It was a long, trying season in Nashville as the Titans struggled to finish 3-13. There were some bright spots with quarterback Marcus Mariota, tight end Delanie Walker going to the Pro Bowl, and Jurrell Casey continuing to establish himself as a defensive force. Now, coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson take over the Titans in an attempt to change the fortunes of a franchise who has really hit hard times . Here’s a closer look at Tennessee,
Strongest Position/Area: Quarterback. Marcus Mariota had a very impressive rookie season throwing for 19 touchdowns while only throwing ten interceptions. What I liked in particular is the fact that he proved to be competent when taking snaps under center and being in a huddle, which has been a struggle for some “spread” quarterbacks coming into the NFL in recent years. He completed 60 percent of passes when under center. He is the leader of this offense.
Weakest Position/Area: Offensive Line. The group struggled mightily last season. Now with Mike Mularkey coming in, there has been a change in philosophy trying to get back to being physical with the “ground and pound” attack with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The team hopes that Taylor Lewan can effectively play left tackle as the slide rookie Jack Conklin to the right side. The interior of the offensive line could look different if Ben Jones and rookie Sebastian Tretola can win their position battles as well. There are question marks here.
Strongest Position/Area: Linebacker. This group was good overall last year. Brian Orakpo looks like he is back healthy, probably not what he was in Washington but close. Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard had solid years as well. Williamson had over 100 tackles Woodyard recorded five sacks and 87 tackles. This is a good unit for Dick Lebeau’s 3-4 defense scheme. Rookie Kevin Dodd will also be looked upon to provide a pass rush element that the Titans probably need to add to make this unit more formidable.
Weakest Position/Area: Secondary. This unit helped Tennessee to be seventh in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season. What they lacked however was lack of play-making. The Titans’ secondary accounted for only six interceptions. Now with long time stalwart Michael Griffin moving on as well as Coty Sensabaugh (both accounted for half of the interceptions), who will make plays? On the plus side, Jason McCourty is back after an injury cut his season short. Rashad Johnson replaces Griffin at free safety. Griffin had a breakout year with five interceptions. He made a lot of plays for Arizona the last three seasons. This group can be good, but can they stay healthy and make more plays?
Draft Report: GM Jon Robinson certainly put his “stamp” on the team with his first draft. He traded down from #2 to #11, and then traded back up to #8 in order to get tackle Jack Conklin. Conklin is known as a hard-nosed guy with a clean sheet as far as issues are concerned. It was interesting they did not get Laremy Tunsil, but I understand if the team did not want to deal with his off-field troubles. Austin Johnson and Kevin Dodd were two productive guys who should help the front seven with toughness. Of course Derrick Henry is the guy who gets all the focus because of his highly successful career at Alabama. He will be the other part of the “ground and pound” philosophy as Mularkey turns the offensive focus to run the football.
Spotlight Player: DeMarco Murray. Two years ago, Murray was one, if not the top running back in the league rushing for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. He leaves Dallas to go play for Chip Kelly and the rival Eagles. He never looked comfortable in Kelly’s system as he only started 8 games and ran for 702 yards, his lowest total since 2012. With a $6 million salary due to him this year, he needs to have a big season I feel in order for the Titans to be competitive. Look for Murray to be the featured back and run more with a fullback.
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