For every NFL team that makes a slow, painful decline into the bowels of the league’s standings, there is another team riding out of the pit on the backs of young upstarts, blockbuster trades and free agency gambles. Sometimes it’s not even one team but a whole division, a division that was so bad that they couldn’t help but eventually become good. Or at least legitimate.
Now we come to one of the most anticipated divisions of the season in terms of potential, which is a far cry from being one of the most anticipated divisions to rack up wins against: the AFC South.
Asinine Analysis continues its critical summary of the good moves, bad moves and hopeful moves for each and every team this offseason, leading into the 2015 NFL Draft.
The Good: Last season, the Houston Texans had a winning record at 9-7 after going 2-14 the season before. Besides the obvious addition by subtraction to the offense — getting rid of Matt Schaub — other things pushed them up in the AFC South rankings. This team went 9-7 without a legitimate quarterback or their busted-up #1 draft pick linebacker. A cranky franchise-wide receiver and a notoriously soft secondary didn’t help matters. All of this, and the Texans still came out looking decent in the rankings. They didn’t make the playoffs, but things could’ve been a lot worse.
Maybe it had something to do with their new tight/defensive end hybrid, J.J. Watt, who is first player to play on both sides of the ball and not look silly since Deion Sanders. Then again, it probably helped that the entire defense was keyed into stopping Arian Foster when the Texans were at the goal line.
The Bad: Your quarterback is Brian Hoyer. In case you missed it, Brian Hoyer was being dragged along by the Cleveland Browns defense last year. He got the yardage, but only had 12 touchdowns coupled with 13 interceptions and two fumbles. Not exactly Matt Schaub numbers, but close enough to make us wonder why the Texans didn’t keep Ryan Fitzpatrick around.
The Hopeful: All hopes live and die by the quarterback position. If we think of Brian Hoyer as a placeholder at this moment in the offseason, then our hope lies in the potential of Ryan Mallett, which means that our real hopes lie in picking up Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson in the second round.
The Good: Did you hear the one about the young, upstart rookie that unseats a team’s franchise veteran quarterback only to play that veteran later on in the playoffs, and lose? Then they meet up again with an entirely different outcome, and the rookie finds himself a Super Bowl champion as the old veteran looks on, which fades into a scene of him looking on as a football coach later in his life?
Seriously, Hollywood, get on the ball. The world could use a good sports movie like the potential Andrew Luck story, and I can’t wait this long for the ending.
Oh, and the Indianapolis Colts have replaced running back Trent Richardson with Frank Gore. You could have had me at “replaced Trent Richardson…” and put anything in Frank Gore’s place: Peyton Hillis, Michael Turner, a sofa cushion. But Frank Gore is legitimate. Aging, but legitimate.
Crying about the loss of Reggie Wayne? Well, the Colts picked up a bigger, taller, aging wide receiver in Andre Johnson to keep secondaries honest against T.Y. Hilton.
The Bad: Same old story, since the days of Peyton Manning: this team spends it all on offense and hopes for the best on defense.
The Colts rarely put any big bodies at the line or quick bodies in the secondary. It’s the sort of defense that would make any linebacker confused about where he is needed. Robert Mathis can’t play forever.
The Hopeful: Andrew Luck hasn’t hit his prime, and that’s a scary thing considering how far he’s come so far. If the Colts can build up a secondary in this draft quick by grabbing up safety Landon Collins first and then a cornerback prospect later like P.J. Williams, then they could be ready for a dynasty run.
The Good: For the first time in what seems like a decade, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t an extra week off on other teams’ schedules. They may still be raw, but you can’t help but get excited with this sort of talent developing: quarterback Blake Bortles; wide receivers Marquise Lee, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson; running back Denard Robinson. The Jaguars even added in veteran tight end Julius Thomas for good measure.
If two other teams in the AFC South didn’t have just as much potential, I would slot in the Jaguars as divisional champions for the next five years.
The Bad: All of the players above are still raw, except for Julius Thomas, which means that they can go into a sophomore slump at any time, maybe even at the same time. Just imagine, a whole team taking a step backward and the only player you can count on is your fullback, Toby Gerhart. It would be an even worse version of the MJD days.
The Hopeful: The hope is that the sophomore slump doesn’t happen. Blake Bortles learned enough from his first year of getting his head drilled into the turf by J.J. Watt to not let that keep happening. The receivers stay healthy enough to play at the same time. Julies Thomas doesn’t cash his check so he can lay out on a Florida beach all day. Andrew Luck shaves his beard, losing his Samson-like quarterback powers. There’s a lot of hope here.
The Good: The Tennessee Titans are still a football team. That’s something good, isn’t it? It could be worse. The Titans could have become a second Nashville hockey team, since the Thrashers seem to gather more interest in the Appalachians than the Titans these days.
There’s also the fact that the Titans were so bad last year that they have the second first-round draft pick this year to go along with their developing rookie quarterback from last year, Zach Mettenberger. So what if the Titans have some holes to fill. They have plenty of options, and can even trade their pick for more options.
The Bad: There is serious consideration in Tennessee to take a quarterback with the second-round pick, which means that the Titans will be trying to develop a rookie quarterback with no one for him to throw to. Harry Douglas, the fourth-option wide receiver for the Falcons, is your new top receiver. That isn’t much to be excited about.
The Hopeful: Hopefully Zach Mettenberger is better than Charlie Whitehurst and more durable than Jake Locker. That way the Titans can focus on getting a big, fast wide receiver like Dorial Green-Beckham. The real hope is that they can get Green-Beckham after trading down to fill in a few more holes.
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.