With a revamped offense and a different looking defense, thanks to the 2017 NFL draft and free agency the Tennessee Titans look like contenders to win the AFC South. But, despite the new additions on both sides of the ball, the Titans still need three things to go their way early on to reach the postseason and challenge for the AFC South title.
Biggest Tennessee Titans Questions Ahead of Training Camp
Marcus Mariota Stays Healthy
Marcus Mariota‘s first two years in the NFL have both ended early due to injury.
The Titans have done their due diligence by cutting down on sacks allowed by almost half, thanks to their killer offensive line. Less pressure on Mariota and the addition of new weapons in the passing game should help keep Mariota from getting hit. It should also help keep the former Oregon signal caller from having to run into more high-risk situations, which should help reduce the chances of Mariota sustaining a potential injury. Mariota’s mobility is a huge asset to his game and he will continue to utilize it. But him not having to depend on it will just make him even more dangerous and help keep him healthy and on the field.
If the Titans quarterback can have his first healthy season and has time to mesh with his new ‘toys’ Tennessee will have one of the more exciting offenses in 2017.
Kevin Byard Makes Good on Promise
Titans second-year safety Kevin Byard didn’t hold anything back at the end of last season, saying the team’s goal is the playoffs, and that he wanted to be named to the Pro Bowl.
Byard was drafted from Middle Tennessee because of his nose for the ball while passes are in the air. The Titans third-round pick from 2016 piled up 19 interceptions in his four-year collegiate career and will need to bring that to the Titans this year to help them get through the AFC South.
Tennessee was utterly shameful against the pass last year, ranking 30th. But, after signing cornerback Logan Ryan and strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, Byard will have the chance to show off those ball hawking skills.
If 18th overall pick Adoree’ Jackson can be the cover corner he was at USC, it will give Dick LeBeau the ability to play a single high safety. Cyprien is great against the run and lives for meeting running backs at the line of scrimmage; this will allow Byard to sit back and cover anything over the top.
If Byard can help shape up the Titans pass defense and have the pro bowl season he says he wants, the Titans would likely be the favorites in the division.
Kevin Dodd Recovers, Makes Impact
Other than Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan Tennessee is very thin on the EDGE. Lucky for the Titans they finished the 2016 season with 40 sacks, good enough for sixth best. However, to help take pressure off the pass defense, pressuring the quarterback will be more important than ever; enter Kevin Dodd. The former Clemson edge rusher made a name for himself with 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss in 15 games before declaring for the draft. But due to an ankle injury, Dodd’s start to his NFL career has been lukewarm.
If Dodd can perform like he was expected to out of college, he could help a Titans front seven that needs depth. If healthy, he can take advantage of playing with/learning from players like Jurrell Casey, Orakpo, and Morgan and turn into a huge piece of the Titans future and be a reason for their success.