This article thinks the secondary and backup running back is, but I still feel depth at defensive tackle is our area of greatest concern (God forbid anything should happen to Anthony McFarland). The secondary does lack in experience at the corner, but Jackson and Hayden played a lot, especially in the playoffs. Rumor has it that Hayden had beaten out Jason David last year during training camp, but they decided to start David because of his experience. This writer also has us losing a starter at free safety, but everyone knows that Bethea had way more range in pass coverage than Doss and started 8 games, including all four playoff games, playing superbly. The lack of quality depth might be more noticeable in nickel and dime packages , but third-round pick, cornerback Daymeion Hughes, was the Defensive POY in the PAC-Ten last year, which is a pass happy league, so I think they are expecting him to contribute. I don't know if we have hired a secondary coach yet to replace Leslie Frazier, who is going to be DC of the Vikings.
AFC South training camp challenges

Indy's secondary concerns, Jags reach for next step

Posted: Thursday July 5, 2007 11:12AM; Updated: Thursday July 5, 2007 11:12AM

Houston Texans


Andre Johnson may find it hard to reproduce his 1,100-yard receiving season in '06 without another threat across the field.
G. Newman Lowrance/WireImage.com


Training Camp Challenges
AFC East: Patriots try to adjust to new stars
AFC North: Steelers search for old Big Ben
AFC South: Can Addai carry Colts' load?
AFC West: July 6
NFC East: July 9
NFC North: July 10
NFC North: July 11


Challenge No. 1: Make Matt Schaub comfortable in a new offense
After watching David Carr struggle in his first season running his offense, coach Gary Kubiak brought in highly regarded backup quarterback, Matt Schaub, to be the new face of the franchise. Schaub has been stellar in the past two preseasons, but he enters the season with only two careers starts. With so little playing experience, his performance in preseason games is critical. Not only does he have to work out the kinks of playing in a new offense, he has to perform at a high level during the preseason to earn the respect and confidence of his teammates. With so much pressure and focus on his play, it is important that the Texans make Schaub comfortable in Kubiak's version of the West Coast Offense. Schaub's experience running the system in college and with the Falcons will surely help him with the transition, and that knowledge of the basic concepts and principles should give him a chance to hit the ground running with the Texans. But with little game experience, he may need to log more snaps than usual to get comfortable.
Challenge No. 2: Find another threat in the passing game
Schaub and two-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson are the foundation for the Texans' passing game, but they'll need the presence of another receiving threat to truly keep a defense on its collective toes. Tight end Owen Daniels displayed potential with 34 receptions and five touchdowns during his rookie campaign last year. Though he is not the most athletic player, his emergence as a threat in the middle could alleviate some of the safety attention that Johnson garners and give Schaub a security blanket underneath. If Daniels does not become that alternate option, the Texans are hoping that promising rookie receiver Jacoby Jones can develop into a reliable threat on the other side of the field. Jones has the speed and quickness to take advantage of single coverage, but making the transition from small college star to productive NFL player typically takes time. Other options are available in veterans Kevin Walter and Andre Davis, but neither has been very productive during their careers. Don't rule out the additions of a veteran receiver.
Challenge No. 3: Get better play out of the defensive line
The Texans' defensive struggles start with the ineffectiveness of their defensive line. Despite repeatedly selecting defensive linemen in the first round of the draft, Houston has failed to find the right combination up front to create a consistent pass rush. But now with Mario Williams, Travis Johnson and '07 draftee Amobi Okoye slated to start, the onus is on this crew to produce some pressure on opposing signal-callers. That task has to be led by Williams, who possesses the size, speed and athleticism to be the dominant player on that unit. Toe injuries hampered plagued him last season, but he showed flashes with three-and-a-half sacks during a four-game span in October. Johnson's ineffectiveness as a rusher allowed teams to double Williams without fear. If Johnson can recover from his season-ending calf injury and provide a push inside, Williams should begin to see less of the double teams that he faced last season. And if Williams can be the difference maker off the edge, the rest of the defensive line will have an easier time getting to the quarterback.

Indianapolis Colts

Challenge No. 1: Replace key starters in the secondary
When the Colts open camp in less than a month, they will feature a secondary with three new starters. Opting not to overpay Nick Harper, Jason David and Mike Doss, the Colts chose to stick to their previosuly successful blueprint by plugging young draft picks into those positions. By cleverly drafting potential replacements a year or two before their starters depart for bigger contracts, the Colts have been able to groom young players for starting roles on defense. MarlinJackson and Kelvin Hayden, the most likely replacements for the starting corners, already have logged extensive time in the Colts' nickel and dime defenses. Doss' replacement, Antoine Bethea, started eight games as a rookie last season. With newcomers Daymeion Hughes and Michael Coe in the mix, the Colts will have as many six players with three years or less of experience in the back end. Though the simplicity of the Colts' Cover Two allows for young players to play early, working through their growing pains will be the goal of the preseason.

Challenge No. 2: Improve the league's worst run defense
After finishing the regular season ranked dead last versus the run, the Colts went on an unlikely Super Bowl run fueled in large part by their improved run defense. A defense that allowed opponents to average more than 160 rushing yards during the regular season stiffened considerably during the playoffs. Holding each of their four playoff opponents below 100 yards on the ground, the Colts showed a solid gap-control defense that eliminated the big plays that had plagued them throughout the regular season. Building on the momentum of that success is a starting point for their training camp objectives. But getting a Colts' defense with several new starters to fully understand the principles of the one-gap run defense presents a major challenge. Teaching those principles will occur in practice, but developing the chemistry to make the scheme come together will have to occur during the games.








