We continue our weekly checkups on the mock drafts by the Houston Chronicle's John McClain.

Clowney
He gave quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel to the Texans in his first two mock drafts, and then created waves around the NFL when, after months of insisting there was no way the Texans' wouldn't select a quarterback, he switched to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

The top five looked similar this week, but Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins jumped into fouth, ahead of Bortles and knocking Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews out of the top five. Matthews, by the way, is reportedly visiting the Texans this week.

When I asked McClain about switching to Clowney last week, he joked that he had three more mocks and hoped to get one right. But this time, McClain stuck with Clowney, who is quickly becoming the league-wide favorite in the attempt to guess the Texans' first pick. Teams around the league, not just media members, believe this will be the pick.

What does it all mean? It means if a team really, really wants Clowney, it will be thinking really, really hard about whether it can afford to jump into the top spot.
The Tennessee Titans have hosted Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor on pre-draft visits.

Too much can be made of those visits.

I don’t think Tennessee can draft a player in the first round who wouldn’t be expected to play right away.

Griffin
Lewan
While commitment to players can certainly change as a new coaching staff takes over, Michael Griffin is entrenched as the starting free safety alongside strong safety Bernard Pollard. George Wilson was a quality third safety in 2013.

If the Titans surprised as with Clinton-Dix or Pryor, would that mean the end of Griffin?

He signed a five-year, $35 million deal in 2012 that came with $15 million guaranteed including a $9 million signing bonus. So far he’s collected $19 million of that.

Griffin’s base salary kicks up to $6.2 million this year. It was $3.5 million last year.

I don’t think a scenario where the Titans draft a safety and make a move with Griffin is at all likely.

But if they decide Clinton-Dix or Pryor is their man in the first round, maybe after a trade down, they won’t have playing time for four healthy safeties.

At his best, Griffin plays a solid centerfield. At his worst, he takes bad angles and misses too many tackles.

If he were a surprising cut, the Titans would swallow $5.4 million in remaining signing bonus, which would amount to an $800,000 savings. (If the move came after June 1 or was designated as after June 1, they could take $1.8 million of that hit in 2014 and the remaining $3.6 million in 2015.)

They have quite a bit of free money right now, so it wouldn’t be a move made out of financial need.

The Titans haven’t had an offensive tackle in for a visit as far as we know.

Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews will be gone before the Titans go on the clock. Taylor Lewan is widely regarded as the third-best tackle and could be a good value at No. 11 or after a trade down.

In 2015, the Titans could be in need of a new left tackle. Michael Roos is entering the ninth year of his career and the final year of his contract, which is worth $6.625 million.

But picking a tackle at No. 11 would give the Titans three starting tackles in 2013 -- the newcomer, Roos, and Michael Oher. The Titans signed Oher, the veteran Baltimore tackle, to a four-year, $20 million free-agent contract. They could get out of that after one year and $6 million.

As with safety, it would be odd roster construction to draft a tackle given what the Titans currently have on the roster.

I think we’ll see them going a different direction.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Center Phil Costa wasn't even around long enough to be asked about dating Hulk Hogan's daughter let alone possibly hike the ball to quarterback Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts.

Costa, in a surprising announcement, has decided to retire.

"Phil feels it's in his best interest to retire from the game," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement released by the team. "We certainly understand and wish him nothing but the best."

The Colts signed Costa to a two-year, $2.7 million contract that included $450,000 guaranteed last month.

UPDATE: The Colts do not have to pay Costa any of the guaranteed money he was scheduled to make since he decided to retire.

The idea was for Costa to compete with Khaled Holmes for the starting center position, but I got the sense that the Colts were hoping Holmes would win the job. Costa, who started with the Dallas Cowboys in 2011, was beat out by rookie Travis Frederick last season.

Holmes only played 12 snaps and was a healthy inactive 11 times last season as a rookie.

