Tom Hayden

AFC South Rumors: Titans, Anderson, Jags

While we are more than two months away from offensive linemen working in pads, the Titans are in the process of determining first-rounder Peter Skoronski‘s position. They are cross-training the No. 11 overall pick at tackle and guard. Skoronski only played tackle at Northwestern, but plenty of pre-draft buzz pointed to a future at guard in the NFL. Arm measurements affected Skoronski’s pre-draft perception, and the Tennesseean’s Nick Suss notes the Titans were alternating possessions of the rookie at tackle and guard during their rookie minicamp.

In Nicholas Petit-Frere and free agent signing Andre Dillard, the team looks to have its two starting tackles in place. The Titans gave the ex-Eagles first-rounder a three-year, $29MM deal, despite Dillard having never commandeered an Eagles starting job, that includes $10MM fully guaranteed. For 2023, at least, this setup points to Skoronski at guard alongside Daniel Brunskill and Aaron Brewer on a new-look Titans line.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Veering back toward C.J. Stroud after weeks of pre-draft reports indicated they were drifting in another direction, the Texans ended up with their coveted edge rusher (Will Anderson Jr.) via a monster trade-up with the Cardinals as well. They became the first team to make two top-three picks in a draft since Washington in 2000. The Texans held pre-draft meetings about how to obtain a quarterback and a pass rusher with their Nos. 2 and 12 picks, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Texans ownership was believed to be more involved this year, though Cal McNair denied influencing GM Nick Caserio to select a quarterback. The trade cost Houston what may well be a top-five pick in 2024, giving Cardinals fans a reason to follow this Texans season, so the AFC South team will bank on Anderson┬áhaving an All-Pro future.
  • Regarding Anderson, DeMeco Ryans said his top pass rusher will operate primarily out of a three-point stance on the edge. The Texans have used a 3-4 base defense for years, dating back to J.J. Watt‘s heyday, but Ryans played in a 4-3 look in Houston and used it as his base alignment in San Francisco. Anderson worked primarily as a linebacker at Alabama. “It’s not a huge position change for Will,” Ryans said, via HoustonTexans.com’s Deepi Sidhu. “Will will be an edge defender for us, and that’s what he did at Alabama. Mostly at Alabama he was standing up. We’ll have him down in a three-point stance.” As sub-packages now rule the NFL, the line between a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end has blurred over the past several years, making this a standard switch for the prized edge prospect.
  • Ryan Cowden finished last season as the Titans‘ interim general manager. The veteran executive is no longer listed on the team’s website as part of the front office (h/t Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky). This marks a quiet exit for Cowden, who worked alongside Mike Vrabel atop the Titans’ decision-making structure after GM Jon Robinson‘s firing. Ran Carthon has since taken over in Tennessee. Cowden had been with the Titans since Robinson’s 2016 hire. Prior to that, he spent 16 years in the Panthers’ scouting department. Having interviewed for several GM jobs over the past few years — including the Tennessee vacancy — Cowden should have an opportunity to catch on elsewhere soon.
  • The Texans have bumped Tom Hayden to their college scouting director post, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes. Previously the team’s college scouting coordinator, Hayden remains with the team despite arriving during the short-lived Brian Gaine GM tenure.
  • Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks was hit with two misdemeanor charges — domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism under $1,000 — last month stemming from an incident in Nashville. Authorities have dropped each charge due a settlement being reached, Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com notes. Claybrooks allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend’s arm and threw her cellphone to the ground.