Are these the most important questions about the Tennessee Titans?
Are these three questions the most important ones as the Tennessee Titans head into a year in which they are expected to deliver?
Training camp for the Tennessee Titans is almost here. In just 11 days, players will report to the team, practices will begin and games will start being played soon. Sit tight, Titans fans, your patience will soon pay off.
Until then, though, we must deal in hypotheticals. The dead period of the summer before football starts is a painful one filled with unrelenting analysis, lofty predictions and warranted and unwarranted puff pieces about players. The good news is that there is analysis about the Titans everywhere, and we can piggyback off what others are saying, in a good or bad way.
So let’s do just that. Jordan Schultz of Yahoo! Sports has been going through team previews before training camp starts up, and he recently made his way to the Titans. Schultz has three questions about the team. Let’s answer his questions and come up with some of our own.
Question #1: Will Marcus Mariota be healthy and take another step?
The first part of this question is unanswerable. If we’re talking about being healthy for the start of training camp and the season, then Mariota will be fine. If Schultz is referring to Mariota staying healthy for a full 16 games, then we just can’t know. Football is a violent, dangerous sport where any one player is at risk of getting injured on any one play. Mariota’s injuries haven’t been chronic; rather, they’ve been a result of trauma from hits. One poorly place helmet and any player’s entire season can go up in flames. No one is safe in this sport, but it sure would be nice to see Mariota be fully healthy for a whole season after his first two were cut short.
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As for Mariota taking another step, there is virtually no reason to believe that he won’t. He made massive strides in his development over the course of last season, his legend is at an all-time high and the Titans have added a bevy of weapons for him to work with. Mariota is entering the point in a quarterback’s career where they usually start to figure it all out. Aided by a lot of talent at running back, wide receiver, tight end and along the offensive line, the Flyin’ Hawaiian is ready to soar in his third year in Nashville.
Question #2: Are the receivers good enough?
Yes. Not to be too brief or condescending, but the Titans have added a lot of talent at receiver this offseason. Fifth overall pick Corey Davis is a star in the making, with just the stigma of a previous ankle injury holding back expectations for him this season. Third round rookie Taywan Taylor has been drawing rave reviews over the offseason from Titans players and coaches. Late free agent signing Eric Decker has been one of the most underrated receivers in all of football over the last six seasons and is just two years removed from a 1,000 yard, 12 touchdown season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback.
The Titans got by, and were a very good offense, with Rishard Matthews as their No. 1 receiver in 2016. Matthews will now be able to draw favorable matchups as the No. 2 or 3 receiver and dominate his singular opponents. Their other receivers last season, Tajae Sharpe, Kendall Wright (left to Chicago) and Harry Douglas, won’t be seeing much action because the team got way better at the position. The Titans may not have the best receiving corps in the league, but they’ll be in the upper half of the league after being a bottom five unit just one year ago.
Question #3: What is the split between DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry?
This is a question that will be asked a lot, but it’s already been tentatively answered by head coach Mike Mularkey and Titans Online senior editor Jim Wyatt. Murray is going to be the workhorse once again, and he’s earned that right after a resurgent first season in Tennessee. Henry had an impressive rookie year, but will have to wait for his turn to be the main guy. Henry got 110 carries to Murray’s 293 last season. I expect Henry to get around 130-140 this season, with Murray at around 280.
While this question is a fun one, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily an important one for the team. Whichever running back they put behind or next to Mariota, they will be effective due to an efficient offensive scheme and a top 3 offensive line blocking for them.
New Question: Will the secondary be improved enough to make this a playoff team?
I believe this is a more important question, mainly because it deals with the side of the ball that was littered with question marks heading into the offseason. Yahoo! focused on the offensive side of the ball, which is fine, but if the Titans want to be a playoff team, then the defense needs to play better than last season. The secondary’s struggles in 2016 were well documented and were a big reason for the team narrowly missing out on their first playoff appearance since 2008.
Though the team has made additions to the unit in the form of Logan Ryan, Johnathan Cyprien and Adoree’ Jackson, growing pains are expected. Defenses take time to gel together and play solidly as a unit, but last season’s defense didn’t leave big shoes to fill. If the secondary can get a few stops on third down and pick off a pass every now and then, they’ll be an improvement on last year’s unit. They just need to keep the score relatively low so that the Titans’ efficient offense can do its job. Three new secondary players is a step in the right direction.