NFL Nation: Kasey Studdard
Wildcard: If Rusty Smith clears waivers, the Titans will want the fourth-year quarterback back on their practice squad. He’s not been on the active roster for nine games in any of his first three seasons, so he retains his practice squad eligibility. If Smith is claimed, the Titans will need to find a young quarterback for the spot, who they can work to develop as insurance and who will be able to offer an option as the No. 2 if Jake Locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick suffers an injury that results in any missed time. One team that won't claim Smith -- his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars.
What's next: I could see the Titans shopping for a veteran safety as they sift through cuts. Seventh-round pick Daimion Stafford is on the roster now, but the Titans are heavy with strong safeties and light at free safety. They’d probably like better balance and Stafford could ultimately land on the practice squad. With 10 defensive linemen plus strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers in line to play a good share of end, the last pure end -- Keyunta Dawson -- is hardly a lock at this point. Only one injured Titan, rookie linebacker Zaviar Gooden, is likely to miss the season opener at Pittsburgh.
Tennessee Titans cuts: S Al Afalava, T Daniel Baldridge, TE Brandon Barden (injured), DT Stefan Charles, DT Zach Clayton, TE Jack Doyle, LB Gary Guyton, DT DaJohn Harris, S Corey Lynch, FB Collin Mooney, DE Nigel Nicholas, RB Jalen Parmele, WR Rashad Ross, LB Tim Shaw, QB Rusty Smith, LB-DE Scott Solomon, G Kasey Studdard, WR Dontel Watkins, LB Jonathan Willard, CB Khalid Wooten, C-G Fernando Velasco
Placed on Injured-reserve: WR/returner Marc Mariani.
S Al Afalava
T Daniel Baldridge
TE Brandon Barden (injured)
DT Zach Clayton
LB Gary Guyton
DT DaJohn Harris
DE Nigel Nicholas
RB Jalen Parmele
G Kasey Studdard
WR Dontel Watkins
All of these moves were predictable.
Clayton was a seventh-rounder in 2011. Harris made last year's team as an undrafted free agent, and Afalafa was a veteran backup.
It would have cost the Titans a tender of at least $1.323 million to retain his rights. With or without the input of Bruce Matthews, the Hall of Fame lineman, the Titans didn’t tender Kevin Matthews or interior offensive lineman Kyle DeVan.
Kevin Matthews and DeVan will become unrestricted free agents Tuesday at 4 pm ET. At that point the Titans could sign them for deals at one-year base minimum salary. The third-year base salary minimum is $630,000.
It’s time, though, for the Titans to be finished with Matthews, the project who came out of Texas A&M in 2010.
The interior offensive line is expected to be revamped with two new starting guards. As they are brought in, via free agency and/or the draft, the team is likely to move on from two expensive veterans, Steve Hutchinson and Eugene Amano.
Leroy Harris and Deuce Lutui become unrestricted free agents Tuesday.
Tyler Horn was on the practice squad at the end of last season and Chris DeGeare was on the practice squad injured list.
The Titans now have Mitch Petrus and Kasey Studdard as their interior depth.
So Tennessee doesn't only need a couple starting guards. It needs a candidate or two to compete with Petrus and Studdard for backup roles as well.
Running back Derrick Ward -- A third-stringer who has good experience and could be important if Arian Foster is lured away with an offer sheet as a restricted free agent.
Tight end Joel Dreessen -- Though largely underrated from the outside, he’s been a nice contributor and certainly has value for the Texans.
OG Mike Brisiel -- A solid starter they’d surely like to keep in order for their very good offensive line to remain intact.
C Chris Myers -- A very valuable cog in the machine and a great system fit, he may have been the best center in the NFL in 2011.
Wide receiver Bryant Johnson -- He was a non-factor as the team’s fourth receiver and they need to upgrade the spot.
Linebacker Tim Dobbins -- Played well when he got on the field, but may find better opportunity elsewhere.
