The AFC South has some seriously impressive defenses, but who has the best?
The AFC South has had to take some lumps over the last few years, as the ineptitude at quarterback led to the division being the most unwatchable in all of football. However, as proved during the 2020 season, the division has swiftly turned things around, becoming one of football’s most competitive.
Not only are both the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans championship contenders thanks to excellent quarterback play, but the Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts can’t be discarded as a team that can make some noise. Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to be among the league’s worst teams, they have some pieces worth watching.
As the Titans proved in the playoffs, a stingy defense can help one of these four teams pull off an upset or two in the playoffs, though not every team in this division has that luxury.
Ranking the best defenses in the competitive AFC South.
Jacksonville Jaguars AFC South
Gardner Minshew will make Jacksonville fun to watch on offense, but Todd Wash’s defense is going to look a lot different after most of the “Sacksonville” defense that brought the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game in 2017 was dismantled.
Lockdown defensive back Jalen Ramsey is a Los Angeles Ram, defensive tackle Calais Campbell was sent to Baltimore, and cornerback A.J. Bouye is now in Denver. One of the few holdovers from that 2017 team was Yannick Ngakoue, who may sit out the season rather than play under the tag for Jacksonville. former first-rounder Taven Bryan starting to move into bust territory doesn’t help things either.
The excellent Joe Schobert and the solid Myles Jack in their linebacking corps can’t make up for major holes at several key positions. The secondary is the biggest offender, as the loss of Ramsey and Bouye makes this group one of the league’s worst, if not the outright worst, due to the lack of experience, talent, and depth.
Even with Schobert and Jack solidifying their linebacking corps, Jacksonville gave up 375 yards per game last year, including 139 per game against the run, while surrendering an average of 24.8 points per game. After ranking 29th in the league in DVOA last year, per Football Outsiders could be near the bottom of the league in that category in 2020 given the pieces they lost.
The one silver lining for the Jacksonville is the fact that they have some young pieces on that defense that are worth watching. Rookie Pro Bowler Josh Allen looks to be a legit pass rusher, while a pair of 2020 first-rounders in cornerback C.J. Henderson and bendy edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson will try to live up to the well-deserved hype they accrued in college. Those three could make the Jags’ defense somewhat watchable in 2020.