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2016 Team Report: Tennessee Titans

Quarterbacks

Starter: Marcus Mariota
Backup(s): Matt Cassel, Alex Tanney

Starting QB: Marcus Mariota is the Tennessee Titans starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. He had an extremely impressive rookie season despite playing behind an extremely limited offensive line and group of receivers. The only real concern for Mariota moving forward is his health. He suffered multiple knee injuries during his rookie season after suffering through similar while playing at Oregon.

Backup QB: Zach Mettenberger showed less in two seasons of football than Alex Tanney showed in one half during the 2015 season. Ultimately, that is why he was released after the draft. Mettenberger was in line to be the team's primary backup, but Matt Cassel is now the favorite with Tanney hoping to maintain a roster spot.

Running Backs

Starter: DeMarco Murray
Backup(s): Derrick Henry[R], David Cobb, Antonio Andrews, Dexter McCluster, Bishop Sankey
Fullback(s): Jalston Fowler

Starting RB: The Titans traded for DeMarco Murray to be their bell-cow back. Everything they said after acquiring him suggested that he was going to be a focal point of the offense. Once the draft came around, that was thrust into doubt by the addition of Derrick Henry. Mike Mularkey suggested that there could be a competition for the starting role between Henry and Murray, but GM Jon Robinson shut that down quickly saying that Murray was still the starter. Regardless of who ultimately starts, Henry and Murray will likely both be closer to 40 percent of the carries than 0 or 100.

Backup RBs: If Henry is the backup to Murray, he will almost certainly be used as the short-yardage and goal-line back. That could make Antonio Andrews redundant. Andrews was impressive last year but the coaching staff showed late in the year that they had a short leash on him, benching him quickly after mistakes. David Cobb should be the favorite to backup Murray and Henry as the primary ball carrier while Dexter McCluster remains as the primary receiving back. Bishop Sankey will be fortunate to make the roster.

Fullback: Fowler is a talented player who can contribute to the offense in a variety of ways. However, the Titans' depth at running back and tight end suggest that his touches will be limited.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Kendall Wright, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe[R]
Backups: Harry Douglas, Justin Hunter, Tre McBride, Andre Johnson

Starting WRs: Tajae Sharpe is locked into the Titans starting lineup. Sharpe had been ahead of Dorial Green-Beckham throughout the offseason and impressed enough at the start of training camp to start the first preseason game. Gree-Beckham was subsequently traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Sharpe is the one big-body receiver in the Titans starting lineup alongside Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright. Wright appears set to exclusively play in the slot, leaving Matthews as the other starter in two-receiver sets.

Backup WRs: The Titans have suddenly become quite old at wide receiver. The trade of Dorial Green-Beckham should assure Andre Johnson of his roster spot. Johnson is first in line to fill in for either outside receiver in the starting lineup. If the preseason is anything to go by, Harry Douglas will fill in for Kendall Wright in the slot should he miss time. That leaves Tre McBride and Justin Hunter to compete for a final roster spot. McBride has more special teams value than Hunter, something that should prove to be decisive.

Tight Ends

Starters: Delanie Walker
Backups: Anthony Fasano, Philip Supernaw

Delanie Walker was re-signed to a long-term contract ahead of this season. He will enter this year as the Titans' best receiving option and should be an integral part of an offense that is set to run the ball with more variety. Walker will be a 1,000 snap player if he stays healthy for 16 games. He dealt with various health issues last year that hampered his output but showed off a great understanding with Marcus Mariota when healthy. Philip Supernaw had little chance of making the roster until Craig Stevens suddenly retired. Supernaw should be the third option behind Fasano and Walker.

Place Kicker

Ryan Succop: Succop made all of his field attempts under 50 yards last year, but he only tried 13 attempts in that range all season. The former Mr. Irrelevant will hold down the Titans kicker job again in 2016, but it is the bottom of the barrel for kicker scoring opportunity, and that is unlikely to change this season.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Tre McBride, Dexter McCluster, Bishop Sankey

All of the principles in the return game from 2015 remain with the team in 2016, meaning there's a good chance we see more of the same going forward. Tre McBride seems to have moved ahead of last year's top kickoff returner, Dexter McCluster, though both players should still see work in 2016.

Punt Returners: Dexter McCluster, Tre McBride

In 2015, Dexter McCluster fielded most of Tennessee's punts, with Harry Douglas spelling him on about a quarter of attempts. Tre McBride has been pushing hard to take over Douglas' role in 2016, though.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Taylor Lewan, LG Bryon Bell, C Ben Jones, RG Chance Warmack, RT Jack Conklin [R]
Key Backups: Jeremiah Poutasi, Andy Gallik, Brian Schwenke, Sebastian Tratola [R], Dennis Kelly

The Titans added several new pieces to their line this offseason. Center Ben Jones was signed from the Houston Texans, and he should be a significant upgrade over Brian Schwenke. Right tackle Jack Conklin was drafted with the 8th overall pick in the first round and should be a tough instant starter at a troublesome spot. Last year's right tackle Byron Bell could be better suited at left guard. He will have to compete with Jeremiah Poutasi for the gig, but should be a decent run blocker between Jones and left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan was quietly among the league's better left tackles and is considered a young leader on the team. The team declined right guard Chance Warmack's 5th year option, but he will continue to start and has no clear competition on the roster for his job this season. Overall this unit has a good mix of talent and their ranking can improve as the talent grows familiar with each other. Tier Ranking: Mid Tier.