Outside linebacker/defensive end Mario Williams -- If the Texans can’t lock him up before March 13, he will become the biggest prize of the free-agent class. It would be a huge accomplishment to find a way to re-sign him.
Cornerback Jason Allen -- He’s been a virtual “co-starter” with Kareem Jackson and has typically outplayed him. But based on this list, he’s not close to a priority.
Kicker Neil Rackers -- Rackers has been a steady guy for the Texans, who surely would like to keep him rather than shopping for a replacement.
Viewers saw a team already thinned out at running back get thinner as a revamped defense did some nice things in a 20-16 win over the New York Jets.
One man's quick observations…
- The Texans lacked some of firepower, with Andre Johnson (finger), Arian Foster (hamstring), Brian Cushing (knee) and prize free-agent cornerback Johnathan Joseph (groin) sitting out. We saw more, sooner, of Jacoby Jones, Derrick Ward, Darryl Sharpton and Jason Allen as a result.
- Ward started and didn’t last long before suffering a head injury, leaving the team with only Chris Ogbonnaya and Javarris Williams as its running backs. Houston tried running Ogbonnaya inside too much, but got him going more as a bootleg pass target for Matt Leinart. He caught a short touchdown pass among his team-high six receptions for 67 yards. He ran for the game-winning touchdown from a yard out with just under 2:00 left.
- Ankle injuries to Antoine Caldwell and Kasey Studdard could mean the team could be thinned for a time at guard as well.
- Matt Schaub hit on just 2 of 5 passes before yielding to Leinart. Schaub was just a touch off and two of his targets, Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter, were unable to pull in balls they got their hands on.
- The Texans shouldn’t feel obligated to use James Casey as the first-string fullback just because he was the primary plan once Vonta Leach left. They later signed free-agent Lawrence Vickers. He shouldn’t be waiting until the second half for a chance to impact the game. He quickly had a 22-yard catch and run.
- Second-string inside linebacker Xavier Adibi had a nice night, though he was unblocked on one of his two sacks. Another No. 2, outside linebacker Jesse Nading, was also productive with a sack and a forced fumble. Second-round pick Brooks Reed looked good, showing good burst at the snap. He had one good rush followed by a nice recognition in which he stopped chasing to jump and knock down a pass.
- The late work of undrafted rookie outside linebacker Bryan Braman out of West Texas A&M is the sort that makes a guy impossible to hide for a practice squad spot. No matter the caliber of the people attempting to block him, he showed a knack for getting to the quarterback, even if he allowed rookie quarterback Greg McElroy to shrug out of a sure sack on the final possession of the game.
- Will Demps fielded kickoffs and punts early on without much affect. Trindon Holliday was out hurt and the team wisely didn’t choose to look at Jones and Danieal Manning, veteran starters who didn’t need to be exposed to injury risk on special teams.
So that you are not alarmed when they take the field on your TV, here’s a public service announcement. It’s Battle Red Day, which means the Texans will be in head-to-toe red uniforms. They look good when they win in them.
As far as altering any national perception, a good performance by the Texans will get dented as the New York and Minneapolis markets will likely be watching the rescheduled Giants-Vikings game from Detroit. People with the full NFL package on DirecTV will also be able to flip between the games.
The Texans have Owen Daniels active, but will start Joel Dreessen at tight end. The Ravens have Todd Heap inactive and will start Ed Dickson at tight end.
Be sure to join our Monday Night Live chat.
Texans: QB Matt Leinart, WR Dorin Dickerson, CB Brice McCain, S Quintin Demps, G Kasey Studdard, G Shelley Smith, TE Anthony Hill, TE Garrett Graham.
Ravens: CB Fabian Washington, FB Jason McKie, ILB Jason Phillips, ILB Daniel Ellerbe, DT Arthur Jones, OL Bryan Mattison, TE Todd Heap, DT Lamar Divens.
