NFL Nation: Quinton Ganther
In a recent conversation with former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist, he pointed to an article he once read in Ourlads by Joe Landers. Apologies, I couldn’t find the link.
“Using some common sense and a little investigative research, you'll find that it's rare, at least according to Landers’ study, to find a cornerback or running back or wide receiver that's really going to help you in the last three rounds,” Sundquist said. “And yet you'll find teams constantly take a reach on one of these positions.
“Evidence shows you're more likely to find a defensive tackle, offensive lineman, safety or tight end in the later rounds. Why? Most conventional wisdom says don't draft a safety or tight end high due to escalating rookie salaries and the going market at the position. As for defensive tackles or offensive linemen, it’s probably because of the greater numbers at the position. Both circumstances force down talented players at those positions.”
I went back and combed over the AFC South drafts since 2002, to see how many picks they spent on each side of the ledger Sundquist sets forth and how often the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans did well with a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick at those spots. This is, of course, highly unscientific. Metrics guys can probably shred it. But I thought it worth fiddling with.
Notables are players who played significantly, even if it’s been with another team, or recent picks who appear on track to contribute.
WRs, RBs. CBs: 9
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 14
Most: Six safeties, four receivers, corners and defensive tackle
- Cornerback Brice McCain, 2009 sixth round
- Safety Dominique Barber, 2008 sixth round
- Receiver David Anderson, 2006 seventh round
- Safety C.C. Brown, 2005 sixth round
- Corner Demarcus Faggins, 2002 sixth round
- Defensive tackle Howard Green, 2002 sixth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 7
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 13
Most: 13 offensive linemen
- Tight end Brody Eldridge, 2010 fifth round
- Receiver Pierre Garcon, 2008 sixth round
- Guard Jamey Richard, 2008 seventh round
- Tackle Charlie Johnson, 2006 sixth round
- Safety Antoine Bethea, 2006 sixth round
- Guard Jake Scott, 2004 fifth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 12
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 9
Most: Five receivers, four offensive linemen
- Tight end Zach Miller, 2009 sixth round
- Running back Rashad Jennings, 2009 seventh round
- Guard Uche Nwaneri, 2007 fifth rounder
- Defensive tackle Derek Landri, 2007 fifth round
- Safety Gerald Sensabaugh, 2005 fifth round
WRs, RBs. CBs: 14
DTs, OL, S, TEs: 16
Most: Seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers
- Corner Cortland Finnegan, 2006 seventh round
- Running back Quinton Ganther, 2006 seventh round
- Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, 2007 fifth round
- Offensive lineman Daniel Loper, 2005 fifth round
- Tight end Bo Scaife, 2005 sixth round
- Guard Jacob Bell, 2004 fifth round
- Center/guard Eugene Amano, 2004 seventh round
- Safety Donnie Nickey, 2003 fifth rounder
- Guard/center Justin Hartwig, 2002 sixth rounder
Of the notables from the division drafted since 2002, 73 percent (19) have been from the positions Sundquist says teams should concentrate on late while 27 percent (seven) play positions he believes should generally be avoided.
I'd be fine with the Titans not wasting yet another late pick on a receiver and with the Texans using late-rounders on something other than corners and receivers for sure. But it's not like Houston's spending late picks on safeties or the Colts use of such selections on offensive linemen have paid huge dividends either.
I'd love to read your thoughts.
A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 10.
For the first time all season, Fred Jackson looked like a feature back.
The Buffalo Bills committed to Jackson when they traded starter Marshawn Lynch to the Seattle Seahawks after Week 4, but Jackson's numbers didn't materialize.
On Sunday, Jackson busted out.
Jackson propelled the Bills to their first victory of the season by scoring both of their touchdowns in a 14-12 victory over the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jackson ran 25 times for 133 yards and one touchdown. He had six receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled twice, losing one. But that didn't matter in the end.