Now the Colts are in serious of need of adding another center to the roster. This isn't a position they should be in with their franchise player Luck. The little bit of good news out of Costa telling the Colts he was retiring is that he did it now and not after training camp had already started. It gives Grigson some time to try to find another center to add to the roster.

Alex Mack?

Nope. The Cleveland Browns quickly matched the offer the Jacksonville Jaguars gave him.

Mike McGlynn?

McGlynn, who plays guard and center, was the best center on the Colts' roster last season, but the team had no interest in re-signing him. McGlynn is now with the Washington Redskins.

Samson Satele?

Next.

Kyle Cook, Mike Gibson and Steve Vallos are the three best centers still available on the free agent market, according to Bill Polian's free agent tracker.

Grigson said during the NFL owners' meetings last month that he wasn't overly impressed with the group of free agent centers.

That takes us to the draft. The Colts' first pick is not until No. 59 in the second round.

Here's a recap of the top 10 centers in the draft, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.:

1. Marcus Martin, USC
2. Weston Richburg, Colorado St.
3. Russell Bodine, North Carolina
4. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
5. Jonotthan Harrison, Florida
6. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
7. James Stone, Tennessee
8. Bryan Stork, Florida St.
9. Corey Linsley, Ohio St.
10. Tyler Larsen, Utah St.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars begin offseason conditioning on Wednesday. There is minimal on-field work allowed and only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed on the field, so there's not much football coaching going on.

But this is the first look at the 2014 Jaguars. They'll look a lot different after next month’s draft, but here’s an early look at the offensive depth chart. The defensive depth chart will appear Tuesday:

Henne
Quarterback

Starter: Chad Henne.
Reserves: Ricky Stanzi, Matt Scott.

The Jaguars are going to draft at least one quarterback, but the job belongs to Henne. GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have said they don’t want a rookie quarterback to play right away. They want him to take the time to learn the game while not having to worry about winning games each week. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Stanzi the second active quarterback for the first part of the season.

Gerhart
Running back

Starter: Toby Gerhart.
Reserves: Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Delone Carter.

Gerhart was signed to replace Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars believe he can be an every-down back. He’s never done it at the NFL level, though he was a beast at Stanford, so there’s an element of uncertainty. The plan is 15-20 touches per game. The player everyone is watching is Robinson, who struggled holding onto the ball last season. This will certainly be a make-or-break offseason for him. Expect the Jaguars to draft a back as well.

Fullback

Starter: Will Ta’ufo’ou.
Reserves: Shaun Chapas, Bradie Ewing.

The Jaguars claimed Ewing in late March. He was a fifth-round pick of Atlanta in 2012 but missed all of his rookie season with a torn ACL. He played in two games last season before being placed on IR with a shoulder injury. The fullback wasn’t really involved in the offense in 2013. That may change if the talent level improves.

Lewis
Tight end

Starter: Marcedes Lewis.
Reserves: Danny Noble, Clay Harbor, Brandon Barden.

Lewis really came on in the last third of the 2013 season and should be a 50-catch guy in 2014. Harbor is a flex tight end and is better used off the line of scrimmage. Noble had the big catch-and-run against Arizona but otherwise was a blocker. This position needs another weapon, but it’s probably not going to be that high of a priority in the draft.

Wide receiver

Starters: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders.
Reserves: Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Chad Bumphis, Stephen Burton, Tandon Doss, Jeremy Ebert, Lamaar Thomas, Stephen Williams.

This is a position the Jaguars are sure to address in the draft as well. Outside of Shorts, Sanders and Brown, the Jaguars have little experience and not much production. Justin Blackmon is still suspended and the Jaguars aren't counting on anything from him. Doss had more success as a kick returner than receiver in Baltimore and that's likely to continue in Jacksonville. The Jaguars need a big, physical receiver as well as someone who can demand double teams and free up other receivers to make plays. They could find all of that in Sammy Watkins at No. 3.

Offensive line

Starters: LT Luke Joeckel, LG Zane Beadles, C Mike Brewster, RG Will Rackley, RT Austin Pasztor.
Reserves: OT/G Cameron Bradfield, OT Sam Young, C Matt Stankiewitch, G Jacques McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, G Drew Nowak, OT DeMarcus Love.

