Tennessee Titans 2015 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Titans were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season, finishing 2-14 and 31st in rate of moving the chains differential. The problem wasn’t just on one side of the ball, as they ranked 30th in rate of moving the chains and 28th in rate of moving the chains allowed. The Titans made a fair amount of moves all over the field to try to fix that, but easily the most franchise defining one was the selection of quarterback Marcus Mariota 2nd overall, turning down multiple trade offers to select the ex-Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman award winner.

Most teams that are picking as high as the Titans did in this past draft are doing so largely as a result of poor quarterback play and the Titans are no exception. Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst, and Zach Mettenberger all saw significant playing time under center for the Titans last season, as the Titans tried to find some sort of answer and they all struggled. Combined, they completed 58.3% of their passes for an average of 7.29 YPA, 20 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions, a huge part of the reason why the Titans moved the chains at a mere 65.44% rate. The Titans were fortunate enough to be picking high in a year where a legitimate franchise quarterback option was available to them and smart enough to pull the trigger.

It’s unclear how good Mariota can be as a rookie, but he’ll probably be an upgrade over the trio that played last season. That being said, he is pretty raw, only turning 22 this season, coming over from what was very much a college style offense at the University of Oregon and now having to adapt to a Ken Whisenhunt offense that has historically not been very friendly to young quarterbacks. For what it’s worth, Whisenhunt has said he will tailor his offense to fit Mariota’s skill set and incorporate some of what Mariota did well in college.

I think, long-term, Mariota will be better than Jameis Winston, who went #1 overall to Tampa Bay, because of his superior accuracy and athleticism, but he could struggle as a rookie. Over the past 10 years, quarterbacks drafted in the top-5 have completed just 57.7% of their passes for an average of 6.85 YPA, 148 touchdowns, and 140 interceptions, finding life in the NFL much harder than they expected it to be. With a weak supporting cast around him, the Titans fans shouldn’t expect too much more than that from their rookie signal caller. Those kinds of numbers wouldn’t be a death sentence, as that group includes the likes of Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Matt Stafford, but it’s definitely a reality. Developing a young quarterback is a marathon, not a sprint.

Grade: C+

Receiving Corps

The Titans’ weak offensive supporting cast around Mariota isn’t for lack of trying, as they spent both a 2nd and a 3rd round pick on the offense. This shouldn’t be a surprise, considering how often teams that select a quarterback in the first round use their subsequent pick on an offensive player to help that quarterback. Since 2005, 19 of 25 teams that have selected a quarterback in the first round have used their next pick on an offensive player, which I don’t think is a coincidence.

For the Titans, that next pick was 40th overall in the 2nd round (after a trade down) and they used it on former Missouri and Oklahoma wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. DGB has great talent, great upside, and off-the-charts athleticism (4.49 40 at 6-5 237), but was kicked off the Missouri football team for a variety of off-the-field issues and didn’t play at all last season, only practicing with the Oklahoma football team. If not for the off-the-field stuff, he would have been an easy top-10 pick, but between his unreliable character and the fact that he hasn’t played in a real game since 2013, he’s one of the riskiest picks in the draft. He’s the definition of a boom or bust draft pick. As a rookie, he’ll battle for playing time in an overall very unresolved receiving corps.

Nate Washington led the way with 782 snaps last season, grading out 80th among 110 eligible wide receivers, including 96th in pure pass catching grade. He signed as a free agent in Houston this off-season and, though he had some good years in Tennessee, he won’t really be missed, going into his age 32 season. Kendall Wright (678 snaps) and Justin Hunter (605 snaps) remain, but they also graded out below average. Wright wasn’t terrible, but Hunter graded out 89th out of 110 eligible wide receivers. In addition to adding Green-Beckham, the Titans also signed veteran Harry Douglas, who was cut by the Atlanta Falcons.

Wright is the only one locked into a role and should lead Titan wide receivers in catches for the 4th straight year. The 2012 1st round pick graded out below average as a rookie, but seemed to have a breakout year in 2013. He caught 94 of 134 passes (70.1%) for 1079 yards and 2 touchdowns on 539 routes run, an average of 2.00 yards per route run, and graded out 18th among wide receivers that season. However, he saw his slash line fall to 57/715/6 in 2014 and, while he wasn’t horrible, he still graded out below average.

