- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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What I think they’re thinking in the headquarters of the four teams of the AFC South…
The hype machine is rolling. Practically everyone is picking us to win the AFC South, and plenty of people see a deep playoff run, even a Super Bowl appearance. It’s nice to be liked, but we’ve got to block all of that out and set about doing our thing. We are way further along than Miami, and we should push the Dolphins around. With the way we can close the pocket and get multiple people in the backfield, we’re a nightmare for a rookie quarterback. Ryan Tannehill beware. Offensively, we found rhythm in the preseason and we simply need to carry it over. Do what we do with the wide stretch plays and Arian Foster, run the bootlegs off of that and we’ll find big plays and start our march to big things.
We’ve come miles and miles since general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were hired and since Andrew Luck was drafted to be the new face of the franchise. We may not have the personnel we need everywhere, but we’ve got a great deal of confidence in the systems we’ve put in place. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has bonded with Luck and has a real feel for what he can do, and the ball will come out before the QB gets clobbered if the line is a sieve. Defensively, Pagano and coordinator Greg Manusky have helped transform a vanilla mentality into something far more exotic. It we can rush effectively, we’ll have some better days than people think. Chicago’s hardly got proven pass protection.
Every year teams jump from bad to good, and we’re going to be one of those teams this year. We love that so many pundits are taking the easy route and insisting we’re terrible. Did they even come to Jacksonville to see what was going on during training camp? We’re healthy on defense and added a solid young pass rusher in Andre Branch. Our quarterback took his lumps as a rookie, but he’s hardly the same guy now with new coaches and better receivers. We’ve improved on offense by a whole lot (though we have some regrets about our failure to build sufficient depth on the line) and now Maurice Jones-Drew is back in the mix. The Vikings are eminently beatable, and we’ll be starting 1-0.
What better way to get an early gauge on what we’ve got than by going up against the defending AFC champions, matching wits with Bill Belichick and seeing if we can slow Tom Brady? Though it’s banged up, we feel like we’ve got a deep, talented defensive line, and it’ll have to get some pressure on Brady. We’ll find out how much better we are at slowing tight ends, since New England’s got two great ones. We don’t really know much about how the Patriots will be defensively with the changes they’ve made. We’ll look to do our thing and make them react to it. So it’s time for a game plan keyed around Jake Locker that will feature us spreading things out, spreading things around, moving the pocket and creating some opportunities for our new quarterback to show off his speed.
What I think they’re thinking in the headquarters of the four teams of the AFC South…Houston TexansThe hype machine is rolling. Practically everyone is picking us to win the AFC South, and plenty of people see a deep playoff run, even a Super Bowl appearance.