The Tennessee Titans reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season last term, only to be crushed by the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.
Mike Mularkey guided the franchise to the post-season for the first time since Jeff Fisher’s coached the Titans to the number one seed in the AFC Conference 10 years ago.
Tennessee defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wildcard Round, producing a brilliant comeback on the road. However, they were not ready for the quality of Tom Brady and the Patriots, receiving a hammering at Gillette Stadium.
Despite reaching the playoffs, Mularkey was fired by the Titans in the aftermath of their loss. Mike Vrabel was hired to replace him as head coach after just one season as defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, although he arrives with a glowing reputation.
Vrabel is challenged with bringing the best out of quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has stagnated since his arrival in the NFL. General manager Jon Robinson made improvements to the team, signing Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler from the Patriots.
Matt LaFleur and Dean Pees assume the coordinator roles on offense and defense respectively. They have talent on both of their units, but whether it is enough to secure another playoff berth is another matter especially in a competitive AFC South.
The success of the Tennessee’s offense will hinge on the performances of Mariota. His form has been patchy since his arrival in the NFL in the 2015 campaign. Mariota enjoyed a strong outing in his first season and took a step forward in his sophomore campaign. However, the 2017 term was extremely underwhelming, throwing only 13 touchdowns, while committing 15 interceptions.
Mistakes have not been a hallmark of his career and the first job of the new coaching staff will be to eradicate the issue before it becomes a problem for the quarterback. He has more than enough talent with his arm along with running the ball to be a superstar in the NFL. LaFleur has the responsibility to harness Mariota’s ability, having performed a similar job last season at the Los Angeles Rams with Jared Goff.
Derrick Henry proved in the Titans’ playoff win over the Chiefs that he has the quality to become a star running back. He put Kansas City to the sword with his running late in the game, displaying power and pace in the fourth quarter. Henry has improved gradually in his two seasons in the NFL and may now be ready to take on a vital role in the offense. The signing of Lewis should ease the pressure on Henry. Lewis became a key cog in the Patriots’ success. He was a dynamic threat between the tackles and catching passes out of the backfield. If Lewis continues his success Tennessee will have a powerful one-two combination at running back.
The receiving corps has good potential to support Mariota. Delanie Walker is one of the best tight ends in the game and shows no sign of slowing down. The player to watch will be Corey Davis. The Titans used the sixth selection in the 2017 Draft to pick the wideout. He has the physical tools to dominate, but needs to refine his skill set for the NFL to thrive. Davis could be a breakout candidate.
The defense has talent at all three levels and it will be up to Vrabel to maximise their potential. It starts with Jurrell Casey on the defensive line. Casey has been named to the Pro Bowl for the last three seasons on the bounce. He has excelled against the run and the pass, notching 11 sacks over the course of the last two terms. Support will come from Daquan Jones, although there is not a lot of depth on the line for Vrabel to utilise.
As a result, the head coach may have had a hands-on approach in the draft room. Tennessee selected Rashaan Evans in the first round and Harold Landry in the second to bolster their linebacking corps. Evans was a standout for Alabama in his college days, while Landry was a potent force off the edge for Boston College. Both players have potential to become quality starters in the NFL and it will be fascinating to watch their development under Vrabel.
The Titans already have quality pass-rushers in the form of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Wesley Woodyard in the middle of the defense could be eased out for Evans, although the rookie has had fitness issues during pre-season. The front seven has talent, but also holes that will need solid coaching to improve.
The signing of Butler was a fascinating move. Butler has a point to prove after being benched for the Super Bowl by Bill Belichick. It was a decision that earned the future Hall of Famer criticism in New England’s defeat.Butler made his name making one of the best plays of all time to win Super Bowl XLIX for New England.
He now has an opportunity to re-establish his reputation in Tennessee. Butler will be playing alongside his former team-mate Logan Ryan and 2017 first-round pick Adoree Jackson. The cornerback position could be one of the NFL’s best, while the signing of Kenny Vaccaro offers depth behind the trio at safety.
The AFC South could well be a three-horse race, with fierce competition for places for the playoffs. Outside of the AFC East, the other divisions in the AFC will have a contested battle for the crown. The Titans have good odds to reach the playoffs at +160 , needing only to emulate their performance from last season, while also take them to win over eight matches at -138 with 888Sport. The Titans will be in a fierce contest with not only the Jacksonville Jaguars, but also the Houston Texans. Take them to finish third in the AFC South at +250 with BetOnline. They’re not ready to top the division or contend for the AFC Conference with the rejuvenated Texans in the division.
Evans and Landry will be interesting players to watch throughout the term. Both will contend for the defensive rookie of the year award, with odds of +2200 for Evans with BetOnline and +1600 for Landry at TopBet. Henry could be an outside candidate to lead the NFL in rushing, boasting good value at +5000 with TopBet, while he could also have the most rushing touchdowns at +1600 with 888Sport. Back Henry to rush for over 875 rushing yards and over seven touchdowns at -155 and -130 with BetOnline. Take Mariota to throw for over 3,451 passing yards and over 22 touchdowns at -110 and -120 at BetOnline.
Tennessee Titans To Reach The Playoffs
Tennessee Titans To Win Over Eight Matches
Tennessee Titans To Finish Third AFC South
Rashaan Evans To Win Defensive Rookie Of The Year
Harold Landry To Win Defensive Rookie Of The Year
Derrick Henry To Lead NFL In Rushing Yards
Derrick Henry To Lead NFL In Rushing Touchdowns
Derrick Henry To Rush For Over 875 Rushing Yards
Derrick Henry To Rush Over Seven Touchdowns
Marcus Mariota To Throw For Over 3,451 Passing Yards
Marcus Mariota To Throw For Over 22 Touchdowns
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