Tennessee Titans 2020 Season PReview
The Titans were the surprise package in the NFL playoffs in 2019. Like their division rivals in Jacksonville, the season was electrified by a change under centre. The Marcus Mariota era ended after a 2-4 start to the year, with former Dolphin Ryan Tannehill rescuing a wildcard spot in the playoffs from a poor start. He led the team to a 7-3 record in 10 games, which was enough to clinch second in the AFC South and a place in the postseason. Mike Vrabel’s side tore up the script, knocking the Patriots out of the wildcard round in Tom Brady’s last appearance as a Patriot. League MVP Lamar Jackson could not match the Tennessee defence a week later, helping his side to just 12 points. The dream came to an end in the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the eventual Superbowl winners, Kansas City.
One player who was central to the Titans’ season was Derrick Henry, who had a phenomenal year. Henry led the league in rushing attempts (303), yards (1,540) and rushing touchdowns (16). He was rewarded with the franchise tag, which will earn him $10.3m next year. Another record-setting season from Henry should lead to a bumper payout in 2021.
Tennessee’s strategy in the off-season has been one of piecemeal improvement to key aspects of their team. Cutting veterans Dion Lewis, Delanie Walker, Ryan Succop and Cameron Wake saved $18m towards the cap. Ryan Tannehill was offered a 4 year, $118m dollar deal to stay behind centre. Although it includes a $22.5m cap hit for 2020, the Titans can get out after year two of the deal with less punishing financial implications.
The decision to franchise tag Henry only serves to kick the can down the road. If Henry has another barnstorming season in 2020, he will expect to be paid next summer, and rightly so.
Vic Beasley was brought in from the Falcons, an impressive piece of business for a guy who ranked 15th in the entire NFL in pass rush win-rate. Beasley is expected to replace Jurrell Casey on the defensive front, who was traded to Denver for a seventh round Draft pick.
The losses of RT Jack Conklin, slot corner Logan Ryan and back-up QB Marcus Mariota appeared to be dealt with in the Draft.
A key factor in Tennessee’s potential success next season is whether the Tannehill-Henry connection continues to thrive. The Titans stole a march on the league last year as a run-heavy offence in a pass happy league. Whether defences will be better prepared for Mike Vrabel’s game plan next year remains to be seen.
Right tackle Jack Conklin will be missed, but the Titans may be able to immediately call upon Isaiah Wilson who was drafted in the first round of the Draft. Wilson played two seasons at right tackle for Georgia, but may need some development in pass protection before he is considered an NFL starter.
Darrynton Evans could fill the hole vacated by Dion Lewis, who had a disappointing final year in Tennessee. The former Patriot had an underwhelming year as RB2, with just 54 touches and 209 yards. Hopefully the Appalachian State man can provide a speedy foil to Henry’s power rushing. Evans is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, and had 31 total touchdowns in that time.
Another name to look out for is seventh round pick Cole McDonald, QB out of Hawaii. Aged just 22, he threw for 4135 yards and 33 touchdowns before declaring for the Draft. He is also good with the ball in his hands, rushing for a further 383 yards and 7 trips to the end zone in 2019. McDonald could well start the season as QB2 behind Tannehill.
The Titans will miss Logan Ryan’s versatility at cornerback. Ryan left Tennessee for free agency at the end of the year, and will be a hard player to replace. His versatility and ability to play in the slot is a rare skill that most cornerbacks don’t possess.
The decision to draft Kristian Fulton in the second round of the Draft goes some way towards filling the hole left by Ryan’s departure. Fulton was widely expected to be a first round pick, but slid to the bottom of the second round.
The Titans defence was 12th in the league in 2019, and a huge factor in Tennessee’s play-off run. Vic Beasley certainly beefs up their pass rush, but they may continue their search for reinforcements. With Jadaveon Clowney and Everson Griffen on the market, the Texans may be tempted to strengthen further.
The Titans will feel somewhat confident that they can unseat the Texans at the top of the AFC South this year. They will also have to fight off a resurgent Colts team to get there, though.
Tennessee was on an upward curve at the end of 2019. However, they will be relying on another monstrous year from Derrick Henry and more of the competent Adam Gase-less Ryan Tannehill than the one most commonly seen in Miami.
Mike Vrabel will be confident that his side can return to the play-offs, but be mindful that the AFC South will be a tough nut to crack.
Tennessee Titans 2020 record prediction
10-6 (1st in AFC South)
TOM WATCHED HIS FIRST EVER NFL GAME AT AN EX’S HOME IN NORTH CAROLINA IN 2013 AND “ENCOURAGED” TO SUPPORT THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS. ONE BREAK-UP AND FOUR YEARS LATER, HE SWITCHED ALLEGIANCE TO THE JETS AND HAS BEEN OBSESSED WITH THE GAME EVER SINCE. TOM CAN BE FOUND ON TWITTER AT @DOWNTHEMANNYRD.
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