Eight in the Box: Biggest questions

June, 14, 2013
6/14/13
12:00
PM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The major question facing each team in the AFC South as summer break looms:

Houston Texans: Even if Derek Newton recovers well from his knee surgery, are they sure he can be good at right tackle? In Newton's first year as the starter there, veteran Ryan Harris still got a share of the snaps. Now the team has to see how Newton recovers, will consider rookies Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry and brought Harris back as veteran insurance. They’ve surely got comfort in numbers, but you’d much rather have a sure thing at the front of the line. If second-year man Brandon Brooks doesn’t play well from the start at right guard, right tackle could be an even bigger problem. And the Texans need to be able to send Arian Foster both left and right to be unpredictable in the run game. They also need to protect Matt Schaub from all angles.

Indianapolis Colts: The team’s biggest defensive moves have been keyed on stopping the run. Outside linebacker Erik Walden is an edge-setter, defensive linemen like Ricky Jean Francois and Aubrayo Franklin should help stop backs and safety LaRon Landry is a force in the box when he’s healthy. If cornerback Greg Toler pans out, he will help the pass rush, and rookie outside 'backer Bjoern Werner could be an impact rusher if he transitions quickly from college end. But can this team consistently rush the passer? The only truly proven rusher on the defense is Robert Mathis, and for the first time he’ll be playing without Dwight Freeney drawing some of the blocking attention. To me, the major question is: Can they rush the passer effectively?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Who is the quarterback? Blaine Gabbert had most-favored status from the last regime, because the general manager of the last regime traded up to draft him 10th overall. That doesn’t mean anything to new GM Dave Caldwell or new coach Gus Bradley. They are looking for a guy who will give them the best chance to improve. If it’s Gabbert, that’s fine. But Chad Henne has said he believes there isn’t a charade element to this competition, and the team is talking as if new addition Mike Kafka and even undrafted rookie Matt Scott have an equally good chance of winning the job. Odds are very high this team will be looking for its long term-quarterback in next year’s draft. In the meantime, opportunity abounds.

Tennessee Titans: All Titans questions start with the quarterback. Jake Locker is now protected by a great offensive line, which should also greatly improve the run game. The new offense will give him a lot of play-action as well as rollouts and bootlegs, which will be threatening because of his extraordinary speed. His short-yardage targets should be dangerous -- Kevin Walter is super reliable; Kendall Wright should blossom; Delanie Walker and Chris Johnson need to be consistently reliable. The deep guys are a solid bunch if healthy. Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are capable of making downfield plays, and the team is super high on rookie Justin Hunter. The defense will be better, which means the Titans will have the ball more. What can Locker do with it?

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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