2017 Season Previews: Tennessee Titans

The Titans jumped up 6 wins last year, mostly on the power of QB Marcus Mariotta, who got better as the year moved on, but the did cut down on the bad throws and kept the defenses from ganging up on DeMarco Murray. The AFC South just got a lot harder, so can the Titans get to double digits?

Offense: Marcus Mariotta has been hurt twice now, and has a plate in his leg. If he becomes less mobile, then the Titans could be in trouble. 26 TDs and 3426 yards are not great numbers, or the 9 picks, but his command of the team and the faith the team is putting in him show better than his stats. Matt Cassell is back for another 2 years as backup.
I don’t much like the targets Mariotta has to throw to, Rishard Matthews is fine, I suppose, but Corey Davis HAS to be a quality number 1 guy if the Titans are going to be any kind of threat in 2017. Taywan Taylor came in the third round to add some talent as well. The Titans has 5 tight ends in camp, and need someone to step up. Delanie Walker is serviceable, and will go if no one else will.
DeMarco Murray went for 1287 yards to lead the AFC and also got another 377 in the air. Derrick Henry, the second rounder from last year was a good change of pace, but the team needs more than 490 yards from him. I do think a better split of carries would help the team and Murray long time.
The offensive line is one of the better units on the team, as Taylor Lewan lived up to the first round billing and made the Pro-Bowl, and Jack Conklin was a star in the making from day 1. Ben Jones deserves a lot of credit as he stepped in at center and took a leadership role.

Defense: The defense isn’t terrible, but there really isn’t a star in the front line. Sylvester Williams is over from Denver to take the nose tackle position, as Al Woods is gone. Jurrell Casey went back to the Pro-Bowl with a great season, but again, I don’t think anyone outside Tennessee would know him.
On the next level the outside linebackers had a great year getting some pressure on the QB, as Brian Orakpo got 10.5 sacks and Derrick Morgan got 9 sacks. The inside guys are much better against the run than against the pass. This group moves up another notch if Kevin Dodd can get past his foot injury.
The Titans have redone their secondary, as you have Kevin Byard, a find in the third round being joined by this years top pick and 2 free agents. The main one is going to be Logan Ryan, over from the Patriots to take a leadership role. This group is littered with mid-rounders and there is some depth here, but who plays the nickel could be a question here and there isn’t much size here.

Special Teams: Ryan Succop has two misses, both past 50 yards and nailed everything closer. Brett Kern had a solid year as well. The Titans spent a good bit of effort bringing in players just for special teams. Eric Weems is the return guy, and the return game should take a step up.

Overall: If Mariotta can stay upright, and if they can stay healthy, then they can be a competitive team with anyone. I do think that the offensive line should continue to improve, and that could be scary for the rest of the division.
I give them 4 wins in the division. I’m looking at 1 win in the AFC North. They do get the Rams at home, so I give them 2 wins in the NFC West. Bonus games are Miami and Oakland, so they pick up another win. 8-8

Three Questions

1. Where would you rank Mariotta vs other AFC young QBs?

Joe: I have seen Mariotta ranked anywhere from 12th to 22nd among QBs… that’s among all starters not just the young ones. If that’s true then only Dak Prescott and Derek Carr are ranked better than him when the conversation turns to the Young QBs. Case closed.

Dan: I think he’s one of the best, but there are definitely quarterbacks better than him. Andrew Luck, when healthy, is better. Tannehill is better. Big Ben, Rivers, Brady are better. Andy Dalton, in my opinion, is better right now. Another solid season and he’ll definitely rise in the ranks.

David: I take Derek Carr over him, but lets really look at this

AFC East: Is Jimmy G the next big thing or the next Matt Cassell? I’ll take Mariotta.
AFC North: Is there a young QB? Landry Jones?
AFC South: Luck is better, and maybe Watson gets there, but he has as many NFL passes as I do.
AFC West: Carr is better, but uh, then what? Neither Denver guy, so.

Looks like he’s 3rd amoung the young AFC QBs. Now if only he can get the old dudes to stop playing into their 40s.

2. Are the Titans going to make the playoffs?

Joe: If Mariotta doesn’t get hurt last year then they might have been in. If he is healthy and plays up to his capabilities, then I say… yes.

Dan: I think that they certainly can make the playoffs, but won’t be this season. I like their team and think they certainly have a very good chance to make the playoffs as a Wild Card. I think the Bengals can certainly make it over them or a team out of the AFC West (Denver, KC, Oakland). While I want to say they do, I predict that they won’t this season and be a game out.

David: I have them at 8-8, but there is a wildcard spot out there, all they have to do is outpace Denver/KC/Balt. I say no, but they should be right there until Christmas.

3. Are the Titans going to burn out DeMarco Murry if they keep pushing him at this pace?

Joe: He wants the ball and seem to thrive on getting the ball… ride the horse as far as you can as long as he is being productive and his health is being carefully monitored.

Dan: I think he has a couple more seasons left in him. The running back lifespan in the NFL is not long as it is, and if he gets heavy usage, he certainly won’t be playing for long. But he is a very good running back and they have Henry in the backfield as well who can give him some rest time. He’s also used as a receiving back as well. Other running backs have gotten heavy usage before as well. They just don’t last that long since the amount of hits they constantly take. But don’t expect him to retire just yet.

David: He’s not Bettis or even Frank Gore, I think the Titans would be better off limiting him a bit on third down, and get better use of Henry. You don’t want your best back wearing out in the playoffs, if you get there, and running him 30 times a game will lead to a short playoff run.

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