NFL Nation: Jared Cok

Final Word: AFC South

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

Over in the first? The Texans have scored 57 points in the first quarter, third most in the league. The Browns have scored three, the fewest in the league. If the patterns hold, could we have a snoozer by the time the teams switch ends? ESPN Stats & Information says no quarterback has been less threatening downfield this season than Cleveland’s Colt McCoy. He has three 30-yard pass plays in 163 completions. That’s 1.8 percent, the lowest percentage of 30-yard plays of anyone this season. I don’t expect the Texans to have receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring), but Houston should still be more threatening downfield than the Browns.

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Joshua Weisberg/Icon SMIIn Julio Jones' last full game, he caught 11 passes for 127 yards.
Bad timing: The Colts seem to be catching the Falcons at the wrong time. If Julio Jones returns from a hamstring injury that cost him the last two games, he will have wide eyes looking at the Indianapolis secondary. In his last full game, Jones was targeted 15 times, the fourth most for any player this season. He wound up with a franchise-rookie record 11 catches for 127 yards. On defense, the Falcons have broken out of a sack slump with eight in their last three games, not good news for Curtis Painter, though he should be behind a better line as some guys are healing up.

Watch the deep stuff: Cincinnati rookie receiver A.J. Green is giving the Bengals something the Titans lack without the injured Kenny Britt -- a serious deep threat. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Green has six receptions on throws more than 20 air yards downfield this season, tied for fourth most in the NFL. Only four rookies have had more than six such receptions since the start of 2008. The Titans have covered reasonably well this season. Odds are we’ll see both Cortland Finnegan and Alterraun Verner working against Green. They’ll need a pass rush to help make it work.

Never ahead: The Colts have run 77 plays when leading this season, the fourth fewest in the NFL behind the Broncos, Seahawks and Rams. Just 16.6 percent of the Colts’ offensive plays have come when leading this season compared to 41.9 percent the three seasons before with Peyton Manning. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been quiet in recent weeks, and they obviously thrive when a quarterback has to throw. Indianapolis is best playing from ahead, and the Colts have rarely been in that situation this season.

Bengals in nickel: Cincinnati’s pass defense has been stronger when it has had at least five defensive backs on the field, allowing just one touchdown. The Titans are hardly a great three-wide team considering their third receiver is Lavelle Hawkins. They’d be wise to go with two tight ends more often and feature Jared Cook, a player who’s been underused. The Bengals have not covered tight ends well this season. Why let Cincinnati get into its nickel package when Matt Hasselbeck has thrown five of six picks against defensive sets with at least one extra defensive back?

AFC South Stock Watch

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Kerry Collins, Indianapolis Colts quarterback and his pass protection. Collins was shaky early and by the time he settled down later the game was out of reach and the Texans had let up a bit. His protection was often overwhelmed by the Texans’ new 3-4 front, which got great effort and often overwhelmed an offensive line with three inexperienced starters. Collins can’t hold the ball as long, must hold it tighter when he might gets hit, and needs better work in front of him to have a chance.

2. Tennessee Titans special teams and new-found discipline. Four penalties on special teams in the first half didn’t suggest this team has evolved a great deal from the sloppy and careless crew Jeff Fisher left behind. There is no name in the game book for the first ineligible player downfield call, though it appeared to be Akeem Ayers. Jared Cook committed the same foul, Michael Griffin ran into the punter and Gerald McRath made an illegal block above the waist on a punt return.

3. Chris Johnson, Tennessean Titans running back. Much is being made of him getting only nine carries, but that’s not the biggest issue considering how the Titans hardly had possession against the Jaguars. He had six catches too. In 15 touches, he had only 49 yards. That’s 3.3 yards a touch. If that’s all he can get, a defense is stacking up to stop him. If so, the Titans have to be able to make teams pay with deep stuff. And while Kenny Britt had a big day, it was only on five catches.

RISING

[+] EnlargeDeji Karim
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackDeji Karim gives the Jaguars some options at running back if they want to ease Maurice Jones-Drew back.
1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans defensive end. Veterans Mario Williams and Antonio Smith got more notoriety but Watt was consistently disruptive in the Texans’ win over the Colts and deserves mention as well. Effort isn’t going to be a question for this group and Watt’s as high-energy a player as you can find. He was the division’s most impactful rookie on opening day and he didn’t look like he will require any adjustment period to the pro game, at all.

2. Deji Karim, Jacksonville Jaguars running back. Maurice Jones-Drew wanted to be used more, but Karim’s play gave the Jaguars the option of keeping MJD on a pitch count. He’s coming off offseason knee surgery and the team wants to ensure his work is measured this season. Karim stumbled too often early, but found his footing. He was more dangerous as a receiver, with three catches for 39 yards, including a fantastic third-down conversion where he made two tackles miss after he’d run out of room short of the sticks.

3. Ben Tate, Houston Texans running back. Who knows what 2010 would have held for Tate if he hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in the first preseason game of his rookie year. A year later, he’s part of a crowded backfield. But following a nice preseason, with Arian Foster in street clothes, and Derrick Ward sidelined with a knee injury, he became the lead guy. He did what a back in the Texans’ offense is now expected to do against the Colts: He consistently got to the second level, found room and was difficult to bring down.

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