Team Capsules: Tennessee Titans
August 24, 2023
A look at every NFL franchise heading into the 2023 season
Disclaimer: Nobody knows what to make of the Tennessee Titans this season.
Are the Titans a team poised for a bounce back season? They could be. After calling it a campaign last season, Tennessee had 23 players on I.R. and it looked as if the team was intent on running Derrick Henry into the ground while Ryan Tannehill sat out the final three games. It was a messy look in Tennessee; on the flip side, Mike Vrabel’s team finished second in the division with seven wins.
Or are the Titans an over-the-hill gang ready for a rebuild? Henry is 30 and Tannehill is 35. Even Vrabel is entering his sixth season in Tennessee, and while he’s been effective for the most part, his team hasn’t won a playoff game since 2019.
Look no further than the Titans season win total of 7.5. Bet the over and the price is set at -120. Bet the under and it comes in at +100. Huh? Clearly, there’s not much confidence in what the Titans will or won’t do in 2023. Take a look.
What to like about the Titans…
- They’re still the Titans. They still play in the dreadful AFC South. They’ll still play a physical brand of football unlike just about every team in the NFL. And that alone has somehow resulted in a lot of winning. In Vrabel’s five-year career as the Titans head coach, he’s either finished first or second in the division four times. The only time he didn’t hit the mark was his first in Tennessee, where the Titans still managed to win nine games. Last year’s seven wins was the worst of his tenure. Was it the beginning of the end or an aberration?
- One of the most difficult tasks in the entire NFL is tackling Derrick Henry, who is still the man in the Titans backfield. After playing just eight games in 2021, Henry returned to being the team’s workhorse – especially in absence of Tannehill, who only played in 12 games in 2022. Amazingly, Henry turned in his second-highest rushing attempt total last season (349) and had his third-best rushing total (1,538 yards). The locals are raving about Henry’s physical condition as the season closes in, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll be great per usual.
- The Titans didn’t stand pat in the offseason. They improved Tannehill’s receiving corps – primarily by signing DeAndre Hopkins – and revamped the offensive line. A line that was fairly ineffective a year ago was largely dismantled and the rebuilt with free agent left tackle Andre Dillard (the 22nd pick overall in 2019 by Philadelphia), San Francisco’s Daniel Brunskill who’s expected to move from center to right guard, and rookie guard Peter Skoronski who was the 11th overall pick. Has the roster been improved enough from last season? Everyone in Tennessee is banking on it.
What not to like about the Titans…
- They’re old. Father Time is undefeated and the aging Titans are dangerously testing the theory. Tannehill, Henry and Hopkins are all north of 30. That doesn’t mean they’re finished – necessarily – but they’re all closer to the end than the beginning. At some point Father Time will squash Tennessee’s plan; it’s possible this is the year he does it.
- The Jaguars* are on the verge. Now, that sort of sentiment comes with an asterisk, and that asterisk is pretty simple: They’re still the Jaguars. They’re a team that is historically bad. Just as Tennessee isn’t used to losing 10 games, Jacksonville isn’t accustomed to winning nine. That’s what happened last season, but which team is trending? With the Jags win total set at 9.5, most experts believe it’s Jacksonville that will emerge in the South.
- General manager Ran Carthon – new as of this offseason – did his best to rebuild the offensive line, which allowed 49 sacks last season. But how well did he do it? That’s a big question, especially considering the cap casualties of three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan and center Ben Jones. Free agent right guard Nate Davis bolted for Chicago and right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere has been suspended for Tennessee’s first six games. Could the line be better? Sure, as it’s hard to be much worse. But given the overall “newness” of the unit, building chemistry might not happen until later in the season.
Steve Quinne’s pick: Derrick Henry to lead the NFL in rushing yards +650
Because there’s little consensus when it comes to the Titans this season, it’s a good time to go shopping for value. Neither the over (-120) or under (+100) win total of 7.5 is very appealing and making the playoffs (+220) seems like a low payout considering not making the playoffs is currently price at -270 – which is neither confidence-inspiring nor favorably priced. If the Titans win the division, the payout is a respectable +425, a bet you should like if you really believe in a Titan turnaround. But the best bet on the board, and maybe the last time you’ll ever want to make it, is for Henry to win the rushing title at +650. Only Nick Chubb has better odds (+500), and he plays in Cleveland, where they’ll be hoping for a big season out of Deshaun Watson. With more weapons on the outside, defenses won’t be able to target Henry like they did in 2022, when he was just 15 measly yards from topping the league anyway.