Plugging the holes: AFC South

Johnathan Joseph could be the missing piece for the Houston Texans' defense. AP Photo/David Kohl

Note: This is the fourth of an eight-part series, going division by division through the NFL.

One effect of the lockout is that teams don't have as good a feel for their roster as they would in normal years. No one has conducted OTAs, rookies haven't had a chance to study the playbooks or meet with position coaches and because free agency was pushed back until after the lockout, many teams don't know what their rosters will look like, even as they begin training camp. So without further ado, let's look biggest remaining question for all four teams in the AFC South.

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Houston Texans: Will the linebacking corps live up to its potential?

The Texans aggressively attacked their biggest need in free agency, signing Johnathan Joseph to start at one cornerback position and Danieal Manning to play safety. With those two additions and the presence of Glover Quin, even if he is undergoing a position change from cornerback to free safety, the Texans seem to have three reliable starters in the secondary. If new defensive backs coach Vance Joseph can find another starter out of 2010 first-round pick Kareem Jackson, 2011 second-round pick Brandon Harris and former Dolphins first-round pick Jason Allen, the Texans' secondary could actually be good.

To go with the improved secondary, the Texans have answers, at least on paper, for the rest of the defense. Each linebacker position, however, has serious questions associated with it:
• Can Mario Williams make a successful transition from defensive end to outside linebacker?

• Has DeMeco Ryans fully recovered from his season-ending Achilles injury?
• Can Brian Cushing recover the form of his standout 2009 campaign?
• Can rookie second-round pick Brooks Reed or Connor Barwin, who missed virtually all of 2010 with an ankle injury, both former defensive ends, man the starting outside linebacker spot opposite Williams?