"I wouldn't say I felt like I owed my team, but I felt like I needed to come out and play a little harder," Jackson said. "I felt like I had to go to another level, and I feel like I've got to play like that for the rest of the year."
Jackson became only the sixth Bills running back to gain 150 yards from scrimmage and score a touchdown on the ground and on a pass play.
Jackson also fought through a knee injury that forced him out of the game for a third-quarter series. A pulled hamstring already had sidelined rookie running back C.J. Spiller, leaving the Bills to Quinton Ganther, a recently signed street free agent. Thankfully for the Bills, Jackson returned.
"He is such a warrior," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "His production has not been where he probably wants to be at this year. He had a huge day on the ground, made a nice touchdown run after the catch and he got dinged up in the game, too.
"Everybody loves the guy, and you can't say enough about him."
I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.
This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.
Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).
St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)
Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)
Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)
Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)
Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)
Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)
Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)
Special teams: Ryan Neill
Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)
Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)
Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)
Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)
Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)
Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)
Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)
Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)
Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)
Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)
Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)
Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)
Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)
Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)
Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)
Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)
Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)
Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)
Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)
Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)
Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)
San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)
Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)
Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker
Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)
Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)
Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)
Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)
Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt
Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)
The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.
The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
- Charlie Whitehurst has to feel better about things after completing 14-of-22 passes for 214 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a 107.0 rating. Whitehurst hasn't pushed Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job, and this performance changes nothing on that front. But it was still a step forward.
- Rookie receiver Golden Tate has been a star in camp, but Mike Williams and Deon Butler were the more productive receivers. Williams' 51-yard touchdown reception from Whitehurst showcased his improved conditioning. Williams looked lean. The effort he showed in blocking for Justin Forsett earlier in the drive also stood out. It's easy to forget about veteran wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh when watching the youth-oriented Seahawks under Pete Carroll. I wonder where he'll fit heading into the regular season.
- Defensive end Red Bryant made a couple strong plays against Titans tackle Michael Roos. Fellow defensive linemen Kevin Vickerson, Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane also looked good in this game. The Seahawks had to like what they saw from their best pass-rusher, Chris Clemons, as well. Clemons lacks size by NFL standards, but he showed good power in getting to the quarterback. Clemons is eager to prove himself. Is this something he can sustain?
- First-round choice Russell Okung missed the beginning of camp, but it was tough to tell. I noticed him diving at defenders' legs in the Alex Gibbs zone tradition.
- Julius Jones remained the invisible man in the Seahawks' backfield. Forsett, Quinton Ganther and Louis Rankin each had runs covering at least 13 yards. Forsett had a 30-yard reception. Jones had five carries for 13 yards. He does most things pretty well, but rarely does Jones stand out. We'll have to wait at least another game before seeing Leon Washington in action. Washington might have more flair than any runner on the roster.
I'm hitting the road here shortly for the drive from St. Louis to Indianapolis. I'll check in from the San Francisco' 49ers exhibition opener against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. I've got some Rams notes left over from Saturday night as well. Will post those as time permits.
- The phrasing of general manager John Schneider's statement -- White wasn't ready to be a Seahawk -- tells me the team thought White wasn't committing to the extent expected. This comes as a surprise given White's improved conditioning. He reported to camp weighing less than 220 pounds. This suggests the team wanted more from White in other areas and that White didn't have the attitude Carroll expected from him. "Buy In," reads a sign Carroll has put up at team headquarters.
- Other running backs on the roster have apparently stepped up, and the team must feel pretty good about Leon Washington's recovery from a broken leg. Julius Jones and Justin Forsett benefit directly from White's release. The team will now look to see if another running back emerges. Quinton Ganther and Louis Rankin are the other halfbacks on the roster. The team could always try to acquire another one if needed.
- Carroll is sending a strong message by making this move so quickly after acquiring White. It shows Carroll won't offer free rides to his former USC players. Seattle still has 26 players from the Pac-10 Conference on its roster, easily a league high, but there will be no scholarships.
