Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Schemes and themes.
Alex Gibbs is gone, but offensive line coach John Benton learned from the master and the Texans are expected to continue to rely largely on the zone blocking run scheme Gibbs installed. That means the interior offensive lineman the Texans bring in to compete for a starting spot will be a smaller, more agile type, not a super-heavyweight bruiser. The bigger running back they seek to run behind that line needs to be a one-cut-and-go guy, not a dancer. If the Texans draft a back, look for them to go for a bigger guy who can get a tough yard and fare better in goal-line situations.
Speed and agility are always at more of a premium than size for the Colts, though they welcome all of those when they can get them. It would seem they would look to add at least one offensive tackle who’s a sure pass-protector but can also help spring a running back like Joseph Addai around the corner with some consistency. Another Colts' tenet is that a steady, threatening pass rush is a crucial component and it’s likely time to upgrade end No. 3 and groom the next Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis.
Head coach Jack Del Rio says quarterback David Garrard is good, but not elite, and that’s perfectly true. For him to lead the Jaguars to the playoffs, he needs to be surrounded by a quality cast that plays close to error-free. So look for second-year general manager Gene Smith to try to mirror his first draft that brought in quality players who had no character questions. Many members of his first draft class were team captains in college, a leadership trademark the team would like to continue to add to its roster. They dabbled with a 3-4 last season, but are back to a 4-3 and need a high motor, consistent pass-rusher more than anything.
The Titans don’t prefer to blitz, but when their front four doesn’t generate sufficient heat they either have to bring extra people or suffer the consequences. Defensive linemen in Tennessee are asked to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. A defensive end who can be disruptive as a rusher is a priority for a team coming off a mediocre pass-pressure season and looking at a youth movement. They’ll be looking at cornerbacks, too. Just as they expect their wide receivers to be a force in the rushing offense, they expect their corners to be big parts of the run defense on the perimeter. They won’t draft a guy afraid to nose in on tackles.