The AFC South was once viewed as a 4-3 division, with all but the Houston Texans employing that style of defense.
But the Indianapolis Colts have moved to a 3-4 front under first-year coach Chuck Pagano, which makes the division split down the middle. But since the Texans have the best defense, and they are a 3-4 team, I went with a 3-4 look here as I picked the All-AFC South team.
That means some players on the front seven might be slotted in at spots you wouldn't expect. For example, I went with Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith as a 3-4 outside linebacker, even though he plays in a 4-3 scheme.
Quarterback, for now, was an easy pick. Houston's Matt Schaub is the choice with two first-time starters in rookie Andrew Luck (Colts) and Jake Locker (Titans) and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert, who started as a rookie last season.
Whichever of those young quarterbacks has the best season should be the team that finishes second behind Houston.
|J. Cook||D. Brown||S. Hutchinson||C. Myers||U. Nwaneri||D. Stewart|
|A. Johnson||M. Schaub||R. Wayne|
|M. Jones-Drew||G. Jones|
QB -- Matt Schaub, Texans: He has to show the team he can stay on the field. If he does, he will get a huge new contract.
RB -- Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars: This is based on the assumption he shows up -- which he will. He led the NFL in rushing.
FB -- Greg Jones, Jaguars: He is one of the league's best blocking fullbacks and downright tough guys.
WR -- Andre Johnson, Texans: He missed much of last season, but when he's on the field he is one of the toughest matchups for any defense.
WR -- Reggie Wayne, Colts: Age is a factor, but he can still get the job done -- even if it isn't as good as it used to be.
TE -- Jared Cook, Titans: I gave him the nod over Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis because I think he is a better receiver.
LT -- Duane Brown, Texans: The Texans rewarded him with a huge deal two weeks ago because he played at a high level. Beats out Michael Roos and Eugene Monroe, two other top tackles in the division.
LG -- Steve Hutchinson, Titans: He is nearing the end of his career, but he is still the best at this spot in the division after signing as a free agent this spring.
C -- Chris Myers, Texans: This athletic center is perfect for the Texans' zone-blocking system.
RG -- Uche Nwaneri, Jaguars: He will dominate players in the run game, and he's made strides in protection.
RT -- David Stewart, Titans: He is a mauler in the run game who has improved in pass protection.
|J. Watt||T. Knighton||A. Smith|
|D. Freeney||B. Cushing||P. Posluszny||D. Smith|
|J. Joseph||A. Bethea||D. Landry||J. McCourty|
LE -- J.J. Watt, Texans: He was dominant as a rookie, but he did miss preseason with an elbow injury.
NT/DT -- Terrance Knighton, Jaguars: He plays 4-3 defensive tackle, but could be a nose if asked. He is in a contract year.
RE -- Antonio Smith, Texans: He has settled in nicely as a 3-4 end, which he played when he was with the Cardinals.
OLB -- Dwight Freeney, Colts: He will make a transition to 3-4 rush guy, but he should still be a force off the edge. His 2011 season was down some, but he will rebound.
LB -- Brian Cushing, Texans: He is a nasty force in the middle of that Houston defense.
ILB/MLB -- Paul Posluszny, Jaguars: He came to Jacksonville as a free agent last season with some questions about coverage. But that never showed up and he was good against the run.
OLB -- Daryl Smith, Jaguars: He is a true 4-3 linebacker who can run and chase. Underrated is his middle name.
CB -- Johnathan Joseph, Texans: He came over as a big-dollar free agent and lived up to the expectations.
CB -- Jason McCourty, Titans: He outplayed his brother, Devin, last season to the surprise of many.
Nickel -- Aaron Ross, Jaguars: If Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox start, Ross will be a nice third corner. There's a chance Ross could start, which would make Mathis the nickel.
SS -- Dawan Landry, Jaguars: He was impressive in his first year with the team in 2011. He can play the run and pass.
FS -- Antoine Bethea, Colts: This rangy veteran is one of the holdovers from the Tony Dungy era. He holds the back end of the Colts defense together.
|T. Holliday||J. Scobee||B. Anger|
K -- Josh Scobee, Jaguars: He missed two field goals last season for a .920 percentage, the highest in the league.
P -- Bryan Anger, Jaguars: The Jaguars used a third-round pick on him and he has boomed it in the preseason.
KR -- Trindon Holliday, Texans: This little return man has lit up the preseason. Can it carry over?
Honorable mention: CB Vontae Davis, Colts; DE Jeremy Mincey, Jaguars; T Michael Roos, Titans; OLB Robert Mathis, Colts; OLB Connor Barwin, Texans; ILB Colin McCarthy, Titans; TE Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars; S Glover Quin, Texans; CB Derek Cox, Jaguars.