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AFC South training camp preview: Key issues, players to watch

It might feel like the dog days of summer for football fans, but the 2017 campaign is rapidly coming down the pike. With training camps opening later this month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr, Kevin Patra and Marc Sessler are examining the key issues for each team in this division-by-division series. Here's the AFC South camp primer:

Houston Texans

Training camp report date: rookies and veterans (July 25).
Location: The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Most important position battle: Tom Savage vs. Deshaun Watson. Over three seasons in Houston, coach Bill O'Brien has gone through quarterbacks like a teenager shuffling through the high school dating pool. Houston has had eight different starting signal callers in O'Brien's tenure: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. Have the Texans finally found the long-term answer in Watson? Savage enters camp with the starter tag, but if Watson displays knowledge of the playbook and the ability to run the offense, the rookie could pull ahead. Given O'Brien's history with the quarterback position, we expect Watson to get a shot to supplant Savage at some point in 2017. Whether that happens out of the gate depends on how each QB handles training camp.

Player returning from injury to watch: DE J.J. Watt. All indications suggest Watt is finally over the back issues that limited the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to just three games in 2016. Despite the positive reports, Watt has yet to face any certified contact during his rehab. Those first drills in training camp will give us the best gauge as to how well he's recovered. If Watt is at 100 percent to open the season, Houston's defensive front will be beastly in 2017.

Looming camp question: Will receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller make the leap in Year 2? The Texans' passing game floundered in large part due to unstable quarterback play last year. Struggles from Fuller and Miller as rookies also played a role. Fuller burst on the scene with back-to-back 100-yard games to open the season, but he had long bouts of inconsistency. Miller dealt with injuries, and continuing adaptation to a receiver role stymied the former college quarterback's Year 1 growth. Houston needs both second-year players to make strides and take advantage of opportunities opened by the attention paid to DeAndre Hopkins in the passing game. Training camp and preseason games will give us a clue as to whether either wideout will live up to the big expectations entering 2017.

Indianapolis Colts

Training camp report dates: rookies (July 24) and veterans (July 29).
Location: Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in Indianapolis.

Most important position battle: Phillip Dorsett vs. Kamar Aiken for the WR3 spot.T.Y. Hilton remains the clear top dog in Indy's receiving corps. Donte Moncrief is a red-zone maven and will be the No. 2 -- if he can remain healthy. Further down, the depth chart remains murky. Dorsett, the Colts' first-round pick in 2015, hasn't lived up to expectations. While the 5-foot-10 speedster has the ability to be a playmaker alongside Hilton and Moncrief, inconsistency could send him down the depth chart. New GM Chris Ballard added underrated Kamar Aiken in free agency. At 6-2 and 216 pounds, with the ability to play the slot or out wide, Aiken could provide the versatility and reliability to beat out Dorsett for the No. 3 spot.

Newcomer to watch: S Malik Hooker. Ballard brought in a bevy of defenders to upgrade a mediocre unit, but the first-round pick stands out from the crowd due to his enticing playmaking ability. A ball-hawking, rangy safety, Hooker has the talent to be a game-changer in the back end. He's the type of athletic safety coach Chuck Pagano has lacked during his stint in Indy. If Hooker and second-round corner Quincy Wilson can step in as immediate difference makers, the Colts' defensive secondary will be massively upgraded.

Looming camp question: What's the status of Andrew Luck's shoulder? Luck still hasn't thrown a football since undergoing surgery in January. The Colts have downplayed the lack of quarterback tosses, yet it's noteworthy he's still resting six months later. When Luck does fling a pigskin, it will be the biggest news in Colts camp. His availability to open the season isn't an extreme source of worry right now -- but the longer Luck goes without throwing, the more eyebrows that will be raised.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Training camp report dates: rookies (July 19) and veterans (July 26).
Location: Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields in Jacksonville, Florida.

Most important position battle: How will the offensive line shake out? Perhaps it's not a head-to-head battle between veteran tackle Branden Albert and rookie Cam Robinson, but how the Jags work out their offensive line will be key during training camp. Doug Marrone will want his five best blockers on the field. Robinson worked exclusively at left tackle as Albert skipped voluntary workouts this spring. Robinson could slide into guard, but he has never played inside and didn't get work there this summer. How the group slots will be important for a Jacksonville offense hoping to ground-and-pound more in 2017.

Newcomer to watch: RB Leonard Fournette. Prancing around in shorts during summer workouts isn't where bulldozing backs shine. We want to see the 6-foot, 228-pound back in pads during training camp, carrying grown men around the field on his back and plowing over tinier DBs. The Jags used the No. 4 overall pick on the workhorse thumper to rebrand the offense. Camp is the first time we'll get to see Fournette in his true form.

Looming camp question: Blake Bortles. Blake Bortles. Blake Bortles? The most pivotal season of Bortles' career approaches with rapid speed. We've heard tepid praise about the quarterback's improved mechanics this offseason. We'll get a better look at whether he's continued those strides during training camp. Don't expect resolute declarations one way or another from Marrone during camp. If Bortles struggles, it will be frustrating -- but it's not as if the coach can say, "Well, he's been bad, but our backup is Chad Henne, so hashtag shrug emoji." The best news about Bortles will be that he's managing the offense and negating turnovers in practice. Jacksonville owns talent up and down the roster, but Bortles is the keystone of the Jags' 2017 season.

Tennessee Titans

Training camp report date: rookies and veterans (July 28).
Location: Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville, Tennessee.

Most important position battle: Open competition in the secondary. Cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Johnathan Cyprien -- two free-agent acquisitions -- are about the only guaranteed starters. We assume Kevin Byard will take the other safety spot after flashing as a rookie, but he will have to fend off Da'Norris Searcy. Will first-round rookie Adoree' Jackson step right into the starting lineup at corner? LeShaun Sims and Brice McCain should fight for playing time at CB. For a secondary that got picked apart often last season, there remain questions heading into camp.

Newcomer to watch: WR Corey Davis. The Titans completely remade their receiving corps this offseason. No one comes with a bigger upside than Davis. Tennessee used the No. 5 pick on the 6-3 wideout to be a centerpiece with size and speed. Davis participated in minicamp after dealing with a foot issue earlier in the offseason. We'll be on the lookout to see how the run-after-catch playmaker settles into the offense during camp. With Davis and Eric Decker, the Titans have greatly improved their weapons for Marcus Mariota. The upgrades have put last year's training camp standout, Tajae Sharpe, on the outside looking in as battles for playing time commence.

Looming camp question: How healthy is Marcus Mariota? The quarterback has made progress from his broken leg. Mariota hasn't been unleashed yet, so training camp will be our first look at a hopefully 100 percent No. 8. We don't have serious concerns the injury will linger into this season, but need to see him on the field to quash any doubts. Entering his third pro season, Mariota has yet to complete 16 games. For a Titans team that has garnered plenty of postseason optimism this offseason, Mariota remaining healthy is paramount.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.

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