In 3 seasons in the league, he’s caught 215 of 315 passes (68.3%) for 2420 yards and 12 touchdowns on 1407 routes run, an average of 1.72 yards per route run. Part of his inability to put up #1 receiver numbers has to do with poor quarterback play and he hasn’t been a bust or anything, but he hasn’t shown himself to be anything more than a complementary receiver and the Titans are asking him to be a coverage changing #1 guy. The Titans picked up his 7.32 million dollar option for 2016, but that’s guaranteed for injury only, so the fact that they did that doesn’t tell us a ton. They’ll be hoping he can have a bounce back year and provide a consistent target for their rookie quarterback.

The other three (Green-Beckham, Hunter, and Harry Douglas) will compete for the other starting job and playing time in 3-wide receiver sets. Hunter was predicted by many to have a breakout year last season and he certainly has the athleticism, as the 2013 2nd round pick ran a 4.44 40 at 6-4 196, but instead he fell flat on his face. He also graded out below average on 340 snaps as a rookie and has overall been a disappointment thus far. The Titans are probably holding out hope that he can have a breakout year this year, but the selection of Green-Beckham suggests they’re not too confident. Hunter could wind up as far down the depth chart as 4th.

Douglas, meanwhile, has never graded out above average in his career, since the Falcons took him in the 3rd round in 2008, largely playing as a slot specialist. Even in 2013, when he caught 85 passes for 1068 yards and 2 touchdowns in place of an injured Julio Jones, he wasn’t very efficient, as he was targeted 126 times. Things won’t get better as he heads into his age 30 season in 2015. He was cut by the Falcons this off-season to save 3.5 million and the Titans signed him as veteran insurance, bringing him in on a 3-year, 11.25 million dollar deal that actually pays him more than 3.5 million annually. If he has to play a significant role this season, the Titans are in trouble in the receiving corps, but that could very well happen.

Tight end Delanie Walker actually led the Titans in catches and receiving yards last season, catching 63 passes on 100 attempts (63.0%) for 890 yards and 4 touchdowns on 503 routes run, an average of 1.77 yards per route run. Primarily a blocker throughout his career, since going in the 6th round in 2006, the Titans signed him to a 4-year, 17.5 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago with the intention of turning him into an every down tight end who could contribute in the passing game. It was a weird move and it looked like it wouldn’t work out as Walker put up just a 60/571/6 slash line in his first season in Tennessee, grading out below average in pass catching grade once again.

However, Walker inexplicably broke out as a pass catcher in 2014, grading out above average in pass catching grade for the first time since 2008 (when he played just 143 snaps). Overall, he was Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked tight end. Now going into his age 31 season, I’m skeptical that he can replicate that strong season as a receiver, but he should once again be a strong blocker at the very least. He’s graded out above average as a run blocker in all 8 seasons in Pro Football Focus’ history. He’s not a bad player, but when he’s your best offensive playmaker, you’re in trouble.

Anthony Fasano, who the Titans signed to a 2-year, 5.25 million dollar deal this off-season, will probably be the #2 tight end, focusing primarily on blocking in two-tight end sets. Anthony Fasano played 678 snaps in 2014 for the Chiefs at tight end, but he struggled mightily, grading out 61st out of 67 eligible, and now he’s going into his age 31 season. The Chiefs cut him to save 3.1 million. Fasano graded out above average in every season from 2007-2012, including 6th in 2011 and 18th in 2012, but those days are likely long gone. He’s a decent #2 tight end at best. It’s not a good receiving corps that Mariota has to work with.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

Not only did the Titans use a 2nd round pick on Dorial Green-Beckham after taking Marcus Mariota 2nd overall, they also used their 3rd round pick on an offensive player, taking offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi. He could start at right tackle as a rookie, following the release of Michael Oher, who graded out 75th among 84 eligible offensive tackles last season in 11 starts, before going down for the season with injury. That would definitely be a problem, especially since many draft experts thought he’d need to move to guard in the NFL because of his lack of athleticism, but the Titans don’t have another option.

Poutasi will compete with veterans Byron Bell and Byron Stingily. Bell is experienced, with 56 starts in 4 seasons since the Panthers signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2011, but he’s not very good at all. He was horrible to start his career at right tackle, grading out 69th out of 76 eligible in 2011, 61st out of 80 eligible in 2012, and 53rd out of 76 eligible in 2013. Predictably, he wasn’t better in 2014 when forced to play the blindside, grading out 83rd out of 84 eligible. Stingily, meanwhile, was a 2011 6th round pick. He’s graded out above average just once in 4 seasons in the NFL (2012) and has never played more than the 248 snaps he played last season. He played horribly in limited action last season. Even with Oher gone, right tackle remains a massive problem, to the point where the Titans’ best option might be to start a 3rd round rookie.

