It seems like it was just yesterday when Derrick Henry was throwing grown men around while racing down the sideline for an NFL record-tying 99 yard run against the hated Jaguars…
But here we are again, on the cusp of a new league year with the NFL Combine already underway.
With so many personnel changes on the horizon, and the anticipation that comes with it, today we start with what the Titans already have to build around.
So without further ado, we count down the top ten players returning in 2019.
10. Delanie Walker – TEEmbed from Getty Images
You know you’re an important part of your franchise’s success when you land in the top 10 after missing all but three quarters of the 2018 season. And that’s the case with Tennessee’s unquestioned leader…both on and off the field.
Walker’s quest for a fourth-straight Pro Bowl appearance was derailed after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in last year’s season opener. And his absence cost the Titans a playoff berth.
Yes, Walker is on the wrong side of 30. And yes, no one knows for sure if he can return to form. But one thing is for sure, if he is able to get close to his former elite status, then the Titans are already better on offense without playing a down this season.
9. Wesley Woodyard – LBEmbed from Getty Images
Like Walker, the ageless wonder continues to perform at a high level while playing into his 30s. Woodyard led the team in tackles the last two seasons and has 237 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in that span.
With Brian Orakpo retiring and Derrick Morgan unlikely to return, look for more to be added to Woodyard’s plate with so many new pieces around him. And given his veteran leadership, professionalism, durability, and productivity, you can expect Woodyard to rise to the occasion.
8. Corey Davis – WREmbed from Getty Images
After a disappointing rookie season, the 2017 5th overall pick took a huge leap forward in his sophomore campaign. Davis set career highs in receptions (65), yards (891), and tds (4), while stepping into the number one receiver role for Walker.
Davis proved to be reliable in 2018, playing in all 16 games after an injury riddled 2017 season. He showed his toughness with numerous catches in traffic, and showed his clutch gene with two game-winning td receptions last year.
7. Logan Ryan – CBEmbed from Getty Images
Numbers don’t tell the full story when it comes to Ryan’s impact on a defense that finished 3rd in points allowed last year. While he failed to intercept a pass in 2018, Ryan regularly lined up against the opponent’s top wide receiver. His versatility and football IQ made him an eraser on the back-end. He was also proficient in the blitz game, registering 4 sacks as a cornerback. Good for 4th best on the team.
6. Marcus Mariota – QBEmbed from Getty Images
No, a team looking to make a Super Bowl run should not have their franchise qb this low on the list. And yes, the slot is accurate. That’s why Mariota is currently without a contract extension as he enters the last year of his rookie deal and most important year of his football career.
5. Jayon Brown – LBEmbed from Getty Images
While Davis garnered all of the headlines, middle linebacker Jayon Brown has proved so far to be the crown jewel of that 2017 draft class. The 5th round pick has played like a first rounder in his first two seasons with the Titans, and his performance in the 2017 regular season finale (fumble recovery, interception, touchdown) has defensive coordinator Dean Pees salivating at Brown’s upside. He finished the season second in tackles with 97, to go along with 6 sacks, 6 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a pick six.
4. Derrick Henry – RBEmbed from Getty Images
Henry is the most intriguing player on this list due to his tale of two seasons in 2018. And the question on the minds of everyone connected to this team is….”Which Henry will show up in 2019?”
Will it be the Henry that tip-toed through holes to the tune of less than 4 yards per carry and no touchdowns the first half of the season? Or will it be the mammoth physical specimen that ran like his hair was on fire during the critical home stretch to close the season…finishing with close to 1,100 yards and 12 tds?
If it is the latter, then Henry will undoubtedly join the Titans’ fraternity of Pro Bowl backs in 2019.
3. Kevin Byard – SEmbed from Getty Images
After earning All Pro honors in just his second season, Byard returned in 2018 and cemented himself as no one hit wonder. Although he failed to lead the league in turnovers forced again last season, his athleticism and play making ability was still on full display.
The scariest part about Byard…if you’re an opponent….is his trajectory. If he continues to grow and evolve at this pace then he will no doubt be a household name in 2019….even to Dion Sanders.
2. Taylor Lewan – LTEmbed from Getty Images
After cashing in on a payday that made him the highest paid offensive lineman in the history of the league last offseason, Lewan didn’t take the money and run. In fact, he earned his pay to the tune of a third straight Pro Bowl appearance. Lewan has increased his intensity while cutting down on the immature bonehead plays that used to cost his team dearly.
He enters the 2019 season as one of the best young tackles in all of football.
1. Jurrell Casey – DLEmbed from Getty Images
If you were to look up the word consistency in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Mr. 99 Problems.
Casey has quietly become on of the most respected defensive linemen in the league, even if the respect comes solely from his fans and peers. The freakishly athletic big man from USC continues to cause 99 problems to opposing offenses in the run and pass game. Evidenced by his fourth-straight Pro Bowl nod in 2018…and we’re not talking 5th alternate.
Casey will once again be the key cog of a defense that’s looking to take the leap from good to elite this season.
Let the debate begin….