The question marks are Brewster and Rackley because they’re going to have to hold off challenges from guys already on the roster, as well as any rookies. The Jaguars nearly landed Alex Mack in free agency but when the Cleveland Browns matched the Jaguars’ offer sheet, Brewster inherited the starting job. Caldwell and Bradley publicly said they have confidence in Brewster, a third-year player from Ohio State who suffered a fractured ankle in Week 15, but that was before they signed Mack to an offer sheet. Rackley struggled last season, but he deserves credit for playing much of the season with a knee injury. Expect the Jaguars to draft a center and a guard and bring in several undrafted free agents to compete at those spots. Bradfield started 25 games at right and left tackle but also can play guard, which makes him a valuable reserve.
NFL draft prospect Jadeveon Clowney might have some convincing to do Monday when he visits the Houston Texans.

Peter King from his column in TheMMQB:
Houston, at No. 1, isn't set on Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, one FORS (Friend of Rick Smith) told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall. I still think the Texans would go with a more sure thing with the first overall pick than a quarterback -- and that sure thing could also be tackle Greg Robinson. But imagine Mack, the outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, being the first pick in a stacked draft. Wouldn't that be something -- a second straight Mid-American Conference player (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, by Kansas City) as the top pick in the NFL draft?

I keep hammering home the point that Clowney is the Texans' best bet for trading the top overall pick. Trading out of No. 1 is something both Smith and Texans' owner Bob McNair mentioned interest in back in January, the same time when they introduced Bill O'Brien as the Texans' new head coach. If the Texans don't think Clowney is worth the top overall pick, there are certainly others who do. It will cost a lot for a team to move into the top spot, which means trading down would be fantastic for Houston's future.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Teddy Bridgewater's second visit with the Jacksonville Jaguars certainly indicates genuine interest on the part of general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

They spent time with him at the combine, had a private meeting at his pro day and already played host to him on a visit, so it's unlikely they'd waste any additional time and money on Bridgewater if he weren't a legitimate target. But where?

The Jaguars pick third, but it seems unlikely that they would take the former Louisville standout there. Based on recent reports and mock drafts, Bridgewater is dropping in the first round because of his shaky performances at his pro day and in private workouts. ESPN's Mel Kiper actually had him going to Houston with the top pick in the second round in his latest mock draft.

The Jaguars pick seventh in the second round (39th overall) and have 11 total draft picks. One theory has Caldwell putting a deal together to move back into the latter part of the first round -- likely the late teens or early 20s -- and selecting Bridgewater. Saturday's visit could be a final under-the-hood exam to make sure he's the right fit for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's system.

Caldwell hasn't said which of the big three quarterbacks he likes the best, but he has said it's harder to evaluate quarterbacks who played in spread offenses in college and project how their skills will translate at the NFL level. Bridgewater played in a West Coast pro-style offense at Louisville while Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles played in spread offenses. Draft analysts have said Bridgewater has the best pocket presence of the three and appears to be the most pro-ready of all the quarterbacks in the draft.

But his pro day performance was a bit unsettling -- Bridgewater said it was because he didn't wear a glove like he normally does -- and this latest visit may just be a chance for Caldwell and Bradley to get another look at him.

Regardless of which quarterback the Jaguars take, or when they take him, Caldwell is not budging on Chad Henne as the starter heading into 2014. He wants the rookie to sit back and learn. Maybe it's Bridgewater.
His name has emerged in a few places lately.

Even back to last month, Tom Savage, the Pittsburgh quarterback by way of Rutgers and Arizona, was right in the mix of those players Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien mentioned, when he said he didn't see a huge separation between the "top three" and the rest of the field. O'Brien attended Savage's pro day.

Yesterday during a conference call, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had this to say about Savage:

"The thing about him, I watched him early in the season, and the arm strength is easy to notice. He's got a big arm. You see him make some drive throws you don't see these other guys make, really driving deep comebacks, driving skinny posts, plenty of velocity and accuracy there."

