Fillability Index: AFC South

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 16, 2008



The Fillability Index is our annual look at each team's off-season acquisitions and departures.
 
We continue today with the AFC South, which proved to be perhaps the toughest division in football last year. Hell, even the once-lowly Texans failed to suck.
 
The Fillability Index is the best way found anywhere in the seedy underworld of online football analysis to measure the off-season moves of each NFL team. Its brilliance is found in its simplicity: we size up each team based upon their statistical strengths and weaknesses last year, as measured by their rankings in all of our Quality Stats, and then determine whether they made the necessary off-season personnel moves to shore up those weaknesses.
 
Pretty simple. Yet nobody else does it.
 
So on to the Index.
 
(Index Key: Bend = Bendability Index; Score = Scoreability Index; PYPA = Passing Yards Per Attempt; DPR = Defensive Passer Rating; OHI = Offensive Hog Index; DHI = Defensive Hog Index; Big Play = Big Play Index; Relativity = Relativity Index; ST = Special Teams)
 
HOUSTON (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
23
11
5
30
13
31
20t
16
3
 
Additions:
RB Chris Brown (Tennessee)
LB Kevin Bentley (Seattle)
S Nick Ferguson (Denver)
C Chris Myers (Denver)
CB Jacques Reeves (Cowboys)
LB Chaun Thompson (Cleveland)
LB Rosevelt Colvin (New England)
 
Subtractions:
TE Jeb Putzier (Seattle)
WR Jerome Mathis (Washington)
CB Von Hutchins (Atlanta)
RB Ron Dayne (Unsigned)
LB Danny Clark (New York Giants)
S Michael Boulware (Minnesota)
LB Charlie Anderson (Miami)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (26) Duane Brown, OT, Virginia Tech
3 (79) Antwaun Molden, CB, Eastern Kentucky
3 (89) Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia
4 (118) Xavier Adibi, LB, Virginia Tech
5 (151) Frank Okam, DT, Texas
6 (173) Dominique Barber, S, Minnesota
7 (223) Alex Brink, QB, Washington State
 
Texans Fillability Overview 
Houston made great strides (relatively speaking) in 2007, reaching 8-8 for the first time in the franchise's short six-season history and gutting it out in the toughest division in football last year.
 
The change at quarterback in 2007 was a large reason for the improvements – former No. 1 pick David Carr was dumped before the season in favor or former Michael Vick backup Matt Schaub. The Texans, not so coincidentally, fielded the most successful passing attack in their history, finishing the season No. 5 in Passing Yards Per Attempt (6.81 YPA), behind only powerhouses New England, Dallas, Green Bay and Indy.
 
The improvement in the passing game is all the more remarkable considering Schaub suffered a shoulder injury and had to give way to back up Sage Rosenfels for a third of the season. Even more remarkable though, is the Cold, Hard Football Fact that Houston's quarterbacks suffered just 22 sacks all season, after Carr set virtually every being-sacked record in the history of football.
 
Carr was sacked a record 76 times in 2002 – perhaps no surprise there, as a rookie quarterback with an expansion team in the pass-happy Live Ball Era. But he nearly duplicated the feat in 2005, suffering 68 sacks, the third most in NFL history.
 
Indeed, the Texans made great strides in 2007.
 
But one aspect of their 2007 season sticks out like a drunken CHFF Troll in a dry county: Houston's pathetic, 31st ranked Defensive Hogs.

How they fared this poorly is beyond comprehension. Mario Williams, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, had a breakout season in 2007 with 14.0 sacks. His performance confirmed our belief that the Texans made the right decision passing on Reggie Bush in favor of the stud defensive end in the 2006 draft. Meanwhile, the NFL's 2006 defensive rookie of the year, DeMeco Ryans, continued to be one of the most productive linebackers in football.
 
Still, it meant virtually nothing, as Houston's front seven was so poor we saw it washing windshields at a New York City intersection the other day. The overall pass defense remained among the worst in the league, too, ranking No. 30 in Defensive Passer Rating last year. The 2007 Texans, with the exception of Williams could barely get to the quarterback when he stepped back to pass, and could do little to stop him when he released the football. The Texans, for example, forced a Negative Pass Play on just 7.28 percent of opponent drop backs last year, 31st in the league.
 
Sadly for giddy Houston fans, the Texans did virtually nothing to shore up this sad-sack squad, save for acquiring some journeymen and mid-round draft picks at linebacker and defensive back.
 
The Texans seemed to have solved their offensive issues last year, and it caused quite a bit of enthusiasm in Houston. But the failure to upgrade the Defensive Hogs will probably temper that enthusiasm when the bullets start flying in September.
 
