Preseason Watchlist - AFC South
By Jason Wood
July 27th, 2012

Houston Texans

  • Link: http://www.houstontexans.com/news/camp-central.html
  • Location: Methodist Training Center (Houston, TX)
  • Dates: July 22 (Rookies) & July 27 (Vets) August 10
  • Open to the public? Limited (see website for details)
  • The Texans finally broke through and made it to the playoffs as well as won the AFC South with a 10-6 record. This was in spite of losing Matt Schaub with six games left in the regular season. Rookie T.J. Yates stepped into the mix and did enough to let the exemplary run game and attacking defense win games. As the Texans return to camp, the key questions will revolve around the health of their franchise passer and receiver, and building off last year's successes particularly as the defense gets better acclimated to Wade Phillips' system.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • Sat, Aug 11 - @ Carolina - 7:00 PM
  • Sat, Aug 18 - vs San Francisco 8:00 PM
  • Sat, Aug 25 - @ New Orleans - 8:00 PM
  • Thu, Aug 30 - vs Minnesota - 7:00 PM
  • What We're Watching

  • What can we expect from QB Matt Schaub? Schaub suffered a Lisfranc injury and missed the final six games, and sat out the entire preseason. The good news is Schaub is medically cleared to participate in camp, and if he is a full participant one could argue he deserves to be drafted higher than his current QB14.

  • Rebuilding the right side of the offensive line Many considered the Texans' offensive line as the league's best, and Eric Winston was considered one of the league's top right tackles. Yet the Texans gave him his walking papers. Right guard Mike Brisiel also left in free agency which means the Texans will start two new players on the right side. Those players are almost certainly OT Rashad Butler and OG Antoine Caldwell given their veteran experience, but Derek Newton and Brandon Brooks aren't going to just hand over the jobs.

  • Is WR Andre Johnson healthy? Andre Johnson is one of the two or three best receivers in the NFL, but his injury history is concerning. Johnson missed three games in 2010 and then nine games last year, and has undergone procedures on his ankle, hamstring and knee. Given Johnson's ADP (WR3, 16th overall), fantasy owners aren't worried too much about his injury history but make sure Johnson is a full participant in camp before you spend fair value.

  • Do the Texans have a viable alternative at WR? If you've never heard of Lestar Jean or DeVier Posey, don't feel bad. Yet, they represent the likely alternatives to the aging (and pedestrian) Kevin Walter at receiver. Hopefully one of the younger receivers will stand out in training camp, making them a worthy late round flier.

  • Is TE Owen Daniels being overlooked? Owen Daniels was a top 8 fantasy tight end in 2007 and 2008, but injuries robbed him of that status over the next two seasons. Last year he was finally healthy, but finished TE16 which is exactly where he's being drafted this year. Is Daniels being overlooked now that Matt Schaub is healthy again? If you don't pay a high pick for one of the stud tight ends, Daniels as part of a two tight end committee approach later in drafts might be the smart play.
  • Indianapolis Colts

  • Link: http://www.anderson.edu/colts/
  • Location: Anderson University (Anderson, IN)
  • Dates: July 29 August 17
  • Open to the public? YES (free of charge)
  • The Colts return to Anderson University a completely different organization than the last time they were there. The Colts have a new general manager (Ryan Grigson), head coach (Chuck Pagano), offensive coordinator (Bruce Arians), defensive coordinator (Greg Manusky), quarterback (Andrew Luck), tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen), not to mention new offensive and defensive systems. Needless to say, the Colts are in rebuilding mode and very much a wild card; but also one of the more fascinating teams to watch this preseason.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • Sun, Aug 12 - vs St. Louis - 1:30 PM
  • Sun, Aug 19 - @ Pittsburgh - 8:00 PM
  • Sat, Aug 25 - @ Washington - 4:00 PM
  • Thu, Aug 30 - vs Cincinnati - 7:00 PM
  • What We're Watching

  • Establishing a new culture Usually a team undergoes wholesale changes in an attempt to reverse years of struggle or at best mediocrity. The Colts are coming from an entirely different mindset though. Last year was forgettable, but it was driven by an injury to their Hall of Fame quarterback. Fans are used to 10-12 wins and being a perennial contender. Can the new coaching staff reasonably re-create the same kind of winning culture given the turnover?

  • How fast is QB Andrew Luck's learning curve? Andrew Luck was the consensus top pick and probably the least controversial QB prospect since John Elway. How quickly can Luck become a capable NFL passer? He's got all the tools, and will be given the reins immediately, but there are questions in terms of the offensive line, run game and supporting receivers. Fantasy owners are drafting Luck 20th among QBs, ahead of the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Alex Smith would you make the same bet?