That's all for now. Enjoy your holiday weekend.
Update: Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com and ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that White is facing a four-game suspension and that Seattle released him for other reasons, which would make sense. A looming suspension could explain why the Titans got so little in return for White when they traded him to Seattle. That wouldn't have been enough by itself for Seattle to cut White, in my view. There would likely be other factors relating to White's attitude and overall approach. I base that on Schneider's comments about White not being ready to be a Seahawk.
It's also important to note that Jason Campbell and second-year tight end Fred Davis have found something pretty special. Since Chris Cooley suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury, Davis has become a big part of this offense. He scored two more touchdowns Sunday.
It's also encouraging to see running backs Quinton Ganther and Marcus Mason racking up some yards. The Redskins are getting a look at a lot of their young players right now. It's impressive that they've continued to compete. I think the next head coach can build around this defense. Even when Albert Haynesworth hasn't been available, Orakpo and Andre Carter have played excellent football. They combined for six of the Skins' eight sacks Sunday. It was a very impressive performance.
And let me say this for the 10th time in the past two weeks. Try to get London Fletcher in the Pro Bowl. He turned in another impressive performance Sunday.
With the win, the Eagles improved to 7-4 and remained only one game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East race. But with a 21-16 lead, the Redskins had the chance to knock out the Eagles when cornerback Justin Tryon intercepted Donovan McNabb late in the third quarter. The Skins had a first-and-goal situation at the Eagles' 10-yard line -- and then they went totally conservative.
Quarterback Jason Campbell had thrown two interceptions inside his own territory in the first half, so it basically looked like Jim Zorn and the other playcalling gurus lost faith in their quarterback. It's a shame, too, since he made some outstanding throws in the game. On third-and-goal, Campbell could've extended the play with his feet but he instead threw the ball out of the end zone. The Eagles settled for a short field goal to make it 24-16 and the Eagles' offense suddenly caught fire.
With wide receiver DeSean Jackson sidelined with an injury, McNabb started dialing up Jason Avant. The wide receiver had back-t0-back catches of 46 and 22 yards. He was brilliant against the Chargers two weeks ago -- and he came up big again in a huge spot. David Akers connected on a short field goal and the Eagles escaped with a 27-24 win.
The Eagles started the game with a botched onside kick attempt. Joe Mays ran into David Akers' kick and then Redskins running back Quinton Ganther picked it up and raced the other direction. The Redskins scored quickly on a Campbell touchdown to make it 7-0. The Redskins should've had the lead at halftime, but Campbell threw his second interception of the half to Asante Samuel, setting up a field goal by the Eagles.
The Eagles once again struggled in the red zone. They moved the ball well with LeSean McCoy in the running game, but playcaller Marty Mornhinweg refused to stick with McCoy. Sometimes you win games you don't deserve. That's the case for the Eagles this afternoon. But if they make the playoffs, this win will count just the same.
It's another gut-wrenching loss for the Redskins. But I'm tired of hearing everyone take up for Zorn. He's a big boy -- and he cost his team today by going conservative when he didn't need to. And yes, I think he still has more decision-making power than Sherm Lewis.
Obviously, it's serious enough that the Redskins immediately ruled out his return for this game. Betts had a big day against the Broncos last Sunday. He'll be replaced in the lineup by Rock Cartwright. We might also see Quinton Ganther get some carries.
Another huge setback for the Skins.
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.
The Titans lost at Cleveland Saturday night, but took a lot of good developments out of their fourth, and most important, preseason game. Some thoughts from the 23-17 loss:
- It's been clear for some time they will wind up carrying four tight ends -- Bo Scaife, Alge Crumpler, Jared Cook and Craig Stevens. Scaife and Cook on the field together caused some difficulties for the Browns. Stevens did some nice things in the second half of this game. So did the versatile Quinton Ganther, who is going to make them keep four running backs too. No way he's not one of their best 53 players.
