2009 NFL Preview: AFC South
The AFC South is usually consistent with the end of season results.
But it's a new season and it may bring some changes.
Could there be a change in role out in Houston this year? Can Maurice Jones Drew carry the Jacksonville offense? How will the Colts cope without their head coach? Will the Titans' defense be as good without Haynesworth this season?
1. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts' biggest obstacle adjusting to the new coaching staff as Tony Dungy's calm approach will no longer grace the sideline.
Jim Caldwell is now calling the shots. Even though Caldwell has been with the team as an assistant for years, he was never a head coach until now.
Things have started out rough. Some players, particularly Peyton Manning, have been frustrated with the new staff.
Though I don't expect the frustrations between the players and coaches to continue, it will be interesting to see how much they will miss Dungy.
The defense will most certainly miss Dungy. Seemingly plagued by injuries every year, the Colts defense, has always been able to create havoc in the backfield.
Caldwell is an offensive-minded coach. He played four years as defensive back in college but has not dealt with that side of the ball since. Dungy was defensive minded and knew how to use the amazing speed the Colts' defense possessed.
Indianapolis did not really make any big moves in the off-season. They drafted Fili Moala, who is expected to progress into a force up the middle.
The Colts spent another draft choice on Jerrod Powers, who was a great cover corner in college.
Neither rookie is expected to produce a whole lot this year. Can the Colts' D get better with virtually the same personnel as last year?
I expect the defense to take a bit of a drop with the absence of Dungy. The offense, with Manning back at the helm, will be one of the top units again.
Bottom line; the Colts have a lot of veterans who will adjust to new coaching and have more talent than the rest of the teams in their division.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Titans improved their offense with some key acquisitions this off-season. The signing of Nate Washington and the drafting of Kenny Brit and Jared Cook opens up the field for Collins.
These acquisitions weren't superb, but they serve the purpose of improving the 27th ranked passing offense in the NFL.
Luckily for the Titans, the passing game doesn't need to drastically improve due to the potent running game the offense is built around.
If the Titans ever want to get Vince Young on the field in a successful manner, they will have to continue to improve the offense. Young will probably not be running the huddle this season.
The loss of Albert Haynesworth is something the Titans will have to persevere. Tennessee's defense won games for the team last season.They won 13 games despite being only 15th in points scored.
Haynesworth was a big reason for this success. His numbers were not the only dimension he brought to the defense and his ability to take on double teams and penetrate the backfield freed his teammates to make plays.
Keith Bullock can attest to the advantage of being able to roam free when a guy like Haynesworth is taking up blockers. The whole defense clicks better when a guy in the middle can penetrate and take down double teams.
Those abilities are getting Haynesworth his $100+ million contract.
The Titans did nothing to compensate on the defensive side of the ball for Haynesworth's loss. The defense will be solid, but I expect the unit to take a hit.
Tennessee may be forced to score more in games in order to win. This leads me to believe they will lose a few extra games. Despite this, they will do enough on both sides of the ball to take second.
3. Houston Texans
This team will finally move from the bottom position they have seen themselves in all too often. Though I have them third in the division, don't be surprised if they make a competitive push for second and a wild card spot this season.
The offense, with a healthy Matt Schaub, could prove to be one of the the best offenses this season. They have elite weapons in every aspect of the offense. Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, and Owen Daniels are great passing options, and Steve Slaton not only runs the ball but provides a receiving threat out of the backfield.
The offense is not what may hold the Texans back from their first playoff experience.
Houston's defense is talented, but the unit is young and still developing. They have plenty of guys that rush the passer but still need help in the secondary and linebacker groups.
Cato June was a good signing to help bolster this spot. Draft choices Brian Cushing and and Connor Barwin will also help bolster a defense that ranked 17th in points allowed.
If the defense can realize it's potential, the Texans may have a chance to surprise people this season.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville will no longer have Fred Taylor at running back for the first time in twelve years. However, Maurice Jones Drew is ready to take over as the premier back.
Jacksonville added Tory Holt to give David Garrard a passing option after cutting Matt Jones.
The Jaguars' offensive line rebuilt and is looking strong after the team drafted Eugen Monroe and Eben Britton. Jacksonville's offense may have the ability to click if Garrard can get the job done.
Garrard signed an extension that made him the man at the helm for the Jaguars for years to come.
However, he needs to prove he is worth the extension. Garrard has never thrown more than 15 touchdowns in a season but has always been a dual threat, willing to take off at any given time.
While the offense is on it's way to being, rebuilt the defense is a different story.
The defense was ranked 24th in points allowed and the Jaguars' front office did not make a serious signing or draft pick to improve that weakness. If the defense puts out the same kind of effort, the offense will have all the pressure.
Jacksonville's offense may be improved, but it won't be enough in a division that consists of high scoring offenses such. Jacksonville find itself as the bottom dweller this season.
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