Personal touch: AFC South mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

You write. I reply. A simple process. You may have to deal with my shortcomings here, but you won't get more personal service when it comes to mailbag replies. I try to reply to everything I get, either here, with an e-mail, or both.

Howitzer36 from Nashville writes: Whattup "Kuh?!" Just read your article about Madden NFL 10. Now I haven't bought a Madden game since the Eddie George cover, but when you say there was "nada" for running backs or defense from the AFC South are you saying AFC South teams are not worthy or you don't have that info yet? Hopefully it's the latter. Keep up the good work by the way!

Paul Kuharsky: I'm saying in the top-10 lists of their running backs and defenses they didn't include anyone from the division. They use some complex formula that gives a guy his skills in their game. AFC East gamesman (read: geek) Tim Graham told me he doesn't believe playing time factors in, so I'm confused as to how Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton aren't on there.

Nate in Indy writes: You know, it's really interesting the way this "lack of communication" thing is unfolding with Peyton Manning and the Colts. We all know he is (arguably) the best QB in the game right now. And sure, it may puzzle many to hear that he's been kept out of the loop on the whole Moore and Mudd retirement thing. But honestly, I can't imagine Tom Brady complaining openly about anything with Bill Belichik, and the reason is that Brady is a player, and Belichik is his boss, and can call the shots with or without Brady in the know (whether or not he would is a different question). Polian, Caldwell, and Manning better iron out exactly what Manning's role is in the organization. One would think that if Peyton really wanted to know, he could just speed dial Polian to ask. But then again, maybe Polian intentionally operates at a distance from even his best player.

Paul Kuharsky: Different strokes for different folks.

I think it's completely understandable that, when Manning felt like he wasn't getting as much accomplished in organized team activities (OTA) sessions because of the missing coaches and some new guys, he got frustrated. And I will never, ever hit a guy for being candid. I spend a good share of my life asking players and coaches to be forthright. I generally applaud them when they are.

Polian does not operate at a distance from Manning. The two talk regularly -- I've seen them huddled up in the locker room immediately after games, even. I think Polian explained the current situation pretty well in a recent radio appearance I linked to here.

Josh in Nashville writes: Any chance at all the Titans hire Rod Smith as assistant WR coach? His track record with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal has been pretty good.

Paul Kuharsky: And Smith, as you know, worked with Kenny Britt before the draft and gave Mike Heimerdinger a great endorsement.

It's a big jump for a guy to go all the way into coaching -- it's long hours, a lot of thankless work. For a lot of former players, it's not an appealing lifestyle. We shouldn't presume Smith wants that.

And I feel certain the Titans aren't in the market for another assistant.

Jon in Silver Spring writes: Kuharsky: youre a Texan hater. In fact ESPN is actually full of Houston biased media but thats another blog reply for another blog entry. To say the Texans are at best 16th best team in the League is just riduculous. They've made major upgrades just about everywhere except secondary and at RB. we're stacked while everyone else in the division is just one year older. Also, can we get some perspective on the disgusting Bud Adams and this atrocity:

http://www.joessports.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3563530&CAWELAID=340025527 what a slap in the face. i look forward to VY coming back to the Htown & getting blasted.

Paul Kuharsky: The Titans in Oilers' jerseys is very unnatural, I agree, and I understand that a lot of Houstonians will have a hard time with it. If Kerry Collins is healthy, a blasting in Houston at the hands of the Texans will come with Young on the bench. Way to stick it to him.

But to your bigger point: You got me. I hate the Texans. Actually at our recent meetings at the mothership in Bristol, one of the very first points made was that we really needed to focus better on hating Houston. My bosses will be paying close attention, so I need to stop writing pieces like this one on the safeties or this one on the defensive line and this is the last time I will say out loud that I think they've improved and may challenge for a playoff spot. Jeff Chadiha certainly won't get away with this stuff any longer.

The Texans are stacked but everyone else is just older? Here's a look at just some of the aging, crumbling guys around the AFC South: Donald Brown, Fili Moala, Mike Pollak and Philip Wheeler in Indy; Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in Jacksonville; Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Chris Johnson and Jason Jones in Tennessee. In his own way, each reminds me of this guy.

You said major upgrades "just about everywhere" except the secondary and at running back. Could you fill me in on the major upgrades on the offensive line, at backup quarterback and at wide receiver?

