NFL 2012: AFC South preseason capsules
HOUSTON TEXANS (11-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 27.
LAST YEAR: Texans' defence evolved into one of league's best under first-year co-ordinator Wade Phillips, and Houston won its first AFC South title. Arian Foster made Pro Bowl for second straight season, helping Texans overcome injuries to OLB Mario Williams (torn chest muscle), WR Andre Johnson (hamstrings) and QB Matt Schaub (right foot fracture). Fifth-round draft pick T.J. Yates ably guided offence through final six games of regular season and to franchise's first playoff victory.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LB Bradie James, QB John Beck, CB Alan Ball, RB Justin Forsett, P Donnie Jones.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Williams, LB DeMeco Ryans, RT Eric Winston, RG Mike Brisiel, WR Jacoby Jones, TE Joel Dreessen, K Neil Rackers, CB Jason Allen.
CAMP NEEDS: Houston must fill in depth chart behind Johnson, who's entering 10th season. Texans drafted DeVier Posey (third round) and Keshawn Martin (fourth round) and released Jones, who never blossomed in five seasons. Lestar Jean, an undrafted rookie last season, impressed coaches in OTAs in June. Houston also needs to shore up right side of offensive line after losing Brisiel and Winston in free agency.
EXPECTATIONS: Texans are talking Super Bowl after breaking through with first division championship. Houston again seems to be class of AFC South, and if everyone stays healthy, Texans appear to have all pieces in place for deep post-season run. Johnson's most productive seasons may be behind him, but Foster just entering his prime. Defence ranked second last season with help of breakout years for rookie end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Connor Barwin.
TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 27.
LAST YEAR: Mike Munchak has winning record in first season despite no off-season due to NFL lockout, and team just missed playoffs in tiebreaker with Cincinnati.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DE Kamerion Wimbley, LG Steve Hutchinson, WR Kendall Wright.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Cortland Finnegan, DE Jason Jones.
CAMP NEEDS: Titans threw open quarterback competition between Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, and training camp will determine who starts the season. Must have WR Kenny Britt fully recovered from torn right ACL and MCL, and need to improve on pass rush that managed all of 28 sacks last season.
EXPECTATIONS: Titans have had full off-season to install offensive and defensive schemes they pared back a year ago due to lockout. RB Chris Johnson working hard to bounce back from worst season, and young, rebuilding club believes they can reach playoffs for first time since 2008.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-11)
OPEN CAMP: July 26.
LAST YEAR: Endured most tumultuous season in franchise history. Cut starting quarterback David Garrard days before opener, switched to rookie QB Blaine Gabbert three weeks later, fired coach Jack Del Rio after 3-7 start and sold team same day to billionaire Shad Khan. Jaguars were a mess on field, too. Gabbert struggled mightily while directing NFL's worst offence, TE Marcedes Lewis was disappointment and defence faded down stretch after mounting injuries. Lone bright spot was RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who led league with 1,606 yards rushing.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Laurent Robinson, CB Aaron Ross, QB Chad Henne.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DE Aaron Kampman, DE Matt Roth, CB Drew Coleman.
CAMP NEEDS: All eyes will be on Jones-Drew and Gabbert. MJD skipped team's off-season program, including mandatory minicamp, to express displeasure with contract, and it's unclear whether he will hold out. Gabbert's progress is key to team improving from last year.
EXPECTATIONS: Depends on Gabbert. He has new coaches, new offence, an entire off-season and more talent (Robinson, first-round pick Justin Blackmon) around him. But if former Missouri standout doesn't take significant strides in second year, it could be another long season.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-14)
OPEN CAMP: July 28.
LAST YEAR: Peyton Manning's lingering nerve injury robbed Colts of most important player, and they never found suitable replacement. For first time in a decade, Indy missed playoffs and endured biggest two-year collapse of any Super Bowl team — from 14-2 with Manning in 2009 to 2-14 without him in 2011. That dismal season cost coach Jim Caldwell, team vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian their jobs. And when Colts got No. 1 overall draft pick, Manning lost his job, too.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Andrew Luck, DL Cory Redding, OT Winston Justice, S Tom Zbikwoski, TE Ben Allen, WR Donnie Avery, TE Coby Fleener, DT Brandon McKinney.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Manning, C Jeff Saturday, TE Dallas Clark, RB Joseph Addai, LB Gary Brackett, WR Pierre Garcon, S Melvin Bullitt, OT Ryan Diem.
CAMP NEEDS: Getting Luck acclimated with offence and his timing down with new receivers, improving offensive line and running game, adjusting to 3-4 defence and seeing how Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis adapt to rushing quarterbacks as linebackers.
EXPECTATIONS: Colts head into season with new quarterback, new defence and lowest expectations in more than a decade. Few expect a team with more than three dozen rookies and first-year players to make playoffs, and even in Indy, the only real question is how many games Colts will win. When Colts last put rookie quarterback behind centre, Manning went 3-13 but improved steadily throughout 1998 season. If Luck can do same thing in 2012, Colts' major overhaul will be on track — regardless of victory total.