The Tennessee Titans’ remarkable 9-7 turnaround in 2016 seems improbable on the surface, but when you look at the roster moves made by general manager Jon Robinson since joining the team last January you get a clearer picture of the team’s newfound success.
The Titans have become a bigger…stronger…faster team under Robinson.
Lets start with the offensive line. Tennessee’s o’line was one of the worst at opening holes in the run game, and was even worse at protecting the quarterback in 2015.
Enter Jon Robinson…
One of his first moves as GM was replacing the often injured and otherwise inconsistent Brian Schwenke with veteran center Ben Jones. A bigger, nastier, more physical center with playoff experience.
Jack Conklin was added with last year’s 8th overall pick, a bigger, stronger, and more athletic option over right tackles Byron Bell and Jeremiah Poutasi.
Robinson then traded wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to Philadelphia for a back up guard in Josh Kline, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Kline, who is more physical at the point of attack, outperformed starting right guard Chance Warmack when he elected season-ending surgery on his hand last season. Kline will enter this season as the starting right guard, and Warmack was not re-signed.
In 2015 the running back situation was just as abysmal. Bishop Sankey, Antonio Andrews, and David Cobb played musical chairs as the starter, and none of them took the reigns.
Enter Jon Robinson…
Another trade with the Philadelphia Eagles brought DeMarco Murray, the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year to Nashville. Four weeks later Robinson drafted the 2015 Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry. Both backs, now known as Thunder and Thunder, have more toughness, speed, and athleticism than all of the 2015 backs combined.
The starting wide receivers heading into the 2015 season were Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, and it didn’t take long for Robinson to see that he needed more size and speed at the position.
Rishard Matthews was brought in last season, and all he did was lead the team in targets, receiving yards, and touchdowns. While not the speediest, his toughness and ability to make plays in traffic made him an asset to the team.
This offseason Robinson added more size with the acquisition of rookie first round pick Corey Davis and free agent Eric Decker. Two huge targets with good hands.
Taywan Taylor (rookie 3rd round pick) is faster and more elusive than Kendall Wright, and was brought in to replace him primarily in the slot.
Tennessee lost their two backup tight ends in each of Robinson’s first two seasons. Craig Stevens abruptly retired at the start of the 2016 season, and Anthony Fasano elected to sign with Miami this offseason,
Never missing an opportunity to upgrade the talent on the roster, Robinson spent his second 3rd round pick this year on tight end Jonnu Smith.
Why is this an upgrade?
Speed…something Stevens and Fasano didn’t have, and something that the young Smith has in abundance. A perfect compliment to the other-worldly possession receiver skills of starter Delanie Walker.
On defense Robinson replaced last year’s starting cornerbacks (Jason McCourty, Perrish Cox) with a blend of size, toughness, and speed when signing free agent Logan Ryan and the blazing rookie out of USC…Adoree’ Jackson.
On the back-end of the secondary Robinson brought in Johnathan Cyprien via free agency this offseason to bring more of a physical presence than Rashad Johnson did last season, and second-year third round pick Kevin Byard will replace Da’Norris Searcy at the other safety position. Byard has already shown to be faster and more athletic than Searcy.
Everywhere you look Jon Robinson is making upgrades, and when you add up the individual moves you find yourself with a playoff-caliber roster in just two offseasons.
And we all know that he’s just getting started…