The Texans sold him on opportunity and he bought the pitch. Now as the Texans near the end of their organized team activities, he’s been getting about half his snaps with the first team, playing at both guard spots and center, he said. Smith, left guard Kasey Studdard, center Chris Myers and right guard Antoine Caldwell and guard Mike Brisiel appear to be in a five-way battle for three spots.
“Wade is super athletic, the guy can really move around,” right tackle Eric Winston said. “You can really understand why [offensive coordinator Rick] Dennison and [Gary] Kubiak really like him. He’s not super big, but I think he plays with good leverage. I think he really hits a lot bigger than he is and moves people well enough where he can be a force in all sort of different runs.”
Smith is not at all disappointed to not be running exclusively with the first team at this point, as he was never told he’d be installed as a starter right away.
“It just depends on what day it is,” he said of whether he is with the ones or twos. “From what I’ve been told it’s three spots that are open, nobody is set in stone and everybody is competing to try to get a job. … They told me before I signed that they are not going to give me anything, that I could come in and have a legit chance to win a spot. They don’t give anybody anything, you’ve got to work for what you get in life, so I was all for it.”
I like Smith’s attitude about the openings, and I like the fact that the Texans don’t feel they need to establish a starting interior in June. The group needs to work as one, so a determination will have to come by about halfway through camp for the ultimate five to work together enough to be in sync for the start of the season.
I would think they’d like Smith to win a spot based on their investment in him, though Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has said Smith would be a great insurance guy as a sixth lineman.
When Brisiel and Chester Pitts, a free agent they won’t bring back, went down for the year early last season, the Texans weren’t left with great depth. Myers played with a bad ankle for much of the year.
I think the worst thing that can happen is an offensive line gets riddled with injuries during the season,” Winston said. “I think the best thing that can happen the next year is that your offensive line got injury-riddled the year before.
“Because now we’ve got so much competition, we’ve got so many backups who’ve started so many games. I think our experience is going to help us.”
The Tennessee Titans, who blocked for just the sixth 2,000-yard rusher in league history, have made an alteration. The Indianapolis Colts, the defending AFC champs who allowed a league-low 13 sacks, are auditioning interior candidates. The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars both identified the interior line as an area in need of improvement, too.
Yet of 32 draft picks by the four teams, just two were used on offensive linemen -- a fourth-rounder by the Colts for guard Jacques McClendon and a sixth-rounder by the Texans for guard Shelley Smith. And only three veteran additions seem like they can influence the mixes -- Justin Smiley in Jacksonville, Wade Smith in Houston and Andy Alleman in Indianapolis.
Said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.: “Didn't anyone in this division address the interior offensive line during the draft with any pick of substance? That seems odd.”
So here’s a team-by-team look at what’s going on inside, with some thoughts from Williamson:
The Jaguars appear willing to have true competitions to hash things out.
Last year’s interior trio of left guard Vince Manuwai, center Brad Meester and right guard Uche Nwaneri is back. But the team is willing to shuffle, and at least two others are in play now as well -- Smiley, a guard acquired recently from Miami in a trade for an undisclosed draft pick believed to be a conditional seventh, and Kynan Forney, a backup guard last year.
At minicamp the weekend following the draft, Jags head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive line coach Andy Heck had flipped Manuwai to the right side, figuring he and right tackle Eben Britton are the team’s best run-blockers. With the aid of tight end Marcedes Lewis and fullback Greg Jones, the Jaguars could send Maurice Jones-Drew that direction and dare people to stop it.
But at organized team activities (OTAs) this week, Manuwai wasn’t working with the starters and Del Rio was talking about how the torn ACL the guard suffered back in the season opener of 2008 was still a factor for him.
