Schedule: @DEN, JAX, @MIN, PIT, BUF, HOU, BYE, @CIN, CHI, IND, @BAL, @IND, CLE, @JAX, DET, @GB, @HOU
EDGE Vic Beasley (FA), CB Johnathan Joseph (FA), DL Jack Crawford (FA), OL Isaiah Wilson (Draft), CB Kristian Fulton (Draft), RB Darrynton Evans (Draft)
Losses: DL Jurrell Casey (Trade), OL Jack Conklin (FA), QB Marcus Mariota (FA), Logan Ryan (FA), DL Austin Johnson (FA), RB Dion Lewis (FA), WR Tajae Sharpe (FA), EDGE Vic Beasley (Pastoring)
Last year’s playoff run was magical. Now it’s up to the Titans to continue that over a full season. I have my doubts Tennessee has historically been inconsistent in the regular season. Even Derrick Henry has gotten off to slow starts the past few years before exploding down the stretch.
Then there’s the matter of free agency. Including the March trade of Jurrell Casey, the Titans lost some important pieces this offseason while only bringing in one marquee player. That would be streaky ex-Falcon Vic Beasley, who has already made his presence felt with the team—by not being present at all. Beasley has been M.I.A. pretty much all summer with no clear return date set. Apparently, crushing quarterbacks doesn’t appeal to him as much as crushing sermons.
With his status unknown, the offseason losses could really stand out. Jack Conklin is the one poised to sting the most. Henry’s dominance wasn’t just because of his insane physical attributes. Tennessee’s offensive line hit its groove around the same time as its stud back and the group opened multiple massive holes every game. Besides Conklin, every other starter is returning. That leaves his oldright tackle spot as the position to watch. Rookie first-rounder Isaiah Wilson was expected to start early on, but his play and decision-making have been underwhelming. Veteran Dennis Kelly has been a spot starter for the Titans for years, so this could be his first shot at a full-time gig. Also, right guard Nate Davis was carted off in today’s practice. Suddenly, the whole right side of the line is questionable.
On the other side of the trenches, the questions are even more pressing. Casey had been one of the faces of the franchises for most of his nine-year career, all with the Titans. Clearly, they think 2019 first-rounder Jeffery Simmons is ready to take over. The only worry about him coming out was his recent ACL tear, so after rehabbing it as a rookie, he has the talent to break out in year two. With Daquan Jones taking one spot beside him, two-thirds of the line is set. Between free agent signing Jack Crawford, 2019 UDFA Isaiah Mack, and rookie Larrell Murchison, there are a lot of options for the last spot, but none are particularly inspiring. If Simmons doesn’t take the expected leap, this will be a weak unit.
Middle linebacker is in good hands with Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans. Beasley’s return to God puts a damper on the edge rotation, though. Harold Landry is solid at one spot, but the Titans spent their money here for a reason. 13th in the league in sacks last year, they’re poised to be mediocre once again without their big acquisition. Less sacks isn’t out of the question, either, given the defensive line turnover.
The last major departure came in the secondary—a place Tennessee couldn’t afford any. With injuries to both Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson, Logan Ryan bounced between the slot and outside, playing well wherever. Now that he’s gone, those two will have to stay healthy. If not, newcomers Johnathan Joseph and Kristian Fulton will have to fill in just like the Giants signee did. Even at full strength, this has proven to be an extremely inconsistent unit for the Titans. Luckily, they have excellent safety play behind them, with star ballhawk Kevin Byard leading the charge.
For all the talk of losses, one under-the-radar gain for Tennessee is a full season of Ryan Tannehill starting. With him at the helm, they were 7-3, compared to 2-4 with Marcus Mariota. The $118 million man won’t keep up last year’s efficiency, but should keep up the strong play nonetheless.
Tannehill to A.J. Brown was special last year, and the young receiver is another guy to watch. As a rookie, he was both an excellent deep threat and YAC machine. While he’s been banged up in camp, a monster season is definitely possible. Behind him, the receivers are uninspiring. Corey Davis is a certified bust at this point while Adam Humphries didn’t produce much in the slot. Jonnu Smith is interesting at tight end, though. Same goes for rookie Darrynton Evans, who will take over the third-down back role from Dion Lewis.
I don’t expect the Titans to improve much from last season. Another win feels fair given a full year of Tannehill and the team’s tendency to start slow. They should run over the division both on the field and in the standings, but they’re the weakest of my predicted AFC champions. A return to the championship game feels unlikely. To be fair, nobody expected it last year, either.
What’s your record prediction for the Titans? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.