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Posts of category  "Titans"

Anyone who has been paying attention to the Titans at all this year knows what their biggest weakness is- corner back. That is absolutely where they go with one of their first two picks in the draft, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they used both of the first two picks on corners.

The NFL writers over at ESPN did a post where they highlighted the one biggest change for each team in 2017. Paul Kuharsky wrote this about the Titans:

The Titans will have two new starting cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau might not love relying on rookies at the spot, but Tennessee needs an influx of better players who can cover outside. Maybe 2016 fifth-rounder LeShaun Sims can earn a spot. But the Titans would be well-served to spend draft and free-agency resources to revamp the position to such a degree that the team has two newcomers in the lineup.

The Titans went the value route at corner in free agency last offseason. Will they spend big on a guy this year? Their could potentially be guys like Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye andTrumaine Johnson on the market.

I doubt they don’t go that route. Jon Robinson has said he wants to build a team through the draft. This is a deep corner class where he could potentially get two starters and have them for cheap for a few years.

What do you think? Will they make a splash at corner this year?

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he 2017 NFL Draft is just over three months away. With that being said, mock drafts are starting to pinpoint picks for each club.

ESPN mock draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. just released the first installment of his first-round projections and made the selection for the Tennessee Titans at No. 18. overall.

Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

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All four teams in conference championships include someone recently with Tennessee

AUTHORS David Boclair

The Tennessee Titans came close to ending their long postseason drought in 2016, but current players and coaches will have to wait until at least next season to get a taste of playoff football.

A few former Titans, on the other hand, are close to playing in the Super Bowl. Each of the four teams that will play in Sunday’s conference championship games includes someone with a Titans connection. Their contributions to, and impact on, Tennessee vary greatly but currently they all have the same opportunity.

A look:

Atlanta: Andy Levitre, left guard

A high-profile free agent addition in 2013, Levitre never lived up to expectations in two seasons with Tennessee (one each under coaches Mike Munchak and Ken Whisenhunt). The Titans traded him to Atlanta at the end of training camp in 2015 for a sixth-round pick and a future conditional choice. He immediately stepped into the Falcons’ starting lineup and has been a fixture there ever since for one of the league’s best offenses.

Levitre still has not missed a game — or a start — in his eight-year NFL career (128 straight regular season games), but his play in Atlanta is enough to make anyone wonder what was missing during his time in Tennessee.

Last Sunday was his first career playoff appearance. To add to the excitement of the day, his wife went into labor with their sixth child. Daughter Lily Gene officially was born last Sunday, the day after Atlanta beat Seattle in the divisional round.

Green Bay: Jared Cook, tight end

After four seasons in Tennessee during which he started just 11 games and averaged 33 receptions per season, he spent three years with the St. Louis Rams and was only slightly more productive. An injury limited him to just 10 appearances (five starts) this fall, his first season with the Packers, but his impact on Green Bay’s offense goes well beyond his own numbers.

According to NFL.com, when Cook has played Green Bay is 10-2, including the postseason, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 31 touchdown passes with two interceptions and has a 113.3 passer rating. Without him, the Packers were 2-4 and Rodgers threw 15 touchdown passes with six interceptions and had a 92.3 passer rating.

Like Levitre, Cook is in the playoffs for the first time — and he is making the most of the opportunity. He has 11 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown. His last-second 35-yard reception along the sideline set up the game-winning field goal on the final play at Dallas and is one of those moments that will live on in NFL playoff lore, if the Packers go on and win it all.

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In his first season on the job, Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson’s smart moves played an integral role in transforming a 3-13 team in 2015 into a 9-7 playoff contender this year that missed out on the postseason by a tiebreaker.

He also set up his Titans for a strong offseason in the coming months.

A franchise that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2008 is in ideal position to do something about that because Robinson has money to spend, two draft picks in the first and third rounds and a strong core to build around.

In addition to $66,744,839 in salary cap space, according to overthecap.com, the Titans have $24,046,522 in rollover cap money, according to the NFLPA. The only teams with more rollover cap money are Cleveland ($50,123,269) and San Francisco ($38,708,916).

Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) looks for open space in a home win against the Denver Broncos. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) looks for open space in a home win against the Denver Broncos. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Hired last January, Robinson literally hit the ground running with a March trade to acquire running back DeMarco Murray. And all it took to add the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year was a swap of fourth-round draft picks. Murray was the catalyst for the Titans’ third-ranked rushing offense at 136.7 yards per game.