  • Establishing the offensive line The Colts offense is only going to be as good as the new offensive line. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is secure, but there could be new starters at every other position. Joe Reitz is no guarantee to hold off Ben Ijalana at guard. Samson Satele is a free agent addition at center. Mike McGlynn is a free agent addition at right guard. And last but not least, Winston Justice was acquired via trade to start at right tackle. Lots of questions, and very little time to build cohesion.

  • Is RB Donald Brown a potential bell cow? Donald Brown may be the last running back drafted that stands a better than 50% chance of being his team's workhorse. He's currently being drafted 36th overall, after quite a few part-time players and outright backups. Although Brown hasn't been a star in his first three seasons, he's shown flashes and appears to have the new coaches' confidence. Head coach Pagano has called him an every down back, and if Brown has a strong camp you need to be sure to capitalize on his lower-than-justified ADP.

  • Is TE Coby Fleener the tight end to target? Coby Fleener was Andrew Luck's college roommate, and his favorite target. It stands to reason he'll serve as a security blanket for the young quarterback, which explains his ADP (TE15). Yet, fellow rookie Dwayne Allen has his supporters, with some of our own staff believing Allen has the brighter NFL future.

  • Do the Colts have the personnel for a 3-4 front? Chuck Pagano is abandoning the 4-3 defensive front and Tampa-2 schemes that defined the Colts under Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, in favor of a base 3-4 defense that Pagano coached in Baltimore. The question is, do the Colts have the personnel for the change? Their two best defenders Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, are being moved to outside linebacker. It's unclear whether either pass rusher can legitimately drop back into coverage. Although the Colts have a number of big bodies at defensive tackle, none are top level anchors. And the biggest question is whether CBs Jerraud Powers and Kevin Thomas can handle the man-to-man coverage that often comes with Pagano's schemes.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Link: http://jacksonville.com/sports/football/jaguars/2012-07-21/story/jaguars-training-camp-info
  • Location: Everbank Field (Jacksonville, FL)
  • Dates: July 26 August 19
  • Open to the public? Limited (see website for details)
  • The Jaguars are starting a new era under owner Shad Khan that includes a new head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. In spite of the changeover, the team opted to keep Mel Tucker in place as the defensive coordinator, in recognition of last year's respectable showing (11th in points allowed, 6th in yards allowed). With the defense in seemingly good shape, training camp will be largely about trying to fix one of least impressive offenses we've seen in years.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • Fri, Aug 10 - vs New York Giants - 7:30 PM
  • Fri, Aug 17 - @ New Orleans - 8:00 PM
  • Thu, Aug 23 - @ Baltimore - 7:30 PM
  • Thu, Aug 30 - vs Atlanta - 6:30 PM
  • What We're Watching

  • Can Mike Mularkey fix QB Blaine Gabbert? In spite of Cam Newton's heroics, it's not unusual to see rookie quarterbacks struggle. But Blaine Gabbert did more than struggle; he had one of the worst seasons by a passer in the modern era. Gabbert didn't trust his offensive line, he felt pressure when there wasn't any, and often made the wrong reads. Will the new coaching staff stick with the 2nd year pro, or might veteran Chad Henne get an opportunity faster than most expect?

  • Will RB Maurice Jones-Drew play without a new contract? Last year, Maurice Jones-Drew fell into the late 1st round in most drafts because of fears over his offseason knee surgery. Those who rolled the dice were justly rewarded as Jones-Drew led the NFL with 1,606 rushing yards on a respectable 4.7 yards per rush. The talented runner has two years left on his contract, but is planning on holding out in hopes of a new deal. What will a protracted hold out mean for the Jaguars, as well as Jones-Drew's risk profile?

  • Is WR Justin Blackmon ready to contribute immediately? Blackmon pled guilty to DUI, and the Jaguars are probably going to demand to have language in his rookie contract that protects them from future alcohol-related concerns. If Blackmon can put this transgression behind him, he has every opportunity to play a significant role immediately. In fact, the Jaguars are counting on it. Right now fantasy owners are hedging their bets (108th overall, 38th receiver) in early drafts, but if Blackmon makes highlight reel plays in preseason games, expect that ADP to creep higher.