- Mark Jones could have gotten away with all types of stumbles in his first action as the primary return man candidate. Fumbling one return away was not one of them. A year removed from a very solid year for the since-departed Chris Carr, the return jobs remain a giant question mark. Titans Radio said Jones suffered a stinger later when he was smothered on a kickoff return.
- In relief of Kerry Collins, Vince Young had one great run and threw the ball decisively much of the time he was in the game. But his two bad plays were big. The first was a lost fumble at the goal line just before the half. And the pick-six interception he threw deep in the Titans' own end was the sort of gaffe that does an awful lot to offset the good. It was good that he bounced back to lead a touchdown drive and threw a scoring pass to end it. Patrick Ramsey, who's dealing with sore ribs, didn't play.
- Cornerback Cortland Finnegan worked on the left instead of his usual spot on the right, getting some work in case the Titans need to shuffle or for an occasion when he might draw a particular receiver and have to follow him over there. Corner depth remains an issue -- Cary Williams started in place of Nick Harper, who sat out, and didn't fare particularly well. DeMarcus Faggins did well to force Braylon Edwards out of the end zone before he could get a second foot down during a remarkable one-handed catch.
- Cleveland played starters into the fourth quarter, while the Titans' went only to halftime.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE -- Here's my prediction for the Titans' running back pecking order after the first three games of a five-game preseason this summer:
- Chris Johnson: The once and future king.
- LenDale White: Likely to bust his hump in a contract year and still get a lot of carries in situations favorable to posting impressive statistics.
- Javon Ringer: Picked as a fifth rounder who can carry when needed who will likely take over for White in 2010 but can contribute regularly on special teams in the meantime.
- Rafael Little: Spent last year working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in his final year at Kentucky and could wind up on the practice squad if they can't squeeze him onto the 53-man roster.
- Quinton Ganther: A hard worker who does what's asked but won't be able to climb higher than this to maintain a roster spot or a role if the three veterans ahead of him are healthy.
- Chris Henry: A second-round workout warrior from 2007 when he was drafted 50th overall, who's heading for the waiver wire before the Titans are due to cut him another pay check.
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.
|Kirby Lee/US Presswire|
|Tennessee running back Chris Johnson was a force for the Titans' offense Saturday before being knocked out with an ankle injury.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One of the biggest differences between the 2008 Tennessee Titans and the 2007 version was that the dynamic playmaking abilities of Chris Johnson -- a home-run threat on nearly every snap.
He had a 32-yard run and a 28-yard catch before suffering an ankle injury in the second quarter that knocked him out of the Ravens' 13-10 divisional playoff win.
And suddenly, against a physical defense, the Titans were a lot less threatening.
They'd shown excellent depth all season -- with Chris Carr playing effectively at cornerback, beating Pittsburgh without Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, even plugging in Leroy Harris at center Saturday for Kevin Mawae.
But without the Johnson dimension, they relied on the "Smash" of their "Smash and Dash" combo and LenDale White didn't offer the same sort of potential. His fumble just before the half cost Tennessee a chance to grab a 10-7 lead at intermission.
And while Justin Gage was spectacular with 10 catches for 135 yards, Johnson probably proved himself the player the Titans could least afford to lose.
"That hurt a lot," offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said of the loss of Johnson, who was in a poncho on the bench sipping something warm in the second half. "You saw CJ's explosiveness and there were some plays there that CJ probably would have done some pretty good things with. That hurt us a lot. But the bottom line is you can't fumble twice inside the 20 and miss a field goal against a team like that."
Does what happened to the Titans minus Johnson make the case for the Titans adding more dynamic playmakers to the offense?
With Chris Johnson likely done for the day with an ankle injury, the Titans are leaning on White. He's got good feet for a guy his size, but he's big. And big isn't the way to run against the Ravens.
The Titans have relied on their depth all season.
Ganther has been on the field on some third downs.
It's time to use him.