Robinson’s wheeling and dealing of the No. 1 overall pick as well as two other selections parlayed into six selections, including the fifth overall pick and additional third-round choice in April’s draft. The Titans also select 18th overall.

“Draft currency is a powerful thing in this league because it gives you a chance to acquire young talent,’’ Robinson said recently, per Titansonline.com. “They are less expensive players than guys who have played in the league six, seven or eight, nine or 10 years. So to be able to get two of those guys, or one of those guys if we trade, or three of those guys if we trade. … Whatever it is, draft picks are valuable currency as it relates to team building.

“The most important thing is getting the pick right. You can have all the picks you want, but if you don’t get them right, then it doesn’t matter.”

He got it right after last year’s draft trading by selecting right tackle Jack Conklin with the eighth overall pick. Conklin made the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team and graded out as a Pro Football Focus All-Pro.

Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan (77), named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016, talks to quarterback Marcus Mariota during a 2015 road win at New Orleans. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan (77), named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016, talks to quarterback Marcus Mariota during a 2015 win at New Orleans. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Conklin and third-year left tackle Taylor Lewan, who made his first Pro Bowl this year, were the main cogs for an offensive line ranked No. 1 by Pro Football Focus. Center Ben Jones, along with wide receiver Rishard Matthews, proved to be smart free-agent buys.

That strong O-line allowed second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota to continue his rise toward NFL stardom until he suffered a season-ending knee injury on a scramble in the 15th game. Mariota had 26 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions and took just 23 sacks compared to a rookie year with 19 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and 38 sacks in three fewer starts.

Robinson will be looking for wide receiver help in the draft and/or free agency, although that cupboard isn’t bare. Matthews tied with tight end Delanie Walker for the team lead with 65 receptions and his 945 yards and nine TDs were a Titans best. Rookie Tajae Sharpe was an effective addition as a fifth-round pick with 41 catches for 522 yards and two TDs.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be one of the biggest names in free agency based on his production before a disappointing 2016, when he was unhappy about being franchise-tagged instead of receiving a lucrative long-term contract and missed four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looks to throw in a December road loss at Jacksonville. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looks to throw in a December loss at Jacksonville. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

If his character is in question, there are several other capable pass-catching alternatives, including Doug Baldwin of Seattle, Terrelle Pryor of Cleveland, Kamar Aiken of Baltimore, Terrance Williams of Dallas and Pierre Garcon of Washington.

Considering the 11th-ranked offense’s strong footing, expect Robinson to zero in on bolstering a defense that ranked 30th against the pass. That starts at cornerback. The Titans might cut cornerback Jason McCourty, who is due $7 million in base salary and has been inconsistent.

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The Titans hired Frisman Jackson as wide receivers coach and Craig Aukerman as an assistant special teams coach, the team announced Monday.

Jackson has nine years of coaching experience in college, most recently serving at Temple, where he spent two seasons coaching wide receivers. He was named passing game coordinator last season.

Jackson, who went undrafted out of Western Illinois, has limited NFL experience as a player. He appeared in 34 games with the Browns, from 2002 to ’05, when he caught 40 passes for 490 yards and one touchdown. He previously coached wide receivers at Western Illinois, Akron, Northern Illinois and N.C. State.

Jackson replaces Bob Bratkowski, who was fired after one season with the team. Last week, Tyke Tolbert turned down an offer to become the Titans’ wide receivers coach, choosing to remain in the same position with the Broncos, according to the Denver Post.

At Temple, Jackson served under offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas, who previously spent time with the Falcons, including three seasons as Matt Ryan’s quarterback coach. Thomas was recently replaced after two seasons at Temple.

“I was very impressed with Frisman during his visit,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said in a release. “He is passionate about coaching, smart and detailed. The system they ran at Temple was similar to our system with their offensive coordinator spending time at the Falcons when (Titans offensive coordinator) Terry (Robiskie) and I were there, which should help his integration into our system and staff. Terry also had experience coaching him as a player in Cleveland, so he knows what is expected from the wide receivers. I am excited to have him join our staff.”

Aukerman joins the Titans after spending the last four seasons working with the Chargers’ special teams. He was also an assistant special teams coach on Mularkey’s staff in Jacksonville in 2012.

Bratkowski was Mularkey’s offensive coordinator that season.

Aukerman’s hire indicates that Steve Hoffman will remain the Titans’ special teams coordinator. The longtime assistant was promoted to the job when Bobby April was fired in October, one month into the regular season.

