Tennessee Titans: Don’t Overthink the Draft

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By Jared Peterman

            The Titans created a foundation in the 2015 NFL Draft by selecting quarterback Marcus Mariota and a potential star in the making wide receiver to throw to in Dorial Green-Beckham.  Every move in the offseason has been focused on improving the talent around Mariota to take a big step forward in his second season.  The icing on the cake would be for the new regime of General Manager Jon Robinson and Coach Mike Mularkey to knock out the 2016 draft, and that starts with the number one overall pick.  First, let’s recap some important offseason transactions.

Two free agent signings and one bold trade revamped the offense that Mariota will lead the huddle with in his second season.  The Titans signed a new possession receiver from Miami in Rishard Matthews, who the New England Patriots coveted in the offseason as well.  He adds to the already talented pass catching corps surround Mariota including: Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Delanie Walker and the aforementioned Green-Beckham.  Another playmaker was added via trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring running back, DeMarco Murray, after just one season with the Eagles.  This should obviously improve a Tennessee run game that relied on David Cobb and Antonio Andrews last season.  The biggest offseason addition? Signing center Ben Jones to provide a leader and the staple to an offensive line protecting the savior of the franchise.

This puts Tennessee on the clock with a player on the board to make this offseason an absolute step forward in the right direction.  That player proves to be left tackle Laremy Tunsil from the University of Mississippi.  This pick would not only protect Mariota’s blindside, but solidify the offensive line as an entire unit.  This move would have 2014 first round pick, Taylor Lewan, move to right tackle alongside 2013 first round pick, Chance Warmack, the starting right guard.  Scouts and analysts believe Tunsil is an absolute stud who will have a long, tremendous career.  If the consensus becomes true, and the Titans select Tunsil, Mariota shouldn’t have to panic in the pocket as he did in 2015.  Mariota was sacked 38 times in his 12 games as a rookie.  The offense would be complete in almost every facet, allowing Robinson to focus on the defense for the majority of draft and the rest of the offseason.  It’s not the sexiest selection, but it is the smartest.  Don’t overthink it, Tennessee.

AFC Divisional Dark Horses Through Week 3

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AFC Divisional Dark Horses Through Week 3

By Jared Peterman

AFC NORTH:

Despite the recent injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a real threat to win the AFC North Division.  Through Week 3, the Steelers sit 2-1, one game back of the Cincinnati Bengals, and tied with the Baltimore Ravens. Besides the horrible loss to the Ravens, the Steelers have shown flashes of dominance, especially in Week 3 vs the Carolina Panthers.  Behind the Steelers’ drive to the divisional title is the effectiveness of WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell, the two have helped the Steelers put up 30 point efforts in Weeks 1 and 3.  If the defense can find a way to stay healthy, Pittsburgh has a legitimate shot at winning the AFC North.

AFC EAST:

Through Week 3, the Buffalo Bills find themselves atop the AFC East division at a 2-1 record, 1-0 in the division.  Despite being in first place through three weeks, the Bills are still my dark horse candidate to win the division as everyone expects the New England Patriots to win the division as always.  The Bills shocked the Chicago Bears in a Week 1 overtime win and continued the success against the Miami Dolphins, a divisional rival.  Buffalo’s defense has been the strong suit throughout three weeks as it’s held their opponents to 52 points, 8th best among the NFL.  The defense has been strong, but their legitimacy relies on the offense and their explosive playmakers. Besides QB EJ Manuel, RB CJ Spiller is the key to keeping the Bills’ in contention with the AFC East crown as he can impact the game with a single carry. If the Bills can figure out how to productively feed Spiller, opponent’s defenses can be in trouble, as well as the rest of the AFC East.

AFC SOUTH:

After a stunning win at Arrowhead Stadium vs the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, the Tennessee Titans have been embarrassed the past two weeks by the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals, but that isn’t scaring me to pick them as a dark horse in an Indianapolis Colts’ favored AFC South division. At the moment, Tennessee is tied with the Colts at a 1-2 record, and have a pretty manageable schedule in front of them.  Ray Horton’s defense has been much better than the points against shows as turnovers have put the defense in tough spots against the Cowboys and the Bengals.  QB Jake Locker decides whether the Titans challenge for the AFC South or have another losing season.  The run game between Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey has been sneaky productive from the YPC standpoint and Locker is surrounded by weapons in WRs Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, along with TE Delanie Walker. Tennessee is a little bit of a long shot to win the division, but if Locker puts it together, beware AFC South.

