An early look at the Jaguars' AFC South division rivals
JUL 22, 2013 10:38a ET
The talk of the AFC South is whether a quarterback can produce when it counts and, in doing so, quiet his critics and lead his team to new heights. No, it's not Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Although Matt Schaub has a 20-8 record with the Houston Texans the past two seasons, including the playoffs, that hasn't been good enough for some people.
They point to how the Texans were not the same team that got off to an 11-1 start in 2012, with a pair of lopsided losses at New England illustrating how far they need to go before becoming a serious Super Bowl contender.
The good news for the Texans is that they'll face the Patriots at home Dec. 1. And given all the turmoil and turnover that has come out of Foxborough during the offseason, the relative peace and quiet in Houston ought to be welcomed.
Here's a look at how Jacksonville's division rivals stack up entering training camp (last year's record in parenthesis):
Houston Texans (12-4, 1st)
Key free-agent additions: S Ed Reed ( Baltimore), P Shane Lechler ( Oakland), FB Greg Jones (Jacksonville).
Key free-agent losses: RB Justin Forsett (Jacksonville), FB James Casey (Philadelphia), WR Kevin Walter (Tennessee), LB Connor Barwin (Philadelphia), CB Alan Ball (Jacksonville), S Glover Quin ( Detroit), S Quintin Demps ( Kansas City), K Shayne Graham (Cleveland).
Rookies: WR DeAndre Hopkins (first round, Clemson), S D.J. Swearinger (second, South Carolina), T Brennan Williams (third, North Carolina), DE Sam Montgomery (third, LSU), DE Trevardo Williams (fourth, Connecticut), T David Quessenberry (sixth, San Jose State), WR Alan Bonner (sixth, Jacksonville State), DT Chris Jones (sixth, Bowling Green), TE Ryan Griffin (sixth, Connecticut).
Analysis: The Texans are loaded with talent on offense and defense, although no one quite knows when Reed will be available. Running back Arian Foster led the NFL with 17 touchdowns, while defensive end J.J. Watt recorded 20 ½ sacks and batted down 16 passes. The addition of Hopkins should take some of the attention off Andre Johnson, who is entering his 11th season. But this is a team that can be maddeningly inconsistent - just look at what Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon were able to accomplish when the Jaguars came to Houston last November. And in a division where Indianapolis and Tennessee were more active than them in free agency, the decision by the Texans to largely stand pat could backfire.
Indianapolis Colts (11-5, 2nd)
Key free-agent additions: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (New York Giants), T Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), QB Matt Hasselbeck (Tennessee), S LaRon Landry ( New York Jets), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oakland), CB Greg Toler (Arizona), DT Ricky Jean Francois ( San Francisco), G Donald Thomas (New England), LB Erik Walden (Green Bay).
Key free-agent losses: DE Dwight Freeney (San Diego), WR Donnie Avery (Kansas City), S Tom Zbikowski (Chicago), LB Moise Fokou (Tennessee).
Rookies: DE Bjoern Werner (first round, Florida State), T Hugh Thornton (third, Illinois), C Khaled Holmes (fourth, USC), DT Montori Hughes (fifth, Tennessee-Martin), S John Boyett, (sixth Oregon), RB Kerwynn Williams (seventh, Utah State), TE Justice Cunningham (seventh, South Carolina).
Analysis: Quarterback Andrew Luck was as advertised during his rookie season, and coach Chuck Pagano appears to have gotten a clean bill of health. But the picture isn't entirely rosy for the Colts. Over the past several weeks, special teams captain Joe Lefeged was arrested on a gun charge while tight end Weslye Saunders and wide receiver LaVon Brazill were suspended for eight and four games respectively. And making the playoffs as a wild card obscured the fact that the Colts ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing and takeaway/giveaway ratio. It could take another 4,374-yard passing effort from Luck and another 1,355 yards in receptions from the ageless Reggie Wayne to keep the Colts breathing down the neck of the Texans.
Tennessee Titans (6-10, 3rd)
Key free-agent additions: RB Shonn Greene (New York Jets), T Andy Levitre ( Buffalo), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo), S Bernard Pollard (Baltimore), WR Kevin Walter (Houston), TE Delanie Walker (San Francisco), S George Wilson (Buffalo), LB Moise Fokou (Indianapolis), DT Sammie Hill (Detroit).
Key free-agent losses: QB Matt Hasselbeck (Indianapolis), TE Jared Cook (St. Louis), DT Sen'Derrick Marks (Jacksonville), G Steve Hutchinson (retired), WR Lavelle Hawkins (New England), DE Jarius Wynn (San Diego), LB Zac Diles (Kansas City).
Rookies: G Chance Warmack (first round, Alabama), WR Justin Hunter (second, Tennessee), CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (third, Connecticut), LB Zaviar Gooden (third, Missouri), C Brian Schwenke (fourth, California), DE Lavar Edwards (fifth, LSU), CB Khalid Wooten (sixth, Nevada), S Daimion Stafford (seventh, Nebraska).
Analysis: The combination of Greene and Chris Johnson, coupled with the signing of Levitre and the drafting of Warmack, should strengthen a running game which was disappointing to say the least. It should also take some of the heat off quarterback Jake Locker, whose passer rating was below Gabbert's and barely ahead of those of rookie Brandon Weeden and the much-maligned Mark Sanchez. Losing Cook won't help, although Walker is regarded as more well-rounded and a better leader. The defense ranked 27th in yards allowed and, like the Jaguars, could have three new starters in the secondary. Despite a number of high-profile transactions, the Titans don't appear to have closed the gap much between themselves and Houston and Indianapolis.
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