The AFC South is seen by many NFL analyst as one of the weaker divisions in football. That can be a positive because it will take less improvement by the Jags to turn things around. The negative is a total lack of respect. Aside from the Colts, there is not much to be excited about right now in the AFC South, except for the impending NFL draft in which three of their teams will be picking in the top 11, and two in the top three. What I will be doing is ranking the AFC South at multiple positions. For now I will be going with the players who would be the presumed starters while attempting to take into consideration free agency and draft picks. We have completely ranked the offense (QB, RB, WR, TE & OL). Now we focus on the defense, starting with defensive end. Let’s start ranking.
- Houston Texans (J.J. Watt & Antonio Smith) / 110 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 8 passes defended) – This ranking is all about J.J. Watt. He is a beast that kills as many plays at the line of scrimmage as anyone. From tackles, to sacks, to batted balls, Watt is the best defensive player in the division. The only issue is the other DE Smith, who is an unrestricted free agent. The other 3 signed Texan DEs combined for ZERO sacks. Unless they bring in a free agent, they better get Smith signed. Regardless, the Houston Texans have the best DEs in the AFC South.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Jason Babin & Andre Branch) / 77 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 4 pass defend) – The Jags DEs being ranked 2nd is a case of them being the leper with the most bodyparts. This also is moot if the Jags don’t re-sign Babin who is an unrestricted free agent. If Babin is with the Jags in 2014 and the Jags select Jadeveon Clowney in the draft, then this rating could be spot on. At the time of this article, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the 2nd best DEs in the AFC South.
- Tennessee Titans (Derrick Morgan & Ropati Pitoitua) / 79 tackles, 10 sacks, 6 pass defend) – The Titans & Jags are pretty even. Both have relatively young players manning the DE positions. Pitoitua is an UFA and most likely won’t be retained. The backups are Kamerion Wimbley (3 sacks) & Lavar Edwards (no sacks). Morgan is a good DE, but not great. His 6 sacks last year is about his limit. Because of this, I rate the Tennessee Titans DEs as the 3rd best in the AFC South.
- Indianapolis Colts (Cory Redding & Ricky Jean Francois) / 56 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 pass defend) – This rating is deceiving because in the 3-4 defense the Colts run, the primary pass rushing is performed by linebackers. That is why of the 42 sacks Indy had last year, only 19% came from the DEs while LBs performed 75%. For that reason, The Indianapolis Colts have the worst DEs in the AFC South.
I am proud to say that if Gus Bradley gets his pass rushing DE and is able to add some more players to the secondary, I feel their DEs might just become the best tandem in the division. We’ll see. I’ll see you with the DT ratings.
Ratings by Michael McDonald.
Write me on Twitter @gumbussy.