As the Tennessee Titans organization transitions into a new Ruston Webster-less era, it's time to take a look at the current roster. As in years past, I will go through the active roster position by position; identifying areas of strength, weakness, and occasionally speculate on potential remedies.
As a side note before we begin this series, I would like to thank Jimmy Morris for welcoming me back to the site. I have had a particularly busy past six months that left me precious little time to write as I had done in the past few years. I am excited to be back, and hope that you enjoy my material, and continue following us here on the site over the next season. As you well know, this summer may turn out to be the most important off-season in Titans franchise history, after all.
Naturally we’ll start with one of the easiest groups to evaluate on the entire Tennessee Titans roster. The quarterback position was polarizing last summer, when some advocated for sticking with Zach Mettenberger, and many others clamored for Marcus Mariota to assume to helm. The latter had their dreams realized.
Despite playing behind a horrific offensive line and having no running game to speak of, Mariota was a revelation during his rookie season. There were moments of tribulation when he made mistakes, but all QB’s go through some amount of transition turbulence. Impressive though, is that he avoided most of the typical rookie errors, and appeared to have complete control of the offense. He clearly had no issues grasping the NFL playbook and dissecting defenses. He also didn’t fall into the trap of relying on his athletic ability. Mariota finished the year on the sidelines though, and missed games due to injuries which would have been mitigated with better line play. He also turned the ball over far more than he would have liked, especially in the fumble department. The Titans surrendered 50 sacks in 2016, good for second-most in the NFL. Additionally the team’s leading rusher had a paltry 520 yards. No Titans WR caught more than 40 passes. By the end of the year, the entire offense basically consisted of throwing the ball to Delanie Walker twenty times per game. It’s clear that the QB needs far better support from his teammates.
His teammates rightfully praise him for his ability and his professional demeanor. While not the ‘rah-rah’ type, he is exactly the type of leader the Titans needed, and one of the lone bright spots during a 2015 season to forget. Along with a new regime, his work ethic and poise should go a long way in changing the losing culture of this team over the next few years. He ended his rookie year with an impressive 91.5 QB rating, and 19 TD passes in only 12 games. His speed in getting the ball out, magnified due to the offensive line woes, was noticeable. As many have noted during the year, this quick release is a trait more often found in veteran signal callers, not greenhorn QB’s.
Behind Mariota, Zach Mettenberger was the consensus backup. The big-armed LSU alum started during his rookie season, but never found a way to log a win. In the season finale he suffered a hand injury before making way for Alex Tanney, who vastly outplayed him. Over the course of his time in Tennessee, his lack of poise and mobility when facing the blitz has been exposed. He is young though, and on a cheap rookie deal. Ultimately, I doubt the Titans change anything about their QB depth chart in 2016.
That said; if the biggest issue at the QB position is over the backup position, then the Titans can count themselves lucky. Mariota is the clear franchise QB heading into 2016, and will hopefully enter the year with an improved set of skill players and offensive line help. With that he is a top QB in the NFL, and I have never said something with so much conviction.
How the Titans address the rest of this broken team, however; is a question that looms larger. Thankfully Tennessee has the hardest part of the equation figured out. Fans and coaches alike can take heart in that as the new regime plants its roots in St. Thomas Sports Park over the next year. And I think we can all be excited about what Mariota can do in year two.