Monday, August 3, 2009

2009 AFC South Preview

The AFC South was tightly contested last season, as the Tennessee Titans finished one game ahead of the surging Indianapolis Colts. Same cast and characters vying for the 2009 crown with the Houston Texans on the verge of joining the contest. The Jacksonville Jaguars will struggle again this season due to their inconsistency on both sides of the ball.
In order of finish:

1. Indianapolis Colts
Tough off-season for the Colts, they lose Tony Dungy, Howard Mudd, and Tom Moore from the coaching staff. Team management decided to release WR Marvin Harrison from the roster, but have no fear they still have the smartest quarterback in the NFL, Peyton Manning. His accurate arm is fully capable of carrying this team to another division title. And if their offense needed another weapon, GM Bill Polian drafted RB Donald Brown of Connecticut, who could have an immediate impact coming out of the backfield on play-action passes. Let’s not forget that the Colts won their final nine regular season games before losing a thrilling OT playoff battle in San Diego.

2. Tennessee Titans
No coach gets more out of their players than head coach Jeff Fisher, and this season could be especially tough after losing defensive standout Albert Haynesworth via free agency. He was the key to their pass rush, as Haynesworth took on multiple blockers and still continued to put pressure on the quarterback. The lack of a deep threat has plagued the Titans for years; team management brought in Nate Washington from Pittsburgh and drafted Kenny Britt from Rutgers to rectify this problem. Questions still remain whether or not these two players are explosive enough to allow QB Kerry Collins to air the ball out on deep routes.

3. Houston Texans
No doubt the Texans are an upcoming team in the NFL. Their core players (Mario Williams, DeMerco Ryans, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson) are all coming together in the prime of their careers. The Texans pass defense could keep them from contending for a playoff position, as they gave up 7.6 yards per pass attempt last season. The addition of pass-rusher Antonio Smith to the front line could limit the amount of big pass plays completed on their poor secondary. A great deal of their offensive success will depend on the health of QB Matt Schaub. You add a decent running game to his accurate completion rate of 60 percent and that equals touchdowns in the red zone.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have missed a speedy receiver in their lineup since the days of Jimmy Smith, and they’re hoping the signing of Torry Holt will add that missing dimension. But realistically, he is 34 years old and appears to have lost a step. The success of their offense still revolves around workhorse RB Maurice Jones-Drew. For years, scouts described the Jags defense as being a physical group that embodies the spirit of their head coach Jack Del Rio. Unfortunately, that spirit disappeared last season, as they were last in the league in pass defense. And they were hit hard by free agent losses of their leading tackler Mike Peterson and top pass rusher Paul Spicer. It could be a long year, as the Jags will have to defend air attacks like Indy, Houston, Arizona, New England, and Buffalo during the season.

Written By Thomas Conroy