The 2019 NFL season seems like it will be one of the most competitive in a long time. While some teams, like the Patriots and Saints, are still heavy favorites to win their respective divisions, the race for the playoffs looks to be a tough one overall. There are a few teams in particular who have quietly improved over this past offseason. Although these teams did not make the playoffs this past season and will still likely struggle to make the playoffs this season, they’ve placed themselves in a much better position to have a chance. The 2019 Tennessee Titans are in position to be one of these teams in the upcoming season
Under-the-Radar Risers 2019: Tennessee Titans
2018 Record: 9-7
For some reason, the Titans are a team that make you want to root for them, maybe because they’re always so close to being great without quite getting there. This season, the Titans have the chance and necessary pieces to become great. Last season, they were lacking in two areas: wide receivers and pass rush. This season, both of those can change.
The Titans brought in Adam Humphries, who’s reportedly been turning heads in camp, and drafted A.J. Brown, the number one receiver from a loaded Ole Miss receiver room. They already had a rising star in Corey Davis. All indications from camp point to another productive season from him as well as Tajae Sharpe. Kalif Raymond is emerging as the likely number five receiver, giving Marcus Mariota a full arsenal to work with this season. Considering Mariota’s rookie contract expires after this season, he should be motivated to perform.
Mariota’s health has been a concern throughout his career. The Titans acquired outstanding left guard Rodger Saffold this offseason to replace Quinton Spain. However, the right side of the line seems questionable: Jack Conklin and Kevin Pamphile are injury-prone. Conklin, in particular, was a First-Team All-Pro as a rookie and can play at an elite level if he can stay healthy. If the offensive lineman can all stay healthy, Mariota will have a solid line to play behind.
The Titans selected defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons with their first-round draft pick. Simmons tore his ACL in December last season and probably won’t be back until late this season. However, upon his return, the Titans pass rush should take off. Simmons was considered one of the best defensive line prospects in the class, alongside Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver. If he makes a full recovery, his impact on the Titans pass rush could prove invaluable to a potential playoff push.
For the early part of the season, the Titans may have to lean a bit on their edge rushers to create pressure. Titans’ fans hope that Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans make a significant jump in their sophomore campaigns. Cameron Wake still seems to have enough left in his tank to create some disruption.
The Titans’ secondary is turning out to be their strength. After Malcolm Butler struggled last season on the boundary, it seems Adoree Jackson is stepping up to potentially start opposite Logan Ryan. In centerfield, Kevin Byard remains one of the best safeties in the league, having the most interceptions by any safety across the last two seasons. Rookie Amani Hooker has looked good in a nickel role. If all goes well, Vrabel will be another coach from the Belichick coaching tree consistently able to employ heavy nickel packages with Kenny Vaccaro, Kevin Byard, and Amani Hooker.
Last Word on the Tennessee Titans
With plenty of good receiving options and a decent offensive line, Mariota has to step up and prove himself this season. The Titans will need second year starters Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans to step up as well for the pass rush to be anything outside of pedestrian. The pass rush should really take off late in the season after the return of rookie lineman Jeffrey Simmons. The Titans’ secondary should consistently be a strength, especially if Adoree Jackson and Amani Hooker are able to translate their success from camp into the regular season.
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