Monday, August 10, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: AFC South

Houston Texans

Strengths – The offense is better than advertised. The key is the role players that surround the four star players (Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton, Owen Daniels). Kevin Walters and Andre Davis play the "big target and home run threat" roles that keeps defenses honest on Johnson. Behind Slaton, Chris Brown and Ryan Moats will do the same in a "Thunder and Lightening" role coming off the bench. Schaub and Daniels have Aikman-Novacek potential that kills defenses on third down. On defense, the front seven is loaded with young talent. Mario Williams leads the charge with Amobi Okoye and Antonio Smith helping on the D-Line with defensive captain DeMeco Ryans playing the sideline-to-sideline MLB role.

Weaknesses – The DBs are still weak, and will continue to be the bane of this defense. Dunta Robinson should be back to his form before his near career-threatening injury. However, Jacques Reeves is out indefinitely with a broken leg. Deltha O'Neal was brought out of involuntary retirement, but is far from an answer. Center Chris Myers is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain (a worse injury than it sounds). While he is not a well known player, he ma be the most important cog of the zone-blocking scheme.

Opportunities – This is a no-name offensive line that is ready to make a name for themselves. If Myers can come back from his injury soon, and the guards step up, we could have a very strong team that could unseat the Titans for the division. At CB, Fred Bennett and Antuan Molden will team up to man the CB spot opposite Robinson. Bennett has more experience, but Molden has loads of potential. If Molden realizes that potential, he will take the starting spot and not let it go.

Threats – How different is Antonio Smith from Anthony Weaver? Both are probably better suited to be 3-4 DEs. The 4-3 didn't work out so well for Weaver, but Smith brings a lot of promise. Both Dunta Robinson and Owen Daniels are in stalemates with the front office on contract situations. Hopefully this doesn't undermine their production. They will both be playing for contracts, so this may be a good thing for the Texans this season.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Duane Brown from Tony Boselli, fulfilling the promise that Boselli was supposed to bring to spark this franchise. Brown played great last season, and should build on that.

Position Battle – WLB: Zach Diles vs. Xavier Adibi. If Adibi can realize his potential, he could be special. Whoever wins the spot can rest assured the spotlight won't be on them with Ryans and Brian Cushing manning the other LB spots. Don't be surprised if Cato June works his way into this mix. At DT, Frank Okam could unseat Travis Johnson, who never reached his potential.

Rookie Contributor – Strong-side LB Brian Cushing should be the day one starter. He fills a huge hole that this team has had for a few years. Antoine Caldwell could get time early on in place of Chris Myers if he can fend off Chris White. Utility player Connor Barwin might get some pass rushing opportunities, as well as some time on offense as a blocking back or TE.

Indianapolis Colts

Strengths – Peyton Manning. You have to start with that name. The reigning MVP led an ailing team to a 12-4 record. With targets like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark still playing at a high level, Manning shouldn’t have much of a problem approaching last year’s numbers. The offensive line, led by Tony Ugoh and Jeff Saturday, is back and healthy with depth that received valuable experience last year. On defense, a strong DE corps start with a fleet duo, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who terrorize opposing backfields. The DBs can be great if they stay healthy. Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson form a good combination of CBs that can cover many kinds of receivers, and former defensive player of the year Bob Sanders teams up with Antoine Bethea at safety.

Weaknesses – RB Joseph Addai took a step back last year. Hopefully Donald Brown can provide a breath of fresh air. If Brown can considerably ease the load, Addai could get back to form. The game of musical chairs at OLB has led to inconsistency. Two players must emerge as the full time starters to build continuity and camaraderie with their counterparts.

Opportunities – Pierre Garcon and Roy Hall both have opportunities as the WR3 and WR4. Both boast a lot of untapped potential in different ways. Garcon is a home-run threat. Hall can create space and make catches in the middle. If neither step up, look for BYU’s Austin Collie to get some looks.

