For every team, in every season, there’s a new guy that can make a huge difference. Here are my picks to change the fortunes of all thirty-two teams.
Let’s dive into the AFC South, shall we?
Impact Addition: Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks
Houston Arrival: Trade- L.A. Rams
I’ll not lie.
I really hate Houston’s offseason thus far.
The trade that sent Deandre Hopkins to Arizona is inexplicable, and the draft was an exercise in arrogance, completely avoiding obvious needs.
So, if the Texans are to get better in 2020 and hold off the hard-charging Titans, it will have to be on the back of receiver Brandin Cooks, who must somehow come in and replace one of the league’s elite receivers. Not sure how that’s going to work, as Cooks produced less than half of the yards (1165-565) that Hopkins did, and scored two touchdowns to Hopkins’ seven. Those are some big shoes to fill, even if we leave out Brandin Cooks history of concussions on the field.
I’d love to say that Cooks can plug into the route tree and juice the numbers, but I just don’t see it. Attempting to maintain momentum in an increasingly tough division by trading away your top talent is probably going to end badly in Houston. If, somehow, it doesn’t, Brandin Cooks will be a big reason why.
Impact Addition: Quarterback Philip Rivers
Indianapolis Arrival: Free Agency- Los Angeles Chargers
The longtime Charger signal caller needed a new home, and the Colts needed a bridge after the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck before the 2019 season. Jacoby Brissett, who had mostly been seen as a band-aid for Luck’s injury absences in Indy, just didn’t get the job done in 2019, despite fair-to-above average stats. He completed 60% of his passes for just under 3,000 yards with 18 TDs and only 6 INTs. There are plenty of towns where that sort of performance will get you a long-term contract, but the devil is in the details.
In the two seasons where Brissett started most of the season (2017 and 2019), the Colts went a combined 11-21, missing the playoffs both times. In 2018, Andrew Luck was generally healthy, the Colts went 10-6 to earn wildcard berth and defeat Houston in the first round. That tantalizing moment of success only served to doom Brissett in Indy, showing the potential on the roster outside of the quarterback position.
Enter Philip Rivers, a quarterback whose stats would make him a Hall of Fame lock if he didn’t play in the era of Brady, Brees, Rodgers and Manning.
The fifteen-year veteran will bring almost sixty-thousand career passing yards and a 65% completion percentage to the Colts. Sure, he’s thirty-eight years old, but what does age even mean any more in today’s NFL? Rivers tends to be a bit more aggressive than Brissett in the pocket which will result in a few more turnovers, but if Indy wants to keep pace with Houston and the surging Tennessee Titans in the AFC South, some aggression isn’t a bad thing. Rivers is a LEGENDARY shit-talker, so in that regard maybe he’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the Colts.
Impact Addition: Wide Receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.
Jacksonville Arrival: Draft, 2nd Round- Pick 42
There were more than a few choices here for a Jaguars team that was pretty active in free agency and had a heck of a draft. I could have said CB Darqueze Dennard who came in on a 3-year deal. Or either of the Jaguars first round picks in the draft, cornerback CJ Henderson or edge rusher K’lavon Chaisson. Any of those three guys could (and probably will) be game changers on defense. But I’m REALLY interested to see what happens with Shenault at the pro level. He’s an electric talent that would have gone much, much higher in almost any other draft, or if he’d been playing on a better team.
Shenault played for Colorado, who did not, shall we say, light up the scoreboard. The quarterback play was well below average and the young WR suffered because of it. His college stats don’t come close to showing his potential. He’s fast and rangy with a long frame and the ability to elevate and possess contested balls. On tape, he’s got a bit of a Calvin Johnson edge to his game and at 6’1”, 227 Lbs., no one is going to push him around. If Gardner Minshew can learn to put balls where only he can get them, it could be an absolutely deadly combination along the sidelines and in the red zone.
Impact Addition: Offensive Tackle Isaiah Wilson
Tennessee Arrival: Draft, 1st Round- Pick 29
Tennessee was a surprise contender last season after benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. But it wasn’t the quarterback play that made Tennessee dangerous. Rather it was the eruption of running back Derrick Henry from good to best in the league.
Henry rushed for over 1500 yards and sixteen TDS in the 2019 campaign which saw the Titans steamroll the Patriots and Ravens in the playoffs on the way to the AFC championship game.
You might be thinking: “so, why do they need help on the offensive line?”. Which is a fair question, and the answer is this: You can always be better along the offensive line. And it will be hard to envision a scenario where Wilson doesn’t make Tennessee better at the run game.
The Georgia product is an absolute road grader who doesn’t just push around defenders, he buries them. I can’t imagine the kind of yardage Derrick Henry can pile up if he’s just building up speed through gigantic holes, but in 2020, we’re going to find out.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images