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Read and Recognition| Titans Top Three

tennessee-titans-logo-wallpaper-1024x768For the first time in a very long time, the Tennessee Titans have the hopes of a three- headed monster making a huge impact leading into the new season. Throughout the NFL, teams strive to put together the perfect trio. Most often, it’s a combination of quarterback, running back and a deep wide receiver threat. Each with their own strengths and complimenting the others’ means big problems for most competition.

Naming names

In this case, the names of this threesome won’t appear on the backs of jerseys, have numbers appear in the stat column or pitch for a certain brand of shoes. These unlikely three make big plays with well-timed phone calls, strategic financial structure and critical decisions only they can make when opportunity knocks.

The word “unlikely” may be a major understatement when it comes to the Titans front office. The Tennessee organization was not without controversy after the death of it’s owner, one of the NFL’s founding members. The bickering and indecisiveness of his heirs made it seem more like a sinking Titanic until one name finally emerged as the decision maker. The decisions were immediately questionable.

Not a single name would be considered a household name by ANY stretch of the imagination, but controlling owner, Amy Adams Strunk, new general manager and Tennessee native, Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Mularkey have made much-needed adjustments in the course of the Titan’s misguided ship.

hands-coffee-smartphone-technologyhi-texting-twenty--852-istoSince taking control of the helm in March 2015, the daughter of the team’s late founder, Bud Adams, fired Ken Whisenhunt who started the season 1-6 and kept Mularkey after finishing 2-7.  Strunk then hired a first-time GM who cut his teeth in the NFL with the Patriots.

This left Tennessee fans scratching their heads and some rolling their eyes. Strunk not searching for a well known, established coach? Unthinkable. Hiring a rookie GM? “Here we go again,” was the beginning of  a lot of conversations in Titan Town.

And here’s to you, Mr. Robinson

All Robinson did was pick up a few free agents, make a mind-blowing trade for running back DeMarco Murray and turn a top overall draft pick into 10 quality picks in the 2016 draft. Most importantly, the 10 are specifically for protecting and helping take pressure off the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Heisman winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. Robinson obviously took notes very well in New England judging by his initial draft results. This change of direction for the organization is beginning to take on the appearance of a winning formula.

Mularkey’s preferred offensive style is more physical force with explosive options. The head coach, his young quarterback and the fans, couldn’t be more thrilled with what Robinson accomplished in the war room.

Over the past few seasons, after watching injuries claim any hope for consistency with the Titans’ field generals, enthusiasm and patience had all but evaporated in Nashville. As a payoff for the dismal back to back seasons, Mariota and a solid supporting cast now don the two-tone blue and carry hope on their backs into 2016.

Happy Campers

By all accounts, Mariota is thrilled with what has happened around him and the new faces he sees in the Titans’ locker room. Center Ben Jones, a free agent from Houston and eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, Jack Conklin out of Michigan State might be the most welcome.  These two are representative of the effort to reinforce the O-line, which gave up the most sacks in the NFL last year.  Still, some depth is needed before the season’s regular season start, especially at guard, after veteran Byron Bell was lost to a gruesome season-ending leg injury during the first day of organized team activities. Punching holes in D-lines for a backfield which features the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year, Murray, and the most recent Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, will also be part of this revamped offensive line’s duties.

Henry was outstanding in Alabama’s pro-style offense and will most likely serve as a backup to Murray. Ranking 30th in rushing last season should be a thing of the past for the Titans, if the O-line comes together. Mariota was the only 100-yard rusher last season.

Count on Robinson to find free agent help when mandatory roster cuts begin.

The Personal Touch

Almost as much attention has been focused on the receiving corps as the backfield by Mularkey. Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham under-performed last year, and are personally being challenged to live up to their potential by their head coach. Weakness at this position has historically plagued the Titans and doesn’t go unnoticed by Mularkey.

This trio is a real head-scratcher for me. I’ve watched DGB dominate defensive secondaries since his high school days in Springfield, MO and again in the SEC at Mizzou. This is one of the most complete God-given physical skill sets ever given to a wide receiver. Hunter, whom has also been on my radar since early upon his arrival in Knoxville, is another gifted burner with the size and leaping ability to out play practically any defender. Wright runs the most pristine routes of the three, has tremendous hands and, yet, like the others, only shown flashes of what was hoped.

This is a major reason why Delanie Walker was the primary target and finished with a record setting year for the Titans. Double coverage is often required on Walker leaving ideal, single coverage matchups for Mariota to dissect.

Tajae Sharpe was drafted in the fifth round out of UMass, and has worked with the first team a great deal. This acquisition could be the spark to cause the starting three to take the next step. Free agent Rishard Matthews was signed by Robinson and may contribute, as well.

If this group has success, Mularkey and Robinson will sleep well.

The D in Tennessee

Mularkey has defensive help like most don’t. He’s the most admired and respected name associated with defenses in the NFL. His name is Dick LeBeau …and he’s a legend.

Not only has the iconic LeBeau moved to be the sole defensive coordinator this year, but Robinson found veterans for him in Arizona safety Rashad Johnson and corners Brice McCain and Antwon Blake. Bolstering the secondary will certainly help with the DC’s appetite for harassing quarterbacks.

Rookie linebacker Kevin Dodd from Clemson and a return by veteran Titan LB Derrick Morgan will be welcomed. Both are coming off surgery and both will be part of the commitment to knock opposing quarterbacks on their backsides, as often as possible for LeBeau.

The Titans report for training camp July 29th

With a 5-27 record over the past couple seasons, an NFL worst, head coach Mike Mularkey in his first full season, first-time GM Jon Robinson and new controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk have much to prove. It seems each has entered the 2016 campaign with a chip on their shoulder.

 

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