I might as well go big for my first real article on Titans Ever On. These predictions are not for the faint of heart. I will be pulling no punches. Fortunate favors the bold and all that. So, buckle up and hold on tight. (I’m all out of cliches…) Here are my five Titans season predictions.
1. The offense will share the load.
In the Return of the King, one of the most iconic scenes is when brave and loyal Samwise Gamgee carries Frodo up the slopes of Mount Doom. (If that sentence has you questioning whether this is a sports’ article or the musings of a nerd, the answer is both. You might as well come to terms with that now.) Frodo is completely worn down by the weight and power of the ring he is carrying. (Seriously, if you don’t understand this reference, I’m not going to re-tell the entire story. Go watch the movies or read the books.) Sam realizes he cannot carry the ring – its power would consume him as well. So he decides to carry his friend instead. It’s an amazing and powerful moment in a film full of amazing and powerful moments.
That was the Tennessee Titans’ defense last year. They had to carry this team – and the offense – all season long. There were a few bright spots for the offense, but as a whole, it was inconsistent and underwhelming. That has to change this season and I believe it will.
I have full confidence in the defense. I think they should be even better this season than last. It’s no longer okay for the offense to lag behind. Jon Robinson brought in plenty of talent this offseason (Humphries, Brown, Saffold). The team is getting Delanie Walker back and he looks like he hasn’t lost a step. We all hope the version of Derrick Henry we saw at the end of last season is the one who shows up from Day 1 in 2019. Corey Davis should take another step forward. (More on that in the coming weeks – he’s much closer to being a legitimate number 1 receiver than many fans realize.) And Marcus will not have another season like 2018 where virtually everything went wrong. (More on Marcus in point 4.)
New addition Adam Humphries looks like exactly what the offense was missing last season: a slot receiver who specializes in getting open quickly. Rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown will be a developmental player but I actually have high hopes for his production in 2019. He brings a size and physicality the team needs at the position.
It’s time. In 2019 we will see swagger, confidence, execution, and focus from the offense. If we don’t, things will look radically different in 2020.
2. The young talent will take a leap forward.
Every year, if a team is going to improve from the year before, a few younger players need to take the next step in their progression as NFL players. This year, the Titans will see a handful of players do just that. Limited commentary about these guys since a lot has already been said about them, but they are as follows:
Rashaan Evans – The linebackers for the Titans are going to be good. Evans just might be the best of the bunch. Expect big things from him this season.
Harold Landry – we saw flashes last year. This year we will see it for 16 games. From reports, he is doing everything he should be doing to improve so I am very optimistic.
Adoree’ Jackson – I am very down on Jackson the punt returner. I am high on Jackson the cornerback. I realize he has looked shaky some this preseason, but I feel he will have a big season as long as he keeps his head right. This will be his breakout year.
3. Jack Conklin will get his groove back.
Jack Conklin was a beast his rookie season. He was an All-Pro tackle – which no matter how you parse it, is a pretty good indicator of how well he played that year. He dipped a little his second season but was still solid. Conklin hurt his knee at the end of his second season in the playoff game against the New England Patriots and has not been the same player since.
That will change this season. It is especially vital now that Lewan will not be bookending the left side of the line for the first four games of the season. Conklin will finally get his groove back. I believe he will play with the same bruiser mentality he played with his rookie season.
I am not qualified to dive into the analytics like some writers. If you are looking for that sort of thing, this will not be the best fit for you. If that is what you want, check out Mike Herndon over at Music City Miracles. He’s the best at that sort of stuff and I feel like I learn something new every time he writes. So, while I can’t analyze Conklin from that perspective, what I do have is over 35 years of watching football and the eye test. Conklin has been weak, hesitant, and extremely unsure of his footing since his injury.
What we have seen from him this preseason tells me he has turned the corner and regained his confidence. Conklin needs to continue to do whatever it takes to be the player he was his rookie season. Except take drugs like Taylor. Don’t do drugs, Jack.
4. Marcus Mariota will silence his critics.
I’ve made it very clear how much I like (fine…love) Marcus Mariota as a quarterback and as a human being. (See the article to the right for an example.) I won’t rehash all of that today. The simple truth about Mariota’s career is that he has dealt with too many set-backs. Nagging injuries. A broken ankle. A revolving door of offensive coordinators and schemes. And possibly most importantly, an incredibly inconsistent and limited supporting staff on offense.
This season will be a reboot for him. Regardless of what you think about Mariota and whether he is a franchise QB, this team needs him to become who his most ardent supporters say he is. I’m sure he will deal with little injuries throughout the season; everyone does. But after consecutive seasons of the worst luck imaginable, Mariota is primed for a mostly uncomplicated season.
I realize this probably goes without saying but if Marcus fails this year, this team goes nowhere and they are back to square one in trying to find the QB of the future. That’s less than ideal as the rest of the roster is ready to make a deep playoff run. Fortunately for the team and the fans, Mariota will have a huge bounce-back season and the QB question will be answered.
5. The Titans will play meaningful football all season.
I will elaborate on this in an article next week, when I post my season record prediction, but for now, I will simply say that I believe this Titans team will be in the playoff conversation all season long. The defense has the makings of something special. The offense has the pieces to do great things if they can put those pieces together. I haven’t felt this positive about a Titans team since 2008. And even though I have no evidence to back this up, I predicted that team to go 13-3. Do not doubt my prophetic skills. They are prodigious. Much like my dancing skills.
That should do it for today. Real football is almost here! Miracles do happen and dreams do come true. See you next week.