No division in football needs to make more improvements this offseason than the AFC South, which is coming off a terrible 2013 season. Let’s take a look at the offseason needs for the four teams in the AFC South.
Houston Texans – The Texans are going to need a new quarterback next year, and they may use the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft to get one. However, a majority of their other needs are on the defensive side of the ball. Houston needs a complete makeover at linebacker, especially when it comes to pass rushers, which could be something they target in free agency, unless they use the first overall pick on Jadeveon Clowney instead of a quarterback. The Texans also need to make improvements in their secondary, which is an area they can’t ignore. Back on the offensive side of the ball, the Texans will also need to get better along the offensive line, which was a huge problem in 2013, unless they want their new quarterback running for his life.
Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck took the Colts to the second round of the playoffs, doing so almost single handedly, and now the team needs to give him more support so he doesn’t have to do everything himself. Indianapolis has a nice set of skill players, although they could use more depth at wide receiver, especially after Reggie Wayne’s injury. The offensive line is their biggest issue on that side of the ball, as they need to do a better job of protecting their franchise quarterback. On defense, the Colts may need to start from scratch in their secondary, although re-signing Vontae Davis would help their rebuilding effort. Elsewhere, the Colts need to find a middle linebacker that can be the leader of the defense. They should also try to add a pass rusher to work in tandem with Robert Mathis so that they can do a better job of getting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Obviously, quarterback is at the top of Jacksonville’s list, as they can’t continue with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, so the Jaguars are likely to use the third overall pick on a quarterback. However, that won’t solve all of the problems Jacksonville has on offense. Maurice Jones-Drew is on his way out of town, so Jacksonville needs to pick up a young running back that can step into the starting lineup right away. The Jaguars also have a few holes to fill on the offensive line, specifically at center after the retirement of Brad Meester. Of course, even though there’s a lot to fix on offense, the Jaguars can’t ignore their defense. Jacksonville needs some help at linebacker, as they need to bring in one or two guys that can play alongside Paul Posluszny to boost that unit. The Jags also need some more talent on the front line to help protect its secondary, which is young and continuing to get better, but remains vulnerable.
Tennessee Titans – There’s a new head coach in Nashville, but there’s not necessarily a lot of time for Ken Whisenhunt to turn things around, so changes have to be made to make the Titans a competitor in 2014. The most important thing the Titans were missing last year was a pass rush, and finding one or more players that can get after the quarterback will be their biggest priority, whether it happens through free agency or with their first round pick in the draft. If Tennessee can’t re-sign cornerback Alterraun Verner, they’ll have to fill that void in their secondary, but most of their other needs are on offense. Running back Chris Johnson is unlikely to be back next season, so the Titans will need to find a suitable replacement. The Titans will also want to continue building up their offensive line after drafting Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke last year. With those two guys on board, Tennessee will want to focus on drafting or signing offensive tackles this offseason.
A young woman and 61-year-old Marine veteran were injured and hospitalized Sunday after the woman jumped from a balcony of the Oakland Coliseum and the veteran attempted to catch her.
The incident occurred just after the Oakland Raiders game against the Tennessee Titans.
A lifetime Raiders fan, the veteran had just purchased season tickets after watching them on TV.
The veteran was leaving the coliseum with a friend when he saw the 20-year-old woman on the third level of the stand, which had been closed off to the public. Though he pleaded with her not to jump, she threw herself onto a seating area and landed on top of him, injuring them both.
According to Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson, the woman threw herself from the balcony in an attempt at suicide.
“He put himself in a lot of risk,” Nelson said. “Right now, he is in the hospital paying the price for it. 100 per cent he saved her life.”
The woman was in the intensive care unit Monday after suffering a serious blow to the head. The Marine vet's injuries were not life-threatening.
Neither the man or woman have been identified.
The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans are set to meet Thursday night in a critical AFC South matchup. If the Colts win, they will likely have enough separation to win the division, but if the Titans win it will lead to a tight division race down the stretch, especially with the two teams meeting again two weeks later. Both teams have had their ups and downs this season, but at least one of them, and possibly both, will end up in the playoffs. With that in mind, are either the Colts or Titans true contenders to make a deep run in the AFC playoffs, or are they pretenders that will only get into the playoffs by virtue of winning a weak division?
