2015 AFC South Divisional Preview

Indianapolis Colts

Key losses: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Trent Richardson, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Hakeem Nicks, C A.Q. Shipley, DE/DT Cory Redding, DE/OLB Shaun Phillips, DE Ricky Jean-Francois, CB Josh Gordy, S Sergio Brown, S LaRon Landry.

Key additions: RB Frank Gore, WR Andre Johnson, G Todd Herremans, DE/DT Kendall Langford, DE/OLB Trent Cole, ILB Nate Irving, S Dwight Lowery.

2015 Draft Picks: WR Phillip Dorsett 1st Rd, CB D’Joun Smith 3rd Rd, DE Henry Anderson 3rd Rd, S Clayton Geathers Rd 4, NT David Parry Rd 5, RB Josh Robinson Rd 6, ILB Amarlo Herrera Rd 6, T Denzelle Good Rd 7

2014 Record: 11-5

The Colts success for 2014 was very predictable. For the third straight season they finished with an 11-5 record and they continued their postseason trend by losing in the AFC Championship against the Patriots (last year they lost in the divisional round to the Patriots and the year before that they lost in the wild card round to the Ravens).

Andrew Luck led the NFL’s #1 passing attack in 2014, with the Colts averaging 305.9 yards per game through the air while Andrew Luck himself ranked 3rd in the NFL That number should go up in 2015 thanks to the addition of some key veteran free agents and draft picks. After originally agreeing to a verbal deal to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, Frank Gore changed his mind last minute for whatever reason and signed with Indy instead. They also added Duron Carter, son of NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who spent time the last couple seasons in the CFL. Indy became the landing spot for one of the greatest wide receivers of all time in Andre Johnson, who signed a 3 year/$21 million deal with the team once he was released by the Houston Texans. And to the surprise of many, including some Colts players themselves, the team drafted wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (Miami) with their first round pick. These guys will add to a receiving group that already has Donte Moncrief and tight end’s Dwayne Allen and Colby Fleener. And although adding veteran guard Todd Herremans is an upgrade at the guard position, I’m not sure his play alone will be able to uplift a Colts line that has been pretty bad overall.

Speaking of pretty bad, this Colts defense was pretty bad against some teams over .500. They were 0-6 (including playoffs) when giving up 30+ points and this includes games with the Broncos (31), Eagles (30), Steelers (51), Patriots (42), Cowboys (42) and once again to the Patriots (45) in the AFC Championship game. The additions of Kendall Langford and Trent Cole should help this defensive front seven. The one bright spot of this team is cornerback Vontae Davis, who I feel is right on the cusp of being an elite corner. If his 2015 is anything like his 2014, you have to put him in the conversation for top three at his position.

2015 Projection: 11-5 (1st in AFC South)

This Colts offense in 2015 will more than likely shatter the majority of offensive franchise records thanks to deep group of weapons given to one of the NFL’s premiere quarterbacks Andrew Luck. But this defense hasn’t improved in my eyes enough to make me think this team can get over the next hurdle.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Key losses: RB Jordan Todman, C Jacques McClendon, DT Red Bryant, OLB Geno Hayes, ILB J.T. Thomas, CB Alan Ball, S Sherrod Martin.

Key additions: RB Bernard Pierce, WR Bryan Walters, TE Julius Thomas, OT Jermey Parnell, OT Austin Pasztor, C Stefen Wisniewski, DT Jared Odrick, OLB Dan Skuta, CB Davon House, S Sergio Brown.

2015 Draft Picks: DE Dante Fowler Jr. 1st Rd, RB TJ Yeldon 2nd Rd, OG AJ Cann 3rd Rd, S James Sample 4th Rd, WR Rashad Greene 5th Rd, DT Michael Bennett 6th Rd, WR Neal Sterling Rd 7,  TE Ben Koyack Rd 7

2014 Record: 3-13

Let’s keep it real, Blake Bortles was fucking terrible in 2014. But all hope is not loss, I really believe he’ll make some major improvements in 2015. It’s not like he was exactly stepping into a good situation anyway, I guess that’s why they wanted him to “redshirt” 2014, but it didn’t work that way. Bortles stepped into the lineup permanently in Week 4 and unfortunately, he never took off. The offensive line was trash, the running game was trash and his throwing arm was dead halfway through the season. Not to mention that offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was trash well. Luckily for Bortles, the team really believes in him and did everything in their power to upgrade his surroundings. Fisch was fired immediately after the season and was replaced by former Oakland Raiders’ OC Greg Olson. The additions of tackle Jeremy Parnell, center Stefan Wisniewski and their third round pick, guard AJ Cann will definitely add to an offensive line that simply couldn’t protect Bortles and couldn’t open up holes for the running backs. I know the franchise is still waiting for Luke Joeckel to show they drafted him so highly in 2013.But speaking of running backs, I’m looking forward to the one-two punch of TJ Yeldon and Denard Robinson, who proved a lot of people wrong with some dynamic performances in 2014 before falling to injury. I’m still very surprised they were able to grab Rashad Greene in the 5th round of this past draft. He’s going to add to a wide receiving group littered with young talent. The big fish that landed in Jacksonville this offseason was former Broncos’ tight end Julius Thomas. Any young quarterback’s best friend is a tight end, and it just so happens that Bortles has one of the NFL’s elite talents at that position.

