Marcus Mariota has shown he can make a lot happen without much help around him. Despite all logic based on their team’s personnel, the Titans made the postseason last year as a Wild Card team. Having to face Kansas City in the challenging environment of Arrowhead Stadium, Tennessee fell behind early and trailed the Chiefs 21-3 at halftime. But Mariota and the Titans mounted an unlikely second half comeback, ultimately pulling out a 22-21 victory. They were stopped in their tracks the following week in Foxborough.
As we look forward to the 2018 season, there are some positives for this team. The release of DeMarco Murray frees up the impressive Derrick Henry for a more consistent workload, as he enters his third year in the league. But the Titans didn’t take any chances, when they had the opportunity to sign former Patriots stud Dion Lewis in free agency, they went for it. The combination of these two running backs should go a long way in solidifying a running attack that was stagnant all to often in 2017. Lewis also offers a lot in the passing game, acting as a safety valve for Mariota.
The passing game should remain solid, with tight end Delanie Walker and wide receiver Rishard Matthews leading the way. Aside from them, Tennessee has various solid young options in the receiving core, who can easily make positive strides this season, including Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe. Both of them should receive ample opportunities in the upcoming season, to solidify their roles in the offense.
Defensively, the Titans were a mixed bag in 2017. On the one hand, they played stout defense against the run, ranking fourth in the NFL with just 88.8 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt. They also ranked first overall in rushing touchdowns allowed, only permitting five total rushing touchdowns over the course of the entire season. There is little doubt that their ability to shut down opposing running attacks helped them remain competitive in games that could have gotten away from them. Teams simply found it difficult to put the Titans away by running the ball in the second half of games.
The main issue for Tennessee was their passing defense, which ranked 25th and on the other end of the spectrum among NFL defenses. They gave up 239 passing yards per game, and a combined 27 touchdowns over the season. It was quite clearly the main issue with the defense. In an effort to close the leaks that were so evident last season, the Titans signed another former Patriot, in Malcolm Butler.
The Titans can expect to have a challenge making the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The division remains tough, and it’s never easy to count on a Wild Card spot. But Marcus Mariota seems to have a knack for winning. He is one of those guys, who just tends to overcome the obstacles, even in the face of long odds. He will remain the key to their 2018 aspirations, but without help from the rest of the team, all the Titans can hope for is another Mariota miracle to bail them out once again.