NFL Nation: Paul Williams

How gap between Titans, Ravens grew

January, 28, 2013
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The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens used to be bitter rivals, closely matched.

Then Tennessee collapsed in a playoff game after the 2000 season at what now is LP Field, losing 24-10 despite dominating the game in a lot of ways.

Since that fork in the road, the teams have gone in very different directions.

Writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: “The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and they will play for a second championship on Sunday in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers. The Titans, meanwhile, haven’t won a playoff game in nine years and are coming off a 6-10 season.”

But that’s not the line of demarcation I’ll use.

The 2008 Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The sixth-seeded Ravens won in Miami to earn another playoff trip to Nashville. And Tennessee lost that divisional round game in a similar fashion to the game in 2000, even though the score was a lot closer, 13-10.

Since then:
  • The Titans are 29-35 (.453) with no playoff appearances.
  • The Ravens are 43-21 (.672) with a 6-3 playoff record.

That playoff meeting in Nashville was Joe Flacco’s second playoff game, and while he’s had his ups and downs, he’s now a Super Bowl quarterback.

Since then, the Titans have started Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and, in an emergency situations, Rusty Smith.

Instability at quarterback is only part of the reasons the teams have been so different.

John Harbaugh has developed into a steady coach while Jeff Fisher’s tenure fizzled out and Mike Munchak hasn’t established any solid footing after two seasons.

Led by one of the NFL’s top general managers, Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have continued good roster building.

The Titans actually have more starters and contributors out of their last four drafts, but it’s partly because of previous failures -- think Young, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, Paul Williams -- that so much opportunity is available.

Baltimore’s gotten far more production out of outside veterans it’s brought in: Center Matt Birk, receiver Anquan Boldin (via trade), fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, resurgent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, receiver/returner Jacoby Jones.

Compare that to Tennessee’s veteran additions: Receiver Nate Washington, linebacker Will Witherspoon, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, safety Jordan Babineaux, guard Steve Hutchinson, end Kamerion Wimbley, returner Darius Reynaud.

The Titans fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and didn’t see much change with Dowell Loggains promoted to replace Chris Palmer.

The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and got a major boost from Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron.

It’s a copycat league, and the Ravens were already a model franchise in many ways.

The Titans are one of a long list of teams that need to look at how the Ravens work and borrow some ideas.

Quarterback is the key, but the gap between these two teams was a playoff field goal just four years ago. It’s a deep moat now.
The National Football Post's Joe Fortenbaugh has a nice piece reviewing AFC South draft trends.

Here’s a nugget on each team with a thought from me:

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Colts have drafted only three offensive tackles. To put that in perspective, take note that over the last 10 years the team has spent the same amount of selections on kickers and punters (3).”

[+] EnlargeTony Ugoh
AP Photo/Darron CummingsThe Colts spent a 2007 second-round pick on Tony Ugoh but cut him last season.
Kuharsky: It’s significant and it’s time to make a substantial investment. But when a team has a left tackle who plays for nine years and goes to three Pro Bowls (Tarik Glenn) and gets steady play from its right tackle for eight years (though Ryan Diem slipped last season) there isn’t cause for huge expenditures at the spot. They failed in a second-round attempt (Tony Ugoh in 2007) to replace Glenn.

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2001, the Jaguars have drafted nine defensive ends, but only two (Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves) have been selected within the top 100 picks.”

Kuharsky: Jaguars GM Gene Smith worked to offset that by bringing in free agent Aaron Kampman last offseason. And now it appears quite possible Smith will spend the 16th overall pick on a defensive end to complete the makeover of the line that included their top four picks from 2010.

Fortenbaugh: “Since Gary Kubiak took over as head coach in 2006, the Texans have drafted exactly 19 offensive players and 19 defensive players.”

Kuharsky: It’s nice to populate the roster in a balanced fashion. But if Houston does as it should and looks to fill a load of defensive holes in this draft, these numbers will tip to the defensive side.

