Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jul 2012

FOA 2012 MEDIA: AFC South

I just wrapped up a series of interviews with Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report for all four AFC South teams. The Texans are linked in the text, and here are the others:

-Indianapolis
-Jacksonville
-Tennessee

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 25 Jul 2012

12 comments, Last at 29 Jul 2012, 9:04pm by chemical burn

Comments

1
by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 12:19pm

I don't know - the claim that Tennessee's WR corps with a problem-free Britt, an 100% unproven Kendall Wright and... Nate Washington (?!) could be "terrifying" seems pretty dubious. Even if everything pans out with that group (and that seems far from certain) I think "pretty good" is the ceiling. Kenny Britt played well in limited action last year and shows a lot of potential, but lots of teams can match their good #1 WR, 40th ranked #2, rookie slot-guy tandem. It seems serviceable, not impressive. And that's what they are supposedly going to be hanging their hat on? Sure, the AFC South will be terrible in 2012, so i can buy they might compete for a playoff spot... but it won't be because any of their units are particularly excellent.

8
by Rivers McCown :: Thu, 07/26/2012 - 9:21pm

I suppose I am rather high on Wright. I also believe in Jared Cook, who you didn't mention here.

2
by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 12:23pm

(Also interesting to read your thoughts about Laurent Robinson, thoughts with which I agree... Also, funny how all three of these ended up being so much about the main/unproven passing targets for their respective teams...)

3
by bubqr :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 12:40pm

Proclaiming Andrew Luck as a better QB now than Schaub is a bit too much for me. I also don't see them being 2nd or 3rd in division, I clearly see a top 5 pick next year for them (I'm quite high on the Titans and Texans, and I think JAX will be better than them)

4
by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 12:58pm

I'm curious - why are you high on the Titans? That teams just seems to have nothing going for it when I think about it.

but I do agree Indy is the clear loser in that division. Luck, whatever he ends up being, just doesn't seem like the kind of spark-plug player to start opening games up by himself and sneaking them to wins, like Cam Newton was for Carolina last year. There's going to be a learning curve for him and even if he's really impressive, he's still playing for a god-awful team that I predict will field one of the worst defenses of all-time in 2012. Their ceiling seems like 4-12 to me and if they even got to 8-8 I would be astounded.

Plus, Jacksonville wasn't even that bad last year - they just were saddled with an utterly worthless QB. If they can improve that situation (either by Gabbert's development or the fact that Henne would be a decisive upgrade) they're the team I see competing with Houston for the division title...

5
by t.d. :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 1:13pm

I don't know about bubqr, but I think the Titans offense could be really good. Jacksonville's defense seems like a poster child for the 'defense fluctuates more than offense year-to-year', because they have talented players, but no pass rush. Also think Henne as a fallback isn't particularly comforting

6
by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 2:07pm

I think they should just start Henne and forget Gabbert, who was unbelievably awful and exhibited not a single quality that indicated he could play QB at the NFL level. Henne's never been awful - he was 17th in DYAR both of his full starting seasons and 21/22 in DVOA. His 7.6%/7.9% DVOA in those years puts him right in between Andy Dalton and Michael Vick last year. I'm not saying he'll be great, but his numbers as a starter twice exceeded the number for guys like Flacco, Alex Smith (in a breakout year! ~sarcasm) and Cam Newton in 2011. Henne, on a semi-competent team, would be a slightly better Joe Flacco. Heck, last year with the injury, he was still only 20th in DVOA - Flacco was 18th. Henne's been ridiculously consistent as a starter, to boot.

And just consider: in 2011, Gabbert had negative 1,009 DYAR. That's several games worth of losses. The second worst guy had -470. The only QB worse in the league by DVOA was Caleb Hanie, who everyone agrees turned a legit title contender into a team that couldn't even make the playoffs. Anyhoo, the Jags have MJD and the Titans have Chris Johnson who (as the article points out) wasn't even that great when he was supposed to be great. And now he's old. Even if the Jags defense is half as good and 10th in the league, solving the Gabbert problem will not only stop them from bleeding loses, but improve a rushing attack that was already pretty darn impressive.

With Tennessee, I guess Jake Locker could take a jump and he was pretty good in limited use. But their defense wasn't terrible, but it just doesn't have any upside - and they have no back-up plan for a lazy Chris Johnson (mainly because they can't afford to.) They just look like a team spotted with question marks like Britt, Wright, Johnson, Locker and an aging defense that even if everything feel right for them, I still can't see them going 10-6. And I think the Texans would have to botch everything not to go 106.