“I think he’s still a little bothered by that but at some point you’ve got to get beyond that and go and he knows that,” Del Rio said. “I think Vinny still has a ways to go. I think Vinny’s working at it. He’s got his weight down. He’s trying but he needs to play better. I think he knows that. He’s working hard it and trying …
“We clearly [come] out of last year saying, ‘Look, we’ve got to have better play with our line, period,’ and our two young tackles [Eugene Monroe and Britton] we know are going to grow and get better but our interior line needs to pick it up as well. And they are working at it and they are challenging and competing and we expect them to play at a much higher level for us.”
I honestly think it’s wide open, but I’d be very surprised if Manuwai, who can be a very effective run-blocker, isn’t in the starting lineup for the opener against Denver.
Williamson says: “Adding Smiley could pay dividends, as this offensive line (especially on the interior) really was a problem area last year. Their protection up the gut was really poor. While I have some real doubts any more about Meester, I do like Manuwai quite a bit and expect more from him this year.”
The Texans' run troubles were in large part because of their backs. But they lost guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel early and it’s a tough order for any team to replace 40 percent of its line and keep plugging. Steve Slaton had a miserable year as he tried to deal with a neck injury, couldn’t hold onto the ball and wound up on injured reserve.
Pitts is a free agent who won’t be back and Brisiel has been working as a backup so far in OTAs. The team’s lined up with Kasey Studdard at left guard, Chris Myers and at center and Antoine Caldwell at right guard. But Smith’s been rotated in some early at center.
With offensive line guru Alex Gibbs gone, the team will still be using his principles. But the three remaining coaches who oversee the position -- John Benton, Frank Pollack and Bruce Matthews -- may have fresher eyes and a willingness to shuffle. And odds are it's second-round pick Ben Tate getting many of the carries behind that line.
We should see some real competition for all three slots. I’ve repeatedly hear good things about Myers. And because Caldwell was a third-rounder, I expect the team would probably like to see him stake a claim.
Gary Kubiak said Studdard and Caldwell have earned the right to say they are starters “right now.”
“We are as competitive in there as we’ve ever been as a team,” Kubiak said. “It’s going to be hard to hold a job, and it’s going to be very competitive to get one. So that makes the team better.”
Williamson says: “I thought Myers played real well and he is an excellent fit in this system. Their interior offensive line is loaded with no-name guys, but overall they are well coached and effective enough. Still, an upgrade at one of the starting guard spots would have been a real nice addition. … Smith is an ideal sixth guy, but not a liability as a starter.”
The Colts paid him a bonus, but still cut Ryan Lilja who seemed pretty effective to me at left guard last season. Team officials have worked hard to deflect the idea the Colts made the move because they want to be bigger on the line. But it’s a sensible time for a change with Pete Metzelaars taking over for Howard Mudd as line coach and the team looking to be more effective in clutch third-and-short situations and the like.
Tony Ugoh, who lost out at left tackle, has worked at left guard in recent offseason practice sessions. Jeff Saturday is entrenched as Peyton Manning's guy at center. Kyle DeVan is the incumbent right guard, who came out of nowhere last season.
Presuming no other tackles are shifted inside and that left tackle remains Charlie Johnson's job, Ugoh and DeVan face their competition from Alleman, McClendon and 2008 second-rounder Mike Pollak.
Bill Polian has talked about throwing everybody out there and seeing what happens. With a new position coach, the fight for roles may not start with any true favorites. While they have to continue to favor pass blocking above all else, I do think it’s in their best interest to be a bit more determined to be able to call for and execute runs in key situations with more success.
Williamson says: “Saturday is obviously the leader and his symbiotic relationship with Peyton carries a ton of weight. He is smart and very technically sound. I do think his game is falling off ever so slightly though. I was shocked that they let Lilja go and thought he was far and away their best guard. Now, they really need to count on youngsters and those youngsters still have a lot to prove.”
Tennessee loses leadership and experience in the equation, but gains significant strength. Harris is very much an interior guy, but he’s athletic and smart enough that he played effectively at right tackle in a win at San Francisco last season.
