With the 2012 NFL Draft and the bulk of free agency in the rearview mirror, NFL.com analyst Elliot Harrison is examining each team's offseason activity and identifying remaining holes to fill.
Free agency: The free agency period in Houston was more about who was lost than who was gained, as Mario Williams flew the coup and Eric Winston was a cap casualty. Throw in dealing away team leader DeMeco Ryans, and this club lost three frontline players. GM Rick Smith did add a good punter in Donnie Jones and a veteran linebacker in Bradie James, who played under Wade Phillips in Dallas.
Draft: Boy, Phillips is going to pressure the hell out of teams in the AFC South this season. Whitney Mercilus was one of the best pass rushers in the draft, and he'll be coming off the bench in Houston. DL Jared Crick was a value buy in the fourth round and will rotate in often. The Texans spent five picks on WR and OL, although none of the players taken are projected to start.
Holes to fill: Many wondered why Houston did not get one of the talented wideouts early in this draft. The team must be hoping that third-round pick DeVier Posey and/or fourth-rounder Keshawn Martin knock it out of the park in 2011, or else this team won't sniff the Super Bowl. Andre Johnson had better stay healthy, and Kevin Walter is what he is at this point. Other voids include right tackle, where Rashad Butler is penciled in, and kicker. Just imagine, Texans fans: Houston's down 30-28 in the 2012 AFC Championship Game at New England, and fifth-round pick Randy Bullock lines up for a potential 50-yard game winner. Until proven otherwise, or someone else is brought in, that constitutes being a "hole to fill."
Free agency: The Colts were quite active in free agency, but not in a headliner sense. New GM Ryan Grigson provided the Colts with a slew of mid-grade players to fill holes all over the depth chart: WR Donnie Avery, C Samson Satele, OT Winston Justice, QB Drew Stanton, DE Cory Redding, S Tom Zbikowski, DT Brandon McKinney and G Mike McGlynn. Redding and Zbikowski should make the biggest impact, having played under new head coach Chuck Pagano in Baltimore.
Draft:Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener should make an impact immediately, as this QB/TE tandem thrived at Stanford. Third-round choice Dwayne Allen will also see extensive time at tight end. Fellow third-rounder T.Y. Hilton will get on the field plenty when the Colts spread it out. DT Josh Chapman might've been a steal in the fifth; he will get an opportunity to play early, considering the rest of the Colts D-line.
Holes to fill: There are so many, obviously ... as evidenced by the fact that this team is starting a rookie at the game's most important position from Day 1. Yet, a few potential concerns stick out far more prominently than the learning curve of Andrew Luck. The defensive line is a weakness, with DT Antonio Johnson and Drake Nevis penciled in as starters. Neither would be a starter for most teams; both must play over their heads for the Colts to have success, particularly against the run. Going across the ball, the offensive line is a huge question mark. How will Justice play at right tackle? Joe Reitz at guard? Will the same five guys start the whole season, building continuity? That's extremely important to solid line play. And who will they be blocking for? The on-again, off-again Donald Brown? Indianapolis chose not to hit running back until the fifth round (Vick Ballard), thus Brown had better be the guy. A young quarterback like Luck would fare much better with an effective ground attack.
Free agency: Jacksonville spent $13.8 million guaranteed for Laurent Robinson, while signing Lee Evans off the street. Those two, particularly Robinson, must help foster the growth of Blaine Gabbert. If he should falter, the Jags picked up Chad Henne as insurance. CB Aaron Ross was an unheralded signing, but might contribute as much as any of the above.
Draft: Like Robinson and Evans, top pick Justin Blackmon will also play a big role in developing Jacksonville's passing attack. Second-round pick Andre Branch joins a group that could stack up as one of the better front lines in the AFC (should he have a nice rookie campaign). GM Gene Smith raised eyebrows by taking punter Bryan Anger in the third round, but if the Jags are to play a defensive-minded game while limiting Gabbert's mistakes in a low-risk offense, then this pick makes sense.
Holes to fill: What doesn't necessarily make sense is Jacksonville not hitting the offensive line in the draft at all. Hopefully, Gabbert can deliver the football quicker and inherently make the front five look better. But rolling with Eben Britton and/or Guy Whimper at right tackle again? Good luck. Perhaps Britton will stay healthy and improve. The defense looks solid, although safety has been a suspect position for this club for years. Of greater concern than safety or Mel Tucker's defense in general is the dollar amount given to an unproven guy like Robinson. Yes, he had 11 touchdown grabs last year. But that was in Dallas, with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Will he disappear in Jacksonville (as so many before him)?
Free agency: Tennessee made a pitch for the most attractive free agent since Deion Sanders and almost got him. While Peyton Manning won't be playing in Nashville, a couple of other new faces will. Steve Hutchinson brings much experience and veteran savvy to the offensive line, while Kamerion Wimbley will start at defensive end and try to make up for the loss of Jason Jones.
Draft: Some league observers questioned the Titans' selection of Kendall Wright at 20th overall. He'll have difficulty beating out Kenny Britt or Nate Washington. Zach Brown was an excellent pick in the second round and could crack the lineup at weakside backer. Tennessee spent four of their remaining five picks on defense, providing the club nice depth on the line and in the secondary.
Holes to fill: Head coach Mike Munchak has a much stronger club than most realize. Here's the deal: The Titans will only go as far as the quarterback position takes them. Jake Locker looked good in spot duty last season and should take the reins in 2012. His mobility and athleticism will bring a dimension to the offense that Matt Hasselbeck couldn't provide last year. But Locker has to get better or else a playoff run remains wishful thinking. Meanwhile, the Titans will be better off if they can make the other teams' quarterbacks regress. The best way to do that is with pressure. Unfortunately, Tennessee doesn't have a premium pass rusher. No, Wimbley doesn't qualify. His 42.5 career sacks is a decent total, but over a six-year career that still only amounts to seven per season. That isn't Reggie White-esque. (Or even Clyde Simmons-esque.)