NFL Nation: Josh Stamer
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons, LB Josh Stamer.
Potential restricted free agents: LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, TE Derek Schouman, T Jonathan Scott, S George Wilson, CB Ashton Youboty.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Bills are in a rebuilding mode and shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to sign their free agents. In fact, they took the unusual step of publicly announcing they wouldn't offer Owens, Reed or Denney contracts. The most attractive players are Incognito and Wilson. Most of the rest were bit players and injury replacements.
Potential unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.
Potential restricted free agents: RB Ronnie Brown, TE Anthony Fasano, OLB Quentin Moses.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Dolphins have a tough decision to make on Ferguson. He'll turn 36 during the 2010 season and is coming off a serious quadriceps injury. Without him, however, the Dolphins have a massive void in their 3-4 defense at a position that's difficult to replace. Pennington, Jones and Taylor all could be gone.
New England Patriots
Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.
Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.
Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.
What to expect: Several starters are about to go up for bids, and the Patriots can't keep them all. Expect Faulk to be re-signed without much fuss. Neal, Bodden and Banta-Cain comprise a group they'd have trouble replacing. All three could fetch offers the Patriots would rather not match. Don't count on Watson coming back.
New York Jets
Potential unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Ryan Fowler, TE Ben Hartsock, LB Larry Izzo, FB Tony Richardson.
Potential restricted free agents: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, DT Howard Green, T Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: As a "final eight" team, the Jets have to window shop until one of their UFAs sign elsewhere. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is creative. Don't be surprised if the Jets use trades to upgrade. The key restricted free agent to monitor will be Washington, who received a second-round tender. His agent has been tweeting alarms the Pro Bowler could sign an offer sheet and dare the Jets to match.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Biggest surprise: Chris Henry survives again? It’s hard to think that if they look to add someone in the next couple days it won’t put the running back at risk. But the third-year runner got at least an initial spot as the Titans waived-injured Quinton Ganther, a more valuable and versatile player as the fourth back He suffered a calf injury in the preseason finale. Hardly as big on the list of surprises: the end for veteran linebackers Ryan Fowler, Josh Stamer and Rocky Boiman, leaving the team with very young depth; Patrick Ramsey sticking as a third quarterback; and the survival of cornerback Cary Williams.
No-brainers: The Titans kept nine defensive linemen. The lowest ranking of the bunch is probably second-round pick Sen’Derrick Marks and the Titans certainly intend to give him time to develop. They kept four tight ends, a move never in doubt with Jared Cook in his first year and Craig Stevens in his second. Receiver Paul Williams showed very little in two seasons since the Titans spent a third-rounder on him and it was certainly time to look to someone like rookie Dominique Edison instead.
What's next: Sixth-round draft pick Jason McCourty, looks to have an early chance to be a special teams contributor and should survive ahead of Cary Williams at cornerback if the Titans make a move to upgrade depth. But corner depth and the punt return job remain the two largest concerns.
1. Tempo and rhythm: Kerry Collins had a lot of slow starts in 2008 and we know he and the first team offense aren't going to play very long. Tennessee's offense looks to have significantly better personnel than Tampa Bay's defense. Can the Titans first-team offense find a good flow?
2. A corner to stand out. Has one of the four candidates to be the chief corner backup stepped forward yet? I've not been with the Titans for a while, but haven't heard any great buzz yet either about Cary Williams, DeMarcus Faggins, Ryan Mouton or Jason McCourty.
3. Young linebacker play. Ryan Fowler will start in the middle with Stephen Tulloch (knee) out. Josh Stamer probably works with the twos in David Thornton's spot on the left with Stanford Keglar taking over for Keith Bulluck on the right. Rookie Gerald McRath should see significant time outside as well. Keglar or McRath could have a big opportunity in a year if Bulluck's not re-signed. Do either show signs?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I took a great interest in a drill Sunday that pitted linebackers against running backs in a pass protection scenario.
I thought Stephen Tulloch was especially impressive going against the Titans running backs in the team's first practice in shoulder pads.
Here's a mini-breakdown of some of the matchups:
- Ryan Fowler ran right over Chris Johnson, and later said he intended to bull rush, which is a bit of a no-no in this scenario. He said Johnson was on him quickly and he simply did the only thing he could, not meaning to circumvent protocol.
- Tulloch just clobbered Chris Henry, who held up better in a rematch.
- Javon Ringer got beat by Colin Allred.
- After a false start, Quinton Ganther did well against Josh Stamer.
- Stanford Keglar blew past Rodney Ferguson II, which prompted Ahmard Hall to tell Ferguson "don't just stop."
- David Thornton dominated Rafael Little.
- Keith Bulluck got to the tackling dummy serving as the quarterback quickly, but Hall held him up, maybe long enough to qualify as a win.
- Keglar beat Henry to the outside.
- Ganther did well versus Gerald McGrath.
After practice, I was considering my notes/scorecard and sought clarification from running back coach Earnest Byner on what amounted to a win on a snap of the drill.
"If a guy gets good contact, shows the ability to get on a guy and then tries to run him by, that's pretty good," he said. "In that drill, the defense is supposed to win. That's really a defensive drill. If a guy can get any contact and maintain the contact for like two seconds, that's a win."
A couple important notes for context:
If they weren't on the line of scrimmage, the backs lined up very close to it. In game situations they wouldn't be so close to the defender they need to block at the snap. At a practice the backs are without one major tool -- the cut block that would take a linebacker's legs out and put him on the ground. Ganther said ideally a back will push the rusher outside, buying a quarterback who is stepping up in the pocket additional time.
