Major Additions:
RB Antowain Smith, TE Ben Troupe, G Jacob Bell, DE Travis LaBoy, DE Antwan Odom, DT Randy Starks.
Major Subtractions:
RB Eddie George, WR Justin McCareins, TE Frank Wycheck, DE Jevon Kearse, DT Robaire Smith.

September 1st Update:
Running the ball and stopping the run. That's what the Tennessee Titans are about, and despite the losses of Eddie George, Jevon Kearse and Robaire Smith, it appears that the Titans will be able to do both effectively this season. Chris Brown has been nothing short of spectacular this preseason, while Tennessee's run defense shut down the Bills' and Cowboys' rushing attacks.

July 26th Update:
It will be difficult to imagine Eddie George as a former Tennessee Titan, but that's life in the NFL. The Titans will miss George's leadership more than his rushing ability, due to the fact that he hasn't broke the 3.4 yards per carry barrier since 2001. Chris Brown has been promoted to starting running back, and Tennessee signed Antowain Smith as insurance. As for the locker room leadership, the Titans have plenty of generals, including Steve McNair and Keith Bulluck. The loss of Eddie George will probably not affect Tennessee.

Offense This Year: As long as Steve McNair is healthy, the Titans' offense will be difficult to contain. McNair, the Co-MVP of 2003, is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. He has a powerful and accurate arm, he can scramble, he is very tough and his leadership is second to none. McNair also receives exceptional blocking from a very solid offensive line, and he has the pleasure of throwing to reliable targets, such as Derrick Mason, Drew Bennett, Tyrone Calico and rookie Ben Troupe. Troupe, a second round pick, will be replacing Frank Wycheck, who announced his retirement after the 2003 season concluded. The running game is an issue. Eddie George is clearly over the hill, and second year back Chris Brown is probably not the answer. However, the New England Patriots proved that owning a quality running game isn't neccessary if Super Bowl aspirations want to be satisfied.
Defense This Year: Last season, the Titans had one of the premier defenses in the NFL. They were seventh against the run, surrendering only 3.7 yards per carry. However, Pro Bowl defenders Jevon Kearse and Robaire Smith have both signed with other teams, which has created a huge void on Tennessee's defensive line. Kevin Carter will move from end to tackle, joining Albert Haynesworth, Rien Long and rookie Randy Starks. Outside is Carlos Hall, who has shown that he has the ability to rush opposing passers. Travis LaBoy and Antwan Odom, both second round picks in April's draft, will rotate with Hall at the defensive end position. Tennessee's paramount defensive player is outside linebacker Keith Bulluck. He teams with Peter Sirmon and Rocky Calmus to create a formidable linebacking corps. The Titans' secondary is thin, but their starters get the job done. Until Houston's Dunta Robinson proves himself, Tennessee possesses the elite tandem of cornerbacks in the AFC South, Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson. At the safety position, Tank Williams and Lance "Sergeant" Schulters live up to their names. Without Robaire Smith and the oft-injured Jevon Kearse, the Titans' defense has gotten slightly worse; it's the pool of rookie defensive linemen that prevent the downgrade from being too severe.
Schedule and Intangibles: Tennessee has one of the preeminent home field advantages in the NFL. They are 59-37 at Adelphia Coliseum. The Titans have a balanced schedule awaiting them in 2004. Difficult non-divisional opponents include: Miami, Green Bay, Kansas City and Denver. However, Tennessee also has teams like San Diego, Minnesota, Chicago, Cincinnati, Oakland and Detroit on the schedule.

Analysis: As long as Steve McNair is healthy, the Titans are Super Bowl contenders.

Projection: 11-5 (1st in the AFC South).


Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Year: 5-11).
Major Additions:
RB Greg Jones, WR Reggie Williams, OT Ephraim Salaam, G Mike Compton, DE Bobby McCray, OLB Greg Favors, OLB Jorge Cordova, MLB Daryl Smith, CB Juran Bolden, CB Dewayne Washington, S Deon Grant, K Josh Scobee.
Major Subtractions:
QB Mark Brunell, WR Kevin Johnson, G Jamar Nesbit, LB Danny Clark, CB Fernando Bryant, CB Jason Craft.

