Five Reasons to jump on the Tennessee Titans bandwagon as soon as possible
Marcus Mariota is here to stay
When Marcus Mariota was coming out of Oregon to the NFL in 2015, all the talk was focused around him and then Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Considered the top two players in the draft, Mariota and Winston each had their fair share of accomplishments at the collegiate level. Both were Heisman Trophy winners, and each had led their respective teams to the National Championship game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up selecting the big bodied Winston first overall, leaving Tennessee to take Mariota. Mariota’s skillset going into his rookie year was very clean and polished, a rarity for a rookie quarterback. In college, he was awarded nearly every award that a quarterback could win. In his rookie year, Mariota was hot and cold, finishing with 2800 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, appearing in 12 games.
Mariota took a step forward this past season, throwing for nearly 3500 yards and 26 touchdowns. He continues to improve, something that bandwagon fans will love to see. He is also multidimensional, rushing for over 600 yards and four touchdowns since coming into the league. His speed and running ability opens up a new world for Tennessee’s offensive attack.
Mariota is a great story and a great person. Originally from Hawaii, he is tied closely with his roots, is very well spoken and considers his family more important than everything else. It is easy to root for a good person and Mariota definitely checks that box.
2. The Impressive Rushing Attack
Tennessee’s rushing game used to be headlined by speed demon Chris Johnson. Nicknamed “CJ2K” after rushing for over 2000 yards in a season. Johnson left Tennessee after the 2013 season, leaving big shoes to fill. They struggled through 2014 with Bishop Sankey as their lead rusher, going for 569 yards. In 2015, their best rusher was Antonio Andrew with 520 yards.
With running back an obvious priority, the Titans went out and traded for former rushing champ DeMarco Murray in the 2016 off-season. They also drafted Alabama’s Heisman winner Derrick Henry in the second round of the 2015 draft.
These moves paid off last year, as the Titans went from just under 1500 yards as a team in 2015 to almost 2200 yards in 2016. The jump was due largely because of Murray, as he ran for nearly 1300 yards. Henry added nearly 500 yards.
Murray is fun to watch as a runner. If proof is needed, fans would just have to look up his high flying flip into the endzone against the Vikings this past season.
Henry meanwhile, is a big bruising back who stands at 6’3″ and 238 pounds. For comparison, Adrian Peterson is 6’1″ and 217 pounds. Henry uses his size to his advantage, running over people with ease. He isn’t just a big goal line back though. Henry ran a 4.54 40-yard-dash, incredibly quick for a guy his size. Henry sat behind Murray for the most part last season, but he should have an increased role this season.
With this thunder and lightning combination, Tennessee should again have one of the league’s top rushing attacks this year.
3. Exciting Weapons on the Outside
A big part of Mariota’s struggles in 2015 was the little help he had from his receivers. Besides tight end Delanie Walker, there were few options for Mariota to go to. In 2016, Tennessee brought in receiver Rishard Matthews, but the receiving core was still pretty weak.
Since the end of 2016, the Titans have gone to work. They retained Walker and Matthews and brought in Western Michigan standout Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick in the draft. Davis was one of the more exciting players to watch in college football a year ago, and will look to carry that over to the professional level.
Sophomore Tajae Sharpe will look to build on a strong rookie season as well.
The addition of Davis was their biggest add however. Standing at 6’2, 205 pounds, Davis is a big body who can go up and win many of the jump balls that Mariota will throw up.
His NFL.com draft report said that he was a “Touchdown juggernaut who was a four-year model of production and consistency in college” and that he “has the route-running and ball skills to become a starter in the league, but it is his competitiveness and production in the red-zone that should make him a good one.” The Titans need Davis to be great to really spark the receiving core that was 25th in the league in yards last season.
They also drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson from USC who will be talked about more later on. The thing about Jackson is that he can also play receiver and is a big play waiting to happen.
4. Weak Division = Better Playoff Chances
The Titans play in a division that has been won by a team with nine wins the last two seasons, the AFC south. Clearly weak, Tennessee can take full advantage.
The previous division winner, the Houston Texans, will most likely have a rookie quarterback in Deshaun Watson starting next season. The Indianapolis Colts have one of the worst defenses in the league statistically, even if they did improve through the draft. Then there is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They improved tremendously in free agency and the draft and will surprise a lot of people this season if Blake Bortles can play even half decently.
If the Titans are able to split games with the Jaguars, Colts and Texans, they would need to win seven out of their other 10 games to realistically win the division. While 10 wins is usually worthy of a wild card spot, in the weakest division in football, it may just be enough to get Tennesee playing in January.
5. Up and coming defense led by one of the NFL great coaches
Dick Lebeau is known for his defensive genius in Pittsburgh, and he brings his talents to the country music capital of the world. He has been in Tennessee for one season and there have already been improvements.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo is one of the most underrated rushers in football and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is very solid as well. The aforementioned Jackson joins a secondary in the middle of a rebuild. They also brought in hard hitting safety Johnathan Cyprien in free agency. The former Jaguar is known for his violent hitting and his ball skills. He amassed over 300 tackles in just four seasons with Jacksonville. He was one of the more underrated signings in free agency this off-season; but could prove a big upgrade on this defense.