Thursday, August 12, 2010

AFC South

So, no blog yesterday. As many who are familiar with me and my blog might have already guessed, alcohol played a big part in my absence. And yes, my head does hurt now. But then; no pain, no gain. On with our camp review and it's off to the AFC South. Indianapolis Colts Robert Mathis isn't happy. Reggie Wayne isn't happy. Soon either Austin Collie or Pierre Garcon (Austin Collie) will be unhappy due to the return of Anthony Gonzalez. Other than that the Colts are in great shape. First of all, forget the whole argument about the Colts O-line not performing up to standard in the Super Bowl. They did fine and are easily one of the best collective units in the NFL. The problem I still have with the Colts - a problem that I imagine will continue into this coming year - is Peyton Manning. Yes, Peyton Manning. It was obvious to everyone that the Saints were relying on a three man rush for much of the Super Bowl while sitting back and trying to play keep away with Manning. So, when the Colts ran the ball the natural effect was that the Colts agile line (well, as agile as O-linemen get) were able to get some great blocks in and Joseph Addai began gashing the Saints freely for happy chunks of yardage. Now, whether it was play calling from the sideline or just Manning himself (.... ok, I think it was Manning), someone dropped the ball. Yes Peyton is a good QB. Yes Peyton does make great reads. But no, Peyton is not superhuman. And yes, there are ways to take away his game. The Saints figured it out, with the hilarious result that the Colts essentially wasted another season (any team that blatantly runs multiple types of the supposedly illegal 'pick' plays deserves to be scorned). The trouble is, Manning is now believed to be so good that nobody can see another way of doing things offensively. There is no running game, just get Manning to throw screen passes to the receivers, etc. The Colts are being undone by their own success. Luckily the Colts are abundant with good receivers and their O-line is still one of the best. If it was me I'd want to work on the run game more in training camp, but it's not, so the Colts will just carry on as they were before. Defensively the Colts.... really don't have a lot to change. In fact they're pretty boring to talk about. But this is the weird thing about the Colts. They draft well, they play well. They statistically rank very well in multiple categories on offense and defense.... yet they haven't achieved the same degree of success as many historical 'Dynasty's'. If we conveniently remove their Super Bowl victory, they actually don't match up as favourably in recent play off history as the Eagles. I don't quite fully understand why though? What is it about the Colts that always goes wrong? Hmm. Jacksonville Jaguars Ugh, Jacksonville. What don't they need to fix in training camp? Maurice Jones-Drew is probably about it. Garrard is a good QB but I think they use him too much. Personally I feel Jones-Drew is a more effective weapon. I also like Rashad Jennings, but he seems doomed to spend another season getting 5 carries a game. The big trouble with Jacksonville is that their receiving corps doesn't jump out at you as a crew of showstoppers. The passing game is reliant on the trifecta of QB/WR/TE coming together in harmony. If you can get the backs involved, even better. But the Jaguars lack this trio of standouts and it shows on the field. I'd like to see Marcedes Lewis in particular get more involved in the offense. Defensively it begins up front. The Jaguars seem to believe that sacks are those things that you put over your head after another big loss. The hope is that Aaron Kampman will spark a unit that is grossly under performing. I can imagine plenty of time will be devoted to pass rushing work through this camp. On the back end... god, do I really have to do this? Ok. The thing I hate most about the Jacksonville secondary is the thing I hate about all secondaries; the lack of tackling. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but Jacksonville are not one of them. The quality of their tackling is appalling. I forget who it was, possibly Rashean Mathis, (I'm too hung over to dig up the film) but the Jaguars secondary provided the worst example of secondary tackling in the NFL last year. I believe it was against the Colts, when a receiver broke clear and was headed to the end zone. The offending DB got right up close behind, but instead of making the TD saving tackle he made the absolute worst attempt at a strip I've ever seen. It was pathetic. It was like he had a bet on the Colts to win and didn't want to jeopardise it by doing anything silly. So for the Jags it's all about the D. Somehow they must salvage something from the wreckage this year. They must learn to tackle and they must find a way to get some pressure from their front 7. Houston Texans I feel sorry for Matt Schaub. Despite leading the league in yards, throwing less interceptions than Peyton Manning despite more attempts, and generally kicking quite a bit of butt in the NFL last year, he's still not getting the credit he deserves. This is the kind of thing that frustrates the hell out of me. It's an example of the kind of reason I decided to start this blog in the first place. Because (sorry) the Texans didn't make the play offs, that basically guarantees that Schaub will get nothing more than a passing mention when the question of Quarterbacks come up. He is essentially being punished because other parts of his team failed to live up to his standards. Meanwhile there are other, lesser QBs, (*cough* McNabb) who get all the limelight, presumably for no other reason than having a decent defense. Two things really kept the Texans from making the playoffs last season; being on the receiving end of a lot of bad luck with Field goals and an inability to run the ball in and around the goal line. The field goals are kind of out of the Texans hands. They can work on their field goal blocks but this has never been an area that any team can reliably claim to have been successful at. Maybe the Ravens this year might get something special out of Terrence Cody, but don't count on it. The running game is something the Texans can definitely fix. Expect a serious amount of practice time to be allotted to red zone rushing in the Texans camp this year. Though early reports about new RB Ben Tate have hardly been glowing, there is still time to improve with the right work put in. Defensively, Mario Williams needs to buck the recent trend over the last few seasons of his production going down. With the Texans so close to being a play off team, a big push by Williams could be enough to push his side over the edge. I'm kind of rooting for the Texans a bit this year. Not too much. But a little. Tennessee Titans They've finally dumped Kerry Collins. Young reigns supreme, and with Chris Johnson at his side the pair are ready to launch an assault on the NFL. It perhaps wont be the assault it was last year. Johnsons season was so spectacular and jaw dropping simply because seasons like that only seem to happen every ten years. They are out of the ordinary. Given that teams will now be taking the threat so seriously it's unlikely that Johnson will be allowed so much space to run in 2010. That means that Vince Young and the Titans receivers have to knuckle down and prepare for a tough season trying to create running room for the feature back. Defensively its a little more complicated. Last year they still had Kyle Vanden Bosch, but much of the secondary was sitting watching the game from the training room, out with a variety of injuries. For 2010 the secondary is back, healthy, and..... where has the front line gone? Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch were the beating heart of the Titans top quality defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz. This year they are now fully barren. The engineer of it all is gone. The dominant tackle up the middle is gone. And now the pass rush specialist is gone. Step forth... Jacob Ford and Jason Babin! They must spend training camp trying to fill the void. Rookie Everson Griffen is not a bad scoop, but will probably take at least a year to fully find his feet. When you consider that the Titans have also lost linebacker Keith Bulluck and suddenly the D looks a lot weaker than it did a few weeks ago. All the practice they'll get trying to catch Chris Johnson could come in very handy! ----- That's seven divisions down now, one to go. I may or may not be back later to assess tonight's pre-season games. It's only the Saints-Pats, Raiders-Cowboys and Panthers-Ravens. The Panthers. I hate the Panthers. Have a great day everyone.

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