Offense This Year: Now entering his second season, Byron Leftwich is expected to lead his team into the playoffs. Leftwich, who owned the highest completion percentage of any rookie quarterback in 2003 (57.2%) and a modest amount of passing yardage (2,819 in only 13 starts), is surrounded with enough playmakers to propel the Jaguars into the postseason for the first time since 1999. Leftwich's most powerful weapon is Fred Taylor, a Pro Bowl caliber running back. Early in his career, Taylor was criticized as being injury-prone, but has not missed a game in the last two seasons. In 2003, Taylor ran for a career high of 1,572 yards behind a monstrous offensive line, that has only grown more potent with the offseason additions of Ephraim Salaam and Mike Compton. As long as Taylor is healthy, Jacksonville will not have problems scoring points. His presence will grant Byron Leftwich the protection he needs to connect passes to one of the elite receivers in the NFL, Jimmy Smith. Although Smith is 35, he is still dangerous and very capable of catching 10 or more passes in a single contest. Joining Smith in Leftwich's receiving corps is speedy veteran Troy Edwards, athletic rookie Reggie Williams and second year tight end George Wrighster. Last season, the Jaguar offense was ranked 12th in the NFL. Factoring in Byron Leftwich's maturation and the acquisition of Reggie Williams, Jacksonville's scoring unit could eclipse the top ten by season's end.
Defense This Year: The NFL's top ranked run defense didn't belong to New England. It did not belong to Tennessee or Miami. Out of all the teams in the league, Jacksonville put the clamps on running backs most efficiently; they allowed an outstanding 3.1 yards per carry to opposing rushers. Most responsible for that prestigious number are monstrous defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Protected by Stroud and Henderson, speedy linebackers Mike Peterson and Akin Ayodele also contributed to their astonishing average. Also in the mix was prolific strong safety Donovin Darius. Although they were stout against the run, the Jaguars had problems defending aerial attacks, due to a lack of a pass rush (22 sacks) and awful cornerback play. The latter has been addressed. Gone are the duo of Fernando Bryant and Jason Craft, whose presence made opposing quarterbacks salivate in anticipation of a 300 yard passing day. In are the duo of Juran Bolden and Dewayne Washington, who improve Jacksonville's cornerbacking corps by default. The two corners will join second year veteran Rashean Mathis, who showcased a few flashes of greatness in his rookie campaign. Also new in the secondary is ex-Panther Deon Grant, a Pro Bowl caliber safety. Jacksonville's secondary is good enough to win, if they receive an adequate pass rush from their defensive line. If Hugh Douglas can rebound from a sluggish season (3 sacks), the Jaguars could be ranked in the top ten against the pass, as well as the run.
Schedule and Intangibles: Jacksonville's hot and humid climate contribute to their outstanding home record since 1995 (45-27). Their schedule this upcoming season looks promising. Although tough opponents like Denver, Kansas City and Green Bay are on the slate, the Jaguars will have the pleasure of toying with teams like San Diego, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Buffalo.

Analysis: If Fred Taylor stays healthy, and Hugh Douglas can return to double digit sack form, Jacksonville will make the playoffs. This team appears to be very similar to the 2003 Carolina Panthers. Don't be shocked if the Jaguars make a Super Bowl appearence.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in the AFC South).


Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 12-4).
Major Additions:
TE Ben Hartsock, OLB Gil Gardner, OLB Kendyll Pope, S Bob Sanders.
Major Subtractions:
WR Terrence Wilkins, OT Adam Meadows, DE Chad Bratzke, OLB Marcus Washington, CB David Macklin, CB Walt Harris.

