The Tennessee Titans had a strong debut in their preseason opener last weekend, not only defeating the San Diego Chargers 27-10 but piling up yards on offense. They ran for 288 yards as newcomers DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry turned heads in their debut.
After the game, Titans fans were buzzing with the results. Marcus Mariota was a perfect five-for-five on the night, Murray and Henry combined for 167 of the team’s 288 rushing yards while both scoring touchdowns, and even much-maligned running back Bishop Sankey had a great performance, running for 52 yards on just three attempts, also scoring a rushing touchdown.
But as impressive as the Titans may have looked with their “exotic smashmouth” offense, fans need to hold off on raising their expectations for the 2016 season.
For starters, a look at Tennessee’s recent history should be enough to preach caution to Titans’ fans. For the last two seasons, they have gone 2-2 in their four preseason games and come out and looked great in their regular season opener. At both of those points, the fans were all on board and anticipating seasons that would greatly exceed expectations.
What they got instead was a major letdown after those hot starts.
The Titans only won one other game after their opener in 2014 and only two more last season after their impressive start. All this despite good showings in the preseason and those stellar beginnings to the seasons.
And this preseason is beginning eerily similar to how the last few seasons have gone.
Tennessee’s offense was impressive, yes. But look who they did it against. San Diego had the 20th-ranked overall defense and the 27th-ranked run defense in 2015.
The Chargers regularly gave up tons of rushing yards last season, and their defense doesn’t figure to be much better in 2016. So what the Titans did on the ground in their preseason opener should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Titans’ defense also looked suspect to start the game.
The Chargers drove down the field on their first possession of the game and scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Rivers to Melvin Gordon. The drive took just seven plays to cover 75 yards, and Tennessee’s secondary looked lost.
The Titans’ first-string defense yielded all of that damage. They didn’t start to look better until the reserves were in on both sides. Even then, it took until the second half for them to look decent. San Diego scored all their points in the first half and overall had more big plays on Tennessee’s starters and primary backups.
The Titans’ first preseason game of 2016 was a solid debut. If fans want to get excited about this year’s team, especially over the new rushing attack, that’s understandable. They have been mired in the bottom half of the AFC for years now, and any sign of hope will be gobbled up by fans desperate for positivity.
But Tennessee’s own recent history and the facts about the team they just played need to be taken into account, and that’s why Titans’ fans should remain cautious.