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NFL training camp: AFC South team-by-team preview

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) cheers

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) cheers in the huddle before an NFL game Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, in Houston. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip


OPEN CAMP: Aug. 1, Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana.

LAST YEAR: Continued steady progression with Andrew Luck leading way, winning second straight AFC South title and advancing one step deeper in playoffs for third consecutive year. Beat Bengals at home in wild-card round and beat Broncos on road before getting blown out -- again -- by Patriots in AFC championship game. Somehow, defense matched sacks total from 2013 despite losing league sacks champ Robert Mathis for whole season.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OLB Trent Cole; WRs Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett; RB Frank Gore; OL Todd Herremans; DL Kendall Langford; S Dwight Lowery.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: S LaRon Landry; DE Cory Redding; RB Trent Richardson; WR Reggie Wayne; OT Gosder Cherilus.

CAMP NEEDS: Colts must find starting line that can keep Luck upright more often, get Dorsett, Johnson and Gore acclimated to offense, and help Luck figure out how to cut down turnovers. Defensively, 34-year-old Mathis remains big question after tearing left Achilles tendon last September. With or without Mathis, Indy's defense must get stouter against run and create more consistent pass rush.

EXPECTATIONS: Indy's steady ascension has spurred talk about Super Bowl or bust season. Favorable schedule, with Patriots and Broncos both at home, and playing in division where no other quarterback has measured up to Luck should lead to third straight division crown. But success or failure this season will be defined by two things: beating New England in playoffs and reaching third Super Bowl since 2006.


OPEN CAMP: July 31, Houston.

LAST YEAR: In first season under coach Bill O'Brien, improved seven games from terrible 2-14 campaign in 2013 behind spectacular year by DE J.J. Watt, NFL's Defensive Player of Year for second time in his four pro seasons. But last year's No. 1 overall pick, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, played just four games because of injuries. That coupled with injuries to several quarterbacks kept Houston from returning to postseason.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: NT Vince Wilfork; QB Brian Hoyer; S Rahim Moore; CB Kevin Johnson; WRs Jaelen Strong, Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts III.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Andre Johnson; S D.J. Swearinger; QB Ryan Fitzpatrick; C Chris Myers.

CAMP NEEDS: After using four quarterbacks because of injuries, they'll use camp to decide whether Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett will start. Mallett made first two starts of career last year after Texans benched Fitzpatrick. But he tore pectoral muscle and missed rest of season. Hoyer, who started 13 games for Cleveland last season, signed with Houston in offseason. Texans also need to see progress of Clowney's rehabilitation from December microfracture surgery and if he'll be ready for Week 1.

EXPECTATIONS: Defense will be strength of team with Watt, Wilfork and hopefully Clowney, but fate of Texans will rely heavily on how quarterback performs in division featuring Andrew Luck and Colts. WR DeAndre Hopkins should fill in ably for Johnson, but Shorts, Washington or third-round pick Strong will need to step up. They'll also need strong performance from RB Arian Foster, who has dealt with injuries in recent seasons and turns 29 this summer. He'll work behind line with Ben Jones moving into a starting role after release of veteran Myers.


OPEN CAMP: July 31, Jacksonville.

LAST YEAR: Started 0-6 for second consecutive season under coach Gus Bradley, getting outscored 152-58 in first four games, and finished below .500 for sixth time in last seven years. Jaguars planned to keep QB Blake Bortles on bench as rookie, but third overall pick in draft ended up on field in Week 3 and started final 13 games. Bortles was one of seven rookies to start on offense, and not surprisingly, Jaguars struggled to score all year.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: TE Julius Thomas; RB T.J. Yeldon; OT Jermey Parnell; C Stefen Wisniewski; CB Davon House; LB Dan Skuta; DE Jared Odrick.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Cecil Shorts III; DEs Red Bryant and rookie DE Dante Fowler Jr., who injured knee in first practice and will miss season.

CAMP NEEDS: Bortles must get more comfortable in pocket and in new coordinator Greg Olson's offense. Have to keep second-year receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee healthy. Have to develop better chemistry on offensive line that contributed to franchise-record 71 sacks in 2014. Have to get more out of two third-year pros, LT Luke Joeckel and S Johnathan Cyprien. Need significant contributions from six free agents team gave $78 million guaranteed to make immediate impacts.

EXPECTATIONS: A little hope. Jaguars are 14-50 since 2010, and although Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell admit their three-year overhaul needed more work than initially expected, they also realize it's time to start providing better results.


OPEN CAMP: July 30, St. Thomas Sports Park, Nashville, Tennessee.

LAST YEAR: Coach Ken Whisenhunt started debut season with big win in Kansas City, year's lone highlight. Titans cycled through three quarterbacks and played seven offensive tackles while finishing with 10 straight losses for worst record since 1994.

Only plus was their highest draft pick since 1984 at No. 2 overall.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Mastermind Dick LeBeau now is in charge of defense. Heisman Trophy winner QB Marcus Mariota; LB Brian Orakpo; CB Perrish Cox; S Da'Norris Searcy; TE Anthony Fasano; WRs Dorial Green-Beckham and Harry Douglas; RB David Cobb.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: OTs Michael Roos and Michael Oher; RB Shonn Greene.

CAMP NEEDS: Oversee Mariota's development. Offensive line must settle down and improve to protect rookie QB. Green-Beckham and Cobb need to stay healthy and on field after hamstring woes limited both rookies this offseason. Cobb and RB Bishop Sankey must show they can run ball consistently in NFL.

EXPECTATIONS: Drafting Mariota has revived hope for franchise with only one winning season since last playoff berth in 2008. Oregon star is third QB team has drafted in first eight picks since 2006. How quickly Mariota develops will determine just how much better Titans are this season. Team that finished last in AFC South should be better in Whisenhunt's second season, has much room for improvement across board.

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