AFC South: 2011 back to work FYI

Texans back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:03
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: Quarterback Matt Schaub and rehabbing linebacker DeMeco Ryans took on the major leadership roles for a team that did a lot during the lockout. Schaub led a regimen of offseason workouts right in line with what coach Gary Kubiak would have run. Position groups worked together, and the whole gang got together for minicamp gatherings. Ryans has a pretty good handle on the basics of Wade Phillips’ new 3-4, but he hasn’t played in it. The defensive front will have a lot of learning to do, but Phillips has promised that it’s not as big a transformation as many anticipate.

Biggest challenge: The 3-4 transition is a big deal, despite what Phillips says publicly. Three guys in particular will be under the microscope. Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell are expected to play effectively at nose tackle, a key spot in a 3-4 even if Phillips doesn’t need a mammoth guy. And Mario Williams will be an outside linebacker who will often look like a fifth defensive end. Can those three guys and the rest adapt to new responsibilities?

High expectations: Kubiak kept his job as the franchise pinned its hopes of a turnaround on Phillips. He’s got a long history of first-year turnarounds. Does he extend it or see it end? And how does Arian Foster, a player who led the league in rushing yards last season, handle success and perform in his second season as the featured back?

Key players without contracts for 2011: Receiver Jacoby Jones, quarterback Matt Leinart, tackle Rashad Butler.

Colts back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:02
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: Players were very hush-hush about player-organized team activities, but they did happen, with Peyton Manning spearheading the effort. Before his neck surgery, Manning had spent time with a lot of his targets, doing the sort of offseason route work that he said is key to much of what unfolds in games. Curtis Painter did the throwing during workouts after Manning had his neck operation. Reports say Manning won't be ready for the start of camp and could miss a large chunk of it, which will hurt the team's readiness.

Biggest challenge: Holding on to people. The team could conceivably lose running back Joseph Addai, linebacker Clint Session, strong safety Melvin Bullitt, versatile offensive lineman Charlie Johnson, defensive tackle Daniel Muir and kicker Adam Vinatieri. Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis are heading into the final years of their deals. The Colts also need to sort out high salaries for tackle Ryan Diem and corner Kelvin Hayden.

Medical report: We’ve heard good things about all the hurting Colts, but they need checkups from a slew of guys coming off injuries. It’ll start with Manning, whose surgery was in late May. Key guys who also ended last season on IR: tight end Dallas Clark(wrist), Bullitt (shoulder), Austin Collie (concussions), Jerraud Powers (arm), Hayden (neck) and Session (elbow).

Key players without contracts for 2011:Addai, Session, Bullitt, Johnson, Muir, Vinatieri.

Titans back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:00
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: As poor as any team in the league, simply because of bad timing. New coach Mike Munchak and his staff have not had any time with their guys and are relying completely on tape for their assessments of veterans. The team does not yet have a quarterback who is the probable starter on opening day. Although Cortland Finnegan and Jake Scott did admirable work with group workouts and a two-day minicamp, having rookie Jake Locker along with Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff as the signal-callers didn’t cut it.

Biggest challenge: Sorting out the quarterback issue. Even if the Titans wanted to go sink-or-swim with Locker from the start -- and the chances are very slim that's where they'll end up -- they have no veteran qualified to help him out. They could take a big swing at free agent Matt Hasselbeck, who would be determined to start as long as possible but also would mentor Locker, who’s already a friend. If they don’t land him, with Kerry Collins retired, the position will be a major concern.

Beyond quarterback: How actively will the Titans shop in free agency? They said they were not done at defensive tackle after the draft. They could use help at linebacker, especially if Stephen Tulloch moves on. Chris Hope is aging and expensive, and they could look to upgrade at strong safety. What goes unaddressed (like interior offensive line, likely) will tell us about their initial confidence level in multiple incumbents.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Defensive ends Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford, Tulloch, guard Leroy Harris, fullback Ahmard Hall, receiver Randy Moss.

Jaguars back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:00
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: With Jack Del Rio, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and veteran quarterback David Garrard in place, the offense won’t change much. But rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert's missing offseason time in the facility slowed his ability to challenge for the starting job. Garrard and defensive end Aaron Kampman organized a good bit of offseason work for players, but much of it was on positional levels where a leader stepped up at each spot.

Biggest challenge: Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is taking over play calling from Del Rio. But more significant will be the Garrard-Gabbert dynamic -- and whether we will see any sort of wrestling match between the coach's thinking (win now to save his job) and the organization’s bigger issue (develop Gabbert and get the new face of the franchise ready to carry it).

Most holes: Jacksonville could be the most active team in the division in free agency. After the draft, the Jaguars said they didn’t love the available guys for their holes. They could add two veteran linebackers and a veteran safety (here's one vote for Eric Weddle). Kirk Morrison might be back if they don’t land an upgrade at middle linebacker.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Tight end Marcedes Lewis (franchise tag), punter Adam Podlesh, Morrison.

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