It’s that time of year! The NFL is just about locked and loaded. As a part of a virtual tour around the NFL, let’s take a look at what teams have done over the off-season to improve their odds in 2009. Today’s division of choice? The AFC South.
The Texans didn’t do much to their offense over the off-season. They finished in the top 5 last year, so they aren’t going to fix what isn’t broken. The only noticeable transaction was letting QB Sage Rosenfels go to the Minnesota Vikings and signing Dan Orlovsky to replace him. They also drafted Antoine Caldwell out of Alabama to add depth to their offensive line.
The defense saw a number of changes. The Texans saw DeMarcus Faggins, Morlon Greenwood, Will Demps and Anthony Weaver go bye-bye. They replaced Greenwood with linebacker Cato June and they will have Antonio Smith, formerly of the Cardinals, fill the void at end left by Weaver’s departure. The Texans drafted LB Brian Cushing out of USC. Cushing is a future star at linebacker, thought to be the best of a vaunted USC defense from a year ago.
The Colts didn’t make any whopping big moves this off-season. Instead, they just beefed up a few places of concern on each side of the ball. On defense, the team got a couple of new defensive tackles. Ed Johnson, a 296-pound beast, will return to the team. Also, Terrance Taylor, a 320-pound monster, will look to add some size to a defensive line that was entirely too small last season.
On offense, the team saw Marvin Harrison let go, and they drafted the Connecticut sensation, Donald Brown, at running back. Expect Brown to see a lot of time this year, as there are some concerns with the durability aspect of Joseph Addai. Brown is very much in the mold of Addai, with superior running and receiving skills, and he already has a good reputation as a blocker coming out of college.
What do you do when you had the best record in the NFL last season, but you lost your best player during the off-season? You pray you can replace him. That’s what the Titans are doing now that DT Albert Haynesworth is playing with the Washington Redskins. They went on to draft defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to add some depth to their defensive line and hopefully to get some playing time out of him this season, but certainly he is a long ways away from being Haynesworth.
On offense, the Titans focused on the passing game during the draft, acquiring wide receiver Kenny Britt from Rutgers and tight end Jared Cook from South Carolina. Both players come from explosive offensive systems that spread the field and looked to the get the ball down the sidelines. Certainly, the Titans could use a lot more of that on their offense, which was truly hampered by a lack of talent in the passing game. The Titans also acquired Nate Washington from Pittsburgh, in hopes that his slot production from last year can translate into being a lead receiver for this Titans team.
Think the Jaguars want to fix their pass protection problems from a year ago? That would certainly explain why three of their moves this offseason addressed the offensive line. First, they signed Tra Thomas away from the Eagles. Certainly, Thomas is not what he used to be, but he certainly can stabilize that left side with his consistency and his unlikelihood of making a major mistake. The Jaguars also got two tackles out of the draft, selecting Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, one of which is sure to start this season.
The Jags also had big overhaul at the wideout position. They let Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Jerry Porter go their separate ways, and brought in Torry Holt. Like Thomas, Holt is not the guy he used to be, but he remains one of the best route runners in the league, so he could be vital to the Jaguars 3rd down passing game, as he generally has no problem getting open on intermediate routes over the middle of the field.