4. King Henry Earns His Crown
In December alone, Derrick Henry ran for 625 yards and 8 touchdowns.
His turnaround, which began with his monumental effort against the Jaguars in Week 14, was nothing short of impressive.
He didn’t really prove his doubters wrong, as the third-year back from Alabama was indeed really bad for the first three months of the season. He lacked burst, vision, and he struggled to do anything productive with the ball in his hands.
But for whatever reason, when the calendar turned to December, Henry became one of the NFL’s best. He ran with power and pure speed, refusing to be brought down in most situations. He was a big reason why the Titans were able to go on their four-game win streak at the end of the season.
Henry was expectedly named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December.
The big question for Henry, at this point, is what the future holds for him. Will he keep up the style of running he used in December, or will he again disappoint and revert to his old self?
“I’ll use the momentum in the offseason to get better,” Henry said. “Continue to improve at those things I need to get better at and get ready for April when we come back in here…Every aspect of my game, I can get better at and improve on a lot. That’s the focal point, improving on those things.”
A motivated and further-improved Henry would certainly be a welcomed sight for the Titans in 2019.
5. Mariota Still a Question Mark
Many analysts considered 2018 to be a crucial season for quarterback Marcus Mariota, that it would be the season where the Titans finally learned once and for all whether he is their franchise quarterback.
Alas, that did not come to fruition. 2018 is over, and there are still far more questions than answers surrounding Mariota.
The Oregon-product is set to play the 2019 season on his fifth-year option, which is totaled at nearly $21 million. Beyond that, things get murky. He is currently set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
The Titans could certainly give Mariota a contract extension at some point over the next few months, but that seems like a risky decision considering the many uncertainties surrounding his on-field performance.
Another option the Titans have is allowing Mariota to play out his rookie contract and then give him the franchise tag at the end of 2019 if they decide they want to keep him around. That could serve as a placeholder for a more conventional, long-term contract.
With another year under their belts in offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s system, Mariota and the rest of the offense should see a substantial amount of improvement next season. The question lies in just how much money that improvement will be worth.