The Tennessee Titans entered the 2021 season with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones as the top two receivers. It will be a much different story in 2022. There are also questions about how long it will take for rookie Malik Willis to seize the starting job from incumbent quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Even with the draft-day trade of Brown, there haven’t been many personnel changes for the Titans. However, there are those who make NFL predictions who think that wins might be harder to come by for the Titans in 2022. Opening the season against Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Arizona could result in some tough early tests.
The Titans (+155) trail only the Indianapolis Colts in the current odds to win the AFC North Division title. According to the Vegas NFL odds, eight AFC teams have better NFL odds to win the Super Bowl than the Steelers (+3000).
- 2021 record: 12-5 (first in AFC South)
- Playoff result: Lost to Cincinnati 19-16 in wild-card round.
- Season opener: at Baltimore Ravens, Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m. EDT
- Playoff teams on 2022 schedule: HOME – Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, Las Vegas, Tampa Bay; ROAD – Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, Philadelphia
- Key newcomers: WR Robert Woods, TE Austin Hooper, DE DeMarcus Walker, WR Treylon Burks (first-round pick); CB Roger McCreary (second-round pick); Nicholas Petit-Frere (third-round pick); QB Malik Willis (third-round pick); RB Hassan Haskins (fourth-round pick), TE Chigoziem Okonkwo (fourth-round pick).
- Key losses: WR AJ Brown, WR Julio Jones, OL Rodger Saffold, LB Rashaan Evans, LB Jayon Brown, TE Anthony Firkser, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR Chester Rogers, OL David Quessenberry, CB Janoris Jenkins.
- Award candidates: Treylon Burks, +750 in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds; Derrick Henry, +900 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Malik Willis, +2000 in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds and +10000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Roger McCreary, +5000 in NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds; Kevin Byard, +8000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Jeffrey Simmons, +8000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Harold Landry, +10000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Ryan Tannehill, +10000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Kyle Phillips, +10000 in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds.
Running back Derrick Henry was on his way to one of the top seasons for a back in NFL history when he suffered a season-ending injury. Losing guard Rodger Saffold is a big blow, but Henry figures to be one of the top offensive players in the NFL once again. The NFL lines list Henry at +550 in the odds to win the NFL rushing title, which is second only to Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts.
When it comes to the passing game, there are more questions than answers. Tannehill’s three interceptions in a loss to Cincinnati in the playoffs played a major role in Tennessee’s early postseason exit. He won’t have Brown and Jones as receiving options.
Conditioning issues slowed first-round pick Treylon Burks in rookie camp, so he has some catching up to do. If Robert Woods is healthy, he will help fill the void at the position. The addition of tight end Austin Hooper could help as well. Rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo has been earning praise for his work in camp.
Rookie TE Chig Okonkwo making early strides with #Titans
“@ChigTweets has done a great job for us. He’s made some big strides this spring.”
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) June 23, 2022
Rookie QB Willis is considered to be a bit of a project. However, after the way Tannehill played in the playoff loss, one has to wonder how much longer he’ll be running things on offense for the Titans.
Tennessee averaged 15.2 points in its five losses during the regular season so the offensive meltdown in the postseason shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise.
The strength of the defense should be in the front seven. Harold Landry (12 sacks), Jeffrey Simmons (8½ sacks) and Denico Autry (nine sacks) all return. Simmons is on the verge of becoming one of the top interior linemen in the NFL.
Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker return at safety. David Long had 75 tackles in just 10 games and a 100-tackle season could be in his future.
There are some questions at cornerback, which is why Roger McCreary was selected early in the second round. Caleb Farley, a first-round pick in 2021, and 2020 second-round selection Kristian offer some options at the cornerback position. Elijah Molden, a third-round pick in 2021, led all the Tennessee cornerbacks in tackles a season ago.
Other than McCreary, there wasn’t much done to address the defense in the draft.
The Titans lost linebackers Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown in the offseason after they finished sixth and seventh in tackles last season, so that position is one worth monitoring.
2022 Titans Outlook
The Titans weren’t exactly a high-octane passing offense so it is only natural to wonder how things will look now that Brown will be catching passes as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. The early reports on rookie receiver Burks, taken in the first round, have not been promising. Nobody is expecting him to be Brown. However, production from Burks and fellow rookie Kyle Phillips could help ease the loss at the receiver position.
Playing in a division with Houston and Jacksonville, two teams expected to finish near the bottom of the NFL standings, should help the Titans remain in contention for another run at the playoffs.
Tennessee finished 12th in the NFL in total defense during the 2021 season but was sixth in scoring defense. That bend but don’t break aspect that worked so well last season will need to carry over into 2022.
That ability to get off the field on third down will once again be crucial. It doesn’t hurt the defense that the run-first offense tends to eat up the clock, giving the defense a chance to rest.
Those who bet online might want to keep in mind that Tennessee was 3-6 against the spread over its last nine games last season, with five of the last six contests going under the total.
The Titans have made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons but lost their postseason opener in 2020 and 2021.