A Hall of Famer as a player, line coach Mike Munchak knows when a guy is ready, and he’s fully endorsed this plan or the Titans wouldn’t be going with it. Whether Chris Johnson or someone like LeGarrette Blount is running up the middle, I think they’ll find a bit more daylight. And Vince Young should feel less inside rush closing in on him.
Williamson says: “You have to wonder how much Mawae will be missed. It isn't that he played great -- and clearly he isn't what he once was -- but just from the standpoint of making the calls and especially from a leadership perspective. So, this interior line is in transition. Right guard Jake Scott probably hasn't quite lived up to what Tennessee was expecting to get from him when they signed him in free agency, but he is a quality starting guard. I think Harris has a good amount of ability and could surprise with more playing time.”
Gibbs is the line coach in Seattle and probably the most influential assistant in the NFC West as far as shaping draft priorities in 2010. That is partly because Gibbs is a high-profile coach. It's also because he demands a specific type of player for his scheme.
I've gone through every offensive lineman Gibbs' teams have drafted (download sortable list here). Patterns have emerged. I filtered out the years he spent in the league prior to 1995, his first with Denver, when analyzing player weights across specific positions. The thought was that player weights from the 1980s and even early 1990s might be outdated. Also, Gibbs might have been less influential early in his career, particularly when with the Raiders.
Since 1995, the players listed as guards averaged 289 pounds. Gibbs' teams drafted them in the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. The players listed as centers averaged 302 pounds. Gibbs' teams drafted them in the third, fifth and seventh rounds. The players listed as tackles averaged 313 pounds. Gibbs' teams drafted them in the first, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds.
The Facebook discussion brought to light a Florida State-related blog entry summarizing comments Gibbs made during a coaching video (extra credit for anyone who can find the video). The summary suggested Gibbs was most particular about centers, then guards, then tackles.
An inexperienced or less intelligent player would have a harder time starting right away at one of the interior positions. Look up scouting reports for Gibbs' interior linemen and they'll mention smarts and a lack of size. "Very, very smart and plays smart," the late Joel Buschbaum wrote about eventual Broncos draft choice Lennie Friedman in his 1999 report for Pro Football Weekly. "Average size, speed and physical tools."
Broncos guard Ben Hamilton, one of the free agents Seattle has considered this offseason, fits the description. Buschbaum summed up Hamilton this way in his 2001 preview: "Very smart and dedicated. ... Might be able to play guard or center for a team like the Broncos. ... Lacks great natural size and ability. Is a pumped-up 250-pounder."
Sims is much bigger and more powerful, which doesn't matter in a Gibbs blocking scheme.
Since Gibbs entered the NFL in 1984, his teams have drafted one offensive lineman among the top 20 overall choices -- 338-pound tackle George Foster, selected 20th in 2003 despite not really fitting the Gibbs mold. Gibbs' teams have held a dozen choices higher than 20th during that time. His teams have held 43 choices among the top 59 overall picks, using three of them for offensive linemen (all tackles).
Gibbs' teams have held 11 picks between the 60th and 77th slots. They used five of them for offensive linemen, all guards or centers, including Dan Neil and Will Shields. Seattle holds the 60th pick this year. Three of them were 6-foot-3, one was 6-2 and one was 6-4. That's another thing about the linemen on Gibbs' wish lists. The guards and centers aren't very tall.
It's a little tougher to project what kind of tackle Seattle might select. The Seahawks' need at the position could be great enough to justify taking the most talented player, with less regard for the things Gibbs demands from his interior offensive linemen. That might be a justification for projecting Trent Williams to Seattle at No. 6, as some have done lately.
A big part of Houston’s offensive troubles last year were related to the interior line, where starting guard Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel went down early with season-ending injuries. Kasey Studdard and Chris White were less than stellar as fill-ins.
