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Front Page - Friday, August 5, 2022

Five players/positions that factor large in Titans hopes

Ryan Tannehill had a good 2021 season until he threw three interceptions against the Bengals in the playoffs, the last coming with 20 seconds left and the Titans driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. - Photo by Wade Payne | AP

1. Ryan Tannehill. Even though the Titans’ offense largely runs through Derrick Henry, quality quarterback play is still vital. Tannehill seems motivated to put last season’s playoff failure behind him, but can he with an almost entirely new cast of pass catchers? A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and Anthony Firkser are gone, as are role players like Marcus Johnson, Chester Rogers and MyCole Pruitt.

The verdict on Tannehill, though, won’t come until the playoffs, if the Titans make it back to the postseason. The veteran QB simply has to give a better account of himself than he has in his last two home playoff games.

2. Offensive line. Speaking of needing to be better, this group is replacing two starters from a year ago, breaking in a new left guard and a new right tackle. Aaron Brewer and Jamarco Jones are the current candidates at the vacant guard spot, while the Titans are hopeful that second-year pro Dillon Radunz has developed enough over the offseason that he can hold on to the right tackle spot he was initially drafted for in 2021.

If he can’t, then it will fall to rookie third-rounder Nicholas Petit-Frere. Either way, this group has to improve its pass protection, as Tannehill was sacked and under duress far too often last year.

3. A.J. Brown. Yes, I know, Brown is no longer a Titan. But he could be conspicuous in his absence. Brown’s numbers will likely take a dip in Philly, but the Titans still might have a hard time replacing his production and knack for making clutch catches.

Several players, from veteran Robert Woods to rookie Treylon Burks, are working hard to get on the same page with Tannehill, but Brown’s production could be tough to replace.

4. Tight ends. The Titans didn’t seem to anticipate just how much Jonnu Smith brought to the offense. But after he departed in free agency, they struggled to replace him. They became way too reliant on three-receiver sets, which made them predictable depending upon which tight end was on the field.

Maybe that problem has been solved with the additions of veteran Austin Hooper and rookie Chig Okonkwo. Tannehill operates better from a two-tight end set and these additions could make that the base offense again.

5. Jeffery Simmons. Big Jeff is playing for a contract extension that likely won’t come until after the 2023 season. He seems motivated to show he is worth a big payday and the defense runs through his dominance on the interior of the defensive line.

If Tennessee’s pass rush and defense is to stay at a high level, it will be because a motivated Simmons is eager to set his market value really high with another standout season.