We'll Raise Up Our Glasses Against Evil Forces...AFC South Preview By Steel Drama
…singing, “Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses!”
1.) Gilley’s Texans
Stout: In last years’ preview I told you that in his last four stops as a defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips has helped take each team to the playoffs in year one after the team missed out on the postseason the year prior to his arrival. ‘Ol Wade didn’t disappoint. The Texans went from 29th to 4th in opponents points per game and from 30th to 2nd in opponents yards per game. They went from 23rd to 6th in sacks and 32nd to 12th in turnovers finishing 2nd in the NFL in total defense (3rd in pass def) en route to making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
On the Hops: One of my favorite players to watch in the NFL is Arian Foster. He reminds me a little bit of the great Eric Dickerson. Despite missing four games, Foster rushed for 1,224 yards and totaled 1, 841 from scrimmage. Foster also scored 12 touchdowns and was voted to his second straight Pro Bowl. Foster along with Ben Tate combined for 2,166 yards forming a potent one two punch for the league’s second ranked rushing team (153 yards a game).
Tap a Keg for the Big Boys: While I thought cutting stalwart right tackle Eric Winston was a curious move, the Texans still boast the only starting tackle not to give up a sack in the NFL last season in Duane Brown. Get your check book out Mr. McNair. Brown is in the final year of his contract.
Ice Cold Draft: The Fighting Illini had four of the first 48 draft picks, second only to Alabama (5), yet the team finished 6-6 (I guess we know why Ron Zook got the hook). After the Texans drafted the first Illinois player, Whitney Mercilus, Jon Gruden said, “Mercilus had no ‘mercy’ on the Big Ten.” Good one Jon.
Stale Ale: Injuries to quarterback Matt Schaub and star wide out Andre Johnson derailed what could’ve been a Super Bowl season. With Schaub at the command, the Texans averaged 27 points a game and had a 7-3 record along with a four game winning streak when he was lost for the season.
Bitter Beer Face: Apparently Coach Kubiak is not happy about 3rd round pick Brandon Brooks reporting to OTA’s much heavier than his listed 346 pounds. “I did not like what I saw today,” Kubiak said with a not-so serious tone. “He’s overweight and he’s got to get down, but he has a chance to be a good player. Can you send that message to him?”
Bartender: Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips earned their paychecks this season in getting the Texans to the playoffs for the first time in the teams’ 10 year history. However, the real star of the Texans’ organization is GM Rick Smith. He has a good mix of glamour guys like Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster to go with recently drafted guts guys like JJ Watt, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, and Connor Barwin.
Drinks are on Drama: An ice cold beer for Gary Kubiak. The win over the Bengals was not only the Texans first playoff game but the first playoff game played in Houston since 1993 AND they did it with rookie 5th round pick TJ Yates playing quarterback. Cheers to you Kubes!
The Hangover: Count me in amongst the many that feel the Texans would’ve done some serious damage in the playoffs if they had their starting quarterback and a fully healthy Andre Johnson. I REALLY like a lot of the young players on this Texans team. If a wide receiver such as Devier Posey, Keshawn Martin, or B2B’s guy Lester Jean can step up and be a viable complement to Andre Johnson I think the Texans COULD have a potent offense close to that of the Patriots, Packers, and Saints.
2) Pecker Wrecker Titans
Stout: Despite a middle of the pack (18th) ranking in total defense, the Titans had several rookies step up and contribute on defense in 2011. Middle Linebacker Colin McCarthy looked like the second coming of Dan Morgan while all-out war daddy type Karl Klug led the team with 7 sacks as an undersized defensive tackle. Akeem Ayers and Jurrell Casey also were rookie starters while 7th round pick Tommie Campbell by way of Cal (PA) looks to step into the starting lineup this year as a 6’3 206 cornerback.
On the Hops: Nate Washington became the first Titans’ receiver to go over 1,000 yds since 2004. His 1,023 yards receiving were just 24 yards fewer than Chris Johnson had rushing the football in 2011. While it’s never a good thing to have Nate Washington as your top wide receiver, the Titans have the makings of a very good receiving corps with Kenny Britt looking to return from knee surgery and top pick Kendall Wright already impressing at camp. Factor in tight end Jared Cook and another rookie that is impressing the coaches in Taylor Thompson, the Titans could be really be dynamic once Jake Locker is ready to take over the offense from Matt Hasselbach.
Tap a Keg: The Titans ranked a surprising 12th in passing offense thanks in large part to the protection afforded the quarterbacks by the solid tandem of Michael Roos and Dave Stewart.
Ice Cold Draft: The best line of draft weekend goes to the NFL Network's Mike Mayock on the Titan’s 2nd round pick Zach Brown: "This is one of the most gifted linebackers in this class. He's the fastest linebacker. He flies all over. The bad news is that he's somewhat allergic to contact.”
Stale Ale: While I like many of the young players on their roster, the Titans are one of three teams not to have a player in the Pro Bowl.
Bitter Beer Face: After signing an extension worth $53 million, Chris Johnson, the back who once eclipsed 2,000 yards eclipsed 100 just once in his first eight starts and, in four of those games, couldn't produce more than 34. He wound up over 1,000 ... but barely ... and had a career-low average of 3.99 yards per carry. Worse, in five of his 16 games he failed to run for more than 24 yards. Worse yet, Johnson also averaged a league low 2.1 yards gained after contact, a mark shared by noted bruisers Cedric Benson and Dexter McCluster.
Bartender: Mike Munchak had a solid rookie debut considering the lockout, Kenny Britt’s knee injury, and the highly disappointing season of Chris Johnson. However, Munchak’s ultimate coaching success is hinged upon the success of 2nd year qb Jake Locker.