Taylor Lewan will start on the other side. The 2014 1st round pick was stuck behind veterans Michael Oher and Michael Roos when he was drafted, but made his first start week 6, after Roos went down for the season with injury. Lewan graded out above average on 359 snaps before going down for the season week 12 with an injury of his own. With Roos retiring ahead of his age 33 season this off-season, Lewan will go into his 2nd season as the undisputed starter and, now healthy, he has the talent to have a breakout year on the blindside. That’s not necessarily going to happen and he’s still unproven, but he is one of the few bright spots on this offensive line and having him healthy and starting for a whole season will be a boost to this team.

With so many injuries and inconsistencies upfront, the Titans had 12 different offensive linemen play a snap last season. Only 3 of them graded out above average on Pro Football Focus, the retired Roos, Lewan, and right guard Chance Warmack. Warmack, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, hasn’t quite lived up to his potential, but he’s made 32 starts in 2 seasons in the league and played decently, grading out slightly below average as a rookie and slightly above average last season. That, by default, makes him one of the best players on the Titans’ offensive line, and, only going into his age 24 season, he still has a good chance to continue improving. During the final 7 weeks of last season, he was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked guard, a small sample size, but a very good sign for 2015 and beyond.

At the other guard spot, Andy Levitre will start once again. The 2009 2nd round pick has made all 96 starts in 6 seasons in the league, but graded out below average for the first time since his rookie year in 2014. The Titans, who signed him to a 6-year, 46.8 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago, kept him at a scheduled non-guaranteed 6.5 million dollar salary for 2015 because they have a bunch of cap space, no better alternative, and they believe he can bounce back. Levitre graded out 36th, 5th, 8th, and 13th in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively and he is only going into his age 29 season, so there definitely is bounce back potential.

Outside of Lewan and Warmack and maybe Levitre, the rest of the offensive line is in trouble. I already mentioned their problems at right tackle; things at center aren’t any better. Brian Schwenke was the starter there last season, grading out 32nd among 41 eligible centers before going down for the season week 12. He wasn’t any better as a 4th round rookie in 2013, grading out 30th among 35 eligible centers on 573 snaps, no surprise given where he was drafted. He doesn’t project as a starting caliber player long-term, but the Titans don’t have another option.

Chris Spencer took over for him after he went down for the season, but he was even worse and now is a free agent expected to retire ahead of his age 33 season, leaving the Titans with only 6th round rookie Andy Gallik behind Schwenke. Gallik probably won’t be an upgrade, but he could see action as a rookie because it’s such a problem position. It’s not a good offensive line, but if Lewan can stay healthy, Levitre can bounce back, and Warmack can continue developing, they should be improved this season and help this offense move the chains more effectively.

Grade: C+

Running Backs

Another thing the Titans can do move the chains better in 2015 is to run the ball better, after they rushed for 4.06 yards per carry last season, 18th in the NFL. Even worse, they picked up just 75 first downs on the ground, 25th in the NFL, 19 of which came from quarterbacks and wide receivers. You can’t really blame the offensive line for that as, while they ranked 28th in team pass blocking grade last season, they were middle of the pack (14th) in run blocking. Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene led the team in carries with 152 and 94 carries respectively and combined for just 44 rushing first downs on 246 carries. Sankey rushed for 569 yards and 2 touchdowns on 152 carries, an average of 3.74 YPC, while Greene rushed for 392 yards and 2 touchdowns on 94 carries, an average of 4.17 YPC.

Greene was let go this off-season, owed a non-guaranteed 3.35 million ahead of his age 30 season, but Sankey remains. The 2014 2nd round pick was a bust as a rookie, not just struggling on the ground, but also struggling as a receiver, adding just 18 catches for 133 yards. He could be better in his 2nd year in the league, but there are definitely no guarantees. More of a finesse runner at 5-10 209, Sankey could end up splitting carries in 2015 with 5th round rookie David Cobb, who is more of a powerful runner at 5-11 229, but fell in the draft because of a severe lack of speed and agility. It’s an underwhelming young duo of running backs.

