Summer Scramble 2010: AFC South Players to Watch
Coming July 19: AFC South Burning Questions, Bold Predictions
Houston Texans -- Kris Brown and Neil Rackers
Arguably, if the Texans had a reliable kicking game last year, they would have been in the playoffs. Brown, who has been with the team since its inception, became unreliable in practice and unreliable in games. Brown claims that his issues were mechanical and fixable but that they weren't in-season fixes. The Texans decided to bring in competition in Neil Rackers, another kicker who went from reliable to ... well ... not so much. So far, their competition has been pretty evenly matched. Special teams coach Joe Marciano says that the Texans even obtained smaller, arena league-sized goal posts for practice so that the regular ones seem bigger.
Kickers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, but last year was a particularly bad one for kickers throughout the league.
Indianapolis Colts -- Offensive line
Colts president Bill Polian says that he will be putting the best five offensive linemen on the field and sees the offseason competition as throwing the linemen "into a pot." I'm not sure that gives much comfort to Colts fans.
The Colts are the Peyton Manning show. But Manning's 34 years old, and he had offseason surgery done on his neck to relieve a pinched nerve. He doesn't take many sacks because he makes quick decisions with the ball, but having a good line might help with the run game and make things a bit more comfortable for Manning. Replacing long-time offensive line assistant Howard Mudd this season is Pete Metzelaars. He was promoted from assistant offensive line coach and was previously a quality control coach for the Colts. High draft pick Tony Ugoh has been a bust at left tackle and was working at the guard spot in OTAs. Guard Ryan Lilja is gone, and the guard spots are up in the air. Better-than-Ugoh Charlie Johnson as left tackle doesn't provide much confidence.
Jacksonville Jaguars -- David Garrard
David Garrard is in an odd situation. After the season, his head coach threw him under the bus by saying he "wasn't an elite quarterback." And Garrard has admitted that he needs to improve his work habits, and work harder at being a leader. His post-contract performances haven't matched his large salary, but he really doesn't have true competition with any of his backups. Oh, and of course, he is not Tim Tebow. All NFL quarterbacks are under a lot of scrutiny, but this year is likely going to be Garrard's most pressure-filled given his non-Tebowness.
If the team struggles at all this season, the boo-birds may come a little quicker because of the frustration over the quarterback position. Who wants to support a 32-year-old overpaid quarterback, who acknowledges he didn't work hard enough and could improve as a leader? Which sports-talk guy in Jacksonville will be first to say, "You think Tebow would have those problems?"
Tennessee Titans -- Michael Griffin
After a Pro Bowl 2008 season, Titans safety Michael Griffin struggled in 2009. Secondary coach Marcus Robertson attributes it to a "lack of focus." The Titans' secondary struggles last year may be partially attributable to key injuries early in the secondary, but it's worth wondering if the Titans defense has lost its way in the post-Albert Haynesworth era. The best Titans defenses relied on getting relentless pressure based on just a four-man rush, and that sort of pressure makes life easier for the secondary. With what looks to be a tougher schedule in 2010, the Titans need Griffin to be a positive for the defense instead of one of the players who fans point at after losses.