Remember the Tennessee Titans!

Hope Spring Eternal for the Wounded Titans-


Alex Calder, Staff Writer

After the massive overtime win by the Tennessee Titans, fans were in shock at the news about Derrick Henry. Early on in the game, you may have seen Derrick Henry on the sidelines being taped up. He later went back onto the field and ran the ball more than 15 times for more than 80 yards after the initial injury. The injury turned out to be a broken bone in Henry’s foot which will keep him at least 6-10 weeks and perhaps the rest of the season.

The big question now is can the Titans continue their AFC dominance without Derrick Henry, as they currently have the best record in the AFC. First, let’s look at who they still have at the running back position. They just acquired Adrian Peterson who has shown spurts of his younger self; however, he can not live up to Derrick Henry. His rushing statistics are not as good, and he will not likely be able to be used the same way as Henry. Henry sometimes gets over 35 rushes in a game due to his incredible stamina, something Adrian Peterson will not be able to achieve.  Derrick Henry was used for big 3 & 1 and 4 & 1 conversions as they know he will practically always get a yard, a certainty that you do not get with a 36 year-old veteran like Peterson. Finally, the Titans will also have their backup running back to help out the game Jeremy McNichols. So far he has been used as a passing/running back for when the receivers are stretched thin. Unfortunately, the running back situation does not look good for Tennessee.

Luckily, they will still have a strong passing game. With the offseason acquisition of Julio Jones, the offense seems unstoppable when they are healthy. Yes, AJ Brown and Julio Jones have been injured on and off, but it looks like next week they will be back and ready. When they have played together, the offense has been electric. Although you do not see the massive stats put up by both of them in the same game, you notice that one of them will break out. That’s because one of the wideouts is bound to have a second-string cornerback covering them. That means that as long as both of them stay healthy their offense will not completely be doomed.

Now, what does this change for Ryan Tannehill? Actually, a lot will change. Most of the Titans’ game plan relies on play-action passes. Without the threat of the run game, the former Miami Dolphins quarterback will have more time in the pocket but fewer open receivers downfield. This situation could prove beneficial for him. Since he is not generally a running quarterback, the blitzes on the run play put him under pressure and oftentimes cause him to make a mistake. However, the option runs from Tannehill for touchdowns and the wide-open opposite side passes will no longer be available. Most definitely Derrick Henry means more to the Titans than any other player means to their team. 

Let’s look at the defense now, will they be able to carry the team and ensure the playoff berth? For some reason, the defense has looked surprisingly good recently. However, the cornerbacks are extremely weak. With the injury of the rookie Caleb Farely, they have to rely on Jenories Jenkins, who is old and slow, as well as some inexperienced players like Chris Jackson. The best corner has been the 3rd round rookie Elijah Molden. However, the safeties have been playing extremely well, like Kevin Byard who has had a couple of interceptions in the past couple of games. The linebackers recently have finally stepped up after the criticism by fans and coaches, like Harold Landry, David Long, Rashaan Evans, and Bud Dupree, who is finally back from his injury. The defensive line has also been getting a lot of pressure from Jeffery Simmons and the amazing offseason acquisition of Demico Autry, as well as the linebackers. Overall, this defense has surprisingly been playing well and might be able to support the Titans’ playoff dreams.

With all this said, the team’s offensive production will definitely decrease due to the loss of Derrick Henry. However, my prediction is they will still make the playoffs by winning the division.  The Titan’s remaining schedule consists of the Rams, Saints, Texans, Patriots, Jaguars, Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins, and Texans (again).  Although I am a Titans fan, I will give my predictions for the season as an optimist and pessimist. Optimistically the Titans beat the Saints, Texans, Patriots, Jaguars, Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins, and the Texans. That means the Titans will end with a 14-3. From a pessimistic standpoint, they would lose to the Rams, Saints, Patriots, and Steelers, meaning they will go 11-6. Compared to the Colts who are the only competition in their division who are 3-5, they almost have it on lock. The Colts will have to face the Jets, Jaguars, Bills, Buccaneers, Texans, Patriots, Cardinals, Raiders, and Jaguars. They will beat the Jets, Jaguars, Texans, Patriots, and Jaguars, which would only improve their record to 8-9.

This is why the Titans beating the Colts last week was such a big deal, as it gave them a three-game lead, and improved their standing against an inter-divisional rival. With a playoff berth practically guaranteed, Derrick Henry will be able to make a return this year and hopefully give the opposition’s defensive coordinators a headache. So all hope is not lost for the Titans this year.