Aukerman has 17 years of coaching experience, 10 in the college ranks and seven in the NFL. He was a two-time NAIA All-America at the University of Findlay (Ohio), where he played defensive back and wide receiver from 1995-98.

“I have worked with Craig in the past and he will be a good fit for this staff,” Mularkey said. “He is a very good young coach, who has high energy and is a great teacher.”

Trainer of the year:

Titans assistant athletic trainer Jerome Reid was named the 2017 Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Tennessee Athletic Trainers’ Society. He is entering his fourth season with the team.

Murray honored:

Titans running back DeMarco Murray was named All-AFC by the Pro Football Writers Association. Murray led the AFC with 1,287 rushing yards, the third-most in the NFL this season. No Titans were named to the All-NFL team.

Signing: 

The Titans signed cornerback Tye Smith to a futures contract.

Smith (6-0, 195) was a fifth-round draft pick out of Townson by the Seahawks in 2015 and appeared in four games as a rookie. He also has spent time on the Redskins’ practice squad.

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Three former McDowell Titan football stars played in the World Class Football League championship game Sunday in Deland, Fla.

Davon Gardner, Dakota Arrowood and Randall Conley are members of the Rutherford County Raiders semi-pro team, which came up just short in a 30-22 loss to the Orlando Phantoms at Spec Martin Municipal Stadium. The Phantoms are the nation’s top-ranked semi-pro team.

Gardner, a tailback, and Arrowood, a quarterback, were named team MVPs for their performances in the game.

The Raiders came into the championship unbeaten at 10-0 and ranked No. 5 nationally among more than 300 teams.

Gardner, the league’s Most Valuable Player, was playing in a title game for the third season in a row. Gardner was named the WCFL Most Valuable Player after rushing for 1,432 yards and 16 touchdowns on just 84 carries. He averaged 143 yards per game and a remarkable 17 yards per carry. He recently signed with the High Country Grizzlies (Boone) arena football team.

Gardner and Arrowood were both members of a Team USA squad that defeated Team Mexico in the Cancun Yucatan Bowl in August. Gardner rushed for 152 yards and two scores on just eight carries in the all-star game.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A year ago, Titans general manager Jon Robinson headed into the offseason armed with the No.1 pick of the NFL Draft.

This offseason, Robinson has two first-round selections – No.5 and No. 18 – in his arsenal of draft picks.

But just like last year, when Robinson traded the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams, anything is possible.

Sticking and picking isn’t a given this time around either, Robinson said.

“It would be a mistake (to assume that),’’ said Robinson, who will attend Senior Bowl practices next week in Mobile, Alabama. “We will evaluate all options that we have for the team and try to put ourselves in a position to do what is best for the team. It is knowing, A, the players that you want to draft that you think can help this football team and having them evaluated correctly. And it is knowing the teams around you, what their needs are, and whether you can move or navigate to still get one of the players that you want and maybe pick up some extra draft currency. Or are you going to have to get ahead of a team because you know they might like the same player you like and you have to move and get them?”

It’s safe to say the wheels are spinning already, and the NFL Draft is still three months away.

In his first season as general manager of the Titans, Robinson orchestrated five trades, starting with the acquisition of running backDeMarco Murray in a trade with the Eagles in March.

Robinson then made a huge splash in his first draft as GM. He parted ways with the No.1 pick and two other picks in exchange for six selections, including the 15th overall pick, a pair of second-round picks in 2016, a 2017 first round pick (which ended up being No.5) and a third-round pick in 2017.

Robinson ended up trading up to No.8 in the draft to land All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin.

With two first-round picks in this year’s draft, he likes his position.

“Draft currency is a powerful thing in this league because it gives you a chance to acquire young talent,’’ Robinson said. “They are less expensive players than guys who have played in the league six, seven or eight, nine or 10 years. So to be able to get two of those guys, or one of those guys if we trade, or three of those guys if we trade. … Whatever it is, draft picks are valuable currency as it relates to team building.

“The most important thing is getting the pick right. You can have all the picks you want, but if you don’t get them right, then it doesn’t matter.”

In addition to their two first-round picks, the Titans are also currently scheduled to make two selections in the third round (one acquired from the Rams) and picks in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

The Titans currently don’t have a second-round pick.

