After months of antagonizing anticipation, the wait is finally over. The start of the 2018 season is finally here for the Tennessee Titans. Training camp is set to begin for all players in less than 24 hours.
So on the eve of the franchise’s 20th season in Nashville, we count down the five biggest storylines to follow throughout camp.
5. Harold Landry’s development
The Titans made it official today, mercifully cutting ties with Kevin Dodd, the 2016 second round pick and 33rd pick overall. The former Clemson standout will be viewed as arguably one of the biggest busts to be selected that high in franchise history…but that’s a debate for another day.
Tennessee is not without insurance, however, moving up in this year’s second round to grab Dodd’s replacement, outside linebacker Harold Landry. The former Eagle out of Boston College will be heavily counted on to contribute behind veteran starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, who are both productive but getting long in the tooth by NFL standards.
Landry’s development throughout training camp would have been a storyline to watch even if Dodd was still on the roster, but his sudden release ramps things up for the rookie.
4. How will the new running back tandem be used?
Derrick Henry was poised to take over as the team’s feature back when DeMarco Murray was released this offseason, but the acquisition of versatile back Dion Lewis (Patriots) during free agency gives us cause to pause. While Lewis brings a pass catching ability that Henry has lacked so far in his young career, he can still get it done between the tackles.
That blurs things a bit.
Lewis earned a Super Bowl ring as a heavy contributor for the Patriots, and should be looking to continue that in Tennessee, even it if means cutting into Henry’s touches.
Henry, on the other hand, is no stranger to competition at this level. After being out-touched and outplayed by Murray his rookie season, Henry proved to be the better back in 2017 with one homerun play after another.
This should be a fun storyline to follow throughout camp as both will be featured, if healthy.
3. Do the Titans have enough at wide receiver?
General manager Jon Robinson gave this position group a huge vote of confidence this offseason when he elected to forgo an upper-tier free agent signing or draft pick. That’s saying something for a group that was the most under-performing unit on offense…if not the entire team last season.
Robinson is hedging his bets on Corey Davis rebounding from his injury-riddled 2017 campaign to become the number one guy Tennessee envisioned when they selected him 5th overall in last year’s draft.
If that happens then not only will Robinson look like a genius, but the team as a whole should be true contenders this season.
Taywan Taylor, last year’s third round pick, will also have something to prove. He was an afterthought throughout the regular season after having a solid training camp and preseason last year.
Keep a close eye on Tajae Sharpe, who looks to return after missing the entire 2017 season. His presence could be key as he and quarterback Marcus Mariota enjoyed great chemistry together in 2016.
2. Taylor Lewan’s contract
Now to the elephant in the room, when will Tennessee’s two-time Pro Bowl left tackle report to camp? If he is true to his words then he won’t until he gets paid what he feels he deserves.
Currently playing out the last year of his deal, things could get ugly on and off the field if Lewan and the Titans continue to dig in their heels.
Mariota’s chances of success this season hinges greatly on his bodyguard and blind side protector being there.
1. How quickly will the offense learn LaFleur’s system?
Tennessee fired their head coach last season because of an inability to execute a modern-day offense. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is the poster child for exciting offense, just ask the Los Angeles Rams…who lead the lead in scoring last season under LaFleur, after being dreadful with the same cast of characters under Jeff Fisher in 2016.
As it was with the Rams, can it also be with Tennessee’s cast of characters?
This, without a doubt, will be the number one storyline to follow throughout training camp…and perhaps throughout the entire season. With a change like that after a playoff season, fans may grow weary if the new offense looks worse than the old one.