The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Eight teams to go! Up next in our preseason rankings are the rebuilt Tennessee Titans.
2016 in a nutshell: Young franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota showed marked improvements in his second season, giving the Titans a shot right up until he broke his leg in Week 16. Tennessee fell short of the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year, but finished with a 9-7 record after winning just five games in the previous two seasons.
What’s different: A healthy Mariota actually has real weapons at the receiver position now after they drafted Western Michigan standout Corey Davis fifth overall and signed veteran starter Eric Decker. Tennessee also bolstered the defense in free agency and used their other first-round pick on versatile former USC cornerback Adoree Jackson.
Why they could be awesome: The Titans were already on track to become awesome before adding Davis and Decker and sprucing up the D. Mariota threw just nine interceptions in 15 games as a sophomore and posted a 21-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 110.9 passer rating in October and November.
Why they could suck: Mariota could miss time due to an injury for the third consecutive year to start his career.
Major additions: Davis, Decker, Jackson and new defensive starters Sylvester Williams, John Cyprien and Logan Ryan, all of whom should make an impact in 2016.
Major losses: Nobody who really matters.
— Boston🇺🇸Bobblehead (@DBloom451) August 19, 2017
Breakout watch: Veteran DeMarco Murray is still the man in the backfield after making the Pro Bowl with a conference-high 1,287 rushing yards last season, but second-year second-round pick Derrick Henry actually had a higher yards-per-attempt average (4.5 to 4.4) than Murray last season. Don’t be surprised if he pushes his 29-year-old mentor.
Position to watch: The offensive line is mean. Right tackle Jack Conklin was a first-team All-Pro was a rookie last season, and left tackle Taylor Lewan has begun to dominate three years into his career. And interior linemen Quinton Spain, Ben Jones and Josh Kline were quietly strong last season as well.
Prediction: Don’t forget the Titans also have Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, who were decent starters at receiver last year, as well as Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker. The revamped secondary will be better and the rest of the defense already had plenty of talent with guys like Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo, Avery Williamson, Wesley Woodyard, Derrick Morgan and DaQuan Jones up front. Add Williams and it’s hard to find a weak spot. They’re ready.
10-6, 1st place in the AFC South