What I think they are thinking at the headquarters of the four AFC South teams as the first practice of training camp kicks off…
This is the year. People are sick of picking us as a breakthrough team only to see us fall short. Fewer of them are jumping on us now, and they’ll regret it. Our running backs and interior line will be a lot better, and that balanced offense means you’re going to have to score a lot of points to stick with us. We’ll be better in the red zone, our pass rush will be better, our young defensive backs will surprise. Those things and our readiness to show resolve -- to hold a lead against a tough team, to finally beat the Colts for a second time -- mean this will be the breakthrough year.
Name a position we’re not better at than we were a year ago. You may not be sure the offensive line is enough, but we’ll pull the right mix out of what we’ve got. Our corner depth may be a question, but whose isn’t? Did you see the new life Larry Coyer breathed into our defense last year as a new coordinator? Well now you’ll see a similar effect from Clyde Christensen as offensive coordinator and Pete Metzelaars as offensive line coach. The three teams in the AFC South have done good offseason work, but they aren’t catching us.
We’ll get more bang out of our No. 1 pick, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, in the division as anyone and he will be a central piece in a defensive line transformation that will reinvigorate a sluggish pass rush. We did more than our three rivals in free agency with Aaron Kampman and Kassim Osgood. We’re determined to get back to being a physical team, and you’ll have your hands full when we arrive on your schedule. Win or lose, we will make sure your training room is crowded the Monday after you play us.
We’re going young at a lot of key spots, which leaves a lot of people questioning how we fill in leadership gaps. Here’s how: Guys will emerge on the field and in the locker room, and these guys are younger, faster and with more upside than the older guys they are replacing. They are all quality players, and they will collectively surprise the league as we rise up to challenge the Colts. Vince Young will continue to grow, and with more steady play the passing offense will have a lot of plays to make as teams gear up to stop Chris Johnson.