The Colts have some of the most impressive wins in the NFL this season; they have handed both Denver and Seattle their only losses of the season, and they had a convincing road win over San Francisco early in the season that also caught everyone’s attention. However, ever since their win over the Broncos, the Colts have spiraled downhill, with a poor effort and a narrow win against Houston and an embarrassing loss to St. Louis.
For the past month, the Indianapolis defense has played much like they did last season, giving up 32 points per game over the last three games, and just like last year, it has put a lot of pressure on Andrew Luck and the offense. It’s possible that there’s even more pressure on Luck this season, as the Indianapolis running game has been inconsistent and at times non-existent, despite the team acquiring Trent Richardson earlier in the season. To make matters worse for Luck and the offense, Reggie Wayne went down with a season-ending injury in the Denver game, and his absence has coincided with Indy’s downward trajectory. Even with T.Y. Hilton playing his best in Wayne’s absence, Luck missing his best receiver has thrown him off his game.
The verdict on the Colts is that they’re a pretender. Even if they can get things turned around quickly, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to repeat their 11-win total from last year, even though they play in a weak division and have early-season wins against three of the NFL’s best teams. Even if Luck breaks out of his slump and plays well down the stretch, having a defense that’s unreliable and a running game that’s inconsistent will make it tough to do any damage in the playoffs, even if they can hold off the Titans and win the AFC South.
The Titans got off to a fast start this year, beginning the season 3-1 and giving the impression that they would be competitive in 2013. However, since then things have been different for the Titans. They understandably lost three straight games to three of the best teams in the NFL while Jake Locker missed time due to an injury, and then a loss to lowly Jacksonville and a season-ending injury to Locker have put them in a tough position heading down the stretch, making Thursday’s game against the Colts a must-win for them.
What gives Tennessee hope despite the loss of Locker for the rest of the season is that their defense may still be able to carry them. In a passing league, the Titan’s have one of the top-10 pass defenses in the NFL, and that could be enough to keep them in games and give them a chance to win going down the stretch. If backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can avoid the turnovers that have plagued his career, the Titans have the receivers that can move the ball, as well as a running back in Chris Johnson that can create big plays, and when combined with a stingy defense, that could be enough for the Titans to sneak into the playoffs.
However, despite a glimmer of hope, the Titans have to be labeled as pretenders. Even before Locker went down with a season-ending injury, there were questions about his ability to lead the Titans to wins against quality opponents, and there are similar questions about Fitzpatrick. Even if the Titan’s defense that we saw in September shows up for the rest of November and December, Tennessee is in too big of a hole to win the division without the Colts continuing to struggle, and even if that were to happen, the Titans don’t have the offensive firepower to make any noise in the playoffs.
NFL Week 10 Power Rankings: Broncos, Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Titans, Chargers, Jets, Ravens and More
The AFC went 0-4 against the NFC last week, while the Colts and Bengals both suffered disappointing losses, what does that mean for the week 11 power rankings? See below:
#1 Denver Broncos
Here for now, but haven’t been very impressive as of late; Big test against Kansas City on Sunday.
#2 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are undefeated, but have had a soft schedule and they play the Broncos this weekend. The Chiefs pass rush better be locked in.
#3 New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has always loved Ed Reed, but will they take a flyer?
#4 Indianapolis Colts
I have thought this team was slightly overrated and last week’s 38-8 loss to the Rams didn’t help change my mind.
#5 Cincinnati Bengals
This team continues to confuse everyone. Extremely impressive one week, sub par the next.
#6 Tennessee Titans
Now that Jake Locker is out, this team will likely be sliding out of the top 10 very soon. However, the AFC is so weak that they are still alive for a wild card.
#7 San Diego Chargers
It was pretty surprising how little success the Chargers had throwing the ball, but they are still in the think of a playoff berth.
#8 New York Jets
The Jets have the 3rd worst point differential in the AFC, but they are still in the drivers seat for the second wild card.
#9 Baltimore Ravens
As much as I do not care for Joe Flacco, the Ravens’ win over the Bengals was both impressive and might have saved their season…for now.
