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. We started with DE. Now we’ll look at defensive tackle. Let’s start ranking.
The ranking is complicated by the fact that two teams (Indy & Houston) run a 3-4 defense with only one DT, while the other two (Jacksonville & Tennessee) run a 4-3 with two DLs. Will take all in consideration of their personal stats & their role in the defensive scheme.
- Tennessee Titans (Jurrell Casey & Sammie Lee Hill) / 80 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 5 Tackles for Loss, 7 Passes Defended – Very strong season from Casey. He put up all the sacks & 55 of the tackles. He is only 24 and on the last year of his rookie contract. If I ran the Titans, I’d get this guy re-signed QUICKLY! Hill is a serviceable mate. But mostly because of Jurrell Casey, the Tennessee Titans have the best DT’s in the AFC South.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Sen’Derrick Marks & Roy Miller) / 58 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 8 TFL, 8 PD – Both Marks & Miller were free agents brought in last year. Both played well above expectations, with Marks signing a four year extension. Miller still has one year left and could possibly be a salary cap casualty if the Jags draft a stud at DT. Regardless, with these two experienced linemen, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the 2nd best DTs in the AFC South.
- Indianapolis Colts (Aubrayo Franklin & Ricky Jean Francois) / 48 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 PD – Franklin starts and Francois is his backup. Franklin put up serviceable numbers with Francois actually putting up more exciting stats with more TFLs, more PDs, and all the sacks. Franklin is a 12 year vet and an UFA. Odds are he won’t be resigned. They will probably promote Francois and Ricardo Mathews will back-up. Mathews, in reserved time, still had 18 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 PD. Even if they don’t retain Franklin, the Tennessee Titans have the 3rd best DTs in the AFC South.
- Houston Texans (Earl Mitchell & Terrell McClain) / 58 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 0 PD – Mitchell is the starting NT and McClain is the back-up. Mitchell is a tackling machine, making 48 of the combined tackles, along with all the sacks and the TFL. The main reason they are at the bottom is because McClain is a RFA and Mitchell is an UFA. As of today (02-25-14) there are NO OTHER NOSE TACKLES OR DEFENSIVE TACKLES on the roster. So basically, Houston might be starting over completely at the DL position. Because of this unfortunate situation, the Houston Texans very clearly have the worst DTs in the AFC South.
As I’m finishing up this article, I’m watching the DL’s section of the combine. There are some good players coming into the league this draft and more than one of these teams BETTER grab one or two. I will see you later when we go over LBs.
Ratings by Michael McDonald.
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