The AFC South is a wide open division. It does not take much to make an argument for any of the four teams to take hold of the division. Interestingly enough, all four teams can point to a playoff appearance in the last two seasons, something no other division can boast. The draft added even more talent to an already talent-rich division. However, there were some head-scratching selections, and some lucky landings. Today we take a look at the AFC South rookies, and play Feast or Famine.
AFC South Rookies
For all the love shown to Allen during the 2018 college football season, he found a way to be an underrated defender. The Jaguars selected Allen with the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft. Allen was an absolute force at Kentucky. Becoming a starter during his sophomore season, Allen averaged 72 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks, over his final three years. Each season saw marked improvement, whether rushing the passer or becoming better in coverage. Allen’s senior season ended with a consensus All-American selection and the Bednarik and Nagurski awards.
The rookie joins a talented Jaguars defense, one equipped with one of the best defensive lines and secondaries. As a result of the talent around him, Allen won’t be relied on to carry the unit, but rather, placed in optimal positions to succeed. Allen’s versatility allows the Jaguars to play him at the defensive end or coming off the edge, depending on the optimum match-up. Just days into his first training camp, Allen is already pushing for more first team reps. The preseason games will be important to garner more playing time for the rookie. Allen landed in the perfect spot for a man of his talents. Don’t be surprised to find Allen with 10 or more sacks by the end of the season.
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Let’s start with a disclaimer here: Howard has the talent to be a dominant offensive lineman. However, what lands him here is the need to develop, coupled with the Texans’ need to insert him into the starting lineup. The rookie out of Alabama State is a converted tight end. Howard’s length and strength are his greatest assets. College tape showed an athletic big-man who shows the ability to operate in space. Even against tougher competition, Howard more than held his own, winning more often than losing.
What holds Howard back is technique. The rookie needs to find consistency, which will take time. However, placing him into the starting lineup immediately, would be the wrong move for Houston. The Texans face off against the AFC West and NFC South this season. They will come up against some of the better pass rushers in the league. While there is a real possibility of Howard learning and getting progressively better during the season, expecting him to solidify the line is asking a bit much. If the Texans are able to bring Howard along slowly, they would go along way to maximize the talent of their rookie lineman.
Up For Grabs
The division is definitely a toss-up. One thing that each team can benefit from is consistency. A consistent offensive attack for the Jaguars would take some pressure on the defense. The Colts need consistency from their defense. Tennessee needs to have a full season from their starting quarterback. Houston needs consistent offensive line play. The AFC South will be a battle. One great performance could mean the difference. Heading into 2019, there are a group of rookies ready to leave their mark.