From the Darkside: 5/24/21

Coach Darkside–Jacob Ochoa

By Jacob Ochoa —

The NFL season is just three months away, and this will be a historic season to be remembered. The NFL will play a 17-game regular season for the first time in history. In anticipation, we will take a walk from the Darkside and preview each of the 8 divisions. Let’s continue with a look at the AFC South, home of the AFC runner-up Tennessee Titans.

Indianapolis Colts- It’s been quite an offseason for Indy. The Colts’ biggest splash in the offseason was acquiring Carson Wentz from the Eagles to be reunited with Coach Frank Reich. The duo helped bring the Philadelphia Eagles their first Superbowl Championship. The obvious question becomes, can Reich get the most out of the former #2 overall pick. Wentz looked downright awful for the Eagles before being benched for his successor Jalen Hurts. 

Wentz will have a number of weapons on offense, with young talent like RB Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, WRs Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell to go along with the veterans T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, and TE Jack Doyle. If poor offensive line play was indeed the reason for Carson’s struggles in Philly, it will not be the case with the Colts. Indy recently added Pro Bowl tackle Eric Fisher to a line that already has two great ones in guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Kelly. The Colts defense is led by two of the best in the league at their position in linebacker Darius Leonard and DT DeForest Buckner. Indy also added rookie Kwity Paye, a dangerous pass rusher, to the mix through the draft. The Colts are poised to challenge for the AFC South and make a deep playoff run. Indianapolis will open the season at home against the Seattle Seahawks. 

Tennessee Titans- The Titans were one step away from playing in the Superbowl, failing to hold a 2nd quarter lead against the Kansas City Chiefs. Much has changed for Tennessee since last season. Both coordinators left for Atlanta, and the Titans lost several key players to free agency. Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Adoree Jackson, Jadeveon Clowney, DaQuan Jones, Malcolm Butler, and Desmond King will all be in another uniform when the season opens. 

However, the cupboard is far from bare. The Titans will still have reigning rushing champion Derrick Henry, QB Ryan Tannehill and Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown on offense. A solid offensive line is headlined by tackle Taylor Lewan. The defense received several upgrades in linebacker Bud Dupree, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and end Denico Autry to go along with first-round pick Caleb Farley. Farley was considered by some as the #1 rated CB until a back injury caused him to fall to the Titans late in the first. The Titans can run the ball with King Henry and play solid defense, so they will have a chance. The question is, did they lose too much to make another deep run in the playoffs? Tennessee will open the season at home against the Arizona Cardinals. 

Jacksonville Jaguars- The Urban Meyer era has officially begun in Jacksonville, and it has been quite the offseason. The Jaguars, to no one’s surprise, took Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson with the #1 overall pick, but the selection of his teammate Travis Etienne had some scratching their heads. The Jags have so many holes, as expected of a team that won just one game in 2020–running back was not one. Rookie James Robinson finished the season 6th overall in rushing and showed tremendous promise for an undrafted rookie. 

In addition to Robinson, the Jags are loaded with young talent, and the future is bright. Receivers DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault Jr, tackle Jawaan Taylor, defensive linemen Josh Allen, Davon Hamilton, and cornerback CJ Henderson were all drafted within the last three years. Add in quality returners, linebacker Myles Jack, linemen Cam Robinson and Andrew Norwell, to go along with new additions RB Carlos Hyde, WR Marvin Jones, and CB Shaq Griffin, and things are looking up in Duval. Jacksonville will open the season on the road against the Houston Texans. 

Houston Texans- Houston has been talked about for the past couple seasons for all the wrong reasons. The Texans traded away one of the NFL’s elite receivers in 2020 before firing the GM/HC who pulled the trigger on the trade. Now their offseason has been riddled with accusations against star quarterback Deshaun Watson. 

Houston added veteran quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor, Jeff Driskel and drafted Davis Mills to signal great concern for Watson’s availability to play the entire 2021 season. There is also a lot of speculation that Watson will be traded. They may not have had the worst record in football, but the Texans might be the most poorly run franchise in the NFL. Despite acquiring a running back in David Johnson through the Hopkins trade, the Texans added two more veterans in Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay. Top talent in Pro Bowler J.J. Watt and Will Fuller was lost in free agency. Houston did bring in veterans CB Desmond King and LB Kevin Pierre-Louis on the defensive side and drafted WR Nico Collins and TE Brevin Jordan on the offensive side. 

Despite the additions and with the potential loss of Watson, all signs point to the Texans being in contention for a top 5 draft pick in the 2022 draft. Houston will open up at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Projected Order of finish:
Indianapolis Colts- (10-7)
Tennessee Titans- (10-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars- (6-11)
Houston Texans- (4-13)

Contact Jacob Ochoa at:@coachfootball19

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