It’s actually pretty astounding how far they’ve come — you don’t have to go too far back to find a time where the Titans were the joke of the NFL. Consistently bad, no answer at quarterback, offensive line woes and no direction — but credit the odd combination of Mike Mularkey and hotshot General Manager Jon Robinson for getting this train back on track.
Now, confidence is near an all time high. You probably have to go back to the Jeff Fisher, Steve McNair days to find more optimism. The Titans have been the darling of the NFL offseason, appearing near the top of futures and current power rankings.
All of that hype creates confidence, which I’ll talk about below. I’ve already mentioned the things that scare me about this team, but here I’ll talk about the things that have me excited about the 2017 Tennessee Titans.
5. Mike Mularkey and Terry Robiskie
If you would have told me I’d be writing about these two in a confidence post back in January of 2016, I would have thought I had lost my mind. But here we are. The work these guys did with the offense last year was nothing short of brilliant, molding and adapting to the roster that they were given. I could have done without some of the trickery and misdirection at times, but for the most part they had a clear, concise approach.
It didn’t come together immediately, but by midseason their offense was clicking. Even with that slow start the Titans ended up finishing 11th in total offense. With added weapons and more depth, I’d expect maybe a different approach — but similar results.
4. Improved special teams
One of the most frustrating ways to lose a football game is through special teams — which we all just kind of take for granted. The Titans have been plain awful on special teams for years, there’s no way around it. That group always seemed to put the team behind the eight ball with a bone-headed penalty or ill-timed lapse. Jon Robinson did everything he could to fix that.
In fact, on the first couple of days of free agency, Robinson opted to sign all of these role players while the Jaguars were handing out 80 million dollar checks to anyone with a pulse. Daren Bates, Brynden Trawick and Eric Weems should all boost a unit that desperately needed some attention.
3. Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker
So much has been made of Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor that you kind of put Matthews and Walker on the backburner. Toss in Eric decker to that trio and you have a really nice group of pass catchers, even without the rookies. Everyone is excited about Davis (Nobody more than me, trust me) and Taylor, but there’s a good chance they won’t make a splash right off the bat. It’s great to have these three veterans to bridge the gap.
2. Marcus Mariota
The third year quarterback has put together two outstanding seasons so far and is on track to become one of the league’s best pretty quickly. With all of these new weapons at his disposal, Mariota should be even better in 2017. Mariota went for 3,400+ yards and a 26-9 TD-INT ratio throwing to Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, Andre Johnson, Tajae Sharpe, Kendall Wright and Harry Douglas. I’m ready to see what he can do with this group.
1. The offensive line and the run game
No matter how many receivers the Titans bring in, the offense is still going to tick because of that bully of an offensive line and the run game. It opened up the deep ball for Mariota and company last season while providing consistent production for the offense. If you can run the football in the NFL (or any form of football), you’re going to win plenty of football games. You’ll control the pace of the game and wear out a front seven. That’s still going to be the formula for this team, they just might look a little different doing it this year.