Five years ago, Titans fans would have begged and pleaded for a 9-7 season. As sad as it sounds, the 2016 and 2017 seasons two were euphoric for me. Something about grinding through the terrible years of the early 2010s made that playoff win against Kansas City feel like a Super Bowl victory. It was a magical moment, but as time goes on, the thirst for more does also.
The ultimate goal of any franchise is to hold up the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season. The Titans are closer to doing that than they have been since 2003. The 9-7 seasons have been stacking, and while the national media would make you think otherwise, the Titans are real contenders this year. Here’s what can take the Titans from 9-7 to Super Bowl hopefuls.
Good Wide Reciever Play
It’s in the Titans DNA to have poor wide reciever production. I’m convinced that it can be better this year with the additions of AJ Brown and Adam Humphries, but we get excited about WR corp every year only to be let down with dropped passes and bad route running. It’s time for someone to step up and be a real dog. Corey Davis was good last year, but as the 5th pick in the draft, he’s expected to be great. Good wide reciever play is worth at least a win or two (quite literally when you consider the dropped touchdown from Nick Williams last year).
Getting to the Quarterback organically
The defense is going to be good this year. They were good last year with aging veterans Brian Orakpo and Derick Morgan heading their pass rush. As good as those two were in 2017 under Dick LeBeau, they were equally as unimpressive in 2018. The Titans relied heavily on cornerback and safety blitzes to get their sack numbers up, and while that’s a huge credit to Dean Pees and his ability to be creative, it also leaves opportunities on the field for good quarterbacks. The Titans are going to be facing really good ones this year, and are going to have to get pressure up front and with their EDGE rushers if they want to take their top 10 defense into the top 5.
Protecting the Quarterack organically
The opposite of the last paragraph is true as well. While their were times when Marcus Mariota held the ball too long and didn’t get the ball out to his hot read, it still doesn’t take a football expert to understand that he was hit way too much last year and the interior line play was well below average. The game against the Ravens was embarrasing. The line has to do better not only to keep Mariota on his feet, but also to allow Arthur Smith to use his full arsenal of weapons. If Delanie Walker and *insert running back here* are constantly having to stay in and help the line protect the QB, Mariota is down a weapon that could be utilized.
Now the Obvious One… Quarterback Play
The Titans have been good without particularly good quarterback play over the last two seasons. I’m a huge Mariota truther and think he can be a great player in this league for a long time, but he has to show that this year. Not only for his own contract situation, but for the Titans to have any hope of being true Super Bowl Contenders.
This is the reason that I laugh at all of the national media predictions. The Titans have been 9-7 for three straight years, with a quarterback that hasn’t put up good numbers. Mariota has hit his floor, and the Titans have still been good. What makes them think they’ll be worse this season?
If he stays healthy, I think the rest will take care of itself and he’ll play well, secure his new contract, and set the Titans up for success for a long time. If he gets hurt again, I think we can expect more of the same from this team: average.
Mariota drives the conversation for the Titans and it’s not just because he’s the quarterback. It’s because he’s the true x factor for this team. If he can take his game from good to great, the rest will follow.