Football Outsiders on division's top needs

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
5:03
PM ET
Tom Gower of Football Outsiders runs through the top needs of the AFC South in this Insider piece Insider.

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Houston Texans -- Linebacker

Gower: "On the inside, Brian Cushing was lost for the season in Week 5, tearing his ACL. He should be healthy for Week 1 of next season, but the lack of talent around him is troubling. Darryl Sharpton was supposed to fill the spot vacated by the offseason trade of DeMeco Ryans, but he started the year on the physically unable to perform list, then did too little, especially in pass coverage, when he did make it onto the field. A quantum improvement by Sharpton or a new starter, most likely from the draft, is a necessity."

Kuharsky: If Cushing is healthy, does the the second inside linebacker play 50 percent of the snaps? He's leaving the field in the nickel package, and defenses are in nickel a ton. That's why I think why the team needs a more durable guy for the spot, it's doesn't require a premium draft spot or premium dollars. If Connor Barwin leaves, they need another outside guy. If he doesn't, Barwin, Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus should be a good enough trio.

Indianapolis Colts -- The defense

Gower: "The first thing the Colts need is a starting cornerback opposite Vontae Davis. Cassius Vaughn was one of the worst starters in the NFL, and Colts opponents knew it, targeting him more than any other corner in the league. ...If free agent Darius Butler, who played well on the too-infrequent occasions he was healthy, is not retained, Indianapolis needs to replace him, as well. The Colts also ranked worst in the league on allowing long runs. Some of the responsibility for that is on safety Tom Zbikowski, who looked like the marginal starter he was in Baltimore."

Kuharsky: No matter what hey do up front, if they Colts add a premium cornerback and added a safety who pushes Zbikowski to third at the position, the defense should make a jump. Secondary help that can stay healthy is an absolutely most.

Jacksonville Jaguars -- Quarterback

Gower: With a new regime in place, including new general manager David Caldwell and new coach Gus Bradley, Jacksonville has entered a rebuilding phase, but what does that mean at quarterback? The Jaguars hold the No. 2 pick in this April's draft, but there is no quarterback prospect who comes close to Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, and the Chiefs likely would select that player if he did exist in this class. If the Jaguars are looking for a new quarterback of the future -- and some recent comments indicate they might not be -- they might look to the later rounds of the draft to find one.

Kuharsky: Maybe they love a second- or third-round quarterback option. That seems an unlikely route, however, in a thin quarterback year. So they need to improved elsewhere and get a better framework in place, then be ready to add a quarterback next year.

Tennessee Titans -- Interior offensive line

Gower: "Last season marked the fourth consecutive one in which the Titans have ranked in the bottom seven of the NFL on runs up the middle by our adjusted line yards metric, which minimizes the distorting effect of long runs. Although Chris Johnson's running style does not help these numbers, it is a real issue."

Kuharsky: Mike Munchak used to develop guys who didn't cost the Titans big value picks. But he and Bruce Matthews have not done that to a sufficient degree with any of their interior options now. It's time to add a veteran in his prime and a premium draft pick. They'd help both Jake Locker and Chris Johnson be more productive.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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