Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NFL SWOT Analysis: AFC South

Houston Texans

Ryans (Photo Courtesy of Pobladores.com)

Strengths: Last year, WR Andre Johnson came into his own with 103 receptions. One of the most physically gifted receivers in the league, Johnson could even improve on last season (especially his yards per catch). He leads an underrated/unknown set of receivers who have a new QB at their helm. Depending on some key elements, the Houston Texans offense could turn some heads. Gary Kubiak’s Zone-Blocking scheme could be in better effect this season. The Offensive line is deep, along with Mark Breuner working as a sixth offensive lineman. If they can grasp Kubiak’s scheme, Ahman Green could be in for a surprise year. Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner DeMeco Ryans mans the middle linebacker spot as captain of the defense. He joins cornerback Dunta Robinson and defensive end Mario Williams as the young talented core of the defense.

Weaknesses: Management has left this team with a major lack of star power, especially on offense. This team is in dire need of a face for the franchise. Passing on Vince Young and Reggie Bush could haunt this team for the next 12 years. Bringing in Gary Kubiak as the coach last year was a step in the right direction. However if management continues to riddle this team with ineffective players, even a proven offensive genius like Kubiak cannot overcome the challenge.

Opportunities: Many view Matt Schaub as an upgrade over David Carr (myself included). However, one cannot forget that Schaub has yet to be a true starting QB in this league. While Schaub does not boast the arm-strength Carr exhibited, he can definitely put the ball on a spot, delivering with better accuracy. Owen Daniels could reap benefits from Schaub’s addition. Schaub comes over from a team that relied heavily on its tight end in the passing game. Defensive End Mario Williams must step up and show why the team chose him over Young and Bush as the #1 pick last year (besides his relatively simple contract situation).

Threats: As talented as they are, this is still a young defense that has not come of age. No starter is over the age of 30, with Marlon Greenwood being the elder statesman at 29. A young defense is a breeding ground for mental errors.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: While it is easy to focus on Schaub here, one must take notice of the new starting Defensive Tackles, Anthony Maddox and Amobi Okoye. While Maddox has taken lead over a former 1st rounder (Travis Johnson), Okoye is this year’s 1st rounder coming in with expectations all over the board as he is only 20 years old.

Camp Battle: Andre Davis, David Anderson, Keenan McCardell, Jerome Mathis and Jacoby Jones, for the third Wide Receiver spot. Right now the competition is in the above order, with Davis in the lead. Jones started out in the lead, but dropped passes in training camp are hurting him. David Anderson has done the opposite and held onto the ball. Keenan McCardell was signed late this offseason, and brings plenty of experience to the table. Coaches love Mathis’s speed and want him on the field. Davis, however, who came into camp on the fifth team offense, has been the most impressive. He could regain some of that luster that made him a deep receiving threat that showed flashes with the Browns.

Rookie Contributor: Okoye is obvious, but keep an eye on fourth round CB Fred Bennett. He is a tall lanky corner who is in competition with Jamar Fletcher for the third corner. If successful, he could be giving Demarcus Faggins a run for the starting spot by season’s end.

Indianapolis Colts

Manning (Photo Courtesy of Encarta.msn.com)

Strengths: The defending Super Bowl Champs return with their elite passing/receiving trio of QB Peyton Manning and WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. In the draft, the Colts used their first rounder on a home run threat, Anthony Gonzalez. He should team with Harrison to help stretch the field, as Wayne, RB Joseph Addai and TEs Dallas Clark and Bryan Fletcher get open underneath. Though Tarik Glenn’s departure cuts deep, the other four starters on the offensive line return. On defense, DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are arguably the top DE tandem in the league.

Weaknesses: After getting mauled in free agency, the defense has questions from top to bottom. With Booger McFarland’s season-ending injury, a decent DT rotation is now in shambles. Raheem Brock will get the most time while Ed Johnson, rookie Quinn Pitcock and Darrell Reid try to fill the other hole. Cato June’s loss will be felt. Freddy Keiaho has big shoes to fill, taking over June’s vacated weak side spot. Gary Brackett will have to shoulder some of the load in the June loss. Losing both CBs Nick Harper and Jason David hurts. A very young crew takes on the task of covering opposing receivers. Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden get the starting nod.

Opportunities: Many opportunities available on defense, but the biggest will be at corner behind the starters. The diminutive Tim Jennings looks to be the 3rd CB for now. Return man, T.J. Rushing is penciled in at the 4th spot. Rookies Daymeion Hughes and Michael Coe bring some much needed size and talent to the table. Hughes might be better suited for safety, but has enough coverage skill to be a corner. In college he was a ballhawk. Coe, a big corner, made a late name for himself with his individual workouts. He is build a lot like Marlin Jackson, but probably has a step on him.

Threats: The Colts will have every team gunning for them. The amount of rookies that could potentially contribute is unbecoming of a defending champ. This will be a true test of the coaching staff. Can the offense be good enough to keep the defense off the field.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Too many to list. Most significant will be offensive left tackle Tony Ugoh, from the retired Tarik Glenn, protecting Manning’s blindside (unless, of course, Manning decides to become a lefty).

Camp Battle: Ed Johnson, Quinn Pitcock and Darrell Reid, Defensive Tackle. Ed Johnson seems to have the early advantage, getting the start in the first preseason game. However, Pitcock is the longer term solution. Reid is the dark horse who seems to be getting some looks.

Rookie Contributor: The Colts have a strong draft class, which could have several contributors. However, keep WR Roy Hall in your periphery. He is a big WR (6’1” 240) who did great in camp, and could also be in line for time as an H-Back.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jones-Drew (Photo Courtesy of Bodogbeat.com)

Strengths: If the offense can click, they have many puzzle pieces that will fit together well. They have a nice 1-2 punch at running back, with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Both compliment each other well. If Taylor can stay healthy all season, they can do some damage together. The defense is solid from top to bottom. They have arguably the best tandem of DTs in the league with John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. They might even have the best trio, with Rob Meier.

Weaknesses: The offensive line must step up and do a better job than last season. Left Tackle Khalif Barnes had a sophomore slump. Brad Meester will be lost for most of the season, leaving center to be manned by Dennis Norman. The corners need to step up and perform better.

Opportunities: Byron Leftwich has been the most impressive Jaguar this training camp. That is either a horrible thing, or a great thing. When Leftwich is playing at his peak, the Jags offense is hard to stop. Northcutt and Jones can stretch the field, complimenting Leftwich’s strong arm. The team could have a nice pass rush tandem on its hands. Reggie Hayward is probably their biggest threat, though he is coming off a season ending injury last year, during the first game of the season. Bobby McCray stepped in and registered 10 sacks last year. Paul Spicer will back them both up, mostly in a run stopping capacity.

Threats: While Rashean Mathis and Brian Williams did a great job manning the corners, the safeties left a lot to be desired last season. This season there will be first time starters at both safety spots. At the top of the depth chart are Gerald Sensabaugh and Nick Sorenesen. First round pick, Reggie Nelson, will most likely be in the free safety spot in the near future. Sensebaugh will fight fifth rounder Josh Gaddis and newly signed Sammy Knight. Knight has starting experience, but that should not be the case here. If the safeties don’t make the right calls, and produce weak results. This defense could be in for a long season.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: MLB Mike Peterson to Justin Durant, eventually. Durant is underrated, coming out of a small school called Hampton. However, coaches and scouts know the value of a player like Durant. He has that squatty stature, but also boasts terrific speed and agility. What sets him apart from the other great athletes coming out of college is that Durant is a student of the game. He shows great presence, and has the makings of an eventual defensive captain.

Camp Battle: Wide Receiver resembles a war, not a battle. Ernest Wilford, Dennis Northcutt, Matt Jones and Reggie Williams are all vying for starting jobs. Williams was just recently moved to the third team, which could indicate the possible release of the former 1st round pick. Matt Jones mans the slot position for now. Wilford and Northcutt are penciled in as starters.

