I wrote this article last year and led with Derrick Morgan having a chance to pass Jevon Kearse’s career sack mark to become the most prolific pass rusher in the Titans era of the franchise. Obviously, that did not even come close to happening as Morgan finished with just half a sack on the season.
However, the second item on my list did come to pass as Jurrell Casey became the first player to make four Pro Bowl appearances as a Titan, breaking a tie with Chris Johnson, Bruce Matthews, Jevon Kearse, Steve McNair, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Delanie Walker. That’s some pretty good company for Casey, even if Matthews’ franchise record of 14 Pro Bowl appearances is still going to be safe for a very long time.
We also got a new single game rushing record thanks to Derrick Henry’s epic 238-yard performance against Jacksonville topped Chris Johnson’s 228-yard game (also against Jacksonville) from 2009.
Obviously, single game records are always in danger — you never know when a guy might suddenly have a huge day — but we can hone in on a few career or single season records that have a chance to be in play for this year. Here are the records that I think we should be keeping an eye on in 2019.
Receiving Yards by a Tight End
Current Record: Frank Wycheck (4,958 yards)
Challenger: Delanie Walker (4,208 yards)
Walker might have challenged this mark in 2018 if it weren’t for a gruesome season ending leg injury suffered during the very first game of the season. However, he’s back now, and by all reports, he’s looking like his old self. That’s obviously great news for Titans fans and it could spell danger for several franchise records.
Walker needs 751 receiving yards to pass Frank Wycheck for the top mark for a tight end in franchise history. He had topped that number for four straight seasons before getting injured last year so there is certainly a chance that he climbs to the top in 2019.
However, getting to 751 yards might be tougher than it sounds. For one, the Titans have spent valuable resources upgrading the targets around him, adding Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown through free agency and the draft. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith were rookies in 2017, so those guys are significantly better football players heading into 2019 than they were when Walker last played a full season.
Additionally, there have only been three tight ends in the history of football to rack up more than 750 yards in a season at age 35 or older: Tony Gonzalez (three times), Ben Watson, and Shannon Sharpe. That’s two Hall of Famers and Watson, who had his career best season as a member of the Saints at 35 years old. Walker is a rare talent and he has a few less miles on his body compared to an average 35 year old thanks to his time as a backup to Vernon Davis in San Francisco, but it would still be a pretty amazing feat for him to put up those kinds of numbers at this point in his career, especially coming off the injury that he suffered.
Walker seems likely to get there eventually even if it doesn’t happen this year. His contract runs through the 2020 season so barring an unexpected retirement, I’d expect him to go down as the most productive tight end in franchise history.
Receiving Touchdowns by a Tight End
Current Record: Frank Wycheck (27 touchdowns)
Challenger: Delanie Walker (26 touchdowns)
This is a record that is almost certain to fall in 2019. Walker’s next touchdown catch will tie him with Wycheck for the franchise record at tight end. No Titan has been targeted more in the red zone since 2015 (Marcus Mariota’s first year as quarterback), as Walker’s 46 red zone targets are nearly double the next closest player (Rishard Matthews with 25). I expect him to cede some of that work to Corey Davis, but Walker is a lock — barring injury of course — to get at least two touchdowns and pass Wycheck in this category.
Career Punting Yards
Current Record: Craig Hentrich (36,926 yards)
Challenger: Brett Kern (34,861 yards)
This is another record that is guaranteed to fall barring injury. Kern needs just 2,065 yards to pass Hentrich on the Titans all-time list. He’s passed that mark in every single season of his 12 year NFL career, so I think it’s safe to say he’ll get there again in 2019. Kern punted for 3,483 yards last season. Obviously, the Titans would love for Kern see the field as little as possible this year, but realistically, this is a mark that is going to fall pretty easily.
Career Sacks (Titans Era)
Current Record: Jevon Kearse (52 sacks)
Challenger: Jurrell Casey (46 sacks)
Last season it seemed like Derrick Morgan would get the chance to take down Kearse’s Titans era record for sacks, but with him out of the picture, Casey is now the player poised to have a crack at taking down The Freak.
Casey’s seven sacks in 2018 led the Titans and tied for the second best mark of his career. If he can match that number again this season, he’ll pass Kearse for the most sacks in a Titans uniform. Pretty impressive, especially for a player who plays on the interior of the defense.
