The Atlanta Falcons have recently traded Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth round pick to the Tennessee Titans for a 2022 second round pick and a 2023 fourth round pick. There was speculation of a trade all offseason and it became a reality after Jones publicly expressed that his time in Atlanta was over.
The Titans desperately needed a second receiver after Corey Davis signed with the Jets in free agency. They signed Josh Reynolds, but Julio Jones is an instant upgrade to the offense. However, there are health concerns. He dealt with a lingering hamstring issue that caused him to miss seven games in 2020. Although he was playing through injury, he was still productive as he averaged 85 yards per game. Adding a dominant receiver to your roster is great, but is it enough to push the Titans over the hump and into the Super Bowl?
The Titans defense was one of the worst in the league in 2020. They ranked 24th in points allowed and 28th in yards allowed. They had major holes at corner after Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson both departed in free agency. Tennessee searched for their replacements in the draft, selecting Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden. Farley is an incredibly talented prospect, but he has not been able to stay on the field due to injuries. Molden was a top slot corner in the draft and will be able to make an impact early. They also signed Janoris Jenkins, who has proven to be a reliable starter during his time with the Saints.
The Titans also had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL and were ranked 31st by PFF. They thought signing Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley would bolster their pass rush, but it was the opposite as they both did not record a single sack in 2020. The team as a whole ranked 30th in the NFL in total sacks with 19. This led to the acquisitions of Bud Dupree and Denico Autry as a response to the lack of production. The Titans have made moves to fill their needs, but their success depends on how quickly the unit can mesh together.
New Offensive Coordinator
Arthur Smith became the Titans offensive coordinator in 2019 and made a name for himself with the offense taking a jump from 27th in points per game to 4th in points per game in 2020. However, Smith is no longer their coordinator and is the new head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Tennessee hired Todd Downing to replace him, but he does not have extensive experience at the position. His other coordinator role was with the Raiders in 2017, but was short-lived due to the team’s lack of production. Inputting a new system can make finding a rhythm difficult, but the upside is Downing has the opportunity to create a dynamic offense from scratch. The Titans success will depend on Downing’s ability to find the best game plan that utilizes the strengths of their big three.
Key for Success
The Titans offense was top five in scoring before the trade and adding Julio only increases the scoring opportunities. Derrick Henry is still the focal point of the offense, but he benefits from having another elite pass catcher to take eyes away from him. If teams have eight men in the box it will be difficult for Henry, but it gives Julio and A.J. Brown opportunities to exploit single coverage. If defenses decide to move players out the box, it opens up the running lanes. Play-action is also big for the offense because the threat of the run will pull defenders in, opening holes down the field for the dynamic duo.
The Titans left 2020 with a top five offense and the addition of Julio Jones helps replace the production they lost in free agency. Pairing him with AJ Brown and Henry can lower his workload, while still making the offense more effective. Defense is the biggest factor that will hold this team back from a Super Bowl run. The front office has made an effort to address those issues, but they are young and have to develop chemistry. The health of A.J. Brown is a potential issue as well due to him having surgery on both of his knees after the season. We are unaware how the surgeries will affect his play, but his health throughout the season is important if they are to make a deep run. The Titans will be very competitive, but their offense may not be enough to overcome their defensive inconsistencies.