Jeremiah had some questions about Savage's mobility, but said having watched him later in the season, Savage seemed less immobile than he had previously.

"Where he could land?" Jeremiah said. "I think he's got a very real shot of landing in the top of the second round, and those teams picking up high in the first round, if they elect to pass on quarterbacks and take some of these premier position players, which I think they'll probably a lot of them will have higher rated. Then I think there being the quarterback market in the top of the second round, you look at Houston, he kind of fits what Bill O'Brien wants to do. Jacksonville, we talked about Gus Bradley coming from Seattle where they had a mobile quarterback, but the GM Dave Caldwell has spent time with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Matt Ryan in Atlanta, so a pure pocket passer could be an option for them, as well."

Mobility hasn't seemed to be at the top of O'Brien's quarterback wish list, though neither has arm strength. He'll take accuracy over both, and several of Savage's draft evaluations note that he's struggled with consistency in that department. Savage is smart, though, as a lot of these guys are, and has experience in a pro-style offense.

Here's what ESPN.com's NFL draft experts said about Savage:
Polished mechanics and throws with quality balance. Good rhythm and tempo with timing throws. Above-average accuracy and touch working the short-to-intermediate part of the field. Throws a catchable ball and with quality placement. Deep ball accuracy is the most glaring concern in this area. Still learning to gauge proper touch and projection. However, he has the arm strength to develop in this area.

This wouldn't be the first overall pick, but the Texans could wait until the second round for their quarterback, and the level of interest in Savage lately might indicate early second round could be an option.
J.J. Watt's contract situation is a new one for the league -- one for which a lot of the first-round picks from the 2011 season are the guinea pigs.

Watt
Watt
Today, our Field Yates reported the Texans have officially picked up Watt's fifth-year option. It was a no-brainer for the team, but a situation that takes a lot of power away from Watt. His option year should only be a temporary formality, on the way to the long-term extension Watt has earned.

That 2011 class signed four-year deals with fifth-year team options. That team option varies depending on where a player was taken in the draft. The way the numbers work for Watt, the 11th overall selection that year, could hurt his finances disproportionately. Watt's 2015 salary is currently scheduled to be $6.969 million. The option number for players selected 11th through 32nd is the average of the top 25 salaries at that player's position, with the exclusion of the top three salaries at that position. The top 10 have a much more favorable number -- they'd get the same value as a transition tag. The deadlines to pick up those options is May 3.

Watt's value to the Texans is much higher than the salary he'd get if he played the 2015 season on this option salary. In theory, the Texans could hang on to Watt through 2016 by using this option for 2015 and the franchise tag the next season.

But just because his contract now locks him into the 2015 season, doesn't mean he'll definitely play on this deal. As with some franchise tags, picking up Watt's option could serve as a placeholder while the team and his representatives work out an extension.

It would serve the Texans better to do that and create the harmony that would come with a long-term deal, rather than keeping him with contractual handcuffs.

Watt is still early in the trajectory of a defensive lineman's career, so the Texans would be paying for future performance, not past performance. He would not be easy to replace, having drawn disproportionate attention on every play he was part of last season, while still managing to affect offenses in a big way. He startled the league with his outrageously high sack and batted pass numbers during the 2012 season when he was named Defensive Player of the Year. Watt's instincts and motor on the field are outstanding.

Off the field, well, here's the latest.

Reitz signs qualifying offer

April, 17, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts continued to add depth to their offensive line.

Guard/tackle Joe Reitz signed his one-year, $1.43 million qualifying offer as a restricted agent Thursday. Reitz, who went to high school in the Indianapolis area, has started 20 of the 34 games he's appeared in during his career. The Colts claimed Reitz off waivers from the Miami Dolphins in 2010.

The problem with the 6-7, 323-pound Reitz is his inability to remain healthy. He missed two games with a concussion last season and seven in 2012 with concussion and knee problems.