Fortenbaugh: “Since 2005, the Titans have selected an average of 2.0 wide receivers per draft. Tennessee has landed at least one wideout in each of the past six drafts and has selected as many as three wide receivers two times in the last six years.”

Kuharsky: The all-star receiver roster of those past six drafts: Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams, Jonathan Orr, Paul Williams, Chris Davis, Joel Filani, Lavelle Hawkins, Kenny Britt, Dominique Edison, Damien Williams and Marc Mariani. The lone Pro Bowl appearance was Mariani last year -- as a return man.

Tennessee Titans cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
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Check here for a full list of Tennessee's roster moves.

Biggest surprises: Running back Samkon Gado ran ahead of LeGarrette Blount since he was added, but Gado lost out to the unproven rookie. Tight end Sean Ryan seemed like he’d stick as insurance for Craig Stevens, whose role is now quite important and who’s had concussion issues in the past. But the Titans parted ways with Ryan. Veteran cornerback Tye Hill was surprised he was let go, according to The Tennessean. Jeff Fisher says teams need at least four corners. If you count nickelback Vincent Fuller, a safety, in the equation the numbers are OK. But otherwise unproven Ryan Mouton is fourth.

No-brainers: Chris Simms often looked confused and flustered in preseason action, and it became clear that the Titans would stick with Kerry Collins as the veteran backup to Vince Young while looking to develop rookie Rusty Smith for down the road. Collins can run the scout team at practice and step in with no practice work if and when he’s needed, and Smith’s got a lot of good qualities, including a nice arm and swagger.

What’s next: The Titans will probably look for help at linebacker, where Gerald McRath’s four-game suspension is underway, and the primary alternative, Collin Allred, has not been durable lately. Could they pursue Oakland’s Thomas Howard in a trade? The depth right now beyond Stephen Tulloch, Will Witherspoon and Allred is Jamie Winborn, Stanford Keglar and long snapper Ken Amato. With receiver Paul Williams finally gone, Keglar can be the guy fans wonder about still being around.

On the radar: Marc Mariani

May, 27, 2010
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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.

Marc Mariani comes into the league as a seventh-round draft pick from a less-than glamorous Montana program.

[+] EnlargeMar Mariani
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyMarc Mariani has looked impressive in early offseason workouts.
The Titans are locked in at the top of their receiver depth chart with Kenny Britt, Justin Gage and Nate Washington. Damian Williams, a third-round pick from USC, figured to rank fourth in line while working as the punt returner.

Lavelle Hawkins and Paul Williams could well have run out of time. If they figured to be battling for a potential fifth spot, their lives are now further complicated by Mariani.

Hawkins and Williams have had trust issues -- as in offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger can’t trust them always to do the right thing and be in the right place. Mariani seems to be a fast learner who’s already pretty comfortable, confident and smooth as a route runner and pass-catcher.

A guy that far down the depth chart at a position has to offer something on special teams. Hawkins and Williams don’t offer anything above average, while Mariani could be the guy to field kickoffs for a team that was disturbingly poor on kick and punt returns a year ago.

I think Mariani came in as a coaching staff favorite and already has confirmed to them that he deserves the rating. Still, any early enthusiasm over a middle- or late-round receiver has to be tempered in Tennessee by memories of names like Eddie Berlin, Jake Schifino, Darrell Hill, Jonathan Orr and Joel Filani.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans looked into trading up for Damian Williams and couldn’t pull it off. So they were thrilled he was around at No. 77 in the third round.

Jeff Fisher said Tennessee liked the fifth receiver taken in the draft so much they thought he would not make it through the middle of the second round. A skeptic might say part of that is surely to make things look better for a team that was without a second rounder, but I’m no skeptic.

Fisher called Williams an “all-around tremendous athlete,” a “complete receiver,” a good kick returner and a “very talented punt returner.”

He will have every chance to help solve things at a spot the Titans absolutely butchered last season.