Houston Fillability Grade: D
 
***
 
INDIANAPOLIS (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
5
3
4
3
5
16t
9
2
31
 
Additions:
RB Dominic Rhodes (Oakland)
QB Jared Lorenzen (New York Giants)
QB Quinn Gray (Jacksonville)
 
Subtractions:
LB Rocky Boiman (Philadelphia)
OG Jake Scott (Tennessee)
OG Dylan Gandy (Denver)
DL Dan Klecko (Philadelphia)
DT Anthony McFarland (Pittsburgh)
TE Ben Utecht (Cincinnati)
 
Draft Picks:
2 (59) Mike Pollak, C, Arizona State
3 (93) Philip Wheeler, LB, Georgia Tech
4 (127) Jacob Tamme, TE, Kentucky
5 (161) Marcus Howard, LB, Georgia
6 (196) Tom Santi, TE, Virginia
6 (201) Steven Justice, C, Wake Forest
6 (202) Mike Hart, RB, Michigan
6 (205) Pierre Garcon, WR, Mount Union
7 (236) Jamey Richard, C, Buffalo
 
Colts Fillability Overview
The biggest news in free agency this year for Indy was the no-confidence vote for back-up quarterback Jim Sorgi, as the Colts brought in two competitors to hold Peyton Manning's clipboard, chunky Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray, medicine woman.
 
Of course, wheeling and dealing in free agency is not Indy's game. After all, GM Bill Polian is the premier draft-day talent evaluator in football, and has been for years (that's right, not even Bonzo the Idiot Monkey can compete with Polian). He finds great young players out of college and then watches as they consistently turn into Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers. 
 
Polian's talents were put to the test this year, as the Colts went without a first-round pick, though they were able to stockpile late supplemental picks (four selections in the sixth round alone).
 
Clearly, the lack of movement in free agency says the Colts feel good about themselves. After all, when you're No. 1 priority is finding a back-up quarterback, things are pretty rosy.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts certainly bear out the comfort in Indy: the Colts ranked in the top five in six of our nine Quality Stats last year, and in the Top 10 in seven of nine. The special teams certainly sucked – 31st last year – but that doesn't seem to be a problem. Our Special Teams Index showed plenty of great teams last year that were poor in this area, and plenty of lousy teams that were great in this area (all of which tends to refute the importance of special teams). So the Colts can live without devoting resources to this weakness.
 
That leaves only one major weak spot to address: the Defensive Hogs, where the Colts were a mere 16th in 2007. The return of injured defensive end Dwight Freeney to full form should help the cause, but even then his specialty has always been as a pass rusher, not as a run stuffer.
 
It would have made sense for the Colts to devote more energy to this area. Yet the only additions to the front seven were two mid-round linebackers.
 
But Polian's proven ability to pull magic out of the draft prevents the Colts from suffering a poor Fillability performance this year. Few others in football deserve the benefit of the doubt he's earned for re-stocking his team's talent.
 
Indy Fillability Grade: B-
 
***
 
JACKSONVILLE (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
8
8
8
7
1t
12t
5t
6
9
 
Additions:
WR Jerry Porter (Oakland)
CB Drayton Florence (San Diego)
DT Jimmy Kennedy (Chicago)
QB Cleo Lemon (Miami)
WR Troy Williamson (Minnesota)
 
Subtractions:
DT Marcus Stroud (Buffalo)
CB Aaron Glenn (New Orleans)
QB Quinn Gray (Indianapolis)
OG Chris Naeole (Unsigned)
CB Terry Cousin (Cleveland)
DT Grady Jackson (Atlanta)
S Sammy Knight (New York Giants)
DE Bobby McCray (New Orleans)
LB Shantee Orr (Cleveland)
CB Chris Roberson (Miami)
RB LaBrandon Toefield (Carolina)
WR Ernest Wilford (Miami)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (8) Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
2 (52) Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn
5 (155) Thomas Williams, LB, USC
5 (159) Trae Williams, CB, South Florida
7 (213) Chauncey Washington, RB, USC
 
Jaguars Fillability Overview
So many players fled Jacksonville this year that we thought Fidel Castro had taken over the team.
 
The wave of departures are not great news for a club that was one of the most statistically solid in football last year. The Jaguars join 2007 conference-title-game contenders Patriots and Packers as the only teams in football last year that ranked in the Top 10 in at least eight of our nine Quality Stats.
 
The only area where the Jaguars failed to meet that mark was with their Defensive Hogs, who ranked No. 12. A nice mark, but clearly the weak point on the team last year.
 
