Off their first playoff appearance since 2008, the Tennessee Titans enter a new season with a slew of changes. What key questions need to be answered?
It’s a team coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 2007 and ’08 campaigns. That is also the last time the Tennessee Titans managed to reach the postseason in consecutive years. The club, now under the command of head coach Mike Vrabel, grabbed a wild card berth this past season under Mike Mularkey. But the Titans faded down the stretch and despite a rousing comeback playoff win at Kansas City were trampled by the Super Bowl bound New England Patriots at Foxborough.
Now the team looks to win a division title for the first time since 2008. Tennessee comes off a season in which they swept the AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars. General manager Jon Robinson was once again busy this offseason and added several substantial pieces via free agency. Conversely, the Titans also drafted only four players – the lowest total in the league this year.
The AFC South figures to be highly competitive this season. This is a club that sported a 5-1 record within the division a year ago. It won’t be easy to repeat or top that in ’18. So what are the five most important questions that need to be answered for the Titans to have a memorable season?
5. Will the pass rush have a breakout year?
The Titans’ new defensive coordinator in Dean Pees, who has 14 years of NFL experience with the New England Patriots (2004-09) and Baltimore Ravens (2010-17). He inherits a Tennessee defense that ranked 13th overall in total yards allowed per game. But the Titans surrendered the eighth-most passing yards in the league. The club allowed just 32 offensive touchdowns but 27 of those came through the air.
Yes, the team did roll up a very-respectable 43 sacks in ’17. Four players – Derrick Morgan (7.5), Brian Orakpo (7), Jurrell Casey (6) and Wesley Woodyard (5) – totaled at least five quarterback traps. A year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL with 56 sacks, followed closely by the Jacksonville Jaguars (55).
Can Pees up the team’s production in this department this summer? If outside linebacker Kevin Dodd ever produces, this could be a scary group. And keep an eye on talented rookie inside linebacker Rashaan Evans paired with Woodyard, who could also be part of the pass-rushing equation as well.