As Titans fans await the opening of training camp on July 26, let us while away the time by assessing the roster as it currently stands to determine what positions are strengths and what areas could be weaknesses or question marks.
As everything in football revolves around the quarterback position, we will look at the Titans current group of quarterbacks and evaluate them, with other position assessments to following in the coming days leading up to training camp.
This season shapes up as an important one for Marcus Mariota and the Titans. The team seems willing to invest long-term in Mariota as their franchise quarterback. They changed coaching staffs, hiring Mike Vrabel, who also brought in Matt LaFleur as offensive coordinator. LaFleur’s job will be the rev up the offense and turn the Titans into a team based more around Mariota’s skill set and less around pounding the football against stacked defensive fronts.
Mariota took a step back statistically last season, with 13 touchdowns (half as many as in 2016) and a career-worst 15 interceptions. While Mariota shouldered the blame on himself publicly, the truth is, he had plenty of help in posting those numbers. Terry Robiskie’s offense was often stale and predictable, leaving Mariota at times to throw in less than desirable down and distances.
The offensive line wasn’t as effective last year, and neither was the running game. And, of course, as always seems to be the case, the pass catchers – except for Delanie Walker – were found lacking both in their ability to get open and to run crisp routes.
There was also the problem of Mariota coming off an injury last off-season, which kept him out of OTAs.
But don’t think that the changes are magically going to happen overnight for the offense. It is Mariota’s third system in four years in the NFL, and during off-season work there were plenty of hiccups and misfires on the practice field.
But Mariota is athletic, smart and resilient. The thought is that he will eventually click in a system tailored for him, and the Titans should be better off in the long run for that.
Behind Mariota, the Titans made a couple of moves. They jettisoned grizzled veteran Matt Cassel and Alex Tanney (injured last year), who had been the backups for most of the past couple of seasons.
In their place come well-traveled Blaine Gabbert and rookie Luke Falk.
Gabbert, a former first-round pick turned journeyman, is an upgrade over Cassel in that he has a stronger arm, and decent mobility. That means that if Mariota misses a game or two due to injury, the Titans won’t have to overhaul the offense to accommodate Gabbert the way they had to for Cassel. Gabbert isn’t a guy the Titans want to see playing in 10 games this year, but he can tide them over if he has to play two or three.
Falk, a sixth-round pick, is a project, but he set lots of school and conference records at Washington State. While he will have to learn how to operate in a pro style system, Falk’s accuracy is something merits him sticking around and eventually getting a shot to be the No. 2 QB.
Overall, at quarterback, the Titans seem set to carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster – at least at the start until they might need a roster spot elsewhere. Of course, Mariota is the key, and how quickly he picks up the offense, and his ability to stay healthy will determine a lot of how successful Tennessee is in 2018.