We’ve heard a lot about the Titans this offseason as Falcons fans, owing to Arthur Smith joining Atlanta and Julio Jones being traded to Tennessee, but you may still not know a whole lot about them. Let’s remedy that.
Jimmy Morris from SB Nation’s Music City Miracles was kind enough to join me and answer five questions concerning the team’s new offensive coordinator, a certain #2 on the Titans roster and more. You’ll find his interesting responses about a team most everyone should expect to be a major player in the AFC below.
On to the questions!
Dave Choate: Arthur Smith is gone and Todd Downing is taking his place. Is this a major shift and something you’re concerned about, or do you expect the offense to keep being the driver of this team’s success in 2021? How does the offense change with that coaching change?
Jimmy Morris: There is a level of concern, sure, because of how good the offense was with Arthur Smith calling plays. He had a great feel for this offense and really called a great game. With that being said, it is hard to look at an offense with Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and Ryan Tannehill and not feel like they are going to be successful regardless of who is calling the plays.
As to how the offense will change, it is tough to tell before seeing Downing call a game. They have kept a lot of the same terminology. One of the shifts I do think we will see is to being more of a 3 wide receiver team instead of a 2 tight end team. That could have more to do with personnel than the offensive coordinator. The Titans have more talent at the wide receiver position than they have ever had. That’s not a high bar, but the trio of Julio, A.J. and Josh Reynolds has the chance to be pretty special.
Dave Choate: The trade for Julio Jones was obviously a blockbuster move for this Titans team. Do you see him pushing this offense even further into elite territory, and how excited are you to see #11...er, #2...suit up for Tennessee this season?
Jimmy Morris: I am an Alabama fan, and Julio is my favorite player from the Nick Saban era, so I am beyond thrilled that he will be wearing the two-toned blue. His presence just gives this offense so much more that a defense has to focus on. There is no way you can put 8 in the box and hope to play man on both Julio and A.J.. Then you drop back into coverage and they can just turn around and hand it to Henry over and over. This offense was 4th in the league in points scored last year. I don’t think it unreasonable to think they could lead the league in scoring this year.
Dave Choate: The 2020 Titans defense reminds me a lot of the early 2010s Falcons defenses, in the sense that the results are pretty lackluster on paper, but turnovers and timely plays keep it from being a total liability. Do you have higher expectations this year based on the addition of guys like Bud Dupree, or is this still going to be primarily the offense’s show?
Jimmy Morris: Well, they have to be better than they were last year. They were historically bad, especially on 3rd down, so I do have higher expectations than that, ha. It is going to be a completely different unit than last year. They only return 5 starters from that group. In addition to Dupree, they added Denico Autry up front to help lighten the load on Jeffery Simmons. They also completely revamped the secondary with the signing of Jackrabbit Jenkins and in the draft with Caleb Farley. We will see how it all comes together.
But with all of that being said, this is going to be the offense’s show. They just need the defense to come in somewhere in the middle of the pack to be a legit contender.
Dave Choate: For those interested in following what’s going on in Titan-land heading into this game, what are some of the key starting job and roster battles you’ll be tracking? Is former falcons Ty Sambrailo the favorite to start at right tackle?
Jimmy Morris: Sambrailo is in the mix at right tackle. He will probably start there on Friday because his primary competition at the spot, Kendall Lamm, is injured. They also drafted Dillon Radunz in the second round to compete for that spot, but he has had a slow start to camp. He should get some run there at some point Friday.
The only other real battle to watch is the kicker. The Titans have had the worst kicking game in the universe for the last couple of years. They have two guys in camp, Tucker McCann and Sam Ficken, who are currently battling for the spot. There is also the chance they could bring Mike Vrabel’s friend Stephen Gostkowski, who has a home in the area, back in at some point.
Dave Choate: What are your expectations for 2021, record-wise, and can/will the Titans win the AFC South this year?
Jimmy Morris: The Titans are now the favorites to win the AFC South at most sportsbooks. That shift happened when the Carson Wentz injury was announced. I really think they should have been the favorites all along.
They won the division last year, have gotten better on offense and can’t go anywhere but up (right?!?) on defense. Last year they were 11-5. I think this year they will end up somewhere in the 12-5 neighborhood.