“I’d love to have a second-round pick,’’ Robinson said. “That is a sweet spot in the draft, those second-round picks. The first-round picks, it is good to have extras of those, too. You get an extra year on the contract, with a fifth-year option that you don’t get on the other rounds.

“If we can navigate and put ourselves in a position to pick up an extra pick, specifically in the second round, we’ve love to do that.”

Over the weekend, Robinson and the team’s scouting staff will head to Mobile for the start of week-long Senior Bowl practices. Titans coach Mike Mularkey and members of the team’s coaching staff will also be there.

The NFL Combine begins late next month in Indianapolis. The NFL Draft is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

The search for more impact players like Conklin is underway.

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Optimism, joy and even satisfaction – emotions largely missing for several seasons – were evident as the Tennessee Titans closed out the 2016 season and emptied their lockers at St. Thomas Sports Park.

Yes, there was disappointment over failing to make the playoffs, even as a number of Titans players maintained (and arguably so) that they were the best team in the AFC South this season.

Certainly, before Marcus Mariota went down with his leg injury, the 9-7 Titans were regarded as the team from the division most likely to do some damage in the playoffs.

And victories against five of the 12 teams in the postseason is further proof that the Titans are back on even footing in the NFL after being deep into the abyss for several seasons.

Football has become fun again for Titans players. Granted, some of that was a byproduct of the Titans’ winning nine games and being in thick of the playoff chase well into December.

By contrast, Tennessee was largely out of the playoff picture by Halloween during the previous two seasons and probably couldn’t wait for the dreariness of those campaigns to come to a merciful end.

Newcomer DeMarco Murray, who had his struggles last year in Philadelphia, was among those who found their zest for football again. Murray even went so far as to say it was the most enjoyable season he has had in his six-year NFL career – even topping what he did with the Dallas Cowboys.

“I enjoy football,” says Murray, who led the AFC and was third in the NFL this season with 1,287 rushing yards despite playing on a bad foot for much of the second half of the season. “I enjoy coming to work every day. This is probably the most fun year. I probably don’t say as much or don’t show it, but this has been a hell of a year from a personality standpoint.

“Just coming in and playing with them and working out with them on a daily basis, with the coaching staff, the organization as a whole. It’s been a great year for me. I’ve enjoyed this year more than I ever have.”

Linebacker Avery Williamson, who endured the misery of the Titans’ 5-27 record in his first two professional seasons, says the season went by too fast – unlike years past.

“It definitely did (fly by). Once you get into it, you start having fun,” Williamson says. “I feel like the more fun you have, the faster it goes.

“You look up and it’s week 12 and you’ve got four games. I enjoyed it. It was the most fun I’ve had probably since high school.”

Coach Mike Mularkey says players finding joy in their work and the tasks laid before them is no accident.

“I think it’s the way we did things,” Mularkey says. “I’ll have a hard time thinking anybody can out-work us, and what we did in training camp, but I think the way we do things, the way it was structured, it was a fun environment to come to work to.

“You guys know, if you like what you’re doing and you like what’s going on, you like coming in that front door and you’re going to get production when they step out on the field.”

But it was more than just having fun.

Offensive lineman Taylor Lewan says it was Mularkey setting goals and making promises and then seeing those ideas to fruition that made the Titans’ season special.

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Former Titans star running back Eddie George was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about the Tennessee Titans running game, and how they have managed to improve so drastically in so little time.

It’s been said since the early days of football that you win games at the line of scrimmage, with a solid running game offensively and stout penetration defensively. However, in recent years, various rule changes and fan preferences have lead to a more pass happy game.

Teams like the Raiders, Saints, and Packers are generally considered to have playoff caliber offenses, even though they often struggle to run the football. This further goes to show how pass oriented the NFL has become.

When Mike Mularkey took over as the Titans’ head coach in January 2016, he immediately described the identity he wanted his team to have offensively: “exotic smashmouth.” Mularkey wanted his team to be able to enforce their will on opponents through a physically imposing and taxing running game, a philosophy that, in the eyes of many, has become outdated. This proposed identity made many fans doubt Mularkey’s ability to run a team and build a successful offensive attack.

But, as I wrote in my season review article last week, Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie proved the doubters wrong. The run-based attack allowed Marcus Mariota to feel more comfortable and become one of the most productive and explosive quarterbacks in the NFL. It allowed Pro Bowl TE Delanie Walker to have more room to work in the middle of the field. It allowed free agent acquisition Rishard Matthews to have a break out season. And, most importantly, it allowed Pro Bowl RB DeMarco Murray to lead the AFC in rushing.

