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  • Titans franchise records that could be in danger in 2019
    by Mike B. Herndon on May 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I wrote this article last year and led with Derrick Morgan having a chance to pass Jevon Kearse’s career sack mark to become the most prolific pass rusher in the Titans era of the franchise. Obviously, that did not even come close to happening as Morgan finished with just half a sack on the season. However, the second item on my list did come to pass as Jurrell Casey became the first player to make four Pro Bowl appearances as a Titan, breaking a tie with Chris Johnson, Bruce Matthews, Jevon Kearse, Steve McNair, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Delanie Walker. That’s some pretty good company for Casey, even if Matthews’ franchise record of 14 Pro Bowl appearances is still going to be safe for a very long time. We also got a new single game rushing record thanks to Derrick Henry’s epic 238-yard performance against Jacksonville topped Chris Johnson’s 228-yard game (also against Jacksonville) from 2009. Obviously, single game records are always in danger — you never know when a guy might suddenly have a huge day — but we can hone in on a few career or single season records that have a chance to be in play for this year. Here are the records that I think we should be keeping an eye on in 2019. Receiving Yards by a Tight End Current Record: Frank Wycheck (4,958 yards) Challenger: Delanie Walker (4,208 yards) Walker might have challenged this mark in 2018 if it weren’t for a gruesome season ending leg injury suffered during the very first game of the season. However, he’s back now, and by all reports, he’s looking like his old self. That’s obviously great news for Titans fans and it could spell danger for several franchise records. Walker needs 751 receiving yards to pass Frank Wycheck for the top mark for a tight end in franchise history. He had topped that number for four straight seasons before getting injured last year so there is certainly a chance that he climbs to the top in 2019. However, getting to 751 yards might be tougher than it sounds. For one, the Titans have spent valuable resources upgrading the targets around him, adding Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown through free agency and the draft. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith were rookies in 2017, so those guys are significantly better football players heading into 2019 than they were when Walker last played a full season. Additionally, there have only been three tight ends in the history of football to rack up more than 750 yards in a season at age 35 or older: Tony Gonzalez (three times), Ben Watson, and Shannon Sharpe. That’s two Hall of Famers and Watson, who had his career best season as a member of the Saints at 35 years old. Walker is a rare talent and he has a few less miles on his body compared to an average 35 year old thanks to his time as a backup to Vernon Davis in San Francisco, but it would still be a pretty amazing feat for him to put up those kinds of numbers at this point in his career, especially coming off the injury that he suffered. Walker seems likely to get there eventually even if it doesn’t happen this year. His contract runs through the 2020 season so barring an unexpected retirement, I’d expect him to go down as the most productive tight end in franchise history. Receiving Touchdowns by a Tight End Current Record: Frank Wycheck (27 touchdowns) Challenger: Delanie Walker (26 touchdowns) This is a record that is almost certain to fall in 2019. Walker’s next touchdown catch will tie him with Wycheck for the franchise record at tight end. No Titan has been targeted more in the red zone since 2015 (Marcus Mariota’s first year as quarterback), as Walker’s 46 red zone targets are nearly double the next closest player (Rishard Matthews with 25). I expect him to cede some of that work to Corey Davis, but Walker is a lock — barring injury of course — to get at least two touchdowns and pass Wycheck in this category. Career Punting Yards Current Record: Craig Hentrich (36,926 yards) Challenger: Brett Kern (34,861 yards) This is another record that is guaranteed to fall barring injury. Kern needs just 2,065 yards to pass Hentrich on the Titans all-time list. He’s passed that mark in every single season of his 12 year NFL career, so I think it’s safe to say he’ll get there again in 2019. Kern punted for 3,483 yards last season. Obviously, the Titans would love for Kern see the field as little as possible this year, but realistically, this is a mark that is going to fall pretty easily. Career Sacks (Titans Era) Current Record: Jevon Kearse (52 sacks) Challenger: Jurrell Casey (46 sacks) Last season it seemed like Derrick Morgan would get the chance to take down Kearse’s Titans era record for sacks, but with him out of the picture, Casey is now the player poised to have a crack at taking down The Freak. Casey’s seven sacks in 2018 led the Titans and tied for the second best mark of his career. If he can match that number again this season, he’ll pass Kearse for the most sacks in a Titans uniform. Pretty impressive, especially for a player who plays on the interior of the defense. It seems likely that Casey will get a chance to stick in the 3-technique role that helped unlock his productivity under Dean Pees again this season and that will give him a pretty good shot at getting to 52 career sacks before the year is up. He has also been surrounded with some better talent this year. Adding Cameron Wake and getting a year two bump from Harold Landry should improve the Titans pass rush overall and give teams more to worry about outside of #99. The Titans/Oilers franchise mark rests with the great Ray Childress at 75.5 career sacks. It would take a few fantastic seasons for Casey to get there, but there is a chance that he could if he can stay productive into his thirties. Titans Era Single Season Passing Yards Current Record: Matt Hasselbeck (3,571 yards in 2011) Challenger: Marcus Mariota This is the record that I absolutely loathe. How is it that a modern NFL team can go 20 seasons without a quarterback throwing for more than 3,571 yards? Last season alone, 17 NFL quarterbacks threw for over 3,571 yards, including a rookie (Baker Mayfield) who didn’t start until midway through the third game of the season! It’s beyond depressing that a Titans QB hasn’t managed to accomplish this in an era where 4,000 yard seasons are common and 5,000 yard seasons happen nearly once a year. Last year I wrote that “if Mariota stays healthy in 2018, he’s almost certainly going to break this record”. We all know how that ended. Unfortunately, we’ve been playing the “if Mariota stays healthy” record for four seasons now without a hit. That’s not meant to be a knock on Mariota, it’s just the facts. Betting on this year to be the year seems like wishful thinking. However, if this is the year, I think a healthy Mariota should break this record with the upgraded weapons around him and some continuity on the coaching staff. If I’m still writing about Matt Hasselbeck’s record in 2020, I’m likely writing it about a new quarterback. Hopefully Mariota breaks through and we finally see a prolific passing offense in Tennessee. The franchise record in this category belongs to Warren Moon who threw for 4,690 yards in 1991. That record appears to be safe for now, but it would be really cool if it wasn’t. Single Season Receiving Touchdowns (Titans Era) Current Record: Drew Bennett (11 touchdowns in 2004) Challenger: Corey Davis or Delanie Walker This is another relatively low bar type record that could fall in 2019. Drew Bennett’s 11 touchdown receptions in 2004 remains the single season high since the team took on the Titans name in 1999. Corey Davis and Delanie Walker both have an outside chance of challenging this record if the passing offense takes a big step this season. Walker’s career high for touchdowns in a season is seven, set in 2016. Davis’ high is just four, set last season. Despite that low total for Davis, I think he is the guy that’s most likely to break through as an ascending player who has not yet reached his ceiling. It would take a massive improvement from the passing game overall for either guy to get near Bennett’s mark as the entire team combined for just 16 receiving touchdowns last year, but it’s possible if things break right. The franchise record of 17 — set by Bill Groman in the AFL days in 1961 — is likely out of reach barring a massive breakout season. Career Receiving Touchdowns (Titans Era) Current Record: Derrick Mason (34 touchdowns) Challenger: Delanie Walker (26 touchdowns) In addition to challenging for a clean sweep of the franchise tight end record books, Walker has a chance to take down the mark for most receiving touchdowns in a Titans uniform set by Derrick Mason. It would take a big season, but eight touchdowns to tie, nine touchdowns to break the record certainly isn’t impossible. The franchise record of 51 touchdowns belongs to Charley Hennigan and has stood for over 50 years. That’s not in danger this season. 100 Career Sacks for Cameron Wake This isn’t a team stat, but it’ll be cool for Titans fans to get to witness Cameron Wake’s 100th career sack this season. He sits at 98 currently so it’s a virtual lock that he will get there (possibly very early in the season). Wake has never had fewer than 5.5 sacks in a season in his career. There are currently just 32 players in NFL history who have reached 100 sacks, but there are two that are likely to join that group this year: Wake and Von Miller, who also sits at 98 career sacks. Those two are tied for second currently among active players behind Terrell Suggs’ 132.5 career sacks. Wake is one of the most accomplished pass rushers in the history of the sport despite getting a late start on his NFL career. The incredible thing is that he hasn’t really slowed down that much. As I covered in this piece back when the signing was announced, Wake has incredibly finished in the top 10 of PFF’s pass rush productivity metric for seven consecutive seasons, including a #2 overall finish in 2018. He’s a special talent and it’s going to be fun to watch him pass 100. […]

  • Delanie Walker wasn’t a fan of draft analysts mocking tight ends to the Titans
    by Terry A. Lambert on May 24, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    I just became an even bigger Delanie Walker fan. In what has become a bit of a yearly tradition, NFL Draft analysts everywhere mocked a tight end to the Tennessee Titans throughout the duration of draft season. The topic turned into a heated debate within the fanbase, considering guys like T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant could have been in play for the Titans with the 19th pick. Taking a tight end made a little sense, considering the age of Delanie Walker, along with the fact that he’s coming off of a season-ending injury last year. However, most fans agreed that there were a few bigger needs on the board for the Titans. Clearly, Jon Robinson agreed, opting to pass on the position with each of his six selections. Another guy who disagreed with the notion that the Titans needed a tight end? Delanie Walker. The veteran tight end joined Taylor Lewan and Will Compton on ‘Bussin with the Boys’ to discuss several topics, including the talk of drafting another tight end. “I feel like they don’t watch our games,” Walker said of draft analysts. “Draft a f****** tight end — he’s still not gonna play. That’s pretty much how I look at it. You can draft a tight end, which they have, and I’m still playing.” You know that response warms Jimmy’s heart. By most accounts, Walker looked pretty good in OTAs this week. He’s a massive part of this offense and Marcus Mariota absolutely needs him to be 100 percent this season in a make or break season. […]

  • Taking a look at the Titans candidates to fill the starting right guard position
    by Mike B. Herndon on May 23, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    Handicapping the competition to replace Josh Kline in the starting lineup. The Titans don’t have many starting jobs that are truly up for grabs heading into the 2019 season. Among the few that are, the right guard spot stands out as the most important to the team’s success. The players who end up claiming the two starting inside linebacker spots, the two non-Jurrell Casey defensive line spots, or the third wide receiver spot matter, but the guys who miss out on those roles will still get significant snaps as part of a rotation. Offensive line is one of the very few positions that does not rotate. If you’re a starter on the offensive line, you’re out there for 100% of offensive snaps barring injuries. That’s why right guard should be the position most closely tracked during OTAs, mini-camp, and training camp over the next three months. The job is open due to the release of Josh Kline earlier this offseason. Kline had started at right guard for the last 46 consecutive games in Tennessee and was just one year into a new three year deal that he had signed in March of 2018. His release was a response to the continuation of a downward trend in his play since taking over the job from an injured Chance Warmack in 2016. Kline was solid in that first season as a part of an offensive line that produced the AFC’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray and helped Marcus Mariota put up the best passing stats of his career, worse in 2017, and then downright awful in 2018. Replacing Kline gives the Titans an opportunity to get better play from the right guard position, but that’s not a guarantee by any means. Simply taking a bad player out and throwing any warm body in there doesn’t instantly make things better. Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel are hoping that one of the options they have on the roster will step up and play well enough to take this position from a negative to at least a neutral in 2019. Let’s countdown the top five options from least likely to most likely to be the starting right guard when the 2019 season kicks off in Cleveland. (...and no, I’m not including Jack Conklin until the team actually gives any hint of a chance that they would consider him there. They haven’t and consider to shoot it down with gusto every time it’s brought up. It would be really easy for Jon Robinson or Mike Vrabel to say “we’re going to put Jack in the best spot to help the team” when that question comes up, but they don’t. They say “we view Conklin and Kelly as tackles”. I think something would have to go really wrong for them to break the glass on pulling one of those guys inside.) 5. Aaron Stinnie Age: 25 Height: 6’-3” Weight: 312 pounds NFL Starts: 0 2018 PFF Grade: N/A Stinnie came to the Titans last season as an undrafted free agent after a successful college career at James Madison University. He started 42 games on the offensive line — mostly at left tackle — after starting out on the defensive line as a redshirt freshman. Stinnie is an above average athlete who put up good marks in the short shuttle (4.65-seconds) and three cone drill (7.63-seconds) especially. Stinnie might have been the biggest surprise among the Titans initial 53-man roster at the end of preseason last year, but he ended up sticking on the 53-man roster for all 16 games of the regular season. Given the amount of shuffling Jon Robinson had to do to account for injuries in 2018, it’s notable that Stinnie never got bounced down to the practice squad. That tells me two things: 1) the Titans really liked him and wanted to see if they could develop him and 2) they thought he’d be scooped up if they put him on waivers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Stinnie is a star in the making, but I do think he’s worth including on the fringe of this discussion for right now. 4. Corey Levin Age: 24 Height: 6’-4” Weight: 307 pounds NFL Starts: 1 2018 PFF Grade: 54.3 Levin is heading into his third season with the Titans after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 draft out of UT-Chattanooga. He saw his first regular season game action last year as he served as the primary backup at all three interior offensive line positions. Levin started at left guard for an injured Quinton Spain in London against the Chargers and then came off the bench in the second half against the Jets to play center while Ben Jones slid over to replace an ineffective Spain. Those appearances saw vastly different performances from Levin. In London, he struggled mightily, ending up on the ground far too often and giving up four pressures as a pass blocker. Against the Jets, he looked like a completely different player. He allowed just one pressure and was a bully in the running game, helping the Titans offense roar back late for a massive comeback win. The natural question to ask about Levin is what caused those two games to look so different from him. Was it the fact that he was playing center — the position he’s spent the most time at in practice over the last two years — instead of left guard? Was it simply nerves in London? Was it the opponent? Did he just get that much better between Week 7 and Week 13? That’s the problem with small sample sizes. There are so many variables here and not enough constants. We do know that he was outstanding in the preseason in 2018, even drawing rare unprompted praise from Mike Vrabel at one point. Preseason is hard to take a lot from for obvious reasons, but it seems like the data suggests we are seeing an improving young player that should be looking to push for a starting position sooner rather than later if his trend line holds. 3. Ben Jones Age: 29 Height: 6’-3” Weight: 308 pounds NFL Starts: 91 2018 PFF Grade: 69.8 I am ranking Jones above Levin here because I believe that it’s more likely that the Titans move Jones to right guard and insert Levin at center than the other way around. Jones has started 27 NFL games at guard in his career, including 11 at right guard specifically so he’s no stranger to the position. In fact, the two players on the Titans current roster with the most starts at right guard at Rodger Saffold and Ben Jones. As I mentioned when discussing Levin, I have to believe that the Titans would love for Levin to become their center of the future. Him emerging as a starter there in 2019 would provide a lot of benefits from a roster building standpoint. First, he would get a chance to play a season with Ben Jones playing next to him as he learns to make all the protection calls. Second, it would allow the Titans the flexibility to move on from Jones at the end of this season when his contract expires. The team has a ton of players on expiring deals and even though Jones wouldn’t break the bank, that’s a few million dollars that they can spend elsewhere if Levin emerges. Yes, you’d have to get Levin a second contract a year later, but you get one cheap year in 2020 at least. Jones has been remarkably consistent during his time in the NFL. He’s basically a lock to provide slightly below average to slightly above average play every year and there is no reason to think that will change drastically this season. Fortunately for the Titans, it’s not a requirement to have five All-Pros on an offensive line for a team to have good blocking. In fact, most teams with great offensive lines have three really good to great players and two below average to average players. Think about the Colts last year. Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, and Ryan Kelly were really good players while Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith were pretty average. The Cowboys have always had Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick as their stalwarts while rotating in poor to mediocre guys at left guard and right tackle. The Titans are unlikely to get really good to great level play out of their center or right guard positions this year, but if they can get average from those two spots while Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, and Jack Conklin (or Dennis Kelly) do the heavy lifting, that could be a formula for a really good season up front. 2. Nate Davis Age: 22 Height: 6’-3” Weight: 316 pounds NFL Starts: 0 2018 PFF Grade: N/A Most seem to believe that Davis will end up winning this job before the start of the regular season, but I’m ranking him second here for a few reasons. First, third round rookies are no lock to start right out of the gates. In 2018, there were eight offensive linemen selected in round three. Out of those eight just one — Arizona’s Mason Cole — started in Week 1. Cole would also be the only one of this group to start all 16 games, but he finished the year ranked 34th out of 38 qualifying centers according to PFF, giving up a whopping 35 pressures on the season. Brandon Parker — the Raiders 2018 third round pick at tackle — started the second most games of this group with 12, but he was similarly terrible, allowing 43 pressures (the 7th most among all offensive linemen last season). Martinas Rankin — the 80th overall pick of the draft for the Texans — started just four games, but somehow allowed 31 pressures and finished as the lowest rated offensive tackle in the NFL per PFF (80th out of 80). Chukwuma Okorafor — the Steelers third round tackle — started one game at right tackle, filling in for an injured starter and got some limited reps as a third tackle/jumbo tight end, but was primarily a backup. Three others — the Bucs Alex Cappa, the Redskins Geron Christian, and the Rams Joseph Noteboom — all went without a start for their rookie seasons. The one real success story out of this group was the Ravens 83rd overall pick, Orlando Brown Jr., who started the final 10 games of the season at right tackle and finished 47th out of 80 qualifying tackles according to PFF (a couple slots below Jack Conklin). Looking back over the past five years there have been 75 offensive linemen drafted in the third round or later. Just 30 of those 75 have started at least 8 games in their rookie season and only 8 started all 16 games. My point here is that Davis stepping in, starting from day one, and providing even just an average performance at right guard would be the exception, not the rule when it comes to players who have come from similar backgrounds. Of course, it would be great if Davis was ready to start day one. He’s got the highest upside of this bunch and it would be an early indication that he might end up panning out as a long term starter. I would imagine that a tie — or even a very very close competition — would go to Davis for that reason, but I’m not ready to place my chips on the rookie to be the starter by Week 1 just yet. 1. Kevin Pamphile Age: 28 Height: 6’-5” Weight: 315 pounds NFL Starts: 35 2018 PFF Grade: 52.0 Pamphile is the guy to beat at this spot in my opinion. From the sounds of things, he’s currently working with the first team offense at right guard in OTAs as expected. He’s starting his second season with the Titans after spending his first four with the Buccaneers. Pamphile was originally drafted by Tampa in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft while Jon Robinson was the Bucs Director of Player Personnel. He ended up starting 33 games there — mostly at right tackle and left guard — before leaving to join Robinson in Tennessee last offseason. As a Titan, Pamphile started two games — at left tackle against Houston in Week 2 and at right tackle against Jacksonville in Week 3 — while playing the second half of the opener in Miami after Taylor Lewan went out with a concussion. Despite his low PFF grade, I thought he played pretty well in my film review, especially considering the fact that he played the end of the Jacksonville game with a torn biceps muscle that would end his season after just three games. Pamphile is an outstanding athlete for a man of his size, turning in a 4.95-second forty yard dash, a 7.61-second three cone drill, and a 32-inch vertical at 6’-5” and 315 pounds in 2014. Those numbers are right in line with Chris Lindstrom, a guard that many (including myself) wanted the Titans to consider drafting early last month. His pro career has been less than stellar, producing PFF grades of 56.1 and 59.8 in his only two seasons as a full time starter (2016 and 2017), but that’s right in line with the 58.0 grade the Titans got out of Josh Kline in 2018 so at least it wouldn’t be a downgrade. The silver lining to his PFF grades is that he’s always graded out average to above average as a pass blocker. His run scores are typically what hold him back. The Titans are likely to want to run left as much as possible in 2019 regardless of who starts at right guard, so I’d rather have a guy who will keep Mariota clean, but might whiff in the run game from time to time than the other way around. I don’t think Pamphile is going to suddenly become an All-Pro guard, but I do think there is a good chance they could get him to average this season and that’s all they really need. […]

  • Titans News: Inked
    by Robert Greenlaw on May 23, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Jeffery Simmons and the Titans reached an agreement on a contract for the rookie. This has to be the fastest the Titans have signed a rookie in the past 10 years. I’m just glad this didn’t drag out. The NFL draft generated a lot of money for the city of Nashville. Cleveland and Kansas City are going to try and do it better, but I think they fall short. Marcus Mariota is “letting it ride” in 2019. Trying not to focus on the outside opinions is going to be best for young Marcus. Mike Vrabel gained a lot of attention with the Texans in helping develop pass rushers in Clowney and Mercilus. Here’s hoping he can do some of that same work with D’Andre Walker and continue working with Harold Landry and Finch. There’s a lot of faith in the Jags for 2019. I’m not buying it. […]

  • Titans sign first round pick Jeffery Simmons
    by Jimmy Morris on May 22, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    The Titans announced that they have signed first-round pick Jeffery Simmons: .@Titans agree to terms with first-round pick Jeffery Simmons (@GrindSimmons94).READ https://t.co/KlmUoejRXH@HailStateFB pic.twitter.com/QMVrbuX22B— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) May 22, 2019 Rookie deals for first round picks are for 4 years with a team option for the 5th. There aren’t many rookies that holdout into training camp anymore, but I was a little worried about the Titans getting this deal done- mainly because Simmons is coming off the torn ACL. That could have been a huge hangup in a contract negotiation. Apparently it was not. Now we wait for Simmons to be ready to play. I still don’t think he misses the whole season. My prediction is that he is back for that run of 3 AFC South games at the end of the Titans schedule. That might be optimistic, but guys come back quickly from those these days. Simmons is the 4th pick of their 6 pick draft class that they have signed. The two that remain unsigned are A.J. Brown and Nate Davis. […]

 

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