Dexter McCluster remains as gadget player and an obvious passing situation running back behind both of them. The running back/wide receiver hybrid rushed for just 131 yards on 40 carries last season and has a career average of just 4.13 yards per carry on 192 carries, but he did add 26 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown last season and graded out above average on 238 snaps as a result. He definitely wasn’t worth the 3-year, 9 million dollar deal the Titans gave him last off-season, as they really like overpaying for marginal offensive talent (Shonn Greene, Anthony Fasano, Harry Douglas, etc.), but he does a serve. With Leon Washington (22 catches for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns last season) gone and the coaching staff, for whatever reason, talking about getting McCluster more involved, he could have 30-40 catches this season. He won’t help the Titans on the ground though.

Grade: C+

Defensive Line

While the Titans didn’t take any meaningful steps to improve their offense in the short-term (aside from maybe the selection of Mariota), they did take steps on defense, adding cornerback Perrish Cox, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, and safety Da’Norris Searcy, all of whom are above average starters, in order to fix what was one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. They didn’t really do anything on the defensive line, but that might not be the end of the world, as their defensive line wasn’t a huge problem last season.

Jurrell Casey led the way with 931 snaps played, epitomizing an every down player. The 2011 3rd round pick has developed into one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL and got a well-deserved 4-year, 36 million dollar extension last off-season. Casey spent the first 3 years of his career in a 4-3, grading out 16th, 8th, and 5th among defensive tackles, and then showed his scheme versatility when the Titans switched to a 3-4 last off-season. He graded out 7th among 3-4 defensive ends in 2014, as one of the Titans’ lone bright spots. Only going into his age 26 season, I expect more of the same from him this season, only with a better supporting cast.

The rest of the Titans’ 3-man defensive line is largely up for grabs, but there are some talented players in the mix. Sammie Lee Hill (597 snaps), Ropati Pitoitua (394 snaps), Mike Martin (357 snaps), Karl Klug (338 snaps), Al Woods (297 snaps), and DaQuan Jones (143 snaps) all played a decent amount last season and all 6 will return and play a decent amount of snaps again. Sammie Lee Hill was their starting nose tackle last season. The 2009 4th round pick graded out above average in every season from 2010-2013, but never played more than 437 snaps in any of those seasons and graded out below average last season on a career high 597 snaps. He probably won’t play as many snaps again this season and he should be in the 300-500 snap range again. He’s a solid rotational player who has a good chance to bounce back in 2015. The 6-4 329 pounder can play both nose tackle and defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

Ropati Pitoitua played 12 games last season, starting 11 of them, and primarily playing in base packages. He graded out 9th among 3-4 defensive ends in pure run stopping grade, but didn’t do much as a pass rusher. This is nothing new for him as he’s graded out above average as a run stopper in each of the last 2 seasons, but hasn’t graded out above average as a pass rusher since 2009, when he played just 48 snaps. The 2008 undrafted free agent is already going into his age 30 season and is only a base package player. Like Hill, Pitoitua will probably play fewer snaps per game this season because the Titans have mentioned they see 2014 4th round pick DaQuan Jones as a starter this season and he should have a regular role, at least in base packages, after he played just 143 below average snaps as a rookie. The 6-4 323 pounder could see action at both nose tackle and defensive end. I don’t have a ton of faith in him, but he could surprise.

Mike Martin and Karl Klug fit in as sub package rushers. Both graded out above average as pass rushers last season. Martin, a 2012 3rd round pick, has never played more than 435 snaps in a season and has only once graded out above average against the run, but he’s graded out above average as a pass rusher in all 3 seasons he’s been in the league, maxing out at 10th among defensive tackles in 2013. He should have a similar season again this year on 300-400 or so snaps. Klug, meanwhile, is a similar, but probably slightly better player. The 2011 5th round pick has graded out above average as a pass rusher in all 4 seasons he’s been in the league, maxing out at 10th in 2013, but has never graded out above average as a pass rusher or played more than 520 snaps in a season.

Woods rounds out the group and is probably the worst of the bunch, grading out below average in all 5 seasons he’s been in the league since getting drafted in the 4th round in 2010, never playing more than 297 snaps in a season. The 6-4 314 pounder was a backup nose tackle last season. He won’t have a very big role at all this season and will almost definitely play the fewest snaps of the bunch. Things won’t be too much different on the defensive line this season, but that’s not going to be a big issue because the defensive line wasn’t the problem last season.

Grade: B-

Linebackers

The problem last season was the linebackers and the secondary and the Titans did a good job of adding talent there in free agency. Brian Orakpo comes over as a free agent from Washington on a 4-year, 31 million dollar deal, upgrading a position where Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips, and Quentin Groves were awful last season on 549, 362, and 249 snaps respectively. Wimbley and Phillips graded out 44th and 43rd respectively out of 46 eligible 3-4 outside linebackers, while Groves would have graded out 4th worst at the position if he had been eligible, despite such limited playing time. No one played fewer snaps and graded out worse at the position than Groves.