Chris in Austin writes: Ju
st wanted to give you props on your article about the Texans' safety situation. You're literally the only national writer who can go deep on the Texans as well as the local guys and local bloggers can. Keep up the great work, Paul.

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks. Chris, meet Jon in Silver Spring. Jon, meet Chris.

Tony in Austin writes: When I saw the Power Rankings, my first thought was "No way PK had the Titans ranked out of the top 5." Sure enough, I went to your blog post and saw that I know you better than you know yourself. How is it that you and I are so much smarter than the rest of the world?

Paul Kuharsky: Let's not analyze. Let's just enjoy. And let's not tell my wife how well you think you know me.

Farris in Nashville, Tenn., writes: What's up Paul? After looking at the newly released power rankings, it's kind of disturbing that 4 of the voters actually thought that 10 or more teams are better then the Titans. Now I admit I'm huge Titans fan, but I'm not a homer that believes nobody is better then the Titans. How is it possible that Matt Williamson thinks that the Saints, Texans, Packers and Jets are all better then the Titans? I know you didn't vote this way, but can you try to explain his thinking on this? When I look at those 4 teams alone compared to the Titans, there is NO WAY that they are better then a Titans team that went 13-3 last year and only lost 1 significant starter and upgraded their weakest position. Personally I think the Titans will go 11-5 or 12-4. Thanks!

Jon in Franklin writes: Happy Power Rankings Paul! What was Matt Williamson's logic ranking the Titans 17th? I also don't understand everyone's infatuation with the Colts. I get Peyton is a great player, but they have turned over more coaches than any team in the AFC South. Giants may be to high too. They were not the same team without Plaxico Burress. My top 5 would be: 1)Steelers, they are the champs, 2)Patriots, 11-5 without Brady 3)Titans, too solid an organization 4)Falcons, Matt Ryan year 2 + Tony Gonzalez, 5) Bears, Cutler + weak division.
Paul Kuharsky: I know NFC West wizard Mike Sando did a couple posts on why Williamson, who's often a maverick in our power rankings, ranked a couple of teams where he did. I'll try to talk with Matt this week and do the same for you with regard to the Titans.

It's hard to downgrade the Colts considering their track record and yes, Manning. I didn't boost them above the Titans on my ballot. I love the Giants, and their defense can help offset the loss of Burress. And I like the Falcons too. The second year for a breakout team always scares me, but I'm going against my usual thinking with Atlanta. If I'm picking an NFC title game today, it's Giants-Falcons with Philly the top threat. I think the NFC North will be pretty mediocre and am reluctant to elevate the Bears too much until we see how Cutler fits.

"Jeff Fisher" in Nashville writes: Paul, The preseason Power Rankings have me giddy as a schoolgirl. I was trying figure out how to motivate my team to bust their [butts] in training camp. Who knew I'd be able to play the "We get no respect" card 6 months after finishing with the best record in the NFL? Awesome!

Paul Kuharsky: How so many guys are suckers for the no respect stuff just bewilders me. But it can work. And I imagine the Titans have been made aware of anything that can be perceived as a slight.

Michael in Shreveport, La., writes: Oehser said that the OL is key to the 2009 season and I agree. I think that if Peyton has time to pick apart defenses and that Addai/Brown have the holes to run that the offense can keep the defense off the field and that leads to more offensive TDs, more TOP, and less chance of injury for Sanders, Jackson, Freeney, etc. That being said, when will we see what kind of line the Colts have? What improvements can still be made? And do you agree with Oehser?

Paul Kuharsky: Seems like a pretty keen assessment by John Oehser and by you. I think if the Colts stay healthy on the offensive line they can do good work and it can be the top link in the chain you talk about. It would be nice if Ryan Lilja was back in the mix, but we don't have a solid read on his status at this point. When will we see what kind of line they have? We'll have a sense in the preseason, but we won't really know until they've played the opener.

Chuck in Smyrna writes: I know this will drive you crazy but I figure it's worth asking. A person I work with just walked by and said he talked to "his guy" at the Titans and that they're discussing cutting Kearse becuase of the numbers on the d-line. Now, of course who knows who "his guy" is, could be a janitor. But it sounds a bit plausible - wondering what your take on it was. He wasn't the old Jevon (which no one expected anyway), but he was pretty decent I thought at the price.

