays but in four days of practice [at strong safety] like that we knew that there could be some opportunities that we missed,” coach Gus Bradley said.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:
What it means: What could have been a gut-it-out victory because of the loss of four starters turned into another loss at EverBank Field in front of 60,085 fans. The Jaguars turned it over four times, including once when Denard Robinson fumbled the ball at the Buffalo 1-yard line, and it bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The Jaguars had won three games in a row and were coming off their first victory at EverBank Field in more than a year.
Stock watch: It’s harder to be much higher than Jordan Todman, who ran for 109 yards and had 44 yards receiving. The first-year player was making his first start because Maurice Jones-Drew was inactive with a hamstring injury. Todman also had a pair of big plays, a 33-yard run on a drive that ended with a field goal, and a 30-yard catch-and-run to convert a third down and continue a drive that ended with a touchdown. Quarterback Chad Henne did not have one of his better games. He threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, and threw several other passes that were nearly intercepted. He made some plays with his feet and had to deal with heavy pressure, but he wasn’t able to overcome his mistakes.
Banged-up offensive line: The offensive line was hit hard by injuries. Starting left guard Will Rackley was added to the injury report on Saturday with a concussion and did not play. His replacement, Mike Brewster, suffered a left ankle injury in the first half and did not return. Jacques McClendon finished the game at left guard, which left the Jaguars with just one other healthy offensive lineman (Sam Young).
In a rush: One of the things that had keyed the Jaguars’ turnaround in the second half of the season was better rush defense. They went from allowing 162 yards per game in the first eight games to holding the next five opponents under 100 yards. That changed on Sunday, when the Bills battered the Jaguars for 198 yards on the ground. Fred Jackson rushed for 80 yards, C.J. Spiller 67, and quarterback EJ Manuel 37.
What’s next: The Jaguars play their final home game of the season against Tennessee at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
He wasn’t kidding.
The Jaguars were awarded seven players off waivers on Sunday, adding receiver Stephen Burton (Minnesota), defensive back Winston Guy (Seattle), tight end Clay Harbor (Philadelphia), guard Jacques McClendon (Atlanta), linebacker Chris McCoy (Philadelphia), linebacker J.T. Thomas (Chicago) and tight end D.J. Williams (Green Bay).
They aren’t done yet, either. Caldwell said the team will look at the players other teams released on Sunday and there could be some additional signings on Monday.
"We’ll evaluate that pool and from that pool we’ll see if we can upgrade somewhere," Caldwell said. "We will always look for an edge and an advantage of where we can try to get better."
Speed and the ability to play on special teams are the two traits for which Caldwell is looking in available players. Six of the seven players signed have special-teams value.
"It’s something we’ve looked at the whole time," Caldwell said. "We’re always going to look to get better in every phase, not just special teams. It’s offense, defense, [and] it's personnel. Whatever we’re doing we’re going to work to get better. We felt like when we came here in the offseason we wanted to upgrade our team speed. We feel like we didn’t completely do that in the offseason but we feel like we did that today."
To make room for the seven additions, the Jaguars cut defensive back Antwon Blake, tight end Brett Brackett, center Dan Gerberry, defensive tackle Kyle Love, fullback Lonnie Pryor, receiver Jordan Shipley and linebacker Andy Studebaker.
The Jaguars also signed the following players to the practice squad: cornerback Marcus Burley, defensive end Ryan Davis, receiver Jeremy Ebert, guard Drew Nowak, receiver Tobais Palmer, quarterback Matt Scott, and safety Steven Terrell. The Jaguars have one remaining spot to fill on the practice squad.
Here’s a quick look at the seven new players:
Burton: The former 2011 seventh-round draft pick played in 15 games for Minnesota last season and caught seven passes for 73 yards and one touchdown.
Guy: He was a sixth-round pick by Seattle last year and played in three games, including the NFC divisional playoff game against Atlanta.
Harbor: He spent the past three seasons in Philadelphia after the Eagles took him in the fourth round in 2010. He has played in 39 games (18 starts) and has 47 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns. Also has lined up at receiver.
McClendon: The former 2010 fourth-round pick by Indianapolis has played in only four games.
McCoy: Miami selected him in the fourth round in 2010 and he spent that season on the practice squad with three teams (Miami, Houston and Seattle). He spent the past two seasons with Calgary in the Canadian Football League.
Thomas: Chicago selected him in the sixth round in 2011. After spending his rookie season on injured reserve he played in every game last season for the Bears.
Williams: He spent the past two seasons with Green Bay after the Packers selected him in the fifth round in 2011. He has nine career catches for 70 yards. He also can line up at fullback.
Fan favorite: He was a long shot all the way, but Banks was being followed closely by fans. That’s because he had a unique history. Banks spent five years in prison and later was exonerated. Banks’ attempt to make the team was a great story while it lasted. But it may not be completely over. The Falcons reportedly may offer Banks a position working with the team.
What’s next: The Falcons could be combing the waiver wire for offensive line help. Second-year pro Lamar Holmes is unproven at right tackle and the Falcons, who lost projected starter Mike Johnson to injury, might want to bring in an alternative. Even if Holmes plays well, the line still could use more depth. It also is possible the Falcons could bring in a veteran quarterback because backup Dominique Davis never has taken a snap in the regular season.
Players cut: Waived LB Brian Banks, G Theo Goins, DT Neal Huynh, CB Terrence Johnson, S Charles Mitchell, DT Micanor Regis, T Alec Savoie, LB Pat Schiller, K Jeremy Shelley, CB Peyton Thompson, RB Ronnie Wingo, FB Patrick DiMarco, LB Robert James, WR Darius Johnson, CB Jordan Mabin, G Phillipkeith Manley, G Jacques McClendon, WR Martel Moore, DT Adam Replogle and WR James Rodgers. The Falcons also placed QB Sean Renfree and TE Andrew Szczerba on injured reserve.