After quietly rushing his way to 1,081 yards with Dominic Rhodes to help carry the load, Joseph Addai will be asked to shoulder the bulk of the Colts' rushing duties in 2007.
Michael Hickey/WireImage.com




Challenge No. 3: Find out if Joseph Addai can carry the load
With Dominic Rhodes departing during free agency, Addai gets the opportunity to be the feature back in '07. Though he flashed all of the skills to be an outstanding starter during his rookie campaign, there are questions about his ability to handle more than 300 carries during a 16-game regular season. Based on his size, overall skills and production in a limited role, Addai appears to be capable of taking on the expanded role. His 1,000 rushing yards led all rookie backs last season and the three games he produced in the playoffs in which he gained more than 100 yards of total offense showed that he was capable of being the workhorse in pressure situations. The Colts obviously feel that he is ready to take on the task. With limited depth behind him, the gamble on Addai's durability and effectiveness will be one of the key factors to the Colts' success.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Challenge No. 1: Break in two young starters at safety
With the departures of Deon Grant and Donovin Darius, the Jaguars enter the season with two inexperienced players at the safety position. First-round picks Reggie Nelson and Gerald Sensabaugh are slated to man the deep positions in the secondary. Though they have great athleticism and potential, both enter the season with zero combined career starts. The simplicity of the Jaguars' Cover Two scheme should ease the transition into the starting roles, but the lack of actual game experience will result in some mistakes by the youngsters. Without a dependable veteran backup on the roster, though, Nelson and Sensabaugh will log plenty of preseason snaps to try to develop the trust and accountability necessary to play in the back.
Challenge No. 2: Build an explosive offense
Despite having several talented players on the offensive side of the ball, the Jaguars have struggled scoring points consistently during the Jack Del Rio era. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has been given the task of coming up with an explosive offense to complement the Jaguars' championship-caliber defense. His track record at Boise State and Arizona State is impressive, but several college coaches have failed to find the same success on the pro level. How he builds his attack around the strengths of his best players is more critical than the system or scheme he chooses to run. With Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and Byron Leftwich as their best offensive weapons, you can expect a strong running game complemented by a vertical passing attack using multiple tight end formations. Though the Jaguars lack a legitimate No. 1 receiver, they have three athletic players (Reggie Williams, Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones) who can create mismatches down the field. Second-year tight end Marcedes Lewis has the skills to be a playmaker in the red zone, and veteran Jermaine Wiggins is a dependable option in the middle. There is no doubt that the Jaguars have enough talent to be a top offense, but putting it all together will be the key.
Challenge No. 3: Shed the underachiever label
The Jaguars' 8-8 record last season was clearly disappointing for a team of their talent. Having knocked off five playoff teams last season, the Jaguars cost themselves dearly by not being able to win the games they were supposed to win. Key losses to Washington, Houston and Buffalo kept the team out of the playoffs. Heading into '07 with high expectations, they have to find a way to grow from good to great. Youth and inexperience can't be used as excuses anymore. There is no magic formula to achieving this goal, but since their defense is their backbone, getting that unit to dominate on a weekly basis would be a good start. Though they only gave up an average of 16.2 points a game (2nd in the league), they allowed more than 24 points in six of their eight losses. For a defense that has the talent to be considered among the league's best, they have to dominate all opponents, not just a few of them. Expect Del Rio to place the responsibility on the defense to lead the Jaguars into the playoffs.






Tennessee Titans

Challenge No. 1: Find a replacement for Pacman's production
Although the Titans have long-known they would be without the services of Pacman Jones, the one of the biggest issues heading into training camp is finding a way to replace his production. For all of Jones' offseason troubles, he had established himself as one of the top young players in the game. His penchant for game-changing turnovers and electrifying returns will be missed by a Titans team that may struggle to score points. Free-agent signees Nick Harper and Kelly Herndon will be solid starters, but neither possesses the cover skills or playmaking ability of Jones. Rookie Michael Griffin will also provide some help in the back, but counting on him to be a difference maker immediately is a lot to ask. The Titans have yet to identify a starting returner, but whomever wins the job will have a tough time duplicating Jones' impact.
Challenge No. 2: Answer the running back question
Leading rusher Travis Henry was released during the offseason, so the Titans enter the season with major questions in the backfield. Last year's second- round pick, LenDale White, was expected to be the guy, but his poor offseason work ethic and weight issues have led to serious concerns regarding his readiness for the role. Former starter Chris Brown has a 1,000-yard season under his belt, but he was an afterthought in the offense last season. And rookie Chris Henry has to prove that he can excel on the pro level. For a team that relies heavily on the run to set up the rest of their offense, identifying the right workhorse is crucial.
Challenge No. 3: Find a No.1 receiver
After watching their top two receivers, Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade, leave via free agency, the Titans have to find a top target during training camp. Brandon Jones enters the season as the No. 1 guy on the depth chart, but has never had to face top flight corners and may not be capable of handling the responsibility. David Givens is recovering from a serious knee injury, and the rest of the returning receivers lack significant game experience. With so much inexperience outside, the primary targets in the passing game may be the tight ends Bo Schaife and Ben Troupe. Both are solid pass catchers, but Troupe's athleticism allows him to be a threat down the middle of the field. Vince Young did not utilize the tight ends often last season, but may rely on them more this season without a top receiving threat outside.