NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC South Teams

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Scouts give their thoughts on the Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC South Teams

The AFC South was the only division in the NFL last season with three teams that finished with a losing record. Reigning division champion Indianapolis went 11-5, while Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee combined for a 13-35 mark. With the Texans and Titans under new leadership and the Jaguars still rebuilding, there’s little debate, if any, that the Colts are heavy favorites to repeat as AFC South champs. So if the Colts are No. 1, which team is best positioned to challenge them or, at the very least, produce better results on the field in 2014?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC South breaks down entering the 2014 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 

 

Houston Texans

 

“No way this organization should have only won two games last year, but it just goes to show how quarterback play and turnovers override everything else.” …

 

“Gary Kubiak did not survive, so Bill O’Brien was brought in to fix the QB situation over the long haul and that’s why they chose Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall in the draft.” …

 

“When healthy, the Texans have enough skill with Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Arian Foster to pose some matchup problems, however, the right side of the offensive line and tight end positions need upgrades for them to compete at a high level again.” …

 

“O’Brien and GM Rick Smith signed Ryan Fitzpatrick for this year and drafted Tom Savage (Pittsburgh) in the fourth round, but the success of the QB spot will dictate how long this team stays down.” …

 

“The defense stays in the 3-4 and shifts from Wade Phillips to Romeo Crennel, both old-school pros that believe the players should be self-motivated, which makes for an interesting watch on Clowney.” …

 

“J.J. Watt is one of the best players in the entire league and has no trouble competing on a down-to-down basis.” …

 

“The Texans signed Jerrell Powe from KC to help at NT and drafted Louis Nix III (Notre Dame) as a reinforcement.” …

 

“Brian Cushing is a great player when healthy, but has missed 20 games over the past two years. Whitney Mercilus must step up opposite of Clowney and Brooks Reed may become the third LB on the outside and inside.” ...

 

“The secondary has been an Achilles heel since the Texans entered the league, maybe Kareem Jackson can improve, but he’s average and Johnathan Joseph wasn’t the same guy here as he was in Cincinnati.” …

 

“They drafted D.J. Swearinger as a strong safety and added Kendrick Lewis, who has never been able to run, so they are speed deficient in the back end.” …

 

“The biggest questions surrounding the Texans are the idea of a franchise QB and O’Brien’s ability to change the mentality of this team that some around the league questioned in terms of persistent toughness.” …

 

Indianapolis Colts

 

“Most around the league are envious of GM Ryan Grigson who had the good fortune of being able to pick QB Andrew Luck in his first draft, but he also picked a quality coach in Chuck Pagano and this organization has a chance to be competitive for a long time.” …

 

“The true test for Grigson and Pagano will be putting enough pieces in place around Luck and strengthening their defense in order to be in the Super Bowl conversation.” …

 

“Luck is legitimately a generational-level QB, look at what he has done in his first two seasons without a full complement of players around him and a defense that has been hit-and-miss.” …

 

“The offense should get a boost with the return of Reggie Wayne, TE Dwayne Allen and Ahmad Bradshaw from season-ending injuries, and the club is very hopeful that a full offseason with Trent Richardson will unlock the abilities he showed as an All-American talent at Alabama.” …

 

“In truth, the offensive line is average at best with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus being middle-tier performers at the tackle positions. Indy let Samson Satele go, so there is a ton of pressure on center Khalid Holmes who was a fourth-round pick in 2013.” …

 

“Defensively, DE Arthur Jones and LB D’Qwell Jackson are the two significant pieces added during free agency. Jones is a favorite of Pagano and Jackson was a consistent performer in bad circumstances at Cleveland.” …

 

“Bjoern Werner, their first-round pick from a year ago, needs to come through in a big way in order to provide some pass rush opposite of Robert Mathis. Mathis has had an amazing career and actually had his best year in 2013 with 19.5 sacks.” …

 

“Up front, keep an eye on Montori Hughes, he has the needed size/athleticism to potentially breakout in 2014.” …

 

“They lost FS Antwuan Bethea to the 49ers and the safety spot appears to be the weakest position on the roster.” …