His arrival surely spells doom for the long-lasting Paul Williams, the 2007 third-rounder who was on the practice-squad last year and could mean the end for slow-to-catch-on Lavelle Hawkins (a fourth rounder from 2008).

AFC South draft rewind

December, 23, 2009
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NFC Draft Rewind: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft class lists: Indianapolis | Jacksonville | Houston | Tennessee

Houston Texans
Cushing
Cushing

Best get: Not everyone was sold on Brian Cushing coming out of USC, often because of his injury history at USC. He missed most of camp hurt and has missed a lot of practices, but none of it has gotten in the way of his being an impact player every Sunday. The Texans need more defenders and more players in his mold. He’s a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.

Worst unaddressed spot: The Texans had plenty of reason to expect they had a feature back in Steve Slaton, but completely misread their situation after that. Interior line injuries and a second-year slump for Slaton have made a second back even more important, and Chris Brown, Ryan Moats and Arian Foster all have proved incapable of handling the pressures of the work. A second running back ranks as one of the team’s highest priorities in free agency or the 2010 draft.

Still uninvolved: Tight end James Casey came in as a versatile fifth-rounder who was going to be a unique weapon for head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to tinker with. He’s got six catches for 64 yards in 11 games. He needs to have more of an impact, given that the Texans lost top-flight tight end Owen Daniels to a season-ending knee injury.

Indianapolis Colts
Brown
Brown

Still to be determined: First-rounder Donald Brown has shown he will be a good NFL player. But he’s missed five games with injuries, including the last three. He’s more capable than Joseph Addai of breaking off a big run. The question: Does Brown understand that looking for the big gain isn’t worth risking a play resulting in second-and-12. If Brown is healthy, he could see a lot of touches in the last two games. The Colts are 14-0 with just 59 carries, 263 yards and two TDs from their top pick. (They haven’t gotten much out of second-round defensive tackle Fili Moala, either.)

A perfect fit: Fourth-round receiver Austin Collie, not Minnesota’s Percy Harvin, leads all rookie receivers in catches. Collie's nabbed 53 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts' system, and adopted the necessary work ethic to win over and work with Peyton Manning. Whether Anthony Gonzalez re-emerges for the post season push or not, Collie’s crucial to it.

Best special teams addition: The Colts had eight touchbacks in 2008. With rookie punter Pat McAfee taking over kickoffs from Adam Vinatieri, they have 18 with two games remaining. Better kickoffs are a big factor in coverage improvements under new special teams coach Ray Rychleski. McAfee’s also got a net punting average of 38.0 yards, less than a yard off former Colts' veteran Hunter Smith’s number from last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Monroe
Monroe

Long-term solutions: Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were the top two picks and have played the bulk of the season at left and right tackle, respectively. They have not been consistent, but the team loves their skill sets and upside. And early work means they’ll get to the levels the team projected when spending such high picks on them sooner rather than later.

Eighth-rounders: First-year general manager Gene Smith needed additions beyond his draft class and found a couple: Cornerback William Middleton out of Furman and linebacker Russell Allen from San Diego State are undrafted free agents who made the team and have been contributors. In the nationally televised Week 15 Thursday night loss to the Colts, Allen led the team with 12 tackles. Smith is down a second and seventh rounder in 2010 because of trades, and he hopes to hit on some undrafteds again, and annually.

Three is key: Smith did great work in the third round, landing two small school players who’ve established themselves as productive starters with upside. Cornerback Derek Cox from William & Mary has not been intimidated by anything or anyone. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton from Temple has been a stout and reliable run stopper.

Tennessee Titans
Monroe
Britt

Biggest breakthrough: Since 1998, the Titans have spent draft picks in the top three rounds on Kevin Dyson, Tyrone Calico, Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones and Paul Williams. Dyson was involved in two of the franchise’s biggest plays in 1999 and did OK otherwise, but none of them solved the team's long-standing woes at receiver. First-rounder Kenny Britt is a great combination of size, power and speed who goes and gets the ball. Britt seems like he can be a consistently productive weapon.

