The Tennessee Titans enjoyed a playoff appearance exceeding all expectations; unfortunately, we are not talking about the 2020 season.
In 2019, the Titans finished 9-7, second place in their division, and ended the season on a historic playoff run.
Tennessee upset the New England Patriots in the Wild Cards and the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Playoffs last year.
Derrick Henry and his ferocious stiff-arms lead Tennessee to the AFC Championship game before they bowed out to the Chiefs.
Fast forward to 2020 where the Ravens derailed a Titans team that finished first place in the AFC South.
Despite playing like division contenders on offense, the Titans have plenty of work to do ahead of them this offseason.
Although free agency will fix some of the glaring needs, the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft is a much-anticipated event.
With the 22nd overall selection, Titans general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel have much to consider.
In his end-of-the-year comments, coach Vrabel hinted towards the direction team management is focused on:
“We’ll have to identify a lot of areas of focus and making sure that we do a great job of bringing guys in here that love football, that are interested, that put the team first, and play with great effort and finish. They’ve got to love football. This is a grind. This league is a grind. Those are the type of players that we’re looking for, and obviously talented.”
Speaking with Pro Football Talk, coach Vrabel related:
“So we’re going to evaluate the roster and the coaching staff, the plays that we run, and the scheme that we have…everything across the board, because we ultimately didn’t win a championship.”
Therefore, considering all factors mentioned, the following areas are the three biggest draft needs for the Tennessee Titans in 2021.
Tennessee Needs to Improve the Pass Rush (Edge)
By far, the biggest problem for the Titans to fix next season is on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year the team’s defense recorded a solid 43 sacks and 72 hurries on opposing QBs.
Sadly, the Titans cut Vic after playing only five games and Jadeveon opted for season-ending knee surgery in week 13.
Last year’s unsuccessful offseason moves left Tennessee with 19 sacks, weak pass-rush, and no heat on the QB in 2021.
Jadeveon Clowney – 1-year, $15 million contract.
Vic Beasley – 1-year, $9.5 million contract.
The #Titans spent a lot of money in free-agency to bolster their pass-rush.
Clowney and Beasley have 0 sacks through midseason and less than 20 tackles combined. pic.twitter.com/KKytlzREhD
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) November 2, 2020
Only the Cincinnati Bengals (17) and Jacksonville Jaguars (18) had less sacks this season, and both are drafting in the top five.
When asked about the vacant defensive coordinator position, coach Vrabel responded in an interview:
“I think this thing kind of took a life of its own. I guess that it was really important. But Shane [Bowen] led the meetings. Shane led the walk-throughs. Shane called the defense. And, again, I think we get caught up too much in titles. And I guess I apologize because clearly I didn’t think it would take on a life of its own.”
In the same conversation, Mike added:
“But we’ll coach better. We’ll play better.”
One such impact player that can fill the void is the University of Georgia’s outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
At 6-3, 240 lbs, the sophomore Bulldog brings a wealth of experience as a stand-up, two-point, defensive rusher.
Azeez is also versatile enough to drop back into pass coverage and shadow a receiver out of the backfield.
No doubt, Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel have a prime opportunity to check their defensive needs in drafting Azeez Ojulari.
Titans Must Address Wide Reciever Corp
Two important issues face the Tennessee Titans at the wide receiver position.
Firstly, Tennessee’s number two target Corey Davis‘ four-year contract expires at the end of 2020, making him a free agent.
Davis had a breakout year pulling in 65 catches, 984 yards, and found the endzone five times this season.
Losing Corey to free agency will certainly put a “cover-six” defense against the Titans receiving game.
Secondly, the team’s Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown announced on social media he is recovering from double knee-surgery Tuesday night.
So AJ Brown is currently live on Instagram from the hospital, looks to be post-op. He says he had surgery on both his knees.
— Emily Proud (@emily_proud) January 19, 2021
With Brown expected to miss some on-field action, LSU’s top receiver, Terrance Marshall Jr., is a realistic choice to consider.
Leading the Tigers in TD receptions (10), Terrance is a contested-catch player standing at 6-3, 200 lbs., a true treat.
Upgrade the Backup QB Position
With three years left on his contract, Ryan Tannehill thrived last season under center for the Titans.
Posting one of the best seasons he has had in eight years, Ryan finished with a career-high 33 passing TDs and fifth-highest QBR (106.5).
Although healthy for the most part, Tannehill suffered a partial ACL tear (2016) and had season-ending knee surgery in 2017.
With Ryan at 33 years old, Tennessee looks not only towards insurance purposes but also to a path other than Logan Woodside.
As such, Robinson and Vrabel will find it difficult not to consider University of Florida QB Kyle Trask.
The Heisman Trophy finalist elevated his game in 2020, setting a school record for most TD passes in a single season.
Striking out with the past two QBs drafted in 2018 and 2020, the Tennessee Titans look towards going deep in the 2021 NFL Draft.