Texans: Mario Williams hasn't even played in a regular-season NFL game, but the critics around Houston already abound. After Williams failed to pad his statistics in his first two preseason games, fans are criticizing the Texans for using their No. 1 overall pick on the defensive end. Those who see Williams day in and day out at practice are praising the rookie, though. They are also praising his contributions in preseason games, where Williams didn't finish with flashy numbers, but he did help his teammates to make plays.
Defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz pointed to Antwan Peek's two sacks against the St. Louis Rams as the payoff for Williams' play. Peek beat his man both times because, in the scrum at the line of scrimmage, Williams was occupying two blockers. On another play, Karmelowicz noted how the rookie took St. Louis' Richie Incognito, "who's a pretty good guard, and just threw him out of the way. You don't do that to people in this league."
Williams has also had a lot to adjust to in the past month. The coaches have played him at a number of positions. He started on the strong side in the first preseason game and played inside at tackle. In the second preseason game, he started on the weak side, where the Texans expect to keep him.
Williams has adjusted quickly to all the moves, and has shown flashes of brilliance. Once he becomes more experienced, the Texans are confident few will complain about having him on the field.
"Mario is a work in progress," he said. "He's a young guy who's got to settle down. All we're doing is getting him ready for the (regular season). This kid has to believe he can do anything he wants to if he puts his mind to it. You have to instill that confidence in him that he can, and that's what we're in the process of doing.
"Reggie White flopped around in the USFL for a while. Or take Cortez Kennedy. He was a mistake his first year. His second year he was the AFC's Defensive Player of the Year. When do these things happen? Who knows? Except everybody wants it to happen yesterday.
"But the last thing I'm going to do is rush him. You have to have the courage to be patient."
G Steve McKinney is healing well from a groin strain, which should still allow him to have some ample playing time in the preseason. G Fred Weary is still pushing for a starting job. He has played so well in practice and in the preseason that he is pushing long-time starters McKinney and Chester Pitts for one of the starting jobs at guard.
Jaguars: The biggest news out of Jacksonville as of late has been the key
players who have suffered injuries. MLB Mike Peterson suffered a sprained MCL against Tampa Bay and left the stadium on crutches. The Jaguars hope he's ready for the regular season in two weeks, but that may be an optimistic forecast.
RB Greg Jones suffered an MCL injury against Tampa Bay that landed him on the team's injured reserve list, ending his season. The news was a blow to the Jaguars since they have been raving about his performance this summer, leading many to believe that he would be named the starter this year.
DT Marcus Stroud missed the Tampa Bay game with a heel injury suffered the week before. The Jaguars say it's not major but it could linger.
K Josh Scobee has yet to kick in the preseason because of a leg strain, although the Jaguars say he'll be back for the regular season. Seth Marler has kicked in the first three preseason games for the Jaguars with Scobee sidelined.
Top draft pick Marcedes Lewis has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain and it's uncertain when the rookie tight end will return.
Titans: Only 19 cornerbacks started all 16 games in the NFL last season and only three teams -- Green Bay, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay -- got a full slate of starts from their top two cornerbacks over the entire season. That suggests that no matter how much the Titans may like two developing second-year starters -- Pacman Jones and Reynaldo Hill -- they're going to need a third and maybe even a fourth cornerback to see some significant action.
"In the past you could say, 'What are we going to do if we have an injury?'" Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "I think now you have to say, 'What are we going to do when we have an injury?' So you have to expect that. You're not doing yourself a service unless you anticipate that. The secondary is a vulnerable place in this game. It's very difficult."
Andre Woolfolk, their top pick in 2003, should be the man. But Hill bumped him out of the lineup last year, when the Titans said he had become purely a nickel guy who could cover in the slot. He's playing on at least three special teams and will be on the roster even as the Titans are likely to look for more than one cornerback on waivers after the big cutdown around the league.
QB Billy Volek looked shaky in his third start of the preseason and coach Jeff Fisher said Volek missed some open receivers and some throws he should have made. TE Ben Troupe looked like the Titans' best offensive weapon against the Falcons and he will begin the season as the team's starter as Erron Kinney will be coming off knee surgery that cost him the entire preseason.
CB Pacman Jones missed the Atlanta game a day after he was arrested and charged with public intoxication and disorderly contact. He was expected to be back on the field with the team for its short week of preparation for the preseason finale in Green Bay.
K Rob Bironas is six for seven in the preseason and has consistently killed the ball while showing great accuracy. His 51-yard field goal in the Titans' loss to Atlanta might have had a chance from 60. RB LenDale White still ranks third at the position, but coach Jeff Fisher praised White's short-yardage work against Atlanta.