August 19, 2016 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s AFC South Divisional Rankings
The Jaguars should still have one of the best passing games in the league, as they improved their O-line and finally have a healthy Marqise Lee in the slot. QB Blake Bortles should finally be ready to lower his turnovers and take the next step to be a solid QB. The addition of veteran RB Chris Ivory brings a nice physical run style to offset the pass game, while 2nd year RB T.J. Yeldon should only get better and does a good job catching out of the backfield, and Denard Robinson is still a speedy back who can offset the run style of Ivory and Yeldon. WRs Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson will continue to lead the way as one of the best receiving duos. TE Julius Thomas should contribute a lot more, if he can stay healthy, and TE Marcedes Lewis is still a huge target. The defense should be much improved with the return of 2nd year DE/OLB Dante Fowler from a torn ACL, who has solid pass rush potential and rookies LB Myles Jack and CB/S Jalen Ramsey. The additions of veterans DT/DE Malik Jackson, S Tashaun Gipson, and CB Prince Amukamara should bring solid leadership and play to their positions. The Jaguars improved play on both sides of the ball should lead to a title in one of the weaker divisions.
The Colts will fight an uphill battle in a division that once seemed like a lock, but every team has gotten stronger so this will be no cake walk. However, QB Andrew Luck is a tough guy coming off a injury plagued season with the drive to prove himself again. Luck should have a big season this year with a healthy T.Y. Hilton and his favorite target Donte Moncrief. WR Phillip Dorsett and TE Dwayne Allen should finally be able to make their marks as well. The offensive line is the biggest issue again, but there is continuity and the addition of C Ryan Kelly is a huge plus. The running game may suffer again because of the O-line or could it be the personnel? Veteran RB Frank Gore will look to redeem himself while undrafted rookie Josh Ferguson will get into the mix, veteran Robert Turbin could be a goal line back. On the defensive side, injuries have attacked an already weak D-line. The LB core should be a productive veteran group led by long time Colt Robert Mathis and D’Qwell Jackson. The CB position is still based around the production of shutdown CB Vontae Davis who will need to keep up his solid play in an experienced secondary. Rookie FS T.J. Green should add something interesting with his athleticism. The Colts offense will win them some games with a nice passing attack that can produce on all levels, but they need more impact players to win the division.
The Texans seem to have built a nice offense on paper adding QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller via free agency to pair with star WR DeAndre Hopkins. Osweiler will be expected to produce immediately despite limited experience and that will be a thing to watch. Miller is a nice speed back who has been paid like a top back and needs to show that he can carry the load which will be another thing to watch. The safer bet is more on Miller, however there are changes on the O-line, but rookie C Nick Martin should be an upgrade and long term fix at the position. The WR core has gotten deeper behind Hopkins with the additions of Will Fuller and Braxton Miller as two speed playmakers through the draft, while Jaelen Strong could still have a big season along with veteran Cecil Shorts. If Brock doesn’t produce it’s definitely not because of a lack of playmakers. On the defensive side of the ball, the team should continue to be dominating led by star DE J.J. Watt, a solid front 7, and a solid trio of CBs; especially if OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy. However, the safety position could use some upgrades and the DE spot opposite Watt could be something to watch with veteran DE Devon Still as the current starter. The Texans have some good young pieces to grow with, but must continue to grow on offense to make a real impact; health and chemistry are big question marks that could make or break the season.
The Titans should be a much improved team this season as they build a power O-line to match their new power run game after trading for RB DeMarco Murray and drafting huge rookie RB Derrick Henry. QB Marcus Mariota should be even better in his 2nd year and ready to continue where he left off with a good competition at WR, but he must stay healthy. The WR core has a good speed mix with players of all heights and skillsets, but the key will be finding the best fit of starters; however, a true #1 WR appears to be lacking which will cause a big issue in this division. The defense continues to be led by veteran pass rushers OLBs Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, along with DE/DT Jurrell Casey and CB Jason McCourty. The safety position should be upgraded with FS Rashad Johnson who was a valuable piece in Arizona. However, the other pieces will need to step up especially in the front 7 and a definite need for a #2 CB. The Titans are a good young team who are transitioning with some veteran additions and competition, but they still need more pieces.