Disappearing act: The Titans gave away a second-rounder to draft tight end Jared Cook in the third, and in camp he seemed like a great addition. Then he suffered an ankle injury, faded and never really re-emerged. Long-term he’s still very compelling. But the Titans sure could have used a jolt from him during their 0-6 start.

An heir: Gerald McRath seems comfortable and been effective as an outside linebacker when needed. He will start the rest of the way and, after bulking up in the offseason, stands to inherit the spot of either David Thornton (breaking down) or Keith Bulluck (free agent who tore an ACL in Week 15) next year. If both veterans are gone (a likely scenario), the second replacement needs to be a free agent or a draft pick.

Titans: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
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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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

As far as Twitter talk, Alge Crumpler's size quickly overtook A.J. Trapasso's marvelous fake punt touchdown run as the biggest Titans' topic of the first half of the Hall of Fame Game.

In his first season with the Titans, Crumpler brought the leadership the team was hoping for. He also willingly became more of a blocker than he ever was in Atlanta -- and that's what the Titans found they needed from him.

I discussed that, and his weight -- which was clearly up during OTAs - with him back in May.

An except from that blog entry:

As for the weight: Crumpler said if he was working as more of a pass catcher, he'd be 10 or 15 pounds lighter.

"But if I'm going to have to control that line of scrimmage, then I have to stay where I'm at," he said.

Which is where?

"You'll never get that out of me," he said.

Gigantic or not, Crumpler caught the ball well and moved OK. It's hard to imagine him ranking as a pass target very often ahead of Bo Scaife or rookie Jared Cook, sure to get some chances in the second half, once the season starts.

Two other thoughts:

On Trapasso's play: Jeff Fisher likes a nice special team fake and on a night when Craig Hentrich didn't dress, the coach clearly relished the opportunity to give an Ohio guy who played at Ohio State a big moment on a national TV stage.

Vince Young probably got undercut by a botched route on his first pass, a pick that wasn't a good throw no matter where his targets were supposed to be. He bounced back to throw a great ball on Paul Williams' touchdown catch. Nice concentration and footwork by Williams, who's overdue to show us something.

 
  Don McPeak/US Presswire
  Keith Bulluck knows the window of opportunity for the Titans is getting smaller.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans believe they have all the necessary parts to contend for a championship: a top offensive line that facilitates two complementary running backs and a good decision-maker at quarterback; a swarming defense with at least one Pro Bowl talent in every unit; a clutch kicker with a big leg; a steady coaching staff under calm, cool Jeff Fisher.

Camp Confidential: AFC South
Titans: Mon., Aug. 3
Jaguars: Sat., Aug. 8
Colts: Sat., Aug. 15
Texans: Fri., Aug. 21

But while they have a young core to build around beyond 2009, it feels like a window may be closing. Among the players in a contract year are tone-setters such as longtime linebacker Keith Bulluck, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, center Kevin Mawae, cornerback Nick Harper and defensive end Jevon Kearse.

None has played longer or more consistently than Bulluck, the outspoken 4-3 outside linebacker who has long excelled in the Titans' system with his speed, athleticism and ability to hit.

He's seen good friends and good teammates disappear from the locker room as the team judged them unaffordable or done, and lamented the losses of Eddie George, Samari Rolle, the late Steve McNair, Robaire Smith, Derrick Mason and, most recently, Albert Haynesworth.

Fantasy Football: 32 Questions
Ken Daube breaks down the 2009 season for Tennessee's backfield tandem of Chris Johnson and LenDale White, and explains why White has greater value in fantasy. Story

That makes him expect he'll be next, adding to his sense of urgency: This is his last, best chance to get to a Super Bowl with the Titans.