Pitts is unrestricted and unlikely to return, and now Smith will jostle with the rest of that group and last year's offensive line pick, Antoine Caldwell, who backed up center Chris White, for a role. I’d expect they expect Smith's an upgrade who will start. And while they could take another interior lineman in the draft, it shouldn't be a spot they prioritize ahead of cornerback, free safety or running back.
Here’s Scouts Inc.’s review of Smith, which makes him sound very much like a guy that fits what the Texans like to do up front:
Smith had been pretty much a career backup up until he started seven games in 2008. He is athletic with good short-area quickness, agility, balance and body control. His most glaring weakness is his inability to stop powerful bull rushers on the inside. He understands angles and can react to movement and adjust to counter moves. He is more of a finesse blocker than a road-grader. He gives the Chiefs solid depth in that he can back up multiple positions.
In a 15-minute chat with him this morning, I sensed he’s got a handle on that, and is fine with it. He’s ready to prove himself again, plug into the Texans' offense in whatever way he’s asked to and wipe the tarnish off his name that came with a shaky sophomore season.
Something his coach, Gary Kubiak, told him after an outstanding 1,282-yard rookie season in 2008 proved prophetic.
“You come out of a rookie year where you gain 1,100-1,200 yards you think, ‘Damn, this is a pretty easy deal,'" Kubiak said. “I teased with him before the season and said 'The next 1,200 you gain will probably be the toughest of your career. It’s not that easy.’”
Slaton’s still got 763 yards to go to get there after a poor 2009, when he gained only 3.3 yards per carry and fumbled seven times before a neck injury ended his season after 11 games.
By the time he went on injured reserve, he said he had a numb right arm from the top of his shoulder to his thumb, all day every day for two months. A pinched nerve led to a C-5 cervical fusion in mid-January.
He felt the difference as soon as he woke up and doctors told him it went as smoothly as possible and rate his recovery, tabbed to take four to six months, as very good. He said he will be ready for training camp, holding the ball high and tight.
He’s been rehabbing since surgery and can now run and lift weights as long as he limits the stress on his neck.
“Everybody wants to come in their second year and never have that slump, and not have an excuse for something you think you can help,” he said. “It was uncharacteristic of myself to fumble that much. I won’t say it was the only thing, but I think it was a big part.”
A revamped run game is the team’s offensive objective this offseason. The Texans were a bad rushing team no matter who carried the ball, Kubiak emphasized. That was on the running backs, the line, the scheme and the coaches.
Guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel were lost for the season early on, and with Kasey Studdard and Chris White in their place, the interior line was a weakness.
“We regressed in there, not by lack of effort, just by young players having to play,” Kubiak said.
As the Texans seek to boost the run game and give a great pass game featuring Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson better balance, Slaton should be part of a new backfield combination.
If the price falls on a veteran free agent such as Chester Taylor or Thomas Jones, maybe one of them could be getting carries. If they don’t see a value there, the Texans will attack the spot in the draft.
After failing with Ahman Green and Chris Brown, the popular thinking and the team’s tenor suggest the Texans will address other areas in free agency and look for the running back in the draft.
“That has been a young man’s position in this business for a while,” Kubiak said.
So the expectation is that Slaton is the team’s quick back and the Texans will attempt to bring in a bigger guy who can be effective in short yardage and goal-line situations.
“I’m not the biggest guy, I’m not the smallest guy,” said Slaton, who was listed as 5-foot-9, 215 at season’s end. “This league spits out running backs, they don’t last too long. So to have somebody to help in certain situations is good. I want to be the guy when the game is on the line, you give me the ball.
“… As a running back, you’re always stingy but you’ve got to be smart. If it helps the team, if I can’t get it done and somebody else can get it done, then I’ll gladly let that person come in and handle that job. But my thing is I want to be that go-to guy, I’ve always been that, that’s what I pride myself on.”
While he’s encouraged by his recovery, ESPN’s resident physical therapist Stephania Bell put up a caution flag. (See sidebar.)
