The 2017 NFL season is just around the corner, and NFL teams across the country are preparing for training camp and the upcoming campaign. Among them are the Tennessee Titans, who finished 2016 with a 9-7 record, took second place in the AFC South, and missed the playoffs by a small margin.
As the Titans look ahead to the upcoming year, here are some of the biggest questions facing the squad this offseason.
Is Marcus Mariota healthy?
The most important position in all of sports in quarterback in the NFL, and the Titans have a good one in Marcus Mariota. The franchise and fanbase got a scare last season when he broke his right leg in week 16, an injury that also contributed to the Titans missing out on a playoff spot in Mariota's second season at the helm of the offense.
There have been no reports to suggest that Mariota will not be ready to go come week one o the season, but it stands to reason that the Titans will take it slow with him in the preseason. With backup Matt Cassel also undergoing surgery this offseason (getting a pin inserted in his throwing thub) the Titans have stood pat at the QB position, which means Alex Tanney and former rookie Tyler Ferguson from Western Kentucky will get more reps this offseason.
How will defensive additions fit?
The Titans brought in a ton of players on defense through free agency and the NFL Draft.
Notably in free agency, Tennessee signed former Denver Broncos nose tackle Sylvester Williams (29 tackles, 1.0 sack in 2016), former Jacksonville Jaguars safety Jonathan Cyprien (127 tackles, 1.0 sacks in 2016) and former New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (92 tackles, 2 interceptions in 2016).
They also drafted USC cornerback Adoree Jackson with the 18th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown with a fifth-round pick, and TCU linebacker Josh Carraway in the seventh round.
Tennessee had major weaknesses in their linebacker and secondary units last year, and on the surface have done a good job filling those needs this off-season. The only question that remains is to see if all the pieces fit together.
How will young wide receivers respond?
Tennessee has a bunch of young wide receivers to get into the mix behind Rishard Matthews and the recently signed Eric Decker.
The Titans used the 5th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis, used a third-rounder on Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor, and still have second-year pro Tajae Sharpe in the mix.
Those three young receivers will battle it out with Matthews, Decker, and vets Harry Douglas and Eric Weems for a chance to see the field. You'd expect to see Davis starting early, but Taylor and Sharpe both show the potential to be contributors at the very least.
Can the special teams bounce back from a poor 2016?
Tennessee's special teams were not up to standard last season, and the only evidence you need to support that is a mid-season firing of special teams coordinator Bobby April. Steve Hoffman was promoted into the role, he kept his job heading into this year, and the Titans made some moves to fill big needs.
Tennessee signed special teams ace Brynden Trawick, added free agent wide receiver/returner Eric Weems and drafted cornerback/returner Adoree Jackson.
All three should immediately play a role on special teams as the Titans look to shore up the third facet of the game,