Run the ball and play good defense.
That has seemingly been the long-standing theme for the Tennessee Titans.
During the Jeff Fisher era, the Titans had special running backs like Eddie George and Chris Johnson. And despite being a quarterback, the late great Steve McNair was just as good at running it.
Even Vince Young could do things with his feet that made running a perfect option for the Titans during his stretch at quarterback.
With that type of talent, running made sense.
These days, the Titans don’t pack the same type of punch in the backfield that they once did. Second-year running back Bishop Sankey is expected to make strides this season, but it’s going to take some time before we can put him in the George or Johnson category.
Luckily, the Titans have drafted a quarterback and assembled a wide receiving core that may be able to cause a massive shift in thinking on offense.
It all started in March. The Titans went out and immediately grabbed veteran wide receiver Harry Douglas in free agency. Douglas had a solid six seasons in Atlanta before making his way to Nashville, and he figures to make an impact right away.
Then came April. Sensing to need to add more depth for the quarterback of their choosing, the Titans snagged former Super Bowl champion Hakeem Nicks. While his production has gone down in recent seasons, Nicks has the potential to be a major contributor.
As the calendar rolled into May, the Titans had selected their quarterback of the future in Marcus Mariota, and also landed the absolute steal of the NFL draft in getting former Oklahoma and Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round.
Drafting Green-Beckham did not come without its detractors. Despite having Top 10 talent, Green-Beckham’s draft spiral was caused by his off-the-field issues in college. The Titans chose to give him a second chance, and now the 6’6” receiver is poised to make 31 other teams regret passing on him.
That three-month stretch of talented additions was not too shabby.
But the Titans already had talent in the passing game. Tight end Delanie Walker led the team in receiving a year ago, and will obviously play a large role in the offense once again. Kendall Wright has proven that he has the talent to be a top-tier receiver in the league. Justin Hunter has done the same, even if he did have a disappointing 2014 and may or may not be facing a suspension by the league due to his arrest a few weeks ago.
The biggest problem for that trio has never been their talent in catching the ball and doing something with it. Instead, it’s been inconsistency from the person throwing it to them.
In drafting Mariota, the Titans hope to solve that issue.
The pressure that comes with being a starting quarterback in the NFL is undeniable. Especially if you’re a kid straight out of college that is handed the reigns of a team that was an abysmal 2-14 during the previous season.
Mariota will face that challenge this year. But thanks to the front office’s ability to put together perhaps the deepest wide receiving unit in many years, that challenge will be a little easier.
Douglas and Nicks are receivers that may have come to Nashville at just the right time. Walker, Wright, and Hunter are playmakers that have been itching for a solution under center.
And Green-Beckham? You heard it here first: He’s going to be a superstar. Maybe not this year, but soon.
Of course, all of this is dependent upon the progression of Mariota. If the Heisman Trophy winner is a bust, then the Titans will be back at square one.
But if he lives up to the hype, the Titans will evolve into a pass-first team. And no, not in the way that some teams do by being so bad that they have no choice but to throw a lot.
A continually improving Mariota and depth at wide receiver will give the Titans plenty of chances to win this season. They won’t pass because they have to, they’ll pass because they want to.
Run the ball and play good defense? The Titans may have a better option this season.
Pass the ball. A lot. Oh, and still play good defense.