2015 NFL Offseason: Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans (Last Year: 2-14)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Harry Douglas, OT Byron Bell, C Fernando Velasco, DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, S Da’Norris Searcy.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Marcus Mariota, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, G/OT Jeremiah Poutasi, DE/DT Angelo Blackson, FB Jalston Fowler, RB David Cobb. Titans Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Jake Locker, WR Nate Washington, TE Anthony Fasano, OT Michael Roos, OT Michael Oher, ILB Colin McCarthy, CB Perrish Cox, S Bernard Pollard, S George Wilson, KR Leon Washington.

2015 Tennessee Titans Offense:
The media and public speculated that the Titans would eschew one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft and instead settle for someone like Leonard Williams. Marcus Mariota was Tennessee’s guy all along; in fact, the team preferred him over Jameis Winston. There was the possibility for a trade, but the Titans were more than happy to select someone whom they believed would be their next franchise quarterback.

Mariota has some adjustments he has to make to his game to fit the pro level, but it’s hard to imagine him not being successful eventually. Mariota is extremely smart and mobile, and he’s also a winner. It should be no surprise if he emerges as a taller version of Russell Wilson. It might take some work, but Mariota has the tools to get there.

If there’s one thing getting in Mariota’s way right now, it’s the offensive line. The unit is a mess. Michael Roos declared his retirement, meaning 2014 first-rounder Taylor Lewan will move over to the blind side. That’s fine, but who’s going to play right tackle? Unless third-round rookie Jeremiah Poutasi can impress in training camp, it’s likely to be either Byron Stingily or Byron Bell, both of whom are turnstile blockers.

It’s better on the interior, but only by default. Right guard Chance Warmack is the best blocker of the three, and it isn’t very close. Left guard Andy Levitre has never lived up to the big contract he signed a few springs ago, while center Brian Schwenke has been awful. There’s no one on the roster who can realistically take Schwenke’s spot, so the team will have to deal with his poor blocking for another season.

Mariota won’t have much help in the backfield either. The Titans liked what Bishop Sankey could do on third downs, which is why they spent a second-round selection on him in 2014. However, he proved to be incredibly mediocre as a rookie, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Tennessee used a fifth-round pick on David Cobb, who could realistically take over the starting job at some point.

It all sounds gloomy for Mariota, but he’ll at least have some promising targets to throw to. Perhaps the most talented one is Dorial Green-Beckham, who would’ve been a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft if he didn’t have off-the-field issues. If Green-Beckham can mature, he’ll be a potent No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He would complement Kendall Wright rather well. Wright saw his receptions plummet from 94 to 57 this past season, but that can be attributed to the awful quarterbacks he was paired with. Mariota will also be able to count on a couple of intermediate targets in slot receiver Harry Douglas and tight end Delanie Walker; the latter was Tennessee’s most consistent option last year, as he racked up 890 receiving yards.

2015 Tennessee Titans Defense:
The Titans had an abysmal defense last year that couldn’t stop anyone; the team surrendered 27.1 points per game, struggling both in terms of stopping the run and covering the opposition. The front office had a lot of work to do this offseason, and it seems as though it has made some strides.

The big fish Tennessee reeled in was Brian Orakpo. The former Redskin pass-rusher was once dominant, but injuries have slowed him down; he has missed 24 games in the past three years after being out of the lineup in only one contest during his first three campaigns. If the Titans are lucky enough to have a healthy Orakpo on the field, they’ll have a terrific tandem of pass-rushers at their disposal. Derrick Morgan re-signed with the team, which was huge for Tennessee because he was the team’s second-best defender.

The Titans’ top defender, of course, is Jurrell Casey, who lived up to the 4-year, $36 million extension he signed last summer. Casey saw his sack total drop from 10.5 to five, but that can be attributed to his role in the 3-4. He still rushed the quarterback extremely effectively. The same can’t be said for the other defensive linemen, as Ropati Pitoitua and Sammie Lee Hill clogged running lanes well, but failed entirely to get any sort of heat on opposing quarterbacks.

The defensive line won’t get any better in terms of its pass rush, but perhaps Orakpo’s presence will spark the secondary, which was by far the worst unit on Tennessee’s roster a year ago. Safeties Michael Griffin and George Wilson were an abomination in coverage. Wilson is gone, but Griffin is with the team and is still slated to start. Fortunately for the Titans, they were able to bring in Da’Norris Searcy in free agency; Searcy performed well for the Bills in 2014.

