AFC South Training-Camp Battles
By Ken Zalis
We continue our look around the division with the training-camp battles in the AFC South:
A big battle here is at the second and third wide receiver spots. Quarterback is set with Matt Schaub. Arian Foster is the running back (and maybe the top pick in fantasy football), with Ben Tate a must-handcuff for Foster. The often-injured Owen Daniels is secure at tight end. At wide receiver, Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin are all looking to unseat incumbent Kevin Walter. After OTAs, Jean seemed to have the upper hand, but rookie Martin has made an impression on the coaching staff and may be the slot guy.
Name to remember: James Casey will play fullback, H-back, tight end and may sell popcorn at the half. Casey has a skill set similar to Dallas Clark's if given the chance.
Welcome to the Andrew Luck era! There is no battle for quarterback here, but the running back and wide receiver spots are up for grabs. At running back, veteran Donald Brown will get the first chance to be the starter, but Vick Ballard and Delone Carter are nipping at his heals. The coaching staff has been impressed with the banger and physical nature of Ballard so far. At wide receiver, veterans Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie give Luck a nice combo of inside and out to target. Rookies LaVon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton are in a battle with the often-injured Donnie Avery, who has shined so far in camp, for the third wide receiver spot.
Name to remember: Dwayne Allen is making a name for himself at tight end. The Colts drafted Coby Fleener to be Luck's security blanket -- the two were teammates at Stanford -- but Allen has shown better hands and run better routes so far and is pushing Fleener.
What a mess. With Maurice Jones-Drew in a holdout, there is seemingly no talent on this roster. Blaine Gabbert seems to be holding off veteran Chad Henne at quarterback so far, which speaks volumes, because Gabbert was just plain awful last year. At wide receiver, rookie Justin Blackmon is in camp after ending his contract holdout and should beat out veterans Lee Evans and Laurent Robinson for the top wide receiver spot. Marcedes Lewis is the starting tight end.
Name to remember: The longer MJD is out, the more work and confidence Rashad Jennings gets.
Quarterback is the battle to watch here, as veteran Matt Hasselbeck is trying to fend off second-year pro Jake Locker for the starting spot. This is a dead heat as of this post, and may come down to the last preseason game. Chris Johnson is in camp this year, and looking like the CJ2K of old. Much is expected from tight end Jared Cook this year, and he is not being challenged at camp. Wide receiver is another story, as Kenny Britt is coming off knee surgeries and may be suspended for a few games for several off-the-field issues. Rookie Kendall Wright should start, with Nate Washington and Damian Williams with him in the three-wide receiver sets, which the Titans are rumored to be using often.
Name to remember: Running back Javon Ringer is one play away from being a huge contributor for the Titans.
We continue early next week as we finish up the AFC with the west division.
Posted Aug. 10, 2012