In the run-up to the season, we’re going to run through the AFC South and look at teams’ happy face and sad face narratives and tropes. At this point, you could get me excited about the London SillyNannys versus the Montreal Alouettes so some hard-hitting football prophesying about real teams is sure to get my motor running. We’re going to look at each team and offer three reasons for fans to be cheerful and three to be fearful. Today we look at the Titans and their reasons to be cheerful.
It’s been rough, Titans fans. I know. I mean, I know. It’s not your fault.
At the turn of the 21st Century, the Titans were doing great. Hard to think that was 16 years ago. But today, as well as some reasons for doubt, there are genuine reasons to be cheerful.
You have to give credit to the Titans for not getting sucked in to the pre-draft hoopla in 2015. They stayed quiet and sat tight at No2 overall and selected the quarterback from Oregon. There were a plethora of doubts surrounding Mariota. He was a spread guy. He couldn’t work under centre. He ran too much. He fumbled too often. He was a product of Chip Kelly. And so on and so on.
In his rookie season however, Mariota exceeded all expectations. There were bumps and worries but he looked like a capable NFL starter. He also flashed brilliance, the sort of x-factor that can help teams get to the play-offs (and not the sort now associated with basically singing slightly off key, crying and getting a record deal).
His debut against the Bucs was essentially perfect, in the sense that he went up against the No1 pick, the guy who was more ‘pro-ready’ and dropped the hammer. There were mistakes, there were nerves. But the way he hammered the ball in to some of those gaps, the way he stood in the pocket, the way he protected the ball, were all positive. Subsequently, he had some really good games, some not so great games and some injuries. What he is though, is a massive reason to be cheerful.
With the bounty of picks gained through the Rams trade this year, the Titans got to work increasing the quality of the roster. Some of these will help Mariota. But really, Mariota will help Mariota.
He is such a big reason to be cheerful that I’m thinking of rolling with him in fantasy. Seriously.
The guy was born in 1937. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President. This guy has lived through 13 Presidents and will see the 14th elected during the season. And yet rather than being a curmudgeonly old dude griping about the kids on the London High School team, his alma mater, in Ohio, he is the hope for this formerly bland, identity-less Titans D.
Jurrell Casey is a stud, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are effective vets and they drafted Kevin Dodd who can really add firepower. Beyond that, there aren’t many huge names and the roster feels thin.
That’s where LeBeau comes in. He can coach up average players and make them better. His aggressive style gets the most out of the talent level on the roster and it will need to.
Also, he brings cache and a wealth of experience (did I mention he was born in 1937). A man who has been a part of so many fundamental changes in pro-football and has never been left behind. There is no evidence that he has been now and his tutelage could reap dividends for the Titans D.
The trade with the Rams
Look, it’s not that the Titans are up against it and I’m struggling a bit with the third thing but getting a massive haul of draft picks as Tennessee did this year should, should, really be the gift that keeps on giving.
The Titans hold the Rams first and third round picks next year in addition to their own. Now, they gave away a second rounder to Cleveland to trade back up for Jack Conklin (let’s not get into that) but they should be able to parlay two first rounders in to good value picks.
The players added look like solid additions rather than superstars and that is what the Titans need right now, to build up the overall talent level of a roster that has won five games in two years.
It’s not the biggest thing in the world to be cheerful about but for a team striving to be relevant, amassing draft picks is good news for the future of the franchise.
Gareth Duxbury enjoys football both American and Association. Follows Washington in the former, Sheffield Wednesday in the latter. His love of QB play only topped by his fandom of Inside Linebackers. He tweets from