Tennessee also found some help at the cornerback position, with its second-most-prominent free agent signing being former 49er cornerback Perrish Cox, who was solid this past season. Cox will be a huge upgrade over Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who was torched often when in the starting lineup. Cox will start across from Jason McCourty, who is a pretty average starting corner. Coty Sensabaugh will once again handle the slot duties, but he struggled with those last year.

The Titans didn’t make any alterations to their inside linebacker group, so Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson will start there again. Woodyard and Williamson aren’t particularly gifted, but neither is a liability either. Williamson is the better player, as Woodyard tends to get overwhelmed in run support sometimes.

2015 Tennessee Titans Schedule and Intangibles:
Ryan Succop was the team’s new kicker last year, and he did pretty well, drilling 19-of-22 attempts, including both tries from 50-plus.

Brett Kern didn’t do a great job in terms of placing punts inside the 20-yard line last year, but he was ranked seventh in terms of net yardage.

Tennessee’s special teams need to improve. The opposition outgained them in both punt and kickoff returns. The one touchdown scored went against them.

The Titans don’t have a difficult schedule, so they’ll be able to rack up more wins than last year. In fact, they open up against the Buccaneers and Browns, so there’s a chance they could be 2-0 heading into their loss to Indianapolis.

2015 Tennessee Titans Rookies:
Go here for the Titans Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2015 Tennessee Titans Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 Tennessee Titans Analysis: The Titans weren’t competitive in many of their games last year, losing a ridiculous nine times by two touchdowns or more. That’ll change now that they have a franchise quarterback, but they still have a long way to go. Still, there’s cause for optimism in Tennessee for the first time in quite a while.

Projection: 5-11 (4th in AFC South)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: The Titans need to come out of this draft with an upgrade at quarterback, whether that’s selecting Marcus Mariota with the second-overall pick or trading for someone like Philip Rivers or Sam Bradford. This team simply cannot go into the 2015 season with Zach Mettenberger as its starting quarterback. Tennessee also needs to bolster the offensive line and secondary.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Drafting Mariota or trading for Rivers were the primary goals, and once the latter was unavailable, Tennessee’s objective was clear; it had to select Mariota, barring a Herschel Walker-type trade offer. There are some who criticized the Titans for drafting Mariota solely because the owner wanted him, but that’s far from the truth. Mariota was Tennessee’s guy all along; in fact, the front office would’ve selected him over Jameis Winston.

The Titans did a good job of adding talent around Mariota on Days 2 and 3. Dorial Green-Beckham was a strong acquisition in the second round; if it wasn’t for his character concerns, he would’ve been a top-10 pick. Jeremiah Poutasi, meanwhile, should offer an upgrade at either guard or right tackle, both of which were problem areas. Later on, David Cobb was a nice value pick, as he’ll challenge Bishop Sankey for the starting running back job.

Tennessee had plenty of holes, so it was difficult to address them all. The secondary was completely neglected, and I felt like the fourth-rounder used on a fullback should’ve been spent on either a corner or a safety. But having said that, the Titans had an outstanding draft overall, and the fans should be excited about the team’s future for the first time in a long while.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: A Grade
This was the right move all along. Marcus Mariota doesn’t fit what Ken Whisenhunt ideally looks for in a quarterback, but talent should always trump any system, and Mariota definitely has the talent. Seen as a taller Russell Wilson, Mariota automatically takes the Titans out of the NFL cellar and will have them competing for a playoff spot as early as 2016. The Titans simply couldn’t go into the 2015 season with Zach Mettenberger as their starting quarterback; otherwise, everyone would’ve lost their jobs after another poor year.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

40. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma: A Grade
Boom. Dorial Green-Beckham is a top-10 talent in this draft. He would be going that high if it wasn’t for his character issues. The Titans have done enough digging on Green-Beckham and thought he was worth a second-round selection. He figures to be the perfect complement for Marcus Mariota; the Titans have a bunch of No. 2 or 3 receivers, but no top target. That’s no longer the case. If he stays clean, Green-Beckham could become a perennial Pro Bowler. He’s a risk, but the Titans obtained a fourth-round selection via the Giants just in case he busts, so that mitigates the gamble.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

66. Jeremiah Poutasi, G/OT, Utah: B Grade
Another logical pick for another AFC South team. Jeremiah Poutasi makes sense for the Titans, who had to find an upgrade at either guard or right tackle. He can play both positions and should offer an upgrade in front of Marcus Mariota.

100. Angelo Blackson, DE/DT, Auburn: B- Grade
I figured Angelo Blackson would go in the fifth round, so while this is a bit early for him, the pick makes sense. Blackson is an athletic defensive lineman with size who should be able to provide instant quality depth up front and help on special teams.

