Guest Writer: Brookes Jones
Given that these are the dog days of the offseason where we only have so much to speculate on before watching the Patriots (probably) win yet another Super Bowl this weekend, we at ChattTenn Sports want to hear from you. This is a place for the fans of the Titans, so we want to hear about what you have seen, and what you think is the Titans’ most pressing need as we move into the flurry of the off-season.
Interior Defensive Lineman
This is a popular choice for many people and I can see why this choice has become so popular. Many mock drafts have us targeting players like Jeffrey Simmons out of Mississippi State because our defensive line is basically limited to Jurrell Casey being double teamed on every snap. Casey’s absence in the final game of the season really exposed our dependence upon his talents, and how untrustworthy guys like DaQuan Jones and Bennie Logan are to stop the run. I still feel like I am stuck in a time loop at times where I simply have to watch that inside hand off play the colts ran with Marlon Mack. In this time loop I am forced to watch our defense get zero, push, and Mack runs for six yards up the middle over and over.
Another reason this choice has become so popular amongst Titans fans is the resurgence of the importance of a dominant interior defensive lineman in the wake of Aaron Donald. Since the game has changed so drastically on offense, EDGE rushers have fewer time to get to the quarterback. Having a defensive lineman who can pressure the quarterback up the middle does wonders for a defense, if you need evidence and you have the courage to do it then watch the Baltimore game where Marcus was sacked ELEVEN times. Many of these were caused by faulty protection on our interior/ good pressure op the middle from Baltimore. This draft is known as an unusually deep draft class at interior defensive line. I have seen some people speculate that there are as many as 15 interior defensive lineman that should receive first round grades. Does this mean that the Titans should prioritize this lower based on supply and demand? Should they take advantage of this and take the best guy possible at this position in the first round since other teams will probably reach for other positions?
EDGE Pass Rusher
In many mock drafts I have seen some people targeting cornerbacks for the Titans as an area of need. I also heard one analyst who actually watched the Titans say that their cornerbacks should receive awards for playing so well in coverage for as long as they had to play in coverage almost every play. The point I am making is that we do not have a need at cornerback, we have a need to get some type of pressure on the quarterback. A few things are certain in life. Death, taxes, and the fact that a professional quarterback not named Blake Bortles can rip your secondary to shreds if you give him five seconds in the pocket without any pressure.
The Titans seem to have found a young stud pass rusher in Harold Landry. The amount of time he was able to disrupt a play or even cause the quarterback to move up in the pocket because he simply beat his guy off of the line was a real bright spot for this defense moving forward. He needs help, and with Brian Orakpo retiring and the Titans (hopefully) not re-signing Derrick Morgan there is a huge hole to fill when it comes to finding an edge rusher. Sharif Finch and Kamalei Correa are valuable role players that can take snaps to give other guys a break, but I think that another pass rusher opposite Landry could really make an impact on this defense. Guys to watch in this area are Brian Burns from Florida State, Jachai Polite from Florida, or Montez Sweat from Mississippi State. As far as Free Agency goes, this is a difficult position. EDGE rushers usually do now hit the open market too often, and when they do it usually demands a huge contract.
Interior Offensive Lineman
“When Marcus had time he looked like a good NFL quarterback.” This was something that I have seen online a lot, and that I have said often. A quarterback under constant pressure rarely looks like a dependable quarterback. This game is not designed for you to be successful if you cannot establish dominance in the trenches. The physicality of the game also means that if you are under pressure frequently as a quarterback and are getting hit as often as Marcus did last year then you probably will get hurt. Do a quick Google search on the number of games that various quarterbacks have missed and you will learn quickly that this is a dangerous game and protecting the most important position on the field should be a priority.
Whether it is Marcus Mariota moving forward or a different option that the team decides to go with after the 2019 season via Free Agency or the 2020 draft, the reality is that the Titans interior offensive line was simply not good enough this past year. Many people are calling for Jack Conklin to move to guard and to keep Dennis Kelly at right tackle, or to move Ben Jones over to guard while Corey Levin plays center. Both of these seem like possible improvements upon what we saw last year but I am unsure about the likelihood of either of these. Conklin seems pretty adamant about his status as a tackle, and who knows what Levin is actually capable of. (Go Mocs though am I right?)
Some possible names to look at in this area are Garrett Bradbury from North Carolina State, Dalton Risner from Kansas State who is a tackle that could move to guard in the NFL, or Chris Lindstrom from Boston College who plays on the interior. The Free Agent class for this position does not look extremely promising but if you have someone you really want the Titans to target in Free Agency please let us know below.
It pays off to have a dude on your team who is just a “baller.” A guy who you can throw the ball to and let him go up and get it (while probably pushing off even though it is never called, yes I am looking at you DeAndre Hopkins) to get you out of a jam. Few things kill a drive like a dropped pass. The Titans lacked a dude that they could simply throw the ball up to and rely on him going up and getting it often, and they lacked receiving options who could consistently catch the ball when it was thrown to them. In all honesty our receivers this year were just average NFL guys, and it sucks to admit. I love this team and I want our receivers to be better than they were, heck my Fantasy Team name was Made in Taywan. Despite this, the Titans and whoever the QB of the future is need dependable receivers to help this offense get going. Guys who can either take the top off of the defense, create separation with elite route running, or just show freak athleticism to make plays that they probably shouldn’t make as a human. Sure, Hall of Fame QBs make their receivers better and throw guys open all the time. The issue with these elite Hall of Fame QBs is that every fan base watches them and forgets that not every quarterback in the league can do those things or even needs to do to those things to be a franchise quarterback moving forward. Marcus Mariota can be helped out tremendously with better receiving options who he trusts, who take pressure off of the run game, and who make plays after the catch.
Another argument for this position is the fact that a better passing game inevitably improves protection. Quicker throws based on a variety of routes in a receiver’s route tree make it more difficult for the defense to just play straight up man coverage and get after the quarterback. Does the added threat of getting beat badly by a crazy-athletic receiver improve the offensive line enough?
Some targets in this area to watch for are D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown from Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry from Arizona State, and Marquise Brown from Oklahoma. Many people feel that the receiving room is already young enough and think this should be addressed in free agency to add a veteran presence but the list of reliable receivers in free agency who are a lot better than what we have is not a long one.
So what is the biggest need?
Now that we have most of the information around this decision, we want to hear from you. What is the most important need that the Titans address? How should we prioritize these needs? I just made a case for each one, and in an ideal world we fill every single hole with the perfect guy, but this is the off-season and we get to talk hypotheticals. What do you want to see Jon Robinson address first and with the most capitol?
What position do you want to see the Titans address in the first round? Find us on Twitter or Facebook and start the conversation!
 Morgan had a long and great career with the Titans, but he simply did not demonstrate that he could produce at a high level or even an average level last year. He was constantly out of position and looked too slow for today’s game.