Five Reasons the Titans Meet Expectations/Five Reasons the Titans do not Meet Expectations
National hype for the 2017 Tennessee Titans seems unnatural – well, at least to Titans fans like myself. It’s something I’m not used to. This team hasn’t received this kind of attention in decades. Expectations of the team being a contender go as far back as the late great Steve McNair-led team.
What about the 2008 Titans? Smash and Dash?
Yes, that team was good, but nobody predicted the 2008 Titans would accomplish what they did. That was unexpected. For people like me who have followed the team, even I was caught off guard by how the Titans exceeded season expectations. The following season the Titans were expected to have another great run. They did the exact opposite.
But this season? This season is different. This year the team is supposed to be good. Tennessee has the team to do it, and most of the national media is aware of that. They have been projected to go 12-4. They have been ranked 3rd most talented roster. Multiple analysts are projecting this Titans team to win the AFC South. It’s surreal.
Can the 2017 Tennessee Titans meet expectations?
5 Reasons the Titans Meet or Exceed Expectations
The Passing Game Explodes
Mariota has an arsenal to work with. If his targets have reliable hands and produce big gains, this Titans offense could be one of the league’s best. In the red zone, there should be no reason the Titans do not put up touchdowns with an endless supply of end zone money targets Davis, Decker, Delanie Walker, Rishard Matthews, DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, etc. Too much firepower for defenses to contain if production matches the hype. Mariota already has proven to be red hot in the red zone. With more tools at his disposal, he will be even deadlier.
The Offensive Line Remains One of the Best
Consistency is the key to progress. An offensive line I’ve nicknamed “Grimm’s Reapers” has the talent to be at the top of the list of best offensive lines in the NFL. Hall of Famer Russ Grimm will remind this team that last year is the past, and they will have to prove their legitimacy in 2017. If this group, led by bookend tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan can duplicate – or even improve – on what they did last season, a division title and a deep playoff run are attainable. If they protect Mariota, open gaping holes for the running game, and help the offense push the ball down field – things could get dangerous.
For the Titans, that’s a good thing.
Secondary Contains the Pass
Free Agent signings Logan Ryan and Johnathan Cyprien must prove they were worth the price. Dick LeBeau will concoct a scheme that will highlight what these players do best and mask the discrepancies of areas they struggle. LeBeau will also have speedy Jackson to play with and will put him in spots that increase the chances of the football winding up in his hands. Jackson is dangerous with the ball in his hands and has a knack for finding the end zone. Returning players like LeShaun Sims and Kevin Byard must match and improve on last year’s production. A productive secondary – which many consider the weakest link of this team – would mean the team is more well-rounded than projected to be.
Davis Proves Worthy of Top 5 Pick
Davis doesn’t have to be Julio Jones in year one. In fact, in Julio’s rookie season, he did well – but his bigger statistical season came in the years that followed. If Davis shows flashes of being a big-time playmaker, the Titans will be in business. A legit number one receiver that defenses must show respect for will open up – not only the running game – but also, will create opportunities for fellow pass catchers on the team. Where he will make his money will be in his YAC (yards after catch). Davis with the ball in his hands is like Super Mario getting a Starman. His acceleration floors and his athleticism combined with his physicality allows him to weave between defenders.
Dodd Overcomes Injury Concerns
Reports on Dodd’s recovery have been positive thus far. If he can come in and get to the opposing QB, he’ll prove he’s not a bust. The Titans will benefit from the production of their first pick of the 2nd round in 2016. He did have his moments last season and managed to get a few sacks. The Titans want to see the disruptive Dodd that played in the National Championship. If they get that guy, it will help the defensive line put more pressure on the QBs, which will help the secondary production naturally. A healthy Dodd can be productive – and would sure up the depth at the Linebacker position.
5 Reasons the Titans Do Not Meet Expectations
If Marcus Mariota cannot overcome his injury, things could be shaky. Depending on how Mariota is utilized offensively will dictate his production. If mental cobwebs of the injury linger, he could play timid and less decisive. Playing hesitant could lead to lapses in judgment resulting in costly turnovers. It could also put him in a position of being injured again. Mariota is most dangerous because he can beat you with his arm or his legs. Well, fortunately for his sake, he has new toys in the receiving corps that will take pressure off of him having to make plays with his feet. The overall offensive flow has to be steady – and if Mariota lacks confidence in his leg, it could mean trouble and a disruption to the fluidity of the offense.
Adoree’ Jackson Struggles
Adoree’ Jackson will be put to the test in the NFL beginning Week 1. He’ll face the likes of WR Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. If Jackson struggles big, it could affect his confidence moving forward. The Titans are counting on him to be effective in containing the pass. Jackson has a tough task ahead of him – and it starts in the season opener. The road will not get easier for the remainder of the season. Jackson will have to adapt quickly or many will question Tennessee’s selection of him 18th overall – especially if other draftee cornerbacks taken below him are showing out.
Injury to Position Lacking Depth
Outside of the running back stable and wide receiver group, the Titans are not very deep at other areas. Edge is somewhat of a concern as there are questions about who will step up if an injury to Brian Orakpo or Derrick Morgan occurs. The interior offensive line is also lacking some depth. The Titans signed Tim Lelito and drafted Corey Levin who can help address a need in the middle. If their production will keep the offensive line from imploding remains a question. Quarterback depth is an area of major concern. If Mariota goes down, it’s unlikely Matt Cassel or Alex Tanney can have this offense functioning like it should.
Can’t Win Division Games
The Colts streak must be broken this season for the Titans to be taken seriously. They need to prove to themselves they can beat Luck. They have a strong chance this season with Luck coming back from injury. However, if the streak continues on a nationally televised prime time game, the Titans will have some questioning the hype. Beating the Texans and Jaguars is never easy – as the teams usually split. The Titans need to go for the throat in the division. If they can’t, it could be the difference in making the post season.
Receivers Struggle to Produce
The infusion of talent to the receiving corps this offseason is part of the reason many are buying into what the team is selling. But the season hasn’t started yet, and Corey Davis remains unsigned. If contract dispute causes him to miss time, it could set his development back and have him head into the season bitter. Eric Decker must prove he can be productive following injury. If signs of the injury show early, it could be a big problem.
Setting my homerism aside – I genuinely believe the 2017 Titans will meet expectations. They will be just about as good – if not better – than they are projected to be. The Titans will breathe new life into the fan base. A rejuvenated fan base – in turn – will provide an energy the team will feed on compared to what they’ve had in the past few seasons.
Ceiling is 14-2. Floor is 10-6.
Either way, I believe either record punches their ticket into the post season.
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