The Jaguars will have to wait until 2016 to see their first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. make his debut because he tore his ACL in OTA’s back in May. Fowler was drafted to play the Leo role in Gus Bradley’s version of Seattle’s defense (he was the former DC there) but instead, it’s likely that Chris Clemons or Andre Branch will fill out that role. While the loss of Fowler is significant even though he had yet to play any snaps, it’s worth noting that the Jaguars finished 7th in sacks in 2014, notching 45 without a true pass rushing threat. The player I’m most looking forward to on this defense is second year weakside linebacker Telvin Smith. He has amazing speed, he’s a great athlete but he also has some very good instincts and he knows how to get to the ball. I’m also looking for Aaron Colvin to be a breakout player in this Jaguars secondary. Safety Jonathan Cyprien in 2014 well and he should continue that strong play in 2015.

2015 Projection: 8-8

The Jaguars are one more strong draft class away from be a serious contender in the AFC South, but they’ll be a team that will be very enjoyable to watch in 2015.

Houston Texans

Key losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Case Keenum, WR Andre Johnson, G Cody White, C Chris Myers, DE/DT Tim Jamison, DE/OLB Brooks Reed, S D.J. Swearinger, S Danieal Manning.

Key additions: QB Brian Hoyer, RB Chris Polk, WR Cecil Shorts, WR Nate Washington, NT Vince Wilfork, S Rahim Moore, S Stevie Brown.

2015 Draft Picks: CB Kevin Johnson Rd 1, ILB Bernardrick McKinney Rd 2, WR Jaelen Strong Rd 3, WR Keith Mumphery Rd 5, OLB Reshard Cliett Rd 6, DT Christian Covington Rd 6, RB Kenny Hilliard Rd 7

The 900+ carries that Arian Foster totaled between 2010-2012 are really catching up to him. An injury suffered during training camp will keep him out for at least the first eight weeks of the season. This completely changed the dynamic of the offense now because the hope was that whoever fills in at quarterback would have a reliable running game to depend on. Now there are jut as many question marks at running back as there is at quarterback, and that is absolutely not good. Whether it be Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett under center, they should take comfort in knowing they have an extremely talented receiving group led by DeAndre Hopkins.

If this Texans defense wants to take the next step in 2015, somebody will have to emerge as a 10+ sack guy opposite JJ Watt. Many (especially me) are hoping the 2014 first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy and contribute in the ways that we know he is capable of. They are also hoping that Whitney Mercilus give them more in terms of performance since they did just give him a contract extension. With Vince Wilfork plugging the middle, the opportunities will be there for somebody to step up, but will they? And just think, if Clowney and Mercilus are able to give the Texans anything, JJ Watt becomes an early favorite to break Michael Strahan’s single season sack record. The Texans will have to depend on this front seven especially to help get them towards finishing the season as a .500 team.

2015 Projection: 8-8

Football purgatory.

Tennessee Titans

Key additions: WR Harry Douglas, OT Byron Bell, C Fernando Velasco, DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, S Da’Norris Searcy

Key losses: QB Jake Locker, WR Nate Washington, TE Anthony Fasano, OT Michael Roos, OT Michael Oher, ILB Colin McCarthy, CB Perrish Cox, S Bernard Pollard, S George Wilson

2015 Draft Picks: QB Marcus Mariota Rd 1, WR Dorial Green-Beckham Rd 2, OT Jeremiah Poutasi Rd 3, DT Angelo Blackson Rd 4, FB Jalston Fowler Rd 4, RB David Cobb Rd 5, LB Deiontrez Mount Rd 6, C Andy Gallik Rd 6, WR Tre McBride Rd 7

This team is intriguing. They are nowhere near ready to be taken serious as a contender, but all eyes will be on Marcus Mariota and this defense.

Mariota will be in charge of leading a young talented offense that consist of a mediocre backfield, a young but decent group offensive linemen and wide receivers. Defensively I’m eager to see how much of an influence with Dick LeBeau have over this defense. Ray Horton still holds the title of defensive coordinator, but no way they would bring LeBeau in just to be another guy. I really loved the additions Orakpo and Searcy because it gave them major upgrades at positions in dire need of help.

2015 Projection: 6-10

If one thing is certain, it’s that the 2015 Titans won’t be as boring and nameless as the 2014 Titans.

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