  • Can WR Laurent Robinson handle a prominent role? Robinson parlayed last year's breakout (858 yards and 11 TDs in his first year in Dallas) into a big contract from the receiver-starved Jaguars. Is Robinson capable of flourishing as starter and possible number one? Last year he was no better than the Cowboys #2, and quite often the 3rd or 4th target.

  • Is TE Marcedes Lewis a potential hidden gem? Fantasy owners have short memories. Lewis was the 4th ranked fantasy TE in 2010, but last year struggled (zero TDs, 33rd fantasy TE) and is now a draft afterthought. But new head coach Mike Mularkey made the most of Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta and has favored the TE throughout his coaching career. The Jaguars need options in the passing game, so why can't Lewis rebound?

  • LBs Clint Session vs. Russell Allen The Jaguars defensive starters are mostly set (barring injury), but Clint Session is going to have to hold off Russell Allen for one of the outside linebacker positions.
  • Tennessee Titans

  • Link: http://www.titansonline.com/news/article-1/Titans-Set-Schedule-for-Public-Training-Camp-Practices/
  • Location: Baptist Sports Park (Nashville, TN)
  • Dates: July 29 August 19
  • Open to the public? YES (free of charge)
  • The Titans hold one of the longer training camps in the NFL running almost through the end of August. You can be sure this will be an intense camp as the Titans look to avoid last season's disastrous start and build off the 8-2 finish. The Titans avoided their biggest concern by coming to terms on a "short-term fix" with RB Chris Johnson that will accelerate some bonus money due to him. As a result, he'll be in camp on time ready to make another run at the record books. The Titans have a lot of starters written in pencil and they need to be sharp in camp to keep from getting erased for younger options.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • Sat, Aug 11 - @ Seattle - 10:00 PM
  • Fri, Aug 17 - @ Tampa Bay - 7:30 PM
  • Thu, Aug 23 - vs Arizona - 8:00 PM
  • Thu, Aug 30 - vs New Orleans - 7:00 PM
  • What We're Watching

  • QBs Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker The old lion versus the young buck. Hasselbeck (37 years old in September) is a grizzled veteran but remains an effective quarterback. He completed 62% of his passes and threw for 3,571 yards a year ago with 18 touchdowns. But the Titans are hoping 2nd year Jake Locker can be great which we know Hasselbeck cannot be at this advanced stage of his career. Our view is that the Titans want to give the job to Locker, but he'll have to be as good, if not better than Hasselbeck. He won't simply be handed the job in camp.

  • Is RB Chris Johnson back to form? A lot of people were burned by Chris Johnson last year, as the former 2,000-yard rusher showed up last year out of shape and seemingly uninspired during much of the season (after signing a huge contract in the offseason). But at 26 years old and in his prime, Johnson is talented enough to re-emerge. It's all about commitment and work ethic. Johnson's had a strong preseason, and if he carries that into training camp, expect his ADP to rocket back toward the 1st half of the first round.

  • What to do with WR Kenny Britt? Kenny Britt is a polarizing figure. Over the last two seasons he's been the picture of a true #1 receiver when healthy. Unfortunately he's missed 17 of 32 games over that span. Now we've found out he's had several knee procedures in the offseason, and was just recently arrested for DUI which is the fourth arrest in the last two offseasons. On pure talent, Britt is worthy of top 10 WR consideration. But given the potential of a possible suspension, and the questions about his knees, he's a risky proposition even at his current ADP of WR25 (62nd overall).

  • Can Kendall Wright make a major impact? Many draft pundits think rookie Kendall Wright is the most NFL ready of the rookie receivers, which could be just what the Titans need given Kenny Britt's issues. Can Wright make an immediate impact, and if so should fantasy owners draft him in the late rounds as a high upside sleeper?

  • How good is the offensive line? With head coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Mathews both storied former linemen, it stands to reason the Titans line should be a strength. While the tackles (Michael Roos and David Stewart) are secure, the interior needs cementing. Veteran free agent Steve Hutchinson will lock down the left guard spot, but both center Eugene Amano and right guard Leroy Harris will have plenty of competition in camp from the likes of Kevin Matthews and Fernando Velsaco.

  • Re-establishing a pass rush The Titans ranked 31st in sacks (28) last year and need to find a way to get more pressure so that the talented defensive backs can have more opportunity to make plays. Defensive tackle Karl Klug led the team with 7 sacks, hardly a recipe for defensive dominance. Derrick Morgan (2.5 sacks in 15 games) is still penciled in as a starter but hopefully free agent Kamerion Wimbley (7 sacks last year in Oakland) will help on the other side. Where else is the help going to come from?
  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to wood@footballguys.com.

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