INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indianapolis Colts set to begin training camp soon at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., Colts.com takes a look at the major storylines surrounding the team's AFC South Division rivals.
» Back to earth: The Jaguars in 2017 enjoyed their best season in franchise history, getting within one quarter of advancing to the Super Bowl and featuring a fierce defense highlighted by six Pro Bowlers. With most of those pieces back, expectations were understandably high in Jacksonville heading into 2018. And after a 3-1 start to the season, it seemed like the Jaguars were living up to those expectations. Then came a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Then a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Fast forward to Week 12, and Jacksonville had lost seven straight games and its season was off the tracks; the Jaguars would finish with a 5-11 record. Inconsistent play on offense would mainly be the culprit, as quarterback Blake Bortles would eventually be benched in favor of Cody Kessler, while running back Leonard Fournette was limited to just eight games on the year. The Jaguars' performance in 2018 set in motion several moves to try to get back up to par with their AFC South counterparts.
» Foles' chance: The biggest move made by the Jaguars this offseason was the signing of Nick Foles, who gets another shot to be an everyday starting quarterback after serving as Carson Wentz's backup with the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons. Foles cashed in on his opportunities when Wentz was injured, posting a 10-3 record in 13 starts and, of course, leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory, 41-33, over the New England Patriots following the 2017 regular season. His 373 passing yards and three touchdowns in that game earned him Super Bowl MVP honors. Foles hopes to work with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to add consistency to a Jacksonville offense that finished the 2018 season ranked 31st in points scored, 27th in yards, 29th in first downs, 26th in passing yards, 30th in passing touchdowns and 28th in average yards per drive.
» Making moves: The Jaguars will have plenty of other new looks on offense and defense in 2019. Gone are Bortles, running backs T.J. Yeldon, Carlos Hyde and Corey Grant, wide receiver Donte Moncrief, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and safety Tashaun Gipson, while Pro Bowl linebacker Telvin Smith has stepped away from football for at least the 2019 season. But Jacksonville is banking on the talent acquired through the draft to help make up for those losses; among their more notable picks were Josh Allen, one of the top pass rushers of the class, at No. 7 overall, as well as tackle Jawaan Taylor early in the second round. The team also added veterans Alfred Blue and Thomas Rawls to complement Fournette at the running back position.
» Early exit: The Texans were ice cold to start the 2018 season, losing their first three games. But an overtime victory Week 4 against the Colts in Indy propelled Houston to nine straight victories — and the eventual AFC South Division title. But those pesky Colts, who ended the Texans' win streak at NRG Stadium back in Week 14, would get the last laugh, as they once again came into Houston for the Wild Card Round of the playoffs and flew home with a 21-7 victory that exposed some of the Texans' biggest flaws, particularly in pass protection and in their secondary. In June, the team parted ways with general manager Brian Gaine, and the team will proceed without a GM in 2019, instead divvying up personnel duties between the likes of head coach Bill O'Brien, executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby and others, according to NFL.com.
» Adding protection: While Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are two of the best playmakers at their respective positions in the league, the Texans struggled to allow enough time for those two to get in much of a rhythm throughout the 2018 season. To address the offensive line this offseason, the Texans used free agency to add veteran Matt Kalil at left tackle, while the team also used the draft to pick up Tytus Howard and Max Scharping up front. Will that — plus better overall health — be enough? We'll start to know the answer to that question in the coming weeks as training camp gets underway.
» Serving the secondary: What wasn't new in the Texans' Wild Card Round loss to the Colts was the fact that T.Y. Hilton continued to torch the Houston secondary. But this offseason Houston decided to try to do something about it. While the Texans lost Tyrann Mathieu in free agency and Andre Hal to retirement, the team added Tashaun Gipson and Jahleel Addae to replace them at safety. At cornerback, Houston saw Kareem Jackson leave in free agency, and added the likes of Bradley Roby and Lonnie Johnson Jr.
» Just short: The Titans likely feel as if they have some payback to dish out after falling to the Colts, 33-17, at home in the two teams' win-or-go-home matchup in their regular season finale last season. Indy earned the final spot in the AFC playoffs, while Tennessee was forced to watch from home. That game spoiled what turned out to be a solid second half of the season for the Titans, who won four straight to earn that Week 17 showdown, as running back Derrick Henry absolutely went off and the team did its best to maneuver its injury situation with quarterback Marcus Mariota.
» Ready to go: While Mariota is expected to be good to go for the 2019 season, his injury history was enough of a factor for the Titans to bring in a quality backup should there be any other issues moving forward. The team this offseason acquired quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round and a 2019 seventh-round pick. Tannehill went 42-46 in his six seasons as the Dolphins' starting quarterback, throwing for 20,434 yards with 123 touchdowns to 75 interceptions over that time.
» Reinforcements: The Titans put together a very solid offseason. Beyond the move to trade for Tannehill at the quarterback position, the team also acquired veteran guard Rodger Saffold, edge rusher Cameron Wake and wide receiver Adam Humphries, who will pair nicely with the emerging Corey Davis. And while the team's first-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, likely won't be able to play most, if not all, of the 2019 season as he deals with an injury, the team still selected another playmaker at wide receiver in A.J. Brown, as well as a starting-caliber guard in Nate Davis.