1. Kerry Collins, Indianapolis Colts quarterback and his pass protection. Collins was shaky early and by the time he settled down later the game was out of reach and the Texans had let up a bit. His protection was often overwhelmed by the Texans’ new 3-4 front, which got great effort and often overwhelmed an offensive line with three inexperienced starters. Collins can’t hold the ball as long, must hold it tighter when he might gets hit, and needs better work in front of him to have a chance.
2. Tennessee Titans special teams and new-found discipline. Four penalties on special teams in the first half didn’t suggest this team has evolved a great deal from the sloppy and careless crew Jeff Fisher left behind. There is no name in the game book for the first ineligible player downfield call, though it appeared to be Akeem Ayers. Jared Cook committed the same foul, Michael Griffin ran into the punter and Gerald McRath made an illegal block above the waist on a punt return.
3. Chris Johnson, Tennessean Titans running back. Much is being made of him getting only nine carries, but that’s not the biggest issue considering how the Titans hardly had possession against the Jaguars. He had six catches too. In 15 touches, he had only 49 yards. That’s 3.3 yards a touch. If that’s all he can get, a defense is stacking up to stop him. If so, the Titans have to be able to make teams pay with deep stuff. And while Kenny Britt had a big day, it was only on five catches.
1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans defensive end. Veterans Mario Williams and Antonio Smith got more notoriety but Watt was consistently disruptive in the Texans’ win over the Colts and deserves mention as well. Effort isn’t going to be a question for this group and Watt’s as high-energy a player as you can find. He was the division’s most impactful rookie on opening day and he didn’t look like he will require any adjustment period to the pro game, at all.
2. Deji Karim, Jacksonville Jaguars running back. Maurice Jones-Drew wanted to be used more, but Karim’s play gave the Jaguars the option of keeping MJD on a pitch count. He’s coming off offseason knee surgery and the team wants to ensure his work is measured this season. Karim stumbled too often early, but found his footing. He was more dangerous as a receiver, with three catches for 39 yards, including a fantastic third-down conversion where he made two tackles miss after he’d run out of room short of the sticks.
3. Ben Tate, Houston Texans running back. Who knows what 2010 would have held for Tate if he hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in the first preseason game of his rookie year. A year later, he’s part of a crowded backfield. But following a nice preseason, with Arian Foster in street clothes, and Derrick Ward sidelined with a knee injury, he became the lead guy. He did what a back in the Texans’ offense is now expected to do against the Colts: He consistently got to the second level, found room and was difficult to bring down.