Earlier this month, the Tennessee Titans made serious waves when it acquired DeMarco Murray through a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. But that was only the biggest move in a busy offseason for the AFC South. The Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans have all been active this winter in an effort to boost their lineups ahead of the 2016 season.
Let’s start with the Titans. Last year, the team finished 3-13, which was the worst record in the NFL. It was a disappointing start to the Marcus Mariota era in Tennessee. The Titans selected the Oregon quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2015 Draft. But injuries prevented Mariota from finding his rhythm. Running back Antonio Andrews also struggled throughout the season, and the Titans had trouble on defense, finishing 26th in opposing points per games.
The Titans have the top pick in the 2016 Draft, but the team has said it might be open to trading it. One rumor has the Eagles making another deal with the Titans for the top overall pick. But whether Tennessee keeps the pick or not, they’ll enter this season stronger with Murray in the lineup.
In his best season, Murray scored 13 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,800 yards. But in 2015 — his first season with the Eagles after leaving the Cowboys — he struggled under Chip Kelly’s offense, rushing for only six TDs and 700 yards. When he joins the Titans, Murray will have to adjust to a new offense for the second straight year. But with a young team led by a dynamic QB and a new coaching staff, Murray could contribute to the development of an amazing offense.
The Jaguars are also looking for something to spark them out of a long, long slump.
Jacksonville hasn’t bee a .500 team since 2010. And in 2015, it was more of the same with the Jaguars finishing the season 5-11. Second-year QB Blake Bortles didn’t have a great season. He played in all 16 games, tossing 35 TDs, 18 interceptions, and 4,428 yards. But those stats were leaps and bounds better than what he posted in his rookie season. And that’s a good sign for Jacksonville fans.
Another reason for hope is the addition of running back Chris Ivory, who signed with the Jaguars after playing for the New York Jets. Jacksonville also signed free agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson away from the Denver Broncos. Jackson was considered one of the best free agent DTs available this year, and he will definitely boost Jacksonville’s defense.
And that brings us to the Houston Texans. Even though they won the AFC South last season with a 9-7 record, they had some big holes to fill. And they patched up their lineup in a big way early in free agency.
The Texans’ splashiest move was luring QB Brock Osweiler to Houston. As Peyton Manning’s backup in Denver, Osweiler was considered to be a lock to replace Manning when he retired. Instead, the Texans threw a bunch of money at Osweiler to shore up their offense. Houston also swiped running back Lamar Miller from the Miami Dolphins. With Osweiler, Miller should form a hard-to-beat 1-2 offensive punch.
As for the Colts, Indianapolis hasn’t made any major moves (yet). Their big concerns this offseason is keeping QB Andrew Luck healthy.
But over the last month, the talent level in the AFC South has improved dramatically. And a division which surely belonged to the powerful Colts or Texans has been sent into turmoil as the teams’ rosters change amazingly.
AFC South football will certainly be a lot more exciting this year — and not because of turnovers and terrible play.
Photos: Mark Humphrey/AP (Murray), David Banks/Getty Images (Jackson), Chris Trotman/Getty Images (Miller)