The AFC South has bounced back -- sort of.
The division had long been the butt of jokes thanks to the frequent losing ways, off-field dramatics and lackluster postseason performances from its four inhabitants.
But entering 2022, the division has a bit more respect thanks to a string of strong seasons from the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. The Jacksonville Jaguars are now led by a Super Bowl-winning head coach, while the Houston Texans have an experienced head coach in Lovie Smith.
With the AFC South set to be a tightly-contested battle between its four teams this season, we are going to take a unit-by-unit approach to compare each team and how they stack up for the 2022 season.
For the purpose of context, we are ranking units and players based on how we project they will play in the 2022 season.
Next, we move on to the four offensive coordinators helping lead each offense. Where exactly does Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor rank?
4) Todd Downing, Tennessee Titans
This might be a bit controversial of a ranking since Todd Downing is one of two offensive coordinators who call play plays for their teams, but simply being a play-caller doesn't make a coach more of an asset by default. Such is the case with Downing, a former quarterbacks and tight ends coach who has been a coordinator with the Raiders (2017) and the Titans (2021).
Downing's Raiders' offense finished No. 23 in points per game and was No. 30th in carries, a reflection of a lack of balance on what was just an OK passing game. After the Raiders staff was fired following the season, Downing spent two years with the Titans as a tight ends coach before replacing Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator. The Titans' offense last year finished No. 15 in points scored and No. 20 in offensive DVOA, big steps back for a unit that finished No. 4 in each category just the year before. Downing dealt with some injuries, but the Titans offense just wasn't the same last year.
3) Press Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars
A first-time coordinator at 34 years old, Press Taylor is one of two coordinators in the AFC South who isn't his team's full-time play-caller. Doug Pederson has said in the past there are instances where he could hand the play-calling over to Taylor, who was an offensive quality control coach with the Eagles from 2013-17 and quarterbacks coach from 2018-20, also serving as the team's passing game coordinator in his final season with the team.
Taylor spent 2021 with the Colts as a senior offensive assistant, though Pederson has said this year that there were times he considered making him a coordinator while the two spent five years together with the Eagles. Taylor hasn't proven much from a coordinator perspective, but he is regarded as a bright offensive mind who, so far, at least hasn't shown he is a potential net negative as a coordinator like Downing arguably has.
"I’ve just watched him grow and work over the years and his attention to detail. He’s smart. Obviously, he knows what he was doing with the quality control because that’s the position I had for so many years was quality control," Doug Pederson said at the end of OTAs. "Watching him put things together for coordinators, put things together for me from a project standpoint, how he broke down film, how he engaged in conversation about our opponent we might be playing that week, and just watching him sort of grow over the years.
"I had him in the quarterback room, I had him in the receiver room one year, and then promoted him to a pass game coordinator. That’s just the progression of how this thing works. Obviously, he had a year with [Colts Head Coach] Frank [Reich] in Indy and had a chance to learn and grow again with Frank. He and I have had the conversations over the past that if I get a chance to continue as a head coach that I would love to have him be an offensive coordinator. I feel strong about that, and this is a good step for him.
2) Marcus Brady, Indianapolis Colts
This is a projection and again requires the caveat that Marcus Brady isn't the Colts' play-caller, with head coach Frank Reich instead taking on that role. The role of a non-play-calling offensive coordinator varies from team to team, but Brady gets the slight edge on Taylor here for a few reasons.
While Taylor has more NFL experience than Brady as a coach, Brady has done solid work with the Colts' quarterbacks in recent years and did hold a higher title than Taylor on the same staff just a year ago. Brady faces most of the same questions as a first-year coordinator that Taylor faces, though, and the difference is mostly negligible.
1)Pep Hamilton, Houston Texans
The defacto best offensive coordinator in the AFC South, Pep Hamilton has gotten some decent production out of some bad Houston quarterbacks in recent years. Houston ranked No. 17 and No. 13 in offensive DVOA in former coordinator Tim Kelly's first two seasons as a play-caller before falling to No. 30 last year as the Texans' roster was stripped apart and led by a rookie quarterback, but Hamilton himself has been a respected play-caller in the past and has been able to get the most out of Mills and Tyrod Taylor, absolving him of the blame of last year's production.
Mills' production with the Texans in 2021 isn't eye-popping, but he did help Mills look like one of the most comfortable rookie quarterbacks in the NFL and his scheme is clearly one that works. The Texans don't have the roster to always take advantage, but Hamilton is a bright offensive mind who has shown a talent for play-calling, even without solid pieces to work with.