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Vandermeer's View: Arms Race Underway


The AFC South has taken its share of criticism in the last three years.

Two teams have been in the top five of the last three drafts and last year's division winner went 9-7. But brighter days appear to be ahead as all four teams are set at quarterback and all are doing everything they can to build around their field generals.

When the Texans came into the league in 2002 they had to deal with three divisional opponents with top-notch quarterbacks.

The Jaguars had Mark Brunell who had taken them to two AFC championship games. The Titans had the late Steve McNair who had led Tennessee to a Super Bowl appearance. And the Colts had Peyton Manning, who needs no introduction.


It was excruciatingly difficult to get divisional wins in those days. The Brunell era was fading out in North Florida enabling the Texans to go 4-2 in the first three years with the Jags. But it took until year three to beat the Titans and year five to finally beat the Colts.

Fast forward to 2016 and it's clear this division is entering another quarterback-rich era. Andrew Luck may have had an off year in 2015 but injuries and offensive line issues certainly contributed to that. Blake Bortles threw for almost 4,500 yards in his second year. And Marcus Mariota looked promising piloting a talent-hungry Titans team that should be much better this season.

The Texans have loaded up their offense with several key free agents and draft choices. With Brock Osweiler at the helm, Bill O'Brien and George Godsey are hoping to use a wide array of weaponry and consistently dive deep into the playbook.

There were four key games last season (Cincinnati, New York Jets, at Indianapolis, at Tennessee) in which they had to adjust the game plan on the fly with a 'new' QB in relief or create a crash course during the week. They won them all, thanks to their ingenuity and a lights-out defense. 

This season they'll look to exercise some firepower and take some heat off a defensive unit that finished third in the NFL.

And the Houston 'D' is a big reason why the Colts and Titans went heavy in pass protection help this off season. The Titans signed former Texans center Ben Jones and drafted tackle Jack Conklin. The Colts drafted two tackles and two centers, including Ryan Kelly in round one.

The Jags, meanwhile, have been just as aggressive on defense as the Texans were on offense this off season. They drafted six of seven players on defense including Jalen Ramsey and steal-on-paper Myles Jack. Former Bronco Malik Jackson highlighted the free agent haul which included Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara.

Sure it looks like the Texans and Colts have the edge going into the campaign. But as your stock broker will tell you 'pas performance is no guarantee of future results.' The Jags and Titans are determined to not be 'penciled-in' wins on the schedule anymore. This could shape up to be a very intriguing year for the AFC South. 

Check out a collection of the best shots of QB Brock Osweiler.

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