Now that most of the dust has settled from the Tennessee Titans free agency acquisitions it’s time to dig into what this team will look like in 2018. The Titans boast a brand new coaching staff and several fresh faces on both sides of the ball. These new additions make the Tennessee Titans set to win with their new personnel.
Tennessee Titans Set to Win with New Coaches & Players
As our very own Josh McSwain wrote about in January, Mike Vrabel looks like a solid hire for the Titans at head coach. However, now that the Titans have solidified the rest of their coaching staff and some player additions via free agency, let’s take a look at how a few of them can help the team win now.
Matt LaFleur (Offensive Coordinator)
Yes, Matt LaFleur was the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017. And yes, the Rams completely turned around their offense in just one year under LaFleur (and head coach Sean McVay). But what does that mean for the Titans and perhaps Marcus Mariota? LaFleur has seemed to have the golden touch with quarterbacks everywhere he has gone. He was the quarterback coach in Atlanta during Matt Ryan’s MVP season. “Midas Matt” turned Everett Golson into one of the best quarterbacks in the nation at Notre Dame in 2014. And before that, he coached Robert Griffin III during the peak of his career in 2012 and 2013. Titans fans should expect to see concepts from both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan offenses. Look for more 11-personnel (3WR, 1RB, 1TE) with route concepts that spread defenses out, push them vertically, and scheme plenty of space underneath. Expect great things for both wide receivers and receiving backs.
Pat O’Hara (Quarterbacks Coach)
As if Mariota didn’t already have some great help coming in the form of Matt LaFleur, the Titans also added Pat O’Hara. O’Hara coached Deshaun Watson in his breakout 2017 rookie year. And many already forget he also got the best out of Brian Hoyer in his career season back in 2015.
Dean Pees (Defensive Coordinator)
Pees has been one of the premier assistant coaches in the league since the 1970s. He’s helped put together some of the best Patriots and Ravens defenses over the past couple decades. How did he do it? Pees’ defenses like to disguise themselves pre-snap by using strategic defensive alignments. Defensive backs shift into different coverages post-snap. The front seven uses versatility to bring exotic blitzes or drop into disciplined short coverage.
The addition of Malcolm Butler allows the Titans defensive backs to change alignments snap to snap and adjust for a wider variety of matchups in Pees’ scheme. The recent release of Sylvester Williams and Karl Klug could mean Pees is looking to add some quickness and alignment versatility along the defensive line. Pees himself mentioned that he looks for front seven players that offer “multiplicity” in their skill set. Expect the Titans to add a do-it-all pass rushing option in the draft that fits that mold.
Kerry Coombs (Defensive Backs Coach)
The defensive backs in Dean Pees’ defenses are the key to communication and execution. Coombs’ 35 years of coaching will come in handy making sure that Kevin Byard can quarterback the Titans defense amid a new (or at least adjusted) scheme.
Dion Lewis (Running Back)
Lewis is coming off the best year of his career with 1,110 yards from scrimmage for the Patriots in 2017. He brings a dynamic to the Titans offense that hasn’t been present in a long time: elusiveness. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis was the most elusive running back in the NFL last year. That showed up in his 5.0 yards per carry average and all 32 of his receptions. However, Lewis’ receiving upside out of the backfield is what may be most interesting. Matt LaFleur’s quarterbacks tend to find running backs out of the backfield (Todd Gurley in 2017, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in 2015/2016). Lewis could prove to be the most important offensive piece on the Titans in 2018.
Malcolm Butler (Cornerback)
The most underrated aspect of this signing may be Butler’s experience playing alongside fellow Titans cornerback Logan Ryan for three seasons on the Patriots. Their communication and well-established relationship should be a huge plus for the Titans secondary in finding chemistry. Butler can shadow almost any lead wide receiver in the league, slide into the slot, or lock up one of the outside cornerback positions just fine. Yes indeed, Butler could be the key to Dean Pees’ secondary finding early success across the board.
Josh Kline (Offensive Lineman)
The Titans offensive line was going to struggle mightily at offensive guard if Kline left. Kline may not be an elite interior offensive lineman but he can make all the necessary pulling blocks in the run game and offers stability in pass protection. Kline should also help secure adequate push on inside runs for Derrick Henry and second level blocks for Dion Lewis.
DaQuan Jones (Defensive Lineman)
The Titans sorely missed DaQuan Jones down the stretch in 2017. Many fans may not notice him since he doesn’t light up the stat sheet, but he is an incredibly important player. He offers that “multiplicity” that defensive coordinator Dean Pees looks for in his defensive line. Jones can play dirty work five technique in 3-4 alignments. He can play one technique in 4-3 looks. He can clog running lanes inside or set the edge outside. At 6’4”, 322 pounds, Jones also boasts solid pursuit speed to pressure the quarterback or close on running backs given the right angle. Look for him to continue to grow as an important piece of the Titans defense in 2018.
It’s time to get excited about the Tennessee Titans. General manager Jon Robinson has put together a fantastic bunch of coaches and players. Everything looks great on paper. Now we just wait and see if the Titans put it all together and take the next step.
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