This year, the Tennessee Titans will be faced with most pressure they’ve ever had during the Jon Robinson era.
After 4 straight 9-7 seasons, 2 playoff births, and a trip to the AFC title game, the Titans will be tasked with putting it all together, and jumping from the reputation of a mid tier football team to a legitimate contender. The team has a lot of dependable talent to make that jump as well, from the 2019 rushing champ Derrick Henry, to the 2019 Comeback Player of The Year in Ryan Tannehill. There’s also the talented, young wideout in AJ Brown, and another young piece at tight end in Jonnu Smith.
Even without Jurrell Casey on the defensive side of the ball, the Titans still have one of the game’s best safeties in Kevin Byard, and some talented pieces at linebacker as well.
But just like any other team looking to make this jump, this team has some pieces that are under more pressure than some, to go out and perform at their very best week after week. Whether that’s a guy in a contract year, someone with a lot to prove, or even a player that’s taking on more of a role.
The Titans have a decent group of players that fall under this special category.
But I decided to cut the list down to 3 to save some time.
Let’s get right to it.
1. Ryan Tannehill
I don’t think you can start this off with anyone else other than the new QB1. As we all know, Tannehill put up some historic numbers during the 2019 year, breaking franchise records for both passer rating and yards per attempt. After his near perfect 2019 campaign, Tannehill inked a lucrative 4 year, $118M extension that solidified his QB1 status for the foreseeable future. But with that amount of money being paid to a player with a past as *sketchy* as Tannehill’s, you can’t help but get a little skeptical about his future play with his massive extension already set in stone.
Who were the most efficient QB in the NFL in 2019 when accounting for the difficulty of their throws?
Ryan Tannehill (+8.0%), Drew Brees (+6.3%) & Kirk Cousins (+5.5%) ranked at the top of the list by our ML-driven metric, Comp Pct Over Expected (CPOE).
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— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) May 14, 2020
Which is why I put a lot of the Titans’s 2020 pressure on the plate of Tannehill, what can you truly expect from him this upcoming year.
You’ll see a good bit of the same success as last season, but not nearly the same volume. Tannehill, and the offense as a whole, is bound for some sort of regression. How deep that regression is remains to be seen, but it’s definitely on the table for the 2020 season.
It all boils down to how Tannehill handles the upcoming obstacles, which could include a good bit of dip in production from Derrick Henry, and the likely uptick in passing attempts in order to take more of a load off of Henry. I’m sure Tannehill has learned from the past mistakes he made in Miami, and it shouldn’t be *too* much of a concern on whether Tannehill will get the job done.
But the potential steady option at quarterback the Titans have been searching for for some time, it would be a little concerning for anyone to NOT have some sort of doubt.
However, that sort of thinking can wait until the real action starts in September.
Until then, we’ll be left to just dissect performances and have our thoughts on them.
2. Corey Davis
Perhaps the only player on the offense that doesn’t have more pressure on his shoulders than Tannehill.
Davis is coming into the 2020 year with a message similar to Marcus Mariota’s coming into the 2019 year, if you produce, you’ll have a much better chance at remaining in Tennessee. If not, you’ll find yourself most likely searching for a new NFL team to call home.
It’s as simple as that, but in Davis’s case, it might be a tad bit more difficult to achieve the necessary production.
Not only is this offense heavily geared towards the run, but the vast majority of the targets in the passing game will most likely fall into the hands of AJ Brown. That isn’t ideal for Davis’s route to assumed necessary success, but it isn’t entirely impossible for him to achieve said necessary production.
It’s just, a lot of things will have to go his way, and I’m not too sure that event will occur.
Which is why I have a lot of doubt on whether Davis will stay in Tennessee beyond the 2020 season, but we’ve seen weirder things go down in this crazy league, so Davis turning in some consistent play throughout a full year isn’t out of the question at all.
3. Jeffery Simmons
Ah man let me tell you, replacing Jurrell Casey’s production won’t be an easy task. But that’s exactly what Jon Robinson and the Titans are expecting out of Simmons, maybe not this year, but in the subsequent seasons moving forward.
First things first, in order to even begin thinking about Simmons succeeding in his improved role, he has to get healthy. That left knee of his looked weak at times during his rookie year, which led to some balance issues, and some difficulty executing stunts as a pass rusher.
Now of course, Simmons did take only 8 months to rehab his left ACL injury, and athletes generally don’t look like their old selves until they’re around a year or so after the injury, so I won’t be hard on the guy at all. But there were some things I watched on tape that need some work, and they need work relatively quickly.
Onto Simmons’s potential role, he’s obviously going to slide into the starting role opposite DaQuan Jones. The question is, how much responsibility will Mike Vrabel and his staff put on Simmons’s plate? Will they incorporate him in different packages on passing downs like they did with Casey?
Remains to be seen.
Either way, Simmons is going to be asked to do a lot more this year, it just all depends on how well Simmons responds to the added responsibility.