AFC South: 2013 NFL Season Wrap

Indianapolis Colts season wrap-up

January, 15, 2014
1/15/14
2:00
PM ET
 
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Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 10

Biggest surprise: The questions were valid. Was linebacker Robert Mathis' production a product of having sack-machine Dwight Freeney playing on the other side? Could Mathis still be an impact player without Freeney? Mathis silenced the naysayers when he led the league in sacks with 19.5, including seven strip sacks. Mathis didn't hide the fact that he wanted to quiet the doubters. What made his season even more special is that he did it without much help elsewhere, as the Colts had only 42 sacks as a team. Mathis is one of the front-runners to be the league's defensive player of the year.

Biggest disappointment: Safety LaRon Landry was supposed to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he played for the Colts. That's why general manager Ryan Grigson signed him to four-year, $24 million contract. Landry was good when he was able to come up with the big hits or touchdown-saving tackles, but it was too often that he ended up whiffing on a play. The plays on which he missed running back Jamaal Charles on a touchdown run in the regular-season game against Kansas City and New England's LeGarrette Blount on his touchdown run last weekend are two examples that quickly come to mind. It also doesn't help that Landry missed four games because of injury this season.

Biggest need: Help on both lines -- offensive and defensive -- should be at the top of Grigson's list during the offseason. The Colts are set at offensive tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus. Donald Thomas will be back to take one of the guard spots after he missed most of the season with a quad injury, but the other guard spot and center could use upgrades. The Colts need a defensive tackle who can clog the middle of the line.

Team MVP: This is a no-brainer. Quarterback Andrew Luck was mentioned as a league MVP candidate at one point in the season. The second-year quarterback overcame injuries to five key offensive starters -- including future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne -- to cut his interceptions in half, increase his completion percentage and throw the same number of touchdown passes despite 52 fewer attempts. Take Luck out of the lineup and the Colts would have won maybe six games this season.

 

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Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 29

Biggest surprise: When the Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last April, they thought he’d be a good fit in coach Gus Bradley’s system. Turns out he was a perfect fit. Marks plays the three-technique, which means he lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, and that position is supposed to provide interior pass rush. Marks finished with four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups -- all numbers that equaled or surpassed the totals from his first four seasons. He seemed to make at least one impactful play every game and he accounted for two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His play earned him a four-year contract extension as one of the building blocks of the defense.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars’ inability to consistently run the ball, especially early in the season, was vexing. The Jaguars switched from a predominantly man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and the offensive line had trouble with the transition. Four of the five starters at the beginning of the season also started in 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. The Jaguars mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed and things got better, but the problem wasn’t “fixed.” In addition, Jones-Drew clearly was not the same player he was two years ago. He missed all but six games last season with a Lisfranc injury and also battled ankle, knee and hamstring issues this season.

Biggest need: The Jaguars have a pretty long list of needs, but two stand out above all others: quarterback and pass-rusher. Quarterback is the top need because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer and neither is Chad Henne, who will be a free agent but wants to return to Jacksonville in 2014. The Jaguars haven’t had a bona fide threat at quarterback since coach Jack Del Rio put Mark Brunell on the bench for Byron Leftwich in 2003. New general manager David Caldwell and Bradley need a player around which to build the franchise, and the Jaguars will have the opportunity to possibly find one when they pick third overall in May’s draft.

Team MVP: The first impulse is to go with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose 161 tackles ranked second in the NFL. He was clearly the team’s best defensive player and arguably the best overall player. However, what Henne did to stabilize the offense earns him MVP honors. Gabbert had played terribly in the first part of the season (seven INTs, one TD) and Henne stepped in and played the most consistent football of his career. He didn’t always light it up and he made some poor decisions and mistakes, but he kept the Jaguars in games in the second half of the season and made enough plays to go 4-4 after the bye. He threw nine touchdown passes -- including the game winner against Cleveland with 40 seconds to play -- and five interceptions over the final five games.