Offense This Year: This is it. The last hurrah. Peyton Manning's colossal contract that was conjured this offseason will prevent Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and others from resigning with the team after 2004. As for this upcoming season, every piece of Indianapolis' third ranked offense has returned, excluding right tackle Adam Meadows. Without cap room, the Colts were not able to properly replace Meadows. Rotating at the right tackle position will be former fourth round selection Ryan Diem, rookie Jake Scott and tight end Ben Hartsock. Talk about a huge hole on the offensive line. One hole on the offensive front may not seem significant, but tell that to the 2002 St. Louis Rams. On an otherwise stout line, John St. Clair started at right tackle. The Rams commenced their season with an 0-5 record because Kurt Warner was not given ample time to throw. The Colts' scoring unit will not turn into the Cleveland Browns, but it's safe to say that Peyton Manning and company will struggle to maintain their status as a top five offense.
Defense This Year: If the Colts ever want to advance to the Super Bowl, they will have to shore up their pathetic run defense, which surrendered 4.6 yards per carry in 2003. Based on their offseason acquisitions, or lack thereof, Indianapolis will be lucky if they can match their awful yards per carry figure. Speedy linebacker Marcus Washington could not be resigned, because all of Indy's money was tied up into Peyton Manning's contract. Replacing Washington will be the rookie tandem of Gil Gardner and Kendyll Pope. The Colts fared better against the pass last season, which will change in 2004. Starting cornerbacks David Macklin and Walt Harris have departed, and will be substituted by Nick Harper and Joe Jefferson. Two bright spots on Indianapolis' defense are Dwight Freeney and Mike Doss. Freeney has registered 24 sacks in two NFL seasons, while Mike Doss will eventually emerge as a top five safety in professional football. However, with players like Raheem Brock, Montae Reagor, Gil Gardner, Kendyll Pope, Nick Harper, Joe Jefferson, Donald Strickland and Jason David all expected to significantly contribute to the Colts' defense, Indy may find it hard pressed to return to the postseason.
Schedule and Intangibles: If Peyton Manning and the Colts lose to the Patriots in the 2004 season opener, they'll start off slowly like the Philadelphia Eagles did after their loss to Tampa Bay in 2003. Unlike the Eagles, Indianapolis will not be stranded in an easy division. Along with playing Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston twice, the Colts will be forced to battle New England, Green Bay, Kansas City, Baltimore and Denver.
Additional Reading: Peyton Manning will be looking for revenge on Opening Night.

Analysis: A taxing schedule, a hole at the right tackle position and one of the NFL's worst defenses is a recipe for disaster.

Projection: 9-7 (3rd in the AFC South).


Houston Texans (Last Year: 5-11).
Major Additions:
OT Todd Wade, DT Robaire Smith, LB Jason Babin, CB Dunta Robinson.
Major Subtractions:
QB Drew Henson, OT Greg Robinson-Randall, LB Charlie Clemons, LB Steve Foley, S Matt Stevens.

Offense This Year: Last season, Domanick Davis seemed to appear out of thin air and granted David Carr the running game he needed to avoid being sacked 76 times, the number of times he was knocked down during his rookie campaign. Davis managed 1,031 yards in only ten starts. With an effective running game, Carr will have more time to throw to his developing receivers, Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford and Jabar Gaffney. Although general manager Charley Casserly acquired Todd Wade, a stout right tackle via the free agent market, the left side of Houston's offensive line remains an enormous concern. Seth Wand, the projected starter at left tackle, has very little experience. Next to him is Milford Brown, a sixth round pick in 2002. David Carr will not be sacked 76 times, but he will often be under pressure during the 2004 season. Until Casserly mends the line, the Texans will struggle to score lots of points on a week to week basis.
Defense This Year: Although Dom Capers is a defensive guru, he has his work cut out for him. In 2003, his defense was 20th against the run and 31st in sack totals (19). Robaire Smith, a prolific run stuffer, signed away from rival Tennessee to play in Houston. Smith will instantly become the defensive line's most outstanding player, because his new linemates, Seth Payne and Gary Walker, are often injured. Jason Babin, one of Houston's two first round picks, will join Jay Foreman, Jamie Sharper and Kailee Wong to form a decent linebacking corps. Babin will be counted on to harass opposing passers, and to post a more impressive team-leading sack total (Jamie Sharper led Houston with a pedestrian four). The Texans' other first round selection was Dunta Robinson, who is slated to start at cornerback with Pro Bowler Aaron Glenn. The addition of Robinson will shift Marcus Coleman to free safety. Houston's defense will be better than it was in 2003, but their lack of depth will eventually cost them.
Schedule and Intangibles: Houston plays in what could be considered the toughest division in football. However, their games outside the division will be less stressful. Their non-divisional opponents include: San Diego, Detroit, Oakland, Chicago and Cleveland.
Additional Reading: David Carr, Domanick Davis and the Houston Texans are no longer cellar dwellers. They are playoff contenders.

Analysis: The Texans can now be considered as a legitimate playoff contender. If their offensive line had less holes, and their defense had more depth, they would be a shoe-in for the postseason. But for now, something close to 8-8 is realistic.

Projection: 8-8 (4th in the AFC South).


© 1999-2013 Walter Cherepinsky : all rights reserved
Privacy Policy
2 5 9
Google