Preseason Watchlist - AFC South
By Jason Wood
July 26th, 2010

Houston Texans

  • Link: http://www.houstontexans.com/fanzone/2010TrainingCamp.asp
  • Location: Methodist Training Center (Houston, TX)
  • Dates: July 30 (Rooks & Vets) - August 7
  • Open to the public? - Limited (see website for details)
  • The Texans are coming off their best season in many ways and appear finally on the verge of playoff contention. This year the team, once again, ushers in a new offensive coordinator, but very little will change because Rick Dennison is from the same Mike Shanahan school of thought that Gary Kubiak teaches. On defense, the big challenge will be generating more big plays (25th in sacks, 20th in INTs last year) in spite of losing their best cover corner to free agency and LB Brian Cushing to a 4-game suspension.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/14 - @Arizona (8:00 PM EST)
  • 8/21 - @New Orleans (8:00 PM EST)
  • 8/28 - Dallas (8:00 PM EST)
  • 9/02 - Tampa Bay (8:00 PM EST)
  • What We're Watching

  • RBs Steve Slaton vs. Arian Foster vs. Ben Tate - Every fantasy owner has their own opinion about the Texans RB situation, but we'll soon have answers. Slaton is just a season removed from a Top 10 fantasy showing, but has been largely discounted after last season's debacle. He promises to be ready for training camp in which case he and last year's surprise Arian Foster will butt heads trying to stake their claims. Ben Tate will also compete, although fantasy owners have been too quick to assume he'll be a winner. What no one wants is a three-way committee, and yet that's quite possible.

  • TE Owen Daniels status - Owen Daniels tore his ACL and is still recovering as the team starts camp. Even though Daniels is a fantasy star, his absence might not be as problematic as many believe because of the presence of James Casey and Garrett Graham.

  • Settling on the interior O-line - All three interior line spots are up for grabs in camp. Mike Brisiel, Antoine Caldwell, Kasey Studdard, Wade Smith, Chris White and Chris Myers all need to prove they deserve spots on the 53-man roster.

  • WRs Kevin Walter vs. Jacoby Jones - Every offseason we hear that Jacoby Jones has matured and people start thinking he'll displace Kevin Walter. Yet, Walter was re-signed as a priority free agent and Jones still needs to prove it in camp. The winner is going to get plenty of looks for a passing offense that can produce 5,000 yards under optimal conditions.

  • Replacing CB Dunta Robinson - The Texans let their star corner leave in free agency and are counting on rookie 1st rounder Kareem Jackson filling the gaping void. Quin Glover is the odds on favorite to start on the other side but must fend off Jacques Reeves and Fred Bennett.

  • PKs Kris Brown vs. Neil Rackers - Unlike many kicker battles, this is a contest between two above average PKs and whoever loses is quite likely to end up a starting PK for another team in need.

  • Indianapolis Colts

  • Link: http://www.anderson.edu/colts/
  • Location: Anderson University (Anderson, IN)
  • Dates: August 1 (Rooks & Vets) - August 18
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • The Colts return to Anderson University for the first time since 1997, and will be there for just under three weeks. Coming off a Super Bowl loss, in most ways this will be business as usual for a veteran laden squad. But things will be slightly different at the margin, as a number of key players are making noises about their contract status. Peyton Manning will have a new offensive coordinator for the first time in his career, as Clyde Christensen takes over for the retired Tom Moore. The team's top rookies are probably playing for key backup roles, but a few have a puncher's chance at winning starting jobs.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/15 - San Francisco (1:00 PM EST)
  • 8/19 - @Buffalo (7:30 PM EST)
  • 8/26 - @Green Bay (8:00 PM EST)
  • 9/03 - Cincinnati (7:00 PM EST)
  • What We're Watching

  • Will the Colts stars report despite contract tensions? - QB Peyton Manning, DE Robert Mathis and WR Reggie Wayne all want new contracts, and all probably deserve them. But with camp looming it's unclear whether the Colts can or will re-work any of their deals. Manning won't let his contract situation impact his role as the team's on-field leader, but Wayne and Mathis are less certain.

  • Who starts alongside WR Reggie Wayne? - Fantasy owners seem convinced that Pierre Garcon is the new starter but that's far from assured and ultimately camp will shape the WR depth chart. Austin Collie, because of his particular skill set, seems the best fit for the slot which puts Anthony Gonzalez and Garcon head-to-head for the WR2 position. Needless to say, the WR2 on the Colts is a fantasy commodity, but right now it's a clouded situation wrought with risk on draft day.

  • Can RB Donald Brown push Joseph Addai? - Donald Brown was supposed to push Joseph Addai last year and it never happened. Addai delivered another Top 10 fantasy season and yet fantasy owners seem poised to count him out yet again. Brown has to work his way into a full time share before he can even entertain the idea of taking over the main role; but this camp will be the first step in proving he deserved the 1st round pick the Colts used on him.

  • SLBs Pat Angerer vs. Philip Wheeler - 2nd rounder Pat Angerer probably slots as Gary Brackett's backup but could contend for the starting spot on the strong side with a good camp; and provided Phillip Wheeler doesn't lock down the job.

  • The quest for a dynamic kick returner - Sam Giguere needs to hold off Brandon James and Ray Fisher for the KR return honors. Giguere is a long-shot to make the roster if he doesn't.

  • Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Link: http://www.jaguars.com/news/article.aspx?id=9013
  • Location: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (Jacksonville, FL)
  • Dates: July 29 (Rooks & Vets) - August 5
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • The Jaguars are on notice from top to bottom, with everyone from the head coach to the starting quarterback on a short leash. This has the makings of a tense training camp where everyone is going to have to earn their jobs, and there will probably be some surprising outcomes including a 53-man roster that may defy conventional wisdom. At least this year the Jaguars will stick with a 4-3 front after an experimental transition last season left the team floundering.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/13 - @Philadelphia (7:30 PM EST)
  • 8/21 - Miami (7:30 PM EST)
  • 8/28 - @Tampa Bay (7:30 PM EST)
  • 9/02 - Atlanta (7:30 PM EST)
  • What We're Watching

  • Is QB David Garrard the uncontested starter? - David Garrard is, yet again, a trendy fantasy backup who many believe will outperform his ADP. Yet, given the Jaguars struggles to put points on the board in the passing game, is it a foregone conclusion Garrard remains the starter? Might Luke McCown have at least a puncher's chance at earning the job?

  • Who plays the WR2 and WR3 roles? - Mike Thomas quietly caught 48 passes last year as a rookie but lacked explosiveness (9.4 yards per catch and 1 TD). He has the chance to start alongside Mike Sims-Walker but may be better suited for the slot. Jarett Dillard didn't make a mark (6 receptions for 106 yards) as a rookie but has as good a chance as Troy Williamson to start on the outside. The question is whether any of this group has fantasy value.

  • Who's backing up RB Maurice Jones-Drew? - MJD has been a durable workhorse but the Jaguars are at their best when they have two credible threats at tailback. Second-year Rashad Jennings has some competition from rookie Deji Karim, who has opened eyes in mini-camps.

  • Can TE Zach Miller emerge? - The Jags need receiving weapons and Zach Miller is a compelling long shot. Currently 3rd on the depth chart, he could skyrocket into a big role with a strong camp, and ultimately be an intriguing fantasy contributor as the season wears on.

  • Have the offseason additions fixed the pass rush? - The Jaguars gave new meaning to pass rush ineptitude (14 sacks) last year and could double last year and still be among the league's worst units. The team added veteran Aaron Kampman but that's not enough by itself. Can MLB Kirk Morrison's presence free up the outside linebackers to blitz more? Can DE Austen Lane displace Derrick Harvey and provide pressure?

  • Settling on a defensive tackle rotation - The Jaguars hope that rookie 1st round Tyson Alualu makes an immediate impression and starts alongside Terrance Knighton, but D'Anthony Smith and Atiyyah Ellison hope to stem Alualu's development.

  • Tennessee Titans

  • Link: Training Camp Information
  • Location: Baptist Sports Park (Nashville, TN)
  • Dates: July 31 (Rooks & Vets) - August 26
  • 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

  • 8/14 - @Seattle (10:00 PM EST)
  • 8/23 - Arizona (8:00 PM EST)
  • 8/28 - @Carolina (8:00 PM EST)
  • 9/02 - New Orleans (8:00 PM EST)
  • What We're Watching

  • Will QB Vince Young finally put the pieces together? - Has there been a bigger rollercoaster than Vince Young? A darling of ownership and the toast of the town followed by a monumental meltdown in favor of journeyman game manager in Kerry Collins and then an unexpected second chance last year. Young has the opportunity to put himself back on the board as the Titans franchise and comes into camp in phenomenal shape. Will he be a Phoenix and rise from the ashes, or was last year's pressure free second half a tease to what will inevitably be another letdown?

  • Who will spell RB Chris Johnson? - When you set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage chances are you aren't going to come off the field very much. But even Johnson will need someone to back him up on a team that wants to run the ball 500+ times and that means Javon Ringer, Alvin Pearman, Stafon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount all have a chance to work into the backup rotation.

  • Is TE Bo Scaife guaranteed the top job? - Scaife and Young played together in college and he's done a workmanlike job as the Titans starter. But he's not an elite player and the Titans can use more difference makers. Jared Cook, a 3rd rounder last year, has that kind of potential and the coaches want him to push his way into a prominent role in camp, if he's capable.

  • Is WR Kenny Britt a star or not? - Fantasy owners have focused on Kenny Britt and view him as the only Titans receiver worthy of a draft choice. Yet, he enters training camp technically a second teamer, which may ultimately be posturing by the coaches because he was out of shape during the offseason workouts. But can someone seemingly in the coaches' dog house turn himself into an emerging star over a few weeks of the preseason? It might be more of a risk if his "competition" wasn't Nate Washington and Justin Gage.

  • Is DE Derrick Morgan the answer at rush end? - The Titans selected Morgan in the 1st round and need him to make an impact right away as the team finished just 18th in sacks last year. If he's unable to grasp the system, Jason Babin and Jacob Ford will push for the chance to start opposite William Hayes.

  • OLBs Rennie Curran vs. Will Witherspoon - Witherspoon played well in Philadelphia last year but the team didn't retain his services. He seems like a great fit in Tennessee's attacking 4-3 defense but will be pressed by rookie 3rd rounder Rennie Curran in camp.

  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to wood@footballguys.com.

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