This week, Kiefer examines the Tennessee Titans.
State of Play- Tennessee Titans
Week 2 of our state of play in the AFC South looks at the reigning division champion Titans. The Titans are coming off a strong 12-5 season where they proved capable of beating the best teams in the league, including a run of beating the Bills, Chiefs, Colts, and Rams in consecutive weeks, but also losing games which they ought to have won. This inconsistency ultimately cost the Titans a possible Super Bowl spot when they lost to the Bengals in a game where they racked up the sacks on Joe Burrow but couldn’t get it done on offence. The question is was this the opportunity for the Titans or are they capable of getting over the line in 2022?
Running it back
Every season the NFL has a number of teams who, having reached a level of improvement or success, fall back to the mediocrity and struggles of the majority of rest of the league. Very few teams can have years and years of sustained and consistent ‘success’ (whatever that is). Now, it’s probably unfair to preface anything about the Titans with this caveat as I believe they are still firmly in a Super Bowl window. However, windows are small and ultimately the question for the organisation at the moment has to be this: What do we need to get over the line right now? The AFC has no absolute favourite at the moment but rather a collection of 4-5 teams who are so even that it is impossible to say who can beat whom on any given day. And just like the Titans, each knows they have a short Super Bowl window and will do everything possible to get over that line. The Titans defence took a good step up from 2020 to last year however the main area of concern in the losses last year was an offence that too often spluttered and struggled to get going when the run game suffered.
Subtraction by subtraction
The real weakness of the Titans offense was the WR corp. Now in a team where Derrick Henry can eat through the yards, this is probably not as critical an issue as other teams however it proved to be an issue. Julio Jones, while a big name on paper, was a failure for the Titans in terms of productivity. A.J. Brown had some nice games but was traded to the Eagles on draft night which seemed a bizarre choice for a team like the Titans. Brown publicly said he wanted to remain a Titan, but they were unwilling to pay him. The front office made a nice off-season addition in the form of Robert Woods from Los Angeles and together they would have made a nice tandem of weapons for Ryan Tannehill to wield. However, the Titans are banking that they can get Brown-level productivity from rookie Treylon Burks but realistically I can’t see how they can keep up with the fire-power of their AFC rivals.
The Titans made extra offensive moves in the draft in the form of QB Malik Willis, judged by most as the best QB of the draft class. An excellent value pick in the third round. And the addition of a second WR and a RB, while not moves which stand out on paper, give depth to positions which are one of the Titan’s weakest.
Did the Titans draft and off-season moves drastically shift their position in the league’s power-rankings? I don’t think so. It could be argued that they harmed their own chances by trading away Brown, but they added a good signing in Woods and some added depth with their first-round pick of Burks at WR. The Titans will walk the weak AFC South division and ultimately it will come down to who they face in the playoffs and whether they have the depth and fire-power to take down at least one of the Bills, Chiefs, Bengals or Ravens. Only time will tell.