Drinks are on Drama: Hell no they’re not! Titans fans deserve a round of drinks on the $53 million man Chris Johnson for suffering through his pathetic excuse for a season.
The Hangover: Really the AFC South is a one team division. Barring injuries, the Texans will run away and hide in this division. Still the season must play out. Titans’ fans rejoice. Chris Johnson has gained 8-10 pounds of muscle and is said to be ready to atone for his 2011 campaign.
“The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” - Humphrey Bogart
3) Mad Manatee Jaguars
Stout: Thanks to new additions Paul Posluszny and Clint Session along with holdover Darryl Smith who had the most stops in the run game of any other outside linebacker (43), the Jaguars improved from 28th to 5th in total defense last season.
On the Hops: Despite playing on the leagues’ worst offense, Pocket Hercules captured the rushing title with 1,606 yards while also finishing 2nd on the team with 43 receptions. He accounted for more than 50% of the Jaguars offense in 2011. “Pay that man his money.”
Tap a Keg: With rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert panicking at the first whiff of pressure, better tap two kegs for the Jags’ big boys up front. “My advice to you is start drinking heavily.”
Ice Cold Draft: This is how far the University of Miami, the University of Florida and Florida State have fallen: There were players from Midwestern State, North Alabama, Appalachian State and a PUNTER from Cal taken before anyone from Miami, Florida or FSU came off the board -- and that was with the 72nd pick.
Stale Ale: Quick! Name a wide receiver that played for the Jags last year. Damned if I could after Mike Thomas. The Jags haven’t had a decent wide receiver since Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith left town. The Jags completed just 6 passes for more than 30 yards last season (worst in the league).The Jags are hoping top pick Justin Blackmon and free agent Laurent Robinson can improve that stat.
Bitter Beer Face: Let me see if I have this right. Jacksonville finishes 5-11, ranks dead last in offense yet opts for a punter with its first pick of the third round? Gene Smith you were at Edinboro the same time I was so tell me…what were you thinking?! "I think that's an easy decision for me," said Jags' GM Gene Smith, "to get a starter in the third round." I’m confused don’t all teams only have ONE punter? Isn’t he a starter by default? C’mon Gene!
Bartender: Back in 2003, former Jags’ owner Wayne Weaver hired Jack Del Rio as head coach over Mike Mularkey, then the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. This time new owner Shad Khan after apparently striking out with bigger names like Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden hired Mularkey to lead his team. Here in Atlanta, what few Falcons fans there are wanted Mularkey fired. So after losing Mularkey to the Jags, the Falcons replaced Mularkey with the Jags offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the same Dirk Koetter who directed the WORST OFFENSE IN FOOTBALL this past season. Irony in there somewhere.
Drinks are on Drama: A shot of Patron and a beer for Tim Tebow for passing on his hometown Jaguars to go play in the bright lights of New York…oh wait…I already established Tebow doesn’t drink. Oh well that’s money I can use toward golf lessons. I suck.
The Hangover: The Jags are solid on defense so they’re no pushover. However, I KNOW Blaine Gabbert is a bust and Mike Mularkey was a horrible head coaching hire. This team is going nowhere fast except maybe Los Angeles.
4) Sun King Colts
Stout: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis combined for 19 sacks and represented the 2-14 Colts in the Pro Bowl.
On the Hops: I always knew Peyton Manning was a good quarterback, but I think this year more than any other showed his true value to the team. No team wants the first pick in the draft, but at least the Colts were Luck-y enough to start rebuilding with a quarterback who could very well be the next Peyton Manning.
Tap a Keg: Anthony Castanzo and Ben Ijalana were the Colts first 2 selections in the 2011 draft. Injuries derailed their rookie seasons but they will be charged with protecting the Colts rookie signal caller.
Ice Cold Draft: Greg Cosell prefers RGIII to Andrew Luck saying, “Luck was not a special passer based on film study. He is not the same kind of arm talent as Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton. While charting Luck, I was compelled to reflect on Manning. Was Manning a special passer coming out of Tennessee? Most would probably say no. It raises the question: what is the connection between arm talent and high football IQ as it relates to NFL success? We know where it led with Manning. Also remember Peyton’s arm strength increased as played in the NFL.” The Colts doubled up on Stanford kids selecting Luck’s primary target Colby Fleener to start the 2nd round to which prompted Mike Mayock to opine, “Ability wise, he’s a second-rounder,” Mayock said. “This kid is not a trained killer. He’s not a great blocker.”
Stale Ale: Without Peyton Manning the Colts predictably finished near the bottom of every offensive category including 27th in passing yards, 29th in points, and 30th in total offense. However, as long as Andrew Luck gets decent protection his rookie season should top Manning’s rookie showing of 26 touchdowns and a whopping 28 interceptions.
Bitter Beer Face: Peyton Manning made a bitter beer face every time his replacement made a mistake which was pretty damn often. Having Jeff Spicoli as your teams’ backup quarterback when your HOF qb is coming off neck surgery is never a good idea. Bill Polian you got what was coming to you for that assaholic mistake alone.
Bartender: The Colts went from business-like under the likes of Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, and Peyton Manning to biker-like with the hiring of head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Drinks are on Drama: I’d buy owner Jim Irsay a beer but based on some of the comments this guy tweets on a daily basis I don’t think one beer would quite do it. I’m thinking this clown can drink us all under the table. Cheers to you tweet boy!
Hangover: The Peyton Manning era is over in Indianapolis and along with it their impressive run of nine straight playoff appearances. Good Luck Andrew, you’re going to need it.
“Twenty-four hours in a day; twenty-four beers in a case. Coincidence?” - Stephen Wright