The Tennessee Titans were a bad football team in 2014, in fact bad might be an understatement. At 2-14 last season there is nothing but room for improvement in the coming season for a franchise that has failed to make the playoffs in 6 consecutive seasons.
If that isn’t bad enough, the Titans have not won a playoff game since 2003 when they defeated Baltimore 20-17 in the Wildcard round before losing to New England the following week.
Looking further however into the Titans since they arrived in Tennessee in 1997, this team has appeared in 11 playoff games in 18 years in some incarnation in this state. Four of those game came in the playoff and Super Bowl season of 1999.
Given their recent history and the results of last season and it is hard to fathom any way possible that this team could make the playoffs in 2015, or is there?
While the odds are certainly against the Titans, there is still the chance that with some lucky bounces and a little luck the Titans could actually find a way into the playoffs. Even if they can’t, one can hope that the team will at least improve on their dismal record from a season ago.
What will it take for the Titans to make a dramatic improvement or possible surprise the world and make the playoffs?
Here are the five reasons it might happen.
1) Rookies Develop Quickly: The Titans added 9 new faces to the locker room in the draft and this class, at least on paper and in the early going looks like the Titans found some players. While it is not a great idea to base your hopes for the season on rookies, the Titans will find themselves doing just that by relying heavily on rookies.
Obviously Marcus Mariota is the focal point of the team as the quarterback and his play will be paramount to any success, but he will need some help from his fellow classmates if this team is to surprise this season.
2) Mariota To DGBIf Mariota is the key to the Titans season, he must have some horsepower to drive the team and Dorial Green-Beckham is a throughbred.
At 6’5” 237 pounds and possessing 4.49 speed in the 40 along with the ability to jump out of a gym, DGB can be a weapon in the passing game that gives Mariota a security blanket and allows the other players around him to be free to face single coverage. DGB could be a deep threat over the top and a threat to turn a short pass into a long gain. It is something the Titans have not had in a while.
3) Casey and Orakpo a pass rushing pair: Jurrell Casey has become a top tier defensive lineman, and while he has not received the recognition he might deserve, he could find it this season.
With the addition of Brian Orakpo on the edge and Casey inside the Titans might just have the answer to the pass rush that has been lacking since Kyle Vanden-Bosch and Albert Haynesworth provided a tandem on the d-line.
4) Dick LeBeau: The inventor of the zone blitz and the master of the 3-4 defense will team up with Ray Horton and that pairing should make teams spend extra time each week in preparing to face them. Teams can win with great schemes and the Titans have some talent on defense and two coaches that should be able to put them in positions to win.
I expect the Titans defense, the one that finished 26 a season ago to improve into the top 15 this season, and if that happens then this team could surprise people and win a few more games than expected.
5) Taylor Lewan has the backside: Lewan started six games last season before injury cut his season short. He is still a very young player but has all the tool to be a top left tackle and protect Mariota’s back.
Lewan also has a nasty streak and can be physical and a mauler in the run game. Keeping him healthy and his becoming an anchor on the offensive line can help this team improve dramatically.
While nothing is a given in the NFL, if these five things all happen as hoped for by the franchise then the Titans might just surprise everyone and win 8 or 9 games and be in contention for, or make a surprise appearance in the playoffs.