The Tennessee Titans made great strides in 2016 in large part because of the way they addressed their major needs, especially on the offensive side of the football.
General manager Jon Robinson knew when he took the job that the Titans would need to upgrade the running back and receiver positions and refurbish the offensive line.
All those things were accomplished in a very unique way, and that same strategy is likely to be used this year to further address needs, mainly on defense.
Robinson’s approach to last off-season was use basically use every means necessary to patch holes on the roster. He was careful not to overload with veterans, but to bring in experienced players who would buy in and become locker room leaders.
Then, he fortified the veteran fixes by making good use of the draft, replenishing the roster both with starters and backups who could be long-term answers at the position.
Let’s examine how Robinson did his repair work at those key positions.
At running back, Robinson began his work by stealing DeMarco Murray in a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles – all it took was an exchange of fourth-round draft picks. Murray rewarded Robinson by rushing for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns on his way to a Pro Bowl season. But Robinson also fortified the backfield by drafting 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry in the second round to serve as Murray’s backup and be the future at the position.
Robinson took a similar approach at the wide receiver position. He landed Rishard Matthews in free agency, and he proved to be quite the find with 65 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns. The Titans also added veteran Andre Johnson, who provided a strong locker room example in the first half of the season before he elected to retire. But Robinson also addressed the receiver position in the draft, plucking Tajae Sharpe in the fifth round. Sharpe quickly moved up the depth chart in the off-season, ahead of former high-round draft picks Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham, and wound up with 41 catches as the No. 2 receiver.
But Robinson may have done his best work in retooling the offensive line. He and Coach Mike Mularkey made the decision to keep Taylor Lewan at left tackle, and also upgraded at center with a leader in free agent Ben Jones. Of course, from the draft, right tackle Jack Conklin was the Robinson’s target in the first round, and he turned in an All-Pro effort in his rookie season.
Robinson didn’t stop there, claiming Josh Kline off waivers at the start of the season. Kline was plugged in at right guard when Chance Warmack went down, and actually helped stabilize the position. Dennis Kelly, who came in a training camp trade with the Eagles, helped to bolster the depth at tackle and to serve as an extra blocker in the Titans’ six-man line package.
So as Robinson heads into his second off-season, this much we can expect as he addresses the secondary and other need areas on the roster. He will be choosy in the free agency, working to find the right short-term fixes But he will try to solve the problem areas long-term via the draft, while keeping trade and waiver options open to help with depth and on special teams.