Who's Up, Who's Down? AFC South

A busy offseason, saw plenty of changes in the other three AFC South teams. Which teams took a step forward? Which ones took a step back? Brad Keller takes a look.

Houston Texans:

Who They Added: Running back Chris Brown, Kevin Bentley, Nick Ferguson, Chris Myers, Jacques Reeves, Chaun Thompson.

Who They Lost: Charlie Anderson, Michael Boulware, Danny Clark, Von Hutchins, Jerome Mathis, Jeb Putzier, Mike Flanagan, Shawn Barber.

Who They Drafted: Duane Brown, Antwaun Molden, Steve Slaton, Xavier Adibi, Frank Okam, Dominique Barber, Alex Brink.

WR Andre Davis
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

What it All Means:

Basically, the Texans added a number of new moving parts to replace the players that departed.  Also notable is that they re-signed Andre Davis to a long-term contract after he proved himself to be a valued member of the team in 2007.

Through free agency, they didn't lose any starters from 2007 and they didn't gain any starters for 2008. Essentially, instead of adding a number of impact players from last year's 8-8 record, or practicing addition by subtraction, they practiced addition by reaction, replacing whatever they lost as they lost it.

Through the draft, Brown has an excellent chance of breaking into the starting lineup, even though this offensive line has become vastly improved during Gary Kubiak's time in Houston.

Slaton and Molden will contribute primarily on special teams at the moment, as will Adibi, but their immediate contributions to the team seem limited.  For a team that posted a .500 record last season, they did very little to improve the product on the field.

However, they struggled through injuries to their starting quarterback and star wide receiver in 2007 and played six games against division foes that made the playoffs.

With a little luck and a decline by another team in the division — and there is such a team on this list — the Texans could get over .500 and take a step forward record-wise during the 2008 season.

Verdict: Even though they may take a step forward during the season, this offseason, they ran in place.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Who They Added: Troy Williamson, Jerry Porter, Cleo Lemon, Jimmy Kennedy, Drayton Florence.

Who They Lost: Quinn Gray, Aaron Glenn, Sammy Knight, Bobby McCray, Shantee Orr, LaBrandon Toefield, Ernest Wilford, Chris Naeole, Chris Roberson, Marcus Stroud.

Who They Drafted: Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, Thomas Williams, Trae Williams, Chancey Washington.

What it All Means:

Overall, the Jaguars added more than they subtracted.  They lost a number of players in the offseason and did not sign an equivalent number, but the reasoning behind that was that their choices in the 2008 NFL Draft would contribute immediately.

Jerry Porter with the Raiders in 2007
Greg Trott/Getty Images

Williamson and Porter — assuming that Porter is healthy enough to open the season — will replace Wilford who, at his apex, ascended to only second on the depth chart.

Jacksonville has been cautiously aggressive since March, making sure to sign players that they had identified as possible contributors prior to the onset of free agency and being careful not to overpay for free agents on their way out the door.

Kennedy may not be a fully suitable replacement for the departed Stroud, but it's a well-known fact that John Henderson occupies more than his fair share of space up the middle.  Perhaps more of a pass rushing tackle such as Kennedy would be a better compliment to Henderson than was Stroud — particularly with a couple of dangerous rush ends added through the draft.

While the two Williamses will not start immediately, they will add depth.  Trae Williams especially will step in behind Florence and offer Jacksonville more flexibility in nickel and dime packages.

The big story, though, was the drafting of Groves and Harvey, two men that were selected to get after the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  For a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, those two acquisitions may be what put them over the top.

Verdict: The way it looks now, they took a step forward.  If the two rookie pass rush specialists fall short, then so will this offseason from a historical perspective.  If David Garrard continues to develop and the defense can put pressure on the other elite-level quarterbacks in the league, then this will be the offseason that turned the tide for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tennessee Titans:

Who They Added: Alge Crumpler, Justin McCareins, Chris Carr, Dwayne Blakley, Jevon Kearse, Jake Scott.

Who They Lost: Jacob Bell, Chris Brown, David Givens, Kelly Herndon, Chidi Uwoma, Travis LaBoy, Eric Moulds, Antwan Odom, Benji Olsen (retirement).

Who They Drafted: Chris Johnson, Craig Stevens, Jason Jones, William Hayes, Lavelle Hawkins, Stanford Keglar, Cary Williams.

What it All Means:

Heading into the offseason, the Titans needed to add weapons to their passing game and make sure that they didn't break up a very effective defensive line — LaBoy and Odom, while they benefited from the attention paid to Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, were important members of that unit.

They lost LaBoy and Odom, as well as veterans Givens and Moulds, then added former Titans McCareins and Kearse, men who found fame and recognition in Tennessee, but appear to be in the twilight of their careers.

Instead of addition by subtraction, the Titans seem to have used the subtraction by subtraction strategy in free agency.

Through the draft, Jones and Johnson may replace departed role players and Hawkins may secure a roster spot, but the sum of what Tennessee lost does not equal the parts that they added, especially on offense.

They will most likely be a weaker team in a stronger division, unless their defense once again bails them out.

Verdict: They took a step back this offseason, no doubt.  But, if their defense can perform well again and Jeff Fisher turns in yet another sterling performance, they still may have a chance at the playoffs.

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