AFC South: Final Word

September, 11, 2009
9/11/09
4:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:

The Texans need a lot from Brian Cushing and Dunta Robinson: The rookie linebacker and the veteran cornerback were not part of the preseason, when the defense was not good, particularly against the run. Can they provide the missing ingredients against the Jets, who will be determined to run it? I think they will be difference-makers, but fear that others think their mere presence will “fix” things.

 
 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
 How productive will Anthony Gonzalez be in a passing game already featuring Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark?
The Jaguars are not an ideal draw for the Colts: Jacksonville has run the ball with good success against the Colts in recent games. The Jaguars are a different team now, with two rookie tackles in Eugene Monroe on the left and Eben Britton on the right. Can they plow room for Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jones or Rashad Jennings against a stouter Colts’ defense? This is a big game for Antonio Johnson, Dan Muir and Eric Foster, the three defensive tackles expected to rotate for the Colts while Ed Johnson serves his one-game suspension.

Anthony Gonzalez can do a lot to quiet skeptics: I think he’s going to be a very productive player with an expanded role for the post-Marvin Harrison Colts. But there are plenty of people doubting just how much he will be able to do as the second or third option for Peyton Manning after Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. If he gets turns against rookie cornerback Derek Cox he needs to help Manning take advantage of Cox’s inexperience.

Mario Williams is bound to draw lots of attention: Whether he’s on the right where he starts out or flipped to the left in pass-rushing downs, the Texans stud defensive end will draw a lot of attention from the Jets. Here’s the first test as to whether the Texans can generate sufficient pass rush from elsewhere. Free-agent additions Antonio Smith and Shaun Cody and rookie Connor Barwin need to penetrate, hit and fluster rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to maximize Houston’s chances.

Some rookie will rank as a hero or a goat in Indy: We’ve mentioned Monroe, Britton and Cox. Jacksonville will also start defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. The Colts are expected to start rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers and will rely on contributions from receiver Austin Collie, running back Donald Brown and punter Pat McAfee. If one of those eight guys has a great or terrible game, he’s likely to be a big piece of the storyline at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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