#10 Cleveland Browns
Browns remain in good position since they boast the only winning record within the AFC North.
#11 Pittsburgh Steelers
Somehow, this team has put themselves in a position to get back in the divisional race… don’t hold your breath though Steelers fans.
#12 Houston Texans
It’s hard to find anything going right in Houston right now… Case Keenum might help some Aaron Rodgers owners though.
#13 Buffalo Bills
The Bills continue to look worse and worse somehow. What a tough NFL start for their new head coach.
#14 Oakland Raiders
What started as a promising season for Pryor has ended up with the Raiders having the 4th worst offense in the NFL.
#15 Jacksonville Jaguars
Good new Jags fans, with the Bucs winning, the Jags are still in the hunt for the #1 pick.
#16 Miami Dolphins
Has any team ever had a worse sequence of events while losing 4 out of 5?
Tell me how wrong I am on twitter @Cole_Stevenson
Before the season, we named six NFL head coaches that were on the hot seat. Now that the season is half over, let’s take a look at whether those six coaches have more or less job security than they had when the season started, as well as a few coaches that have joined them on the hot seat.
Dennis Allen, Oakland – There’s probably not a lot Allen can do to prevent the Raiders from finishing last in the AFC West this year, but so far he’s done enough to at least give himself another year as head coach. The Raiders are definitely more competitive than they were last year, and they should be able to improve upon their 4-12 record from last year, despite sharing a division with two of the NFL’s better teams. Games against Denver and Philadelphia notwithstanding, Oakland has been better defensively this season, and that should be enough to bring Allen back next year.
Jason Garrett, Dallas – Garrett’s fate is still far from determined, and it doesn’t help that Jerry Jones is unpredictable and doesn’t always think soundly. The Cowboys are in good position to win the NFC East and go to the playoffs, which would almost certainly save Garrett’s job, but they should probably be better than 5-4, and there’s still time for a second half collapse that could cost Dallas a playoff spot. If that happens, Garrett could easily lose his job, despite anything Jones has said previously about his belief in his head coach.
Mike Munchak, Tennessee – Right now, Munchak’s job status looks pretty good. His quarterback started to make progress before suffering an injury that knocked him out for a few weeks, but now Jake Locker is back on the field and the Titans are definitely in the middle of the playoff hunt. Three of Tennessee’s four losses this season have come against the NFL’s elite (Kansas City, Seattle, and San Francisco), so it’s hard to say that the Titans are underachieving this year. Even if Munchak can’t get Tennessee to the playoffs this year, there’s been enough progress made to retain him as the head coach.
Ron Rivera, Carolina – Things weren’t looking good for Rivera and the Panthers early in the season, but things have turned around in a hurry with four straight wins and much better play out of quarterback Cam Newton. As much as Newton has improved last year, it’s Rivera’s defense that’s leading the charge in Carolina and initializing a power shift in the NFC South. The Panther’s schedule will get tougher in the second half of the season, with at least four games against teams that look headed for the postseason, but barring a complete collapse, Rivera looks good to return to the Panthers next season.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Before the season, Ryan was a virtual lock to be fired after the season, but he’s given himself a fighting chance to keep his job. That being said, the situation changes on almost a weekly basis, as the Jets have been terribly inconsistent this season, losing to the Steelers only to beat the Patriots the next week, then getting crushed by the Bengals only to beat the Saints this past weekend. If Ryan gets the Jets to the playoffs it’ll be hard to fire him after the low expectations heading into the season, but there’s so much that can happen between now and the end of the season, not to mention the instability within the organization, which puts his job status very much in the air.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit – Schwartz has definitely taken the heat off himself that was building up after last year’s 4-12 campaign. Detroit’s defense still has a lot of work to do, but Schwartz seems to have the quarterback he needs to win, and an offense that can by dynamic at times. The Lions look like a team that could win 10 games and go to the playoffs, which should take the heat off Schwartz for at least a couple years.
