By Christian Binder, WSOE Sports
Houston Texans (2008 Record: 8-8)
-Key Additions: DE Antonio Smith, QB Dan Orlovsky, DT Shaun Cody, LB Buster Davis, LB Cato June, QB Rex Grossman, LB Rosevelt Colvin, LB Brian Cushing
-Key Losses: QB Sage Rosenfels, RB Ahman Green, LB Morlon Greenwood, S Will Demps
The Houston Texans arrived in the NFL in 2002 as an expansion team and have more or less played like a beat-’em-up team ever since. However, last year was a turning point for the team. They finished 8-8, a franchise best. Normally, a .500 winning percentage isn’t great, but it shows that this team is moving in the right direction. They already have a superstar wide receiver in Andre Johnson, who has become the center of a burgeoning offense. The defense also played better last year, led by former number-one pick Mario Williams. The biggest question for this team is the offensive line. Matt Schaub is an above-average quarterback, but he needs to stay on his feet to win games. When David Carr was the quarterback for the Texans, he was sacked over 200 times. It’s been a lot of the same for Schaub and he has been injured every year. If the o-line can get its act together, the Texans could improve on their 8-8 record.
Indianapolis Colts (2008 Record: 12-4)
-Key Additions: RB Donald Brown
-Key Losses: WR Marvin Harrison, CB Keiwan Ratliff, RB Dominic Rhodes, P Hunter Smith, LB Buster Davis
The Colts are one of the few teams in the NFL that is consistently competitive. It all pretty much revolves around Peyton Manning. After a slow start last year, Manning came back to throw for 4,002 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, securing his third MVP award. The Colts didn’t do much this offseason, but they are hoping that the addition of Donald Brown will shore up the running game, which ranked near the bottom of the league last year. It’ll be interesting to see how the Colts plan to replace Marvin Harrison, who was part of one of the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver tandems in league history. Anthony Gonzalez, a third-year player out of Ohio State, will look for a breakout season by stepping into the number two spot. The Colts will surely look to light up the scoreboard again this year. If the defense can play like it did during the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI run, there’s no reason this team can’t compete for a championship in ’09.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2008 Record: 5-11)
-Key Additions: OT Eugene Monroe, OT Tra Thomas, QB Todd Bouman, S Marlon McCree, WR Torry Holt
-Key Losses: RB Fred Taylor, WR Dennis Northcutt, WR Matt Jones
The Jaguars were a conundrum last year. They had a great running back combo in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, but other than that, the team just looked discombobulated. Obviously the team is looking to improve on last year’s disappointing finish. The Jaguars decided to start by rebuilding the offensive line. They drafted Eugene Monroe out of Virginia and signed Tra Thomas, a three-time Pro-Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles. Hopefully this will buy QB David Garrard some time to get the ball in the air to his new weapon, Torry Holt. Holt came to the Jags after being released by the St. Louis Rams. Now that the Jags have a legitimate number-one receiver, the running game should open up a bit more for Jones-Drew, who will now be a featured back. Jones-Drew is a bit undersized, standing at 5’6″, but he has incredible strength which allows him to power up the middle and gain tough yards. It looks the Jaguars could be rebuilding, but it may be a short process.
Tennessee Titans (2008 Record: 13-3)
-Key Additions: WR Nate Washington
-Key Losses: DT Albert Haynesworth, WR Justin McCariens
The Titans were trying their best to imitate the 2007 Patriots, and it looked for a while like they might go undefeated. They were handed their first loss of the season by the New York Jets in Week 12. The key to the Titans was to be a complete football team: score regularly and keep opponents at bay. Their smash-and-dash running duo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White was one of the best in football, while Kerry Collins, the ageless wonder, kept the passing game afloat. The biggest loss for the Titans was Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed with the Washington Redskins via free agency. He was the anchor of the defense. Now, the Titans will have to rely more on defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who spent some time out with injury last year. The defense still looks strong, but they can only do so much. The Titans will have to throw the ball more this year as teams will look to pin down their running game. However, the Titans don’t have a true number-one receiver and Nate Washington isn’t a huge upgrade over Justin McCareins. The Titans may take a step back this year, but they should remain competitive.