Through eight games, let’s examine how the Tennessee Titans’ offseason acquisitions have fared and look to the second half of the season.
Entering the 2017 season, the Tennessee Titans were considered by many to be a playoff contender after a bevy of acquisitions through the draft and free agency. In the lead for the AFC South heading into Week 10, the Titans may not have been as dominant as some predicted, but they have routinely found ways to win games and are currently on a lengthy winning streak. Today, I will attempt to grade the performances of important offseason additions through the first half of the season and look ahead to the latter half of the year.
2017 NFL Draft Acquisitions
The Titans spent a top five pick on the young Western Michigan wide receiver in hopes that he would take their passing attack to another level and provide Mariota with a true No. 1 wide receiver on the outside. Looking at Davis’ performance in college, it’s easy to see why the Titans made him the No. 5 overall selection in 2017. His speed, strength, body control, and route-running give him all the prerequisites to be a dominant outside receiver in the NFL. That said, Davis has experienced some injury struggles early in his career and has only received significant playing time in two regular season contests. He has made some impressive sideline catches during those two games, but just like Johnathan Cyprien, his sample size is simply too small at this point to grade.
Smith was selected by Tennessee in the third round of the draft to be the heir apparent to TE Delanie Walker. Smith drew several comparisons to Walker coming out of college due to his speed, route-running, and receiving ability. However, Smith’s run-blocking continues to improve with time in the Titans’ run-heavy attack. Smith hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunities behind Walker, but he has illustrated playmaking ability through the first half of the season with 107 yards and two touchdowns. Walker has been hurt recently, which could lead to more opportunities for Smith in the latter half of the season.
The Titans’ fifth round rookie has been a big surprise so far this season. Coming out of UCLA, draft experts lauded Brown’s coverage abilities at linebacker, but were worried that his lack of size and strength would hinder his ability to make tackles. The Titans were always going to have a place for a rotational coverage linebacker heading into this season, but Brown has exceeded expectations by demonstrating the ability to make tackles in the NFL while maintaining his pass coverage abilities. As a rotational defender, Brown is on pace for 54 tackles and 6 passes defended. The Titans may have found an important building block for the future in the fifth round.
Carraway, the team’s 7th round pick, was bound to be a project pick. He displayed elite speed and athleticism off the age, but needed to improve his technique and functional speed. Most recently, Carraway was added to the practice squad. This addition is tough to grade since he was always going to take some time before he made an impact. Maybe in a couple of years this selection will look genius, but if it doesn’t pan out, this move won’t look much worse than it does now.
Jackson has shown steady improvement through the first half of the season. He has grown from a liability in coverage who was picked on in Week 1 by Derek Carr to a steady presence in the secondary who has proved himself against some of the league’s best, such as T.Y. Hilton. Against lesser opponents in the last few weeks, Jackson has been shutting down lesser receivers as he grows even more comfortable. Jackson is also a very willing tackler and uses his speed and athleticism to make plays in the run game.
On special teams, Jackson has been electric returning punts. He had one touchdown called back earlier in the year, but he is bound to break one in the latter half of the year. Jackson was even used on offense to great success last Sunday. Jackson certainly seems to be trending up entering the latter half of the season and could be a breakout player heading into the playoffs.
Offensive lineman Corey Levin was selected out of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in the sixth round. His ability to play in multiple spots combined with his size and strength make him an intriguing prospect to occupy the swing tackle position that Dennis Kelly currently occupies. Unfortunately for Levin, the Titans boast one of the league’s best offensive lines and he has been unable to crack the lineup. That was to be expected, however, when the team drafted him.
After being selected in the seventh round out of UCLA, Titans fans were quite eager to see how the lightning-speed of Muhammad would counterbalance the bruising power of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. However, Muhammad simply couldn’t do enough to stick with the roster after training camp. The Titans have used other rookies (Jackson and Taywan Taylor) to add speed to the Tennessee backfield with great success. The idea in drafting Muhammad was sound. Unfortunately, Muhammad’s play simply did not warrant a roster spot.
The team’s other third round pick out of WKU has quickly become a fan favorite through the first half of the season. Taylor’s speed and quickness have made him a weapon out of the slot and an important gadget player for the “exotic smashmouth” rushing attack. Taylor’s usage as a do-it-all Swiss army knife in the offense adds another wrinkle to the passing and rushing attacks. Taylor will continue to grow as a receiver and should find even more space with the return of Davis occupying opposing defenses. Should Terry Robiskie continue to give Taylor his touches each game, he will continue to generate explosive plays.
Seaton is another late round offensive lineman, like Levin, who was selected in the 2017 draft by Tennessee. Unlike Levin, Seaton is no longer on the team after he did not make the final roster. The seventh round is a time to find priority free agents, so it’s hard to fault the front office too much with this pick, but any acquisition that didn’t make it through the regular season must be considered a failure.