Those who weren’t on the hot seat at the start of the season, but are definitely on it now are:
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota – Things were good for Frazier last year after the Vikings won 10 games and went to the playoffs, but unless they can turn things around in the second half, he could be out of a job. Minnesota’s season isn’t all on Frazier, as there’s been a ton of instability at quarterback for the Vikings, and none of the three that have played appear to be the answer for them. However, Frazier went 3-13 in 2011, and if he repeats that record this year, which looks quite possible, it’ll be hard to justify keeping him, even with a 10-win season and postseason appearance sandwiched in between.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay – How Schiano is still employed is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t matter how many years or how much money remains on his contract, Schiano should be out after this season, and he should consider himself lucky not to have already received his walking papers.
Gary Kubiak, Houston – The seat under Kubiak was definitely starting to heat up, but his episode at halftime of Sunday’s game reminds us that there are more important things.
The extent of Jake Locker’s injury is still unclear at this point. After the Tennessee Titans quarterback underwent x-rays, it was reported that the results showed no breaks or tears. However, as a result of swelling, it appears as though all involved are not 100 percent confident that this is something minor.
More exams are expected to be conducted, and on Tuesday, Locker is set to have an MRI. After that, team officials will likely give an estimated time table as far as how much time he will have to miss.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the team’s offseason pick-up from the Buffalo Bills, will fill in for Locker in the mean time.
During a session with reporters on Monday, head coach Mike Munchak expounded on his playcaller’s condition.
“He still has swelling so they don’t want to speculate on terming what that means or how long and rehab and how long this all will take,” he said, per Inquistr.
“He’ll be MRI’d again tomorrow, then we’ll have a better idea exactly what the time frame before he can actually play or get back on the field.”
The Titans are currently 3-1 for the season. They beat the hapless New York Jets 38-13 this past week, and are scheduled to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in their next outing.
It was another interesting week in the NFL, as we continue to learn about each team. Let’s recap week 2 with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Mario Williams – There was a lot of criticism directed at Williams when he underperformed in Buffalo last year, but on Sunday he recorded a career high 4.5 sacks to help his team to victory. Williams and the Buffalo defense held Carolina to nothing but field goals in the 4th quarter, which kept the Bills within striking distance so that E.J. Manuel could lead the game-winning drive in the final minutes. The Bills don’t win without a great performance by Williams.
Julio Jones – Both Jones and Roddy White were less than 100% health wise heading into Sunday, but Jones was able to play through his ailments and have one of the best games of the weekend by any wide receiver. Jones caught 11 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown, helping the Falcons take a big first half lead that turned out to be insurmountable.
AFC West – This was arguably the worst division in the NFL last year, but they had a great week 2, with all four teams winning, including two wins on the road. San Diego was the most impressive by traveling 3,000 miles and being able to slow down Philadelphia’s offense just enough to eek out a three point win. Both Denver and Kansas City are off to 2-0 starts after their wins against NFC East teams on Sunday, as the Chiefs have already matched last year’s win total. Even the Raiders won, albeit against Jacksonville.
Aaron Rodgers – Rodgers has had some great games, but the 480 yards passing Rodgers had tied a single game franchise record. He was nearly flawless, completing 34 of 42 passes, and nearly unstoppable, as he led the Packers to 31 unanswered points to begin the game. The Packers don’t have the most impressive roster they’ve had in recent years, but Rodgers helps to hide that.
Tennessee’s ability to close – Following a pick-6 by Alterraun Verner with less than five minutes left in the game, the Titans had most of us convinced that they were about to pull of a pretty significant upset, but they couldn’t quite seal the deal. The Titan’s offense failed to run out the clock, which gave the Texans another chance to tie the game, which they did. Tennessee couldn’t run the ball and Jake Locker missed throws he needs to make, putting too much pressure on a defense that had played well for most of the game.
The hit on Malcolm Floyd – The word “ouch” doesn’t do a justice to what Floyd must have felt during the hit that knocked him out of Sunday’s win over the Eagles. It’s the kind of hit that will make anybody cringe, and it took Floyd out of the game after catching five passes for over 100 yards. The good news is that Floyd did accompany the team on their flight home and will hopefully be okay.
Reggie Bush – Bush went from so good to so bad so quickly. He missed a significant chunk of the game with a knee injury and was largely ineffective, touching the ball just 12 times and averaging less than three yards per carry. He suffered a minor thumb injury last week and played through it, but he couldn’t do the same this week. Bush is a dynamic player, but he’s not particularly useful if he’s not healthy, and Bush didn’t look anywhere close to healthy on Sunday before leaving the game for good.
