Thursday, March 10, 2011

AFC South 2011 prospects

Time to take a look at the (potential) future for the AFC South in the coming season. Starting with; Houston Texans: God almighty, you have to feel sorry for Texans fans. They cheer when their team manages a winning season. If they make the playoffs in 2011 there will be a hell of a party in Houston, regardless of whether they make it any further. As ever, the Texans 2010 problems were the same problems they had the year before; all offense and no defense. But it's a testimony to the Texans overall talent level that I look at their free agent list and cant help but think to myself; who? WR Jacoby Jones and FB Vontae Leach naturally ring a bell. And I'm sure the Texans would be gutted if they lost QB Matt Leinart (positively crying). Other than that though, I'm lost. Maybe I just need to pay more attention to the Texans in future. Perhaps I could start by paying attention to their draft. The Texans pick at number 11 overall and they really, really, badly, truly, deeply need to go defense. Looking at the state of their roster, I imagine either D-line or corner will be their priority. It depends who falls to them at 11. There is a chance, likely depending a lot on what my 49ers do at number 7, that either Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara could fall that low. If so, I'd imagine that the Texans would pounce. Alternatively there is a chance that someone like Nick Fairley could drop, amidst fears he might have been a one season wonder. That wouldn't be a bad shout either for the Texans. 2011 then should be the year of the defense in Texas. Well, at least the Houston part of it. They (read: HC Gary Kubiak) simply cannot endure another season where the offense does all the work and the defense contributes nothing. As we saw with the Saints in '09, a team with a very strong offense often needs just a little shove on defense to propel itself to success. The ability of the Texans to recruit well on the D and the success of new D-coordinator Wade Phillips (a very strong defensive mind) will decide the Texans fate. Indianapolis Colts: They scraped through the gate to win the AFC South. Then they shit out in the playoffs. Not quite what you expect from the Colts (apart from the shitting out in the playoffs bit). To use a "Football Speak" phrase, could the dreaded "Window" be closing on the Colts? Well, if we're going to talk free agency for the Colts then we have to talk about Monsieur Manning. Who, technically speaking, has been Franchised. Now that sounds great in principle, because nobody ever parts with picks for a franchise tagged player. But this is Peyton Manning. Peyton. Manning. Don't tell me you haven't got a sneaking suspicion as well that Dan Snyder is waiting for the labor situation to resolve itself so he can break the bank to bring Peyton to Washington. I'm not saying it's a great move or that he'll even do it. But this is Dan Snyder we're talking about. He must have at least floated the idea in a meeting with his senior staff. Anyway, Manning aside, who else is on the list? RB's Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai to start. Not sure if Bill Polian has many designs to hold onto Addai. Addai is a good running back who is under used for obvious reasons, and maybe with that in mind the Colts will lean on Donald Brown? It wouldn't surprise me, let's put it that way. Kicker Adam Vinatieri is up for grabs, which could be an interesting departure. LB Clint Session is up, as it Safety Melvin Bullitt. For those that didn't know, Bob Sanders is already gone, potentially off to the green pastures of San Diego (?). Apparently the two sides have agreed a deal in private but there is some legal buff between the league and the Chargers holding things up. On to the draft and the Colts pick 22nd overall. Offensive line grabs my attention, specifically interior linemen. Rodney Hudson anyone? Linebacker would be another good shout. There are rumours in the air that Da'Quan Bowers may be slipping down some draft boards and could fall far enough for Indy to take him. In 2011 then the Colts are in relatively good shape. They had a bit of a freak year in 2010 and an early loss to the Texans surprised many, until the Texans ultimately crashed and burned. The Jaguars gave Manning and co. a run for their money, but even then the Colts pulled through. On balance it would appear 2011 could be the Colts year once more. How far they go after taking the South crown is a matter for debate though. Jacksonville Jaguars: As previously mentioned, the Jags had a pretty good year in 2010. Well, 8-8 is literally an average year, but for the Jaguars that's impressive. That tells you everything you need to know about this team. On the bright side, the Jaguars might come out of free agency pretty well. Safety Sean Considine is on the block (which might not be all that bad) along with LB's Justin Durant and Kirk Morrison, WR Mike Sims-Walker and QB Trent Edwards. All of those would be missed, with Sims-Walker the priority for resigning. In the draft the Jaguars now pick at 16, which is practically unheard of territory for them of late. Priorities are Wide Receiver, Defensive Back and Linebacker. There are plenty of interesting names that will fall that low so the Jaguars should have a pleasant amount of choice. If it was me, I'd be looking at receiver first, but obviously it depends who is on the board. It might be that the Jags can load up in free agency (there are some good, under rated names out there; Jacoby Jones, James Jones, etc). As for 2011 then? Don't get too excited Jaguars fans. Not depressed. Just not excited. There is still a long way to go but the promising signs are there. If David Garrard doesn't pan out I'd like to see Luke McCown get his shot. I thought he showed promise in the 2010 pre-season. Another year in this system under his belt might be all he needs to supplant the inconsistent Garrard. And let's have lashings of Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings please. Pretty please. With cherries on. Tennessee Titans: Every division needs it's laughing stock and in the AFC South that role has now been assumed by the Titans. The Vince Young saga. Chris Johnson not living up to the (self-generated) hype in his second year. The debacle involving the departure of Jeff Fisher. Owner Bud Adams could be entering his "Al Davis" stage. New Head Coach Mike Munchak has his work cut out for him. In free agency this year he will lose (potentially); DE Jason Babin, QB Kerry Collins, DT Marques Douglas, DE Jacob Ford, WR Randy Moss and TE Bo Scaife among others. Now to the best of my knowledge that leaves the Titans in the capable hands of either Rusty Smith or Brett Ratliff at QB. Nice. Handy then that the Titans will be picking at number 8 overall in the draft. They need some talent to get them back on track and QB might just be the perfect place to start. You already know the list of names. It would be truly hilarious though if Bud Adams picks Cam Newton, presuming Newton is still there. If not QB, then wide receiver, offensive tackle or linebacker are all priorities. Linebacker is a particular point of weakness in both strength and depth, and unless they make some moves in free agency they could end up in serious trouble come Week 1. So how do the Titans stack up overall in 2011? I just can't see it being anything other than another season of struggling. The QB situation alone promises to be a nightmare to resolve. The defense needs to stay a lot healthier than it was in 2010, and they need to perform some damage control in certain areas. By the end of the year, Adams might be begging Jeff Fisher to come back.

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