"That window of opportunity is only open but for so long," he said. "I've been on this team going on 10 years. The window's been open two times previously and we didn't jump through it, so I feel -- for me, for the organization -- this team has to be the one to take that bound and jump through the window of opportunity. It's fair to say that."

 
  AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
  The addition of wide receiver Nate Washington gives the Titans another downfield threat.

Last year's 13-3 team returns 20 starters, and Nate Washington is an upgrade over Justin McCareins. The team is confident it has a committee that can make up for the departure of Haynesworth, and has replaced defensive linemen well through the years.

"Now it's definitely straight business and trying to win the Super Bowl," Bulluck said.

The Titans may not match last season's 10-0 start or 13-3 record. Barring injuries, they should be a playoff team and if it does prove to be Bulluck's swan song with the franchise, it's reasonable for him to expect his last game with them will be one deep in the playoffs.

Key questions

1. Will the passing offense improve?

There are three reasons to believe so: Washington, the free-agent addition who will start opposite Justin Gage, and draft picks Kenny Britt and Jared Cook.

Washington gives the team a receiving speedster on the outside who should keep safeties honest, which can threaten defenses deep and help create additional room for the team's most dynamic weapon, Chris Johnson. Britt is a physical receiver who comes into the league having impressed offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger with his ability to get off the jam at the line of scrimmage. And when Cook was available 89th overall, the Titans felt he was such a value that they dealt their 2010 second-rounder to New England in order to take Cook. Such a trade is rare for them.

Kerry Collins will have solid protection. Now he should have better optio
ns downfield, who can do more once he delivers them the ball.

2. Will they rush and stuff the run as effectively without Haynesworth?

 Haye
 Jones

They will miss a player who could dominate and frequently drew double teams, and his fear-no-one, say-anything attitude gave the unit some of its swagger. But a year ago they lost their left end tandem of Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy as free agents after they'd combined for 14 sacks, and there was no talk in 2009 about how the team missed the duo. They plugged in people and moved forward.

Defensive line coach Jim Washburn has molded a lot of players into effective run-stuffers and pocket-collapsers. Free-agent addition Jovan Haye and second-round draft pick Sen'Derrick Marks are guys he wanted for the interior, just like Jason Jones, last year's second-round pick. The Titans will love it if opponents draw up protections expecting they won't be as threatening as they were with Haynesworth.

3. What will change under new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil?

Well, Fisher is a defensive coach who's overseen successful transitions at the post before. Cecil learned under the guy he replaces, current Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. So no matter how much people may want to believe Cecil will bring a blitzing mentality, the Titans won't be compromising coverage if they get sufficient pass pressure from their front four. (See No. 2 above.)

In his early days in the post, Cecil said if the Titans give up 6 yards on third-and-seven, he'll say yippee or hurrah as the defense leaves the field having held. Expect a Schwartz-like emphasis on third-down percentage and points allowed.

Market watch

 
  AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
  The Titans hope a lighter LenDale White can remain a steady complement to Chris Johnson.

LenDale White said he was as heavy as 265 in 2009 and reported to camp at 228. It's a contract year and that was certainly part of the motivation, but he's matured, too, and has been a good teammate for the bulk of his first three seasons. Given the same sort of key-situation carries he got last year, when he scored 15 touchdowns, he can be an even more effective complement to Johnson.

Newcomer to watch

Bo Scaife wasn't as much of a target down the stretch last season, and while he's got a knack for a tough catch in a crucial spot, Cook brings much more upside. If he can run the sort of routes and make the type of catches he did in OTAs and the early days of camp, he could become a prominent piece of the offense in short order. If he can earn his way onto the field, he will be able to outrun linebackers and outmuscle defensive backs. First he'll have to prove to be a reliable route-runner and show he's got dependable hands.

