Coming into this 2021 season, the Tennessee Titans have lofty expectations to do something magical this season. With the all-in approach General Manager Jon Robinson has given off, anything short of a deep playoff run could be considered as a disappointment for Titans fans.
That being said, with how much this team has changed particularly on defense, are the Tennessee Titans being underrated or overrated when discussing them not only locally, but nationally? The answer may surprise you.
Are the Tennessee Titans underrated or overrated leading into 2021?
Let’s start from a local perspective. Locally the majority of Titans fans and Nashville media have this team finishing as AFC South Champions with the expectations to have a considerable playoff run that could end in an appearance in Super Bowl LVI.
The belief is that the offense shouldn’t miss a beat, even with the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Theories point to the fact that this unit should be more explosive with the addition of Julio Jones.
Defensively, many have the assumption that the defense will improve simply based upon turnover in the secondary and the fact that Jon Robinson spent big money on free agents Bud Dupree and Denico Autry to help fix the pass rush.
Still, this team has to show it can defeat more well-rounded teams like Kansas City, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Cleveland come playoff time. All things considered, the Tennessee Titans may be a bit overrated locally, especially due to the hype this offense received ever since the acquisition of Julio Jones.
How are the Tennessee Titans viewed nationally? From a national perspective, ever since the trade for Julio Jones, the Tennessee Titans have received perhaps the most TV time they have ever received leading into a season.
Many NFL analysts now have them as the heavy favorite to win the AFC South, especially with the injuries to quarterback Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts.
There are those, however, who point to the ineptitude of the defense, after watching how dreadful they were in 2020. In an article for The 33rd Team, former Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive, Joe Banner, is one who doesn’t buy into the hype of this team for 2021. He points to concerns with cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Caleb Farley, and outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
"Their defense is okay but they need to generate pressure at a higher clip, and they need to do a better job in coverage. In the first round of this year’s draft, they selected Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech, who is a compelling prospect but has had multiple back surgeries already and has not shown he can survive the rigors of an NFL season. On the other side, they added Janoris Jenkins after he was let go by New Orleans with two years left under contract. He also turns 33 next season and has had some injury concerns in recent years. I do like Kevin Byard in the back-end and he has stayed healthy, but he needs to continue to produce like some of the league’s other top safeties."
Banner also references the high price tag that was paid for Bud Dupree and that the defense needs to generate pressure at a higher clip. He also states the defensive line lacks a difference-maker. Offensively, Banner has questions as well. He alludes to potential issues at OL, and concerns with superstar skill players Derrick Henry and Julio Jones.
Banner goes into his skepticism on both Derrick Henry and Julio Jones, and how the 2021 season could play out for them.
"Tennessee’s weapons are intriguing to me, but I also am not praising them like some people around the league are. Derrick Henry is clearly a difference-making player but he has led the league in rushing attempts the past two seasons with 681 carries…I would have advised against trading a second- and fourth-round pick for Julio Jones. People that are still talking about him as a top five receiver in the league are mistaken. As I noted before the trade, I still think Jones is a solid player and an above-average route runner. He just is not the same player he was earlier in his career and he has major injury concerns, specifically an ankle that is not expected to ever reach 100% again."
While Banner has his concerns with the Tennessee Titans and their ability to live up to the expectations many have put on them, many national analysts have them hyped to the point of contending for Super Bowl LVI. Because of that, they are also being overrated nationally, until their defense can show they’ve completely turned things around.
Also, no one should rule out the possibility that quarterback Ryan Tannehill regresses this season. The connection he had with Arthur Smith was evident, and Smith’s quality play calling will surely be missed.
For this team to live up to lofty expectations and get where they want to go as a franchise, Ryan Tannehill must show that he can carry the offense when opposing teams take away Derrick Henry and the run game, especially come playoff time.