AFC SOUTH REPORT
The award winners in the division at the halfway point of the season
We have reached the midway point of the season!
Injuries have completely derailed Indianapolis and Houston. While fans of Jacksonville and Tennessee remain cautiously optimistic that their teams may be playoff bound.
Time for some midseason AFC South Awards!
Best Offensive Player: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
It’s nothing short of a tragedy the way Watson’s season was cut short with a knee injury. The star rookie from Clemson had thrown for 19 touchdowns and rushed for another two. More importantly, he led the Texans to three wins and showed tremendous promise in three shootouts against New England, Kansas City and Seattle.
Best Defensive Player: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars
This one is not even close. Campbell has been one of the best defensive players in the league. While the Jaguars defense has been on the rise the last few seasons, Campbell has exceeded all expectations. His league leading eleven sacks has anchored a unit that has given up only 14.6 points per game. If the Jaguars are going to return to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, Campbell’s leadership will carry them there.
Rookie of the Half-Year: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
It would have been easy to give this award to Watson but, despite them both being in their first year in the league, only one of them seems to be acting like a rookie. After narrowly escaping a serious leg/ankle injury three weeks ago, Fournette was a late scratch against the Cincinnati Bengals. The reason for the benching was reportedly for skipping out on a team photo. If Fournette can keep it together for the final eight games, he has a chance to put together one of the best rookie rushing seasons in league history.
Most Reliable: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
In good times and bad, Hilton continues to shine. Now in his sixth season out of Florida International, the durable wide receiver has steadily amassed stats that have him on a borderline Hall of Fame trajectory. With over 700 yards this season, he has been producing nearly identical stats with or without Andrew Luck.
Coach of the Half-Year: Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
When a team hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2010, and now the talk around town is whether there is an opportunity for a top seed and a bye, that’s a pretty impressive turnaround.
The 5-3 Jaguars still have to play the Browns, the 49ers, and host the banged up Texans and Colts. As crazy as it sounds, the Jaguars finishing 9-7 would actually be a disappointment to fans in North Florida.
We’ll learn a lot more about the Jaguars on Sunday when they take on an improving Chargers team. With former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley at the helm of LA’s defense, it will be fascinating to see what kind of schemes he throws at quarterback Blake Bortles.
Most Disappointing: Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
This may not be entirely fair. Multiple injuries have sidelined Davis for much of the first part of the season. However, after Davis set all time receiving records at Western Michigan, I think it was fair to expect immediate contributions. If Tennessee can outlast Jacksonville for the division, Davis will certainly play a part in that success.
Man of the Division: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Man of the division? Sure. Why not? He's already wrapped up the NFL Man of the Year and possibly Man of the Decade if such an award is given. Watt’s contributions off the field have been immeasurable. It's a shame that it won't be until fall of 2018 before we see him on the field again.
Most Improved: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans
I’m not sure anyone in the league has made a bigger jump from their rookie to second season. Byard is playing like an All-Pro. He's leading the league with six interceptions but also has ten pass deflections. Without his three interceptions against Cleveland, the Browns would no longer be winless.
Most Invisible: Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
While this may seem like a dig at Bortles, it has been a welcome relief for Jaguars fans. Bortles really hasn't been good or bad. He's not making any great plays but he's also not losing any games on his own. If Bortles was an emoji, he'd be the “meh.” That sort of indescribable unenthusiastic acceptance of something completely mediocre. Although, with a defense like Jacksonville’s, maybe meh is all they need? One can argue Peyton Manning wasn't much better than meh during his second Super Bowl run.