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VOL. 42 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 27, 2018

20 key numbers heading into Titans camp

By John Glennon

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Only months removed from their first playoff victory since 2003, the Tennessee Titans returned to training camp this week seeking to build on last year’s momentum. There are plenty of storylines this season, – a new head coach, a quarterback looking to rebound and, as always, important new rookies and free-agent signings.

In honor of this being the 20th season of the “Titans era,” which began in 1999 when the team moved to its present stadium, we’ll bring you up to speed on the Titans with 20 key numbers heading into training camp:

2: Consecutive winning years for the Titans, who have recorded back-to-back 9-7 seasons. They hadn’t accomplished that feat since 2007-2008. The Titans will be seeking a third straight winning season this year, something the franchise hasn’t done since 1991-93 in the Houston Oilers days.

3: Touchdowns over 60 yards last season for the Titans’ Derrick Henry, who scored on a 72-yard run against Indianapolis, a 75-yard run against Houston and a 66-yard pass reception against Jacksonville. Heading into his third season in 2018, Henry is expected to see much more action after the Titans released DeMarco Murray, who since retired.

3: Super Bowls won as a Patriots player by Mike Vrabel, the Titans’ head coach. Vrabel’s pedigree, which includes playing under Bill Belichick in New England and coaching under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, is part of the reason he landed the Titans’ job. He impressed during the offseason as an intelligent leader with a vocal, hands-on style.

5: Games on the Titans’ schedule against teams that made the playoffs last season. Tennessee will face three consecutive 2017 playoff opponents during one stretch, going to Jacksonville on Sept. 23, hosting Philadelphia on Sept. 30 and traveling to Buffalo on Oct. 7. The other two games against 2017 playoff teams are New England at home on Nov. 11 and a second contest against Jacksonville.

5: The combined number of sacks allowed by Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan over the past two seasons, per STATS, which is a major reason why Lewan has made two consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. Assuming he gets a new deal done – Lewan skipped mini-camp because the deal hadn’t been completed – the 6-foot-7, 309-pounder will be counted on to anchor the offensive line once again.

5: Wins in the AFC South for the Titans versus just one loss last season. It marked Tennessee’s first winning record in the division since 2008, when the Titans were 4-2. The Titans will face stiff divisional tests this season, as Jacksonville reached last season’s AFC Championship, and both Houston (DeShaun Watson) and Indianapolis (Andrew Luck) are expecting their quarterbacks to be healthy once again.

7: Consecutive seasons the Titans had used their top overall pick on an offensive player before this season. That changed in April when the team took Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans in the first round. Athletic, tough and intelligent, Evans is especially good against the run and as a pass-rusher. He’s expected to eventually become a three-down linebacker for the Titans, even if he’s not an immediate starter.

7: Sacks for Brian Orakpo sacks last season, which marked the first time a Titans player had recorded at least that many in three straight years since Jevon Kearse did on in 1999 and 2001. Orakpo and fellow outside linebacker Derrick Morgan combined for 14.5 sacks and 112 quarterback pressures last season.

8: The rank, in NFL history, of Titans punter Brett Kern’s 49.7 gross punting average last year. It was the best figure in the league, a career best for Kern, and it represented a whopping 5.5-yard jump from his average in 2016. The Titans hope they won’t be as dependent on Kern as last season.

10: Wins in the Titans’ last 12 games at Nissan Stadium. The team’s recent good fortune at home – 11-5 during the last two years overall – represents a huge swing from 2014-15, when the Titans went 2-14 at home. The Titans will face Super Bowl teams Philadelphia and New England at home this season, in addition to Baltimore, Washington, the New York Jets and the team’s three AFC South opponents.

13: Where the Titans stand in the most recent NFL.com power rankings, which were produced after the NFL Draft. AFC South foe Jacksonville was ranked No. 4 and another division rival, Houston, was ranked No. 12.

15: Combined interceptions (eight) and pass break-ups (seven) last season for Kevin Byard, a figure that was five better than the second-best safety in the league, per Pro Football Focus. A former Middle Tennessee State star, Byard was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his second season.

15: Interceptions thrown by Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in 15 games last season, compared to the combined 19 he’d thrown in 27 games over his first two seasons. The good news was that he improved down the stretch, as Mariota threw seven touchdowns and two interceptions in his last five games including the playoffs. Mariota experimented with a new stance during the offseason, one he hopes will help with a faster delivery in 2018.

16: The number of spots the Titans moved up in the 2018 draft from pick No. 57 to pick No. 41via trade with Oakland in order to select outside linebacker Harold Landry from Boston College. He could be quite a threat on the edge, after totaling a combined 21.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles in his last two seasons in college.

27: Touchdown passes allowed by the Titans’ defense, which was tied for eighth-worst in the league. The Titans are hoping the arrival of free-agent cornerback Malcolm Butler, to go along with Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson at that position, will aid the situation. In addition, there’s the addition of defensive coordinator Dean Pees, whose Baltimore Ravens were very good against opponents’ short passing games last year.

35: The Titans’ third-down conversion percentage on offense last season. It ranked 25th in the league and represented an 11-point drop from 2016, when the Titans’ 46 percent conversion rate ranked third-best in the league. Fixing the third-down problems will be a major focus for new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.

50: Combined catches for Titans rookie receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor last season. Davis was the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft and Taylor the 72nd selection. More will be expected this season, especially of Davis, who may have given a glimpse into the future when he caught his first two touchdown passes in the Titans’ playoff loss to New England.

172: The career-high number of tackles for 32-year-old Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who is heading into his 11th season. Woodyard’s total was the second-highest figure in the franchise’s “Titans era” (1999-present). He’ll be counted on again this year, not only for his play on the field, but for his ability to mentor first-round draft pick Rashaan Evans.

4,195: The flight distance in miles between Nashville and London, per worldatlas.com. The Titans will travel to England to play the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 21. It will mark the first regular-season game for the franchise at an overseas stadium. The Titans will be off the following weekend to help re-set their body clocks.

$81.05 million: The combined amount of money the Titans shelled out in contracts for a pair of talented New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler ($61.25 million over five years) and running back Dion Lewis ($19.8 million over four years). Lewis was one of the NFL’s best backs during the second half of the 2017 season.

Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him @glennonsports.

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