2022 preseason All-AFC South Staff: Matt Ryan-led Colts dominate offense, share defensive highlight with Titans

August 25, 2022
2022 preseason All-AFC South Staff: Matt Ryan-led Colts dominate offense, share defensive highlight with Titans

Over the subsequent two weeks, we’ll unveil our preseason All-Division groups, as is our annual custom round this time of yr. As all the time, the rosters had been compiled largely by a panel of 1, although there was important enter from the writing and editorial employees at CBSSports.com after I took an preliminary run on the rosters by myself. 

We started on Tuesday with the AFC East and continued Wednesday with the AFC North. At present, it is the AFC South, after which we’ll end up the convention tomorrow with the AFC West. Subsequent week, it is on to the NFC. With out additional ado …

Offensive ability positions

QB: Matt Ryan (IND)

RB: Jonathan Taylor (IND)

WR: Michael Pittman (IND), Brandin Cooks (HOU), Christian Kirk (JAX)

TE: Brevin Jordan (HOU)

FLEX: Derrick Henry (TEN)

Be ready, of us. This division is ROUGH. Matt Ryan, final seen struggling fairly badly for the 2021 Falcons, is fairly clearly the perfect quarterback within the division for the time being. Barring a major step ahead from Trevor Lawrence or Ryan Tannehill by some means rediscovering his elite effectivity regardless of not having A.J. Brown by his facet, Ryan appears more likely to be the most efficient passer in the course of the 2022 season as properly. We all know he’ll be put in place to succeed by Frank Reich and shall be working behind a non-disaster of an offensive line, no less than.

Previous to his damage, Henry was on monitor for one more absolute monster season. In eight video games, he carried an unbelievable 219 instances for 937 yards and 10 scores. That is a 465-carry tempo in a 17-game season. The 4.3 yards-per-carry common, although, was his worst since his second NFL season. He is additionally a now-28-year-old, 247-pound operating again coming off a damaged foot and 955 touches over the previous 2.5 years. The probability of his remaining as absurdly productive in 2022 as he was from 2019 by means of 2021 is low … however he nonetheless makes this crew as a result of he is simply that good, and the remainder of the division is that dangerous. He is simply the flex man as an alternative of the operating again, the place Taylor will get the nod on account of his youth and well being benefits. 

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Pittman took a step ahead in 12 months 2 regardless of a downgrade in quarterback play, and with Ryan changing Carson Wentz, ought to proceed to progress as a No. 1 perimeter possibility. Cooks has been one of many league’s most constant producers regardless of persistent damage points, simply racking up over 1,000 yards yr after yr. With Davis Mills underneath heart all season, he has a great shot to get there once more. Whereas Kirk is little doubt overpaid, he is additionally so much higher than what the Jags had on the receiver place final yr, and may assist elevate Lawrence in 12 months 2. The tight finish crop on this division is pretty weak, and Jordan has an opportunity to face out as a secondary goal in Houston’s offense. As soon as he really acquired on the sphere final yr, he was fairly efficient over the center and up the seam. 

Offensive line

OT: Laremy Tunsil (HOU), Braden Smith (IND)

G: Quenton Nelson (IND), Brandon Scherff (JAX)

C: Ryan Kelly (IND)

That is the world the place the AFC South is strongest. Tunsil’s monster contract overstates the diploma to which he’s really one of many league’s very prime tackles, however he is a rattling good one, and there is no purpose to anticipate a decline in his age-28 season, as long as he stays more healthy than he did a yr in the past. Smith will get overshadowed as a result of he was drafted the identical yr by the identical crew as his future Corridor of Fame teammate, Nelson, however he is emerged as an excellent proper deal with. Nelson is an absolute no-brainer right here. Duh. Scherff’s contract is a bit costly for a participant along with his well being historical past, however when he is on the sphere, he is one of many NFL’s finest guards. Kelly has well being problems with his personal, however he is additionally only a actually good heart. He will get the nod over Tennessee’s Ben Jones as a result of he is principally been capable of keep wholesome these previous few years, and he is acquired relative youth on his facet. 

Defensive entrance

EDGE: Harold Landry (TEN), Kwity Paye (IND)

IDL: DeForest Buckner (IND), Jeffery Simmons (TEN)

LB: Shaquille Leonard (IND), Zach Cunningham (TEN)

Coming into his prime at age 26, we’re betting in opposition to Landry persevering with his “each different yr” development and as an alternative following up final yr’s 12-sack season with one other productive yr underneath defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. Paye, in the meantime, ought to profit from Gus Bradley’s teaching. He is proven a capability to get the perfect out of athletic edge rushers, together with Paye’s new teammate, Yannick Ngakoue, who simply retains following Bradley from crew to crew. 

If not for the existence of Aaron Donald, Buckner can be a way more well-known participant. He’s so absurdly good on the defensive inside, and simply doesn’t get sufficient consideration as a result of he occurs to be enjoying concurrently one of many small handful of finest defensive gamers in NFL historical past. Simmons started fulfilling his potential final common season, then exploded in Tennessee’s playoff loss to the Bengals. He’ll be 25 this season, and he’ll be a monster. 

Leonard was one other no-brainer right here. He has been a star because the second he stepped on the sphere, making 4 consecutive Professional Bowls and All-Professional groups (three first, one second). We’re, uh, not betting in opposition to that development persevering with in 2022 — even in a distinct defensive system. Cunningham performed fairly properly after arriving in Tennessee following a commerce from the Texans. He helped solidify the second stage of an underrated Tennessee protection. There for a full season, we’re anticipating him to be a constant power this yr.

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Defensive backfield

CB: Kenny Moore II (IND), Stephon Gilmore (IND), Kristian Fulton (TEN)

SAF: Kevin Byard (TEN), Julian Blackmon (IND)

FLEX: Darious Williams (JAX)

Moore is among the most underrated gamers within the NFL, and one of the constantly good slot corners within the league over the previous few seasons. Right here, he will get his due. Gilmore hasn’t rediscovered his Defensive Participant of the 12 months heights, however that does not imply he isn’t nonetheless a very good participant. He is not essentially an ideal match for Bradley’s protection, however the expertise is an excessive amount of to wager in opposition to right here. Fulton took a step ahead in 12 months 2, and with good well being ought to proceed to progress as a stable participant. Williams, coming from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, ought to be a powerful No. 2 nook. He can get picked on sometimes on account of his slight construct, however he is been fairly good in protection the previous couple seasons. 

Byard is a star, and one of many league’s finest back-end ballhawks. He was a simple selection for one of many security spots. Blackmon struggled with accidents in 12 months 2 after a really promising rookie yr. If he is wholesome, we see him turning into one of many league’s higher younger safeties on account of his capability to wash issues up excessive. 

Specialists

Okay: Randy Bullock (TEN)

P: Logan Cooke (JAX)

RET: Jamal Agnew (JAX)

I will not lie … I requested our resident kicking knowledgeable (John Breech) who he thinks are the perfect kickers and punters in every division, and replica/pasted these names onto every All-Division crew. Agnew took a slight step backward final season, however his monitor file by means of 5 years is powerful so we’re betting on one thing of a bounceback.