Late last season, the consensus was that the Titans’ weak spot was coaching. It was reasonable: when Tennessee won, it was ugly and against bad teams. The offense was inefficient and very predictable. Even a serious professional, like TE Delanie Walker, said that players had to “overcome coaching” after a late losing streak against the Cards, Niners, and Rams.
Then came Week 17, when the Titans needed a win against the Jags to get a Wild Card spot. The last time TEN got to the playoffs, Jeff Fisher was considered a decent coach. Still, many TEN fans wanted the Titans to lose, thinking that would prompt management to fire head coach Mike Mularkey and his underlings, which blew my mind.
I understand tanking for a high draft position. But rooting for your team to lose a playoff spot in the hope of management firing the coaching staff… That strikes me as joyless entitlement, which is especially deluded coming from TITANS fans—some of whom, I’m sure, had to wrest with the social implications of wearing a Matt Hasselbeck or Zach Mettenberger jersey in public.
For 2018, the Titans had a thorough makeover. They changed uniforms and the “reveal” attracted so many fans that the NFL gave Nashville the 2019 draft. The coaching staff is new: Matt LaFleur, formerly of the Rams, is the new Offensive Coordinator and will be calling plays for the first time. Dean Pees is the new DC; he had retired from Baltimore, but a deal that included having his son on staff sealed the TEN deal. At least that’s what I remember from Titans podcasts, a.k.a. liturgy.
GM Jon Robinson finally had the opportunity to hire his head coach and he chose Mike Vrabel. I hated the pick then because Vrabel struck me as an underqualified meathead who was infamously pimped only by Peter King. In his lone year as coordinator for the Texans, his defense was one of the worst, despite playing the Colts, Jags and Tits twice. The reasoning behind his hiring was interpersonal and organizational skills, not his football ideology. To translate: Vrabel is the GM’s toady, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Robinson made TEN a team worth following for something other than self-loathing yuks.
Now, I admit my judgment on Vrabel is too harsh and mostly founded on my memory of him bro-ing up the screen in the Texans’ “Hard Knocks” a few years back. Besides, I gotta get over the meathead thing, as inclusiveness requires
embracing accepting respecting… OK, the word I’m looking for escapes me, but it’s the thing that’s above “tolerance”, which is the fanciest term for condescending in an “I hate everything you stand for” kinda way. Let’s go with “respect”.
The outlook for the Titans 2018 is “better than last year, I hope”. The offensive line was better two years ago; RT Jack Conklin made All Pro first team as a rookie in 2016 and his play last year did not reach that level. He also tore an ACL against the Pats in the Divisional round, and is currently on the PUP list. LT Taylor Lewan became the highest paid OL in the league.
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Interior dudes LG Quinton Spain, C Ben Jones (a weak ink last year IMO), and RG Josh Kline return. I’m not overly worried about it. Overly.
TEs Delanie Walker is a good mid-round Fantasy pick, and his sub, 2nd year Jonnu Smith, may get 2-4 targets per game. Receivers are the big IF this season. Last year’s 5th pick, Corey Davis, looked great against the Pats with 2 TD catches, but was either injured or without many targets for most of the season. 3rd year receiver Tajae Sharpe turned heads in the preseason of his rookie year and had a good first half of the season TWO YEARS AGO. He did not play last season due to injury. Taywan Taylor is in his second season and he showed speed last year, but not much on the stat sheets. Rishard Matthews was a dependable receiver last year but has yet to practice so far in 2018. This group is very concerning.
I’m bullish on the running backs, though. DeMarco Murray retired after an ineffective 2017, which you knew was coming because he had 900 touches in 2016. So now Derrick Henry is top dog and the Titans picked up Dion Lewis from New England.
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I’ll take that duo over any.
On the defense, the Titans drafted Rashaard Evans (Alabama) in the first round and LB Harold Landry in the second round. All the press I read raved about both guys; we’ll see. Evans I remember because he was listed as “Edge”, which I gather is lingo for “pass rusher”. (Right?) Anyway, Evans hasn’t been practicing because who the fuck knows.
Actually, that’s a bona fide bone to pick with Vrabel. The coach has made a point of incorporating the silent treatment regarding injuries. I fail to see any competitive advantage stemming from that crap, especially during the preseason. I dunno; it rubs me as an ego trip just to mess with reporters.
Anyway, Evans and Landry are welcome additions. The defense last year had a healthy amount of hurries, but few sacks. LBs Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan were not the wrecking crew of two seasons ago, but LB Wesley Woodyard played like a beast. 2nd round LB Kevin Dodd is out, the sole drafting mistake attributed to GM Robinson.
The front line of DaQuan Jones, Bennie Logan and Jurrell Casey is decent to great, but the D’s strength is the secondary.
The Titans picked up CB Malcolm Butler from the Pats, and the unit also includes Logan Ryan and 2nd year Adoree’ Jackson (who became a force last year after being thrown to constantly in the first games). TEN also took Arizona CB Dane Cruikshank in the 5th round, but has not been practicing due to an “undisclosed injury”. Another cornerback, Tye Smith was a good addition last year, but is currently injured. I’ll update on both guys’ condition after my daughter does a Tarot reading. At safety, Kevin Byard is an All Pro, but his partner Jonathan Cyprien is out for the season. Cyp was the one who knocked out Travis Kelce from the game last year in the Wild Card at KC, but the Titans signed Kenny Vaccaro.
And finally, there’s the QBs. Great news everyone! Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden are off the team, and the only thing that would make me happier is if the team signed Colin Kaepernick. Instead, TEN has Blaine Gabbert and drafted Washington State’s Luke Falk. Damn cowards. Top dog is Marcus Mariota, of course. He started 17 games last year, playing hurt in a specially wretched stretch in midseason that included a 12-9 overtime win in Cleveland. His stats were not showy, but he was indomitable at the end of the year. My only hope for this season is that he does not have to overcome his coaching, nor be required to catch his own TD passes.
Predicción: The AFC South becomes the NFL’s best division, the Titans make the playoffs, and sniffing glue makes a huge comeback.
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