It’s football time in Tennessee again, and I couldn’t be happier! Every year every team says the same thing, “this is our year”. Then every year, at least if you’re a Titans fan, you say the same thing a few months later… “if we could have just stayed healthy…”
So, assuming we stay healthy, do the Titans really have a chance this year? I figured the best way to analyze this was to compare our current roster to the most recent time we truly had a chance, back in 2019. That was the year that Tanny took over, Henry began his reign as King, and we saw the emergence of stars like Big Jeff, AJ and Harold Landry. The Titans finished second in the division after a slow start, but then beat Brady and Lamar in the playoffs before ending their run against KC in the Conference Championship. Considering it’s been four years, the roster is very different in some places (19 kickers later), and very similar in others. The route to the Super Bowl still goes through Arrowhead, so let’s see if we have what it takes this year.
I’ll evaluate each position group compared to the same group 4 years ago. If we are better now, we get a +1. If we are worse now, we get a -1. Have we gotten better these last four years??? Lets find out.
2019 – Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill
2023 – Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, Will Levis
For the first six weeks of 2019 we saw Mariota before he finally handed over the reigns to Tannehill, and the team has never been the same since. Many would argue that Tannehill is four years older, making him slower and less mobile. I’d also argue that he’s four years wiser and has improved his decision making. I’m not comparing backups, because there’s rarely a team in the league that can still make a run with a backup quarterback. I call this one a wash.
+/- = 0
2019 – Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis
2023 – Derrick Henry, Tajae Spears, Julius Chestnut
While four years equals a wash on a quarterback, I don’t think you can say the same thing for a running back. Especially one who has carried the load Henry has. He ran for 1500+ in 2019. It seems crazy to think he could do that again this year (except for the fact that he did it in 2022). That said, I think our overall running game will be improved. You can’t tell everything from preseason, but Spears and Chestnut look dangerous. If Tim Kelly can open up the offense and find ways to change pace with these guys, I think we can easily have a unit that eclipses 2,000 yards.
+/- = +1
2019 – AJ Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe
2023 – DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, whoever stays healthy
2019 was AJ’s rookie season. Even so, he still put up 1,000 yards and 9 TD’s. Is Nuk good for that? I don’t know. On the flip side… Davis put up 600 yards and just 2 TD’s. Is Burks good for that? I sure hope so. After that, it’s any man’s game. Can Phillips play more than 2 snaps before getting hurt gain? Does a veteran like Moore or NWI bring something to the table? I think we’ll have to rely on the top of the depth chart to carry this group, and if they can play 17 games each, I don’t think we have any problem here. For now I’m calling it a wash.
+/- = 0
2019 – Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith
2023 – Chig Okonkwo, Trevon Wesco
At first glance you probably see Walker and Smith and assume the edge goes to 2019. It was short lived, but magical when it happened. Unfortunately, Delanie only started 4 games that year, and the baton officially passed to Smith, who only put up 400 yards. I think everybody expects Chig to be a breakout this year and should easily surpass that. If Trevon Wesco can block as well as Mycole Pruitt, then 2023 takes the edge here.
+/- = +1
2019 – Lewan, Saffold, Jones, Davis, Conklin
2023 – Dillard, Skoronski, Brewer, Brunksill, Hubbard
Aside from a four game suspension to start the season for Taylor Lewan, the 2019 unit was a beast. They each played atleast 12 games (who was the last Titans lineman to play 12 games in a season!?!?) and was one of the best units in the NFL. I think we’ve improved since last year, but comparing to 2019, I feel like they need a negative 7. However, since I’m only operating in 1’s, that’s what they lose.
+/- = -1
Offense Total = +1
2019 – Jurrell Casey, Daquan Jones, Jeffrey Simmons
2023 – Jeffrey Simmons, Teair Tart, Denico Autry
If you had asked me before writing this article, I would have said that Simmons and Casey never played together. However, Casey had a Pro-Bowl season in 2019, while Simmons debuted in week 7 (the same week Tannehill turned it around). Imagining those two together is nasty. That said, I think our current unit could be the best we’ve ever had, and will be the best in the league. Those three will be insane together this year, and solid depth pieces like Peevy will make rotations seamless. I think great has gotten even greater. The edge goes to 2023
+/- = +1
2019 – Jayon Brown, Rashawn Evans
2023 – Azeez Al-Shaair and Jack Gibbens
I was a big Jayon Brown fan, and I attributed a lot of our success that year to his ability to shut down athletic Tight Ends in coverage. Even in our Championship loss to KC, he held Kelce to just 3 catches for 30 yards. I’m excited to see what Azeez can do, and Vrabel seems to love Dr. Gibby. Maybe they can step up, but as unproven unit, I have to give the edge to 2019 here.
+/- = -1
2019 – Harold Landry and whoever they could find
2023 – Harold Landry and Arden Key
This one is a no brainer. Landry had a breakout year in 2019, but opposite him the starts were split up by Kamalei Correa, Reggie Gilbert, and Sharrif Finch… Who? Exactly my point. Then you add on the depth of Weaver and Murphy in 2023 and this unit could generate 30 sacks from these 4 guys. I can’t wait to see the havoc they create behind our D-Line.
+/- = +1
2019 – Logan Ryan, Adoree Jackson, Malcolm Butler
2023 – Roger McCreary, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Kristian Fulton
This all depends on if we are grading on potential or results. The 2019 unit wasn’t anything to brag about, but it wasn’t the worst in the league… that was 2022. SMB adds some quality experience to the unit and Fulton and McCreary have potential to be amazing. But I just can’t give them an edge until I see them perform. Thankfully the front 7 will make their job pretty easy this year.
+/- = 0
2019 – Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro
2023 – Kevin Byard, Armani Hooker
Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe it’s just because Byard takes most of the spotlight, but I’m pretty sure Vaccaro and Hooker are the same person. They just changed jerseys and kept playing the same game they’ve always played. Let Kev be Kev, and don’t give up anything over the top. This one is an exact wash in my eyes.
+/- = 0
2019 – 5 different Kickers
2023 – We haven’t played week 1 yet, and we just added number 5 today
If I could give both years a negative here I would. My only hope is that Folk still has it. This one is a wash at best. It honestly can’t get any worse though.
+/- = 0
2019 – Bret Kern
2023 – Ryan Stonehouse
In the same way that I want to give both years a negative for Kickers, both years deserve a positive for Punters. I can’t remember who it was, but the other day somebody said, “How is it possible that we’ve had 19 horrible Kickers in the past 3 years and 3 All Pro Punters in the passed 19 years?” So true.
+/- = 0
Defense / Special Teams Total = +1
Team Total = +2
There’s a million variables here, with health being the biggest one. But if we can get continued production from RT and Henry, along with excitement from guys like Spears, Chig, Dhop and Burks, the offense can survive. And if this offense can survive, this defense can win a championship. I said it to start, and I’ll say it finish… This year is our year!
BTW, I’m posting this on my agency’s website because I don’t have another forum to get it out. If you want to support a local business that supports the Two Tone Blue, then give me a call or shoot me an email. I’d love to quote your insurance and see if I can save your family some money.