Item: The Green Bay Packers are back at practice Sunday in preparation for Thursday's season opener (!) against the New Orleans Saints.
Comment: According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a number of injured players have returned. That list includes tight end Jermichael Finley, receiver Randall Cobb and defensive end Mike Neal. I'll have more on the start of Week 1 in a bit.
Item: The Packers slipped several valued players through waivers and signed them to their practice squad.
Comment: Receivers Tori Gurley and Chastin West, along with quarterback Graham Harrell, were all part of the practice squad Sunday. It was particularly important to keep Harrell in the program with No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn's contract set to expire after this season.
Item: The Detroit Lions waived running back Aaron Brown and center Chris Morris. They reportedly claimed offensive lineman Jacques McClendon from the Indianapolis Colts. At the moment, the second roster spot is unfilled.
Comment: Veteran running back Chester Taylor signed with the Arizona Cardinals, eliminating that possibility for the Lions. It's not clear if Brown's departure means another running back is on the way in, or if he was simply the least-valued player remaining on the Lions' 53-man roster. We'll keep you updated.
Item: The Minnesota Vikings claimed linebacker Xavier Adibi from the Houston Texans.
Comment: The Vikings are a 4-3 team and Adibi has mostly played inside in a 3-4 scheme, but depth was a critical issue here. Only five linebackers were on the original 53-man roster, and Adibi provides credible insurance should a starter be injured.
But the revised Colts’ depth chart flips left tackle Anthony Castonzo ahead of Jeff Linkenbach and left guard Joe Reitz ahead of Jacques McClendon.
It may merely be the team rotating guys, but it’s hard not to comment on the Castonzo “move.”
It’s not an easy spot to jump into, especially with Peyton Manning at risk if Castonzo botches blindside blocking. But Manning’s developed an awfully good radar detection system regarding blocking breakdowns, and over the last four years he helped Tony Ugoh (who was bad) and Charlie Johnson (who did the best he could with what he had) avoid catastrophe.
(A blown block Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium against Washington would be putting Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky at risk, not the still-rehabbing Manning.)
Castonzo’s pedigree from Boston College and the draft should be enough to make up for the four games worth of experience for Linkenbach.
The team is confident Castonzo has the makeup to contribute quickly or it wouldn’t have drafted him, because the Colts need the offensive line help now as well as later. The question is how quickly, of course.
The early intent was to ease him in as opposed to subjecting him to baptism by fire.
But I’d go baptism by fire now, particularly with Manning not in any danger. They can always flip Castonzo back if he gets singed.
- Joe Reitz, who’s listed as a tackle, continues to work at left guard ahead of Jacques McClendon. He lined up with left tackle Jeff Linkenbach, center Jeff Saturday, right guard Mike Pollak and right tackle Ryan Diem to form the starting O-line.
- Justin Tryon ranks as the third corner right now, but count me among those who think he could wind up second. I watched him encourage and advise undrafted rookie Terrence Johnson during one-on-ones about being patient working against receiver Taj Smith. Good stuff.
- “Saturday,” a fan screamed and the center raised his fist before the rest of the line was delivered. “Thank you for the season.” He should hear that a lot based on his giant role in the CBA negotiations.
- It can't be a fun job to be the guy who holds up a three-ring pack of laminated sheets with the right package or play name on it to the camera before each play. But the coaches need to have some stuff labeled as “Alcatraz” of “Queso” when they review and look for landmarks of the sets.
- With Dwight Freeney out for the morning, the first-unit defensive line was, left to right, Jamaal Anderson, Fili Moala, Antonio Johnson and Robert Mathis.
- Special teams worked on punting out of the back of the end zone and the block team did well to get to one off of Pat McAfee’s foot. Special-teams coach Ray Rychleski didn’t care for close-but-no-cigar on another snap. Well, not even close, apparently. “Don’t go near the guy,"' he barked at one rusher. “You’re not even close. Block it or don’t go near him.” The broader point: Roughing the punter penalties kill.
- Watched some one-on-one pass rush and saw Tommie Harris win snaps against McClendon and Reitz. Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana looked good to me. Drake Nevis and Jerry Hughes didn’t have a great period from what I could tell.
- Linebacker Ernie Sims is out two weeks after an appendectomy, according to Jim Caldwell.
Bill Polian’s spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman for the first time in his 14 drafts running the Colts.
Anthony Castonzo out of Boston College should offer an immediate upgrade in Indianapolis. He’s likely to step in at left tackle and replace Charlie Johnson, protecting Peyton Manning's blind side while hopefully also offering a boost to the run game.
Smart and dependable are words attached to him in virtually every review. Smart is a prerequisite for a Colts offensive linemen and dependable is a necessity with Manning’s health at issue if a Mario Williams gets a free shot at him.
Johnson did admirable work the last few years. But he was part of a patchwork operation that has yet to fully recover from the retirement of Tarik Glenn before the 2006 Super Bowl-winning season. Polian traded up for Tony Ugoh, drafting the Arkansas tackle in the second round in 2007 but cutting him after three middling years when he couldn’t win and hold a lineup spot.
Johnson may be a free agent, but he’s a player the Colts probably like as a guard or a versatile sub if they can retain him.
Ryan Diem, the right tackle, slipped last season and will likely have to fight to keep his spot. Jeff Linkenbach could be the big challenger there, or Castonzo could start out on the right.
Another second-year man, Jacques McClendon, might fight his way into a guard job as the Colts revamp the unit.
And Indianapolis could still draft another lineman in the next two days.