The Tennessee Titans earned a playoff berth in the regular season finale last season in what was a close wild card race with Buffalo, Baltimore, and the Chargers. All four teams were mathematically alive entering week 17.
Tennessee’s detractors called the Titans lucky, pointing to the absence of a couple of rival AFC South quarterbacks as the primary reason.
Andrew Luck missed the entire season for the Colts, and Deshaun Watson’s breakout rookie campaign was derailed when he missed the second half of the season with a torn ACL.
Houston’s season was derailed along with it.
While the playoff spot was certainly earned, and the Titans have nothing to apologize for, the fact remains that Luck and Watson are undefeated against Tennessee in their careers.
Luck is 12-0 and Watson hung 50 on the Titans in his first and only meeting with them last year. It was Tennessee’s worst loss of the season.
Conversely, the Titans were 3-0 against the Colts and Texans in 2017 without Luck and Watson.
While Luck hasn’t began to throw this offseason, and Watson is still recovering, the Titans aren’t taking any chances. They spent the entire offseason preparing for their return.
Tennessee has a pair of Super Bowl champion cornerbacks now after signing Malcolm Butler (Patriots) in free agency. He joins friend and former Patriot Logan Ryan who was signed via free agency in 2017.
Paired with Adoree’ Jackson, who should improve upon a solid rookie season, LeShaun Sims, and Kalan Reed, the Titans have their deepest group of talented and versatile corners since 2008.
Tennessee added safety depth when they selected Dane Cruikshank in the fifth round of the draft. As with his veteran teammates, Cruikshank was praised for his versatility while at Arizona, and has already gone on record that he will come in and soak up knowledge like a sponge.
Not a bad idea with reigning First-team All Pro Kevin Byard in his meeting room.
Pressuring the quarterback was a huge area of concern for Tennessee this offseason, so was covering backs and tight ends in open space. Both needs were addressed early in the draft.
With their first pick the Titans moved up to grab Alabama’s ball-hawking linebacker Rashaan Evans, who should step in right away to replace Avery Williamson. Evans is younger, faster, and stronger. He should be an upgrade in space as well, something Williamson struggled with during his tenure in Tennessee.
With their second pick the Titans got their edge rusher, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry. He should provide immediate depth behind starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, giving the Titans’ rotation a quality fresh body to help sustain constant pressure throughout a ballgame.
A vital necessity against the Luck’s and Watson’s of the world.
The road to the NFL playoffs start with winning your division, something the Titans haven’t done since 2008. And in order to do so, they must eventually slay the dragons known as Luck and Watson.
And their offseason moves prove they are embracing that challenge in 2018.