"It's much easier in a game," Byner said. "You have the ability to cut block, you have the ability to use your line a little more. If you can block in that drill, the game is easy. I thought the guys did well. They sit tight, hard to the defender. I wanted that. I didn't want them to sit and be cautious and not do anything. I wanted the aggression, and I was pleased with that. We can learn from that."
Some other practice observations:
- Cornerback Tanard Davis, who finished last year on the practice squad, had a strong afternoon and has been good so far, though working against lesser players. He muscled his way in front of Chris Davis to intercept a short Vince Young pass in one-on-ones. Later, in a team period he moved in front of Paul Williams to grab another pass from Young.
- Rob Bironas, who was due back from his mystery injury, did not return. Fisher continued to decline to say what the injury was, on a day when Kenny Britt talked openly about the right hamstring that landed him on PUP. If Bironas' injury is so insignificant, than why wouldn't it be shared? It gives us all reason to believe something odd is up.
- Britt is still dealing with a right hamstring issue, so he starts out on the PUP list. Fisher didn't quite rule Britt out of the Hall of Fame Game against Buffalo, but said it's "probably unlikely." Britt sounded pretty upbeat. Fisher made it sound as if a week would be the most Britt misses.
- Jared Cook went to the ground to scoop a Young pass. He has made a lot of catches on the run or going up to get the ball, and I took note that he also looked comfortable going to the ground.
- During a two minute drill period, a sliding Nate Washington caught a Kerry Collins pass on the right with Chris Hope and Nick Harper closing. It was too close to call as to whether Washington had his right knee down in bounds before his left leg crossed the sideline. Both sides pleaded with Fisher, who got a shout out from Hope when he came to a quick verdict and the sides "split the difference" on the gain. The drive produced an Alge Crumpler touchdown catch.
- Paul Williams made a very nice, spinning, leaping sideline catch.
- Jovan Haye stepped up and crushed Henry on a carry the back tried to take up the middle.
- Ringer looks a lot better in pads, and a lot better than he did in OTAs.
|Cortland Finnegan shows off the latest addition to his T-shirt collection.|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Cortland Finnegan may be a reigning Pro Bowler, but he'll always be a champion of the little guys.
The Samford alum has been building a collection of T-shirts honoring the lesser-known schools where his fellow Titans played their college ball.
His most recent shipment arrived at the team's complex this week and he hammed it up posing for me with a Tiffin University shirt in honor of receiver Nate Washington. He said he'd give one to Washington to make sure he remembered where he came from, and would wear the other two Tiffin shirts himself.
"I was looking online at all the small-school guys and I decided to order every shirt I could possibly find from a smaller-school guy," Finnegan said. "I've got Tiffin University, Nate Washington. I've got Josh Stamer, South Dakota. Michael Roos, Eastern Washington. Kenny Amato, Montana State. Tuff Harris, Montana. William Hayes, Winston-Salem State. Jacob Ford, Central Arkansas. Fordham and Washburn for Cary Williams.
"They'll be worn in my regular rotation and I am going to pull some stuff out of the closet for these guys," Finnegan said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With Jim Schwartz's staff assembled in a meeting room back in 2001, the first-year defensive coordinator asked the coaches to do something simple: Jot down some ideas on your defensive philosophies, about what's important to you.
Chuck Cecil had been the Tennessee Titans' defensive quality control coach for a week. He sketched out his thinking, and like the rest of the staff, passed his sheet to Schwartz.
Turns out it made an impression.
At some point Schwartz passed Cecil's write-up to Gregg Williams, whose move to the head job in Buffalo had created room for Schwartz to become coordinator. And Williams liked it, too, enough that he held on to it, pulling it out and revisiting it from time to time as he went from Buffalo to Washington to Jacksonville to New Orleans.
|Chuck Cecil takes over as the Titans' defensive coordinator.|
In February at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, not long after Schwartz got the top job in Detroit and Cecil was promoted to replace him, Cecil chatted with Williams.
"He said, 'Remember all those things that you wrote on those notes?'" Cecil said. "He said, 'Now is your chance, don't back out now.'"
That stuck with Cecil, and later he asked Williams for a copy. And Monday, standing in front of the veterans of the defense for the first time, Cecil recalled what he wrote.
"I just tried to let them know how I felt about the game of football and some of the things we expect out of Tennessee Titan defenders," he said Wednesday in his office.
"... The first one was, 'Go hard or go home.' That's the way I signed all my autographs over the years. That's a staple for me. I mean, if you're not going to play hard, we've got no use for you. Go home, there is no room for you here. You don't have to be talented to play hard. If you can't play hard, I don't care how much talent you have. Play hard and then we'll figure out the rest of it."
A no-nonsense type who's kind of shy, Cecil brings an intensity to the job that the defensive backfield knows well -- he was their position coach for the past two years, and three of his starters went to the Pro Bowl last season.
Those who saw and watched seemed to like his method of introduction.
"He basically said, 'A lot of people have been wondering, who is Chuck Cecil?'" nickelback Vincent Fuller said. "And he broke it down. He told us what he was about, he gave us some quotes that he has lived by, played by, and they definitely said 'This is our guy, this is our leader and we're going to go fight for him.'"
Said defensive line coach Jim Washburn: "He's a shy person by nature, but the way he got up and talked? I'm 59 years old and I can read body language and it was good. That was a really nice message he delivered."
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