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For all intents and purposes, the first go round of the Mike Vrabel regime was a success a short season ago. While the Tennessee Titans failed to build upon the previous season’s trip to the playoffs, they still went out and won nine games en route to finishing third in what proved to be the highly competitive AFC South. Though moves were made in the offseason that looks to have the roster improved, linemakers at online sportsbooks are bearish on the Titz in 2019-20 with their season win total odds checking in at 8. On top of that, their +665 return on the futures odds to win the division checks in behind the trio of the Colts, Texans and Jaguars. It’s a role Tennessee is used to with nobody taking the franchise seriously for years. Much of that stems from the question marks the team possesses up and down the roster; mainly Marcus Mariota.
Things just haven’t come full circle since Mariota joined the franchise a year removed from winning the Heisman Trophy. Erratic play under center paired with countless injuries has gotten in the way of him making Tennessee his future home for years to come. This is a huge year entering his fifth in Nashville with it the final season of his rookie contract. Upper management went out and added some exciting new toys for him to play with in the forms of Adam Humphries via free agency and AJ Brown through the draft. Last year’s offensive line that opened holes for an average of 126.7 yards per game also returns intact. With Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe all back in the fold, there’s no reason the offense can’t dramatically improve upon last year’s output. Ultimately, it’ll all come down to Mariota’s play once again. If he doesn’t succeed, Ryan Tannehill will be more than happy to take his place.
Dean Pees is one of the more unheralded defensive coordinators in the game. From New England to Baltimore and now Tennessee, his defenses have always thrived wherever he’s decided to plant his flag. That was exactly the case in his first go round in Nashville last season when the Titans improved dramatically on that side of the ball. While the unit was middle of the pack in accruing sacks, forcing turnovers and had issues defending the run ( No. 18 ), it locked down opposing pass attacks ( No. 6 ) and only surrendered an average of 18.9 points per game ( No. 3 ). Five players registered 60 or more tackles spearheaded by veteran linebacker Wesley Woodyard who is the shot caller of the defense. The top notch secondary returns intact led by Adoree’ Jackson; hopefully a bulk of the unit doesn’t lead the team in tackles this time around. If so, the guys up front are doing a better job defending the run.
Schedule makers did the Titz no favors whatsoever sending them out on the road for four of their first six games. Tennessee was much better in the comforts of Nissan Stadium ( 6-2 ) than it was on the road where it managed just a trio of wins through eight tries a season ago. That makes the two home games against the Colts in Week 2 and Bills in Week 6 must-wins for the Titans to have much of any say in how the AFC South shakes up let alone compete for a playoff spot. That said, depth has been added on defense and the offense looks to be much improved with the offseason acquisitions. The teams’ success or lack thereof will ultimately be predicated upon the play at the quarterback position regardless of whether it’s Mariota or Tannehill at the controls. Should either succeed, Tennessee could turn some heads. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.