Orakpo should be a substantial upgrade. Orakpo was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013 and was franchised tagged as a result. However, Orakpo ended up missing 9 games with a torn pectoral in 2014, the 3rd time in his career that he’s torn his pectoral. Now he hits free agency again having missed 24 of 48 games over the past 3 seasons with torn pectorals. He’s very talented when he’s on the field though. In addition to his strong 2013, the 2009 1st round pick also ranked 7th at his position in 2011. He’s an obvious injury risk, but he has a huge upside, still only going into his age 29 season.

He’ll play opposite Derrick Morgan, who was re-signed to a 4-year, 27 million dollar deal this off-season. A rare first round hit by the Titans, Derrick Morgan’s career got off to a slow start as he was limited to 112 snaps by a torn ACL as a rookie in 2010 and struggled in his return from that injury in 2011, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 64th ranked 4-3 defensive end out of 67 eligible. However, he’s graded out above average in each of the past three seasons, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2012, 11th ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2013, and 8th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in 2014. Most importantly, he’s missed just 2 games over the past 4 seasons and doesn’t have any significant injuries on his record other than that torn ACL. His scheme versatility and his pass rush ability are very valuable and the Titans did well to lock up a talented young player. The only issue at outside linebacker is depth as 6th round rookie Deiontrez Mount could be their 3rd outside linebacker, which would become an issue if Orakpo were to get hurt again. However, Orakpo and Morgan are one of the best edge rusher duos in the NFL, as long as both are healthy.

Inside at middle linebacker, Avery Williamson was a steal as a 5th round rookie last season, playing 834 snaps, making 12 starts, and grading out above average, 17th among middle linebackers. He’s still a one-year wonder and I don’t think he’s at the point where the fact that the whole league let him drop to the 5th round is irrelevant, but he definitely looks like a steal and could easily be a long-term starter. He should remain a starter in 2015.

Zach Brown, who missed all but 4 snaps last season with a torn pectoral, opening the door for Williamson, will compete with fellow veteran Wesley Woodyard for the other starting middle linebacker job and appears to be the favorite right now. The 2012 2nd round pick Brown graded out slightly above average as a rookie and slightly below average in 2013, making a combined 27 starts in those 2 seasons at outside linebacker in the Titans’ old 4-3 defense. Prior to last season, he had never missed a game with injury in his NFL career so I wouldn’t classify him as injury prone and he should be able to have a solid bounce back year.

Woodyard, meanwhile, signed a 4-year, 15.75 million dollar deal last off-season, coming over from Denver, but struggled in his first season in Tennessee, grading out 42nd among 60 eligible middle linebackers. The 2008 undrafted free agent is experienced, with 48 starts over the past 4 seasons, but he’s graded out below average in 3 of those 4 seasons. With Brown and Williamson being better starting options, Woodyard could be just an expensive backup this season, making 2.75 million. He fits the Titans’ recent theme of overpaying for marginal veterans. With Brown healthy and Orakpo coming in, it’s a much improved linebacking corps.

Grade: B+

Secondary

The secondary was a problem last season as well for the Titans and one they tried to fix this off-season with the additions of cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Da’Norris Searcy on a 3-year, 15 million dollar deal and a 4-year, 23.75 million dollar deal respectively. Cox will start at cornerback, where Blidi Wreh-Wilson started last season and graded out 106th among 110 eligible cornerbacks. Cox should be a significant upgrade, coming over from San Francisco. He was Pro Football Focus’ 35th ranked cornerback last season in a breakout year.

Cox’s career has had an interesting trajectory. He was a 5th round pick by the Broncos in 2010 and graded out above average on 787 snaps as a rookie, but was let go after one year after being arrested on multiple sexual assault charges. Cox was out of the league entirely in 2011 because of those charges, coupled with a history of off-the-field issues from his collegiate days at Oklahoma State, which dropped him in the draft in the first place. However, early in 2012, he was found not guilty and the 49ers gave him another chance. He didn’t play much in either 2012 or 2013, playing 168 snaps in 2012 and 81 snaps in 2013 (11 of which were actually with the Seahawks). However, injuries opened up a starting role for him back with the 49ers in 2014 and he didn’t look back, playing 965 snaps, making 14 starts, and grading above average. He’s obviously a risky signing given his history, but he clearly has talent, showing it in both of his stints as a starter.

