The Tennessee Titans are just weird, man.
Every year, expectations seem to skyrocket with this team. Every year is “the year”. And while I won’t deny the the Titans have a lot of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, this is not the Titans’ year to win the AFC South. Why? For a culmination of reasons.
First and foremost, Mike Vrabel is in his first year as the Titans’ head coach. First-year head coaches do have the advantage of unpredictability on their side. In recent years, we’ve seen Sean McVay and Adam Gase take advantage of this.
But Vrabel is not that innovative offensive mind. He’s a defensive coach, and although he’ll likely fare better than Mike Mularkey, an offensive coach did, it remains to be seen how Vrabel will help Marcus Mariota rebound from a major regression in 2017. New offensive coordinator Matt Lafleur will likely be a key player, in this sense, but after seeing Mariota’s performance in 2017, and how little his receiving core improved in 2018, there’s reason to be hesitant about the narrative that Mariota will suddenly get better. Corey Davis should improve in his sophomore season, but Delaney Walker is only growing older, and he’s due for a regression.
The impact of time goes both ways. And although Dion Lewis should add some dynamic ability to the offense alongside workhorse back Derrick Henry, the Titans’ offense is very much an unknown quantity at this point, and in the AFC South, it’s difficult to determine how well they can perform.
This brings me to my second point: The Houston Texans are a major threat to experience a resurgence. Deshaun Watson was one of the most electric playmakers in the league when he was healthy, and that Texans’ defense, although somewhat thin, has the star power needed to make a run at the AFC South crown. Combine that with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will surely be a threat again, and the Titans have a lot of competition. The Titans will win some good games. And, just as the Titans always do, they will lose games they have no business losing. That’s a trend Vrabel will need a couple years to fix.
In the end, an above-average team will finish accordingly: Just above average. With more security in their receiving core and on the interior offensive line, the Titans could surely enter the playoff conversation. But after last year’s occurrences, and when factoring in how tough the AFC South could be, the Titans have an uphill battle coming their way.