AFC South training-camp reports

PFW staff
AFC South training-camp reports


Site: Methodist Training Center, Houston, Texas.

Report Dates: July 22 (rookies), July 27 (veterans).

Key veteran arrivals: CB Alan Ball, QB John Beck, RB Justin Forsett, ILB Bradie James, P Donnie Jones.

Key veteran departures: CB Jason Allen, OG Mike Brisiel, TE Joel Dreesen, WR Jacoby Jones, ILB DeMeco Ryans, RB Derrick Ward, OLB Mario Williams, OT Eric Winston.

Juiciest story lines: The Texans appear to be the cream of the crop in the AFC South, but they will have to overcome several offseason defections, as well as being in an unfamiliar position — with targets on their backs — to follow up their most successful season in franchise history with a deeper postseason run.  

Burning questions: How will the Texans’ offensive leader, QB Matt Schaub, perform coming off a season-ending lisfranc injury and in the final year of his contract? … Can one of the league’s best and most cohesive offensive lines adequately replace two starters on the right side? …  Can defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ unit avoid a major dropoff after its stunning turnaround a season ago?

Fearless prediction: WR Andre Johnson, who missed nine games with hamstring injuries and had his knee scoped in the offseason, will return to his All-Pro form, starting 16 games and eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards and 10 TDs.

Fantasy nugget: FB-TE James Casey came out of nowhere in Week Three in New Orleans last season, appearing to be a potential fantasy revelation after racking up 137 yards from scrimmage, including a 62-yard TD catch-and-run. Unfortunately, Casey suffered a pectoral injury late in the contest and never fully rebounded. Following the offseason departure of TE Joel Dreessen (team-high six TD catches in 2011) to Denver, Casey should see increased opportunities in Houston's two-TE-heavy offense and, blessed with the best hands on the team and terrific athleticism, he is a name to file in the back of your head as a potential flier or early-season waiver addition.



Site: Anderson University, Anderson, Ind.

Report dates: July 25 (rookies), July 28 (veterans).

Key veteran arrivals: WR Donnie Avery, OT Winston Justice, RB Mewelde Moore, DL Cory Redding, C Samson Satele, QB Drew Stanton, CB Cassius Vaughn, S Tom Zbikowski.

Key veteran departures: RB Joseph Addai, MLB Gary Brackett, TE Dallas Clark, WR Pierre Garcon, QB Peyton Manning, C Jeff Saturday.

Juiciest story lines: The Colts this offseason turned the page on one of the most successful decades by a franchise in NFL history. The trio of GM Ryan Grigson, head coach Chuck Pagano and top pick Andrew Luck have been given the task of returning the Colts to greatness. Growing pains are to be expected, but can the Colts find a way to compete in 2012?

Burning questions: After forming the best DE tandem in the NFL over the past decade, can Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis successfully reinvent themselves as OLBs? … Luck will be running the show from Day One, but can a hodge-podge offensive line built of castoffs adequately protect him? … With Grigson’s first draft primarily dedicated to retooling the offense, will Pagano have enough pieces to convert to his preferred base 3-4 scheme?

Fearless prediction: After being in total flux in 2011, the Colts’ secondary is stabilized by the return of Jerraud Powers, maturation of Kevin Thomas, who earns the starting CB job opposite Powers and never looks back, and addition of former Ravens SS Tom Zbikowski.

Fantasy nugget: WR Austin Collie was on the fast track to becoming one of the league's more productive wideouts in 2010, when he amassed 44 receptions for 503 yards and six TDs in the first six games. However, multiple concussions robbed him of a potentially special season and he finished with 58-649-8 receiving. Fast-forward 18 months and Collie, who made minimal impact with a revolving door at QB last season (514 receiving yards, one TD), is drawing rave reviews this offseason, catching everything in sight and making acrobatic catches all over the field. With top pick Andrew Luck expected to stabilize the passing offense, Collie could be poised to pick up where he left off early in '10.



Site: Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields, Jacksonville, Fla.

Report dates: July 26 (rookies), July 26 (veterans).

Key veteran arrivals: WR Lee Evans, QB Chad Henne, WR Laurent Robinson, CB Aaron Ross.

Key veteran departures: CB Drew Coleman, DE Aaron Kampman, WR Kassim Osgood.

Juiciest story lines: The name of the game for new head coach Mike Mularkey in 2012 is developing QB Blaine Gabbert into an NFL-caliber starting triggerman, but there is no shortage of intrigue on the offensive side of the ball, with disgruntled rushing champion Maurice Jones-Drew staying away from the club as he vies for a new deal and top pick Justin Blackmon attempting to stay on the straight and narrow after a troubling aggravated DUI arrest in June.

Burning questions: How long will the stalemate between MJD and the Jaguars drag on? … Can Marcedes Lewis and a radically revamped receiving corps be a greater asset to Gabbert in Year Two? … Can Blackmon keep his nose clean and provide the immediate impact at receiver that GM Gene Smith is banking on? … Can a very good “D” take the next step by finding more ways to pressure opposing QBs?

Fearless prediction: Jones-Drew’s lengthy contract holdout, which will last into the dog days of summer, won’t result in a new deal, but it will cause a Chris Johnson-like negative impact, with Jones-Drew sputtering out of the gate and not hitting his stride until the second half of the season.

Fantasy nugget: With no end in sight to the impasse between MJD and the Jaguars, backup RB Rashad Jennings' value skyrockets. The 6-1, 228-pound Jennings is a load, with a career average of 5.4 yards per carry, and he is fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him the entire 2011 campaign. Any young QB's best friend is a strong ground game, and with or without MJD, pounding the rock under new head coach Mike Mularkey will be a point of emphasis to assist the development of Blaine Gabbert. Keep a close eye on MJD's status, but don't view Jennings strictly as a handcuff — he could play a much larger role this season.



Site: Baptist Sports Park, Nashville, Tenn.

Report dates: July 24 (rookies), July 27 (veterans).

Key veteran arrivals: OG Steve Hutchinson, DE Kamerion Wimbley.

Key veteran departures: CB Cortland Finnegan, TE Daniel Graham, DE William Hayes, DE Jason Jones, MLB Barrett Ruud.

Juiciest story lines: A tasty QB competition between savvy veteran Matt Hasselbeck and exciting youngster Jake Locker is the featured attraction. Locker is clearly the future, but the Titans believe they can win now with either player, assuming they get greater contributions from Chris Johnson and the ground game.

Burning questions: Will the Titans make changes along the interior of the offensive line to create more space for Johnson? … Will Johnson rebound from a lackluster 2011 campaign? … Who will replace Cortland Finnegan as the tone setter of the “D?” … Will the addition of Kamerion Wimbley be enough to fix the porous pass rush? … Can Kenny Britt regain the dominant form he displayed before his knee injury?

Fearless prediction: Not only will Hasselbeck win the job in Week One, he will thrive with a rejuvenated Johnson and a better receiving corps, holding off Locker and again keeping the Titans in contention until late in the season.

Fantasy nugget: A bulked-up Chris Johnson had the best offseason of his young career. The Titans, under Hall of Fame OG Mike Munchak, expect to be a better run-blocking unit this season, particularly with the addition of future Hall of Fame OLG Steve Hutchinson. Johnson is supremely motivated to prove he is still an elite back, and with a passing offense that received another dynamic playmaker in first-round rookie WR Kendall Wright, less attention could be paid to CJ2K, who could return to form as a first-round fantasy producer.