AFC WEST:

Flat out, the San Diego Chargers (2-1) are true contenders to win the AFC West division and made their statement clear as they defeated the Seattle Seahawks by scoring 30 points against the Super Bowl Champions.  Although I don’t view the Chargers as a true “dark horse,” most people assume the Denver Broncos will win another AFC West title behind Peyton Manning, therefore the Chargers are my dark horse pick.  The secondary seems rebuilt with the additions of CBs Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett (Rookie).  The true reason the Chargers can win the divisional title is their offense and the resurgence of Antonio Gates through three weeks.  The injuries of RBs Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead hurt their run game, but Donald Brown gives legitimate insurance at the position.  The key to the Chargers’ AFC West crown relies on the health and production of the playmakers around QB Philip Rivers.

2014 NFL Preview: AFC South

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AFC SOUTH PREVIEW

 

Indianapolis Colts:

Thanks to a weak division and the talent of Andrew Luck, the Colts posted a 11-5 record in 2013 and won the AFC South as well as a playoff game.  The Colts return the majority of the same team entering 2014 besides signing WR Hakeem Nicks.  The key to the Colts’ offseason was resigning stud CB Vontae Davis to ensure a solid secondary behind a below average front seven.  Indianapolis will rely on it’s high powered offense again in 2014 as Andrew Luck seems to officially breakout and become a the league’s next superstar with deep threat WR T.Y. Hilton. and the return of Reggie Wayne.  The Colts’ biggest mystery is their running game as they possess struggling backs in Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw.  If the Colts can avoid regression and figure out the running game, they’re destined to a longer postseason run in 2014.

Prediction: 10-6

Tennessee Titans:

The Titans finished 2013 at a 7-9 mark after injuries to starting QB Jake Locker and WR Kenny Britt.  A total makeover of the Titans was born in the offseason as Ken Whisenhunt was hired as the head coach and the team cut ties with former superstar RB Chris Johnson.  The offense should be improved under Whisenhunt’s system and a healthy Jake Locker throwing to under the radar WR Kendall Wright.  Rookie RB Bishop Sankey will share carries with Shonn Greene to replace Chris Johnson along with Flex position Dexter McCluster.  The defense will embrace Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme as DC where he coached Arizona last season.  The biggest impact from the defensive scheme change will result in DE Derrick Morgan who could be moved to OLB to provide more of a pass rush.  A lot rides on the growth of Jake Locker in 2014 to prove if he is the QB for the future and if the Titans will win games this season.  

Prediction: 5-11

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Jacksonville started the 2013 season 0-8, but ended 4-4 over the final eight weeks to produce a 4-12 record.  The strong finish to the season provides optimism for the future to come for Gus Bradley’s football team as they improved drastically over the offseason while laying their blueprint for the future via draft.  The Jaguars added two pieces of Seattle’s defense in the offseason in DE/LB Chris Clemons and DE Red Bryant, while also signing RB Toby Gerhart to replace the franchise’s cornerstone for many years, Maurice Jones-Drew.  Gerhart will serve as a workload back for the first time in his career after backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota.  The Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles third overall in the NFL draft and immediately provided him with weapons for years to come in the second round in WRs Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to already add to WR Cecil Shorts. Bortles may not start right away in another rebuilding year for Jacksonville, but he is their future at QB and the make or break player for the franchise for years to come.  

Prediction: 6-10

Houston Texans:

Houston’s 2014 season was an unpredictable nightmare that corresponded with Matt Schaub’s season and Arian Foster’s back injury.  The 2-14 record landed Houston the number one pick in the NFL Draft that Jadeveon Clowney was selected with under new coaching regime Tom O’Brien, former New England OC and Penn State head coach.  The Texans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stopgap at the QB position for the 2014 season, but Fitzpatrick will be tooled with the right weapons for a solid season behind a healthy Arian Foster and WRs Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins.  The defense becomes majorily improved with the Clowney selection as they look to return to their stout 2012 form along with the force of J.J. Watt and company.  The Texans should experience more success than the 2013 season, but a playoff appearance in 2014 is doubtful and would require a Coach of the Year performance in O’Brien.

Prediction: 6-10