The Tennessee Titans were able to achieve the best record in the AFC last season and earn a first round bye in the playoffs. They were able to do this with an offense that was missing its best player, RB Derrick Henry, for the last 9 games of the year and a passing offense that ranked 17th in total passing EPA at -6.27.
How were the Titans able to overcome these obstacles? Defense. The Titans defense was 6th in the NFL in opponent points per game at 20.7 and 3rd in the NFL in Pass Defense Total Points at 177. In their 4 games against the eventual Conference finalists, the Titans allowed only 3 points against the Chiefs, 16 points against the Rams, 17 points against the 49ers, and 19 points against the Bengals in the AFC Divisional Round.
However, the Titans were unable to overcome 3 interceptions thrown from QB Ryan Tannehill and lost 19-16 to the eventual AFC Champion Bengals. Additionally, Henry returned from injury, but only posted a pedestrian 3.1 yards per carry on 20 carries.
Going into the 2022 season, the Titans now find themselves in the mix again for a division title and playoff run. However, with an AFC now loaded with more QB firepower than ever, will the Titans be able to keep up in order to get where they want to go?
Tannehill will have to bounce back after a disastrous performance in last year’s playoffs. Additionally, he ranked only 23rd in yards per attempt with 7.0 and 24th in Passing Total Points per 60 plays with 6.6 among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts last year. For the Titans to get over the hump, he will have to improve on these numbers with new weapons at the receiver position.
These new weapons, Treylon Burks via the draft and Robert Woods via free agency, will have to replace A.J. Brown, who ranked 6th in the NFL in yards per route run at 2.7 (minimum 50 targets). In addition to losing Brown, the Titans also lost Julio Jones to free agency.
Derrick Henry Production
|Yards/Attempt||5.4 (9th)||4.3 (42nd)|
|EPA/Attempt||0.07 (10th)||-0.01 (38th)|
Then there is Henry, who has now eclipsed 1,400 rushing attempts in his career. Henry was once again leading the league in rushing yards with 937 (288 more than the next closest) before his injury and was the focal point of the Titans offense. As Henry continues to pile on more mileage, the concern is certainly there for a drop in production.
As previously mentioned, the Titans defense took a massive leap forward in 2021. Along with solid secondary play, this jump was also due to Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons having career highs in sacks with 12 and 8.5, respectively. Look for the team to lean on these two in 2022 to keep them among the best defenses in the league.
The Titans will be facing the 13th-easiest schedule via the Total Points Team Strength Model from SIS. There are a lot of question marks for the Titans offensively, so an easier schedule will certainly be a benefit. Coach Mike Vrabel will once again have to navigate this team to exceed expectations if it wants to continue their playoff streak.
James Weaver of Sports Info Solutions Contributed to this Report