How Does the Titans' Offseason Stack Up Against the Rest of the AFC South?
So the draft is done. Undrafted free agents have been added. Most of the free-agent signings are done, and team rosters are coming together.
Minus a few stragglers in free agency and cuts, teams are getting close to getting in shape for the season.
So now, with the offseason almost completely wrapped up, how do the Tennessee Titans stack up against their AFC South opponents? Here's an analysis of how each team in the division looked last season, what they did in the offseason and what their outlook for 2013 is.
Houston Texans 2012
The Houston Texans were one of the toughest teams in football in 2012, getting wins against the Baltimore Ravens, the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears on the way to a 12-4 record and a second straight division title.
With Arian Foster running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Texans had a fantastic rushing offense, but an aging Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson left their passing offense with much to be desired.
On defense, J.J. Watt burst onto the scene to become the best defensive player in football, racking up 20.5 sacks, 16 defended passes and four forced fumbles in his Defensive Player of the Year-winning season.
The rest of the defense was tough as well, with rookie Whitney Mercilus making a splash as a pass-rusher and Glover Quin and Jonathan Joseph leading the defensive backs.
Notable Players Lost: Glover Quin, Connor Barwin, James Casey
Notable Players Added: Ed Reed, Greg Jones
Notable Players Drafted: DeAndre Hopkins, D.J. Swearinger, Brennan Williams, Sam Montgomery, Trevardo Williams, David Quessenberry
Houston Texans 2013
The defense looks no worse for wear. Connor Barwin is a loss, but he didn't contribute much in 2012. Swapping Glover Quin for Ed Reed is a lateral move, and they'll be getting Brian Cushing back from injury.
The concern on defense is at nose tackle, corner (Jonathan Joseph isn't getting younger), and the other inside linebacker spot. Adding Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams make them very deep at pass-rusher, and D.J. Swearinger gives them a difference-making safety.
The offense is a concern, though. Both Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are in the last years of their careers. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins will ease the load for both of them, but when the Texans are put in a situation where they have to pass, they won't do so well.
The running game will still be strong, and Brennan Williams should shore up the weakest position on a fantastic offensive line.
The Texans ought to be very good next year, but they'll take a step back.
Indianapolis Colts 2012
The Indianapolis Colts had the biggest turnaround in the NFL in 2012. The team only had two wins on its way to a No. 1 overall pick in 2011, but 2012 saw them increase their win total by nine.
Andrew Luck had more turnovers than he had touchdowns, but he led quite a few game-winning drives, and for a rookie, he looked fantastic overall.
The Colts also saw a lot from rookies T.Y. Hilton, Vic Ballard and Dwayne Allen. The team made it to the playoffs as a wild card but got blown out by the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens, 24-9.
Notable Players Lost: Dwight Freeney, Jerraud Powers, Winston Justice
Notable Players Added: LaRon Landry, Donald Thomas, Matt Hasselbeck, Gosder Cherilus, Ricky Jean-Francois, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Notable Players Drafted: Bjoern Werner, Hugh Thornton, Khaled Holmes, Montori Hughes
Indianapolis Colts 2013
They still have Andrew Luck, but I think the Colts have taken a step back this offseason. Expect the sophomore slump that you usually see from quarterbacks, but expect him to be very good.
Teams full of rookies tend to go backward in their second years (just look at the 2012 Titans for an example), as coaches get tape on them and learn what to do against them.
They'll continue to have problems on the defensive line and at corner on defense, and on offense, Luck may see more struggles as teams take him more seriously as a threat than they did his rookie season.
I'm also not a big fan of the offseason that the Colts had. The only difference-maker they picked up in the draft was Bjoern Werner, and the only real difference-maker they added in free agency was LaRon Landry.
If a team doesn't look better on paper than it did the year before, that's not a good sign, and the Colts are one of those teams.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2012
It was a tough season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They ended the season with only two wins. To make matters worse, this year's crop of quarterbacks was awful. If they'd had the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, they'd be snagging Robert Griffin III, whereas this season, they had to settle for a right tackle.
The Jaguars were near the bottom of the league in pretty much every category, and Maurice Jones-Drew missed most of the season.
Blaine Gabbert made baby steps as a quarterback, but not enough to ward off former Dolphin Chad Henne, who outplayed Gabbert when he started the season.
The Jaguars' only wins came from division rivals Tennessee and Indianapolis in their first games against each. Both teams beat the Jaguars handily at their next meetings.
Notable Players Lost: Greg Jones, Darryl Smith, Derek Cox, Dawan Landry, Laurent Robinson
Notable Players Added: Roy Miller, Sen'Derrick Marks
Notable Players Drafted: Luke Joeckel, Jonathan Cyprien, Dwayne Gratz, Ace Sanders, Josh Evans
Jacksonville Jaguars 2013
Well, the Jaguars managed to pick up much sought-after coach Gus Bradley, so that's a positive. Other than that, there isn't much good to say about their offseason.
The draft was a bad one. The No. 2 overall pick was used on a right tackle, and their third-rounder was used on the consensus No. 2 corner out of Connecticut.
They did land a great prospect in Jonathan Cyprien, though, and his addition makes the loss of Dawan Landry inconsequential.
Even so, they've lost two of their top four tacklers, a big-money receiver and still have nothing at pass-rusher.
The Jaguars had a long 2012, but with the offseason they've had, it looks like they'll have a long 2013 as well, unless Gabbert makes some huge strides.
Tennessee Titans 2012
2012 was a rough season for the Titans. Jake Locker missed a lot of games, and had to play injured when he was in.
The offensive line was mediocre when healthy, and it didn't stay healthy for long. Four of the five preseason starters suffered season-ending injuries at some point in the season.
Of course, what stood out the most was the defense. The Titans defense gave up more points than any other team in the league and lost six games by three touchdowns or more.
A lot of that had to do with offensive play, defensive scheme and the loss of middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, but there are only so many excuses you can make for a unit that gave up a franchise-record number of points.
Notable Players Lost: Matt Hasselbeck, Jared Cook, Sen'Derrick Marks
Notable Players Added: Andy Levitre, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Delanie Walker, Shonn Greene
Notable Players Drafted: Chance Warmack, Justin Hunter, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Brian Schwenke, Lavar Edwards
Tennessee Titans 2013
The Titans added a great group of free agents and have strengthened both the offensive line with Andy Levitre and the strong safety position with Bernard Pollard, two of the weakest links in 2012. They also added wide receiver depth in the draft through Justin Hunter.
On paper, the 2013 group looks much better than the 2012 Titans did, but in the end, it's all going to come down to Jake Locker.
With a better ground game, Locker will be asked to do less, and the Titans will be likely to find themselves in fewer 3rd-and-long situations, but Locker absolutely must improve if they're going to contend for the playoffs.
The Titans look stronger in a lot of positions, and even though the defensive end position still lacks depth and there are still questions around the health of Colin McCarthy, they look poised to compete for the playoffs if Locker can take the next step.
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