2022 AFC South Defense Breakdown

During August, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a position-by-position breakdown of the AFC South Defenses. The breakdown will contain “the best” at each unit followed by “the rest” in descending order.
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Defense Article: 2022 AFC South Defense Breakdown by Position

Defensive Line

The Best: Tennessee Titans

The Rest: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans

The Titans were top two in the NFL in rushing yards, attempts, and YPC in 2021. This was due to a dominant defense but mainly due to the duo of Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry. This duo combined for 22 TFLs and 17.5 sacks in 2021. In the Titans playoff game vs the Bengals, they combined for 4 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. The Titans totaled nine sacks in that game against Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (Fantasy Football Outlook for 2022).

The Colts were a top 10 rush defense in 2021 bolstered by Deforest Buckner. Buckner spends time at defensive end and tackle but most of his snaps are spent at defensive tackle as the anchor of a good Colts defensive line. The Texans and Jaguars are both bottom 10 in rushing yards allowed in 2021. These units aren’t great but this is also due to them constantly playing from behind. The Jaguars drafted Travon Walker as the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He will help beef up a defensive line that desperately needs help.

Edge Rushers

The Best: Tennessee Titans

The Rest: Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Titan’s edge rushers include Harold Landry and Bud Dupree. Dupree struggled with injuries in 2021 but has proven to be a capable pass rusher. Landry had 12 sacks and 14 TFLs in 2021 as the leading pass rusher on the Titans 2021. Simmons and Autry also spend time rushing the passer on the edge.

The Colts traded for Yannick Ngakoue in the offseason, Ngakoue had 10 sacks for the Raiders in 2021 and looks to help a defensive end position that needed help. The Colts drafted Kwity Paye in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Paye had four sacks in 14 games in 2021. Deforest Buckner spent some time at Defensive End in 2021, the signing of Ngakoue will allow him to play more at DT in 2022. The Jaguars and Texans are both teams that struggle to rush the passer. The Jaguars have Josh Allen a 2019 first-round pick who had 7.5 sacks in 2021.

Rookie Travon Walker played some edge at Georgia so he can fit in as well as an option as a pass rusher. The Texans haven’t been able to rush the passer since JJ Watt left. That still is the case as they bring back the same group from last season.

Linebackers

The Best: Indianapolis Colts

The Rest: Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans

The Colts boast arguably the best linebacker in the NFL in Shaquille Leonard. Leonard, the former Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Pro is the captain and best player on Colt’s defense and roster overall. Shaquille Leonard is also joined by teammate Bobby Okereke who is a four-year player who will lead the Colts to begin the season. Leonard got back surgery done in the offseason and is up in the air as to if he will be ready for the start of the season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars added Foye Oluokun in free agency and drafted Devin Lloyd in the 2022 NFL Draft. Both are young and unproven but fast and explosive athletes with high upside. The Titans linebackers going into the season are David Long Jr. and Zach Cunningham. This isn’t a strong group but they cover it up with a scheme and excellent defensive line play. The Texans continue to struggle in the front seven with inept linebacker play. Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill are projected to start which leaves them as one of the weaker units in the league.

Cornerbacks

The Best: Indianapolis Colts

The Rest: Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans

The Colts signed Stephon Gilmore this offseason to help bolster a young Colts secondary. Gilmore, a former Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Pro has dealt with injuries the last two seasons. Even with that, he is still the best cornerback in this division. The Colts arguably have the two best cornerbacks in the division with teammate Kenny Moore.

 

Moore, an undrafted player in 2017 has turned into a good cornerback as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Considered to be one of the best slot corners in the NFL, Moore was the Colts? the best cornerback in 2021.

The Titans, Texans, and Jaguars are all very young at the corner position. The Titans and Texans each drafted corners in the first round in 2021 and 2022. The Texans drafted Derek Stingley number three overall in the 2022 NFL Draft and the Texans have high expectations for him.

 

The Titans drafted Caleb Farley in the first round in 2021 who suffered an injury and missed his rookie season. The Jaguars drafted Tyson Campbell in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Jaguars also signed Darius Williams from the Los Angeles Rams. These are the Jaguars projected starters going into the season. Williams is a number one corner for the first time in his career after playing with Jalen Ramsey for the past few seasons.

Safeties

The Best: Tennessee Titans

The Rest: Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Tennessee Titans prioritize the Safety position more than most NFL teams.  The Titans drafted Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker with both becoming starters. Byard is a two-time All-Pro and is considered one of the best safeties in the league. Byard can play both deep and in the box which allows for him to do a lot of tasks on the field. This also allows Hooker to do the same which makes them one of the most versatile safety groups in the league.

The Houston Texans drafter Jalen Pitre is in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Pitre was one of the better safety prospects in this past year’s draft and he is a projected starter for the Texans. Although he is a rookie and unproven his upside is through the roof and gives the Texans secondary some hope. The same cannot be said for the Colts and Jaguars, who bring back the starters from last season who are solid but they hope to make up for it with good coaching and more experience.