Giants on third down – Going 1 for 11 on third down is just not going to cut it for any team, especially a team that’s given up 77 points over the first two weeks. Denver doesn’t have a great pass rush without Von Miller, and so Eli Manning and the Giants should have been able to convert more of their third down opportunities against the Broncos on Sunday. To make matters worse, Manning threw four interceptions, in part because he was trying to do too much on third down. Another culprit is the running game, which is putting the Giants in third and long situations, and needs to be fixed after two bad weeks.
Jets and Patriots scuffle – Just like last week with the Packers and 49ers, there was an unnecessary scuffle in the NFL in week 2, this time between the Jets and Patriots, although this one was a little more serious. Both Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson were ejected for their role in the mêlée, which is inexcusable for two veteran players who should both know better, and now both could be facing suspensions. If this is how the Jets react to one loss, how are they going to react several weeks from now when they’ll undoubtedly have a lot more losses? The Jets will have to either learn how to win or lose with more dignity, because they can’t be starting fights on a regular basis, no matter how frustrated they are.
Philadelphia’s defense – The offense is certainly working for the Eagles, but the defense is getting in the way. There has been a lot of moving parts on Philadelphia’s defense this season, both in scheme and personnel, and it shows. They’ve given up over 50 points in the last six quarters and allowed over 500 yards against San Diego on Sunday. Unless this unit shapes up, the Eagles are going to be in a lot of shootouts this season.
Washington’s first half – For the second straight game, the Redskins were downright terrible in the first half. They faced a 26-7 halftime deficit in week 1 against the Eagles and went down 31-0 midway through the 3rd quarter against the Packers in week 2. In both cases, they turned it around in the second half, but it was too little too late, even after they were the better team in the second half in both games. Whatever the reason, the Redskins have been as bad as can be in the first half this year, and they need to find a solution to that problem, and fast.
Josh Freeman – It was definitely an ugly game on Sunday for Freeman, who completed just nine passes to cap off a terrible week for him, as the rift between him and head coach Greg Schiano grew deeper. Freeman turned the ball over twice and after a 1st quarter touchdown pass he did nothing to help the Bucs win a game that they should have been able to win considering the way their defense shut down New Orleans offensively. Considering the situation between Freeman and Schiano, things could get a lot worse before they get better.
Our NFL preview continues today with the preseason power rankings of the AFC South:
1. Houston – The Texans have become consistent leaders of the AFC South, and there are a lot of reasons to think that trend will continue in 2013. Matt Schaub hasn’t proven to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but he’s good enough with the supporting cast he has around him, which includes running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Tight end Owen Daniels is also a big part of the offense and the addition of rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins should give Schaub plenty of options in the passing game.
On defense, Houston has the reigning defensive player of the year in J.J. Watt, as well as one of the league’s top linebackers in Brian Cushing. They’ll have to find a way to make up for the loss of Connor Barwin, whose absence could hurt their pass rush; however, the Texans are hoping that Ed Reed will give their secondary a boost, and give them a pass defense that’s above average. Houston has the most balanced roster in their division, with big-time playmakers on both sides of the ball, so they should be able to stay atop the AFC South, but if they want to move closer to reaching a Super Bowl, both sides of the ball will have to show improvement from last season.
2. Indianapolis – The Colts made incredible progress last season, winning 11 games and going to the playoffs, doing so mostly on the back of quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck could be even better this year, but Indianapolis is going to need to become a more balanced team if they expect to continue that success. They’ve added Ahmad Bradshaw and Darrius Heyward-Bey on the offensive side of the ball to put more weapons around Luck, but the offensive line remains a place of concern. Defensively, Indianapolis made wholesale changes, hoping to fix a unit that was atrocious last season. Nearly half of the starters on defense weren’t in Indianapolis last season, which means there was a great infusion of talent on that side of the ball, but little continuity, which could mean a period of adjustment.
