Assessing work left to do in AFC South

Discussion in 'Tennessee Titans and NFL Talk' started by NewsGrabber, Mar 12, 2009.

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  1. NewsGrabber

    NewsGrabber Guest

    <em>Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky</em> <p>The first wave of free agency has come and gone. While Round 2 hasn't played out yet -- the draft is still six weeks away and offseason programs are in the offing -- the AFC South blog pauses to assess our four teams.</p> <p>What's the overriding issue that remains to be addressed for each team? How might the franchises take them on?</p> <p><strong><a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=hou" target="_new">Houston Texans</a></strong></p> <table border="0" cellspacing="4" cellpadding="0" width="300" align="right"> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><img src="http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2009/0312/nfl_g_asmith1_300.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="300" /></td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td align="left"><font size="1" style="line-height: 1.2em">Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images</font></td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td align="left"><font size="1" style="line-height: 1.2em"><strong>Defensive end Antonio Smith gives the Texans some help on their defensive line.</strong></font></td> </tr> </table> <p>The team's 2006 draft was the last with Charley Casserly as GM and coach Gary Kubiak signed off on all seven picks. Three of them -- <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9587" target="_new">Mario Williams</a>, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9619" target="_new">DeMeco Ryans</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9684" target="_new">Owen Daniels</a> -- already have been to the Pro Bowl, and a fourth -- <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9652" target="_new">Eric Winston</a> -- is a very solid starter.</p> <p>If the Texans can come close to matching that with a defense-heavy draft, they could position themselves to challenge Tennessee and Indianapolis atop the division.</p> <p>They need an infusion of defensive playmakers for new coordinator Frank Bush to work with: A sturdy linebacker, a stout defensive tackle, a safety or corner to challenge for a big role.</p> <p>Never mind their standing as the league's 22nd-ranked defense in 2008. If the Texans can improve in scoring defense (24.6 points, 27th) and third-down defense (39.4 percent, 16th), that can make a huge difference. Defensive stinginess would help a team that's got an offensive head coach in Kubiak and an attack that should be able to score with a quality skill trio of <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=5615" target="_new">Matt Schaub</a>, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=4461" target="_new">Andre Johnson</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=11323" target="_new">Steve Slaton</a>.</p> <p>They believe they answered the question at defensive end by signing free agent <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=5660" target="_new">Antonio Smith</a> to play opposite Williams. But more additions to the front seven are needed, as they have to produce more pressure on quarterbacks. Only five teams had fewer than the Texans' 25 sacks last year, 12 of which came from Williams. Each of the 12 playoff teams last season recorded more sacks than it allowed. Houston was minus-seven.</p> <p>Above all else, the pass rush needs to remain the focus. The Texans need a pocket-collapsing tackle, a linebacker who could contribute to the rush and/or a defensive back who can help keep the ball in a QBs hand for an extra beat. A running back to go with Slaton will be tempting, but the Texans should wait to grab one until after they've spent at least a couple value picks on defense.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=ind" target="_new">Indianapolis Colts</a></strong></p> <p>Bill Polian got deals done with cornerback <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=8474" target="_new">Kelvin Hayden</a> and center <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=2055" target="_new">Jeff Saturday</a> before they became free agents, both big moves.</p> <table border="0" align="right"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="2" cellpadding="2" align="right"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" bgcolor="#c0c0c0"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" width="100%"> <tr> <td bgcolor="#ffffff"><img src="http://a.espncdn.com/i/headshots/nfl/players/65/8474.jpg" alt="" hspace="1" vspace="1" width="65" height="90" align="left" /></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <font face="Verdana" size="1" style="line-height: 1.5em"><font color="#808080">&nbsp;Hayden</font> </font></td> </tr> </table> </td> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="2" cellpadding="2" align="right"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" bgcolor="#c0c0c0"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" width="100%"> <tr> <td bgcolor="#ffffff"><img src="http://a.espncdn.com/i/headshots/nfl/players/65/2055.jpg" alt="" hspace="1" vspace="1" width="65" height="90" align="left" /></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <font face="Verdana" size="1" style="line-height: 1.5em"><font color="#808080">&nbsp;Saturday</font> </font></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <p>The Colts like <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=10612" target="_new">Roy Hall</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=11439" target="_new">Pierre Garcon</a>, but they are unproven and it would be asking for and expecting a lot for one of them to emerge as the third receiver on a team that needs dependable pass catchers for <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=1428" target="_new">Peyton Manning</a>. That's why it won't be a surprise at all if the Colts use the 27th pick in the draft on a wideout if there is one they believe fits what they do and can contribute right away.</p> <p>But even if they go that direction early, their bigger issue is on defense, where the front seven needs restocking. The Colts need at least one big, run-stuffing defensive tackle and they need a new weakside linebacker with <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9680" target="_new">Freddy Keiaho</a> (not given a qualifying offer when he could have been a restricted free agent) and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=8587" target="_new">Tyjuan Hagler</a> (unrestricted) apparently out of the picture.</p> <p>New defensive coordinator Larry Coyer is expected to be more complex, and Polian needs to give him more pieces to work with. The Colts like to choose "the best player available" in at least the first two rounds. It would be great for them if those players happened to be interior linemen or outside linebackers. Without boosts there, we'll be discussing a lot of the same issues in 2009 we covered in 2008.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=jac" target="_new">Jacksonville Jaguars</a></strong></p> <p>The Jaguars have sent the message loud and clear: They are looking to rebuild by improving their foundation first, and they are big believers that the offensive and defensive lines are that foundation.</p> <table border="0" cellspacing="4" cellpadding="0" width="200" align="right"> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><img src="http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2009/0312/nfl_u_thomas_200.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="300" /></td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td align="left"><font size="1" style="line-height: 1.2em">Howard Smith/US Presswire</font></td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td align="left"><font size="1" style="line-height: 1.2em"><strong>While providing stability on the offensive line, Tra Thomas knows he needs work on his run blocking.</strong></font></td> </tr> </table> <p>The addition of veteran left tackle <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=1447" target="_new">Tra Thomas</a> alleviates the pressure on the team to find a left tackle at No. 8 in the draft, but Thomas himself said he needs work as a run blocker. With a team looking to spring <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9646" target="_new">Maurice Jones-Drew</a>, that's the big priority.</p> <p>At their peak, Jack Del Rio's Jaguars were known as one of the league's most physical teams. For a long time, the interior defensive line tandem of <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=3537" target="_new">John Henderson</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=2561" target="_new">Marcus Stroud</a> were primary reasons for that reputation.</p> <p>The 2008 Jaguars never really replaced Stroud effectively after he was traded to Buffalo, and finding someone like him who could eat space and blockers and help boost Henderson back to his old form is important.</p> <p>As usual, Jacksonville needs a playmaker outside. Their failures with receivers are well documented, but if <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=3636" target="_new">David Garrard</a> has insufficient protection and the defense can't get off the field on third down better, the next Jerry Rice won't win them too many games.</p> <p>Re-establishing a physical identity remains priority No. 1, and will be a big focus in the draft.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=ten" target="_new">Tennessee Titans</a></strong></p> <p>With <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=11288" target="_new">Jason Jones</a> poised to make a second-season jump and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=8603" target="_new">Jovan Haye</a> added to the interior defensive line mix, the Titans are not desperate to replace <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=3543" target="_new">Albert Haynesworth</a> as many seem to believe.</p> <table border="0" align="right"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="2" cellpadding="2" align="right"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" bgcolor="#c0c0c0"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" width="100%"> <tr> <td bgcolor="#ffffff"><img src="http://a.espncdn.com/i/headshots/nfl/players/65/3543.jpg" alt="" hspace="1" vspace="1" width="65" height="90" align="left" /></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <font face="Verdana" size="1" style="line-height: 1.5em"><font color="#808080">&nbsp;Haynesworth</font> </font></td> </tr> </table> </td> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="2" cellpadding="2" align="right"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" bgcolor="#c0c0c0"> <tr> <td> <table border="0" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" width="100%"> <tr> <td bgcolor="#ffffff"><img src="http://a.espncdn.com/i/headshots/nfl/players/65/9307.jpg" alt="" hspace="1" vspace="1" width="65" height="90" align="left" /></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <font face="Verdana" size="1" style="line-height: 1.5em"><font color="#808080">&nbsp;Washington</font> </font></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <p>Beyond Haynesworth, the Titans have lost little and should be in position to be a contender again. The big issue is the lack of playmakers.</p> <p>When <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=11258" target="_new">Chris Johnson</a> left the Baltimore playoff game hurt, Tennessee didn't have an alternative and became far less threatening. Adding a field-stretching receiver can improve the Titans' quick-strike ability. A burner would help keep defenses honest so they can't focus on Johnson as much.</p> <p>Is free-agent acquisition <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9307" target="_new">Nate Washington</a> that guy? Perhaps.</p> <p>If the Titans can bring back <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9285" target="_new">Chris Carr</a> or sign one of the veteran corners they've looked at -- <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=8471" target="_new">Justin Miller</a>, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=8489" target="_new">Eric Green</a> or <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=10342" target="_new">Jarrett Bush</a> -- they won't be in dire need of anything in the draft. That's a liberating idea for a team that needs to line up heirs at some spots like outside linebacker and corner.</p> <p>But it also gives the Titans the option of grabbing a receiver they think can help add a dynamic like Johnson did a year ago. The question is, will they finally do it?</p>

