2. “Weenie Hut General”
“Next man up” is a very common principle that football coaches preach to the point of it being cliche, and that certainly is not a bad thing.
Depth is important, as injuries are bound to happen in a sport as violent as NFL football often is. There are some situations, however, when no amount of depth can save the fate of a team.
The Titans suffered a ridiculous number of injuries over the course of the 2018 campaign, and most of them weren’t to marginal or role players.
From the start of Training Camp through Week 17, the Titans lost the following players to season-ending ailments: CB Tye Smith, S Johnathan Cyprien, TE Delanie Walker, T Jack Conklin, CB Logan Ryan, DL Jurrell Casey, LB Brian Orakpo and TE Jonnu Smith.
That list doesn’t include players who missed significant chunks of time throughout Training Camp and the regular season. LB Rashaan Evans, S Kenny Vaccaro, S/ST Dane Cruikshank, RB/ST David Fluellen and LB Derrick Morgan all fall within that category.
Additionally, QB Marcus Mariota missed two games, including the Titans’ season finale against the Colts.
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” said tackle Taylor Lewan, asked about the prospect of getting all of those injured players back next season. “That’s the thing with playing this sport is you’re going to get injured. Everyone’s injured. I’m injured, Dennis [Kelly] is injured, everyone’s hurt. That’s what it is. Will guys get hurt next year? No question, that’s how it works.”
Amazingly, the Titans were able to put together a nine-win season amidst all of those injuries. That speaks both to the team’s depth and its character. More on the latter below.
In the early days of Training Camp, Mike Vrabel made the comment that moments of adversity would “reveal the character” of his football team. The Titans endured many of those moments in 2018.
All of the aforementioned injuries and times of craziness snowballed to give the Titans a storm that the “curveball” metaphor would not suffice to describe. It was more like a Mariano Rivera cutter, which many considered to be an un-hittable pitch.
Yet, the Titans managed to hit it. After all that they went through, the Titans were a touchdown drive away from tying-up a Week 17 win-and-in game. They may have lost, but it was pretty impressive that they were even in that spot to begin with.
If adversity reveals the character of a team, as Vrabel said it does, then the Titans were shown in 2018 to be a scrappy, resilient bunch. They stepped up to the plate on every challenge they were faced with, often emerging victorious.
“When all that adversity’s going on,” said linebacker Will Compton, “you find out what teams rise to the occasion and it was awesome to be part of it on this team. There was a moment there before these last four or five weeks where you’re thinking, ‘man, we’re probably not in it, we’re not going to make it.’ Then you rattle off four in a row and lose a tough one last night. It just speaks volumes to how resilient this team is.”
Fans of the Titans should be encouraged by what the team was able to do with all of the difficult, uncontrollable circumstances they faced in 2018. With more normalcy next season, this team could do some very good things.