A remarkable turnaround season is in the books for the Tennessee Titans, so today we’ll hand out the first annual Titan Up team awards.
Offensive Player of the Year
DeMarco Murray – RB
The offseason acquisition of running back DeMarco Murray was the first sign of credibility for new general manager Jon Robinson, and Murray rewarded the GM’s leap of faith by instantly becoming the face and focal point of the Titans’ offense this season.
Murray ushered in Tennessee’s new exotic smash mouth era by leading the AFC with 1287 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He was also a proficient weapon in the passing game, ranking third on the team with 55 receptions and an additional three receiving touchdowns…earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.
Defensive Player of the Year
Brian Orakpo – Outside Linebacker
The veteran linebacker and vocal leader of the defense followed up his 2015 seven sack debut in Tennessee with 10.5 sacks this season, joining Murray in Orlando as a Pro Bowl participant. “Rak” posted 46 total tackles, 4 pass deflections, and a forced fumble this year. He also had a streak of five straight games with a sack while racking up multiple sacks three times this season. His non-stop motor and locker room leadership made Orakpo a vital piece of the team’s success this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Jack Conklin – Right Tackle
It’s always a good sign for the future when your rookie of the year is also your first round pick, and the Titans struck gold when they selected “Straight Outta Conklin’ with the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft.
The rookie from Michigan State was thrown right into the fire when veteran starter Byron Bell was lost for the year early in camp, and all Conklin did was establish himself as one of the best tackles in the entire league this year. Pro Football Focus tabbed Conklin as the third best rookie this season, behind the dynamic Dallas duo of qb Dak Prescott and rb Ezequiel Elliott…pretty good company to be associated with.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Kevin Byard – Safety
The third round pick out of Middle Tennessee State was one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming secondary this season. Byard finished third on the team with 58 total tackles, and also chipped in 4 pass deflections, three tackles for loss, and a sack.
Stats aside, the confident swagger that Byard carried on the field each week caught the attention of his teammates and coaches, and you should fully expect to see him in a starting role in 2017 and beyond.
Comeback Player of the Year
Derrick Morgan – Outside Linebacker
Morgan was off to a promising 2015 start with 4.5 sacks before injuries cut his season short. This year Morgan rebounded with a healthy 2016 (15 starts) and doubled his production with 9 sacks. Playing opposite of Orakpo for a full season, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau finally had a formidable bookend duo that could wreak havoc on opposing offenses week in and week out. The only linebacker duo in the league to post at least 9 sacks apiece in 2016.
Coach of the Year
Russ Grimm – Offensive Line Coach
The Super Bowl champion, Hall of Fame offensive lineman from the Washington Redskins’ glory days was one of the unsung heroes for the Titans six-game improvement in the win column this season. Tennessee’s o’line improved dramatically under Grimm in his first season with the team, and their collective play was the key component in the vast improvement of the Titans’ offense overall.
Jon Robinson – General Manager
Tennessee’s first-year general manager Jon Robinson was the unquestioned MVP of the franchise this season. His masterful use of trades and free agent acquisitions transformed a team that won five games in two years to the team that beat five playoff teams this year. With two of the first 18 picks in the upcoming draft, Titans fans should be excited to see how the wizard works his magic in 2017.