“He will need to work diligently to strengthen the stabilizing muscles around his neck (very deep muscles) as well as all the muscles in the upper back that help support the neck,” she said of going forward with the neck issue. “While he can very well be cleared to return -- and he can indeed go on to have success and not have another major incident -- there is inherently more risk, simply because of what he has been through.”
Kubiak doesn’t sound like he wants to distribute carries by preset formula, just the flexibility to use two different quality options in situations in which they excel. Offensive line/run game guru Alex Gibbs is no longer on the coaching staff, but Kubiak said the team has invested a lot of time in his zone blocking scheme and will stick with it, adding a few things.
One-cut-and-go backs are usually the guys who fit it well, though Kubiak said he’d be fine with two cuts.
Slaton is good with 20 carries in a game, Kubiak said, and actually runs better in the second half than he does at the start.
“But I think like anybody else in this league if you put the whole load on him, you can wear him down pretty damn quick, so we need a complement to him,” he said. “… Obviously there is a place in this league for that guy, there is no doubt. He can make big plays. And then there is a place for a guy who can take a little bit more of a pounding and be a short-yardage and red zone guy. I think there is a place for those two guys in the league.
“The bottom line is we’ve just got to get another good player to go with him.”
The suggestion from Raysrock070: [Clint] Session's pick on [Matt] Schaub when [Gary] Brackett blitzed him. That killed their drive, and any momentum that they had going.The situation: Houston ball, second-and-10 at the Indianapolis 42-yard line with 2:20 remaining in the game and the Colts ahead 20-17.
|AP Photo/AJ Mast|
|Clint Session’s interception helped put the Colts in position to remain undefeated.|
The Texans line up with Steve Slaton to the right of Matt Schaub in shotgun with four wide receivers, two to each side, all inside the numbers -- left to right, Andre Johnson, David Anderson, Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter.
Indy counters with a nickel package, with Jerraud Powers shifted to the inside near Anderson before the snap and Tim Jennings wide on the same side. Jacob Lacey is on the Jones/Walter side of the formation. Both safeties are deep.
Both linebackers are near the line of scrimmage, with Gary Brackett between Dwight Freeney and Antonio Johnson and Clint Session between Raheem Brock and Daniel Muir.
What I saw unfold after the snap: Powers tracks Anderson first, but when the receiver turns outside he leaves him for Jennings to deal with and goes to front Johnson who turns inside and has safety Melvin Bullitt behind him.
Right tackle Eric Winston helps right guard Chris White on Muir, before moving on to Brock, who was held up for a second by Slaton.
Left tackle Duane Brown handles a spin move by Freeney, in part because the defensive end bumps into his left tackle, Johnson, who’s ridden to his right by the double team of left guard Kasey Studdard and center Chris Myers.
Session drops to cover the middle.
Brackett loops around Johnson and Myers is slow to leave Johnson and get to the linebacker, who has a straight path to Schaub. The quarterback drops about two steps and bounces once waiting for things to develop before the blitzer is on him. Schaub appears to have room to buy a bit of time by sliding left, but does not and Brackett hits him in the upper right arm as he releases the ball -- probably for Johnson who was bracketed and not open, maybe for Anderson who was not very deep.
The result is a fluttering pass that Session has no trouble collecting for an interception.
Result: The pick gives the ball to the Colts who go three-and-out but burn 27 seconds and two Houston timeouts.
Ultimate outcome: The Texans are under major time pressure for the end-of-game drive that results in a missed 42-yard field goal by Kris Brown that would force overtime. Colts win 20-17 and move to a perfect 8-8 with a 3½-game lead over the Texans in the AFC South.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
In each of their first three games it’s fair to say the Texans didn’t do what was expected.
In Week 4 they did exactly what was expected: They rolled to a win over an inferior team, upping their record to 2-2 with a solid 29-6 throttling of the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium.
Upcoming opponents will likely provide more resistance, but Houston’s big issues related to run defense and rushing offense were solved for a day, and perhaps this showing will give the team mounting confidence that it can play well in both departments.
