The arrow is pointing up for the city of Nashville. New faces on both the roster and the coaching staff, new threads and now hosting the 2019 NFL Draft? The Titans 20th season poised to be a memorable one.
The Tennessee Titans continue their evolution as a team with a bright future. It’s amazing what the organization has been able to do throughout the offseason.
It started with a coaching shakeup. Former head coach Mike Mularkey had a hand in developing a locker room culture, but it was clear his offensive scheme was outdated. Mularkey’s reluctance to change cost him his job and momentarily left a Titans team fresh off a divisional round playoff appearance without a coach.
GM Jon Robinson assured the fans that he would find the right guy – the “leader of men” – that could propel this roster to the next level.
During his coaching search, Robinson interviewed a handful of deserving candidates. Moreover, he interviewed both Mike Vrabel and Matt LaFleur for the same position. Vrabel got the nod as many anticipated, but what is interesting is what happened following the Vrabel hire.
Vrabel began filling his coaching vacancies and landed LaFleur as his OC. Robinson essentially landed two prospects he interviewed for the same position on the same staff. Adding an innovative mind like LaFleur will help the offense evolve into a more modern form.
Veteran Dean Pees was then added to the mix. Pees is a seasoned defensive mind who provides the team with stability and will help Vrabel piece together his defensive design the right way. The pieces should fit together perfectly.
In fact, an argument can be made that shows it wouldn’t have worked if roles were reversed. If LaFleur had been hired as the head coach, would Vrabel still be interested in joining the staff? Would the dynamic have been as fluid and the transition as seamless as what we’ve witnessed thus far? Probably not.
Fast forward to free agency. Robinson landed his key targets right out of the gate. Throughout free agency, he continued to make signings here and there. It’s easy to see his focus was on creating the best offensive line throughout camp competition. His goal was to assemble bodies that can execute the new look offense while keeping Marcus Mariota clean.
Robinson’s craftiness continued during the NFL draft. Eying quality over quantity, Robinson kept his ear warm as he spent time wheeling and dealing in order to ensure he landed his targets.
Eerily similar to landing two head coaching candidates on the same coaching staff, Robinson landed two first round caliber draftees in the same class. Both LB Rashaan Evans and EDGE Harold Landry had been popular names circulating many mock drafts. However, Robinson wanted both, and Robinson got both.
With a clear hole at linebacker, Robinson landed an Alabama thumper who can play inside, outside or on the edge. Evans has the potential to be great and will develop into a cornerstone of the Titans’ defense of the future.
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Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are both entering a contract year. The likelihood of bringing one or both back is up in the air. Landry provides insurance and will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after 31 teams passed on acquiring a player that would have been a top 10 selection in 2017.
He rounded out his draft class by nabbing a hybrid S/CB in Dane Cruikshank and added youth to the QB room by selecting QB Luke Falk, who set many records during his collegiate career.
Robinson and company got to work following the draft and kept the phones ringing in the race to sign undrafted FAs. A handful of UDFAs the Titans signed have a legitimate shot to make the final 53.
Training camp will be interesting. It will be a grind with Vrabel at the helm. The team will spend the late summer continuing to evolve.
New coaches. New jerseys. New personnel. This isn’t the same old Titans. Tradition has evolved.
Expectations should evolve as well.