AFC South daydreaming

Posted May 05, 2011 @ 12:57 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

Rookie minicamps should be getting under way soon.

Changes should be afoot in the AFC South.

QB competitions featuring the likes of David Garrard vs. Blaine Gabbert and a veteran QB [maybe Matt Hasselbeck?] vs. Jake Locker beginning.

Peyton Manning's John Hancock should be on the dotted line of the richest contract in league history.

The Texans' defense should be getting schooled by Wade Phillips — who has reached the playoffs in the first season with each of the last seven teams he has taken over as head coach or defensive coordinator. [Think Houston desperately needs this time to transition to Phillips' 3-4 attack?] Mario Williams should be getting tips from Phillips on how he can become DeMarcus Ware; a young secondary should be starting to see its potential with better coaching.

Mike Munchak's first chance to lead the organization he gave his heart and soul to for 30 years should already have started. Waiting to greet him should be critical decisions on whether Locker should start immediately or if the club should go with a veteran signalcaller, how to get through to one of his most talented players [Kenny Britt] and what type of work environment he wants to create for his club.

The Jaguars should have addressed the linebacker and safety positions in free agency by now. Optimism should be flowing that whoever was brought in at those positions to supplement GM Gene Smith's rebuilding project will start making plays and bring a potentially dominant defensive tackle pairing the attention it deserves.

Jacksonville should be following up its impressive run of zero blackouts last season with an uptick in ticket sales because of the excitement surrounding Gabbert and the Jaguars hosting two "Monday Night Football" games for only the second time in franchise history.

Bill Polian should be grinning at Colts headquarters, with Manning already directing rookie OTs Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana on his countless hand gestures and other ways of communicating for all of the different audibles at the line.

We should be asking if the Colts, after giving him the historic deal, are finally ready to help Manning by running the football more (don't count on it). Is rookie RB Delone Carter finally going to bring some physicality to the offense? The Colts should have updates on the injuries of roughly half their football team by now. [Austin Collie, please pick up where you left off last season and find a way to stay on the field.]

And seriously, we should really be debating whether or not Phillips can pull another rabbit out of his hat. With rookies J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, and Brandon Harris being thrown into the mix with Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, and Connor Barwin, they should already smell QBs' blood in the water. That offense is Super Bowl-caliber right now.

We should be imagining what Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew can do on two good knees. Can the NFL rushing champion who took the league by storm last season actually play better? Is MJD's knee, which experienced bone-on-bone contact at the end of last season, still able to withstand the rigors of a 16-game season?

Debates should be under way regarding which rookie passer will be thrown into the fire first. Pressure to win for Jack Del Rio is far greater than Munchak. But is Munchak confident Locker can correct the accuracy issues Locker swears don't exist? And how fast can the Titans teach the kid to slide when scrambling for the good of his own health?

We should be asking if Gabbert can beat out Garrard, the streaky veteran who lasted all of six quarters before Jacksonville tried to turn to Luke McCown last season — McCown proceeded to tear his ACL almost immediately upon entering the game in San Diego.

We should be on our way to finding out if Del Rio and Kubiak can save their jobs. Del Rio has one postseason trip in eight seasons; Houston would love its first taste of playoff football.

And what about the Super Bowl in Indianapolis? Can the Colts become the first team to play on the biggest stage on their home field — Lucas Oil Stadium? Will the city of Indianapolis be dealt a better hand than "Big D"?

The Pro Football Weekly offices should be buzzing, with the draft barely in the rearview mirror and the final touches being applied to our first edition of PFW's NFL Preview 2011 magazine.

As you can see, the NFL is a year-round business for lots of folks. There are tens of thousands of hardworking people behind the scenes whose livelihood depends on this game.

But, instead, things are eerily quiet at PFW headquarters — a lot like the silence at the Eighth Circuit Court — and I'm selfishly taking one more opportunity before football purgatory commences to get excited discussing what should be in store for the AFC South next season.

Before we know it, the reality that all these compelling story lines — which make up just a tiny fraction of what is so great about this game — are on the verge of never coming to fruition will begin to sink in.