Thursday, July 26, 2007

NFL Questions: AFC South appears that I have touched a few nerves with supporters of a few teams...and evidently there is at least one Detroit fan out there who is indeed a Matt Millen fan. Who knew?

A quick note before I start on the AFC South...

I have found that these NFL questions pieces are attracting feedback from readers who I am completely unfamiliar with. Well, welcome to the site. I welcome all feedback, and criticism - however, if I feel as though I am being personally attacked, I will respond in kind...btw, to the Baltimore fan who was defending McNair - I understand your point about the running game, but I still think the bigger issue is McNair - and no, it wasn't just the national press that was wondering about McNair's effectiveness last season: I live in an area where I see the Baltimore papers, and they weren't often kind to the signal caller.

Also understand, sometimes my questions about a team are the same being asked by the national media because a player or organization did more last season or during the off-season to enforce the question rather than the answer. These aren't predictions - these are places where, in the off-season, I perceive a team to have an issue. It doesn't mean that the issue will remain during the season. It's a fact that Rex Grossman was alternately the best or worst quarterback in the league on any given Sunday last season. It is a fact that the Bears coaches have been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to fix what they think may be a mechanical problem with his delivery in order to get rid of Bad Grossman. It is a fact that the Bears will struggle if Bad Grossman shows up. If he can even be mediocre Grossman through the entire season, it will likely be an improvement over a quarterback that had less than a 25.0 QB rating in 25 % of his games, and lower than a 2.0 in two of those.

If you come for debate, which I always welcome, come well armed.

And now for the AFC South, odd place that it is.

Houston Texans - Have the Texans done enough during the off-season to bolster their offensive line? A lot of pundits will ask about the acquisition of Matt Schaub and his roughly 50 percent completion percentage, and of course will make the comparisons to back-ups turn-bust-starters Rob Johnson and AJ Feeley. While this is a legitimate question and concern, the Texans problems since their inception has been the lack of a line that can protect. Sure they've produced a couple of 1000-yard running backs, but run blocking and pass blocking aren't the same thing.

If they haven't fixed the blocking, then it won't matter if they have Peyton Manning in their backfield. The results will be no different with Schaub than they were with David Carr.

Indianapolis Colts - Many will question the quality of a defense that was horrible during the regular season in light of the defections of close to half the starters, but the Colts have already proven they can overcome horrible defense. Can they overcome the loss of left tackle Tarik Glenn? Glenn's sudden retirement will put the Colts' newly drafted tackle Tony Ugoh- who was supposed to be Glenn's replacement down the road - to the test. If he struggles with the top pass rushing end from the opposing teams, look for some major changes to happen to the Colts offense, such as the tight ends being kept in for extra protection.

There has been talk of others playing the spot, such as switching Ryan Diem from right to left. The bottom line remains, if whoever plays on that side struggles, then the Colts become more limited in creating the mismatches they love in the passing game.

Jacksonville Jaguars - Beaten by teams like the Texans (twice), Bills, and Redskins, but with wins against the Cowboys, Colts, and Eagles, the big question to me is at signal caller. Maurice Jones-Drew proved more than adequate at running back, but the team again found itself relying on David Garrard due to an injury sustained by Byron Leftwich. The question that Jags fans have to be asking themselves is whether these signal-callers are the ones that can lead them to the promised land. Carbon copies of each other, Leftwich's development has been hindered by his inability to stay healthy, and Garrard's by his inability to beat Leftwich out for the starting job.

If either manages to start all 16 games, the team has a chance at the playoffs, otherwise it's likely to be another third place finish.

Tennessee Titans - There are a lot of questions for Tennessee and few answers. Teams have seen Vince Young and will prepare differently for him, and that could be cause for the old sophomore slump question, but I think any slump suffered here might have more to do with whether or not the Titans can produce a running game. To me that says that Young's success and progress are directly tied with either Chris Brown's health, or whether or not LenDale White has managed to pull his own head out of his ass and comes into camp in shape this year.

If the Titans aren't able to produce a running game from its running backs, Young will literally be left holding the ball. If that's the case, then Tennessee is going to see its top pick from last year take a beating which is never good for the development of a young quarterback.

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