Jim Irsay says Colts aren’t team to beat in AFC South
The NFL Draft is over and the Indianapolis Colts made a measured attempt to improve the team, but the team owner says the AFC South isn’t their division anymore.
Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke highly of his team’s draft class over the weekend, but at the same time acknowledged that every team in the division got better at the same time. (Quotes via Mike Chappell at FOX59.)
"“I can’t call us the team to beat in the division because Houston won the division,” Irsay said. “They’re the team to beat. You have to give them that respect.“Houston won the division fair and square and they’re the team to beat, and certainly Jacksonville took it to us when we were down there in a big way and that sticks in our mind as well.”“Our division continues to improve immensely,” Irsay said. “You guys can track how high our division foes have been picking in drafts over the last five-to-eight years and that is going to accumulate talent.”"
GM Ryan Grigson noted that the rest of the AFC South was bound to get better. Frankly, you can’t pick in the top 10 of the draft so many years in a row like the Titans and Jaguars have and not get better at some point.
"Added general manager Ryan Grigson: “It’s just a matter of time before people get better. That’s just the name of the game in this league. You have to constantly be striving for greatness or you are going to be left in the dust.“You can’t think that you can ever let off the gas for a second.”"
Looking at their 2016 draft class it is easy to think that Jacksonville made a huge leap. Couple that with the fact that they will get 2015 first round pass rush Dante Fowler back from injury, and the Jags could be a scary team in 2016. The Texans might have solved their lifelong quarterbacking woes by signing Brock Osweiler, and managed to get him a few new toys as well.
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The Titans made a splash by taking the Heisman winner Derrick Henry late in round two after picking up two talented defenders in the second to go along with a great offensive tackle in the first round.
By contrast, the Colts draft seems boring as they took four offensive linemen, and a lot of project players on defense. It was uneventful, but was absolutely necessary.
Irsay made it clear that the lofty expectations for the Andrew Luck era still exist. The four linemen show that the team is serious about protecting him, and are committed to not repeating the mistakes of 2015. At this time last season, Irsay was saying the expectation is two championships while Luck is a member of the Colts. The team is currently deep into negotiations for Luck’s contract extension with the team and they hope to have something accomplished over the summer.
For years the AFC South has been a complete mess. Last season the Colts set a record for most consecutive wins against a division opponent with 16-straight victories. But now, the Colts will face a tougher challenge going forward.
"“I think the perception with the Colts is that, ‘Hey, they have Andrew Luck and . . . he is going to be coming back healthy so they should (pick up) right where they were before the injury,’” Irsay said. “But again, I think we have a lot to prove.“This team has guys on it, coaches, players that have won a lot of games, that have played in a lot of big games, that have won playoff games. Yeah, we feel like we can get right back into that mix and be a January, February team, but we have to prove it.”"
We’ve said for years that the AFC South foes are looking promising. So often it seemed as if each team were just a quarterback away from greatness, but now it really looks like this division is going to be a gauntlet in 2016.