With Jeff Linkenbach signing with Kansas City, Reitz has an opportunity to be the Colts' primary utility backup offensive line because he plays either the guard or tackle position.
Mock drafts will surrender to the actual draft on May 8. It's still a long wait.

In his first two mocks, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had the Tennessee Titans taking Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan at No. 11. In Kiper's third draft he changed the selection to Anthony Barr, the UCLA linebacker.

Outside of running back, which the Titans won't be drafting in the first round, they have no glaring need.

But there are a number of spots where they can get better, deeper and/or younger -- including outside linebacker, on the defensive line, inside linebacker, tight end, tackle and cornerback.

In Kiper's mock draft 4.0 he has the Titans taking ...


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The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and most people assume the team is going to take either a pass-rusher or a quarterback, which are clearly the team’s two biggest needs after winning just six games combined the past two seasons.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out on ESPN Insider today and his choice is a departure from what he predicted the Jaguars would do in his first three mock drafts.


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Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Colts 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. posted his mock draft 4.0Insider earlier Thursday.

Who needs a first-round pick? Not the Indianapolis Colts, so we’ll skip ahead to the second round when they pick at No. 59.


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A fairly consistent message has emerged across mock drafts about the direction the Texans want to go with the No. 1 overall pick.

Does it mean they will? The day when we find out for sure is slowly approaching.

Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draftInsider, which accounts for Rounds 1 and 2, presents what I think might be a dream scenario for the Texans.


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NFL Nation: 4 Downs -- AFC South

April, 17, 2014
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video 
There was only a brief respite for the AFC South, when the Indianapolis Colts' death grip on the division released.

In its 12 seasons of existence, the Colts have won this division eight times and missed the playoffs only once. The Titans won the AFC South in 2002 and again in 2008 -- both years the Colts made it into the postseason as a wild-card team. Their only playoff-less season came in 2011, with Peyton Manning sidelined, when they earned the Andrew Luck pick in the 2012 draft.

With Luck, the playoffs returned to Indianapolis.

Now it’s up to the rest of the division to determine whether the Colts’ domination will return.

The AFC South has offered wild-card teams in six different seasons -- two in 2007 (the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars). Most recently, the Colts were a wild-card team in 2012 when the Houston Texans won their second consecutive division title. They didn’t come close to having one last season. The Colts were the only team with a winning record.

Tennessee finished 7-9, the Texans (2-14) and Jaguars (4-12) wound up with top-five picks in this year’s draft, and the Titans and Texans are starting fresh with new head coaches as a result of what transpired.

Can the balance of power shift? Or are we still a few years away from some semblance of parity in the division? NFL Nation’s AFC South reporters Michael DiRocco, Paul Kuharsky, Mike Wells and Tania Ganguli offer their thoughts.

First Down

Will the Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs in 2014?



Michael DiRocco: I like what the Colts did in free agency in signing linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and defensive end Arthur Jones, moves that should help improve a defense that got embarrassed in the playoffs. Adding receiver Hakeem Nicks may turn out to be one of the better moves within the division because it gives Andrew Luck an experienced, big-play receiver (provided he stays healthy). Indy is the best team in the division, but I think it could widen the gap with a good draft, especially if it adds help up front. A dominant defense is something Peyton Manning never had there, but it seems as if the Colts are trying to get one for Luck.

Tania Ganguli: During the NFL owners meetings, I asked Colts general manager Ryan Grigson if he knew how lucky he was to preside over a team with the first pick in the draft the year Andrew Luck came out. He said he did. They all did. And they've been reaping the benefits ever since. It hasn't been an easy offseason for the organization with the off-the-field troubles of owner Jim Irsay, but I don't see that impacting what happens on the field. This is still a franchise built with the right pieces around Luck to hang onto the division another year.