I asked Eddie George what change was the most instrumental for the Titans heading into last season, and he agreed that it was their new offensive philosophy.

“The DeMarco Murray trade was big. Getting him in the backfield was huge. Developing the offensive line, creating an identity for the offensive line as a smashmouth team really helped out matters. And bringing in Russ Grimm as the offensive line coach was a huge deal. Those are the things I look at that say this team is now getting back to what they once were when I was there, in terms of having a smashmouth identity, a good defense, and finding ways to win games.”

The first year of Mularkey’s system did not, however, come without bumps in the road. Following the final game of the year, DeMarco Murray revealed that he played half of the season with a torn plantar plate, an injury he sustained during a Week 8 win against the Jaguars in which he rushed for 123 yards and a TD. I asked George, who played through his fair share of injuries, to elaborate on how tough it was for Murray to play on his injured toe.

“Listen, when you’re dealing with your feet…that’s very difficult because it feels like you’re running with a flat tire. You just don’t have quite the same pop, the same burst, and it hurts when you cut a certain way. So for him to go through the season like that and still find a way to win, man up, and sacrifice that for the team is awesome. It’s very difficult to go through a season like that as a running back, and to still have the season that he had is tremendous.”

Finally, I talked to George about Murray’s prodigy Derrick Henry, who grew up idolizing Eddie. Prior to the draft, many scouts gave Henry a low grade because of his supposed stiffness, lack of lateral movement, and inability to catch the ball out of the backfield. It took only one season game for Henry to prove those analytics wrong and to excite fans. His childhood hero, a fellow Heisman trophy winner, was very impressed as well.

“When you look at [Henry], you say ‘well he looks kind of stiff’. No. He’s got good hips, he can get low when he has to, and his run after contact is special. I think Derrick has tremendous upside, and he’s going to be a top back in this league one day.”

Earlier in our conversation, George commented on how much it helped Henry’s development that he was not heavily relied upon as a rookie.

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Many draft projections have the Titans picking a safety with the fifth overall pick in the draft. But does that make sense considering their current roster?

With the Tennessee Titans narrowly missing the playoffs, Titans fans must find some form of sustenance to get them through the long offseason. And the best form of entertainment for the average fan in offseason mode are mock drafts. Fans can expect various analysts and football sites to pump out new draft possibilities at a steady pace from now until the big day on April 27th. And while the draft is still far away, I have already noticed an interesting trend among the early edition mock drafts: many of them have the Titans selecting a safety at number 5.

Why Safety?

I wouldn’t be shocked if one mock draft projected the Titans to pick a safety, but the fact that multiple mocks are doing so comes as a surprise. Recent mocks from sites such as Bleacher Report, Walter Football, and CBS Sports (and others) all have the Titans picking a safety. But why? Most sites list the Titans poor secondary play as their reasoning, but the Tennessee cornerbacks appeared to be the main issue, not the safeties. Da’Norris Searcy, Rashad Johnson, Kevin Byard, and Daimion Stafford all had a sizable amount of snaps, and performed adequately, if not above average.

Johnson and Stafford’s futures with the team are unclear, as they’re both free agents. But the Titans surely must feel good about Searcy and Byard being their starting safeties in 2017. Searcy may not make many splash plays, but rarely do you see him make a mistake. And I have a hard time believing that Byard, a 3rd round pick, would have gotten so much playing time his rookie year if the coaching staff didn’t trust him.Pro Football Focus even graded him as the best player in the Titans secondary for this past season. All signs point to him fully taking over the FS starting role in 2017.

Draft Possibilities

All of the mocks I linked to above predict the Titans will select Jamal Adams out of LSU. But I have also seen a handful that project Malik Hooker from Ohio State (Walter Football switched from Hooker to Adams just this week). Our own Will Lomas recently did a comprehensive review on Hooker, and profiled Adams this summer. As his scouting reports will tell you, these are two immensely talented players who have bright futures in the NFL.

But would either one of these players make a huge impact on the secondary? Some people would point to the impact rookie Landon Collins has had on the New York Giants and say yes. Hooker would most likely play FS and have to challenge Byard for the starting role. And Adams would replace Searcy, who provides a steady, veteran presence, and who Pro Football Focus rated one of the best safeties in the NFL just a year ago. I have a hard time believing that either one of these potential draftees would be enough of an upgrade to either of these current players that the secondary would be noticeably improved.

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