108. Jalston Fowler, FB, Alabama: C+ Grade
I’m not as crazy about this pick because taking a fullback in the fourth round seems a bit too premature. However, the Titans had an extra choice in the fourth frame, so why not? They were looking to upgrade the position, and Jalston Fowler was the consensus top fullback in this draft.

138. David Cobb, RB, Minnesota: A- Grade
The Titans were expected to pick a running back at some point during the 2015 NFL Draft. There were some high opinions on David Cobb, so I like this selection. Cobb could challenge Bishop Sankey to be the team’s starting running back.

177. Deiontrez Mount, DE/OLB, Louisville: B- Grade
The Titans signed Brian Orakpo and retained Derrick Morgan, but they still needed to address the outside linebacker position because of their lack of depth there. Deiontrez Mount doesn’t have much starting experience, but he played well when given the chance. I feel like he could’ve gone a round later, but I don’t have a problem with this pick.

208. Andy Gallik, C, Boston College: B Grade
I had Andy Gallik going in this round, so he fits the range as a sixth-round pick. He also makes sense for the Titans in terms of filling a need, as he can push Brian Schwenke for the starting job.

245. Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary: A+ Grade
Tre McBride had both the great athleticism and production to be deemed a third-round prospect. That’s where I had him going, but reports surfaced that he has some personality issues. Even considering that, he’s worth a pick in the seventh round. He’s a steal at this juncture, as he has starting ability.

Season Summary:
The Titans won their season opener against the Chiefs in impressive fashion – and then they went on to lose 14 of their next 15, with their sole victory coming against Jacksonville at home. Injuries at the quarterback position were a problem, but this Tennessee team just wasn’t very competitive.

Offseason Moves:
  • Titans cut RB Shonn Greene
  • Titans sign C Fernando Velasco
  • Titans sign OT Byron Bell
  • Titans re-sign OLB Kaelin Burnett
  • Texans sign WR Nate Washington
  • Titans re-sign CB Brandon Harris
  • Titans re-sign OT Byron Stingly
  • Titans sign CB Perrish Cox
  • Titans re-sign DE/DT Karl Klug
  • Titans sign DE/OLB Brian Orakpo
  • Titans re-sign DE/OLB Derrick Morgan
  • Titans re-sign K Ryan Succop
  • Titans sign TE Anthony Fasano
  • Titans sign S Da’Norris Searcy
  • Titans announce retirement of QB Jake Locker
  • Titans sign WR Harry Douglas
  • Titans re-sign P Brett Kern
  • Panthers sign OT Michael Oher
  • Titans cut S Bernard Pollard
  • Titans announce retirement of OT Michael Roos
  • Titans waive OT Michael Oher

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Zach Mettenberger wasn’t terrible, but he didn’t have the look of a long-term franchise quarterback. The Titans will strongly consider a quarterback at No. 2 overall this April – which is what I have happening in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.

    2. Rush Linebacker: Derrick Morgan transitioned well into the 3-4, but Kamerion Wimbley barely put any pressure on the quarterback. Tennessee needs to find another edge rusher, and it’ll strongly consider Randy Gregory at No. 2 overall if the front office doesn’t like the remaining signal-caller. Signed Brian Orakpo; re-signed Derrick Morgan

    3. Two Safeties: The Titans had the worst pair of safeties in the NFL this past season, as both Michael Griffin and George Wilson were abominations in every regard. This position absolutely needs to be addressed on multiple occasions this offseason. Signed Da’Norris Searcy

    4. Right Tackle: Michael Roos, an impending free agent, probably won’t be back with the team next year. If so, Taylor Lewan will slide over to the left tackle spot, leaving Michael Oher stationed at right tackle. Oher predictably struggled despite receiving a big paycheck this offseason.

    5. Guard: There’s been speculation that Andy Levitre will be released this offseason. Based on how terrible he’s been lately, he would be too expensive to keep. Thus, the Titans may want to look at the guard position on the second day of the draft.

    6. Cornerback: The Titans were hoping Blidi Wreh-Wilson would be a good replacement for the Tampa Bay-bound Alterraun Verner. He struggled miserably instead. A new cornerback is needed. Signed Perrish Cox

    7. Inside Linebacker: Tennessee liked what it saw out of Avery Williamson at inside linebacker late in the year. The team has to find another player at the position, however.

    8. Center: The center position is yet another problem up front. The Titans have to do better than Brian Schwenke and Chris Spencer.

    9. Running Back: The Titans didn’t have much of a running game this past season. Bishop Sankey didn’t have much of a chance with no passing attack to complement him, but he wasn’t very impressive in his rookie campaign.