On the one hand, it’s hard to envision the Colts being able to improve upon their 11 wins from a season ago, but on the other hand, there’s no denying that their roster is much stronger, and that they have a quarterback with almost limitless talent. While they begin second in the AFC South in the preseason power rankings, they should be considered a threat to challenge the Texans for the division crown.
3. Tennessee – It’s an important year in Tennessee: for head coach Mike Munchak, starting quarterback Jake Locker, and the Titan’s franchise. The Titans have done their best to surround Locker with what he needs to win games, improving the offensive line in front of him, replacing the departed Jared Cook with Delanie Walker at tight end, and drafting Justin Hunter to give him another big receiving target. Tennessee also brought in Shonn Greene to give their running game a boost. Those additions should be enough to give Locker adequate support, and the rest will be up to him.
Defensively, there could be some problems, especially among the front-7 and when it comes to stopping the run, but the secondary got an upgrade with the addition of safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson. Tennessee’s roster appears to be stronger than it was last season, so there should be some improvement from last year’s 6-10 record, but there is a big gap between where they are and where Houston and Indianapolis are, and the responsibility for closing that gap falls on Locker’s shoulders; whether he’s capable of doing that remains to be seen.
4. Jacksonville – The Jaguars are not only deep in the basement of the AFC South, but also deep in the basement of the NFL, as new head coach Gus Bradley takes over and begins what could be a long rebuilding process. Jacksonville wasn’t able to re-sign many of its top free agents during the offseason with the exception of Brad Meester, who should lead a solid offensive line that will get help from first round pick Luke Joeckel. Once Justin Blackmon returns from suspension, the Jaguars will have an intriguing group of skill players with guys like Cecil Shorts, Denard Robinson, Ace Sanders, and of course Maurice Jones-Drew as a workhorse running back.
However, Jacksonville still doesn’t have a suitable quarterback in place unless Blaine Gabbert surprises everyone, which is unlikely. If Gabbert plays well, it would make the offense interesting to watch, but that won’t matter too much because the defense is a mess. Jacksonville was terrible on defense last year, and they could be even worse this season, as they could be starting two or three rookies in the secondary with no stand out pass rushers to help out up front. Jacksonville actually has a good group of rookies and a promising set of offensive skill players, which means Bradley could have them pointed in the right direction. But there may not be too many signs of improvement this season, and if there’s a team out there that could benefit from winning the top overall pick in next year’s draft and getting Jadeveon Clowney, it’s probably the Jaguars.
The best of the best readily available talent in the NFL have made their way to new teams and leagues through the draft and initial burst of free agency. Pickings are slim for teams looking to plug up whatever holes they may have left following these flurries of signings, picks and trades, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of top notch talent left on the market. All that’s left is to pick a destination for the best of those players, and pick I did. Organizational need, value, cap space and contender status were all taken into account and the best locations for each top notch free agent were adjudged accordingly. For a look at where some of your favorite stars may land according this methodology, it’s all here.
Charles Woodson, Denver Broncos: Woodson’s camp has already made a visit to Denver, and although they didn’t leave with a contract this time, I’m sure they’ll be back. This fit just makes too much sense not to happen. Woodson’s inching closer and closer to retirement, and while I’m sure he still wants to get paid, something tells me he’d like another run at a Super Bowl. All these things can be had in Denver. They have the need, they have the cap space to not brutally lowball Woodson and I’ll be damned if they aren’t a frontrunner to make it to the Super Bowl in the AFC.
Brian Urlacher, Minnesota Vikings: If there is one glaring deficiency in the Vikings roster post-draft, it’s at the middle linebacker position. They’re a young, inexperienced group that needs much veteran leadership and time under it to develop. Enter, Brian Urlacher. He’ll provide just that for this club and knowing Urlacher even more. Need, cap space, contender status. It’s all there in Minnesota and that’s why I’m picking them to land Urlacher. Besides, even as the bad guy I’m sure he’d like to play at least a few more games at Soldier Field.
