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Previewing the 2016 Tennessee Titans

Paul Nicholson (Flickr: LP Field Panorama)[]

Sure, the season started, but we haven’t finished out FY 2016 NFL team previews! Not a fan of the Titans? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit;Green BayHoustonIndianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Minnesota; New England; New OrleansNew York Giants; New York Jets; Oakland; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Diego;San Francisco; Seattle; Tampa Bay.

Where They’re Coming From

Landing a highly coveted first overall pick.

Given how bad Jared Goff looked in the preseason, you may have forgotten the price Los Angeles paid to get him. It was a lot. And the last place Tennessee Titans were the beneficiary of that king’s ransom. After they started out the year promising, poor offensive line play kept Marcus Mariota from taking off in his rookie season, and the Titans wound up with that overvalued first-overall pick thanks to a 3-13 record.

Where They’re Going

Continuing under the guidance of a head coach who probably shouldn’t be one.

A young, rebuilding team under the guidance of Mike Mularkey: where have I seen this before? Oh yeah! The somewhat successful offensive coordinator took over a five-win Jags team with sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert at the helm and, somehow, did exceedingly worse than expected, getting canned after just one 2-14 season. I’m sure this time will be different …

Perhaps learning from past mistakes, Mularkey plans on putting a focus on the run game to keep his second-year quarterback out of trouble. Even if this year goes well, though, it’s hard to envision him coaching this young team to where they want to go. “Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Mularkey,” just sounds like, well, a bunch of malarkey!

Key Offseason Moves

Additions: RB DeMarco Murray, C Ben Jones, S Rashad Johnson, T Jack Conklin (drafted), WR Tajae Sharpe (drafted)

Losses: S Michael Griffin, CB Coty Sensabaugh, WR Dorial Green-Beckham

What To Watch For

The run game, obviously. 

When you make as big a deal of something as Mike Mularkey’s smashmouth run-game, good or bad, it’s going to be a dominant story line. The initial unveiling against Minnesota did not go well, but considering the talent of that defense, some leeway can be given.

Last year’s offensive line was abysmal; the addition of Ben Jones and Jack Conklin certainly give the unit more promise heading into this season. Chance Warmack, like most of the holdovers on the line, has been brutal in pass blocking. But giving the big guard more chances to get upfield as a blocker will let him rebuild his confidence after the Titans declined his fifth-year option.

The backs the line is clearing the way for – DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry – both thrive on contact and can take a pounding, as Murray showed in Dallas and Henry showed at Alabama. If they can get a little more production per carry, the two-headed backfield is capable of handling tons of attempts and keeping Mariota from taking more poundings this season. If this team isn’t going to contend this year, they have to at least keep their franchise pivot healthy.

Who To Watch For

Kevin Dodd, DE/OLB

The Titans offense is chock full of inexperience at the skill positions; it feels wrong to highlight just one. Tennessee’s defense doesn’t have much in the way of youthful exuberance. After drafting some young blood with the picks from the Rams, though, the Titans may have landed some cornerstones who can soak up Brian Orakpo’s wisdom while he’s still useful. Of those rookies, Dodd is the one poised to make an impact in his first season.

A pass rush specialist at Clemson, the youngster should make a nice transition to 3-4 backer, even if he did miss a lot of training camp. Rushing from the same side as Jurrell Casey and opposite Orakpo should help free up the kid to go hunting.

What Could Go Wrong

Signs of regression from their franchise pivot.

Working with a bunch of new weapons on the outside – Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews, Andre Johnson – Mariota is going to have some familiarity issues out of the gate. In his first meaningful game of 2016, the second-year QB looked out of sorts, failing to set his feet on a lot of throws and delivering a pair of costly turnovers on a silver platter.

Last year, there were questions about whether the second-overall pick could be successful standing tall in the pocket and throwing downfield. After an up and down rookie campaign, the jury is still out. With an emphasis on running the ball and rolling Mariota out of the pocket this year, it may still be a while until we have an answer to that question. But the one thing the Titans don’t want this season is a backslide.

Where They’ll End Up

Sitting pretty on draft day.

This team is going to experience more growing pains and should be picking in the top-ten of next year’s draft. But even if the Titans make a surprise run (the AFC South is horrendous after all), they still have the benefit of L.A.’s first-round pick. And after the Rams’ debut, Tennessee’s got to be licking its lips.

Tags : 2016 PreviewAvery WilliamsonBrian OrakpoDeMarco MurrayDerrick HenryJack ConklinJurrell CaseyMarcus MariotaMike MularkeyRashad JohnsonRishard MatthewsTajae SharpeTaylor LewanTitansWesley Woodyard
Henry Mardukas

The author Henry Mardukas