The Tennessee Titans’ 2018 season is now in the books. Now it’s time to hand out some Titan Up awards….
Offensive Player of the Year
Derrick Henry – RBEmbed from Getty Images
The overwhelming majority of Henry’s season was…well…underwhelming….but his historic run to finish the season made him worthy of this honor.
After struggling to find his way the first three months of the season, Henry was finally given a chance to be the featured ball carrier, and responded with an astonishing 595 rushing yards and 7 tds….just in the month of December.
He finished with his first 1,000 yard season, which seem unfathomable in November.
Earning AFC Offensive Player of the Month was well deserved, but the fact that Henry produced at that level and carried the entire offense during a must-win stretch of games to close the season earns him the Titan Up award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jurrell Casey – DTEmbed from Getty Images
Casey’s 2018 campaign was a microcosm of his career in Tennessee, just quietly going about the business of being one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league that few have ever heard of. Casey led the team in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (15.5) while forcing two fumbles and recovering one.
Casey’s ability to draw and beat double teams made life easier for the linebackers and secondary once again this season, and his presence was sorely missed in the playoffs or bust regular season finale.
The casual NFL fan may still be unaware of Casey’s prowess, but his peers are noticing….voting the humble ball of thunder to his 4th Pro Bowl this season.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Anthony Firkser – TEEmbed from Getty Images
Once considered as nothing more than a training camp body, the undrafted rookie tight end from Harvard shined with his limited opportunities after injuries caused the top two on the depth chart (Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith) to miss considerable time.
Firkser is not as athletic as Smith, nor is he as polished and physical as Walker, but he was all you could ask for from a player that initially failed to make the 53-man roster…
He was consistent.
Firkser caught 19 of his 20 targets in 2018 (1 td), with 12 leading to drive-extending first downs. And while he is no burner, he is crafty in the open field, evidenced by his 94 yards gained after the catch.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Harold Landry – LBEmbed from Getty Images
The second round pick out of Boston College was brought in to provide depth at outside linebacker, and ended up outperforming the veterans ahead of him atop the depth chart.
Landry finished the season tied for third on the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (7.5) He also forced a fumble on a strip-sack and provided quality minutes when asked to step in for veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan….who both had down seasons by all accounts.
Offensive Play of the Year
Derrick Henry runs into the record booksEmbed from Getty Images
Henry tied an NFL record with a 99 yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a late-season nationally televised game. But unlike Dallas Cowboys’ legend Tony Dorsett, who set the record decades ago on a mostly uncontested sprint to the end zone, Henry’s run was far more impressive as he literally threw several grown ass men out of his way while tight-roping the sideline.
Defensive Play of the Year
Kevin Byard goes dancing on the starEmbed from Getty Images
In another nationally televised Monday night contest against the Dallas Cowboys, safety Kevin Byard intercepted Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the end zone, when Dallas seemed poised to take a commanding 14-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Not only did Byard’s interception swing momentum (Titans eventually tied the game afterwards and pulled away late), but it also saved the season of a 3-4 team on the brink of falling off the rails midway through the season.Embed from Getty Images
His Texas-two-step celebration with teammates at the famed star on the 50 yard line served as the proverbial cherry on top.
Mike Vrabel – Head CoachEmbed from Getty Images
Few rookie head coaches in the history of the NFL had to endure a first season as wild, wacky, and unpredictable as Mike Vrabel. Especially when you consider the circumstances surrounding his arrival.
Vrable is one of just a handful of coaches in league history to take over a team that won a playoff game the previous year. His head coaching debut turned out to be the longest game in NFL history thanks to two drawn out weather delays.
Not only did he lose the game, but he also lost his starting tree-time Pro Bowl tight end…starting two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, and starting quarterback with a nerve injury that haunted the entire franchise throughout the year.
His first victory came the following week, when he rolled out a backup qb, backup tight end, and the fourth and fifth tackles on the depth chart.
With injuries to key players continuing to come in droves throughout the season, Vrable somehow managed to coach this team to a winning record and within a game of the playoffs.
And that’s with the healthy return of Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson, the premier quarterbacks of the division that missed virtually all of 2017 due to injury.
You, Mike Vrable, are the Titans’ real MVP this season. Titan Up, sir.