With the New England Patriots celebrating their Super Bowl 49 victory, it calls to question the actions of thirty-one other NFL squads. What did they do wrong, and where do they need to go to improve their chances next season?
For the Tennessee Titans, that's obviously a multi-faceted question, and there is unlikely to be a one-season answer. There were so many moving parts last year that it's certainly difficult to pin down one particular area that needs the most attention. They have more "needs" than most NFL teams at the moment. So what, objectively speaking, do the Tennessee Titans need to do to get their squad in playoff shape?
Zach Mettenberger offers some hope. While critical analyses of him have been mixed, I see a QB who can make all the throws expected of him and who displays the ability to grasp a pro-style offense. While he needs to cut down on his mistakes, his ability to maximize the talent of his receiving weapons can't be ignored. I think the Titans are fairly set at QB, at least to see what he can offer next season as far as growth. The team has other areas to address, but confirming Mettenberger as the "guy" for 2015 would clear up a muddled list of positions to address this off-season.
The offensive line has been mixed as well. While Chance Warmack and Taylor Lewan look to be future anchors, the team can't go into next season with Michael Oher and/or Andy Levitre as starters. Those two spots absolutely must be remedied if the Titans expect their QB to stay healthy, and for their running game to make an impact. Going after a big ticket FA has bitten the Titans in the recent past, but they can't allow that to prevent them from seeking proper help in the trenches.
Tennessee has put a lot in the wide receiver position over the past few years, and rather than re-develop the entire unit, the team needs to start getting some return on those investments. Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright have the talent to be difference-makers, but last season neither were. Consistency at QB will certainly help this cause, but the Titans need to make a decision on whether or not they can carry the passing game, or whether outside additions will be needed to get the offense moving.
The Titans had a lot of trouble stopping the run. Part of this was the linebackers (as discussed below), but the other half was inconsistency at nose tackle. Sammie Hill isn't a full-time answer at the spot, despite what the coaching staff may say of him. Draft choice Da'Quan Jones was inactive all year long. The team could use an anchor in the middle of the line, the type of player favored by hopeful new staff addition, Dick Lebeau.
The Titans found a gem in Avery Williamson, but beyond that their 2014 fortunes were appalling. Their other hope at ILB, Zach Brown, as lost for the season, and Wesley Woodyard was asked to do more than he's suited to. But it is at outside linebacker where the rehab job needs to happen. Besides free agent Derrick Morgan, the team literally has nobody at OLB other than Kamerion Wimbley, who looks more and more like a cut prospect. In a scheme as reliant on OLB as Horton's, the Titans can't afford to miss on this assignment. I would rank this as the No.1 need on the squad at present.
Finally, the Titans had a poor season at corner. Blidi Wreh-Wilson was a train-wreck for the most part, and both he and nickel corner Coty Sensabaugh struggled with injuries throughout the year. McCourty had a down year, but the Titans will need to pair him with a legitimate counterpart this season. Having a second solid corner would go a long way in improving the team's defensive performance.