Friday, May 3, 2013
Eight in the Box: Next order of business
By Paul Kuharsky
With the draft in the rearview mirror, what is the most pressing issue on each AFC South team’s agenda?
Houston Texans: Get DeAndre Hopkins up to speed. The Texans like their first-round draft pick’s experience and think he will be a contributor right from the beginning. So they need to get the receiver on an accelerated program as quickly as possible. The crash course will include time with Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. Rookie minicamp is May 10-12. Then there are OTAs May 20-21, May 23, May 28-30, June 3-6 and the team’s mandatory minicamp June 11-13. Those will be crucial days for Hopkins to get up to speed. The more he can get out of the spring and summer work, the better off he will be for training camp and the preseason. The more he can get out of all of that, the better the chances he’ll be making plays for the Texans' offense on Sept. 9 in San Diego.
Indianapolis Colts: It’s not as if there are quality veteran cornerbacks out on the market waiting on teams to step forward. But the Colts should continue to consider outside options. They signed Greg Toler as a free agent, re-signed Darius Butler and kept youngsters Cassius Vaughn and Josh Gordy. Safety John Boyett, drafted in the sixth round, can be a help in sub packages as a cover man. But the Colts are going to need a contribution from a fourth corner at some point, and neither Vaughn nor Gordy did much to gain confidence last year. Maybe they make leaps in their second year in the system. But Indianapolis should be looking to add to the group to improve competition and options.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Teach and teach some more. The team’s offseason work will be heavy on getting players up to speed on the new systems of coach Gus Bradley and coordinator Bob Babich on defense and Jedd Fisch on offense. The defense will be something like Seattle’s with the corners asked to be really physical at the line and a hybrid outside linebacker/end keying the rush with speed as a Leo. The offense will put Blaine Gabbert on the move more and look a bit like what Houston does. It’s different. So holdovers, new veterans, draft choices and undrafted rookies all have a lot to learn and get comfortable with.
Tennessee Titans: Begin to jell. It’s not a process that can be accelerated, but the Titans could have as many as seven new starters. They have 12 free-agent additions and eight draftees added to the mix. They need the newcomers to meld with the guys in place, forge offensive and defensive identities and establish who will lead and who should be followed. Only so much of that can happen before camp. But in a rookie orientation camp, the remaining OTAs and minicamp, a lot of important seeds can be planted that might be able to take root before training camp starts in late July to get ready for a crucial season.