Mailbag: On Wilson, Vinatieri and Kuharsky

Michael Kolodzy from Austin, Texas writes: I'm really frustrated as a Houston Texans fan to see that our head coach wants competition at every possible position except for one of the most truly important positions; especially important against ye olde' Peyton Manning. It feels like this draft was already too much about the future and some projects, i.e. rounds four and seven, and less about now and this season. Where is my head hunter free safety? I know what Eugene Wilson had done at NE, but he's not there anymore and he hasn't ever produced for Houston what they need in a stud free safety. Yet again this seems like another safe bet by Gary Kubiak which I think ultimately fails. SD felt they needed to pull the trigger and get one stud instead of a couple of decent guys, which is what I believe Houston really needed this year.

Paul Kuharsky: I largely agree. I don’t think there are sufficient ball skills in the secondary and I’d really like to see a top-flight centerfield type. When Wilson is at his best he tends to be aggressive coming forward, and if he’s last man back, that’s a bad formula.

Look, Jacksonville thinks a resurrected pass rush will help fix its secondary, and Houston thinks a more complete offense (with Tate) will help it keep the defense off the field more.

Will those approaches work? I’d sure like both better with Earl Thomas in the defensive backfield. But we have to see and remember that a team can’t solve everything.

Jess Smith from parts unknown writes: Please give equal coverage to the Houston Texans -- if you read down your blog and count the number of entries dedicated to the Texans, and how many are dedicated to the other teams, I think you'll see my point -- your preferences (obviously a Titans fan, and you live there) should have no bearing on equal coverage for all teams in the division

Paul Kuharsky: I am often told I am inclined to be more critical of them than the other three in the division.

When the Colts were in the playoffs and Super Bowl, I wrote disproportionately about the Colts. When I was just at Jaguars minicamp I wrote a ton about them. At both time things were awfully quiet with the Texans (beyond recent rookie intros and Friday's revelation of Brian Cushing's suspension.)

In mid-June when I hope to be in Houston, I’ll be writing little about other teams and a lot of stuff on the Texans.

A small sample size, I’ve found, is usually not enough to judge on.

You can single-handedly produce a Texans post or conversation with a good or great question –- see the guy above you here -- but here we’ve spent Texans time on you counting posts instead, right?

I grew up a Giants fan, by the way. In the business I quickly came to root for good stories and good people.

Chris Kirk in Indianapolis writes: How committed to Adam Vinatieri are The Colts? We have two return specialists coming to camp and it’s hard to see keeping a return guy plus Vinatieri… In theory doesn’t a healthy kicker free up a roster spot for a different specialist, i.e. a return specialist? What are the chances we cut Vinatieri for the rookie or another player likely to stay healthy. The presence of a hungry and talented younger option at kicker (undrafted Brett Swenson) tells me there may be an under the radar competition at kicker. I know it’s not as intriguing as the competition along our O-line but I hoped you’d share your thoughts.

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t see them carrying two placekickers, so if they like the kid and Vinatieri isn’t solid through camp and healthy coming out of it, it’s possible they’d make a change. They’d sure like the reliable and proven veteran to be the guy though, especially after being so patient with him last season.

They won’t keep two kickers and a punter except to get them through a couple weeks somewhere if there is an injury, I wouldn’t think. Pat McAee’s proved an excellent kickoff guy. But Matt Stover is gone and no matter how good Swenson is, it’s hard to turn things over to a kid.

Yes, two kickers/punters instead of three opens a spot. But they don’t like to dedicate one to a return specialist and injuries inevitably create a need for its use for something else. So Ray Fisher will have to show he can play corner in addition to returning and Brandon James will have to show value as a running back.

Sam in Charlottesville, Va., writes: Check out David Garrard's rating on Pro Football Focus. In particular, look at the number of times he was hit while throwing, consider the number of batted passes, look at his sacks again. I really want to know, given what we all know about the number of times he was ht overall, the number of sacks he absorbed, and the number of hits he took while throwing, how anyone can presume to judge him "not good enough". Look at Matt Ryan's numbers (on PFF and his season stats), I never hear his ability questioned. Also, look at his offensive linemen: overall grades (not so important here) and pass grades, in addition to hits, sacks, and pressures given up. I am writing an article on this soon.

Paul Kuharsky: I’m not alone in having a critical eye regarding David Garrard -- in the media in the league or even on the team (see Jack Del Rio and Wayne Weaver comments).

Sure, those are informative numbers.

His protection and receivers have to be better. So does he. If you think they aren’t going to draft his replacement next year even if he’s fantastic, you’re in for a surprise.

Matt Ryan is a kid with a ton of upside. Garrard is 32.

Ida Clark in Nashville, Tenn., writes: I have heard about how Damian Williams will be used as a returner, but the statement made by Corey Chavous in the Titans' Insider blog makes me think the Titans need to get him on the field at WR ASAP... So, instead of fan (and media) speculation on when and whether Rusty Smith is going to replace Vince Young, a former NFL DB and current draft expert thinks that the focus should be on Williams' getting the playing time that Nate Washington and Justin Gage are getting. As both Gage and Williams are possession WRs and Williams has the better hands and is the superior route runner of the two, he would be the odd man out. Agree or disagree?

Paul Kuharsky: Chavous does some great work on the draft. But I don’t believe he’s been to a Titans’ training camp practice recently and he clearly focuses more on incoming prospects than on the philosophies and long-standing practices of the teams these players are going to.

Jeff Fisher and Mike Heimerdinger aren’t big on using rookies unless they know everything.

So maybe Williams is great and learns fast.

But Washington and Gage are veterans making good money and the Titans like them even if Chavous doesn’t. They already have a young receiver in the mix in Kenny Britt and the fourth guy rarely gets meaningful snaps on a Sunday. (Britt’s big opportunity last year came only after Gage got hurt.)

So I wouldn’t get carried away with expectations for Damian Williams on offense this year. I think they’d largely be considered gravy. Here’s hoping he can solve their embarrassing return issues.

Justin Sharpe in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Paul, I wanted to express my respect for the consistent quality and overall integrity of your work. In this age of vitriolic rhetoric, you've managed to maintain a level of objectivity that's suddenly very rare in sports journalism. As a Jacksonville native and Jaguars fan, I couldn't be more pleased that you work the AFC South beat. Please keep up the good work, and congratulations on the recent arrival of your newest family member. Sincerely, Justin S.

Paul Kuharsky: That’s very nice of you to say, Justin. A real weekend-maker. Often my mailbox entries have a different tone, but this was a pretty good week. Thanks.