The Texans held the Raiders to 2 yards a carry and 45 yards total on the ground and got a tremendous safety when Brian Cushing body slammed Justin Fargas on a questionable carry out of the end zone. They also fought through a slow start and a lost fumble by Steve Slaton and got a two-touchdown second quarter from their running back -- one rushing, one receiving.
They didn’t run for great yardage, but the game’s construct finally allowed them to get the carries they’ve lacked. Slaton and Ryan Moats -- who got work ahead of last week’s goat, Chris Brown -- combined for 41 carries for 120 yards.
Slaton’s fumble came after he was toppled awkwardly by one of his own linemen, Kasey Studdard. But the Texans didn’t get thrown off by that mistake or another where Matt Schaub and Slaton collided in the backfield, but Schaub maintained his balance and composure and threw a big gainer to Owen Daniels.
The Texans hoped to get to this point at 3-1. They’ll take 2-2 and second place in the AFC South as they prepare for consecutive trips to Arizona and Cincinnati, knowing they’ve hardly played their best and expecting better things ahead.
There will be picks on Saturday and Sunday that prompt brows furrowed into question marks on the faces of fans of the four teams of the AFC South.
So in advance of this weekend's draft, the AFC South Blog is here to warn you: Don't be surprised when the Colts look to cornerback; don't be shocked when the Titans turn to a tight end and/or a defensive end. Should the Texans invest a reasonably high pick in a receiver or the Jaguars dip again in to the pool of defensive ends, they won't be making redundant roster choices.
They'll be thinking more about 2010 than about 2009.
We've discussed the current needs of all four teams a lot in the build-up to the draft. But teams obviously have to look further ahead than that. They can't count on the CBA expiring and the rules of free agency changing. Because if a new labor deal is struck and free agency continues to operate in the fashion we are used to -- with players who've logged at least four years and have expired contracts hitting the free market -- teams have to be prepared to lose people, and they need to have replacements ready.
Some of those potential replacements are already lined up, of course, working as backups. But others must be targeted.
"You're not just drafting for this year, you're drafting for future years too," Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "You have to have the vision of what they might be in two or three years. ... You're always building depth on your team and you're getting, especially in the later-round guys, traits that can be developed."
Here is a look at the issues teams may be facing in terms of departing free agents in 2010 with some suggestions, courtesy of Scouts. Inc.'s Matt Williamson, on mid- and late-round picks who could fill the holes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Titans fans have overtaken Texans fans by a lot with their questions and comments in the mailbag. It'd be great if fans of all four AFC South teams chimed in, making for a more well-rounded mailbag answer entry on Sunday.
Our tour of the daily papers and some sites:
- Jacques Reeves isn't a young guy any more. Now he's a veteran young guys are watching. Here's another look at him as he prepares to face his old team, the Cowboys, in a preseason game.
- Kasey Studdard is in line to fill in for starting left guard Chester Pitts against Dallas.
- A look at Clint Session's work in place of Tyjuan Hagler.
- Dwight Freeney isn't fired up about easing back into the lineup.
- The Jaguars had busses ready to roll to an indoor alternative, but stayed outside Wednesday in the nasty weather. Also: Details of the newest offer to Derrick Harvey; a Justin Durant vs. Clint Ingram update; Reggie Williams returns to practice.
1:00 PM ET Indianapolis Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET Atlanta Green Bay 1:00 PM ET Cleveland New England 1:00 PM ET Oakland New York 1:00 PM ET Detroit Philadelphia 1:00 PM ET Miami Pittsburgh 1:00 PM ET Buffalo Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET Kansas City Washington 1:00 PM ET Minnesota Baltimore 4:05 PM ET Tennessee Denver 4:25 PM ET St. Louis Arizona 4:25 PM ET New York San Diego 4:25 PM ET Seattle San Francisco 8:30 PM ET Carolina New Orleans