Team Defense

Other than an opening weekend ambush of Jameis Winston and a few somewhat productive games against the Jaguars, the Titans D/ST was useless in fantasy leagues in 2015. Defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau has had defenses click in the past when he was with the Steelers, and he does have the OLB "pinchers" in Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo to make it work, but they have to stay healthy for this team to have punch on defense. The #1 pick did not yield an instant impact defender after a trade down, and the haul from the 2016 draft is full of role players that may take a while to gel on a rebuilding team. We could use the Titans in matchups against the Jaguars again, but that's the extent of their usefulness to us.

Defensive Line

Starters: Jurrell Casey, DaQuan Jones, Austin Johnson[R]
Backups: Karl Klug, Al Woods, Angelo Blackson, Ropati Pitotua

Starting DL: Jurrell Casey remains the star of the Titans defense. The disruptive defensive end had over 50 tackles and seven sacks last year. His production should grow if the Titans' new-look defense can stay healthy. DaQuan Jones offers little as a pass rusher and shouldn't have big tackle stats as he essentially acts as a space plugger alongside the nose tackle. Even though Al Woods remains on the roster, that nose tackle should be rookie Austin Johnson. Johnson was drafted in the second round as a two-down defender, he offers little pass rush or tackle productivity but could improve the Titans defense as a whole by making Casey and the linebackers' jobs easier.

Backup DL: Defensive line depth isn't a strength for the Titans so they will be hoping that they can unearth a diamond in their undrafted free agent class. You can never have any expectations for undrafted rookies so for Al Woods, Karl Klug, Angelo Blackson and Ropati Pitotua will remain the favorites to make the roster. Woods and Blackson are more interesting than Kluig or Pitotua. Woods could benefit from playing more defensive end and less nose tackle if Johnson takes his starting spot, while Blackson must continue to develop after flashing some penetration ability as a rookie.

Linebackers

Starters: Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo, Wesley Woodyard, Avery Williamson
Backups: Sean Spence, Kevin Dodd[R], Deiontrez Mount, David Baas, Aaron Wallace[R]

Starting LBs: The Titans will return all four starters from 2015 but will hope for more consistency from the unit as a whole. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo have both proven to be quality edge defenders with solid production over the course of their careers when healthy. Both have had health issues and Morgan's were a significant hit to the Titans defense last year. If either goes down this year they will have rookie Kevin Dodd in position to fill in. Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson were both very productive last year. Both had 85+ tackles and more than three sacks despite not starting all 16 games.

Backup LBs: Sean Spence will be hoping that he can force his way onto the field now that he has reunited with Dick LeBeau. Spence was highly thought of in Pittsburgh but a knee injury suffered during his rookie season derailed his career. He has proven himself capable over the past two years as a backup in Pittsburgh, but never had a chance to earn a starting spot over Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons. He has a chance in Tennessee but will need to unseat one of Williamson or Woodyard. Spence is a rangy player with the potential to rack up tackles, find the ball in coverage and make plays in the backfield. Dodd is the only other notable backup linebacker for the Titans. Dodd is a talented player who will rely on his fluidity to slice through defenders in the NFL. He was scrutinized during the draft process for his athletic testing and his age but there is no doubting his talent to contribute immediately if called on.

Defensive Backs

Starters: Jason McCourty, Perrish Cox, Da'Norris Searcy, Rashad Johnson
Backups: Brice McCain, Marqueston Huff, Antwon Blake, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, LeShaun Sims[R], Kevin Byard[R]

Starting DBs: It's unclear if Perrish Cox or Brice McCain will be the outside starter in base defenses for the Titans, but it shouldn't matter much either way. Both will be on the field in nickel packages, offering Dick LeBeau options to choose from for his slot receiver. More important will be the health of Jason McCourty. McCourty is a vital player for the Titans and he barely played last year because of various health issues. Rashad Johnson and Da'Norris Searcy are expected to start despite the presence of third-round rookie Kevin Byard.

Backup DBs: Antwon Blake was signed in free agency and has previously played for LeBeau but he is an extremely limited defender who should ideally only play on special teams. Blake and Blidi Wreh-Wilson will compete for the fourth cornerback spot unless rookie LeShaun Sims can take it. The most interesting backup defensive back for the Titans is rookie Kevin Byard. He was a surprise third-round pick in the 2016 draft. Byard is inconsistent and has his flaws against the run, but could prove to be a boom-or-bust IDP because of his penchant for finding the football. He had 19 interceptions in college.

Last modified: 2016-08-23 17:48:08