It seems likely that Casey will get a chance to stick in the 3-technique role that helped unlock his productivity under Dean Pees again this season and that will give him a pretty good shot at getting to 52 career sacks before the year is up. He has also been surrounded with some better talent this year. Adding Cameron Wake and getting a year two bump from Harold Landry should improve the Titans pass rush overall and give teams more to worry about outside of #99.
The Titans/Oilers franchise mark rests with the great Ray Childress at 75.5 career sacks. It would take a few fantastic seasons for Casey to get there, but there is a chance that he could if he can stay productive into his thirties.
Titans Era Single Season Passing Yards
Current Record: Matt Hasselbeck (3,571 yards in 2011)
Challenger: Marcus Mariota
This is the record that I absolutely loathe. How is it that a modern NFL team can go 20 seasons without a quarterback throwing for more than 3,571 yards? Last season alone, 17 NFL quarterbacks threw for over 3,571 yards, including a rookie (Baker Mayfield) who didn’t start until midway through the third game of the season! It’s beyond depressing that a Titans QB hasn’t managed to accomplish this in an era where 4,000 yard seasons are common and 5,000 yard seasons happen nearly once a year.
Last year I wrote that “if Mariota stays healthy in 2018, he’s almost certainly going to break this record”. We all know how that ended. Unfortunately, we’ve been playing the “if Mariota stays healthy” record for four seasons now without a hit. That’s not meant to be a knock on Mariota, it’s just the facts. Betting on this year to be the year seems like wishful thinking.
However, if this is the year, I think a healthy Mariota should break this record with the upgraded weapons around him and some continuity on the coaching staff. If I’m still writing about Matt Hasselbeck’s record in 2020, I’m likely writing it about a new quarterback. Hopefully Mariota breaks through and we finally see a prolific passing offense in Tennessee.
The franchise record in this category belongs to Warren Moon who threw for 4,690 yards in 1991. That record appears to be safe for now, but it would be really cool if it wasn’t.
Single Season Receiving Touchdowns (Titans Era)
Current Record: Drew Bennett (11 touchdowns in 2004)
Challenger: Corey Davis or Delanie Walker
This is another relatively low bar type record that could fall in 2019. Drew Bennett’s 11 touchdown receptions in 2004 remains the single season high since the team took on the Titans name in 1999. Corey Davis and Delanie Walker both have an outside chance of challenging this record if the passing offense takes a big step this season.
Walker’s career high for touchdowns in a season is seven, set in 2016. Davis’ high is just four, set last season. Despite that low total for Davis, I think he is the guy that’s most likely to break through as an ascending player who has not yet reached his ceiling. It would take a massive improvement from the passing game overall for either guy to get near Bennett’s mark as the entire team combined for just 16 receiving touchdowns last year, but it’s possible if things break right.
The franchise record of 17 — set by Bill Groman in the AFL days in 1961 — is likely out of reach barring a massive breakout season.
Career Receiving Touchdowns (Titans Era)
Current Record: Derrick Mason (34 touchdowns)
Challenger: Delanie Walker (26 touchdowns)
In addition to challenging for a clean sweep of the franchise tight end record books, Walker has a chance to take down the mark for most receiving touchdowns in a Titans uniform set by Derrick Mason. It would take a big season, but eight touchdowns to tie, nine touchdowns to break the record certainly isn’t impossible.
The franchise record of 51 touchdowns belongs to Charley Hennigan and has stood for over 50 years. That’s not in danger this season.
100 Career Sacks for Cameron Wake
This isn’t a team stat, but it’ll be cool for Titans fans to get to witness Cameron Wake’s 100th career sack this season. He sits at 98 currently so it’s a virtual lock that he will get there (possibly very early in the season). Wake has never had fewer than 5.5 sacks in a season in his career.
There are currently just 32 players in NFL history who have reached 100 sacks, but there are two that are likely to join that group this year: Wake and Von Miller, who also sits at 98 career sacks. Those two are tied for second currently among active players behind Terrell Suggs’ 132.5 career sacks.
Wake is one of the most accomplished pass rushers in the history of the sport despite getting a late start on his NFL career. The incredible thing is that he hasn’t really slowed down that much. As I covered in this piece back when the signing was announced, Wake has incredibly finished in the top 10 of PFF’s pass rush productivity metric for seven consecutive seasons, including a #2 overall finish in 2018.
He’s a special talent and it’s going to be fun to watch him pass 100.