We all know about the Jaguars disappointing finish of 2006, and nearly everyone in America knows the final result of the Colts season, notching their first Lombardi trophy since moving to Indianapolis. The Titans took a big step up, doubling their win total from 2005 (4-12 to 8-8), and the Texans were pretty much the Texans, finishing 5-11, which was an improvement over their 2-14 campaign in 2005. In true Texans fashion, two of their wins came against the Jaguars, and shockingly one win against the Colts.
The Jaguars appear to be in great shape for a team that finished .500 in 2006. The main reason is that they should return 21 of 22 starters from a team that started the '06 season beating some of the traditional NFL super-teams, the Cowboys and defending '05 Champion Steelers. In free agency the Jaguars lost safety Deon Grant, as well as tight end Kyle Brady. They offset those losses by signing offensive tackle Tony Pashos, slot-receiver/punt returner, Dennis Northcutt, and pass-catching, veteran tight end Jermaine Wiggins. The Jaguars have a very solid roster, 1-53, but they lack some front-line play-makers. Look for the Jaguars to go with either a safety or defensive end early on in the draft. They have a very good young safety in Gerald Sensabaugh who can play both positions, but one of the most tenured Jaguars, strong safety Donovin Darius, hasn't been able to complete a full season since 2004. The University of Florida's Reggie Nelson would fit in great with the first round pick, as would Texas' Michael Griffin. If the Jags go with a defensive end early on, Jarvis Moss (Florida), Adam Carriker (Nebraska), and Jamaal Anderson (Arkansas) would likely be on their wish list. The Jaguars will probably tap into the deep well of wide receivers in the '07 draft later on in the first day, as they could really use another deep-threat for long-ball thrower, Byron Leftwich.
This just in- the Colts have a pretty solid roster, evidenced by their Super Bowl victory. Their offense is explosive, and their main ingredients (QB, WR, RB) are either in their prime (Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne), just past their prime, but still very effective (Marvin Harrison), or not quite hitting their prime (Joseph Addai). If the Colts have a major weakness it is on the defensive side of the ball. They built a very fast, smallish defense which works well when they have a lead, but can get run over by power running teams, such as what the Jaguars did on 12/10/06 by rushing for 375 yards against them. The Colts need to get some bigger defensive tackles, and some more physical linebackers, now that they have lost MLB Cato June to free agency (Tampa Bay). The Colts may want to use their third round pick to address the running back spot as well, as they've lost the real Super Bowl XLI MVP, Domenic Rhodes to free agency (Oakland) Many "draft experts" have University of Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell going to Indy in the first round at pick 32. Another first round possiblility could be either linebacker Lawrence Timmons (Florida State), or linebacker Paul Poslusny (Penn State).
The Tennessee Titans had a remarkable increase of four wins from the 2005 season, and much of the credit goes to last season's first round pick, Vince Young. Now that there is some real NFL tape on Young, I don't see him having quite as easy of a time in 2007. The final record says that the Titans were 8-8, in 2006, but they have a lot more needs than your average 8-8 team should have. The Titans offensive line played well enough last season, but it certainly isn't known as one of the better units in the NFL. The Titans wide receiving corps is average on a great day, especially due to the loss of their leading receiver, Drew Bennett. Their running back stable is currently made up of Lendale White, who rushed for just over 200 yards on the season, and that's about it. Their defense finished dead last in the NFL in terms of rankings last season (27th pass, 30th rush), and they've only signed former Indianapolis corner Nick Harper to bolster the unit. The Titans will be drafting 19th in the first round and they will probably look for a receiver for Vince Young to get the ball to. Dwayne Bowe of LSU could make sense, as well as local University of Tennessee product Robert Meachem. The Titans have question marks and needs all over their defense, and a good defensive end to team up with the teams sack leader Kyle Vanden Bosch would bolster that unit. Charles Johnson (Georgia) or Tim Crowder (Texas) could be good picks as well.
The Houston Texans are picking tenth overall next month and they can't afford to screw up the draft… again. Last year the Texans received decent production from their first round pick, Mario Williams (47 tackles, 4.5 sacks), but unfortunately for them, he was the first pick overall in the draft. The team passed on hometown hero Vince Young, fellow media "hype-machine" Reggie Bush, as well as superstar running back Maurice Jones-Drew, twice. On paper, the Texans appear to have as many questions, if not more, than they had last season following their 2-14 campaign. The good news for Texans fans, it's not as bad as it looks. Sure, your team finished 5-11, but three of the wins came against solid teams (Jacksonville times two, Indy), and the Texans lost four games by less than seven points, three of which came on the final plays of the game. The Texans made a big off-season splash by signing free agent running back Ahman Green (Green Bay), and they also signed free agent offensive tackle Jordan Black (K.C.), and linebacker Danny Clark (New Orleans). The Texans just traded for Matt Schaub, a solid quarterback with all the physical tools, a great wide receiver in Andre Johnson, a great linebacker in Demeco Ryans, and a very good corner in Dunta Robinson. The Texans aren't going to be championship contenders next season, in my opinion, but they are a lot closer than their rival in Nashville, assuming Matt Schaub is what they think he is, and if they can fix the offensive line. The Texans are likely to add another star-caliber player in the first round of the draft with the tenth selection. Players that could fit in that spot may be defensive end Jamal Anderson (Arkansas), offensive tackle Levi Brown (Penn State), quarterback Brady Quinn (Notre Dame), Amobi Okoye (Louisville), or possibly even running back Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma). The Texans can find another corner in the later rounds to compliment Dunta Robinson, or possibly fill in the defensive line.
The AFC South should be competitive again next season, maybe even more-so than ever before. The Jaguars should have as solid of a roster as anyone, 1-53, with the exception of New England and San Diego. The Texans should be able to surprise some teams this year, and as bad of a season as they had in '06, they were still 3-3 in the division. The Titans will take a step back, in my opinion, but can beat anyone on a given Sunday with quarterback Vince Young and cornerback Pacman Jones, assuming he isn't incarcerated by the seasons' opening kickoff.
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