There is a lot of buzz about the new offensive and defensive systems that are being installed by the Tennessee Titans. But with new things also comes a level of uncertainty. General manager Jon Robinson and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk gambled in the off-season that a coaching change was one of the things needed to take the Titans to the next level. Believing the Titans had gone as far as they could with Mike Mularkey, the team pulled the plug and brought in Mike Vrabel as the new head coach. Will that move pay off? Time will tell. Earlier this week, we told you three reasons why the Titans might be better in 2018. Now, it is time to reverse that and show three possibilities why the team could show a drop-off this season.
1. The new offense will take more time and more weapons
Marcus Mariota has been resilient in his ability to learn new systems, and Matt LaFleur’s offense is supposed to be built around his strengths. But in mini-camps and OTAs, it was easy to see that things were not always clicking with this new scheme. The other big concern is the weapons in the passing game. Yes, Delanie Walker is reliable, and yes, Dion Lewis should supercharge the Titans’ effectiveness out of the backfield. But, as always, wide receiver remains a question mark. Mariota got very little time with Rishard Matthews this off-season, and Corey Davis was limited too. The other options – Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe and host of undrafteds and unknowns – are all major question marks heading into training camp.
2. The offensive line has questions
The Titans have already dropped hints about what appears to be obvious – that Jack Conklin might not be ready to start the season after an ACL injury in January. In fact, it would be shocking if Conklin doesn’t start training camp on the PUP list to give Robinson, Vrabel and the medical staff extra time to evaluate him. Then, what of Taylor Lewan? Will his contract situation get sticky and cause a holdout at the first part of camp? Surely, the Titans don’t want to open training camp with both starting tackles absent from the lineup. At the guard positions, things are in flux, as newcomers Xavier Su’a Filo and Kevin Pamphile try to unseat incumbents Quinton Spain and Josh Kline. There is plenty of time to figure things out, but the unsettledness of the offensive line suddenly looks like a question mark entering camp.
3. The schedule is tougher
Part of the price of success is that the schedule gets a little tougher when you win and reach the postseason. This year, the Titans will play both of last year’s Super Bowl teams – the Eagles and Patriots. At least those games are at home. But the other part of the situation is that Tennessee suddenly finds itself in a division that is no longer a pushover. Granted, when the division was a pushover a couple of years ago, the Titans were at the front of the pushover list in the division. But still at least two other teams can lay claim that they are the best team in the AFC South. Jacksonville should only get better with its strong defense, and the Texans could be tough to handle if DeShaun Watson returns to his pre-injury form and the defense stays healthier. Of course, old Titans nemesis Andrew Luck is the wild-card in all this. If he can return to form, the Colts will be competitive too. In other non-division games, the Titans face two old rivals in the Chargers (in London) and the Ravens, as well as other tough NFC East outs in the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants.