In an article posted by NFL.com yesterday, the Titans were among five teams listed as a potential cinderella team for the 2016 season. With Marcus Mariota in the fold, this is something that you should probably get used to seeing.
The post mentions how Marcus Mariota was on pace to "wallop" fellow rookie and 2015 number one overall pick Jameis Winston. But as the sacks piled up, Mariota inevitably got dinged up and was forced to miss games. It was really a shame, because Mariota was closing the gap on the rookie touchdown record.
Improvements at center (Ben Jones) and right tackle (Jack Conklin) have analysts excited about Marcus Mariota playing in a clean pocket. That was one of the many missing ingredients from the Titans 2015 campaign. They still have to figure out the left guard situation, but at least they have options in Quinton Spain, Sebastian Tretola and even Andy Gallik or Brian Schwenke. A healthy Taylor Lewan will really help things too.
The article mentions Dorial Green-Beckham and Rishard Matthews as wildcards that could really ignite the offense. Can DGB take that next step and become a true number one? Will Rishard Matthews step up and provide the Titans with some stability at the position?
The post says that outside of Brice McCain, the Titans failed to add a single starter on defense. I would argue that Rashad Johnson is definitely a starter at free safety while Kevin Dodd, Austin Johnson and Kevin Byard will play large rotational roles, which was a massive need last season. I think Dick LeBeau getting total control of the defense could be a huge plus as well. The two-headed defensive coordinator approach was strange and was surely frustrating at times for the players, so having one central voice should clarify some things.
If Marcus Mariota can stay healthy and get a little more help up front and from his receivers, there's no reason that the Titans can't make at least a moderate jump in 2016. I'm not sure they'll contend for a playoff spot, but I don't think it's too bold to foresee six or seven wins.