After several years of being the clear #1 team in the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans are looking to bounce back from a middling 2022 season.
They would finish 7-10 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2018, in what was the weakest division in the NFL. Injuries definitely played a role, but there was no hiding the fact that the team took a step back. With the ascension of the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence, and the additions of young QB’s around the division in Anthony Richardson and C.J Stroud, the competition in the AFC South seems to be heating up. Getting back to being division champions won’t be easy.
So, as the team looks to turn the page to 2023, where do the 4-time AFC South champions stand?
Tight end Austin Hooper went to Las Vegas to play for the Raiders, while tackle Dennis Daley, who started most of the year in place of the injured Taylor Lewan, left for Arizona. Speaking of Lewan, the long-time Titans stalwart was released by the team in February. The team also lost CB Lonnie Johnson Jr to the Saints, and linebacker David Long Jr signed with Miami.
The Titans made plenty of moves during the offseason; the most notable was the addition of 3-time All Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins, who spent the last 2 seasons in Arizona after starting his career with the Texans, has dealt with injuries the last couple of seasons. He only played in 19 out of a possible 33 games for the Cardinals, putting up 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns on 106 catches. His days as an All-Pro may be behind him, but he certainly can still contribute.
Other notable free agent additions include cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, linebackers Arden Key and Azeez Al-Shaair, tackle Andre Dillard, and guard Daniel Brunskill. In the draft, the team took tackle Peter Skoronski in the first round, and then drafted QB Will Levis in the 2nd. They added some depth at running back in the 3rd round with the selection of Tyjae Spears, before adding more offensive help by drafting tight end Josh Whyle, tackle Jaelyn Duncan, and wide receiver Colton Dowell in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds respectively.
Players To Keep An Eye On
One of the most notable position battles for the Titans will be for the backup QB spot. Veteran Ryan Tannehill is still the presumed starter, leaving 2nd-year passer Malik Wills and Levis to battle it out for the #2 spot. Willis, who appeared in 8 games last year, starting 3, struggled during his limited action. His final stat line for the season was a 50.8% completion percentage, 276 yards, 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions for a QBR of 42.8. There have been reports however that Willis has shown much improvement over the offseason. Levis, due to his draft status, will be on the Titans 53-man roster. He reportedly struggled during Titans OTA’s, but that might not matter. Unless Tennessee is looking to keep 3 quarterbacks on its roster, Willis may find himself the odd man out.
The other big name to watch out for is DeAndre Hopkins. First and foremost, will he be able to remain healthy? Beyond that, how quickly can he and Tannehill establish a connection? With Derrick Henry still in the fold, the Titans will remain a run heavy team. If Tannehill and Hopkins can get on the same page quickly, it would do wonders for the team’s goal of climbing back to the top of the AFC South.
During Wednesday’s edition of The Ride With JMV, John spoke to Joe Rexrode, who covers the Titans for The Athletic. Joe and John spoke about the Titans offseason, some key positions to keep an eye on, and more! Listen to that conversation and others below, and tune into The Ride With JMV from 3-6pm on 93.5/107.5 The Fan!
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