The Indianapolis Colts appeared to be set for the future when they had an impressive 2012 draft class that was highlighted by quarterback Andrew Luck. They enjoyed three straight playoff appearances and back-to-back undefeated seasons in the AFC South. But Indianapolis has missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, and the rest of the division slowly is getting better, from top to bottom.
The Colts have Luck, the Titans have Marcus Mariota, and the Texans might have their quarterback of the future in Deshaun Watson. Which team in the division has set itself up for long-term success with the way it is building its overall roster?
Sarah Barshop, Texans reporter: The Titans have set their roster up for the long run, and it starts with Mariota. Before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 16 last year, Mariota was on a run that stacked up well against any quarterback in the NFL. Offensively, Tennessee is set in the backfield with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Titans added No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis to their receiving corps, and Delanie Walker is as solid as they come at tight end. The offensive line is strong, and the Titans added to their defense this offseason by signing Super Bowl-winning cornerback Logan Ryan. Last season, Tennessee finished with the same record as the Texans but missed out on the playoffs due to a puzzling late-season loss to the Jaguars. While the Texans hope to have improved quarterback play in 2017, there's no doubt Tennessee is the biggest threat to end Houston's two-year reign atop the division. Moving forward, the Titans' young talent puts them in a great spot to maintain potential success.
Michael DiRocco, Jaguars reporter: I really like what the Titans have done under general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey, who was fired after only one season in Jacksonville. Hitting on Mariota obviously is a big plus, but they’ve also invested heavily in the offensive line and run game -- with right tackle Jack Conklin and running backs Murray and Henry -- which fits right in with Mularkey’s old-school philosophy. Robinson gave Mariota some much-needed weapons for this season, led by rookie receiver Davis, and bolstered the secondary with Adoree' Jackson. The Colts still have a lot of work to do to fix an aging defense. Nobody’s sure whether Watson will be a solid starter for the Texans, and if he takes several seasons to hit his stride, Houston's defensive stars might be on the back end of their careers by then. The Jaguars might be searching for a quarterback after this season, and their offensive line still is one of their biggest weaknesses.
Mike Wells, Colts reporter: I don’t think anybody would have picked any team other than the Colts a few years ago, but I’m going with the team down Interstate 65 from Indianapolis, the Titans. Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson did something former Colts GM Ryan Grigson should have done for Luck a long time ago. He put a solid offensive line (seventh-fewest sacks allowed in the NFL last season) around Mariota and two quality running backs in Murray and Henry to go with him, so the young quarterback doesn’t always have to carry the team. Robinson also addressed the defense during the offseason. The Colts and Titans are in the best position of the four division teams, but Tennessee currently is a step ahead for long-term success.