    10. Wide Receiver: Justin Hunter failed to take the next step in 2014. Perhaps that’ll change with an upgrade under center, but it doesn’t seem as though the Titans have a No. 1-caliber receiver on their roster. This is something they’ll need to wait to address. Signed Harry Douglas

    11. Kicker: Ryan Succop kicked well for the Titans, but he’s an impending free agent. Re-signed Ryan Succop

    12. Punter: Tennessee’s punter, Brett Kern, is also about to hit the market. Re-signed Brett Kern

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Redskins. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $32 million)

      Brian Orakpo is one of the most talented pass-rushers in the NFL. The problem is that he’s injury-prone, having missed 24 games over the past three seasons. He tore his pectoral in October.

    2. Perrish Cox, CB, 49ers. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans (3 years, $15 million)

      Perrish Cox barely played from 2011 to 2013, as he was mired in off-the-field issues. He finally took the field for the majority of the snaps in 2014 and was successful, save for a poor stretch in the middle of the season. Cox is a starting-caliber cornerback, but I wouldn’t trust him to stay clean off the field.

    3. Da’Norris Searcy, S, Bills. Age: 27.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $24 million)

      Da’Norris Searcy did a good job in his first full season as a starter, replacing the New Orleans-bound Jairus Byrd. Searcy played well in all regards.

    4. Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons. Age: 30.
      Signed with Titans (3 years)

      Harry Douglas has posted some solid numbers when either Julio Jones or Roddy White has been out of the lineup, but he’ll turn 31 in September. He doesn’t have much time left in this league.

    5. Byron Bell, OT, Panthers. Age: 26. — Signed with Titans
    6. Fernando Velasco, C/G, Panthers. Age: 30. — Signed with Titans
    7. Anthony Fasano, TE, Chiefs. Age: 31. — Signed with Titans

    Tennessee Titans Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Derrick Morgan, DE/OLB, Titans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $30 million)

      Derrick Morgan is weak in run support, but he happens to be a consistent pass-rusher. He also proved that he can play in the 3-4, so all teams that need an edge rusher should be interested in him. He won’t be 27 until after the 2015 season.

    2. Brett Kern, P, Titans. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Titans (5 years, $15 million)

      Brett Kern was among the leaders in net punting average in 2014, though he didn’t have a high percentage of attempts placed inside the 20.

    3. Michael Roos, OT, Titans. Age: 32.
      Announced retirement

      Michael Roos can still block well, but he’s a 32-year-old coming off knee surgery. He’ll be a risky signing, but could potentially still serve as a decent blind-side protector.

    4. Michael Oher, OT, Titans. Age: 29.
      Signed with Panthers (2 years)

      What happened to Michael Oher? He played well early in his career but he has regressed each year. He still has great talent, so perhaps he’ll find some way to turn it around, but he shouldn’t get any sort of contract like the 4-year, $20 million deal he received last offseason.

    5. Jake Locker, QB, Titans. Age: 27.
      Announced retirement

      Jake Locker has potential, but he just can’t stay healthy. He has missed 18 games in the past two seasons with various injuries. Perhaps a strong offensive mind can get the most out of him – he’d be perfect in a Shanahan offense – but I don’t know how anyone can even count on him playing.

    6. Bernard Pollard, S, Titans. Age: 30.
      Bernard Pollard had been playing well for the Titans early in 2014, but he tore his Achilles in October. He may never be the same player again, considering that he turned 30 in December.

    7. Karl Klug, DE/DT, Titans. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Titans (2 years)
    8. Nate Washington, WR, Titans. Age: 32. — Signed with Texans
    9. Colin McCarthy, ILB, Titans. Age: 27.
    10. George Wilson, S, Titans. Age: 34.
    11. Shonn Greene, RB, Titans. Age: 30.
    12. Leon Washington, RB/KR, Titans. Age: 33.
    13. Ryan Succop, K, Titans. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Titans (3 years)
    14. Chris Spencer, C, Titans. Age: 33.
    15. Derek Hagan, WR, Titans. Age: 30.
    16. Byron Stingily, OT, Titans. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Titans
    17. Jackie Battle, FB, Titans. Age: 31.
    18. Brandon Harris, CB, Titans. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Titans
    19. Kris Durham (RFA), WR, Titans. Age: 27.
    20. Matthew Mulligan, TE, Titans. Age: 30.
    21. Kaelin Burnett (RFA), OLB, Titans. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Titans
    22. Jordan Palmer, QB, Titans. Age: 31.


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