The Tennessee Titan’s 2016 season ended on a sour note as a week 16 loss to the divisional rival, Jacksonville Jaguars, continued the playoff drought for the franchise. Heading into the 2017 season, the Titans must answer a few questions in order to end the eight year drought.
Tennessee Titans Biggest Questions Heading Into 2017
1. Can DeMarco Murray do it again?
During the 2016 campaign, DeMarco Murray showed a running ability that fans hadn’t seen since his final season in Dallas. The Cowboys felt the need for Murray was not large enough to compensate his large contract. So their rival, Philadelphia Eagles, picked him up in free agency. However, Murray showed no sign of the former All-Pro running back. In the summer of 2016, the Titans convinced Murray that Tennessee was the best fit for his style of play. During the 2016 season, Murray returned to the All-Pro form that he had been two years prior. Carrying the ball for Tennessee, Murray compiled nearly 1,300 yards and 13 total touchdowns. The big question that faces the 29-year-old back is can he continue what he started last year or was it a one hit wonder for the Tennessee Titans?
Murray has a young, talented partner in Derrick Henry that could help take some of the workload. As Henry continues to see an increase in carries, Murray will have a fresh pair of legs each time he touches the ball. His touches may decrease slightly but his impact should be the same, if not larger, compared to last year. Fans should expect to see another season of all-pro Demarco Murray in Tennessee’s backfield in 2017.
2. Will Marcus Mariota continue to improve and stay healthy?
Since being drafted in 2015, Mariota’s numbers have improved in each of his two seasons. During his rookie campaign, Mariota accrued 2,800 yards, 19 passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns to claw the Titans to a dismal 3-13 record. He followed up his rookie year with a solid sophomore season as he racked up 3,400 yards to go along with 28 total touchdowns as the team ended with a much improved 9-7 record. The only bump over the past two seasons in the NFL has been his history of knee injuries. A sprained MCL caused Mariota to sit a few games during 2015 and a torn right MCL forced him to miss the season finale in 2016. With Mariota’s ability to improvise and run the ball, avoiding serious contact will be key to staying healthy. In 2017, will we see Marcus Mariota stay healthy and continue improving?
Tennessee has done everything they could to build the offense around Mariota from bringing in an All-Pro running back to building one of the best o-lines in the league. With a talented group of receivers including Corey Davis along with a returning offensive line and backfield, we should expect to see Mariota stay healthy and put up Pro Bowl numbers as he tries to lead the Titans to their first playoff appearance since 2008.
3. What are the biggest concerns for 2017?
Over the past two seasons, we have seen the Tennessee Titans drastically improve. However, every season there is a few things that keep the Titans out of the playoffs. This year will be no different than others, the only question is how will Tennessee respond to these issues? Looking into 2017, the Titan’s are trying to figure out who will step up on the defensive side of the ball. Of course Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan will continue to be playmakers, but they can’t stop opposing offenses on their own. Aside from those three, the next highest 2016 sack total was just three which belonged to linebacker Sean Spence. Spence left to join the Indianapolis Colts during the offseason leaving a big void in an already unimpressive position.
So who will step up in Tennessee’s front seven? Will it be Kevin Dodd, who had disappointed his first season in the league? Will it be veteran Karl Klug, who only has 20 sacks in his first 6 season with the Titans? Or will it be one of the four rookies the Titans currently have on their roster? Whoever it is, the Tennessee Titans 2017 record could hinder on their performance.