Outsiders' review of AFC South needs

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
8:11
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Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders runs through the primary need of each AFC South team in this Insider piece . Here’s a peek at what he has to say with my reflections.

Houston Texans: Wide receiver

McCown: “The Texans enter free agency as a team with a promising amount of depth at many key areas, but Andre Johnson's injury last season exposed the fact that Houston's wide receivers simply aren't up to snuff without him ...

“The Texans will look hard at receivers in free agency and the draft. It's unlikely that they'll land a top-tier wideout like Marques Colston or Vincent Jackson because they still need to budget money carefully for players like Mario Williams, Arian Foster and Chris Myers. But a mid-level receiver like Steve Johnson, Reggie Wayne or Robert Meachem could potentially be brought in.

“More likely, however, the path for improvement will come through the draft.”

Paul Kuharsky: I think the Texans like Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones better than most analysts, but the long stretches without Johnson made them overly reliant on Foster as a target showed they don’t have enough at wideout.

Indianapolis Colts: Wide receiver

McCown: “Of the top five receivers on the Colts' depth chart going into last season, only Austin Collie and Blair White are under contract for 2012. Reggie Wayne, who will turn 34 during the 2012 season, is likely on the outs as this team begins a rebuilding phase. The Colts have expressed interest in re-signing free agent Pierre Garcon, who has generally fared very poorly in our receiving numbers. Garcon came out as below-replacement value last year, but he has ideal deep speed, and playing with Dan Orlovsky or Curtis Painter will make any speed receiver look worse than he really is. Anthony Gonzalez is also finally out the door after a disappointing, injury-plagued career in Colts blue.

“Again, given the direction of the team, it's rather unlikely that the Colts will be players for an elite free-agent receiver, but they could probably be in on the mid-tier targets with an eye toward youth. Players like Laurent Robinson, Harry Douglas or Andre Caldwell could make sense here. The Colts could also spend their second- or third-round picks on a receiver who could compete for snaps.”

Kuharsky: McCown writes he skipped past quarterback knowing it will be addressed with the No. 1 pick. Receiver is certainly a concern, but I think cornerback may rate as even bigger for a team that hired a defensive head coach in Chuck Pagano. If the new regime likes Jerraud Powers, the team still ranks as thin in coverage guys after him.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Wide receiver

McCown: "Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson summed it up best when he said: 'Those guys couldn't get a [expletive] receiver if it hit them in the head. They haven't had anyone since Jimmy Smith. ...'

“There are two ways to (upgrade). The Jaguars could make a play for Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson or DeSean Jackson. They certainly have the cap space to accomplish such a goal and could even bowl over someone who is iffy about Jacksonville with extra money. Or they could see if Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon falls into their laps at No. 7 overall, which would certainly be a more cost-conscious, if risky, move.”

Kuharsky: We are certainly talking about more than one guy. The Jaguars could aggressively shop in free agency and get a first-tier and second-tier guy. Or they could grab one veteran and spend a premium pick on another receiver. Upgrading the weapons for Blaine Gabbert is definitely priority No. 1.

Tennessee Titans: Defensive end

McCown: “Assuming that the Titans continue to handcuff themselves to the declining Chris Johnson, the biggest need in Nashville is an elite pass-rusher. When Jason Babin joined former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn in defecting to the Eagles, the Titans' adjusted sack rate fell from 13th in the NFL in 2010 to second-to-last in 2011. Moreover, only two teams generated fewer quarterback hits from their top pass-rushers than the six the Titans had from Dave Ball: the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills ...

“If they can't address defensive end in free agency, then a pass rusher will likely be a top priority for the Titans with their first-round pick. If they do pick up a premier sack artist, then it would give them an opportunity to spend the pick on a safety or wide receiver, which are also positions that could use reinforcement in Nashville.”

Kuharsky: The Titans need immediate impact at the spot. I don’t expect them to overpay Williams if he's free. The free-agent crop behind him could be thin if guys get franchised. Can they find a reclamation type like Babin who will be an upgrade on opening day? Will a guy who can consistently get into the backfield still be on the draft board at No. 20?

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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AFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD