TENNESSEE TITANS (7-10)
EXPECTATIONS: The Titans are targeting another AFC South title after missing a third straight division championship last season. The Titans have led the NFL in most players used each of the past two seasons because of injuries with 137 and it finally caught up with them in the final minutes of a seventh straight loss. The Titans missed the playoffs for only the second time in coach Mike Vrabel's five seasons. QB Ryan Tannehill had surgery and stuck around all offseason to learn new OC Tim Kelly's offense. Tannehill is in a contract year. He also now has three-time All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins to help Treylon Burks and TE Chig Okonkwo rev up a passing offense that was one of the NFL's worst last season. Derrick Henry also is in a contract year and motivated to prove great RBs deserve better pay. He ranked second in the NFL in 2022 after a broken foot cost him nine games in 2021. Pro Bowl OLB Harold Landry III is back after a torn ACL cost him last season on a defensive front anchored by two-time Pro Bowler Jeffery Simmons who got his well-deserved extension this offseason.
NEW FACES: GM Ran Carthon, Hopkins, LT Andre Dillard, OLB Arden Key, RG Daniel Brunskill, LG Peter Skoronski, QB Will Levis, LB Azeez Al-Shaair, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, LB Luke Gifford, WR Chris Moore, RB Tyjae Spears, pass game coordinator/QB coach Charles London, pass game coordinator/DB coach Chris Harris, OT Chris Hubbard.
KEY LOSSES: LT Taylor Lewan, C Ben Jones, RG Nate Davis, LB David Long, LB Bud Dupree, WR Robert Woods, TE Austin Hooper, OC Todd Downing and OL assistant Keith Carter.
STRENGTHS: Defensive line. Simmons earned a second straight Pro Bowl nod despite needing pain-killing shots in his injured ankle half the season. He still had 7 1/2 sacks, one off his career high in 2021. Denico Autry had eight sacks, and Landry is eager to build off his career-best 12-sack season in 2021. Key has a multi-year deal to prove he's an upgrade over Dupree who was cut after seven sacks in two seasons.
WEAKNESSES: Offensive line. Carthon reworked a banged-up unit that gave up 49 sacks last season. Aaron Brewer and Nicholas Petit-Frere are the only starters back, and Brewer has moved from LG to C. Petit-Frere will miss the first six games after being suspended for gambling while on team property. The Titans need Dillard to anchor the unit at LT with first-round pick Skoronski at LG and Brunskill at RG. Hubbard, signed July 28, appears set to start the season at RT with little depth available.
CAMP DEVELOPMENT: Jack Gibbens, an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota, appears to have earned the starting ILB job beside Al-Shaair. Nicknamed “Dr. Gibby” for how quickly he picked up the defense as a rookie, he brings size at 6-3 and 242 pounds.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Burks. The 18th draft pick overall in 2022 out of the trade sending Pro Bowl WR A.J. Brown to Philadelphia struggled early with conditioning, then was limited to six starts in 11 games by injuries. Burks finished with only 33 catches for 444 yards and one touchdown. A full offseason spent working with Tannehill has Burks looking much more like the WR the Titans wanted until he hurt his left knee during a joint practice with Minnesota putting his availability to start the season in question.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 60-1. Over/under wins: 7 1/2.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
The Associated Press