Rookie Contributor: Free Safety Reggie Nelson will most likely be thrown into the fire early. He could play cornerback if he had to. However, Nelson brings his athleticism over to free safety. He has that combination of coverage ability and ball-hawking skills.

Tennessee Titans

Young (Photo Courtesy of Footblog.com)

Strengths: The Titans are a team that could surprise some people. Vince Young is a weapon that only one team could match (until a little dog fighting incident). Putting Young behind an offensive line stocked with young bookends and a nasty trio on the inside. Offensive Tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart could be a strong tandem for years. The towering Stewart quieted many critics who did not think he could be a starter in the NFL. Inside, one of the top centers in NFL history, Kevin Mawae, is flanked by guards Benji Olson and Jacob Bell. They will give Young plenty of time to decide who he’s passing to or whether he will take off running the ball himself. Vince Young could put his name up there with the elite before we know it.

Weaknesses: The receiving game is weak. Brandon Jones is the top WR of the bunch. But, between Roydell Williams, Courtney Roby and Eric Moulds, it’s hard to say what they have at the other WR position. Tight End Ben Troupe has yet to live up to expectations tied to his size, speed and athletic ability that makes physically makes him an Antonio Gates clone. Luckily, Young has incredible wheels. If he was a pocket passer, he might be in trouble. Vanden Bosch disappointed last year with 6.5 sacks to follow up 12.5 from the previous year. Haynesworth was off to his best season before being suspended for mistaking Andre Gurode’s face for a welcome mat. Overall, the defensive line underachieved last season. Defensive tackle Randy Starks is running out of chances. There is a lot of unrealized potential across that line.

Opportunities: The defensive backs on this team have an opportunity to be a solid unit on this defense, and prove that they do not need a cancerous teammate like Pacman Jones. CBs Nick Harper and Reynaldo Hill team up with safeties Chris Hope and Lamount Thompson. Michael Griffin plays the wild card. Either he will be the third cornerback, or he will challenge Lamount Thompson for the starting free safety spot. If Chris Hope progresses from last year, he will be a top 10 safety.

Threats: For some reason, this team is where many great prospects come to realize they are not that great. Don’t get me wrong. This team has had its share of players that have achieved at or beyond expectation, but there seem to be a lot of underachievers, and this year’s team is full of them. This list includes Troupe, DEs Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy, DT Randy Starks, CB Andre Woolfolk. You could even put Pacman Jones on that list for his off-field behavior. LenDale White could be on his way there. If Courtney Roby and Roydell Williams do not pan out, they are right along with the rest. Let us hope Vince Young is never part of this conversation, except to show that they have players that can be great too.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Steve McNair to Vince Young, the Key to the Hearts of Titans fans. Drafting Vince Young is the reason why teams like the Houston Texans suffer from year to year, and teams like the Titans have hope. Titans fans have their hero. Now the question is…can he take this franchise to the playoffs more often than McNair did?

Camp Battle: LenDale White and Chris Henry, Running Back. Don’t be fooled by Chris Brown starting last game, and being atop the depth chart. Tennessee might just be marketing him to teams to trade him. It is common practice in the preseason. This could have been White’s job without trouble. However, his laziness and lackadaisical approach forced the team’s hand and they drafted competition in Chris Henry. Henry has not put it together on the field, however physically, he’s a phenomenal prospect. Henry is reminiscent of Jerrious Norwood. Regardless of who wins, they will make a strong 1-2 punch.

Rookie Contributor: Defensive back Michael Griffin could help this team forget about Pacman Jones. While he doesn’t exactly have Jones’s explosiveness (though he’s not far), Griffin brings plenty to the table in his coverage skills and versatility. He will also keep clean off the field, keeping him on the field more often. Running back Chris Henry will be another contributor. Keep an eye on WR Paul Williams. Once he gets the offense, he could produce numbers.

1 comment:

Sam said...

no commentary on the vikings?? :)