The AFC South is shaping up to be a fascinating division in 2019. Both the Colts and Texans made the playoffs last year, the Titans posted a winning record and the Jaguars are only just over a year removed from the AFC Championship game, with Blake Bortles at the helm.
This division also boasts three top-12 picks, and a Super Bowl MVP, in its quarterback ranks.
Each team will have ambitions of making it to the post-season, and with no new head coaches in place the systems are well entrenched. We take a look at some of the less-heralded players who will be looking to step up and make their mark in 2019.
Houston Texans – Justin Reid (S)
Pencilled in to start at Strong Safety, and reported to be impressing at OTAs, the second year player from Stanford will be looking to take on a larger role in DC Romeo Crennel’s secondary. The fact the Texans let both Tyrann ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu and Kareem Jackson left this offseason, as well as Andre Hal deciding to call it a day, speaks volumes about the potential Texans management see in Reid.
Described by coaches at Stanford as a student of the game and one of their smartest prospects (he completed his engineering degree), the Texans will be looking to Reid to make a big jump between years 1 and 2, and maintain the improvement that saw the Texans secondary go from one of the worst in 2017, to 4th ranked in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus.
Tennesee Titans – Corey Davis
Now entering his 3rd season Corey Davis will be looking to kick on and show why he was a first round pick, ahead of such playmaking talent as Juju Smith-Schsuter and Alvin Kamara. Davis was drafted at number 5 by the Titans in 2016, in a pick acquired from the Rams in the ‘Jared Goff’ trade.
His rookie season was hampered by a hamstring complaint and saw him rack up just 375 yards. Last season he showed glimpses of his potential with 100+ yard games against both the Eagles and Patriots. He managed to improve his numbers also – 891 yards, 4 TDs and 55 rushing yards. Inconsistencies at QB might mitigate this somehow, with Mariota’s elbow issues leading to Blaine Gabbert starting 3 games. However, in 2019 Davis will be looking to break the 1000 yard barrier, and prove he is the WR1 the Titans hoped they were drafting.
Indianapolis Colts – Kemoko Turay
Sitting behind Justin Houston on the depth chart is no bad place for a young pass rusher to be. Picked by the Colts in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, Turay has all the tools required to make it as a starting calibre edge rusher, and can only learn from the former Chief whilst taking his opportunities when given to him.
He logged 4 sacks last season in a rotational role and will be hoping to build on this number in a defence where Matt Eberflus’ expects his DE to get up the field and after the QB.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Jarrod Wilson
Another safety, this time hoping to replace another who left for the Texans (Tashaun Gipson). After contributions as a special teamer and backup safety, Wilson signed a contract extension in the off season to see him through 2021 and will be hoping to nail down a starting berth in Duval County. A tall, well built safety with some abikity to come down to the line of scrimmage particularly on run plays, the Jags will hope he compliments their stud CB duo of Bouye and Ramsey in the back end and their defensive prowess is regained. Could the Jags go from ‘worst to first’ in the AFC South if they get this right?