Jacksonville played it smart, devoting their No. 1 draft pick – and 8th overall – to one of the most explosive defensive lineman in the draft this year, Florida's Derrick Harvey. (The Gators star put himself on the map with 3 sacks on 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith in the 2006-07 college football national championship game.)
 
The Jaguars are desperately in need of that type of big-game performer. They've have boatloads of potential under coach Jack Del Rio, winning 12 games in 2005 and 12 games again in 2007 (including playoffs). But both times they fell to the Patriots in the postseason, proving the Jaguars are not yet ready for prime time.  
 
So Harvey could prove to be a very wise pick: he could fill a statistical, physical and psychological need for a team in need of a big-game performer.
 
The Jaguars let a lot of players go, but other than Marcus Stroud few were of major significance on the roster. Even Stroud had been on a downward spiral: he's played in just 20 games over the last two seasons after never missing a start in the previous four seasons. He's also registered just 6.5 sacks over the last three seasons. Perhaps Harvey will make Jacksonville fans forget one of the franchise's defensive stalwarts over the past several years.
 
Del Rio and Jacksonville brain trust certainly have some recent momentum in their favor: their decision to release former face-of-the-franchise quarterback Brian Leftwich before the 2007 season was one of the gutsiest front-office moves all of last year. The Cold, Hard Football Facts naturally applauded the move when it happened, even though few among the lesser football sites saw the wisdom of the decision. Former back-up David Garrard stepped in, and immediately lifted the Jacksonville passing attack: it ranked No. 8 in Passing Yards Per Attempt last year.
 
The trend continued this year: by devoting their first two picks of the draft to their greatest statistical weakness, defensive line, the organization has shown that it knows what it needs to do to reach that difficult upper tier in 2008.
 
Jacksonville Fillability Grade: A-
 
***
 
TENNESSEE (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
14
20
20
4
18t
15
15t
14
8
 
Additions:
TE Alge Crumpler (Atlanta)
DE Jevon Kearse (Philadelphia)
WR Justin McCareins (New York Jets)
OG Jake Scott (Indianapolis)
DB Chris Carr (Oakland)
TE Dwayne Blakley (Atlanta)
LB Josh Stamer (Buffalo)
 
Subtractions:
CB Adam Jones (Dallas)
OG Jacob Bell (St. Louis)
DT Randy Starks (Miami)
TE Ben Troupe (Tampa Bay)
DE Antwan Odom (Cincinnati)
RB Chris Brown (Houston)
LB Gilbert Gardner (Detroit)
TE Ben Hartsock (Atlanta)
WR David Givens (Unsigned)
DE Travis LaBoy (Arizona)
WR Eric Moulds (Unsigned)
CB Michael Waddell (Oakland)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (24) Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina
2 (54) Jason Jones, DE, Eastern Michigan
3 (85) Craig Stevens, TE, California
4 (103) William Hayes, DE, Winston Salem
4 (126) Lavelle Hawkins, WR, California
4 (134) Stanford Keglar, LB, Purdue
7 (229) Cary Williams, CB, Washburn
 
Titans Fillability Overview
The With all due respect to Cold, Hard Football Facts favorite Vince Young, the Titans reached playoffs last year on the strength of their defense.
 
The Titans were
  • 14th in our Bendability Index, our measure of defensive efficiency (compared with 20th in our Scoreability Index, our measure of offensive efficiency).
  • 4th in Defensive Passer Rating (compared with 20th in Passing Yards Per Attempt)
  • 15th in our Defensive Hog Index (compared with 18th in our Offensive Hog Index)
In other words, Tennessee was better in every defensive category last year than it was in each corresponding offensive category. None of this changes the fact that Young is a winner – he's 17-10 (.607) in 27 regular-season games. But, as we noted earlier this week in our preseason Power Rankings, the Titans are also 5-3 in games in which Young fails to throw or run for a single touchdown.
 
It's clearly a team in need of some offensive help. And, wisely, the Titans, attacked the offensive side of the ball in free agency.
 
They clearly upgraded at the tight end position, grabbing one of the best of recent years, Alge Crumpler, from Atlanta. Last year's top tight end, Bo Scaife, had a career year in 2007 with 46 catches for 421 yards and 1 TD. Crumpler, despite playing most of his career with the forward-pass challenged Michael Vick, averaged 45 catches for 602 yards and 5 TDs per season in Atlanta.
 
No. 1 pick Chris Johnson is a potentially explosive performer at running back. Of course, many people thought the same about 2006 No. 1 pick LenDale White. That pick, though, has generated just 1,354 yards, 7 TDs and 3.7 YPA in two years.
 
Still, the overall moves have marked a step in the right direction for a team that already boasts a potential Super Bowl-caliber defense.
 
Tennessee Fillability Grade: B+

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