AFC South review: The Titans rising?
The Gents are going to preview each team before the start of the season, so to kick the AFC South off I am going to have a look at the Titans. This team is obviously on a long building strategy, having started last year with Marcus Mariota and yet still ending up having the number one pick this year. After trading this away, they then made further trades to move back up the draft. Will these moves around the the Draft help improve this team and the division this year?
First the Draft
They have their franchise quarterback in Mariota and that is a good start. What they lacked somewhat was suitable targets for him to throw to, despite their tight end committee, as well as giving him time to make passes and actually get the game moving. Mariota showed signs of good decision making, quick thinking, mobility and a good arm last year. Improvements were obviously needed everywhere though. Looking at the draft, was a good move of picking up extra picks in from the Rams. Picking up a starting offensive tackle in Jack Conklin was a great start. I am more intrigued that they picked up Heisman trophy winning running back Derrick Henry in the second as he is a similar running back to De Marco Murray. This does mean they could follow the Eagles of last season, starting both and help take the pressure off Mariota to be the sole source of moving the ball or gives the Titans an option of a starting RB if Murray picks up an injury, which has happened in the past.
They also added in that second round two good prospective defensive linesmen in Kevin Dodd and Austin Johnson, in four picks addressing both sides of the ball and really helping add strength and depth to the team. They topped their first five picks in the third round with safety Kevin Byard. All of these five players look like they could be starters and potentially turn the Titans into a competitive team. I also think we’ll see corner back Leshaun Sims see some game time, if he has a good training camp and looks the part in the pre-season games.
This is a bit back to front but the Free Agency signings make sense once the Draft picks have been considered. Yes they picked up a receiver in the 5th round and I think they are just continuing to hope Dorial Green-Beckham finally fulfills the potential he showed in College and in glimpses last season before suffering from injury. He is still their star hope. Signing Rishard Matthews is an improvement, he was good for Miami as a number two receiver, but I am not totally sure he is an out and out number 1. I like Kendall Wright, it’s just he doesn’t give the Titan’s that edge, along with Harry Douglas the Titans are well stacked with no.2 receivers. Last season, tight end Delanie Walker was their lead receiver and obviously most targeted. He had a good rapport with Mariota and was the go to player. It could be that they will still play like that, giving Dorial time to recover and maybe find some form whilst relying on a solid no.2 like Rishard and Walker to make the catches with some going Hunter’s way. The Murray signing was interesting, especially in light of drafting Henry (who is likely to learn much from Murray) and they added to the o-line with signing Ben Jones from Houston and resigning Byron Bell. Along with Conklin on paper this does not look a bad o-line and maybe will start giving the team more belief. Antonio Andrews actually had a few good games and may have some blocking potential, though I think this is a bit last chance for Bishop Sankey, Walker is also a very good blocker and with his speed and strength help with actually generating a run game. Throw in another good blocking tight end in Anthony Fasano along with Craig Stevens and hopefully this will mean they actually have a proper multi-faceted offense, instead of trying to mimic one by stacking the offence with tight ends as receivers or vice versa, and relying on their quarterback so much as their second main running threat. I mean now they could field Murray and Andrews along with Walker, Fasano and Matthews. I mean they would then have two viable receiving threats on the field, or Green-Beckham, Walker and Matthews/Wright or whatever.
On defence, last year I think many felt on paper they looked ok. I think really their draft moves strengthened this team, I am not so sure they’ve really cashed in their chips with Brice McCain though he does add depth and experience. Sean Spence at linebacker again I’m not sure about apart from they are trying some fresh faces and seeing if something clicks. I still like Jurrell Casey so maybe their front 7 will make their mark this year. Still bit concerned about the secondary, but I like their draft pick of Byard to go with Da’Norris Searcy.
The Titans on paper really do look like an improved team, especially on offence.
And they cut ties with Mettenberger which is no loss.
Put it this way, I do not think the Titans will be taking the no.1 pick in the 2017 draft. They may still end up in the top 10 but I think they have done enough not to be considered a laughing stock.
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