The 2016 NFL season begins now, with 32 teams scheming to knock off the reigning champion Denver Broncos. The NFL Draft is just around the corner, but the first step in any offseason plan is to assess a team’s needs. Here we look at what the Tennessee Titans team needs are.
These reports were compiled with the help of Inside The Pylon’s writers and editors, as well as the outstanding offseason primers at OverTheCap.com, which are invaluable for understanding the salary cap and contractual obligations of each team. In addition, the depth chart data is courtesy RosterResource.com – thanks for all your support!
With the second overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft, the Titans picked Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. While the rookie QB started his career with a very impressive debut, Mariota and the Titans could not sustain that level of success throughout the entire 2015 campaign, limping to a 3-13 record. After starting the season 1-6, with the only victory coming in the season opener, coach Ken Whisenhunt was replaced by tight ends coach Mike Mularkey on an interim basis. In the offseason, Mularkey ditched the interim title and was named the head coach. The Titans also brought in Jon Robinson, most recently the Director of Player Personnel with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to be their new general manager.
Shoring up the offensive line is crucial for the Titans’ future success. Tennessee surrendered a league-high 54 sacks in 2015, and their 92.8 rushing yards per game was 25th in the NFL. Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan and starting right guard Chance Warmack form a young nucleus, but upgrades are needed in the interior and at the other tackle slot. The rest of the Titans offensive line is also young, with center Andy Gallik entering his second season, left guards Jeremiah Poutasi and Quinton Spain also entering their second seasons, and oft-injured center Brian Schwenke entering his fourth season. Drafting Tunsil with the first overall selection could shore up the right side of the line, and picking up one of the few remaining veteran interior lineman (Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Louis Vasquez, etc.,) would go a long way toward putting together a respectable offensive line.
Tennessee also needs help in the secondary, at both cornerback and safety. Jason McCourty returns as one of the starters at CB, but played in just four games in 2015 and tallied a career-low 15 tackles and zero interceptions. Brice McCain is currently the other starting CB, but an upgrade at this position is definitely needed. At the safety spot, Da’Norris Searcy and Marqueston Blake are penciled in as starters, with Daimion Stafford and recent free-agent signee Antwon Blake lurking behind them. But an infusion of talent at this position makes sense for Tennessee this offseason.
Tennessee made two selections at this position last season in the draft picking Dorial Green-Beckham 40th overall, and then taking William & Mary prospect Tre McBride in the seventh round. The Titans also added Rishard Matthews via free agency this winter. But adding another player to this group would make sense for Tennessee, given the injury history of Justin Hunter, the age of Harry Douglas, and to hedge against Kendall Wright leaving after this season.
The Titans could also use some help up front for their defense. This unit was solid in 2015, and Jurrell Casey’s season ended in Hawaii with his first Pro Bowl selection. Adding some depth at nose tackle or perhaps another defensive end would bolster an already strong group and help keep players fresh.
Set, For Better or For Worse
Mariota looks to be the future in Tennessee, and despite experiencing some rookie ups and downs, and two MCL sprains that caused him to miss four games, the future seems bright for the former Oregon Duck. Despite some interest in backup Zach Mettenberger, the signal-caller returns to Nashville as perhaps one of the stronger backups in the NFL. The Titans added Matt Cassel as depth, giving the team a third capable option.
One of the biggest headlines this winter was the trade between Tennessee and Philadelphia that brought DeMarco Murray to the AFC. After a few strong seasons in Dallas, the running back was brought to Philadelphia but struggled in one season in Chip Kelly’s offense. Perhaps a change of scenery and some time in Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth” scheme will benefit both Murray and the Titans. Behind him the Titans have Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, Dexter McCluster, and Bishop Sankey who each provide different looks for this offense.
The Tennessee linebacker corp is another solid unit, returning Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan on the outside to their 3-4 scheme, with Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson on the inside. Orakpo and Morgan were very impressive when healthy, although Morgan’s production fell off when Orakpo suffered an injury during the 2015 season. Tennessee might look to add some depth to this group later in the draft, but overall the core is solid.