 

“Vontae Davis re-signed, Greg Toler returns and Darius Butler has always had cover ability, but this is a thin group, too.” …

 

“Again, as long is Luck is healthy and they get positive play out of the players that are returning from injury, this team should contend for the Super Bowl on an annual basis.” …

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

 

“Head coach Gus Bradley’s enthusiasm and leadership was put to the test in 2013 because the Jaguars had the least-talented team in the entire NFL. They have the right ownership and front office (Shad Khan and GM Dave Caldwell) in place to steer the ship through this reclamation project.” …

 

“Offensively, Chad Henne is in place as the bridge QB, which will allow them to sit No. 3 overall draft pick Blake Bortles as a rookie. He will be developed the old-fashioned way and this should really pay dividends for the Jags in the end.” …

 

“Prior to the draft, this offense was very short on talent, but Luke Joeckel should become a legit left tackle, Marcedes Lewis still has something left and Cecil Shorts is as competitive as any WR in the league.” …

 

“I loved the selection of USC WR Marquise Lee and Penn State WR Allen Robinson, both should become future starters.” …

 

“They signed OG Zane Beadles from Denver and RB Toby Gerhart from Minnesota to provide more stability along the OL and in the backfield.” …

 

“Jacksonville should be able to compete more quickly on the defensive side of the football. They added Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Ziggy Hood to the front, to go along with incumbents Tyson Alualu and Sen’Derrick Marks.” …

 

“Paul Posluszny is very steady on the inside, but this LB group lacks a real difference-maker.” …

 

“Two 2013 rookies, corner Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien have pro futures, but again, this is another area of this team that needs to be upgraded.” …

 

“Owner Khan is taking the correct approach in letting Bradley and Caldwell reshape this roster, and with six wins or so in 2014, the momentum should build for the future. This division is not all that great, so they can make a move as soon as this year.” …

 

Tennessee Titans

 

“After 31 years as a player and coach, the Titans’ organization made the difficult decision to move away from Mike Munchak as head coach. GM Ruston Webster recruited offensive-minded Ken Whisenhunt really hard, because everyone’s fate is tied to the play of Jake Locker.” …

 

“On paper and in a snapshot, Locker has everything a team would want in a legitimate NFL signal-caller. However, on the field, his accuracy is inconsistent and his injury history has kept him from becoming their present and long-term answer at the position.” …

 

“Tennessee grew weary of RB Chris Johnson and parted ways with him in early April. Washington RB Bishop Sankey was their second-round choice and with Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle and Leon Washington, they have enough talent and depth there to make this work.” …

 

“Delanie Walker and Craig Stevens form a nice complementary duo at tight end and Kendall Wright has emerged as the best of an adequate group of receivers.” …

“Justin Hunter is a young prospect that could breakout in 2014 with more passes directed his way.” …

 

“They added Dexter McCluster and it will be interesting to see how he is utilized in this offense.” …

 

“The offensive line has always been a focus for the Titans and they drafted Michigan OT Taylor Lewan in the first round, despite there not being a pressing need with Michael Roos being a long-time veteran. Brian Schwenke, Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack form one of the best interior line units in the AFC, but newly signed Michael Oher could be the weakest link up front as the right tackle replacement for David Stewart.” …

 

“Ray Horton takes over as the defensive coordinator, so the Titans will shift from their traditional 4-3 and move to the 3-4. Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard were both signed from Denver and should pair off well with Akeem Ayers and  Colin McCarthy [Editor’s note: McCarthy suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second preseason game] .”…

 

“This scheme may hurt Derrick Morgan, but could help Kamerion Wimbley who re-structured his deal, so there are always unintended consequences when changing defensive philosophies.” …

 

“They did not retain Alterraun Verner and that puts big pressure on Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Jason McCourty. The back end seems secure with Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin.” …

 

“Barring injuries, if Whisenhunt can make a huge difference with Locker, this team is ahead of Houston and Jacksonville and could challenge for a playoff berth. Otherwise, the Titans will be in search of a franchise QB in 2015 or potentially turning the reins over to sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger from LSU.” …

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