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Thursday, May 30, 2002
AFC South: Offense gives Colts the edge

By Mike Golic
ESPN.com

Team Golic's analysis
Indianapolis Colts The Indianapolis Colts offense speaks for itself. Edgerrin James will be back healthy to go along with Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning. The offense shouldn't miss a beat with the coaching change to Tony Dungy. He will let the offense do its thing under offensive coordinator Tom Moore. Dungy, however, will upgrade the defense. It will be more simplistic and reliant on the players' ability to execute. Seven of the Colts' eight draft picks were defensive players, including first-round pick Dwight Freeney. I have been really high on Freeney, who is a great pick for the Colts. Freeney is a smaller defensive end who will make plays in the backfield. With uncertainty in Tennessee, player departures in Jacksonville and a new team in Houston, Indianapolis should be the top team in the division.

Tennessee Titans The Tennessee Titans still have a ton of talent. I love the attacking defensive style of head coach Jeff Fisher, who coached me in Philadelphia. I wonder about the health of Eddie George and their running game, which has been the staple of their offense. The Titans need to run to aid their passing game. When George wasn't healthy, the Titans' offense suffered. Steve McNair has developed into an excellent quarterback who can get the ball down the field when needed. But George must regain his form and carry the load to make their offense potent again. On defense, they drafted defensive tackle lbert Haynesworth and safety Tank Williams with their first two picks. I think Haynesworth, a nice pickup for Fisher's defense, was the second-best defensive tackle behind Ryan Sims. Haynesworth has the ability to play a one- and two-gap style. Williams is a big safety who can come up to the line of scrimmage and support the running game.

Jacksonville Jaguars The Jacksonville Jaguars lost both of their defensive tackles, Gary Walker and Seth Payne, in the expansion draft along with offensive tackle Tony Boselli. However, the Jaguars rely heavily on the health of running back Fred Taylor. When he is healthy, their offense can be as versatile as any in the league, with receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell (if he stays with the team) to go with quarterback Mark Brunell. Smith is one of the NFL's best receivers. However, the Jaguars' offensive line is undergoing change. On defense, along with Walker and Payne, they have also lost cornerback Aaron Beasley and linebacker Kevin Hardy. They drafted John Henderson, more of a straight-ahead defensive tackle who could collapse the pocket. The Jaguars are trying to regroup from their salary-cap casualties and could be in for a shaky season. They may or may not finish better than their 6-10 season last year.

Houston Texans Unfortunately, I have to put the Houston Texans on the bottom because I don't know what to expect. They will start a rookie quarterback in David Carr. I like Carr a lot, but he will still go through growing pains. They did a nice job getting two tackles in Boselli and Ryan Young in the expansion draft. The Texans need to make sure Carr has protection on the inside as well to keep defenders from getting in his face with quick pressure. No one knows which players from the expansion draft and the rookie draft will step up for them, but they have tried to surround Carr with young talent, like receiver Jabar Gaffney, their second-round pick. One advantage for Houston is that head coach Dom Capers has gone through an expansion situation once before in Carolina. I think he has learned from his past experience and is building a better team with Houston. I don't think the Texans will be a typical expansion team with only a few wins. They should be competitive right away. But I still have to put the Texans last because they are too unpredictable.