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AFC South Pre-Season Update

Houston Texans

Pre-season Overview

The Texans offense had some positive developments this pre-season. RB Domanick Davis signed a new multi-year contract that should keep him happy. QB David Carr had the best training camp of his career and WR Andre Johnson appears to have picked up where he left off. In addition, rookies RB Vernand Morency and WR Jerome Mathis have shown promise.

 

It’s not all rosy in Houston, however. Davis has been having problems at the goal line (5 stuffs in the first 2 games). This makes it more and more likely that Morency will be in the game in short yardage situations – which decreases Davis’ value. RB Jonathan Wells has been injured for part of the pre-season. The offensive line is still a major question mark. No wide receiver has stepped up to assume the 2nd WR spot.

 

At this point in the pre-season, I’m concerned about the Texans’ offense from a fantasy football perspective. Their “goal” for the offense this year is to reduce the number of sacks. Rather than upgrade the O-line, they’re going to do this by throwing shorter passes. This could mean fewer big plays for Carr and Johnson.

 

Here’s an example. This is a recent quote talking about Johnson that should scare you if you’re counting on him week-in and week-out.

“There are still going to be days he walks off the field with three catches,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. “Those are the days the other team says, ‘Make somebody else beat us.’ “

 

Key Injuries

RB Domanick Davis – Davis has ankle and elbow injuries that occurred during the third pre-season game. These are expected to be minor and not impact him in 2005.

 

RB Jonathan Wells – Wells tore a tendon in his finger during the first pre-season game. When he returns, expect him to play mostly fullback.

 

WR Jabar Gaffney – Gaffney has a shoulder injury that has limited his time in practice and games. The injury has pushed him down the depth chart (to #3).

 

TE Bennie Joppru – Joppru is likely out for the season with a knee injury

 

Position Battle Updates

Starting WRCorey Bradford is currently listed as the starter opposite Johnson, but the Texans are hoping Jabar Gaffney can stay healthy and win this job. The FantasySharks message boards like Derick Armstrong but I don’t expect him to move higher than #4 on the depth chart.

 

Starting TE Mark Bruener is currently listed as the starter. Billy Miller was cut. Matt Murphy is now the backup. Neither are worth drafting in your league. Houston plans to use the TE to help protect Carr.

Indianapolis Colts

Pre-season Overview

The Colts are the only team in this division without any major changes in offensive philosophy. Most of their draft was spent trying to upgrade their defense. This upgrade, however, appears to be having problems. Many of their key defensive players (particularly in the secondary) have been involved in off-the-field problems or have gotten injured. This should only help the offensive numbers (if possible) since they will have to continue scoring a lot of points to win games. In general, it’s been a good pre-season for owners of Colts offensive players and a bad pre-season for Colts’ fans.

 

Key Injuries

QB Peyton Manning – Manning has a bruised left shoulder. An MRI showed the shoulder to be ok. This injury should not be an issue for him this season.

 

WR Brandon Stokely – Stokely’s shoulder injury makes him very questionable for the regular season opener. If he’s unable to return on time or is ineffective when he does return, look for Troy Walters to fill his role (if healthy – see below).

 

WR Troy Walters – Walters missed the second pre-season game because of a hamstring injury. It is unlikely to extend into the regular season but if it does linger, look for Aaron Moorehead to line up on the outside with Reggie Wayne lined up in the slot.

 

RB Dominic Rhodes – Rhodes (turf toe) appears likely to miss the first game of the season.

 

Position Battle Updates

There are no key position battles in Indianapolis when discussing offensive skill positions.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Pre-season Overview

Ugh… That’s the best word to describe the Jaguars offense so far in the pre-season. Through two games, the first-string offense scored zero touchdowns (despite two trips to the red-zone against Tampa Bay). They did, however, score one TD against Atlanta, thanks to a spectacular play by rookie WR Matt Jones. Earlier in the pre-season, I thought there might be a few sleepers and under-valued players on this team (Byron Leftwich, Reggie Williams, and LaBrandon Toefield). However, now that we’ve actually seen this team in action, I’m less excited about their prospects in 2005.

 

The offense seems to operate better when RB Fred Taylor is healthy and playing well. He’s coming off a major knee injury that could hurt his productivity this year but he’s still the cog in the offense. In the passing game, WR Jimmy Smith is the central focus and is the only WR worth drafting on this team. Even coach Jack Del Rio admits the receiving corps is weak. Jones has performed well but don’t look for him to crack the starting lineup this year – it doesn’t look like he’s mastered the double-move yet and this will limit his playing time in 2005.

 

Key Injuries

RB Fred Taylor – Taylor’s knee problems kept him out of the first two games but he played well in the third game against Atlanta. None of the other RBs on the roster have proven they can produce so if he’s healthy, he’ll be on the field.

 

Position Battle Updates

Starting WR – Williams has locked up the starting wide receiver opposite Smith. He started each of the first three pre-season games but he doesn’t appear to be in sync with Leftwich.

 

Third WR – Jones, Ernest Wilford, and surprising rookie Chad Owens are dueling for this spot. After his performance against Atlanta, I expect Jones to earn the #3 WR spot. Owens (5’ 7”) is seen as too small to play WR in the NFL but he’s producing.

Tennessee Titans

Pre-season Overview

The Titans have a new offensive coordinator this year: Norm Chow. Chow was previously the offensive coordinator at USC. He’s brought his national championship-style offensive to Tennessee. So far, the local reports are optimistic about the offense. QB Steve McNair is healthy and the receivers are showing they can contribute.

 

In the games, however, the Titans’ first string offense has been efficient but not spectacular. McNair is 21/29 for 204 yds with 1 TD and 1 Int in the pre-season so far. These are efficient numbers but the first-string offense has only scored 1 TD in almost 3 quarters.

 

Key Injuries

RB Travis Henry – Henry has been out since the first pre-season game because of turf toe. It is unknown when Henry will return to the field.

 

TE Ben Troupe – Troupe broke his foot during the team’s practices in May. He is likely to play in the pre-season finale and may provide some valuable production later in the season when his foot has had a chance to strengthen.

 

Position Battle Updates

Starting RB – Travis Henry or Chris Brown? Brown is listed as the starter on the Titans’ depth chart but missed the first pre-season game with an injury. Henry missed the second and third pre-season games with an injury. Because of the injuries, look for Brown to open the season as the starter.

 

Tight End – The Titans are considering keeping four tight ends this year: Ben Troupe, Erron Kinney, Bo Scaife, and Gregg Guenther. Guenther is Titan’s attempt to acquire an Antonio Gates-like tight end. Look for him to be given an opportunity to be the starter in 2006. Troupe or Kinney will get the bulk of the action this year.

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