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Garrard's release makes Texans the easy pick in AFC South

The Tuesday afternoon news that Jacksonville was releasing starting quarterback David Garrard sent shockwaves around the league. It also immediately brought to mind the following three questions:

1. How does this affect the AFC South? The Houston Texans are now, even moreso than before, the team to beat in the division. Look no further than the quarterback landscape for the reason. Luke McCown takes over for the Jaguars, making him the third new Week 1 starter in the AFC South.

In Indianapolis, Kerry Collins at some point will give way to injured starter Peyton Manning, who will need a few weeks to get himself in order, by which time the Texans could have created a safety cushion. In Tennessee, Matt Hasselbeck is good for the Titans, but he's taken such abuse the past few seasons, it seems as if physically he's on borrowed time. That would mean the Titans turning to Jake Locker before the rookie is ready.

While there is no guarantee Matt Schaub will stay upright to guide the Texans' potent offense, it's not the offense that will be the difference for Houston. The defense, led by new coordinator Wade Phillips, will be improved. Mario Williams, who's converting from defensive end to linebacker, told me during the Cover Two Podcast on Tuesday that the transition to a 3-4 defense is coming along and that Phillips is putting players in position to succeed.

With a 35-year-old QB (Hasselbeck), a 38-year-old QB (Collins) and a career backup now starting in the division, things have been made easier for Houston while the defense gains traction. There are no excuses for the Texans not to take advantage. If they don't, then it's time for major change.

2. Where will Garrard land? Garrard could latch on as a backup in several places; Seattle, San Francisco, Buffalo and Miami immediately jump to mind. However, it could take time for a market to develop. Garrard is a steady player and surely on par with some current starter-turned-backups around the NFL, like David Carr and Derek Anderson.

Though the timing of his release is odd, Garrard can at least hit the market and not have to be the "if-all-else-fails" guy with the Jags. Garrard was about as good as he was going to get and that was good enough to get himself benched early last season and to have his team draft his successor with the 10th overall pick this spring.

3. Is Del Rio's seat still warm? If all else fails with the Jags, head coach Jack Del Rio likely will be out as well. It was a gamble to release Garrard with such insecurity. John Fox did the same last season with Jake Delhomme in Carolina; it resulted in a catastrophe on the field and a job termination for Fox. Del Rio could be in the same boat, though to be fair, keeping Garrard could have produced the same results.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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