The AFC South has rebounded — sort of.
The division has long been the butt of jokes, thanks to frequent losses, off-field drama and poor postseason results from its four inhabitants.
But entering 2022, the division has a little more respect thanks to a string of strong seasons from the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. The Jacksonville Jaguars are now led by a Super Bowl-winning head coach, while the Houston Texans have an experienced head coach in Lovie Smith.
Since the AFC South will be a tight battle between the four teams this season, we’ll take a one-by-one approach to compare each team and how they’ll line up for the 2022 season.
For context purposes, we’re ranking units and players based on how we predict they’ll play in the 2022 season.
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Next, we move on to the four offensive coordinators who help guide each offense. Where exactly does Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor rank?
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4) Todd Downing, Tennessee Titans
This might be a bit controversial to rank since Todd Downing is one of only two offensive coordinators to call a play a game for their teams, but just because a player plays doesn’t make a coach a bigger asset by default. That’s the case for Downing, a former quarterbacks and tight ends coach who served as coordinator with the Raiders (2017) and Titans (2021).
Downing’s Raiders offense finished No. 23 in points per game and was No. 30 in execution, a reflection of the lack of balance in what was a merely OK passing game. After the Raiders staff was fired after the season, Downing spent two years with the Titans as tight ends coach before replacing Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator. The Titans offense last year finished #15 in scoring and #20 in offensive DVOA, big steps back for a unit that finished #4 in each category just the year before. Downing has dealt with some injuries, but the Titans offense just wasn’t the same last year.
3) Pres Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars
A first-time coordinator at age 34, Pres Taylor is one of two coordinators in the AFC South who is not a regular on his team. Doug Pederson has said in the past that there are times he could turn the game over to Taylor, who was the Eagles’ offensive quality control coach from 2013-17 and quarterbacks coach from 2018-20, as well thus serving as the team’s passing game coordinator in his final season with the team.
Taylor spent 2021 with the Colts as a senior offensive assistant, though Pederson said this year that there were times he considered making him coordinator while the two spent five years together with the Eagles. Taylor hasn’t proven much from a coordinator standpoint, but he’s considered a bright offensive mind who, so far at least, hasn’t shown to be the potential net negative as a coordinator that Downing likely is.
“I’ve just watched him grow and work over the years and his attention to detail. He is smart. Obviously he knows what he’s doing with quality control because that’s the position I’ve had for so many years was quality control,” Doug Pederson said at the end of OTAs. “Watching him put things together for the coordinators, putting things together for me from a draft standpoint, how he broke down film, how he got into conversation about our opponent that we might be playing this week, and just watching him grow over the years.
“I had him in the quarterback room, I had him in the receiver room for a year and then I promoted him to passing game coordinator. It’s just the progression of how this thing works. Apparently he had a year with [Colts Head Coach] Frank [Reich] in Indy and had a chance to learn and grow again with Frank. He and I have had conversations in the past that if I have a chance to continue as a head coach, I would love to have him as the offensive coordinator. I feel strong about it and it’s a good step for him.
2) Marcus Brady, Indianapolis Colts
It’s a projection, and again, it bears the caveat that Marcus Brady is not the Colts’ player, and head coach Frank Reich assumes that role. The non-playing offensive coordinator role varies from team to team, but Brady has a slight edge over Taylor here for several reasons.
While Taylor has more NFL experience than Brady as a coach, Brady has done a solid job with the Colts’ quarterbacks in recent years and held a higher title than Taylor with the same team just a year ago. However, Brady faces most of the same questions as a first-year coordinator that Taylor does, and the difference is mostly minor.
1) Pep Hamilton, Houston Texas
The defacto best offensive coordinator in the AFC South, Pep Hamilton has gotten decent production from some poor Houston defenses in recent years. Houston ranked No. 17 and No. 13 in offensive DVOA in former coordinator Tim Kelly’s first two seasons as a player before falling to No. 30 last year when the Texans’ roster was scattered and led by a rookie quarterback, but Hamilton himself is has been a respected player in the past and has been able to get the most out of Mills and Tyrod Taylor, absolving him of the blame for last year’s production.
Mills’ production with the Texans in 2021 hasn’t been impressive, but he’s helped Mills look like one of the most comfortable rookie quarterbacks in the NFL, and his scheme is clearly working. The Texans don’t always have a roster they can take advantage of, but Hamilton is a bright offensive mind who has shown a knack for making plays even without solid pieces to work with.