7
by t.d. :: Wed, 07/25/2012 - 3:14pm

the general manager will be fired if gabbert's a bust. it does look like he's going to be one, but it's too soon to say, especially considering there wasn't a training camp last season, and the jags had a uniquely terrible coaching situation (del rio was a lame duck whose assistants were all let go, so no one wanted to take the jobs), without getting into the paucity of talent the jags had at wr. i think henne is like jason campbell or steve deberg- just good enough to get you beat. my biggest concern with gabbert was that he was feeling pressure that wasn't there, a real red flag in young quarterbacks, but, again, he was a rookie in a uniquely difficult situation.

as for tennessee, i think kenny britt and nate washington give them one of the better one-two punches at receiver, i think you're underestimating chris johnson (he's 26, not that old, and he was a difference maker in 2008-9), and i thought both hasselback and locker looked pretty good last season, when the offense got nothing from johnson and didn't miss a beat. hard to say if losing finnegan will hurt the defense, but you would think he'll be easier to replace than Haynesworth or Babin. I could see Houston going 10-6 or worse, this wasn't the first time schaub missed a lot of time, andre johnson's near the end, and the track record of breakout running backs the year after hasn't been great lately. not saying they will fall off, but they were probably the most talented team in the afc last year when healthy, and a lot would have to go right for them to be in that echelon again

9
by LionInAZ :: Fri, 07/27/2012 - 12:38am

This sounds like a classic symptom of short-term thinking.

Henne has probably reached his potential and will not be more than a mediocre fill-in QB (and I say this as a Wolverine fan). We have no idea what Gabbert's real potential is. If it turns out to be awful I'd say burn the bridge and go for more young potential than expecting to reach playoff potential with a nondescript like Henne. It's just not possible in this NFL. Just ask Alex Smith.

10
by chemical burn :: Fri, 07/27/2012 - 1:02pm

I just think Gabbert's got nothing - nothing - as a QB and keeping him around results in the Alex Smith/Mark Sanchez type situation where an awful QB drags down a team significantly by being the worst (or second worst - Eric Smith was on the jets, I guess) player on it playing at the most important positions. You can blow seasons that way and MJD is elite, the defense was Top 5 and the WR corps has been addresses - throw away 2 more season on Gabbert and who knows where the defense and MJD will be. I think the reason you start Henne (who again is just fine according to DVOA) is to find and develop his replacement - somebody who they won't have to throw into the fire like Gabbert.

I also just re-read your statement and realized you were comparing Henne to Alex Smith - Smith's career year was worse than both of Henne's starting years. Henne has already been better than Alex Smith and would have to decline to perform at the level of Smith's career-year.

But, yeah, if you guys are right and Gabbert is the locked in starter, Jacksonville will be the same team they were last year, likely worse.

With Tennessee and the idea that Britt and Washington are anything other than a competent starting duo seems bizarre - and again, Britt is playing all year? I have to be honest, I didn't know almost anything about Jared Cook, but the 17th by DVOA ranked TE in the league hardly seems like a game-breaker. I Tenn's passing targets are good and shouldn't be a cause for concern, but I also agree with them wanting to upgrade and drafting Wright. Also, losing their best defensive player certainly won't help them get better and, as an Eagles fan, I'm not sure I can agree that losing a joke like Jason Babin is proof losing good defensive players won't hurt the Titans...

11
by t.d. :: Fri, 07/27/2012 - 1:38pm

the jags' offensive line was on par with the bears' line, and unless it gels(high draft picks that have under-performed), it's hard to get an assessment on gabbert. regardless, i think they give him this season to show marked progress, or they cut bait. henne wouldn't be playing with jake long protecting his blind side in jacksonville, throwing to brandon marshall. in my opinion, the jags' offensive personnel has rivaled chicago's, minus cutler, or the rams' the past few years (which us why i think garrard surprises and wins the qb job in miami and does well). we'll see

12
by chemical burn :: Sun, 07/29/2012 - 9:04pm

yeah, I don't want to come off as some kind of a Jags superfan here - I'll readily admit they have a lot of downside. I just think their downside is more or less the same as Tennessee and slightly above the Colts and that their upside is higher than either of those teams. I do think Gabbert was bad enough to not warrant any more than 4 games to prove he has developed and Henne is competent enough to launch their passing attack into mediocrity (which would have been enough to earn them a playoff spot last year.) Anyway, I hope some of these teams come together (and the Texans defense isn't a mirage) because I'd hate for this division to be as bad as it appears - no one likes watching that kind of football and seeing a "king of the losers" get blown out in the first round of the playoffs.