The NFL is by and large a passing league these days, and with it also being a copy-cat league you see more and more teams trying to re-create the greatest show on turf.
Last offseason Jon Robinson and Mike Mularkey, the Tennessee Titans’ newly hired general manager and head coach, decided to buck conventional wisdom when they laid out their plan for a physical, hard-nosed team that dominates with their run game.
An exotic smash mouth football team if you will.
And as you recall the identity change was met with great skepticism from local and national media outlets.
Until the games were played.
Robinson and Company brought in the right players to execute the vision, and as a result the Titans enjoyed one of the greatest one-season turnarounds in recent history.
Tennessee was also a top five team in rushing yards and stopping the run…just as they planned.
Not only did the unconventional approach work, but now the media is praising the team’s physicality and ability to control the line of scrimmage.
One of the Titans’ most pressing offseason needs this year was a play-making wide receiver. A true number one. This year’s free agency pool was full of them, and the team has plenty of cap room.
But instead of going the conventional route and potentially over-spending for a receiver the Titans threw yet another curve ball by focusing largely on the special teams unit.
Tennessee brought in free agent special teams aces Brynden Trawick and Darren Bates, both known for being ball-hawks on coverage teams. The Titans also brought in return man Eric Weems from the Atlanta Falcons.
Weems’ signing could pay double dividends. Not only will he return kicks for Tennessee, but he also plays on the coverage team.
That’s important because the Titans won’t have to reserve an extra spot on the active 53-man roster for a player that solely returns kicks (as they did last season with return man Marc Mariani). Having Weems on the active roster gives Tennessee the flexibility to bolster the depth at another position.
In addition the Titans also re-signed free agents Nate Palmer (LB) and Phillip Supernaw (TE), two productive special teams players for them last year.
While the moves were unconventional from a league perspective, they fall in line with what the Titans are trying to build.
Tennessee lost seven games last season, five by 8 points or less. And in most of those cases the special teams unit put the Titans on the wrong side of huge momentum-swinging play.
So much so that the special teams coach was fired just a few games into the season.
Jon Robinson’s successful debut as general manager last year has given him the benefit of the doubt in Tennessee, and until further notice there is really no need to.
Unconventional or not.