Last season the Tennessee Titans beat six teams with winning records, and five of those teams made the playoffs. The Titans were underdogs in all six contests.
But in one of the few occasions where the Titans were favored to win last year they laid an egg in Jacksonville, and that ultimately cost them the AFC South title.
With such a young roster and no recent history of postseason success…how do the Titans manage the lofty expectations placed on them by the fans and media this year?
By adding winners to the roster…that’s how.
Of all the great things the new front office has done for the franchise, one of the least talked about is their ability to find balance for a rebuilding roster.
The Titans are extremely young in a lot of key positions, namely quarterback. But they also have a young set of bookend tackles, two rookie receivers and a rookie tight end slated to play a significant role this season, and a rookie starting cornerback.
All of the key components for a franchise looking to reconstruct from the ground up.
And in the case of the Titans, the young players that have seen the field have performed at a high level, making the rebuilding process go smoother and faster.
But there is a difference between a good young team that’s playing above their head (as the Titans were in 2016) and a great playoff team that lives up to the preseason hype.
That’s where veteran players that have won in this league are so valuable.
Players like running back DeMarco Murray, who less than three years ago was robbed of a chance to play in the NFC Championship game (Dez caught it). He was the Offensive Player of the Year that season as well as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Or players like wide receiver Eric Decker and nose tackle Sylvester Williams, who both enjoyed Super Bowl runs with the Denver Broncos.
Or cornerback Logan Ryan, who is a two-time Super Bowl champion (New England Patriots).
And lets not forget that veteran Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker enjoyed playoff success and a Super Bowl appearance as a member of the Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers.
All of the above mentioned veterans bring valuable intangibles along with them.
Tricks of the trade, tweaks in dieting and training, passing along nuggets they received from some of the best players on their respective teams.
And most importantly, setting a “we police ourselves” tone in practice…and there’s no better time than in training camp.
Tennessee has a nice blend of veterans that know how to win in this league and young players to build for the future.
If the veterans lead by example and the young players follow suit, then expectations should be met this year. Tennessee has the talent.