AFC South preview: Can anyone challenge Andrew Luck and the Colts?

PREVIEW

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The Independent Online

The NFL season is upon us! The Independent takes a look at all 32 teams, how they have spent their summer and what fans can expect this season. Andrew Luck has had it all his own way in the division since joining the NFL

HOUSTON TEXANS

Viewers of HBO series Hard Knocks will be fully aware of the standards set by head coach Bill O’Brien this season. Jadeveon Clowney is back after missing 12 games owing to a torn meniscus sustained in week 1. Clowney, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, is joined on the defence by Vince Wilfork, who signed a two-year deal after his release by the New England Patriots.

Along with Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt, opponents are going to have an almost impossible task of beating this defensive line.

Brian Hoyer won the battle with Ryan Mallett to be the Texans' starting quarterback and Hoyer will hope running back Arian Foster makes a swift recovery from the groin injury he sustained during training camp. 

The Texans’ best chance of a playoff berth is via the two wildcard spots.

PREVIEWS:
AFC West
AFC North
AFC East
NFC West
NFC North
NFC South
NFC East

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Many expected the Indianapolis Colts to draft a defensive player in the first round of the 2015 draft, especially after defensive frailties were exposed by the Patriots in their 45-7 mauling of the Colts in the AFC championship game.

But instead the best young quarterback in the NFL, Andrew Luck, was gifted another weapon with the Colts drafting receiver Phillip Dorsett. He joins TY Hilton, future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief to form the best receiving corps in the league, even if franchise legend Reggie Wayne is gone.

In each of his three NFL seasons Luck has made the play-offs, taking his team one round further each year. The next step is the Super Bowl and the Colts have every chance of reaching it this time around.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

The Jacksonville Jaguars might have been the AFC South’s most improved team, but the injury bug has struck. Prolific pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr and promising running back TJ Yeldon were taken in the draft and tight end Julius Thomas and defensive end Jared Odrick were added in free agency, but Fowler and Thomas will miss significant portions of this season.

The Jaguars have posted a losing record in every season since 2010, winning just 14 games in the last four seasons, and this year may be no different. But this remains a young roster with some potential.

Quarterback Blake Bortles flashed his promise at times in the pre-season and head coach Gus Bradley is also looking for offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, to step up after struggling in his first two seasons.

TENNESSEE TITANS

For the first time since the days of Steve McNair the Tennessee Titans have a potential franchise quarterback. Marcus Mariota was taken with the second pick in this year’s draft in a bid to resurrect a team that has been in the doldrums in recent years.

The Titans have confidence in Mariota, naming him the starting quarterback as early as July, and he will be pleased with his passing options. Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter were joined by Harry Douglas, Anthony Fasano and second-round draft pick Dorial Green-Beckham in the off-season.

The defence is holding the Titans back from challenging the Colts and Texans but Brian Orakpo, Perrish Cox and Da’Norris Searcy were nice free agent additions.

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