Tennessee Titans: Checking in on their AFC South counterparts
The Tennessee Titans have made some serious moves this offseason, and the AFC South is shaping up as an intriguing division once again.
Over the last decade or so, the AFC South has become a bit of a laughingstock in NFL circles. It had become routine that 9-7 could get you the division crown, and the level of play had fallen off dramatically after the departures of Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub and David Garrard, as well as the regression of a once-dominant Tennessee Titans defense.
Going into the 2016 season, the AFC South was considered one of the worst divisions ever put together. While a 9-7 team got the division crown, the Titans and Indianapolis Colts were right behind the Houston Texans at 9-7 and 8-8, respectively.
Fast forward to 2017, the division was expected to be even worse than the season before, mainly due to Colts QB Andrew Luck’s inability to get healthy. But despite cocooning into the worst division in football, the AFC South produced two very good teams and one that showcased one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL when rookie QB Deshaun Watson was behind center prior to injury.
In 2018, the AFC South will feature the returns of Watson and Luck and the continued development of two young, rebuilding teams in the Titans and Jaguars. But there has been some changes during the short offseason to this point for every team within the division.
The Titans completely overhauled their coaching staff following a sobering Divisional Round defeat to the New England Patriots. Mike Mularkey and his staff proved incompetent at times and were unwilling to adapt in any way. That eventually led to their dismissal.
In steps new HC Mike Vrabel, who has assembled a fantastic staff that has experienced plenty of success in the past. Vrabel will be tasked with continuing the development of the Titans as a potential Super Bowl contender in the near future, which will be closely tied to the progression of QB Marcus Mariota.
The Titans also have new uniforms and possibly a new logo on the horizon, so this offseason has been an exciting time for Titans fans.
The Texans are coming off an injury-riddle season that featured their rookie starting QB and exciting rookie RB go down with season-ending injuries, as well as J.J. Watt suffering a serious leg injury. Watson has now torn both of his ACLs throughout his collegiate and NFL career. Watt has played in just eight of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons. Watson was lighting up the NFL before he went down in practice, but he should be able to make a full recovery by the start of the 2018 season. We’ll see if two major knee surgeries has taken a toll on his body.
As if dealing with injured players wasn’t enough, the Texans got legitimately gutted in terms of their coaching staff. Their DC from last year is now the Titans HC and he brought with him the Texans’ previous defensive assistant and offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach. They also lost their secondary coach, running backs coaches and special teams coordinator. There will be a lot of new coaches teaching new things in new ways for the Texans next season.
Much-maligned HC Chuck Pagano was relieved of his duties, and the Colts were immediately linked to Patriots OC Josh McDaniels. For weeks, while the playoffs were shaking out, McDaniels was considered a shoo-in for the Colts HC position. Everything seemed set in stone, and McDaniels was even assembling a staff while still coaching the Patriots.
With the Super Bowl ongoing, a report from Pro Football Talk suggested that McDaniels was considering staying in New England. Many dismissed it, but just two days after the Super Bowl (and on the same day McDaniels was slated to be announced as the Colts’ new HC), McDaniels decided to throw everyone for a loop and decline the position. McDaniels’ half-assembled staff had already signed contracts, so they will be on the team, but McDaniels will not–he will stay with the Patriots as OC.
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Earlier today, the Colts announced who their actual head coach will be going forward. Former Philadelphia Eagles OC Frank Reich was officially hired and the contract was legitimately signed. Reich is an exciting HC prospect due to his success with the Eagles and the San Diego Chargers, as well as his work with wide receivers and quarterbacks.
There really hasn’t been much going on with the Jaguars except for doom and gloom, as many believe the Jaguars had a prime chance to knock off the Patriots and reach the Super Bowl. They had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Tom Brady went full Tom Brady and the Jaguars were sent home without hardware.
The primary question mark surrounding the team right now is the quarterback position. Blake Bortles played very well at times throughout the year and in the playoffs, but he had too many boneheaded plays that drive coaches insane. The Jaguars activated a $19M option for Bortles for the 2018 season back in May. So now they have to decide whether to pay him and keep him for this upcoming season, or simply let him become a free agent. There are some solid options in free agency at QB, so the Jaguars have a serious dilemma on their hands.