The 2017 NFL regular season is just around the corner, and with team rosters confirmed with draft picks and free agent signings, it’s time to take a look at the AFC South defensive power rankings for this year. The AFC South will be hotly contested, with the teams hungry to take the division title from the back to back leading Houston Texans.

Indianapolis Colts 4th in the AFC South Defensive Power Ranking

The Colts will start with a 3 – 4 defense under the coaching of Ted Monachino. Defense has been one of the weakest aspects of the Colts in previous years, and most experts rank them close to the bottom of NFL’s defensive power rankings. In the AFC South, they’re at the bottom of the division by a significant margin.The Bleacher Report called the 2016 defense “old and slow”, with “one of the worst defensive rosters in the league.” The defense of this team hasn’t shown any real physicality, but the team still managed a middle of the road 8 – 8 record for 2016, and they did get to third place in the division.This year is expected to be the start of a long rebuild, with some free agent signings that will help to bring depth to the defensive side. Johnathan Hankins has come from the Giants, and Jabaal Sheard has come from the Patriots, both of these players have a lot to offer the Colts but there’s going to be a bedding in period as they adjust to the new team. The first three draft picks used by the team were also for the defensive side, further reinforcing the fact that the Colts are attempting to build a stronger roster for 2017 and beyond.

Tennessee Titans 3rd in the AFC South Defensive Power Ranking

Dick LeBeau is the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator of the Titans, holding the position since 2015. The team will start with a base defensive arrangement of 3 – 4.The Titans’ defense has been labeled as average by sports outlets like the Bleacher Report, so it’s no surprise that they’re ranked behind two stronger teams in the AFC South. They failed to make enough turnovers last year and allowed too many yards and points per game. Their defense doesn’t have anything special to make it stand out either on paper or on the field, and it will be hard for them to break into the upper half of the NFL overall defensive rankings. They have made acquisitions in the off season which could help them to improve the defense, but it’s still an unknown whether the new players will be able to make any meaningful difference. Cornerback Logan Ryan has been signed to a three-year deal with the Titans, and could be a strong asset. His performance with the Patriots at the Super Bowl saw him make 6 tackles, and he was the leading cornerback in total tackles for 2016.  Adoree’ Jackson was drafted this year, and he was ranked by many experts as one of the best cornerbacks in the draft. We’ll need to wait for field time to see if either of these players are able to help the turnaround from an average defense into one that could challenge the leaders in the AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2nd in the AFC South Defensive Power Ranking

The Jaguars have had plenty of defensive talent in recent years, but have failed to capitalize on that talent when it mattered. They gave away an average of 25 points for every game last season, and were right down at the bottom of the league in turnovers. They were also weak on interceptions for the entire season. Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash will have a job on his hands to get all of the talent working together, and they’ll be using a base defense of 4 – 3 this year. New additions like cornerback A.J. Bouye, strong safety Barry Church, and defensive tackle Calais Campbell will bring experience and talent to an already strong roster. With the Jaguars it’s not a matter of how they look in the power ranking, but more how they will turn that power into results on the field.The team has the potential to have one of the strongest defenses in the NFL, but the key here is when and if that potential is proven. On power and depth alone, they’re easily 2nd in the AFC South.

Houston Texans 1st in the AFC South Defensive Power Ranking

The Texans are ranked highly by most experts, with Bleacher Report even saying that “the team has the best group of pass-rushers in the entire league.” Star defensive player J.J. Watt was absent for most of last season thanks to surgery for a herniated disc. Despite starting in Week 1 in 2016, he was then taken out of the rest of the season for a second surgery. If you want evidence of just how crucial Watt is to the Houston defense, you only need to look at how NFL Network ranked him the 35th best player in their 2017 top 100, despite him only playing a single game. With him rested, recovered, and back on the roster, he and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be a pair that will cause a lot of trouble for any team playing the Texans.Drafted linebacker Zach Cunningham adds another element with a strong tackler. In 2016, this rookie led the record for tackles in the Southeastern Conference. Head coach Bill O’Brien has called Cunningham “A guy who’s a good tackler, [and] a productive player who played well against good competition.” While they’re not lauding praises on the new addition to the team, there’s some quiet confidence in his abilities.Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel will run a base defense of 3 – 4 for the start of 2017. Expect this team to fight hard for 1st place in the AFC South again, with a playoff appearance later this season.

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