Thoughts on the primary developments around the AFC South over the past 10 days while I took some time away…
The Texans signed Greg Jones to replace James Casey as their fullback, plucking a player who’d been a staple for division rival Jacksonville. Jones is much more of a traditional fullback than Casey was. While he’s not the sort of pass-catching threat Casey was, he will be a better lead blocker for Arian Foster. With a one-year contract, he’s unlikely to be a long-term solution, as he will turn 32 in May.
Shane Lechler is the new punter, a free-agent addition replacing Donnie Jones. Lechler is obviously an excellent punter. The one concern is the Texans are not an excellent coverage team. While a linebacking corps that will be restocked in the draft and presumably healthier will help, I’ll be watching to see if Lechler outpunts his coverage, actually creating additional issues rather than helping to resolve them. Houston did hire Bob Ligashesky as an assistant for longtime special teams coach Joe Marciano.
J.J. Watt’s star continues to shine. After visiting troops in the Middle East, he belted home runs at an Astros batting practice and had a baby penguin in Galveston, Texas named after him.
The Colts took a look at former Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, but no deal came together. Considering how general manager Ryan Grigson has worked in free agency, it seems unlikely a deal will come together now. Indianapolis has moved quickly to bring in the guys it wants, so it would seem the Colts decided to pass, or DHB didn’t jump to agree to what they may have offered. I think the team, which has made plenty of moves in free agency, can address wide receiver early in the draft.
The addition of veteran backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck shows the Grigson-Chuck Pagano regime regard the position behind Andrew Luck differently than Bill Polian did when he was dealing with insurance for Peyton Manning late during his tenure in Indianapolis.
The Jaguars didn’t become players in the trade market for quarterback Matt Flynn. Smart move. The next signal caller that lands in Jacksonville needs to be more of a sure thing, and come at a more reasonable price than Flynn. Coach Gus Bradley obviously saw Flynn up close while working for the Seahawks. If he loved him, the Jaguars would have more likely shown some interest. Maybe they love Geno Smith or another quarterback in the draft. But I’ll be fine if they work hard on building the framework around the QB, play this season with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. If neither emerges as a guy they can count on going forward, then it’s priority No. 1 a year from now.
Gabbert's talking excitedly about the competition ahead at quarterback. He didn't like comments from a nameless coach from the previous staff that called him "Blame Gabbert" and suggested the way he carries himself puts blame for his problems on everyone else. It's exactly how you'd expect him to react. But I believe there was some truth to it, and it's something the new staff could have to address.
The Titans took a look at former Jets wide receiver Chaz Schilens as well as former Bronco Brandon Stokley and former Texan Kevin Walter. The team has been eager to add a slot guy to its group, and while Stokley is going to be 37 when this season starts, he is the one guy of these three who could give the Titans something they lack, I believe.
Ropati Pitoitua is the newest member of the Titans defensive line, an area they’ve wanted to beef up. Now Pitoitua, at 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds, joins tackle Sammie Hill (6-4, 329) to provide that size upgrade. Pitoitua was the 10th free-agent addition for Tennessee this offseason. He figures to help shore up the run defense.
I was a bit surprised the Titans signed safety Bernard Pollard, who’s a solid player against the run but also a coverage liability. He’s an outspoken guy with a big attitude and I’d categorize him as more of a Gregg Williams guy than a Mike Munchak guy.