The Tennessee Titans had a very productive and solid preseason.
The Titans finished with a 3-1 preseason record, and Tennessee’s newest running back additions put together a very promising few games. Franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota also looked sharp for most of the preseason.
But Titans fans have seen this story before, and this preseason likely won’t mean anything different in the grand scheme of things for 2016.
In both the 2014 and 2015 preseasons, the Titans went 2-2 and looked very promising. Not only that, but the Titans opened up with a victory in each of those respective regular seasons. But the Titans would go on to win just three more games in those two seasons combined after winning their openers, proving the hot starts and hopeful thoughts were nothing more than a mirage.
The good news for the Titans this year is that they should be much improved over the last two seasons that saw them win a combined five games. But let’s put what they did this preseason into perspective.
Three of the four defenses the Titans faced were ranked 20th or worse in terms of yards allowed last season. San Diego (20th), Oakland (22nd), and Miami (25th) were all in the bottom half of the league in defense in 2015, and both San Diego and Miami allowed over 125 rushing yards a game. Not to mention, those three teams had a combined record of 17-31 in 2015.
In three games, the Titans combined to run the ball 96 times for 420 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s an average of 4.4 yards a carry and 140 yards a game.
But when the Titans played an actually good defense, it was a slightly different story.
When Tennessee played the Carolina Panthers, the Titans totaled 96 rushing yards on 24 carries and failed to score a touchdown. That’s not a bad overall effort, but the defense didn’t do its offense any favors.
In fact, the Titans’ starting defense still looked fairly suspect for most of the preseason.
Tennessee may have held opponents to just 15 points a game — a far cry from the 26.4 allowed last season — but the starting secondary gave up some big plays. Of the 60 total points the Titans allowed, 24 of them came in the first quarter. The first team defense gave up all 14 of Oakland’s points in that preseason match-up.
Tennessee allowed 231.5 passing yards per game and all but one of the touchdowns the defense allowed came through the air. And the pass rush hasn’t been there consistently, either. The Titans finished with just five sacks.
Have the Titans been awful? Absolutely not. The run game looked extremely improved regardless of the defenses they faced, and Mariota looked every bit as good as he did last year before injuries slowed him and eventually ended his season. But there’s still plenty of cause for concern regarding this roster as well, especially on the back end of the defense.
Tennessee fans should absolutely have optimism for the upcoming 2016 season. The team may not have all the pieces necessary to be a true threat to win the AFC South, but it won’t struggle to win a mere two or three games like it has the last few seasons.
This preseason should provide hope for Titans’ fans, but take everything that happens with a grain of salt.
Remember who the Titans played, and temper any lofty expectations.