2017 NFL Season Preview- Tennessee Titans
Tennessee finished 2016 better than most people expected, but still was not good enough.
The Titans technically tied for first place in the AFC South, but because of their 2-4 record inside the division, Houston made the playoffs.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota took a big step forward in year two and had Tennessee in playoff form before breaking his leg in week 16. Running back DeMarco Murray had a resurgent season after a wasted season in Philadelphia and led the AFC in rushing with 1,287 yards. Tight end Delanie Walker's numbers went down from last year but that was more due to the offense utilizing the wide receivers more than Walker slowing down. Wide receiver Rishard Matthews was a huge free agency steal and set career highs with 65 receptions for 945 yards and nine touchdowns. The rest of the group was solid but they all have key flaws. The offensive line made big strides from 2015 and should get better with more experience.
The defensive line is the deepest unit on the team. Defensive end DaQuan Jones is the perfect complement to Jurrell Casey and Al Woods was a monster at nose tackle. The linebackers showed great pass rushing ability but need to be more consistent. Derrick Morgan registered nine sacks on the year and Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson worked well in the middle. The secondary was a disappointment all season. Cornerback Jason McCourty missed time late in the season with a shoulder injury.
Kicker Ryan Succop had a solid year missing only two field goals all year. Kick returner Mark Mariani was steady but nowhere near his 2010 Pro Bowl form.
The Titans produced six Pro Bowlers in running back DeMarco Murray, tight end Delanie Walker, tackle Taylor Lewan, tackle Jack Conklin, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. Lewan and Conklin formed arguably the best tackle tandem in the NFL. Casey has established himself as one of the top 3-4 defensive linemen in the league making his second straight Pro Bowl. Orakpo made his first Pro Bowl as a Titan after recording 10.5 sacks.
The rookie class saw a lot of playing time and only looks to get better. Tackle Jack Conklin was an All-Pro at right tackle. Outside linebacker Kevin Dodd's season was a waste due to a foot injury that landed him on injured reserve. Defensive tackle Austin Johnson hot a slow start to the year came on strong by the end of the season. Running back Derrick Henry was a good support back for DeMarco Murray and made the most of his touches. Safety Kevin Byard was the lone bright spot for a struggling secondary as a key blitzer and cover man.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 25th
NFL Rank- 3rd
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 2nd
NFL Rank- 11th
NFL Rank- 20th
Going 9-7 in his first full season, head coach Mike Mularkey's main objective should be for the team to have a winning record against teams in their division.
On January 4, the Titans fired wide receivers coach Bob Bratkowski and assistant wide receivers coach Jason Tucker. They were replaced by Temple wide receiver coach Frisman Jackson.
On January 5, general manager Jon Robinson was promoted to executive vice president/general manager.
Notable Additions- WR Eric Decker, WR Eric Weems, NT Sylvester Williams, OLB Erik Walden, CB Logan Ryan, S Jonathan Cyprien
Notable Departures- RB Antonio Andrews, WR/KR Mark Mariani, WR Kendall Wright, TE Anthony Fasano, T Byron Bell, G Chance Warmack, NT Al Woods, OLB David Bass, CB Jason McCourty, S Rashad Johnson
DeMarco Murray 2016 Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
The Titans had two first round picks going into the draft. The held the fifth overall pick, which they received from the Rams last year so that they could draft Jared Goff, and the 18th overall pick. With two picks in the top 20, Tennessee had the opportunity to get top tier talent and much needed positions like cornerback, safety, and kick returner.
The cornerback group was a mix of aging veterans and unproven youngsters. the position needs talented youth that can consistently make plays.
Other than Kevin Byard, no safety on the roster should feel safe. The team signed Jonathan Cyprien in the offseason, but he was seen as a disappointment in Jacksonville.
The special teams and return game must improve. Adding a dynamic playmaker to return kicks and punts would be a dream come true.
On draft day, Tennessee selected Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick and USC cornerback Adoree' Jackson with the 18th overall pick. Davis was said to have the best hands of any wide receiver in the draft but must be more consistent in jump ball situations. Jackson was viewed as the top playmaking cornerback in the draft but too often plays the receiver instead of the ball, failing to look back for it at the point of catch.
Corey Davis Highlights
What to Expect
Tennessee losing record against AFC South team's is what ultimately kept them out of the playoffs and with the moves they've made this offseason, they look ready to take that next step.
If Marcus Mariota can rehab from his broken leg, the offense should continue to be dynamic. Evening up the reps between DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should create more production and keep both of their legs fresh. The receiver corps should be solid with the addition of Corey Davis and Eric Decker and open up opportunities for Delanie Walker. The offensive line should continue to grow stronger with the emergence of younger players.
The with Al Woods gone, Austin Johnson and Sylvester Williams will have to battle it out for the top nose tackle. Signing Erik Walden to pair with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo gives the team a nice rotation of edge rushers to rack up the team's sack total. With the additions of Logan Ryan and Adoree' Jackson, the secondary has their starters at cornerback. While Jonathan Cyprien may not be the long term answer at strong safety he has had over 100 tackles in each of his four seasons.
The signing of Eric Weems gives the team a reliable and productive return man as well as a Pro Bowl gunner.
With all of these key additions, the Titans have the talent to make a wildcard team or even challenge Houston as the AFC South division leader.
Best record they can hope for: 10-6