Dwight Freeney, Tennessee Titans: This probably seems like a quirky pick, I’m sure, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Freeney doesn’t seem all that intent on taking a huge paycut, and the Titans have plenty of cap space. The Titans have also been trying to improve their pass rush forever and even the addition of Kamerion Wimbley has done little to help that. Freeney isn’t the every down player he used to be and maybe by sharing reps with Wimbley and Derrick Morgan the Titans can get the most out of all their defensive linemen.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts: Donald Brown is kind of bad and Vick Ballard has only shown flashes at the NFL level. While it’s not obvious, if you look long and hard at the Colts group of running backs, you notice there is certainly room for improvement. Bradshaw provides short term relief from having to hand the ball off to Brown and will be a great veteran for Ballard to learn from.
John Abraham, New England Patriots: Abraham’s camp and the Patriots have been contractually flirting with each since Abraham hit the market, and with good reason. This seems like a great fit for both sides. Abraham can line up just about anywhere and even at the ripe age of 35 he does everything well. He sets the edge, he gets pressure and is a great tackler. He’s also yet to win a Super Bowl, and ring needy veterans always seem to find their way to New England.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
The AFC South had one of the more mediocre drafts in the league this year, as none of the four teams graded out too high or too low. That’s made it tough to rank the teams on their performance during the draft, but here it goes:
1. Jacksonville – Although they didn’t take a quarterback, which many thought they needed to do, the Jaguars came out of the draft looking pretty good. The quarterback that will play will feel more secure with Luke Joeckel protecting his blindside, and he’ll also have a couple of dynamic lighting-quick playmakers in Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson. Both Sanders and Robinson were mid-round picks that will be able to help Jacksonville in the return game and turn short easy passes into big gains with their ability to run after the catch, giving the Jaguar’s offense much-needed speed.
Outside of those offensive improvements, the Jaguars focused on their secondary, which needed a lot of help. Safety John Cyprien, taken in the second round, and cornerback Dwayne Gratz, picked in the third round, should step in as starters in Jacksonville right away. Taking safety Josh Evans in the 6th round and a pair of big cornerbacks in the 7th round will also give Jacksonville depth in the secondary. While they didn’t address all their needs, the Jaguars did well to fix their biggest deficiencies from last year, which should make them noticeably better than last year at those positions.
2. Houston – The Texans didn’t blow anybody away with their draft class, but they added solid players in several key areas. The first thing they did was get a second outside receiver that can play alongside Andre Johnson, picking DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. They didn’t need to pick a safety so early after acquiring Ed Reed earlier this offseason, but they got a good one in the second round when they took D.J. Swearinger. After that, rather wisely, it was all about the line of scrimmage.
Both Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams will be good pass rushers for Houston, and both Brennan Williams and Davis Quessenberry will be assets on the offensive line. Houston didn’t get too many game changers in this draft, but with the picks they made there should be noticeable improvement for them at several positions all over the field.
3. Tennessee – Like the teams above, the Titans were solid but unspectacular in the draft. The biggest need Tennessee had was on the offensive line, and they addressed that need early with Chance Warmack, one of the top players in the draft, and they also addressed it later with center Brian Schwenke, who’s as quick and agile as any center in the NFL. They didn’t necessarily need a wide receiver, but when Justin Hunter fell for to them in the second round it was an easy decision to take him, and it can’t hurt to have a big target like Hunter with a quarterback that’s still trying to establish himself.
While the offense got a nice boost, the Titan’s defense wasn’t improved significantly. The top defensive player they took was cornerback Bildi Wreh-Wilson, but he may not be a full-time starter. Linebacker Zaviar Gooden and defensive end Lavar Edwards are nice additions as well, but nothing to get too excited about. The Titans also added some necessary depth to their secondary in the late rounds. All in all, it wasn’t a bad draft for the Titans, but they just didn’t do anything to stand out.
After having such a great draft a year ago, the Colts weren’t so impressive in this year’s draft. First round pick Bjoern Wener is a good fit for them and will fill the void left by Dwight Freeney, but without a second round pick, it was tough for Indianapolis to find another potential difference maker. They needed help along the offensive line, but Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes may not be anything more than average players.
In the later rounds the Colts were able to land a talented but under-rated defensive tackle in Montori Hughes and an athletic tight end in Justice Cunningham, both of whom are nice additions to their draft class. However, outside of Werner, the Colts didn’t add any difference makers in this draft, which is why they end up last in their division, although they’re close to the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league.