AFC SOUTH PREVIEW
Thanks to a weak division and the talent of Andrew Luck, the Colts posted a 11-5 record in 2013 and won the AFC South as well as a playoff game. The Colts return the majority of the same team entering 2014 besides signing WR Hakeem Nicks. The key to the Colts’ offseason was resigning stud CB Vontae Davis to ensure a solid secondary behind a below average front seven. Indianapolis will rely on it’s high powered offense again in 2014 as Andrew Luck seems to officially breakout and become a the league’s next superstar with deep threat WR T.Y. Hilton. and the return of Reggie Wayne. The Colts’ biggest mystery is their running game as they possess struggling backs in Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. If the Colts can avoid regression and figure out the running game, they’re destined to a longer postseason run in 2014.
The Titans finished 2013 at a 7-9 mark after injuries to starting QB Jake Locker and WR Kenny Britt. A total makeover of the Titans was born in the offseason as Ken Whisenhunt was hired as the head coach and the team cut ties with former superstar RB Chris Johnson. The offense should be improved under Whisenhunt’s system and a healthy Jake Locker throwing to under the radar WR Kendall Wright. Rookie RB Bishop Sankey will share carries with Shonn Greene to replace Chris Johnson along with Flex position Dexter McCluster. The defense will embrace Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme as DC where he coached Arizona last season. The biggest impact from the defensive scheme change will result in DE Derrick Morgan who could be moved to OLB to provide more of a pass rush. A lot rides on the growth of Jake Locker in 2014 to prove if he is the QB for the future and if the Titans will win games this season.
Jacksonville started the 2013 season 0-8, but ended 4-4 over the final eight weeks to produce a 4-12 record. The strong finish to the season provides optimism for the future to come for Gus Bradley’s football team as they improved drastically over the offseason while laying their blueprint for the future via draft. The Jaguars added two pieces of Seattle’s defense in the offseason in DE/LB Chris Clemons and DE Red Bryant, while also signing RB Toby Gerhart to replace the franchise’s cornerstone for many years, Maurice Jones-Drew. Gerhart will serve as a workload back for the first time in his career after backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. The Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles third overall in the NFL draft and immediately provided him with weapons for years to come in the second round in WRs Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to already add to WR Cecil Shorts. Bortles may not start right away in another rebuilding year for Jacksonville, but he is their future at QB and the make or break player for the franchise for years to come.
Houston’s 2014 season was an unpredictable nightmare that corresponded with Matt Schaub’s season and Arian Foster’s back injury. The 2-14 record landed Houston the number one pick in the NFL Draft that Jadeveon Clowney was selected with under new coaching regime Tom O’Brien, former New England OC and Penn State head coach. The Texans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stopgap at the QB position for the 2014 season, but Fitzpatrick will be tooled with the right weapons for a solid season behind a healthy Arian Foster and WRs Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. The defense becomes majorily improved with the Clowney selection as they look to return to their stout 2012 form along with the force of J.J. Watt and company. The Texans should experience more success than the 2013 season, but a playoff appearance in 2014 is doubtful and would require a Coach of the Year performance in O’Brien.