The Tennessee Titans finished up the 2015 season tied for the worst record in football at 3-13. That gives them an atrocious 5-27 mark over the last two years. It also extends their playoff drought to 7 years.
Not making the playoffs in 2015 wasn’t a big surprise. Tennessee wasn’t expected to be competitive with a rookie quarterback. However, only improving to 3-wins after going 2-14 was a disappointment. Especially after their 42-14 blowout win at Tampa Bay in Week 1.
The Titans only other victories came against the Saints and Jaguars. Two games they could have just as easily lost. They needed overtime to escape with a 34-28 win at New Orleans and edged Jacksonville 42-39.
Tennessee fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt midway through the season. Assistant head coach Mike Mularky was promoted to interim head coach. Many thought Mularky would be repalced at seasons end, but instead he was given the full time gig. A questionable move, given his career record as a head coach is 18-39.
The Titans had the No. 1 pick in the draft, but traded it to Los Angeles. A move by new GM Jon Robinson that received a lot of praise. Tennessee acquired a lot of picks in the deal. The hope is that it can have the same kind of effect as when St Louis reloaded their franchise after trading out of the No. 2 spot.
The problem for Titans’ fans is the benefits of that trade won’t be immediate. All signs point to another rebuilding year in 2016 and last place finish in the AFC South.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|OT/G Jack Conklin, DE Kevin Dodd, NT Austin Johnson, RB Derrick Henry, S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe|
|QB Matt Cassel, RB DeMarco Murray, WR Rishard Matthews, C Ben Jones, ILB Sean Spence, CB Brice McCain, CB Antwon Blake, S Rashad Johnson|
|NT Sammie Lee Hill, DT Mike Martin, ILB Zach Brown, CB Coty Sensabaugh, S Michael Griffin|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 5.60|
Tennessee believes they have a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, who they took No. 2 overall in 2015. That’s a big reason why the team was willing to trade out of the top spot in this year’s draft.
Mariota had an up and down rookie campaign. He started off with a bang. Throwing for 209 yards and 4 touchdowns in that opening week win over the Buccaneers. He added another 4 touchdown performance in Week 9 agains the Saints.
The problem is he finished the year with just 19 touchdowns passes and only 2,818 yards. He also missed 4 games because of injury, adding to his skeptics that don’t think he can stay healthy.
There’s a lot of pressure on Mariota to take a big step in year two. However, if he fails to do so, it’s likely not his fault. The supporting cast around the young signal caller doesn’t appear to be all that great.
One area the Titans feel they upgraded was the running back position. Last year they went in with a bunch of unkowns and it didn’t work. Tennessee ended up averaging just 92.8 yards/game on the ground.
They went out and traded for DeMarco Murray and used a second round pick on Alabama’s Derrick Henry. The belief is that Murray struggled last year because of the system he was in. Chip Kelly and the Eagles tried to make him a east-west runner, when he’s built to run north-south. As for Henry, it’s up in the air if he’s the real deal or just a product of Alabama’s system.
A stronger running game will help take pressure off of Mariota, but the talent at receiver is lacking. Tennessee’s only new additions were free agent Rishard Matthews and drafted Tajae Sharpe. Matthews wasn’t anything special with Miami and Sharpe is a 5th round gamble.
Any real improvement in this area will likely have to come from within. The Titans need Kendall Wright to bounce back after two downs years. More than anything, they need Dorial Green-Beckam to emerge as the No. 1 weapon. Until that happens, look for Mariota to continue to look for tight end Delanie Walker. He had a team-high 94 receptions for 1,088 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The offensive line also played a role in Mariota’s up and down rookie season. Tennessee made it a priority to improve here and the unit at least looks better on paper.
They used a first round pick on Michigan State’s Jack Conklin. He’s expected to start at right tackle. That will allow Jeremiah Poutasi to move into play guard after struggling at tackle. They also signed center Ben Jones from Houston. He’s not great, but an improvement over what they had. Left tackle Taylor Lewan and guard Chance Warmack are the two mainstays from last year.
The Titans had high hopes for their defense going into 2015. They made a big splash adding in the great Dick LeBeau to take over at defensive coordinator.
While they went from giving up 373.0 ypg (27th) in 2014 to only allowing 342.2 ypg (12th), teams still found it easy to score on them. The Titans ranked T-21st, giving up 26.4 ppg. They also had a miserable 5-game stretch where they allowed 30 or more.
Not a lot was done to improve the talent level on this side of the ball. So even if Mariota does in fact take that next step, the team will likely continue to struggle to win games.
One of the few stars on this side of the ball is 3-4 defensive end Jurrell Casey. He tied for the team lead with 7 sacks and is one of the more underrated players in the league. Opposite of Casey is DaQuan Jones, who has been a pleasant surprise. He’s doesn’t provide much of a pass rush, but is great against the run. Veteran nose tackle Al Woods was re-signed, but will be pushed by 2nd round pick Austin Johnson.
Tennessee has two capable pass rushers at linebacker in Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Though neither is an elite. Adding depth will be second round pick Kevin Dodd out of Clemson. While strong enough on the outside, there’s concerns on the inside. As it stands now, Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard will return as the starters. Woodyard is a decent starter, but Williamson is a liability. The hope is that newly acquired Sean Spence can push him for playing time.
The Titans secondary is led by safety Da’Norris Searcy and corner Jason McCourty. THe only problem is there’s a lot of question marks after these two.
McCourty would be better served at safety, but doesn’t want to make the move. Brice McCain and Antwon Blake were added to compete for playing time at corner. Though Perrish Cox figures to start opposite of McCourty. The team lost safety Michael Griffin and signed Rashad Johnson to fill the void. Johnson isn’t a long-term solution. Third round pick Kevin Byard will compete with Johnson and could emerge as the starter.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC South
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
I believe the key to 2016 is for Mariota to take that next step. If Tennessee is going to turn this thing around quickly, he has to be great. It’s likely not going to be this year regardless, so his development needs to be the ultimate goal.
Improving on last year’s 3-win total won’t be easy. The AFC South has one of the tougher draws of any division. They have to play all 4 teams out of both the AFC West and NFC North.
The big concern for me with Tennessee, is the brutal home schedule they were dealt. They have to host the Vikings, Raiders, Packers, Browns and Broncos. Along with their 3 division home games. The only favorable matchup in the bunch is against Cleveland.
Tennessee will have to pull off some upsets on the road if they are going to improve on their win total from last year. I believe they will, but not by much. I have the Titans going just 5-11 and finishing in the bottom of the AFC South.
AFC South Finish
Win Total Prediction
Titans 10-Year Recap