Can Tennessee build off of its surprising playoff run? Scouts give their thoughts on the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans
Houston edged Tennessee for the AFC South title last season, but it was the Titans who made pulled off a couple of upsets before falling to Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game. Tennessee enters 2020 as the favorite after doubling down on last year's success by re-signing both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry.
Meanwhile, Houston's big move this offseason was trading All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona while Indianapolis signed Philip Rivers in free agency. Jacksonville also will look different (Calais Campbell and Nick Foles traded, among other moves) but the Jaguars aren't expected to be much of a threat to the rest of their AFC South brethren.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC South breaks down entering the 2020 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
"Head coach Bill O'Brien took over as the GM last year and is continuously making questionable decisions, such as trading two years of top picks for LT Laremy Tunsil and the recent blockbuster trade that sent All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, arguably the best WR in the NFL, to Arizona for a second-round draft pick and RB David Johnson, who's coming off a disappointing season."
"They still have speedster WRs Kenny Stills and Will Fuller V but signed veteran slot WR Randall Cobb and traded for WR Brandin Cooks."
"They have a quality TE unit that features Jordan Akins and Darren Fells."
"Up front, they drafted two reliable starters in OG Max Scharping and RT Tytus Howard last year, but they need to keep bolstering their depth."
"DT D.J. Reader left in free agency and star DE J.J. Watt made a miraculous recovery for the playoffs, but they needed a contingency plan and drafted DL Ross Blacklock in the second round."
"Edge Whitney Mercilus has put together an outstanding career, and look for edge Jacob Martin to play a bigger role this season."
"Athletic ILB Zach Cunningham played his best football and led the team in tackles, but ILB Benardrick McKinney is the leader of this defense."
"Playmaking safety Justin Reid is a rising star, and they re-signed their best CB, Bradley Roby, but the other CB and safety spots are the biggest question marks on this roster."
"They will compete for the playoffs again because of QB Deshaun Watson's playmaking ability and this feisty defense, but I don't see this team elevating to the Super Bowl this season."
"QB Jacoby Brissett was a conservative game manager, and the front office didn't surround him with enough weapons to elevate the offense. So they signed future Hall of Fame QB Philip Rivers, who has a previous relationship with head coach Frank Reich."
"RB Marlon Mack led this group to a top-10 rushing attack, one that should improve further with the addition of rookie RB Jonathan Taylor."
"Playmaking WR T.Y. Hilton was hurt and had a career-worst season, but they drafted bigger WR Michael Pittman Jr. to complement WR Zach Pascal (five TDs). Expect electric athlete Parris Campbell to be involved with gadget plays."
"They have a top-three OL unit led by All-Pro OG Quenton Nelson and LT Anthony Castonzo."
"Defensively, they relied on a philosophy of being fast, but they were undersized and had to get stouter up front, which they accomplished with the splash trade for Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner, making him the second-highest-paid DT in the NFL."
"Veteran edge Justin Houston led the team with 11 sacks, but they need younger players to step up."
"This is an underrated ILB unit with Anthony Walker, who led the team in tackles, and Darius Leonard leading this defense."
"They signed former All-Pro CB Xavier Rhodes to salvage whatever's left of his career and expect CB Rock Ya-Sin to step up."
"Nickel Kenny Moore II is the best player in a young secondary."
"The young safety duo features rangy ballhawk Malik Hooker and box safety Khari Willis."
"Can Rivers finally get a chance to play in a Super Bowl?"
"Owner Shahid Khan granted one last opportunity for head coach Doug Marrone and GM David Caldwell."
"QB Nick Foles was traded to Chicago just one season into a four-year, $88 million contract, making league favorite Gardner Minshew II the official starting QB."
"RB Leonard Fournette had a productive season but apparently was on the trade block."
"Slot WR Dede Westbrook was their most consistent option until WR DJ Chark Jr. (73 receptions, 1,008 yards, eight TDs) emerged."
"The TEs have been disappointing, so they signed Tyler Eifert, who has familiarity with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden."
"The OL played mediocre, and LT Cam Robinson showed he was still timid from the ACL injury, but RT Jawaan Taylor stepped up towards the end of the season, and Brandon Linder is one of the most underrated centers in the NFL."
"Defensively, they lost their confidence once they traded away All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey."
"They didn't play up to the 'Sacksonville' standard — and they traded disruptive DT Calais Campbell and have had constant trade demands from DE Yannick Ngakoue."
"Expect second-year DE Josh Allen (10.5 sacks), DT Taven Bryan and rookie edge K'Lavon Chaisson to break out."
"Myles Jack got paid top-three ILB money last year and underperformed, so they signed underrated ILB Joe Schobert, making this one this is the highest-paid duos in the NFL with extremely high expectations."
"They have high hopes for top draft pick CB CJ Henderson and expect leadership from safety Ronnie Harrison."
"They must make the playoffs for this regime to survive, so hopefully 'Minshew Mania' is the spark."
"Last year, head coach Mike Vrabel made the move that was best for the team and started QB Ryan Tannehill, who had a career revival after leaving Miami."
"The Titans pounded opponents with the NFL's leading rusher, RB Derrick Henry, while Tannehill was efficient with the football."
"The WR unit stepped up with rookie A.J. Brown leading the team and slot WR Adam Humphries moving the chains, but unfortunately, WR Corey Davis was inconsistent."
"TE Jonnu Smith is an emerging playmaker, allowing the team to release injury-prone veteran Delanie Walker."
"This was a top-10 OL unit headlined by LT Taylor Lewan, but they let RT Jack Conklin depart in free agency, trusting in Dennis Kelly, who was their No. 3 OT, and first-round pick Isaiah Wilson to battle for the starting spot."
"The DL played well, but they traded longtime leader Jurrell Casey to Denver with high expectations for talented DL Jeffery Simmons to be a disruptive presence."
"The ILBs played well with the emergence of Rashaan Evans and rangy/instinctive linebacker Jayon Brown."
"The CBs were suspect all season, and that inconsistency correlated directly with Adoree' Jackson's career."
"Kevin Byard is one of the best safeties in the NFL and played well with a dependable Kenny Vaccaro."
"They're the best team in the division and should return to the playoffs — unless Tannehill was just a one-year wonder."