Since trading for Julio Jones, it appears the Tennessee Titans’ season preview heading into 2021 is that of an eventual division winner. At least, that’s what the majority seems to believe. It makes sense, as this team tied the Indianapolis Colts with 11 wins in 2020, and the Colts are trying to rebuild Carson Wentz from the ground up. Could the Titans be one of the best teams in the NFL?
Tennessee Titans 2021 season preview
The Titans have a wild 2021 NFL schedule in terms of high and low win projections scattered throughout. Six of their games come against teams projected to win double-digit games. Meanwhile, five of their contests come against teams projected to win less than seven. Overall, Las Vegas believes they have the 16th-toughest schedule.
Tennessee is slated to play the NFC West in 2021, which is the best division in football. Additionally, the 10-plus-win teams the Titans play are the Rams, Bills, 49ers, and Chiefs. The Colts are also in that category, whom they play twice as a divisional foe.
According to Vegas, the four games against teams projected to win less than seven games include the Jets, Jaguars, and Texans twice.
Offseason additions and losses
There was a lot of turnover for the Titans during the offseason that clouds their season preview. They released Kenny Vaccaro, Adoree’ Jackson, Malcolm Butler, Adam Humphries, and Dennis Kelly. Additionally, Corey Davis signed with the Jets, and they lost Jonnu Smith, Jadeveon Clowney, DaQuan Jones, and Desmond King in free agency. The Titans rank toward the top of the list in snaps lost in the 2021 offseason.
However, they added Bud Dupree on a lucrative deal. They also signed Denico Autry to a nice contract and added Josh Reynolds as their WR2 (before Julio Jones) to make up for what they lost with Humphries. They also brought in veteran cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson.
Dupree was a massive addition to the team, but the trade for Julio Jones was possibly the biggest move of the NFL offseason. Grabbing a weapon as established as Jones will make life easier for Tennessee’s offense, from A.J. Brown to Derrick Henry. With the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who left to be the head coach in Atlanta, some more offensive firepower was probably necessary.
2021 NFL Draft
The Titans were a top offensive team in 2020, but the defense was one of the worst in the league. The biggest culprit was the Titans’ secondary, but that could have been partially due to the pathetic pass rush they tried to muster up. So, they went heavy on the defensive side of the ball in the draft.
Caleb Farley has the potential to be the best cornerback from the 2021 NFL Draft class. His 2019 tape was incredible, but multiple back injuries and a 2020 opt-out clouded his projection. If he stays healthy, the Titans get a steal. They signed Kendall Lamm in the offseason to play right tackle, but he hasn’t played much since 2018. Consequently, they went out and drafted North Dakota State offensive tackle Dillon Radunz, who could potentially start for them opposite of Taylor Lewan.
The selection of Monty Rice in Round 3 is interesting given they already have Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown until you look a bit deeper — they declined Evans’ fifth-year option, and Brown is on a one-year deal.
Their second third-round pick was a massive win for the secondary as well. Elijah Molden fell to Round 3, and it looks like the crafty nickel player will transition to safety for his NFL career. The Washington Husky will absorb all he can from Kevin Byard, who was also a third-round pick.
Day 3 picks
The Titans went receiver in Rounds 4 and 6 with Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick and LSU’s Racey McMath. Both Fitzpatrick and McMath are big-bodied wide receivers with big wingspans. Fitzpatrick and McMath will fight to make the roster, but both could make it with a depth chart as bare as Tennessee’s is behind their top three.
They also went defense twice on Day 3. Rashad Weaver is a strong, technical pass rusher who can get off the ball quickly but doesn’t have high-end athletic traits overall.
Where do the Titans players rank in PFN’s Top 100?
The Titans certainly aren’t short on offensive talent — four of their players land in PFN’s Top 100 NFL Players.
74) Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill doesn’t get the respect he deserves throughout the league. He’s been top 10 in QBR the past two seasons, and he helped this team pull a 180 when he was first introduced as the starter. When he plays well again for a third straight season, the narrative should finally flip from his time in Miami under Adam Gase.
56) Julio Jones
Jones had a down year in 2020, but he battled a hamstring strain from Week 2 on. His Week 1 performance showed a receiver still at the top of his game and the top of the league. Despite playing through injury, Jones still averaged 85.7 yards per game and had a catch rate of 75%. Those per-game numbers would be second behind Calvin Johnson’s 86 yards per game average.
He moves unlike any receiver his size should be able to. His ability to plant his foot in the turf and change direction is unmatched. He’s one of the most talented receivers we’ve seen, and if healthy, he might still be the best in the league. He fell in PFN’s rankings 30 spots due to the injury.
32) A.J. Brown
Brown is already a superstar heading into Year 3 for the Tennessee Titans. There are only a handful of receivers with his post-catch ability, and one of them hasn’t stayed on the field enough to really show what he can do. Brown averaged 9 yards post-catch in 2019 and over 6 yards in 2020. His role changed slightly in 2020 as he became a higher-volume target and took a shorter downfield role.
Brown has improved drastically as a route runner. As a “thicc” receiver, Brown struggled a bit in transition coming out of Mississippi. Now, he uses his frame and footwork to create loads of separation. He should only become more efficient with the arrival of Jones opposite him.
14) Derrick Henry
Henry is the angriest runner in the league. It’s impressive how Henry seemingly becomes more effective at a position that struggles with a heavy workload as the game goes on. Henry has more yards after contact in the past two seasons than any other back has rushing yards total. Now, we live in 2021, so we know that statistical accumulation does not equal efficiency.
But Henry is also in the top 10 in efficiency, despite seeing a high rate of stacked boxes. In 2021, defenses won’t have that luxury, as they must throw more bodies into the secondary to cover two elite receivers. Henry could have his most efficient season to date in the sixth year of his career.
Titans 2021 prediction
Mike Vrabel is 29-19 as a head coach in his three seasons with the Titans. Once again, the Titans’ season preview appears positive, as they’ll look to win the division in 2021. The team has flipped from a defensive-heavy to an offensive-heavy team during Vrabel’s three years. As a defensive-minded head coach, he must help turn things around defensively.
Todd Downing gets his second stint as an offensive coordinator in the league. With the personnel available to him, there is no excuse for this team to fail offensively. On the defensive side of the ball, Vrabel steps away as the defensive play-caller. He gives Shane Bowen a chance at revitalizing the defense. The secondary is still questionable, so he’ll have to find a way to put players in a position to succeed schematically.
This team should have no excuse but to be a top-10 team in terms of efficiency. With weapons like Jones and Brown on the outside and Henry in the backfield, their red-zone efficiency should be outstanding. They were second in the NFL last season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them be the best at it in 2021.
Both cornerback spots are big questions for the Titans. Farley is a health concern, and Jenkins is 32 years old. The names behind the starters inspire no confidence, either. It’s the one thing about this team that potentially holds them back from being champions in the AFC.
2021 Titans record prediction
The Titans’ middling strength of schedule should lend to a heaping load of wins, but their schedule is top-heavy, and there are some other comparable teams on their schedule as well. It’s tough to imagine them outpacing last season, but that should be enough to win the division. The Titans’ season preview looks like an 11-6 record at the end of the year.