Paul Kuharsky: I wouldn't say Kearse is a lock, but I'd be surprised if he's not around this year. "The Freak" is no more, but as a cheap veteran addition I agree he was pretty decent -- he did some good work last year.

Jim Washburn recently told me that if he had to put a starting unit on the field, he'd put Dave Ball opposite Kyle Vanden Bosch and they are going to want to find snaps for Jacob Ford and maybe William Hayes, too. So yes, it's crowded.

But cutting anyone right now makes no sense and outside of guys coming off injuries or those creating huge financial concerns, there aren't generally conversations about releasing guys at this time of year. Players don't start collecting their base salaries until Week 1. Even if a team is done with a player, most keep him around in case of injuries to others, the potential for a huge change in play, etc.

Wesley from parts unknown writes: How much of the Jacksonville Jaguars season rests on the arm of Garrard now that he has Torry Holt? Or does it come back to the offensive line that's been changed more than T.O's attitude in Buffalo?

Paul Kuharsky: It's all tied together. The protection and weapons have been upgraded, and those moves should position David Garrard to be more effective. If the line plays better and Holt is productive and manages to help the young receivers get in the flow, then Garrard has to take advantage. Holt's not going to cure everything single-handedly, for sure.

Alex in Cookeville, Tenn., writes: I think that the Texans Tackle Eric Winston would be a beastly DH for an American League ball club. After seeing him light it up in a special on the Texans annual Home Run Derby competition and blast some upper deck shot I'm convinced he could be an elite power hitter in baseball, not to mention that he could do it without steriods. I think that'd be a great story to see unfold.

Paul Kuharsky: An extra contribution to the recent basketball team post, where I also asked what players would be great at other sports. Thanks, Alex. I hope to see the derby in person sometime. Sounds like a blast. We had video of the recent one here.

Nate in Burns, Tenn., writes: What do you make of Mark Jones play at WR? He's strung together a few good days. Might we actually see a real competition at WR with guys actually making plays... instead of seeing who can make the least mistakes?

Paul Kuharsky: Hey Nate. I think Jones helps himself in a big way if he can be the fifth receiver. I think it's impossible for him to break into the top three or four without an injury.

As for his potential to be a good enough receiver to add to his returner résumé, I'm not going to be making much of a judgment of him or anyone else out of OTA practices. It's especially easy, I think, for receivers and speedy defensive ends, to look great at this time of year.

And now, on to the Vince Young section of our mailbag, spurred by this entry...

Phil Young in Raleigh, N.C., writes: Hey Paul, Saw your last VY post (the "making it rain" post). You probably won't want to share this link but I think it is from the same weekend in which VY was doing a lot of good which included having 20 of his Titans teammates in town for a weekend event. Might this show anything positive as far as getting back in the huddle? Look.. I know there are those out there that feel you are a little hard on VY etc, etc. I appreciate your opinions and feel as most of the time you give good information on VY whether positive or negative. I feel this time you were a little reactionary from a papparazzi fueled website on what VY was doing. I could compare it to saying a celebrity is cheating on his wife because there is a picture of him with another woman or something. I'm not bashing at all here.. I enjoy your work and hope you can respect my position on this article... that is was a bit unfair for accuracy given the total context. Regardless... have a great week. http://www.titansonline.com/community/article-1/titans-quarterback-holds-vy-community-weekend-in-hometown-of-houston/b71e9632-6216-4d68-acd8-746ddf063add

Paul Kuharsky: I need to address the charity issue.

Look, guys all across the league do some great work, and they deserve respect and even accolades for it. Young has been very good in that department, from all accounts, and deserves credit for it. But I'm not huge on praising guys for doing what they are expected to do. You won't find me writing entries in praise of guys doing what coaches ask, being on time for meetings, being nice to the flight attendants on the team charter, signing an autograph for a fan or making a team-requested appearance at a local hospital.

Those are things they should do and it's much more of an issue when they fail to meet those expectations. The "VY Community Unity Weekend" was a good and significant effort. But in my view, it doesn't offset the bad move he made later. And let's be clear -- I don't think it's a federal issue. I saw a snapshot of him that I think showed him exercising less than ideal judgment at a time when his ability to make judgments is a major concern for his team.

