Marcus Mariota - Tennessee Titans

As I explained to Stephen Reed on Thursday morning on WBLZ sports, I’m picking the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South.

A 9-7 season just a year ago, and narrowly missing the playoffs, the NFL franchise is ready to take the next step. While the Houston Texans still have a loaded defense, and potentially a franchise quarterback in the future, it can’t be ignored the progress the team in Nashville made from 2015 to 2016.

If you read my work at The Inscriber Digital Magazine, you know my loyalties bleed teal and black. The AFC South could be the NFL’s toughest division this year with all four teams vying for a playoff spot. I’m convinced, with the same kind of philosophy that Mike Mularkey installed last year, this organization is ready for a playoff run.

As the team moves from OTAs into training camp we will get a better feel for how good the 2017 season will be. These are the three most pressing questions the Tennessee Titans must answer in training camp.

Is Marcus Mariota ready to take the next step?

There are many of us that believe so.

When the Titans made Mariota the second pick in the 2015 NFL draft, I thought he was a step or two behind Jameis Winston. Right now, both are on the brink of super stardom. While Winston has a strong arm and is elusive for a quarterback his size, Mariota uses his arm strength and his ability to run to enhances the Titans offense.

The Tennessee Titans will be a top 10 offensive team in 2017 if Mariota returns to form after a leg injury and he is able to find chemistry with his receivers early and often.

The Tennessee Titans took a chance on making Corey Davis, the wide receiver out of Western Michigan, the fifth pick in this year’s NFL draft. It’s a move that could pay off handsomely, where Mariota-Davis can become a lethal pass/catch combination.

Where does Derrick Henry fit in this offense?

It’s a question I asked last year, when the Tennessee Titans made him a second-round draft pick out of the University of Alabama. The former Heisman Trophy winner could be a breakout player this year. His ability to run and his improved pass catching skills play right into Mariota’s skill set. It also gives Mularkey another weapon out of the backfield.

Last year, Mularkey told the media that Henry was a vital piece of the Tennessee Titans offense, where there is a specific role for him. DeMarco Murray has proven to be the best running back in the AFC. Most teams need two effective runners throughout the season. Look for Henry to get more carries and more time in the backfield. Also look for his numbers in the passing offense to increase.

Are the Titans the new Patriots?

I asked this question because of Jon Robinson, the Tennessee Titans general manager, and his connection to the Super Bowl champions.

Robinson’s time in the New England organization has paid off handsomely for the people in Tennessee. The one thing that he has done since taking over as general manager is draft players of need and has found the right puzzle pieces in free agency.

If Robinson continues to fill needs as they arise, and mix and match roster spots on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, The Tennessee Titans could become the New England Patriots of the next decade.

The thing I like about Robinson and his approach is he hasn’t just built the team for the here and now. This team also built for the future. Youth will be served in Nashville. The Tennessee Titans will win a Super Bowl in the next five years under his guidance.

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