With training camp just around the corner, we’re starting to get the itch again. It’s been a long couple of months since the draft, but we’ve almost made it. It’s time for the Titans to consume our lives again.
The confidence level in the team is the highest it’s been in years. The Titans have their quarterback, offensive line, running back, general manager, coach and a slew of weapons in place. This is the best roster since 2008, when the team went 13-3.
It wasn’t that long ago that we could rattle off 10-15 things that worried us about the roster. I tried to come up with five — and I struggled. That’s a testament to how good Jon Robinson has been with his roster construction.
Things are a lot better with the Titans, but not everything is set just yet. Here are five concerns that I have as we head into the 2017 season.
5. The Tread on DeMarco Murray’s Tires
Running backs tend to fall off a cliff when they hit a certain age. That age is different for everyone — and there are exceptions (looking at you, Frank Gore) — but for the most part, it’s hard to rely on running backs once they hit 30. Murray is now 29. He’s got six seasons under his belt now and nearly 1,500 carries.
I don’t think this is a huge deal with Derrick Henry in place to spell him, but Murray offers a lot more than Henry can right now. His presence in the passing game shouldn’t be forgotten. Maybe that’s something that the staff works with Henry more on this training camp, but keeping Murray fresh is a must this season.
Murray appeared to wear down late in the season last year. I’d personally like to see Henry steal a couple more series here and there, just to save Murray for those late season games and possible playoff matchups.
That feels weird to say.
4. Inexperienced Pass Catchers
We’ve praised Jon Robinson for bringing in talent to the receiver room. The Titans have never had a very good group of receivers during their entire time in Nashville. This has a chance to be the best, especially considering the group will be working with Marcus Mariota.
However, I think it’s important to temper expectations here. Rookie receivers typically have one of the toughest times transitioning to the league. The speed and physicality of defenses are just on another level. They have to get there from a chemistry standpoint too.
Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith all have to get a feel for the offense and Marcus Mariota. I’m not expecting any of those to come out and set the world on fire right off the bat, which is the main reason for the Eric Decker signing. It may take a couple of months for the offense to truly get churning, but if they do — watch out.
3. Safety Rotation
Honestly, I thought the Titans would do more to address the safety position. They appear to be just fine rolling with Kevin Byard, Johnathan Cyprien and Da’Norris Searcy. Jon Robinson had a chance to add Jamal Adams, but he opted for Corey Davis instead.
Byard did some nice things last year and will step into a more full time role this season. Cyprien is the unknown here. His work against the run has been outstanding, but his defense against the pass in a center field role is lacking. I’m sure Dick LeBeau will put him in situations to succeed, but the Titans typically expect their safeties to do a bit of everything. We’ll see what they have in store for Cyprien this season.
2. Inexperience at Cornerback
Jason McCourty is no more, but Jon Robinson was able to add veteran Logan Ryan to the starting lineup. Outside of that, the Titans are set to rely on rookie Adore Jackson and second year man LeShaun Sims. I’ll say the Titans are in a better spot talent wise than last year, but that’s a lot of inexperience at a very important position.
Look for a potential rocky start in the secondary with new pieces in place. Tennessee is going to need Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and Jurrell Casey to show out up front and get after the passer to help the secondary out. Which brings me to my next point...
1. Pass Rushing Depth
The Titans are set at the top of their pass rushing rotation. Brian Orakpo is one of the better pass rushers in the league and Derrick Morgan has been solid for years. But what’s behind them? We don’t know.
I mean, we know names, but we don’t know what they’ve got. Kevin Dodd has been hurt since he became a Titan. He was drafted to be that third guy off the bench and a potential starter down the road, but he can’t be relied on right now. Josh Carraway is a late round pick with some production, but can he get after the quarterback immediately? Not many seventh rounders can.
Aaron Wallace is in a similar spot, but in the limited tape I got to see last year he was blown off the ball against the run. Can a guy like Victor Ochi emerge in camp? I really think there a good chance that Jon Robinson adds a veteran here. It’s a scary thought to think of what might happen if Orakpo or Morgan were to go down.