Titans vs. Panthers: What’s different since last meeting in 2015?

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Delanie Walker
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Delanie Walker /
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Tennessee Titans quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.
Tennessee Titans quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. /

Where The Titans Are Now

While the Panthers have seen some regression, the Titans have been a team on the rise since their 2015 season. Tennessee will enter the game against Carolina with a 4-4 record, and while the team looks different, a lot of the problems that plagued the team four years ago are still issues this season.

The Titans offense has struggled this season, ranking 26th in points per game and 27th in yards per game. Mariota is still with the team but has been playing backup to offseason acquisition Ryan Tannehill since getting benched in a Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos.

Tannehill has been able to put points on the board with more consistency than Mariota and has been taking better advantage of the Titans’ talented skill position players.

The Titans have improved from the days of Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham, and now have a talented array of pass-catchers on the team. Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and rookie A.J. Brown have all flashed their talent this season, but haven’t been given much of an opportunity to shine due to inconsistent quarterback play.

Much like in 2015, the defense has been the Titans’ strongest group, and the unit has improved a great deal in those four years. Sensabaugh and Cox have both left the team, as have Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. While the Titans haven’t been able to rush the passer with as much success since Orakpo and Morgan’s 2015 season, the secondary has improved a great deal with players like Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, and Kevin Byard all playing at a high level.

Even with all the talent in the secondary, the heart of the Titans defense lies in their strong linebacker group, led by Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans. Both players are top five on the team in tackles, with Evans leading the way at 67 tackles through eight games. Brown has been terrific in pass coverage as well, as he has six defended passes on the year, tied for the third-most on the team.

The coaching inconsistency that plagued the Titans in 2015 has followed them through the years as well. Mularkey was retained by Tennessee after the 2015 season but was let go after a 2017 year which saw the Titans make their first playoff appearance since 2008. To replace him, Tennessee brought in first-year head coach Mike Vrabel.

Vrabel brought with him an offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur, and a defensive coordinator in Dean Pees. While Vrabel and Pees stuck with the team after a 9-7 season, LaFleur left for a head coaching job in Green Bay after just one year with the Titans.

Replacing Lafleur is first-time offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Smith has been on the Titans staff since 2011, beginning as a defensive quality control coach before climbing his way up the ranks through multiple years and various coaching staffs.

Under Smith, the offense hasn’t looked like the unit they should be with their talent at the skill positions. Regardless, this is a team and roster that has grown significantly since the 2015 season.

Tennessee will be going into their game against the Panthers as a team that has developed into a playoff contender. Both teams have undergone major changes, but the Titans have been trending in the right direction in the four years since these two teams last met.