The Tennessee Titans were one game short of capping off their incredible 2019 postseason run and making the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, they ran into the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs and saw their season come to an abrupt end after eliminating the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, back-to-back. However, Tennessee fans shouldn’t hang their head knowing that both quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry have been signed for the foreseeable future and look to be a mainstay of the franchise into the 2020s. Lead by an incredibly gifted football mind in Mike Vrabel, and Tennessee looks to pick up where they left off in 2019 and hit the ground running in 2020 — COVID-19 notwithstanding. With all 32 franchises, you look to players to lead you to the promised land. Let’s take a look at the faces of the 2020 Tennessee Titans.
Faces of the Franchise: 2020 Tennessee Titans
Tennessee had long believed they found the quarterback of the future when they drafted Marcus Mariota in 2015. Despite having the tools, Mariota never put it all together during his time in Tennessee — which lead to the eventual trade for ex-Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill took over for Mariota and after his first 12 starts for his new team, Tannehill threw for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns, and a QBR of 117.5.
Tannehill and his strong play were instrumental in going 7-3 after the team started 2-4 to the season. By giving the team sound quarterback play, Tennessee finished 9-7, second place in the AFC South, and secured a Wild Card berth.
Tennessee rewarded Tannehill’s resurgence with a four-year extension for $118 million — $82 million fully guaranteed — deal believing that he’ll be a core piece of this franchise looking to win the AFC South — and, bigger, loftier goals in winning the Super Bowl.
Perhaps the greatest piece of offense that Tennessee had to offer was the power running ability of Derrick Henry. At just 26 years old, Henry has taken the NFL by storm with his ability to run through defenders, and more often than not, find the end zone. Stack the box, bring in an extra defender, drop the safety, it did not matter what defenses threw at Henry in 2019.
Henry won the NFL Rushing Title in 2019 with 1,540 yards and punching it in 12 times en route to a playoff berth. Tennessee relied on their workhorse early and often, and Henry delivered each time. Perhaps saving his best performance against New England in the Wild Card Round.
Henry demolished New England’s defense running for a whopping 204 yards — 272 total yards — and a score. Henry stayed hot the next week against Baltimore torching them for 196 yards. It’s no secret that Henry is their greatest weapon and Tennessee rewarded him with a four-year, $50 million contract. With Henry and Tannehill locked up, they have their two most-important pieces looking to do it again in 2020.
While you could go Malcolm Butler here due to greater name recognition, it would be a disservice to Tennessee fans who have witnessed the stellar play of safety Kevin Byard with the arrow pointing up.
Byard has introduced himself to the NFL with his hard-hitting, sure-tackling play-style which has gained the admiration of the Tennessee faithful looking for a star player on defense. Byard, 26, has amounted to 17 interceptions, 37 PBUs, and two fumble recoveries since 2016. A Pro Bowler in 2017, Byard has been the anchor on defense since being drafted out of Middle Tennessee.
A strong defensive start to the 2019 season saw Byard finish with five interceptions during the regular season and a key pick of Lamar Jackson during the Divisional Round to help his team’s upset victory. Tennessee thinks highly of their young safety after making him the highest-paid safety with a five-year extension of $70.5 million — $31 million guaranteed.
A reliable defender and one you can count on to make the big play late in the game, Byard is the perfect hybrid of safety that can cover both high and low. He’s a face of Tennessee that’s only going to get better over time.
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