The Jacksonville Jaguars would've made the playoffs if they had beaten the Tennessee Titans in the finale. They lost, which paved the way for Houston Texans to seize the division and qualify for the postseason. The Texans made the most of their opportunity and defeated the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round. What's worse for the Jaguars is that Houston isn't a one-year wonder, and if they want to compete in the division in 2024, they'll need to nail the offseason.
The Texans owe their resurgence to the hiring of head coach DeMeco Ryans, and coming out of the draft with a handful of building blocks. While quarterback C.J. Stroud, a strong candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, deserves lots of praise, he's far from the only first-year player who had an impact for Houston. Before he suffered a season-ending injury, Tank Dell had established himself as a threat on offense.
Similarly, defensive end Will Anderson Jr. and linebacker Henry To'to' gave Matt Burke a pair of dynamic chess pieces to work with. Add the presence of cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and the Texans have more than enough young talent to compete for the No. 1 spot in the AFC South.
Meanwhile, the Jags entered the offseason with several looming questions. The most important one was what led to the offense's inconsistencies. Head coach Doug Pederson, for one, blames turnovers, and execution as the reason. Fans, on the other hand, believe offensive coordinator Press Taylor didn't do a good job of putting his players in a position to succeed. The case can also be made that general manager Trent Baalke didn't do enough to bolster the offensive trenches.
Maybe it's a combination of all three. While Taylor most definitely deserves criticism for his unimaginative playcalling, another year on the job could help him improve. Players also need to deliver on game day, and Baalke must make upgrades to the interior offensive line. That's just one part of the equation though.
On defense, the Jaguars' brass seemed to believe Mike Caldwell wasn't getting the most out of his group, so they dismissed him. They're currently in the process of finding his replacement, going through a list of candidates that include New York Jets pass game coordinator Marquand Manuel, Baltimore Ravens safeties coach Chris Hewitt, and former New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, among others.
The Jaguars will also need to fend off the Colts in 2023
One year after winning the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars find themselves having to play catch up, and the Houston Texans aren't the only club in the division that they have to worry about. The Indianapolis Colts will also keep things interesting.
Quarterback Anthony Richardson showed promise before a shoulder injury cut his season short. But even without him, Gardner Minshew managed to keep the team afloat. While they fell short, Indy could be much better in 2024 if they build around their franchise signal-caller.
Last but not least are the Tennessee Titans. While they're in rebuilding mode, they could get back into the division race with one good draft class. As the Texans proved in 2023, a team doesn't have to wait for years to become competitive, so Tennessee can't be discounted yet.
Entering the 2023 season, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars would rule the AFC South for years to come. But as they proved, the work never ends, and one slip can send them tumbling down.