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AFC South burning questions for 2024 NFL season: Can Texans live up to hype? Did Jaguars do enough to improve?

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From one of the most uninteresting divisions in the NFL to one of the most intriguing, the AFC South has entered a new era that promises to be fun. The Texans shocked the NFL world in 2023 by going from worst to first in the division, the Jaguars again went 9-8 but missed the playoffs, while the Colts and Titans may have found franchise quarterbacks. What does 2024 have in store for us?

Even after free agency and the NFL Draft, we will have questions about all four AFC South teams. As we prepare to flip the NFL calendar from offseason to preseason, here is one burning question for each squad.

Houston Texans: Can DeMeco Ryans and Co. build on last year’s surprising success?

The Texans are expected to be AFC contenders in 2024 after last year’s surprising season and aggressive offseason. After winning 11 games over the past three seasons, Houston went 11-8 including playoffs in 2023, and appeared to find a young star in reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud, who stepped in and immediately got the most out of playmakers like Nico Collins and Tank Dell. But the Houston hype machine didn’t stop there.

This offseason, the Texans became the first team in NFL history to add a player coming off a season with 100+ receptions (Stefon Diggs), 1,000+ rushing yards (Joe Mixon) and 10+ sacks (Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry) in the same offseason. With all of these additions, are the Texans really going to be Super Bowl contenders? Or, could they take a step backward after the unexpected debuts of coach Ryans and Bobby Slowik? The Texans clearly appear to be on the right track, but you have to go out there and prove it with the eyes of the NFL world now upon you.ย 

This one is simple. Can the Colts’ former No. 4 overall pick stay on the field and develop into an NFL star? Richardson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5, and was able to finish just ONE NFL game healthy during his first year. Still, Richardson became just one of four players in NFL history to record three or more passing touchdowns and three or more rushing touchdowns in his first four career games.ย 

Will Richardson be a dynamic, Cam Newton-like clone? Or someone who perennially struggles to stay on the field?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Did they do enough this offseason to improve?

The Jaguars again went 9-8 in Year 2 of the Doug Pederson era, but this season was very different from last year. In 2022, the Jaguars clinched the AFC South in a win-and-in Week 18 situation against the Titans, and then put together a historic postseason comeback to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round. Last season, the Jags lost the AFC South in a win-and-in Week 18 situation against the Titans, as Jacksonville lost five out of its final six games after an 8-3 start. The Jaguars are just the sixth team since 2000 to miss the playoffs after an 8-3 start.

There are questions about Trevor Lawrence, who committed 10 turnovers in his final four games of the season. But I would chalk some of those up to injuries. People forget that Lawrence suffered that nasty high ankle sprain in Week 13 after the knee sprain in Week 6, then took a concussion in Week 15 and an AC joint sprain on his throwing shoulder in Week 16. I’m more concerned about the Jags’ offseason at large compared to Lawrence as a franchise quarterback. Jacksonville replaced Calvin Ridley with Gabe Davis, but also drafted Brian Thomas Jr. in the first round. Maybe he ends up being a stud — but losing your top receiver is notable.ย 

Defensively, I look to the secondary. There was certainly some turnover, but the big headlines were probably the Jaguars replacing Darious Williams with Ronald Darby at cornerback, and Rayshawn Jenkins for Darnell Savage at safety — although Savage may play some nickel corner. Did the seventh-worst pass defense in the NFL from last year get any better?

The Jaguars did bring in Ryan Nielsen as their new defensive coordinator, which I think was a good hire. But how much improved will the 11th-worst defense be in 2024, and how much do they need to be improved to make it back to the postseason?ย 

The table is set for Levis. Tennessee went out and acquired an offensive-minded coach who has worked with several different big-name quarterbacks throughout the course of his career, a new left tackle, a new center and a few new special weapons in Ridley, Tyler Boyd and Tony Pollard to work alongside DeAndre Hopkins.ย 

Levis’ first nine NFL starts did not put him in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion by any means, but he showed plenty of flashes that have fans excited — from his four-touchdown debut against the Atlanta Falcons, to the improbable comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins in prime time. Levis has a legitimate NFL arm, and now what appears to be a legitimate support cast. How far can Tennessee go in 2024 if Levis takes that next step in his development?

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Author: Jordan Dajani
June 5, 2024 | 8:50 am

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