Paul Kuharsky: The Colts were a playoff team the past two seasons and they will be a playoff team in 2014, as well. The primary reason is the same: Andrew Luck. He's a quarterback with a knack for making big plays at big moments, and he and his team have great faith they can pull games out late. The offensive line will be better with Donald Thomas back healthy. Other key guys who will return from injury will give them a great boost on offense -- Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen and Vick Ballard. I think they will miss safety Antoine Bethea, who was often the glue of the secondary, and they need help on the back end of the defense. But they have a way of functionally patching holes, finding fill-ins and surviving just fine. As long as Luck is healthy, they're the leader of the pack.

Mike Wells: The Colts can go ahead and start making "Back-to-Back AFC South Champion" T-shirts. Partially because they'll be that much better than the rest of the division and partially because they aren't thinking about just winning the division. The Colts want to take another step in the AFC. They reached the divisional round of the playoffs last season, so ideally they'd like to at least get to the AFC Championship Game this coming season. Depending on health and how the offensive line blocks, the Colts could have one of the best offenses in the league next season. So winning the division is the least of the Colts' worries.


Second Down


Will the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs in 2014?



DiRocco: I really liked the hiring of coach Ken Whisenhunt. He should be a huge help to quarterback Jake Locker, who is likely facing his last chance in Tennessee. Whisenhunt likes his quarterbacks to stay in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly, so that may be a bit of a challenge for Locker. To me, the Titans' playoff chances hinge on the impact that Whisenhunt has on Locker. The defense is good enough and the offense, even without Chris Johnson, has some playmakers, especially with the addition of Dexter McCluster. Locker has to improve significantly. If he does, they're a legitimate wild-card contender.

Ganguli: Even though Tennessee finished 7-9 last season, second in the division, I see this team as the least likely of the three non-Colts to make the playoffs. The identity of this team changed significantly when it released running back Chris Johnson. The Titans lost a very talented cornerback in Alterraun Verner to free agency. And, most importantly, quarterback Jake Locker's development is still a bit of a question mark, as is whether he'll be able to stay healthy -- a feat he has not accomplished since entering the NFL. He deserves another year, but I'm not sure what that will mean for the Titans.

Kuharsky: The Titans' biggest upgrade comes with Ken Whisenhunt and a new coaching staff. Mike Munchak proved to be in over his head as the team's head coach. I don't think the Titans are super-talented. But I think the offense will be much better with Whisenhunt designing the offense and calling the plays. The big question is clearly at quarterback, where Jake Locker has to show he can learn the system, stay healthy and be productive. Defensively, coordinator Ray Horton brings a new scheme and a far more aggressive mindset. If some guys who faded under Jerry Gray can rebound, it's a unit that could surprise. I think the Titans will improve, but I don't know that they will be a playoff team.

Wells: The Titans need to figure out if Jake Locker is the answer at quarterback for them first. The first step is for him remain healthy. Then they have to find a replacement for Chris Johnson at running back. New coach Ken Whisenhunt led Arizona to the Super Bowl in 2008, but the Titans aren't ready to close the gap between them and the Colts. Tennessee will be a better overall team but it may not show in the record. Houston may end up having a better record than the Titans next season.


Third Down


Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the playoffs in 2014?



DiRocco: The talent level on the roster is still the worst in the division, although GM David Caldwell has made significant improvements with his first two free-agency classes and his first draft. The team still lacks a franchise quarterback and there aren't a lot of playmakers on offense, either. That will be addressed in the draft, but relying on too many rookies never ends well. The defensive line got an upgrade via free agency but the Jaguars need to improve their speed on defense, especially at linebacker. They should be able to challenge a .500 record in 2014 but they're another season away from competing for a playoff spot.

Ganguli: The vibe around this team is exceedingly positive for one that's now selected in the top 10 every season since 2008. This regime, now in its second offseason, is building in the right way, but the Jaguars still don't have a quarterback. Will they find him in this year's draft? Or will they expect Chad Henne to be enough while the rest of the roster improves? The answer could dictate whether the Jaguars can be another AFC South threat for a wild-card berth.