Observation deck

Leroy Harris worked as the starting center at the start of camp while Mawae completed his recovery from an elbow injury. It's unlikely the stronger but less experienced Harris can win the job, but he gives Tennessee great security at center and guard. Now the Titans need to find a swing tackle to back up Michael Roos and David Stewart. ... Rookie running back Javon Ringer could quickly seize the No. 3 running back job if he can show the skills the team needs from that player on special teams. ... Rookie corner Ryan Mouton has started out as Vincent Fuller's backup at nickel. Can he also get comfortable outside and provide depth behind Cortland Finnegan and Harper? Mouton, DeMarcus Faggins, Cary Williams and Jason McCourty will jostle for spots in the pecking order with Eric King and Chris Carr gone. ... The end looks to be near, mercifully, for two ineffective third-year players on offense -- running back Chris Henry and receiver Paul Williams. What might the Titans have been if they hit on their second- and third-rounders in 2007? ... After two middling years, receiver and return man Chris Davis looks like he's gained confidence and could be in line to break out, especially if Mark Jones doesn't mount a strong case for the return jobs and the last receiver slot. ... Look for high-motor defensive end Vanden Bosch, slowed by a groin injury last year, to make a strong return and rank among the league's sack leaders. ... The Titans remain hopeful that Vince Young can be a solid backup to Collins, but a roster bonus of more than $4 million in 2010 calls his future with the team into question.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

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:

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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some quick thoughts out of the first practice of Titans training camp, which was not especially eventful.

First, the two things I tweeted (@espn_afcsouth):

  • No contract for Kenny Britt meant the first round pick, a wide receiver, wasn't on the field. Chris Davis and Lavelle Hawkins got the additional work. No real indication of where negotiations stand except the standard optimism.
  • Vince Young had a nice day, you'll find one detail about it below, and outperformed Patrick Ramsey by a good bit on the first day. If it's the start of a trend it'll be a good development, but let's not read a whole lot into a one day sampling of anything.

Additionally:

  • Yes, LenDale White has kept the weight off. I would have thought he would have been in the locker room advertising the number, which could be under 230. White looks impressive.
  • Speaking of running back size: I said during OTAs that I thought rookie Javon Ringer was not well-served by being assigned No. 3, which made him look too thin for the part of a physical back. He looks a lot better, honest, in his new No. 21.
  • Kicker Rob Bironas was not in uniform, Jeff Fisher said he was going to be held out for a few days with a slight pull, then called it soreness that "is nothing to be concerned about." He declined to reveal a body part. Undrafted rookie A.J. Trapasso kicked during a field goal period and was unimpressive, but Fisher emphasized Trapasso is a punter first, a kickoff guy second and a place kicker third. If we don't have to be concerned about it, why does it have to be top secret?
  • Bironas got bigger in the offseason and I know I risk some wrath here, but I have to be candid and say it's not all muscle.
  • Hard not to find symbolism when Paul Williams, very likely on his last legs, drops the first pass thrown to him, in a period with quarterbacks and no defenders. Same result for undrafted rookie Dudley Guice. Later, Williams got scolded by offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. If the coach is making hand gestures about the course you should have taken as opposed to the one you took before you even get back to the line of scrimmage, that's not a good sign.
  • Bud Adams watched some practice from the balcony off the second-floor executive office, which has a new awning to provide some shade. He pulled out binoculars to check out the action on the field furthest from him, where the main action happened to take place. Earlier in the day he reminisced about the AFL on a national media conference call.
  • During receiver work, Nate Washington, Dominique Edison, Hawkins and Phillip Morris lined up on the left and Justin Gage, Davis, Williams, Mark Jones and Guice were on the right.
  • Washington breaks down smoothly and makes sharp cuts. He did some coaching of Edison during the receivers' period alone with the quarterbacks. I want to see him run all out, which I haven't seen for myself yet.
  • In seven-on-seven work, Chris Hope broke up a quick pass for Chris Johnson from Kerry Collins. Then Hope and Cortland Finnegan broke up a bullet of about 10 yards from Collins intended for Alge Crumpler, who was moving downfield. Hope topped things off by picking off a mid-range pass intended for Davis, also from Collins.
  • No lineup surprises at all that I saw. Leroy Harris is at center for Kevin Mawae (elbow), who said he's start getting into the swing of things in two weeks and ideally needs a little preseason time but is concerned only with being ready for Sept. 10 in Pittsburgh. Tony Brown started off at right defensive tackle -- Albert Haynesworth's old spot -- next to Jason Jones.
  • Young hit rookie tight end Jared Cook with a nice midrange pass up the left sideline over linebacker Colin Allred and was generally on target from the pocket and on the move.
  • DeMarcus Faggins moved quickly to come from behind Gage, dive and break up a pass delivered from Young on the run
  • It seemed like the offense didn't complete anything deep, which is always what a crowd wants to see. The first team defense flew around and clearly had the better day, picking up where it left off at the end of OTAs. But it was just one day.
  • Check out Keith Bulluck on Twitter -- @kbull53. He's doing live chats with video, though Friday's was postponed: "No show this evening folks,got things 2 do @ work. Hopefully I get the kinks worked out b4 the next episode. Good day @ prac tho. I'll holla." He was being coy about it, and is clearly looking to grow his own thing without any advertising from an outlet like this one. Sorry Charlie.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

