The Tennessee Titans will open a new era on Sunday afternoon in Miami against the Dolphins. New uniforms and a new coaching staff — this team definitely has a different feel to it than last year’s. The only problem is that we still don’t know what the finished product is going to look like.
On paper, the Titans are more talented than the Dolphins. I don’t think many people would contest that statement. However, Tennessee limped through the preseason, unable to create or develop any chemistry with the first team offense or defense.
Key players like Delanie Walker, Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry and others missed some time during camp or the preseason. Most of those names should return this week, giving us our first true glimpse of what the first team will look like.
The oddsmakers aren’t all that thrilled with the Titans at this point. Tennessee is just a one point favorite over the Dolphins as of Wednesday. Part of that is playing on the road, but I think another part of it is the pure unknown of what this Titans team will be in 2018. Another part could be the injuries which I mentioned above.
Cameron Wake vs. Dennis Kelly
Jack Conklin was activated to be a part of the initial 53 man roster, but it would probably be a major upset if he played. In steps Dennis Kelly, who has filled the right tackle role in his absence. If he gets the go on Sunday, he can expect to see plenty of Cameron Wake, who is still getting it done at 36 years old.
That’s a problematic matchup for Tennessee and Marcus Mariota, who knows all about Wake. Back in 2015, Wake got to Mariota four times, capitalizing on a matchup with Jeremiah Poutasi. That constant pressure coming right at Mariota’s eyes was enough to cripple the Titans, leading to a 38-10 Miami win.
I wouldn’t expect this staff to leave Kelly out on an island like Ken Whisenhunt did with Poutasi, however. Look for plenty of blocking help from the backs and tight ends, along with plenty of quick screens to neutralize that pass rush.
I don’t feel great about this one, to be honest. There are too many unknowns for me, even though the Dolphins project to finish in the bottom third of the league. A road game in the Miami heat could present a tough environment for a Titans team that has yet to put all of their pieces together. Remember, Ryan Tannehill is healthy once again for the Dolphins, which should provide some stability for an offense that struggled through 2017 with Jay Cutler.
I’m going to rely on the fact that the Titans are the more talented team here. It feels like one of those games where they’re able to find a way late. Matt LaFleur’s offense has largely been kept under wraps to this point too, adding another layer of unknown for the Dolphins. The loss of Ndamukong Suh should open up some running lanes for Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, which should create some play action opportunities for Marcus Mariota.
I think the Dolphins are catching the Titans at a good time, but Tennessee should have enough talent to win a close one.