Dale Money August 13th, 2019
The Tennessee Titans would overcome early struggles on offense and several injuries to make a late push. It all came come down to the final week of the season, for a win or go home playoff opportunity against the rival Indianapolis Colts. They ended up losing out to the Colts and finishing the year with a respectable record of 9-7.
The team made a number of well-thought-out moves over the course of the offseason, that should help strengthen them on both sides of the ball. Most notable was the signing of highly sought after guard Rodger Saffold, to bolster that leaky offensive line. The unit, in fact, showed quite a bit of decline allowing 12 more sacks in 2018, as opposed to the season previous. Saffold has managed to stay healthy, only missing two games in the last three seasons.
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Tennessee’s offensive rankings in 2018 weren’t impressive, as they were ranked 25th in total yards, 29th in passing, and 27th in points. They then lost their offensive coordinator this offseason, when Matt LaFleur signed on to be the next Green Bay Packers head coach. Mike Vrabel, promoted tight ends assistant Arthur Smith to fill the vacated position.
Looking towards this upcoming season, there is plenty to be optimistic about on this Titans offense, however. For instance, if you look at Derrick Henry and how he was able to turn it up at the tail end of last season. Having not rushed for even 60 yards in a single game all season, his monumental effort against the Jaguars in Week 14 was nothing short of astonishing. He continued that monster performance the next week against the New York Giants, rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Marcus Mariota is now at crossroads, the 2015 second-overall pick is 25 years old and his passing numbers have dropped drastically over the past two seasons. Mariota is in line to play the 2019 season on his fifth-year option, which works out to $21 million dollars. It’s going to take a huge bounce-back to prove to the Titans, he is worth such a handsome new contract. Otherwise, it’s not looking likely that they’ll bring him back.
Adam Humphries brings some much-needed experience to a wide receiving core, led by Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe. He proved to be one of the better slot receivers last season, catching 76 of his 105 targets for 816 yards and five scores in Tampa Bay. He increased his receiving numbers every season since entering the league. They’re also getting a very durable player, having not missed a game in two seasons.
The Titans defense was actually quite successful last season if you simply crunch the numbers. They were ranked eighth in net yards given up, eighth in yards per game, and top three in points allowed. In an attempt to add to this already deep defensive group, they went out and signed Cameron Wake. Wake is second all-time on the Dolphins in sacks, but last season was a real down year, his sack totals were the worst since his rookie season.
Adding him to a group that already includes Harold Landry, Jurrell Casey, and Jayon Brown, it should help improve a pass rush that struggled at times to get to the quarterback. Their pressure rating on four-man rushes was ranked among the leagues worse. Wake will be placed alongside Landry, a second-year player that had 4.5 sacks, and 44 tackles, as a rookie last season. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do as a full-time starter.
The pass defense was impressive, ranked sixth in both total yards and yards per game allowed. However, surprisingly it was Malcolm Butler that would end up having a down year. After signing on with the Titans for that massive five-year contract, expectations were that he would anchor the secondary. It would take until the second half of the season in order to steady his play, however for the sort of money he is being paid more is expected.
53 Man Roster Prediction
QB (3) Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
Mariota as of now has the number one role locked up. However, this season is a little different with Tannehill being brought in to be the backup. Tannehill, as we know, has plenty of starting experience, and it would not be a shock if he took over the role, later on down the road.
Henry has been healing up that strained calf, which he picked up on the first day of camp. He is the undisputed lead back once he returns. McNichols had an impressive showing in the first preseason game, in which he rushed for 44 yards on eight carries.
WR (5) Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Adam Humphries, Tajae Sharpe, Kalif Raymond
The receiving core is looking pretty much set. Humphries and Mariota showed quite a bit of chemistry in their preseason opener against Philadelphia. The pair of them had reportedly spent time in Oregon working out together, building some rapport. Could end up paying huge dividends.
On the bubble: Tawan Taylor
TE (3) Delanie Walker, MyCole Pruitt, Jonnu Smith
Walker expects to be ready for week one, after a season away from Football. The Titans may decide to hold him out, for the entire pre-season. Smith is still recovering from that torn ACL, and also might be in danger of missing out on the first week of the regular season.
On the bubble: Anthony Firkser
OL (9) Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Kevin Pamphile, Jack Conklin, Dennis Kelly, Tyler Marz, Corey Levin, Aaron Stinnie, Jamil Douglas
Lewan will start the year on a four-game suspension, but won’t take up one of the 53 roster spots during his suspension. Kelly will look to come in and fill in at left tackle. Jones, Pamphile, and Conklin will hold down the center, right guard and right tackle positions respectively.
DL (9) DaQuan Jones, Jurrell Casey, Brent Urban, Frank Herron, Matt Dickerson, Austin Johnson, Jeffery Simmons, Braxton Hoyett, Isaiah Mack
Mack showed a lot of heart in the pre-season opener, realizing he needed a standout performance to keep pace with Dickerson for one of the final spots. Jones and Urban will be the starters at nose tackle and Defensive End respectively. After just coming back from the pup list, Casey has since passed a physical, his return will provide a big help to the defensive line.
On the bubble: Amani Bledsoe
Landry is coming into the season with the potential to make a big jump in production. Having only started three out of the fifteen games last season, there was a lot to get excited about when you consider the level of production in those three games. He was third on the team in sacks and sixth in assisted tackles.
After signing that huge contract to play with the Titans, Butler’s first season didn’t start off well, however, as the season went deeper he was able to get rolling. A bounce-back year would make an already, talented unit all the more dangerous. Ryan looks to be fully healed, from that broken left fibula. He will be a key part of that secondary.
SAF (5) Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro, Dane Cruikshank, Joshua Kalu, Amani Hooker
Byard and Vaccaro are locked in as the two starting safeties. Hooker has the potential to be a real steal out of the fourth round. A truly versatile player, he looked solid in camp, even playing some first-team snaps.
ST (3) Ryan Succop, Brett Kern, Beau Brinkley
A 10-year veteran, Succop is as reliable a kicker as your gonna find. He hit on three of his four field goals from 50 yards or further.
It was a long time coming, but the AFC South has grown into one of the tougher divisions. With the Colts, Texans, and Jaguars all playoff-caliber teams, with super bowl aspirations. There isn’t going to be a lot of games they can afford to give away if they expect to have a real fighting chance. Both Mariota and Henry will be expected to carry that offense if they have any chance, to win those tough divisional matchups. I’m sure there are more than a few doubters, that think Henry’s late-season break out was nothing more than a fluke. He will need to come out with some real purpose.
As far as Mariota goes, it’s pretty cut and dry what he needs to do. I expect him to come out with a much improved season, there is just far too much on the line. Will it be enough to get this team to a playoff berth. That remains to be seen.
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