With the draft just around the corner, lets take a look back at last year and what lies ahead for the Tennessee Titans.
2018 was not the season that everyone hoped it would be. With the team finishing 9-7, and taking third in the AFC South, they were one game short of making the playoffs. However, among the disappointment lies some hope for the future.
The most notable and obvious standout from last season was the emergence of running back Derrick Henry, who exploded in week 14 with 238 rushing yards, and 4 touchdowns. After not totaling more than 58 yards up until that point last season, Henry was beginning to look like a player who wasn’t going to live up to expectations. Drafted by the Titans in 2016, Henry had to spend two years behind DeMarco Murray and never saw much work. Then, last year, splitting time with Dion Lewis, Henry still wasn’t given the opportunity to gain momentum in any game. In week 14 that all changed. With an other-worldly average of 14 yards per carry in that outing in Nashville against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Henry single handedly led his team to victory.
Following that performance, Henry was given the feature role and the bulk of the carries, and over the last 5 games of the season, the Titans RB’s totaled an average of 160 yards per game on the ground. The Titans ground-and-pound mentality was now being used to great effect. Fast forward to 2019, and it appears that the team wants to keep that momentum going.
Several members of the Titans’ staff have said that they want to “build the offense around Henry” and continue to win games on the ground. With the signing of veteran guard Rodger Saffold, the team hopes to beef up the offensive line and give Henry a better chance of breaking off for big plays. Tennessee has also signed WR Adam Humphries, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will pull defenders out of the box lest they be burned over the top. Both of these signings should enable Henry to do what he did best in college: mow over the defense time and time again.
Looking toward the draft, there are several schools of thought among fans and experts that follow the team. Talk has gone back and forth about whether or not the team will draft another lineman or go for a skill position player that will give quarterback Marcus Mariota another option in the passing game. As we get closer to draft day, the consensus seems to be that the team will try to acquire another defensive piece that will work well with the Titans’ ground-and-pound mentality.
Jeffery Simmons, a DT out of Mississippi State, has become the name that seems to be on everyone’s mind. I understand the reasoning for liking Simmons, but to me this seems like a bad choice. While Simmons is immensely talented and would no doubt be a great compliment to Rashaan Evans – who will be at full strength next year, coming off a severe hamstring injury – Simmons is dealing with a torn ACL which occurred during the pre-draft process. Now a days, ACL tears aren’t career ending like they used to be. But to draft a rookie with an ACL tear that will likely be a concern for the next few years and will definitely negatively affect his play…this seems like a pick not well spent.
At pick 19 I think the Titans will have a chance to pick up edge rusher Montez Sweat, a 6’ 6”, 260 pounder out of Mississippi State, who stood out at the combine by running a 4.41 40yd dash. He is likely to drop a little in the draft due to a pre-existing heart condition that was discovered at the combine. While this may sound like a big deal, he had this condition while at Clemson and it didn’t slow him down at all. Also, it was deemed minor enough to allow him to participate in all combine drills. While not the most refined edge rusher, his size and speed will allow him to be a constant headache to the offense, and with some time at the professional level, his skills will catch up with his god given athleticism and he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Overall, hopes are high that the Titans can improve upon their recent string of 9-7 seasons and once again make it to the playoffs. By having a unified vision of what the future holds for their team, the Titans are poised to make a run for the top of the AFC South.