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- AFC South Preview

Kevin Figgers August 22, 2006
Kevin Figgers
NFL Columnist

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We are rounding out our AFC predictions with the AFC South:

Houston Texans

Key Additions: LB Sam Cowart (Vikings)
C Mike Flanagan (Packers)
DE Ndukwe Kalu (Eagles
TE Jeb Putzier (Broncos)
OT Ephraim Salaam (Jaguars)
FB Jameel Cook (Buccaneers)
HB Antowain Smith (Saints)
OT Anthony Weaver (Ravens)
LB Wali Rainer (Lions)
S Michael Stone (Patriots)
WR Eric Moulds (Bills)
CB Dexter McCleon (Chiefs)

Key Losses: WR Corey Bradford (Lions)
S Marcus Coleman (Cowboys)
WR Jabar Gaffney (Eagles)
TE Marcellus Rivers (Raiders)
G Milford Brown (Cardinals)

New head coach Gary Kubiak has the unenviable task of jump-starting one of the most underachieving offenses in the AFC. Bringing in veterans like Mike Flanagan and Ephraim Salaam (who was with Kubiak in Denver) will bring veteran leadership and a new attitude to an offensive line that has given up the most sacks in the NFL since 2003. Should Dominick Davis not be able to go to start the season the running duties will most likely be split between veteran Antowain Smith and Vernand Morency. The defense is still a question mark. Bringing in ND Kalu helps the pass rush, however it is unknown by many, what to expect from #1 overall pick Mario Williams, whom many feel is still a project.

The Texans offense will show great improvement by the end of the season and the team will definitely turn some heads heading in to 2007.

Projected Record: 5-11

Tennessee Titans

Key Additions: WR David Givens (Patriots)
S Chris Hope (Steelers)
LB David Thornton (Colts)

Key Losses: LB Rocky Boiman (Cowboys)
C Justin Hartwig (Panthers)
S Tank Williams (Vikings)
S Lance Schulters (Dolphins)
LB Brad Kassell (Jets)

Not much is expected from the Tennessee Titans in 2006. However, they did add some key veterans to an otherwise very young team. Many expect veteran Billy Volek to begin the year as the teams starting quarterback, giving way to #1 pick Vince Young later in the season. However, knowing Jeff Fisher he’s not going to throw a guy in to play just because he was a high draft pick, or just because people want to see him play. Fisher will the play the guy who he feels gives the team the best chance to win, and right now, Volek is the guy. The Titans will struggle a bit defensively in 2006. They have almost completely re-tooled their defense since their last playoff run a few years ago, and they are going through a major youth movement on that side of the ball.

The Titans will surprise some people with how they are able to score points. The problem will be that their defense will give up just as many points themselves.

Projected Record: 4-12

Jacksonville Jaguars

Key Additions: CB Brian Williams (Vikings)
OT Mike Williams (Bills)
LB Nick Greisen (Giants)
OT Stocker McDougal (Dolphins)
WR Troy Edwards (Lions)

Key Losses: LB Akin Ayodele (Cowboys)
CB Kenny Wright (Redskins)
LB Jamie Winbourne (Buccaneers)
OT Mike Pearson (Dolphins)
OT Ephraim Salaam (Texans)

Many believe that the 2005 season was an anomaly for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They look up and down the roster and ask “How does THAT team win 12 games?” No question that is was because of that defense. The Jaguars probably boast the best defensive line the AFC with the two monsters in the middle (Henderson and Stroud) along with veteran Marcellus Riley and pass rush specialist Reggie Hayward. There’s no question that if Jacksonville wants to take the next step to become a championship caliber team, they must improve offensively. The offensive line has been inconsistent, Reggie Williams has been an absolute bust as a former #1 pick as a WR, and Fred Taylor can’t stay healthy for the life of him. It doesn’t help matters that the best receiver in franchise history, Jimmy Smith, has retired.

In 2006 the Jacksonville Jaguars will return the earth. They will continue to be very good defensively, however the loss of Smith takes away their only legitimate offensive threat. The need big years from the likes of Reggie Williams, a healthy Fred Taylor, and Matt Jones in order to be successful on offense, and I just don’t see it happening.

Projected Record: 7-9

Indianapolis Colts

Key Additions: K Adam Vinatieri (Patriots)
QB Shaun King (Cardinals- ’04)

Key Losses: LB David Thornton (Titans)
WR Troy Walters (Cardinals)
HB Edgerrin James (Cardinals)
K Mike Vanderjagt (Cowboys)
DT Larry Tripplett (Bills)

The kings of the regular season enter into the 2006 campaign with the same old mission: winning a championship. The Colts haven’t done anything to hurt themselves, bringing in the most clutch kicker in the game today in Adam Vinatieri. The big question is, how will the offense will perform after losing Edgerrin James? As good as he is, James is still one of the most underrated running backs in the game. I think he is a huge loss in the sense that a lot of what the Colts do is based on play action passing. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai must prove that they can be effective running the ball in order for the Colts to continue their offensive dominance. The Colts possess probably the fastest defense in the AFC, not the best, but the fastest. They will give up their share of points, but if they continue to make plays and cause turnovers like they did last season, the Colts will remain one of the AFC’s elite and will make their annual trip deep into January.

Projected Record: 12-4


Later this week we will delve into the NFC with predictions for the East and North divisions...


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