Brooke Bentley has video of a recent talk delivered by Gary Kubiak, complete with a story about how he lost a year of college eligibility over two plays.

Indianapolis Colts

Just how tall is Austin Collie? John Oehser found out it's not an easy question to answer.

Curtis Painter's got some complicated stuff to learn, says the team's web site.

Oehser considers Bob Kravitz's recent column and the resulting debate over bloggers.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Late on this one: Vito Stellino says ticket sales in Jacksonville are slow.

Gene Frenette considers the state of the Jaguars in 2019.

Cole Pepper blogs about what blackouts would mean.

Tennessee Titans

David Climer doesn't like the idea of games overseas.

A diet and lifestyle changes have Craig Hentrich down 20 pounds and feeling much better, writes Jim Wyatt.

Wyatt looks at fringe receivers Paul Williams and Chris Davis.

Drew Rosenhaus has approached the Titans about an extension for Jevon Kearse, says Terry McCormick. I don't see this one happening.

The Fifth Down Blog checks in with the musical stylings of Kerry Collins.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE -- Kenny Britt's not going to face Matthew Stafford style scrutiny, don't get me wrong.

But this is a city where the last first-round receiver selected was when the team was still called the Tennessee Oilers -- Kevin Dyson in 1998. And this is a place where fans have asked for constant progress reports, hoping for something, anything, regarding prospects like Paul Williams and Courtney Roby and Tyrone Calico.

The expectations of Titans' fans for Britt may exceed the expectation of the Titans themselves, and based on what the Titans brass just told us, that's saying something.

Jeff Fisher, Mike Heimerdinger and Richard Shelton just talked about Britt, emphasizing his tough and physical qualities and praising his ability to beat bump and run coverage -- something they said is often the toughest thing for a receiver coming into the league to learn to handle.

"We're going to try to get him on the field as quick as we can and catch passes for us and make big plays for us," Fisher said. "We feel like he's what we've been missing in our passing game."

At 6-3, 215 pounds, Britt is a physical specimen who should boost the Titans prospects for passing touchdowns in the red zone.

Heimerdinger, in the second year of his second stint in the post, has now been given a first-round weapon in consecutive years -- running back Chris Johnson was a revelation last season and the Titans have similar hopes for Britt.

"It's different than the first time around," Heimerdinger said with a laugh of 2000-04, when the Titans took two offensive skill position players in nine picks in the first and second rounds.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Titans don't write monster checks to other teams' free agents on the first day of free agency. We all know that. But they're hardly alone in being conservative. Peter King wrote this week about how Green Bay's assistant coaches had the first weekend of free agency off -- the Packers weren't going to be players in the early market either.

