2021 is officially upon us, and the Tennessee Titans remain in the driver’s seat of their division with one game to go in the regular season.
There are, however, a handful of improvements the Titans could stand to make this calendar year.
Here are four New Year’s resolutions the Titans should make in 2021.
1. Host a Home Playoff Game
The last time the Titans won the AFC South was 2008. Their quarterback was Kerry Collins, RB Chris Johnson was a rookie and LB Keith Bulluck controlled the middle of the defense.
It’s been a while.
With a win on Sunday, though, the Titans would put an end to that 12-year streak and clinch the AFC South title. A Colts loss to Jacksonville would also do the trick, though that seems unlikely.
As we all know, winning the division means hosting a playoff game. Even in the midst of the coronavirus, which has severely limited the number of fans in attendance of games, the importance of starting the postseason at home cannot be overstated.
While the Titans were successful on the road at the end of the 2019 season, it could be fairly argued that one of the reasons they came out flat in the AFC Championship is that they were exhausted from traveling and playing in badly hostile environments.
The Titans need to take care of business on Sunday against a bad, 4-11 Texans team and clinch the AFC South crown.
2. Get Some Sacks
The #Titans defense has zero sacks this year, nearing their 2020 total.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) January 1, 2021
With just one game left to go in the 2020 season, the Titans’ defense has accumulated just 15 sacks. As John Glennon pointed out on the 615 Sessions Podcast, the Titans’ previous franchise record for least sacks in a season was 31.
That massive lack of pressure is perhaps the biggest reason behind the Titans’ defensive collapse in 2020. Everyone else on a defense is going to look worse when the pass rushers aren’t doing their job.
There’s probably zero chance of the Titans getting that problem turned around before the end of this season, as they just don’t have very good personnel.
They’re at the point where Brooks Reed, a street free agent pickup, and Wyatt Ray, an undrafted second-year player, are getting consistent playing time.
Heading into 2021, general manager Jon Robinson will need to make big-time moves to get this problem fixed.
3. Find a New Defensive Coordinator
When former Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees retired in January, head coach Mike Vrabel elected to not name a replacement and, instead, give himself a bigger role and let outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen call plays.
While plenty of coaches have made similar decisions with great success in the past, it just hasn’t worked out for Vrabel. He and Bowen have been poor at their jobs in 2020, unable to get their personnel into positions to make plays.
While injuries and player regression have certainly played roles in the demise of the Titans’ defense, not having a steady hand at the helm calling plays has also been a major factor.
Over the offseason, Vrabel should add an experienced defensive play-caller to his staff. There are plenty of good ones out there.
4. Keep the Weapons Around
The Titans’ two most notable impending free agents in 2021 are WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith. The team would do well to keep both of those players around.
While Smith has fallen short of the breakout season many expected from him, he has remained an important weapon in the Titans’ high-flying offense. He’s one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends in the league, and he has good chemistry with QB Ryan Tannehill.
Davis, on the other hand, has broken out in a big way this season. He’s got a good chance to finish with 1,000 receiving yards, and he’s finally become a consistent producer.
Losing both or, really, either of that duo wouldn’t be good for the Titans’ offense moving forward. The team will likely have the salary flexibility to keep both of them around in 2021 and beyond, and they need to pull the trigger on both.
Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today