• The way we hear it, there is concern in Jacksonville about the durability of former Pro Bowl CB Rashean Mathis. After starting 74 consecutive games to begin his career, Mathis has missed a combined 12 games the past three seasons. A knee injury ended his season in 2008, and a groin injury bothered Mathis much of the '09 campaign. While he is still the team's best cornerback when healthy, word is there's a question mark as to whether he can stay on the field for a full season.
• So, what are considered the Colts' greatest needs with the draft fast approaching? "Probably left tackle," said one team insider. "Charlie Johnson is not a natural left tackle, and Tony Ugoh hasn't been the guy the team expected. They could also look at defensive tackle, with the verdict still out on Fili Moala, and linebacker, if they let Gary Brackett walk."
• The Texans look to be well-stocked at tight end next season. TE Owen Daniels, whether he's a restricted or unrestricted free agent, is likely to be back. He caught 40 passes for 519 yards and five TDs in only eight games of work before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but he's expected to be ready for the start of the season. The way we hear it, the Texans are still high on rookie TE James Casey, who has displayed good pass-catching ability, and they also got better-than-expected production from veteran Joel Dreessen, who caught 6-81-1 in the season finale vs. New England.
• Although we hear the fans in Buffalo would have happily welcomed Marty Schottenheimer as their next head coach — and reports indicate that Schottenheimer was interested in the job — in the end it was owner Ralph Wilson Jr. who reportedly shot down the idea of the 66-year-old coaching his team. Although Wilson's reasons aren't known, it could have had something to do with Schottenheimer's defensive background, as the Bills were targeting an offensive-minded coach.
• It will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle the RB position in the offseason. They have Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor, the main ballcarriers, coming back. They also have Kevin Faulk, a free agent, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has played a small role. The best guess is that all five won't be back. Typically, the Patriots have gone the veteran route at the position under Bill Belichick, but they did spend a first-rounder on Maroney. The draft isn't chock-full of great talent at the position, so you could see the Patriots opt for the free-agent route or a trade to bolster the position in the offseason.
• Dolphins assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles' stock declined a bit in the past year. He interviewed for head-coaching jobs with the Lions, Broncos and Rams last year but hasn't received a head-coaching interview this offseason, and the Dolphins passed on him when they filled their vacancy at defensive coordinator with Mike Nolan. There were reports that Miami considered Bowles a viable option for the coordinator position, but obviously not its preferred option. The Dolphins ranked 24th vs. the pass this season, which didn't reflect well on Bowles.
• Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has said he expects Jared Gaither to stay at left tackle and Michael Oher to stay at right tackle in 2010. However, the way we hear it, the sense in Baltimore continues to be that Oher, who played very well as a rookie, will eventually slide over to the left side. The 6-9, 340-pound Gaither, who missed five games because of injuries this season, didn't quite deliver on the promise he showed in '08.
• The Browns' leading pass catcher among wide receivers in 2009? Rookie WR Mohamed Massaquoi, who caught 34 passes in 16 games (11 starts). While Massaquoi flashed potential as a rookie, the need for more pass catchers in Cleveland is obvious, and we hear the Browns are likely to add a veteran wide receiver or two in the offseason.
• One assistant coach who game-planned against the Steelers this season was impressed with what he saw from rookie WR Mike Wallace. "I think he's going to be (of) a lot of value to them," he said, noting what a dangerous vertical threat Wallace was as a rookie, when he caught 39 passes for 756 yards and six TDs (19.4-yard average). Fourteen of Wallace's catches went for 20 yards or more.
• In another sign of the Broncos' lack of faith in CB Alphonso Smith, 15-year veteran Ty Law recently said the team told him he would be welcomed back next season. Law, who joined the Broncos around midseason, signed a one-year deal that will expire in late February. Smith struggled in his rookie season, and Denver signed Law to unseat Smith at nickel back. Denver traded a 2010 first-round pick to move up in the second round of last year's draft to pluck Smith.
• After his monster season in which he rushed for 1,120 yards and seven TDs, Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles recently underwent shoulder surgery, according to reports. His shoulder had been bothering him since taking over the featured RB job in the second half of the season, and Charles has had issues with his shoulder popping out, dating back to his high school days. The operation isn't expected to keep him out of action long.
• We hear that the mood in the Chargers' locker room after their shocking divisional-round loss to the Jets was one of disbelief. Players were stunned at the way they had performed in their biggest game of the season, having abandoned the things that helped them win 11 consecutive games, especially discipline. After finishing the regular season strong and feeling like they could win it all, the Bolts will now have a long offseason to ponder their many mistakes and think about what might have been.
• Broncos FB Peyton Hillis was barely used in head coach Josh McDaniels' offense last season. After averaging 5.0 yards on 68 carries in 2008, the second-year veteran had just 17 touches in all of '09. Sources expect Hillis to be involved in the team's training camp prior to next season, but it appears that Hillis doesn't have much of a future as a contributor in Denver.
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