Last season, the Tennessee Titans went 9-7, a six-win improvement over their 3-13 mark the year before. This season, there seems to be evidence that this team could take another step forward to win the AFC South, and maybe even make some noise in the postseason.
The signs of this happening are everywhere, so let’s go over a few of them.
Improved Quarterback Play:
Marcus Mariota took a significant step forward last season, both as a passer and as a leader. He threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions with a 64.9 total QBR. During his second season, both his teammates and his coach noticed a difference in his leadership. “He’s demanding in the huddle, vocal in the huddle, and he’s as competitive in the huddle as anybody I’ve been around,” head coach Mike Mularkey says. Wide receiver Rishard Matthews also added “He will get on you if you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to, but he does it in a respectful manner.”
Mariota seems poised to take an even bigger step forward this season. He has struggled with injuries his first two years, but if he can stay healthy, this could be the year he breaks out as a true star in this league.
In recent seasons, the Titans receiving corps has been decidedly average. That likely changed this past offseason, with the signing of fifth overall draft pick, Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis. Davis is a big, physical receiver who can go up and fight for the ball. Even as a rookie, he should be an effective weapon for Mariota and an immediate difference maker.
The secondary was a major weakness for Tennessee last season, with their pass defense ranked 30th in the NFL. The Titans made a major move to address this on draft day, selecting USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson with the eighteenth overall pick. Jackson may be a bit of a raw talent at this point, but his athleticism and playmaking ability cannot be ignored. Not to mention the fact that he could also be very useful in the return game.
Solid Running Game:
The Titans possess an impressive running game that ranked third in the NFL last season. There’s no reason to expect that it will be any less effective this year, even with the probability of the Titans passing more often. The one-two punch of DeMarco Murray, who ranked third in the league with 1,287 rushing yards, and Derrick Henry was, and still will be, very difficult to stop. Add that to an improved passing game, and you have what should be a top-10 offense.
With improvement on both sides of the ball and other teams in the AFC South showing no significant signs of improvement, things are shaping up for the Titans to take control of the division. At this point, they look to be the most complete team in the AFC South. If they do get to the playoffs, they have the pieces necessary to win a game, maybe even two. The rest of the AFC should take notice. The Tennessee Titans have arrived.