AFC South: Needs filled, unfulfilled

How much ground did the two losing teams in the division, Tennessee and Jacksonville, make up on Indianapolis and Houston? We review the personnel changes in free agency and the draft, and explore where weaknesses remain in the AFC South.

Half of the starting quarterbacks in the AFC South could be different this year with Brian Hoyer in Houston and Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, but the receiving targets in the division will have a different look, too.

Indianapolis acquired Andre Johnson in free agency and drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round, the Texans brought in Cecil Shorts and drafted Jaelen Strong, the Jaguars signed TE Julius Thomas and drafted WR Rashad Greene, and the Titans brought in a couple of second-tier free-agent receivers and drafted Dorial Green-Beckham.

There is plenty of change in the AFC South, but which teams made the biggest impacts on their roster, and where is there work still to do to catch the Colts?

AFC South


Houston Texans
Last year’s record: 9-7
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins: 8
Top free agent signings: Brian Hoyer (Cleveland) will compete for the starting quarterback job, but the biggest changes might be on defense. The Texans scored NT Vince Wilfork to help in run defense, but S Rahim Moore should also help last year’s 21st-ranked pass defense. WR Cecil Shorts will upgrade the offensive weapons, along with Nate Washington offering depth at receiver. Still, the two biggest free agents the Texans signed might be their own, CB Kareem Jackson and offensive tackle Derek Newton. The losses included WR Andre Johnson and LB Brooks Reed.
Needs entering draft: QB, ILB, C, CB, C, S, WR, RT
What’s left at need areas: The Texans went defense in the first two rounds, addressing two of their primary needs with CB Kevin Johnson and ILB Benardrick McKinney, then found a hopeful replacement for Andre Johnson in WR Jaelen Strong in third round. Those are all potential starters, but their offensive line didn’t get addressed and their quarterback situation remains precarious.

Indianapolis Colts
Last year’s record: 11-5
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins: 11
Top free agent signings: The Colts were probably the most active AFC team in free agency, bringing in WR Andre Johnson, RB Frank Gore, DT Kendall Langford, OLB Trent Cole and WR Vincent Brown while re-signing many of their own. The key ones there are S Mike Adams, CB Darius Butler and G Joe Reitz.
Needs entering draft: RT, DT, C, S, DE, CB, LB
What’s left at need areas: Phillip Dorsett should be a dangerous addition in three-receiver sets and could improve the return game, too, but after that it’s uncertain how many of their draft picks will find contributing roles in 2015. Part of that is due to a generally solid roster that produced 11 wins last year. CB D’Juon Smith seems like the most likely to contribute after Dorsett, but third-round DE Henry Anderson could crack the defensive line rotation. After that, it appeared to be a draft for depth that might have left some holes on defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year’s record: 3-13
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins:
Top free agent signings: The Jaguars were plenty active in free agency, scoring TE Julius Thomas from Denver and then shoring up both lines with DT Jared Odrick (Miami), C Stefen Wisniewski and OT Jeremy Parnell. There will be plenty of important players learning new schemes in their first year in Jacksonville. Losing WR Cecil Shorts to Houston creates another interesting in-division dynamic.
Needs entering draft: RB, WR, OLB, G, LT
What’s left at need areas: The poor Jaguars got one of the most athletic defenders in the draft with LB Dante Fowler selected No. 3 overall and he was quickly lost for the season when he tore his ACL upon joining the Jaguars. He should be back next year, but it leaves their linebacker corps thin. Second-round RB T.J. Yeldon should be an immediate starter and fifth-round pick Rashad Greene could crack the receiver rotation. A.J. Cann might be a starting guard from the outset. Overall, the Jaguars found a lot of value throughout the draft – S James Sample in the fourth, DL Michael Bennett in the sixth and TE Ben Koyack in the seventh – that should bolster their roster for years to come.

Tennessee Titans
Last year’s record: 2-14
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins:
Top free agent signings: The Titans added numerous starting free agents of their own. On defense, it was CB Perish Cox (San Francisco), LB Brian Orakpo (Washington) and S Da’Norris Searcy (Buffalo). On offense, the main additions were WRs Hakeem Nicks (Indianapolis), WR Harry Douglas (Atlanta) and TE Anthony Fasano (Kansas City), although it remains to be seen if any of those are starters. The only losses of note are OT Michael Oher and WR Nate Washington.
Needs entering draft: QB, DE, S, G, RT, C, CB
What’s left at need areas: Five of the Titans’ first six picks were on the offensive side of the ball, starting with QB Marcus Mariota second overall. His athleticism should be a benefit behind an offensive line that is still finding its way. They also got Mariota (or Zach Mettenberger, whoever ends up starting) a big target in 6-foot-5 WR Dorial Green-Beckham, and some protection in G Jeremiah Poutasi and FB Jalston Fowler. Tennessee ranked 23rd or worse in total offense, pass offense, rushing offense, total defense and rushing defense, so the roster holes are many.

Other divisions: AFC EAST | AFC WEST | AFC NORTH


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