George: Mariota A Warrior In The Huddle; AFC South The Most Intriguing Division In Football

Take a look around the NFL. In almost every division, there’s a clear favorite, and if there’s not a clear favorite, the two-horse race is easy to identify.

And then there’s the AFC South. Titans, Texans, Colts, Jaguars.

It might not be the most talented division in football, but the most intriguing? It’s certainly possible.

“I think it is,” former NFL running back and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “This year’s draft was really eye-opening because every team on paper got better.”

 

 

The Jaguars took Leonard Fournette fourth overall, the Titans took Corey Davis fifth, the Texans took Deshaun Watson 12th, and the Colts took Malik Hooker 15th.

The entire division did quite well.

“You talk about the Texans, their defense got better. Of course the question mark is the quarterback position,” George said. “The Colts, they got better. The Jags, with Leonard Fournette and their run game, I’m really intrigued to see how it’s going help Blake Bortles because he struggled last year. He regressed from having a great rookie year to going to a guy that was almost shipped out of town.”

Bortles went from 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2015 to 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2016.

“I think he needs help,” George said. “So Leonard Fournette and that run game could help him out and give him some breathing room, and the Jags could be very intriguing. They have a nasty defense as well.”

The Titans aren’t too bad, either. After going a paltry 5-27 in 2014-15, Tennessee finished 9-7 last season thanks to a solid defense and a physical rushing attack. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry rushed for 1,777 yards and 14 touchdowns and caught 66 balls for 514 yards and three touchdowns.

Marcus Mariota did okay, too. The second-year quarterback completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 349 yards and two scores.

George, who played for the Titans from 1996-2003, believes Tennessee has found its franchise quarterback.

“He’s a warrior in the huddle,” George said of Mariota. “He’s surrounded by talent. He’s going to be one of those guys you talk about for years and years to come.”

George, who rushed for more than 10,000 yards in his career, was also asked about Le’Veon Bell – specifically, his contract. The 25-year-old was franchise-tagged this offseason and will make $12.1 million in 2017.

This is a guy who accounted for 1,884 total yards and nine touchdowns last season – in just 12 games.

Running backs don’t exactly get quarterback money – LeSean McCoy, one of highest-paid backs in football, will get $8 million this season – but how much can Bell command? How much is he worth?

“I think he’s worth $8, $9, $10 (million) a year,” George said. “I think he’s that type of talent. I think overall he can garner $8.5, $9 million a year type. He’s that type of talent.”

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