Cox will push Blidi Wreh-Wilson to 3rd on the depth cornerback at best. The 2013 3rd round pick flashed on 93 snaps as a rookie in 2013, but proved incompetent in his first season as a starter in 2014, leading to the addition of Cox. There’s still time for him to turn it around and I like him better as a 3rd cornerback, but I don’t have a ton of hope for his future. He’ll have to hold off Coty Sensabaugh for the #3 job. Sensabaugh, a 2012 4th round pick, has been the #3 cornerback for the past 2 seasons, after struggling on 319 snaps as a rookie. He graded out above average on 509 snaps in 2013, but graded out 96th among 108 eligible cornerbacks on 737 snaps in 2014. Whoever wins this battle, I expect them to struggle.

Searcy, meanwhile, will take over a starting spot at safety where the Titans had struggles last season. Bernard Pollard played decently through 5 games and 351 snaps there last season for the Titans, but then went down for the season, leaving George Wilson to start and he graded out 82nd among 87 eligible safeties. Going into his age 34 season, Wilson remains unsigned as of this writing and will likely have to retire. Searcy, a 2011 4th round pick, should be an upgrade.

Searcy played just 511 snaps in his first 2 seasons in 2011 and 2012, but he made 20 starts over the past 2 seasons as a hybrid safety/linebacker at 5-11 223. He’s never played more than 753 snaps in a season, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked safety in 2014 (on 666 snaps) and only slightly below average in 2013, so I expected someone would give him starter’s money to be a traditional, every down starting safety for them. It’s a risky move for the Titans, but, like the Cox deal, I think it’s a solid value and, like the Cox deal, I think it will really help this secondary.

At the other two starting spots in the secondary, the Titans will be counting on bounce back years from cornerback Jason McCourty and safety Michael Griffin. McCourty graded out below average last season for the first time since he was a 6th round rookie in 2009. He’s made 63 of 64 starts since 2011 and graded out 20th, 8th, 6th, and 11th respectively from 2010-2013. A lot of that has to do with his strong play against the run, but he still graded out 15th, 32nd, 23rd, and 17th respectively in those 4 seasons in coverage grade (all above average) and the fact that he was arguably the best cornerback in the NFL against the run in those 4 seasons is just a cherry on top. Only going into his age 28 season, I like his bounce back potential, which would really help this secondary.

Griffin’s bounce back potential is a little bit more questionable. The 2007 1st round pick has had some great seasons, but he’s also been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career. Griffin has graded out 37th, 9th, 41st, 10th, and 14th among safeties in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2013 respectively, but also 87th out of 88 eligible in 2009, 87th out of 88 eligible in 2012, and 83rd out of 87 eligible in 2014. It’s really tough to know what to expect from him next season, especially as he goes into his age 30 season. The Titans kept him on board at a 6.3 million dollar non-guaranteed salary in hopes that he’d bounce back, but that was mostly because they had so much cap space that they could afford to. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s more likely that he’s better this season than worse. He still might not be good, but he’s part of a secondary that should be much improved from last season on a defense that should be much improved from last season.

Grade: B-

Conclusion

I think the Titans had a pretty good off-season. They added a quarterback who I think will be the best quarterback in this draft class and a franchise quarterback long-term. He might not be great right away in the short-term, but he should be an upgrade over what they had last season and the Titans added talent to their defense to help in the short-term. I don’t see this team sneaking into the playoffs or anything, unless Mariota goes crazy as a rookie and elevates a poor offensive supporting cast that is only relying on bounce back years to improve, but they have a pretty easy schedule and should win a decent amount of games. They should also be healthier after having the 11th most injuries in the NFL last season, in terms of adjusted games lost, including some to some of their better players (Zach Brown and Taylor Lewan come to mind).

The Titans over/under right now is 5.5 wins. Teams that have an over/under of 6 or fewer usually go over more often than not. This year, Tennessee is joined by Oakland, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay in that group and I definitely think Tennessee has a better chance to go over than both Oakland and Jacksonville and maybe even Tampa Bay, who also adds a rookie quarterback. There’s money to be made here. At the very least, the Titans won’t be the pushover they were last season when they lost 10 games by more than a touchdown and will be much tougher for teams to beat. As with all teams, I’ll have official win/loss records for the Titans after I’ve done all team’s previews.

Prediction: 7-9 2nd in AFC South

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