By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — It was a great season for the Titans in many ways, but one that ended far quicker than anyone hoped. Sunday’s 20-13 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens in their first playoff game in Nashville since 2008 leaves an unsatisfied feeling. But when looking back at the now ended year, they won 11 games and the AFC South. The offense averaged 31 points a game. Derrick Henry set a franchise record for rushing yardage and Ryan Tannehill one for passing yardage. Henry was voted first-team All-Pro, while he and A.J. Brown were voted to the AFC Pro Bowl squad.
That’s the good news. In addition, had anyone said it would be the offense and not the defense that would get them beat in the opening game of the playoffs, they wouldn’t be believed. But the offense stalled after forging a 10-0 lead, and was totally ineffective in the second half. The Ravens focused on stopped Derrick Henry and they did. No one could fill the offensive void, and 20 points proved enough for the Ravens to advance.
So now the Titans must focus on the offseason, and doing the things that can get them to the Super Bowl. First, they’re not sure if they’ll have their offensive coordinator back. Arthur Smith is considered a hot item for head coaching vacancies. The hope is that GM Jon Robinson can convince Smith to stay, but if he can’t then they’ve got to find a replacement that can continue to keep things rolling in the same manner.
A second priority concerns the defense. While the defense actually had five sacks in Sunday’s game, over the season they were third from the bottom in that category and dead last in pass defense. Their inability to stop teams from converting third downs was a season long weakness. The absence of a defensive coordinator was overlooked and downplayed all year. But it’s evident that they don’t need to go into the next season trying the same formula.
Then there are the free agents. After having a highly successful re-emergence for 3/4 of the season, Corey Davis became a missing person in the final two games. He spent much of the second half on the bench with an injury. Davis has shown he deserves a new deal. Hopefully both he and tight end Jonnu Smith will get one. Linebacker Jayon Brown and wide receiver Adam Humphries are more question marks in terms of returning, mainly because both were injured much of the season. David Long did a good job in Brown’s absence so he may be allowed to depart. Humphries played well when healthy.
The next things on the agenda are the draft and free agency, along with the coaching decisions. What happens in all three phases will determine whether the Titans can make another push and improve enough next season to finally make a return Super Bowl appearance.