Adam in the Bronx, NY: Paul, Love the blog. Like everyone else, I had an issue with your analysis of VY "makin' it rain", as you phrased it. I frequent you're blog often and I don't remember seeing any posts about VY's charity events (although I'm sure you'll link me if I'm wrong); yet you make a post when he does something negative. I'm black and I'm not going to call you a racist like everyone else, but I will say it is unfair to judge a man by some of the things he does. I just don't see how throwing money at a concert shows a "lack of progress in the judgment department". Say a CEO goes to a strip club after work and throws money at the strippers. Does that show bad judgment? Does that take away from his character? I don't think it does. Company execs and strip clubs are commonplace, much like rappers/athletes and club settings. I'm not saying either is necessarily condonable, but it is socially accepted, so it isn't fair to judge someone for doing something like this. Pacman fought people and (allegedly) got people shot. He even fought a contestant on Pros Vs. Joes. That isn't exactly socially acceptable. So please don't take one seemingly innocent action VY does and write a whole article comparing him to that fool Pacman. - Adam

Paul Kuharsky: Not everyone else, just most everyone else.

Do you remember seeing any posts about charity events? I might have done one or two in the 11 months I've has this job. But if this blog covered all the good things guys do, and VY and a lot of players do a lot of good things, I'd have room for little else. And this space would be used as a doctor's prescription to help cure insomnia.

Generally speaking, if a plane lands safely, it's not worthy of analysis. If it splashes down in the Hudson River or crashes, it is. When things don't go according to plan, I look for reasons and seek to explain why.

I thought Young showed bad judgment. Many of you disagree. But I hope you will agree that this has been a place for it to be debated. The comments of that blog entry were loaded. I'm giving voice to the most articulate opposition right here. And I appreciate you sharing your opinion.

Unknown from Powder Springs writes: Hey Paul, you are entitled to your opinon but equating pacman action in a strip club to what vince did is more than a bit of a streach. Must be a slow news day. Come on paul you can do better than this to get people to read your work.

Paul Kuharsky: I assure you that I write what I want and what I think and that it's rarely inspired by the idea that I want to write something controversial to draw people in.

Yours was a pretty loose reading of that blog entry. I certainly differentiated Young from Jones. Still, no matter the setting or context, I just don't think it's a great idea to imitate a guy who put a major stain on your franchise with his bad behavior.

JL in Hoboken, NJ: Re your article about VY's judgment - you're reading too much into it. Seems like you're looking for a story where there isn't really one (or your editors are forcing you to address the situation). Big Ben didn't have the greatest judgment when he rode a motorcycle without a helmet, Joe Namath didn't have the greatest judgment when he was out all night prior to gameday, Jay Cutler (he hasn't won a championship yet but people seem to think he's a highly capable qb) parties like it's no one's business, diabetes and all. These are only a few examples but I'm sure there are plenty others. Do I endorse any of these activities? No. Do I find this sort of behavior encouraging? No. But ultimately, as long as a QB's judgment doesn't cause him to self-destruct, there does not seem to be any correlation to on-field success whatsoever. If Vince doesn't succeed in the NFL it will be because he's a bad QB, not because he has poor off-field judgment.
Paul Kuharsky: A well-reasoned counterargument. Don't blame mine on my editors. It was all me.

Jeremy from Minneapolis writes: I've got to start making it to the chat so that I can respond to the other AFC South fans directly. Until then, I'll have to hope you choose to pass this along through a mailbag entry: Maybe watching VY "make it rain" doesn't remind others of Pacman. But even if we put that connection aside, there's no way Vince's actions in this video aren't dumb. I would think it is a security concern to advertise the fact that you carry lots of cash, as well as a financial concern for a guy who is almost certainly going to take a pay cut in the near future. I'd also like to draw everyone's attention to what Nelly does and says at the end of the video. He brings out another guy and explains to the crowd that he just did nine years (presumably in prison). Why would VY want to be publicly associated with an ex-con? Especially in a context where the guy's ex-con status is presented as a positive. Sure, it can give a rapper extra street cred, but street cred doesn't mean so much in the NFL.

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the note Jeremy. See, not everyone thinks my opinion is nuts. You are one of the few who wrote in who agreed with my thinking or considered it and drew a similar conclusion to mine on your own. It's nice after all those e-mails above yours, to be able to include this one, too.

Look for our weekly chat on Thursdays at 3 p.m. ET.

Follow the blog and chat with me on facebook at Paul Kuharsky Espn.