2018 Tennessee Titans Are Revamped and Ready

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TwinSpires Staff

August 8th, 2018

The Tennessee Titans made it the playoffs for the second time in QB Marcus Mariota’s career. Mariota was solid while picking up his first playoff victory, but him and his teammates relied heavily on Derrick Henry running roughshod over the Kansas City Chiefs. Henry totaled 191 total yards and 2 touchdowns in a thrilling Wild Card comeback victory, and was frankly unstoppable in that game. Now, with a new head coach and new offensive coordinator, the 2018 Tennessee Titans will look to improve on their surprising playoff run. Part of that plan included spending over $69 million in guarantees this past summer (which could skyrocket to $143 million) to a variety of new players that a refurnished coaching staff will have to get on the same page before September.

Titans offense should be much better with new OC Under Mike Malarkey, the Tennessee Titans played a brand of offense that could only be described as sloth-like. Malarkey, who coached the Titans well enough to get them to the playoffs, preferred to hand the ball off to his duo of running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. After frustrating fans, while failing to deliver on the "exotic smash mouth" brand he had sold them on, Mularkey was handed his walking papers.

Enter Mike Vrabel, a defensive minded coach who knew he needed help.

The first thing new head coach Mike Vrabel did was hire away the Rams’ offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur. Vrabel will be hands off. He knows that LaFleur is one of the best up and coming offensive signal callers in the NFL. Under LaFleur’s guidance, second year QB Jared Goff progressed by leaps and bounds while RB Todd Gurley turned in to a superstar and was nearly the league's MVP.

That’s what LaFleur plans on doing with both Marcus Mariota and the newly acquired Dion Lewis, one of the big spends for the Titans this summer. Lewis is one of the top running backs in the NFL when healthy. The former New England Patriot running-back caught the ball plenty of times out of the backfield. He’ll do the same under LaFleur. In one game last season, versus the Dallas Cowboys, LaFleur called on Goff to consistently target Gurley. Gurley caught 10 passes in that game.

Anything that Lewis can add will only help Derrick Henry. Henry works best when he just takes the football and runs between the tackles. He too has some pass catching ability. LaFleur is likely to use both Henry and Lewis at the same time in a number of sets to make up for the team's questionable receiving corps, which is centered around the already-injuredy Corey Davis.

The gamble the Titans are making with  LaFleur is that he'll take Mariota, Henry and Lewis to new heights the same way he did with Goff and Gurley in Los Angeles. If that happens, the 2018 Tennessee Titans are going to be seriously competitive in an AFC South that has become one of the most grueling groups around. The Titans were narrowly considered contenders last year. The potential they're boasting this season is undeniably enthralling.

Titans D must get more pressure on quarterbacks The Tennessee Titans have been one of the best teams in the NFL against the rush the past couple of seasons. The reason is because they’ve sold out their linebackers and safeties to lower the ceiling against opposing ground games. Vrabel’s main goal with the defense will be to provide more pressure on opposing QB’s without blitzing on every down. On paper, it appears as if Tennessee has the players to do that.

Defensive tackle Jurell Casey is one of the keys to making this all work. But, Casey got double-teamed most of last season and the Titans never adjusted. If Tennessee can produce pressure without selling out their linebackers and safeties, the defense could turn into an elite unit versus the pass as well.

Striking a balance between a rush defense that was ranked 4th and pass coverage that allowed the 25th most yards against through the air is vital for Vrabel and the 2018 Tennessee Titans. He's just the man to fix these issues. Whether he has the personnel to do so is the elephant in the Titans' locker room.

Tennessee another playoff contender in loaded AFC South The 2018 Tennessee Titans are another playoff contender in the loaded AFC South. The key for the Titans will be how LaFleur’s offense flatters Mariota’s skillset. Mariota is a much different quarterback compared to Goff. If LaFleur can unleash Mariota in a way that Mularkey never could, a return to the NFL playoffs is all but assured despite the presence of the Jaguars.

Could Tennessee win the Super Bowl? Sure, they "could", but the defense must find a way to pressure opposing quarterbacks without sacrificing coverage in other areas. That might happen up until the playoffs where stronger teams like Jacksonville, New England, and Pittsburgh, will exploit the Titans’ defensive weakness. Wins may be harder to come by than Titans fans expect, and there are a lot of new moving pieces here, both on the field and the sideline. The 2018 Tennessee Titans are an enticing team in regards to potential, but we need to see what they look like before making any NFL futures bets.