NFL Nation: On the radar AFC 61710

On the radar: LeGarrette Blount

June, 17, 2010
6/17/10
1:02
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NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

LeGarrette Blount
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyLeGarrette Blount could be the back the Titans need for short-yardage situations and a change of pace.
Any talk of Titans running backs right now starts with Chris Johnson's absence. Without him at OTAs, the group has looked pedestrian at times.

The Titans love the versatility of their No. 2, Javon Ringer, and Jeff Fisher has compared him to a popular former running back in Nashville, Robert Holcombe. But Ringer has very little experience and is hard to get too excited about right now.

Presuming Johnson is back, how to lighten his workload will be a major issue for Tennessee and I fear doing so could mess with the Titans' rhythm and pacing.

While Ringer doesn’t look to be much of a change-up, undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount can be. He was smart to choose the Titans over the 49ers -- another team that pursued him heavily. In San Francisco, he’d look a lot like Frank Gore and Glen Coffee. In Tennessee, he stands out as different than anyone.

Blount missed May workouts because Oregon wasn’t finished with classes, so he’s heading into only his third practice with the team on Thursday.

It’s too soon for Tennessee to have much of a feel for him. I saw him streak down a sideline to gather a deep ball in a rookie period. This team won’t necessarily be looking to him for explosive plays like that. But he’s going to get every chance to show he can reliably convert short-yardage and goal-line situations.

I don’t expect the Titans to lean on a bigger back as much in those situations this season the way they did with LenDale White in 2008. But they need to do it some. And at 6-feet and 241 pounds, Blount is the biggest back on the team by an inch and 26 pounds.

If he’s not the guy for that role, then the guy for that role isn’t in Nashville yet.

On the radar: Taylor Price

June, 17, 2010
6/17/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

New England Patriots rookie receiver Taylor Price has made a big impression on minicamp observers this week at Gillette Stadium.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Prince
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaRookie Taylor Price is making a name for himself during workouts with the Patriots.
Price, the 90th overall draft selection from Ohio University, was unable to participate in team practices because of an NFL rule that prevents a rookie from reporting as long as his college remains in session. That generally affects schools that use the quarters system, and Ohio happens to be one.

Price was allowed to participate in rookie camp, but had to stay away for organized team activities. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Price had some ground to make up on the rest of the rookies.

But by all accounts Price has looked sharp. ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss noted quarterback Tom Brady seems to have taken a shine to Price.

"It's a good start, but I have a long way to go," Price said. "There is nothing easy to learn out here. I don't know as much as I should know yet, but I'm getting to that point. I'm just learning gradually every day."

Price had 56 receptions for 784 yards and five touchdowns last year for Ohio head coach Frank Solich, the former Nebraska head coach known for his run-dominant offenses.

"He has good hands," Belichick said when the Patriots drafted Price. "He can catch the ball. He's big. He's fast. He can run a variety of routes. ... I think if he had been in a different offense and a more productive offense, he would have had more production."

Maybe it's too soon to think of Price making an impact this year. We know where Randy Moss and Wes Welker (when healthy) will line up. Beyond that, the Patriots have a few receivers to sort through, including veterans Torry Holt and David Patten and sophomore Brandon Tate.

Then again, backup slot receiver Julian Edelman contributed right away despite being drafted in the seventh round out of Kent State, where he played quarterback -- proof that a rookie with a steep learning curve can come out of the Mid-American Conference and impress Belichick enough to get on the field.

On the radar: Brodie Croyle

June, 17, 2010
6/17/10
1:00
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NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

[+] EnlargeBrodie Croyle
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonChiefs backup quarterback Brodie Croyle could have potential trade value if he performs well in the preseason.
Brodie Croyle is one of the more interesting players in the AFC West.

He is a former starting quarterback in Kansas City who has been forgotten. But the truth is, the guy has some skills.

The Kansas City Star reported that he was a star of the team’s mandatory minicamp last week. There was a time when Croyle was considered a top prospect in Kansas City. He was the team’s starting quarterback in 2008, but injuries derailed his career. When he was healthy, the former Alabama star showed promise. However, Croyle’s star fell when the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era began in 2009. Understandably, Pioli wanted to begin the era fresh and he acquired Matt Cassel, who played well for Pioli in New England when Tom Brady was hurt.

The Chiefs think Cassel represents the future. Croyle’s best chance in Kansas City is as a backup. Haley, a quarterback specialist, has praised Croyle. Teams value backup quarterbacks, so if Croyle continues to make strides the Chiefs will value him. If Cassel regresses or gets hurt, the Chiefs could be in good hands with Croyle.

Of course, if Croyle lights it up in the preseason and another team suffers a setback at quarterback, it’s not out of the question that Croyle becomes a valuable trade commodity.

Croyle’s Kansas City’s career might have suffered a setback last year, but there’s no reason why he can’t still have a productive NFL career in some fashion.

On the radar: Adam Jones

June, 17, 2010
6/17/10
1:00
PM ET
A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

CINCINNATI -- Coachable. Hard-working. Willing to listen.

These were not terms often used to describe cornerback Adam Jones during his turbulent NFL career. But that's the praise I heard from the Cincinnati Bengals' coaching staff during this week's mandatory minicamp.

Jones was out of football in 2009 for various off-the-field issues. The defending AFC North champions took the risk and signed Jones to a two-year contract with hopes that he can provide depth for the secondary.

[+] EnlargeAdam Jones
Frank Victores/US PresswireAdam Jones has been doing all of the right things since joining the Bengals.
It's been so far, so good, according to the Bengals.

"He's come in and done everything we've asked him to do at this point," Cincinnati defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said. "He's been very coachable. He wants to do well and is extremely competitive. He wants to win at everything. He's got that nature about him."

Jones said he's working to better himself and shed his old image. For starters, he no longer wants to be called "Pacman." That nickname represents a persona that often got into trouble.

Jones' athleticism has never been in question. That's what made him the No. 6 overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2005 draft. In minicamp, Jones has showed flashes by making several nice plays on the ball at cornerback and still displaying natural skills as a kick returner, despite his extended time away from the NFL.

The extra work spent in organized team activities has helped Jones shake the rust.

"I've only had one year of OTAs since I've been in the NFL; that was my second year," Jones explained. "I had a pretty good second year, too. I think OTAs is a big part for me. Some people don't need it. I need the extra work. It's a situation that [keeps me] focused and just getting back to football."

By September, Jones expects to be in even better football shape. But it's his history of not being able to steer clear of trouble that will be the biggest question for the cornerback this season.

If Jones, 26, figures out the latter, Cincinnati's experiment could pay dividends.

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