NFL training camp 2019: AFC South preview

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Can the Houston Texans rule again in the AFC South? We preview the division ahead of the NFL's training camps getting under way.

NFL training camp 2019: AFC South preview

Can the Houston Texans rule again in the AFC South? We preview the division ahead of the NFL's training camps getting under way.

The Houston Texans won the AFC South last season, but this division might be as competitive as it has been in a long time in 2019.

Andrew Luck is back to his old self, the Jacksonville Jaguars added a quarterback who can throw the ball and the Tennessee Titans seemed to find an identity in the running game last year.

All that leads to speculation that this division is up for grabs, and while there may not be a 13-win team in it in 2019, there may not be a team worse than .500 when all is said and done.

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Here's the outlook for the AFC South heading into training camp:

 

TEAM ON THE RISE

Jacksonville Jaguars

Calling the Jaguars a team on the rise two seasons after they made the AFC Championship feels wrong, but there is no denying it's right. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and it appears Jacksonville finally have a quarterback. Super Bowl winner Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88million deal this offseason and will replace the much-maligned Blake Bortles. Simply having a QB who can protect the ball will go a long way for the team's defense and for getting Leonard Fournette some room to run.

TEAM ON THE DECLINE

Houston Texans

There are several ways the Texans are on the rise. They added a couple of offensive linemen early in the draft, which should help the team protect quarterback Deshaun Watson. The young QB has another year under his belt, and younger defenders like Justin Reid should be primed to improve this season.

But the team is in the middle of a contract disagreement with Jadeveon Clowney that might lead to a holdout. The drafted offensive linemen are a long way from being great, plus the team let shutdown cornerback Tyrann Mathieu go for virtually nothing and they'll go through the 2019 season without a general manager having fired Brian Gaine after just one year.

Oh yeah, and Bill O'Brien still has issues with simple clock and game management. That's a team that could easily decline.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Josh Allen, LB, Jaguars: As if the Jaguars didn't already have enough pass-rushing talent, the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants passed on Allen, who might have been the best player in college football with Kentucky last year. He's going to make an already scary front seven for the Jaguars even more terrifying. 

Kahale Warring, TE, Texans: A former water polo player who really came into his own at San Diego State last year, Warring gives Watson a tight end who can finally scare a defense with his pass-catching and could be an intriguing part of the offense for the next several years.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Darius Leonard

Leonard completely changed the feel of the Colts defense as a rookie in 2018. He finished the season with 163 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions and turned Indianapolis' defense from one to be laughed at into one to be cautious about. His performance in 2019 could go a long way toward continuing to make the team's defense better – or letting it regress. If he is what he was last year, then the Colts should continue to get better. If he's not, then Luck will be pressing again on offense.

KEY INJURIES

Andrew Luck, calf: The Colts quarterback, who'll be 30 in September, was forced to miss all of the team's offseason workouts because of a lingering calf injury, but the team doesn't seem too concerned about his long-term outlook. However, the Colts weren't concerned about his shoulder either when he missed all of 2017. This could be something of a concern – or it might not be. It's just another part of the long-running worries about Luck's health that always seem to plague his career.

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