Houston Texans season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
1/02/14
2:00
PM ET
 
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Final Power Ranking: 32
Preseason Power Ranking: 7

Biggest surprise: This is an easy one for the 2013 Houston Texans: The quarterback situation. We went into the season with a fair discussion about whether Matt Schaub was the guy to lead the Texans to the Super Bowl. But what most everyone assumed along with that was the Texans could at least count on Schaub to not make the kinds of huge, costly errors that can lose you games. Schaub's streak of four consecutive games with a pick-six was unpredictable. The Texans' attempts to regain control of the position -- starting Case Keenum, then going back and forth between the two -- didn't work.

Biggest disappointment: You could use this spot for the quarterbacks again, but the Texans were not wont for disappointments. We'll go with Ed Reed here, the future Hall of Fame safety who came to Houston in hopes (both his and the Texans') that he would help lead the Texans to a Super Bowl. First, Reed had a surgery the Texans didn't expect. The recovery time he needed meant he was never really fully healthy, despite his insistence that he was. Reed struggled to make an impact for the Texans and when his playing time diminished, he didn't handle it especially well. He left Houston throwing knives, saying the Texans' defensive scheme wasn't a good fit for a lot of its players.

Biggest need: Quarterback. Case Keenum did not do enough to show that he can be the Texans starter next season. I'm not going to say he's doomed, but the Texans need another option for their starter next season. At first glance, the quarterback free-agent class doesn't look like it'll be a great one, but you never know how a veteran can react to a new locale. This year's draft class of quarterbacks figures to be led by Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel could also be an option.

Team MVP: J.J. Watt is disappointed he didn't reach the 20 sacks, 20 batted passes and 20 tackles for loss, but he should be proud of the way he played this season. He was terrific against the run and pass. Pro Football Focus gave Watt a grade that was nearly three times better than the next best 3-4 defensive end. Watt became the second player in Texans history to have back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks after Mario Williams. He'll go to his second consecutive Pro Bowl this season.

 

Tennessee Titans season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
1/02/14
2:00
PM ET

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Final Power Ranking: 22
Preseason Power Ranking: 16

Biggest surprise: A team that revamped its interior offensive line and added a free-agent back in Shonn Greene to supplement Chris Johnson pledged a dedication to the run game. But the identity never developed and the Titans finished 14th in the NFL in rushing and didn't have a running back who averaged even 4 yards per carry. Greene got hurt and missed time and threw things off, but that shouldn't have undone the offense. There were too many times when the team needed a tough yard against a good team and declined to do what it said it would: run for it, even against a defense that knew what was coming.

Biggest disappointment: This team did well to stock the roster at receiver, so the combination of pretty good health and pretty good depth meant the free fall of Kenny Britt didn't hurt as much as it could have. But coming out of camp, he looked poised to have a giant year in the final season of his rookie contract. Instead, per ESPN Stats & Information, he dropped 15.2 percent of the 33 passes thrown toward him. That's the highest drop rate in the league for a wide receiver targeted more than 14 times. He said there was a double standard by the team regarding his drops. Maybe it was more like a quadruple standard, considering his drop rate was nearly four times that of Kendall Wright and Damian Williams.

Biggest need: This team overrated its ability to rush the passer. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was a force, with 10.5 sacks in 15 games from the inside. But the outside guys were insufficient. They'll talk all day about how close Derrick Morgan gets on a regular basis, but he got only six sacks. The project with strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers moving forward to rush the passer as an end in situations was a failure. He got one sack. The Titans need to sign or draft an edge rusher who can be a difference-maker.

Team MVP: Casey. While there is a good case for Wright, the receiver who was a consistent threat, it's Casey by a nose. He produced 10.5 sacks from a position where double-digit sacks are a rarity. They were especially big considering the lack of help from other rushers. Casey has a swagger and an attitude that the team doesn't have enough of, and he established himself as a lynchpin who needs to be a long-term piece of this defense. His contract runs through 2014, but the Titans should talk extension with him this summer.

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