Threats – The D-Line is light and athletic. However, they can be easily overpowered. They drafted a DT in the 2nd round, but Fili Maola is more of what they already had. Why not draft a run-stopping DT, when that was a weakness for the team last year.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Anthony Gonzalez from the departed Marvin Harrison as Manning’s new #3 target (behind Wayne and Clark). If Manning can utilize Gonzalez’s lightning speed to his advantage, DBs better get ready to give some cushion.

Position Battle – Both OLBs: Philip Wheeler and Clint Session are the front-runners, however Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler could make things interesting.

Rookie Contributor – RB Donald Brown, who could end up becoming the work-horse back of this team.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Strengths – Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jones are a couple of bright spots. Having them in the backfield together poses a dual threat to defenses as MJD can flat out outrun you, while Greg Jones can just flatten you. Rashean Mathis will shut down his share of #1 WRs. He won’t see many balls thrown his way. The defensive front seven is an underrated bunch with a healthy share of spotlight and role players, helping them fly low enough under the radar that they can be a surprise.

Weaknesses – This team does not look good. This was once a promising young team that was headed in the right direction. Now they are caught in a downward spiral. The WRs are a joke, regardless of Torry Holt’s arrival. David Garrard may not be good enough to cope.

Opportunities – With Fred Taylor gone, MJD has the ball all to himself (for now). If he can prove to be durable and the backups can spell him from time to time, he could put up gargantuan numbers.

Threats – Through the draft and free agency the team added depth to the offensive line, however several of the starters are coming off major injuries. If the injuries mount on the line again, stick a fork in this team. If MJD isn’t able to handle the entire load and the running game suffers, the passing game will suffer even more.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – The Head Coaching job from Jack Del Rio to an interim coach, if the team continues on this downward spiral.

Position Battle – DE: Reggie Hayward vs. Derrick Harvey. As much as the coaching staff likes Hayward, Harvey must work his way onto the field.

Rookie Contributor – RB Rashad Jennings. He was one of my steals of the draft. Don’t be surprised if he’s the RB2. He’s a big back with speed, he just played on a small level. CB Derek Cox and WRs Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard could get some looks early.

Tennessee Titans

Strengths – Tennessee has one of the most potent running attacks in the league. Chris Johnson will have high expectations after his superb rookie year. A now svelte LenDale White is ready to prove that he deserves his share of the carries. They run behind the best set of bookend OTs in the game in Michael Roos and David Stewart. On Defense, the Titans have a great second-level defense led by OLBs Keith Bullock and David Thornton. Cortland Finnegan came into his own last season as one of the top CBs in the league. Michael Griffin and Chris hope team up to form one of the best safety tandems in the league.

Weaknesses – While the team tried to upgrade its WRs, they still need to prove they can produce on the field. This has been one of the weakest bunch of WRs in the league since Derrick Mason left the team. The defense lacks a true edge rusher. Jevon Kearse is not that guy. Vanden Bosch gets in the backfield based on his non-stop motor, but is in it alone. Could Jason Jones move outside?

Opportunities – With Albert Haynesworth in Washington, the task at DT falls on the shoulders of Tony Brown, Jason Jones and newcomer Jovan Haye. Keep an eye on Haye. He is a sleeper, and could be the top DT on this club at season’s end. Sen’Derrick Marks could get some time based on his size and run-stopping ability. Rookie WR Kenny Britt needs to mature early and get on the field. The team could use his playmaking ability.

Threats – Vince Young is a head-case living in a fantasy world. How long before he becomes the kind of distraction that negatively affects the team?

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Not many ready to pass. Eventually, Kevin Mawae will have to pass his torch to Leroy Harris.

Position Battle – QB2: Vince Young vs. Patrick Ramsey. After last night’s preseason game, Ramsey is in the lead. The team will give Young every opportunity, but at what point to you give up on him?

Rookie Contributor
– Possibly WR Kenny Britt. Possibly DT Sen’Derrick Marks. However, keep an eye on Jared Cook at TE. He has the talent and athletic ability to be something special in the league.

1 comment:

Armin said...

Guess I was wrong on Ugoh. Researched several articles saying good things about him, and all the sudden, he's on the bench.

Guess I can't have them all.