AFC South Stock Watch
November, 1, 2011
By Paul Kuharsky
1. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback: It’s baby steps for the rookie quarterback, who isn’t the root cause of the team's losing but isn’t doing nearly enough for the team to win with any regularity. I don’t like to read too much into body language, but it’s hard for a guy who’s not productive to give a team much moxie. And more than moxie, the team needs a couple touchdown passes from its quarterback. In the same game. No, he doesn’t have great weapons or protection, but we need to see him elevate his game, at least at times. It may not be fair to measure him against Andy Dalton, Cam Newton andChristian Ponder, but he's not off to the same caliber of start to his career.
2. Confidence in the Titans’ ability to solve problems: Never mind a debate about Chris Johnson versus Javon Ringer. Johnson’s going to start, but Ringer will continue to get work if he’s the hotter hand when he gets his chances. We’re seven games into the season, and two Hall of Fame offensive linemen -- Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews -- clearly don’t have the horses to get effective run-blocking consistently. That’s a big problem for a team that’s supposed to have a run-based offense. The head coach and his offensive line coach wanted these guys, now they are on the hook for fixing things with what they have.
3. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts coach: A second consecutive appearance! Congrats. Bill Polian keeps talking about the great job Caldwell’s doing, and he has done well to keep things from fracturing. But there is only so much value in that when there are no wins. Caldwell and his staff don’t have enough talent to work with, but they also haven't adjusted their plan and approach enough to reflect what they are working with. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they can’t block up a great return. Points are tough to get so they have to be more aggressive at chances to get them. Caldwell looks like things are wearing on him.
1. Joel Dreessen, Houston Texans tight end: He’s got a touchdown catch in two consecutive games and three in the last four. Even without Andre Johnson playing, defenses don’t put a priority on covering the Texans’ second tight end. Owen Daniels, Arian Foster,Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter and even a healthy James Casey all probably qualify as more threatening. But Dreessen’s got the confidence of Matt Schaub and has a knack for taking advantage of what a defense allows him to do. Gary Kubiak said Monday you can be sure Dreessen’s not undervalued in Texans headquarters.
2. Karl Klug, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle: The high-motor rookie’s been an impact guy for the Titans so far and put together a very nice game against the Colts. He had a sack of Curtis Painter, a tackle for a loss and a deflected pass. He’s a key guy in Tennessee’s defensive line rotation and looks to be a real find as a fifth-round draft pick out of Iowa. The team made a push to get bigger on the defensive front. Klug is the tallest tackle at 6-foot-3, but the lightest at 275 pounds. Light is just fine if he produces like this.
3. Optimism in Houston: It’s always a bit dangerous to get excited about the Texans because they’ve been so consistent at suffering letdowns right when it appears they are ready to make a big step. But they’ve found their balance in a lot of ways over the past two weeks. The division is bad. The schedule is favorable. It’s there for the taking and it’s understandable if, no matter how careful history suggests we need to be, big expectations are building.