Oddsmakers set the season win total for Tennessee at 8.5. The Titans have the weapons and playmakers on both sides of the ball to win at least 9 games and possibly even the AFC South.
The Titans' hopes rest above all on the leadership and prolific athletic ability of its dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota suffered a leg injury last December but the budding superstar is running and passing as if he had never been injured.
The Titans had the third-best rushing attack last season. Demarco Murray led the AFC in rushing yards. Former Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who dropped to a second round pick, was a gift for the Titans. He was undervalued on draft day because of his build. Most scouts thought that his only positive was size, and even that wasn't going to be such a positive, because of his long legs, which should make him easier to tackle. But Henry was impressive as Murray's backup. He did show the ability to burst laterally and be elusive. He was in general not so easy to tackle. He was also surprisingly effective in pass blocking and pass catching. The Titans love to run the ball and have perhaps the best rushing attack, including the mobile Mariota, in the league.
The Titans rebuilt their receiving corps, meaning that Mariota will need time to develop chemistry with his new and generally inexperienced weapons. The Titans really like Corey Davis, otherwise, they wouldn't have drafted a player from the MAC conference who, due to ankle injuries, wasn't even able to workout with the team. Davis was a consistent performer in college. He was a deep threat who used his technical abilities as a pass-catcher to abuse opposing defensive backs. He has a second gear in terms of running ability and is constantly improving as a route runner. He does drop some passes and struggle at times with shorter routes, but he has significant potential.
The Titans also signed veteran Eric Decker who, unlike Davis, does excel in the short passing game with his route-running and big-play ability, wracks up impressive numbers even when Jets quarterbacks are throwing him the ball. Him and elite Tight End Delanie Walker, whose size and speed makes him a mismatch for just about any defender, will presumably be Mariota's go-to guys.
The Titans allowed the seventh-fewest amount of sacks last season. All of their offensive linemen are highly ranked, except for their guards who are above average. The Titans arguably have one of the strongest lines in the NFL, and this group of guys keeps growing in experience and chemistry.
The Titans' defensive line is probably its strongest asset on defense. It doesn't have that one elite superstar, but Jurrell Casey has been to two straight pro bowls especially for his versatility. He is stout enough to stop the run but also quick enough to get to the quarterback. Behind him, the Titans have a lot of quality depth, created in particular by the signing of Sylvester Williams from the Broncos. He is one of the better defensive linemen who is effective at penetrating even higher-quality offensive lines and hindering gaps from forming in the line.
Although the linebacking corps lacks some depth, the defensive line benefits from the attention that its two-star sack-machines at linebacker get: Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Orakpo and Morgan are two elite edge rushers who are excellent at applying pressure to the quarterback. Orakpo was named to the Pro Bowl last season especially because he achieved 10.5 sacks last season.
The Titans' pass defense was what the Titans most needed to improve and that improvement has arrived. They signed Logan Ryan who played a meaningful role in the Patriots' Super Bowl run last season. Former Jaguar Jonathan Cyprien adds veteran experience. Talented youth is developing as well. The Titans signed Adoree Jackson in the First Round. He is relatively small and vulnerable to lapses in coverage. But his athleticism in the form of impressive speed and footwork allows him to recover from those lapses. Him and second-year safety Kevin Byard, who possesses good play recognition but was criticized on draft day for struggling in space against more elusive receivers, should progress into respectable additions to the Titans secondary. Byard surprised critics as a rookie particularly with his tackling abilities and will show Jackson the ropes.
The Titans are a monstrously improved team that already has a lot of weapons and depth in different key positions. As long as Mariota stays healthy, the Titans will have a high-level play-maker who is poised to lead this team to become division champions. He will get support from a top-notch rushing attack and offensive line and a wide receiving corps that mixes young, high-potential talent in Davis and proven experience in Walker and Decker. The Titans' defensive line is stabilized by a lot of experience and quality and helped by two linebackers in Orakpo and Morgan who excel at applying pressure to the quarterback. While the secondary still presents a bit of a question mark at the least because a lot of new players will be playing in a system that is new to them, the pass defense will no doubt be much improved on our NFL Picks.Free NFL Pick: Titans 'Over' 8.5 WinsBest Line Offered: 5Dimes