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VOL. 40 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 12, 2016

Other than Mariota, Titans must overhaul offense

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The Super Bowl is in the books, and so is the 2015 season.

So now, theoretically at least, all 32 NFL teams are back on equal footing for 2016, ready to make the necessary adjustments to become a contender for next season.

For the Tennessee Titans, who finished a league-worst 3-13, that road is a whole lot longer and bumpier than for most.

New general manager Jon Robinson is now charged with trying to set the Titans on their rebuilding course.

So, based on where the Titans are, and what the Denver Broncos achieved Sunday night in winning Super Bowl 50, what’s the quickest way for Robinson to restore the Titans back to contender status?

And even if he acts boldly and quickly this off-season in free agency and the draft, how long before the Titans truly are back as a legitimate football team?

While we have some time on our hands – free agency dawns on March 9 and the draft rolls around at the end of April – here’s some advice to Robinson on how to fix the Titans.

Robinson seems to have already figured out what the Broncos and Panthers taught the nation in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

Other than having a quality quarterback in place, the next most important things for an NFL team are to find guys who can protect that quarterback on offense and defensive players who can consistently harass and pressure the opposing team’s quarterback.

Let’s start on offense first, where the Titans do appear to have the most important piece in place with Marcus Mariota under center. But he needs proper protection and weapons around him to succeed.

So the Titans must repair the offensive line. That starts in the middle, where the Titans probably need to look for a veteran center who can immediately stabilize the rest of a young line by making the calls and adjustments.

Alex Mack of Cleveland might be available, and Ben Jones (Houston) and Lyle Sendlein (Arizona) are free agents, as well.

Elsewhere on the line, the Titans have to solve the right tackle and left guard spots.

The tackle issue could be resolved by drafting left tackle Laremy Tunsil with the first pick and sliding Taylor Lewan across the line to the right side.

At left guard, the Titans have three options in-house, provided they add a veteran center.

They could go with Brian Schwenke, who previously was at center but has had injury issues, try to revive Jeremiah Poutasi, who struggled as a rookie right tackle but might have a future at left guard, or they hope that Quinton Spain continues to mature.

Beyond that, the Titans have to be more dynamic in terms of weapons.

Green-Beckham

Aside from Delanie Walker, the rest of Tennessee’s skill players struggled in 2015.

The best sign of hope currently on the roster is receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, but he needs to make a major jump in his second season after flashing dominant skills as a rookie.

But it has to happen more consistently for DGB. The Titans need him to develop, not tease occasionally with the big play. We’ve been through that with Tyrone Calico, Kenny Britt and Justin Hunter.

The Titans also need Kendall Wright to bounce back from injuries and end what is now a two-year decline in production.

But counting on DGB to mature or Wright to bounce back isn’t enough of a sure thing. It would be a mistake if the Titans don’t draft or spend in free agency to help bolster this group.

The same thing can be said for running back. Antonio Andrews, Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster and David Cobb were all part of a running back committee the Titans would be better off adjourning in favor of a lead back capable of grinding out the tough yards, especially late in games.

That doesn’t mean the Titans have to spend a high draft pick on a running back, but they must identify the right guy to put at the top of the depth chart.

Obviously, Robinson has his work cut out for him in his first few weeks on the job, and our assessment is only part of the overhaul job that must be done.

Next week, we will address what needs to take place on the defensive side of the ball.

Peyton’s future?

Peyton Manning rode out of Super Bowl 50 with his second Lombardi Trophy, this one earned in large part by a Denver defense that proved to be kryptonite to Cam Newton’s Superman persona.

When it was over, Manning was talking the odd combination of family and beer, and for the moment dodging questions about his expected retirement.

After seeing Manning, Tennessee’s adopted favorite son, play football in one capacity or another since 1995 when he was a skinny freshman at the University of Tennessee, there is plenty to wonder about regarding the future of a quarterback who turns 40 years old in a month.

If this is it for Manning, as many believe it will be, people especially in the state of Tennessee will wonder what will be next for Peyton.

The rumors of Manning following in John Elway’s footsteps toward becoming an NFL executive will not die, and connecting dots to the Tennessee Titans is an easy assumption for many.

Manning said his former coach, Tony Dungy, advised him against making an emotional decision too soon after the season, and it appears he will heed that advice.

If Manning is done as a player, you know he will ponder the future with the same level of scrutiny he approached opponent film study, leaving nothing to chance and knowing every possible advantage.

He did exactly that when he sought a new team to play for in 2012, choosing the Broncos over the Titans and eventually seeing the payoff Sunday night with a Super Bowl win.

So, if Manning is to someday become part of the Titans organization, as has been rumored for years, it’s not only Manning who would have to make sure everything is the right fit for him, but also the Titans, who would have to make sure their house is in order to lure Manning.

After all, they struck out four years ago in pursuing him to be their quarterback, and things haven’t exactly changed for the better.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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