Examining the Tennessee Titans’ 2018 schedule, starting with their Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
Now that most rosters are largely set in stone following free agency and the draft, we can finally begin to look ahead to next season and gauge how the Tennessee Titans’ roster will match up with opponents, as well as start to put together a rough estimate for wins and losses. With little to no news coming out of training camps this time of year except for notable absences, this marks a great time to preview how each team the Titans will face has changed over the offseason and whether that team is trending up or down in 2018.
I hope to look ahead to each game the Titans play this season in 16 installments that move through the schedule on a week-by-week basis. Obviously, it is impossible to accurately predict how each team will actually look when the Titans face them next season, but this exercise should help fans to keep up with how opponents have performed recently and how the offseason has shaped their rosters, which will make it far easier to keep up with not only the Titans, but also the league as a whole. Now, let’s look at Tennessee’s Week 1 matchup: the Miami Dolphins.
After Miami snuck into the playoffs in 2016 as a Wild Card with a 10-6 record, Dolphins fans were cautiously optimistic as the Adam Gave era appeared promising and Ryan Tannehill finally seemed to be figuring it out as a passer. Only a year later, it is worth considering if Gase has the ability to control his locker room and lead a team. Nobody doubts his capacity to understand the game of football or create and run an effective offense, but some coaches simply aren’t able or aren’t ready to handle everything that is required of a head coach.
Gase led the team to a 6-10 season, which could be considered admirable after his franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending ACL injury before the season, but an already underachieving team felt the need to trade some of its biggest stars to “change the locker room culture“. Jay Ajayi was the first player on the chopping block halfway through the season even though he was the biggest offensive catalyst for the Dolphins. This left most of the heavy lifting to Jay Cutler, who was coaxed out of retirement by Gase after Tannehill’s injury. Results were as you might expect: the 25th scoring offense led by Cutler got no help from the 29th scoring defense and they certainly weren’t winning any shootouts, which led to a thoroughly mediocre season on both sides of the ball.
The mass exodus of talent continued with some of Miami’s biggest stars such as Mike Pouncey, Ndamukong Suh, and Jarvis Landry leaving or getting sent off to greener pastures. These talented, albeit troublesome stars were replaced with players like Frank Gore and Danny Amendola who may be more professional and obedient, but are certainly a significant downgrade in talent. One of the most important parts of succeeding as a head coach is handling different personalities and controlling an entire roster of players in pursuit of one common goal. Whether Gase can improve in this regard will be the key to his ability to keep his job after this season.
The 2018 draft class did little to fill existing and new holes heading into the 2018 season and looks as though it will pay more dividends in the future rather than this season. The immediate contributors from the draft look to be day one steal Minkah Fitzpatrick at Safety, a freak athlete at TE in Mike Gesicki, an athletic, but raw OLB in Jerome Baker, and a rotational running back prospect in Kallen Ballage. Miami prioritized athleticism and upside in the 2018 draft, which is more of a long-term approach. This combined with the unwillingness or inability to tenure some of their biggest stars points to a front office that is beginning a rebuild or at least reload.
Last season, the Titans did play against the Miami Dolphins in a 16-10 Week 5 loss that was one of the team’s worst performances of the season. The offense was at its blandest with Matt Cassel after Mariota went down and DeMarco Murray led the team with a pedestrian 58 yards. This was the game that started raising questions about Mularkey, Robiskie, and staff. Even when Jay Ajayi was bottled up for most of the day, the offense could not put up enough points to pull out a win for their defense.
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With the old coaching staff, DeMarco Murray, and Matt Cassel shouldering most of the blame for last season’s loss, not much can be gleaned from the game heading into 2018 as all of these pieces were shown the door. Simply put, this is a must-win game for the Titans if they are to be seriously considered contenders next season. The Dolphins have lost a ton of talent and Tennessee has only gotten stronger with a new coaching staff and big-ticket free agents on board for 2018.
Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis should gouge a front that now lacks one of the game’s premier defensive linemen in Ndamukong Suh. An elite secondary unit including Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson, Logan Ryan, and Kevin Byard should shut down a receiving corps that already lost Jarvis Landry. Furthermore, the passing game will not have the threat of Jay Ajayi in the backfield commanding the respect of Dean Pees and the Titans defense. A poor secondary that only added Minkah Fitzpatrick should be easy pickings for QB Marcus Mariota as he looks to make a statement after suffering a ton of criticism last season.
If the Titans play up to their talent level this season under a new coaching staff, they must be able to defeat middling teams like the Miami Dolphins.
Predicted Outcome: Win
Current Predicted Record (Updated Each Installment): 1-0