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  2. Childress79

    Childress79 Loungefly ® Tip Jar Donor

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    More than any other time in their history the Texans finally look like they are ready to be a winning team.

    That could all fall apart though if Schaub misses time with an injury.Something that has happened each season he's played in Houston.He's misses 5 games each season so far.

    Rosenfels was hilarious as a helicopter but aside from that he was probably the best backup in the league.Now they are totally reliant on Schaub staying healthy.
    #2
  3. Fry

    Fry Hatin' is what I do.

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    believe it when i see it. i've just heard it so many times the last two or three seasons that its show me time.
    #3
  4. jessestylex

    jessestylex DeadGirlsCantSayNo

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    You didnt see them toast us last season?

    They need a better D, but that offense is very dangerous.
    #4
  5. Alpha-Centuri

    Alpha-Centuri Where art thou, VY?

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    i saw us not kick a field goal to win the game :hmm:
    #5
  6. RavensShallBurn

    RavensShallBurn Ruck the Favens

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    I heard Jeff Fisher explain, in detail, why we didn't kick the ball.

    ... I'm so sick of people blaming the loss on not kicking the field goal. The inability to make a field goal that long was established in pre-game warm-ups.
    #6
    • High Five High Five x 1
  7. GoT

    GoT Strength and Honor Tip Jar Donor

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    all hail the pre game warm up
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  8. Smash

    Smash Soccer God

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    Looks like our biggest need is a return-man...
    #8
  9. GMITTS

    GMITTS WHY VY SHOULD BE OUR #3

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    throw VY back there to return the kicks. i know it sounds odd, but it would get him off the bench and in the games.
    #9
  10. Soxcat

    Soxcat Starter

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    Good idea except first of all he would muff the kick, then he would dance around instead of exploding up field, he would get drilled on the tackle and come up lame and when the fans boed his pitiful effort he would sit on the bench with his head in his hands wishing he was back at Texas.
    #10
    • High Five High Five x 3
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