Ceilings and Floors: AFC South
We’ve weathered free agency, dealt with the Draft, and scrutinised the schedule. Now we can look ahead to real football as we build up to the start of the season. So we looked at each team’s schedule and weighed up their offseason moves to predict their best and worst records to find their potential ceilings and floors. Here’s the AFC South:
Once first round pick Deshaun Watson takes over from Tom Savage at quarterback, the Texans will be a complete team. The defense sees J.J. Watt return alongside breakout man Jadeveon Clowney, but has lost some pieces in the secondary. D’Onta Foreman is a great power complement to shifty starter Lamar Miller in the backfield, and Watson should be better able to utilise weapons like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, unlike predecessor Brock Osweiler. But can Watson learn head coach Bill O’Brien’s complicated scheme fast enough to keep Houston on top in a much improved AFC South?
New general manager Chris Ballard has overhauled the defense this season and has built a much more balanced Colts team. Jabaal Sheard, Jonathan Hankins and third-rounder Tarrell Basham are part of a revamped front seven, while draft picks Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson join veteran Vontae Davis in the secondary. Many of quarterback Andrew Luck’s weapons return, and the Colts may have unearthed their next workhorse running back in Lamar Miller-esque fourth rounder Marlon Mack. Can the Colts put their stamp back on the division this year?
Once again, the Jaguars spent big in the offseason, and now they need to finally cash in. The defense looks nasty, with last year’s breakout corner A.J. Bouye starting opposite sophomore Jalen Ramsey and Calais Campbell lining up alongside Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler on the defensive line. Jacksonville also revamped their running game by drafting new workhorse Leonard Fournette and offensive tackle Cam Robinson. However, there is one huge question mark on the roster; quarterback Blake Bortles. Can he replicate his 2015 season? Or will he prove to be a definitive bust? In a new no-nonsense regime under Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone, Bortles needs to step up if he wants to keep his job.
The Titans are poised to take the AFC South after another strong offseason. The exotic smash-mouth duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry return, and quarterback Marcus Mariota now has a true number one receiver in Corey Davis, who headlines a batch of new offensive weapons obtained in the Draft. But will the defense be their undoing again? Adoree Jackson is slightly undersized to be a true number one corner and veteran Jason McCourty is gone. Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien joining the secondary and Sylvester Williams anchoring the front seven should help make Tennessee a complete contender.