There are miles between free agency conservatism and doing nothing.

And I've been shocked at the e-mails I've gotten and the talk on Nashville radio that give great amplitude to the idea that the Titans "do nothing" in free agency, that they are cheap and unwilling to pay quality players.

If they are cheap to steer away from the kind of guarantees and total package that Albert Haynesworth got in Washington, then, yes, they are cheap.

Personally, I think they are pretty well built. You have to be to go 13-3, no matter the schedule or the playoff failure.

This is a team that's been able to overcome gaffes like Pacman Jones and Vince Young, misses like Chris Henry and Paul Williams, weak additions like Justin McCareins and Ryan Fowler and misfortunes like David Givens.

There is a long way between cheap and fiscally prudent.

Cheap teams don't bring in quality veterans from outside like Kevin Mawae, Chris Hope, David Thornton and Nick Harper. Cheap teams don't step up to re-sign Kerry Collins, Rob Bironas and Vincent Fuller or put a franchise tag on Bo Scaife. Cheap teams don't bring in Nate Washington and Jovan Haye to try to patch holes and upgrade positions -- to deals worth a combined $8.55 million in each of the next four years.

Are you cheap or are you smart if you lock up Cortland Finnegan, Michael Roos and David Stewart well in advance of free agency while their prices are still reasonable?

The Titans make their fair share of mistakes in personnel, for sure. Imagine if they hadn't blown the No. 6 and No. 3 overall draft picks as they rebuilt?

But the idea that they are afraid to write a check or lock up very good players is just inaccurate.

People getting all bent out of shape over the Titans' absence from big-ticket free agency should take note that while the Redskins win a lot in February and March, like most good teams the Titans are more concerned with November and December.

Update: A clarification on Fowler after hearing from some of you. It was too strong to group him with McCareins under the heading of weak additions. I don't think he performed to the expectations of the contract, but he is not a bad player. It was a rare instance, however, where a youngster pushed through a veteran when Stephen Tulloch took over as the starting middle linebacker just four games into the 2008 season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

They are easy matches for mock drafters.

Give the Colts the best defensive tackle you can find at 27. Insert the top remaining wide receiver next to the Titans' line at 30.

But presuming those picks is a mistake on both counts, unless you are banking on those teams breaking from their staunch recent histories.

Indianapolis looks to draft the best player available early on, and after a couple top interior linemen go early, team president Bill Polian said defensive tackle value doesn't usually re-emerge until the later rounds.

And the Titans, who once passed on Randy Moss, haven't touched a receiver in the first round since they took Kevin Dyson ahead of Moss in 1998, giving off a vibe since that it's just too unpredictable a position to value so highly.

 
  Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images
  The Colts would be bucking a trend by picking Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry in the first round.

Indianapolis suffered on the interior defensive line last season, not because it had planned poorly, but because of two surprises: Quinn Pitcock, a fourth rounder out of Ohio State in 2007, decided to quit football before training camp last year. Ed Johnson, who'd been an impact player as an undrafted free agent in 2007, was on a zero tolerance policy, got in some trouble after one game in 2008 and was let go.

The Colts will add multiple interior linemen between now and training camp, but they will likely come with a pick or two later in the draft, and inevitably, with a potential diamond in the rough they don't even need to spend a pick on. Besides Pitcock, Polian hasn't drafted a defensive tackle since 2002, when Larry Triplett was a second rounder and David Pugh a sixth rounder. In 11 years, Polian's drafted five players at the position, only Triplett higher than the fourth round.

"I've always approached the draft as take the best player no matter what the position is," Polian said. "Don't worry about filling a need, you can do that later in the draft. Take the best player in the first two rounds, whoever he is."

So it's fair to say through much of his tenure he hasn't seen a lot of defensive tackles of value available with his highest picks?

"Yeah, that's probably correct," he said. "They go in the first 15 usually, then you see them resurface in the latter rounds -- five, six, seven."

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