Kuharsky: The Jaguars have had a nice offseason and continue to make steady progress under the fine leadership of general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley. The free-agent haul upgraded the lines on both sides of the ball and I expect them to get a blue-chip non-quarterback at No. 3 in the draft and perhaps a guy who will take over for quarterback Chad Henne down the line. With the longtime face of the franchise, Maurice Jones-Drew, now with the Raiders, Jacksonville's national identity is as anonymous as ever. It could be a team that proves how such things can be overrated. I don't think the Jaguars will be a playoff team yet, but I think they are closer than most people think. And if they are a surprise team in 2014, I won't be that surprised.

Wells: There's no way I can say "yes" when I had to Google to see which quarterbacks the Jaguars still have on the roster. It's also going to take some time getting used to not seeing Maurice Jones-Drew taking handoffs in the backfield for them. I do like how the Jaguars rolled the dice and made a run at Cleveland center Alex Mack. You can't fault them for being aggressive. The Colts, who have questions at center, had no interest in taking that approach with Mack. The Jaguars need to find a quarterback before they think about making the playoffs.


Fourth Down


Will the Houston Texans make the playoffs in 2014?



DiRocco: Things went bad quickly for the Texans, but the answer isn't as simple as plugging in a new quarterback. Houston had ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing from 2010 to 2012 but dropped to 20th last season. Injuries played a big role in that but the decline in the offensive line's play was startling. There is still a lot of talent on defense -- J.J. Watt, Kareem Jackson, Brian Cushing, for example -- but the Texans are too unsettled on offense to be a playoff team. To win in the AFC, you have to keep up with the high-scoring offenses in New England and Denver and the Texans don't have the firepower to do that even when the defense is healthy and playing well.

Ganguli: That there's no quarterback as NFL-ready as Andrew Luck was back in 2012 doesn't mean there isn't a player who can help turn the direction of a franchise. It won't have to be a complete about-face for the Houston Texans if they recover next season. They'll get better just by virtue of adding some mental toughness to a roster that still has talent and by adding more talent with the first pick in this year's draft. Things will improve, but the Texans are probably still a year away from a return to the playoffs, given the strength of the Colts. That last-place schedule could open the door for a wild-card berth.

Kuharsky: In Bill O'Brien, the Texans have a somewhat mysterious new head coach. He did good work in New England with the Patriots, but it was very much in the background. He moved Penn State further down the rebuilding track than anyone could have fairly expected. His new team completely forgot how to win in 2013. The dive from 12-4 division winner in 2012 to 2-14 and No. 1 in the draft happened very swiftly. I don't think a reverse turnaround is going to unfold in 2014. I expect the Texans to play with more purpose, and they have some top-flight talent. But the quarterback question and the time the new staff needs to fill out the roster is going to mean it's a rebuilding year that is unlikely to result in a postseason game.

Wells: The Texans fooled me last season. I picked them to win the division and face Denver in the AFC Championship Game. Houston won its first two games then lost its final 14 games of the season. Receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster are still around on offense and the defense is led by J.J. Watt, but can new coach Bill O'Brien make the transition from being a college head coach to an NFL head coach? The Texans may end up using the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback. They'll win more than two games next season, but they won't win enough of them to make the playoffs.

INDIANAPOLIS -- It looks like there won't be a debate over whether new Indianapolis Colts receiver Hakeem Nicks will be able to wear No. 88, the number Marvin Harrison wore during his 13 years with the team.

Nicks
"I don't think we've quite figured that one out yet," Nicks said during a conference call last month. "Everybody knows I love those eights on my chest but we'll have to see how that pans out."

Nicks, who signed a one-year deal, will wear No. 14, according to Colts.com.

It's not surprising that Nicks had to settle for another number. You can't look at the No. 88 jersey and not think about Harrison. He spent his entire career with the Colts, totaling 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. Harrison missed out on making the Hall of Fame this year, but he'll be in there sooner than later.

The Colts hope Nicks makes No. 14 a household name for them next season and possibly longer if he's able to have a bounce-back season. He did not catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his career last season with the New York Giants.

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