The 2021 National Football League season was a tough but reasonably successful one for the Tennessee Titans.
Despite losing superstar running back Derrick Henry for nine games due to a foot injury, they managed to stay afloat and finish with a 12-5 record, which was good enough for first place in the AFC South.
Tennessee suffered a heartbreaking 19-16 loss to the eventual conference champion Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round, but the team seemed to hold relatively high hopes for the 2022 campaign.
But on draft day, the Titans surprised many by sending Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for two draft picks.
Now, it looks like there’s a real chance the Titans may not even make the playoffs next season.
Brown Was A Huge Part Of Tennessee’s Passing Attack
The Titans haven’t really been known as a team that airs it out, partly due to Henry being a one-man battering ram.
But it’s also because they lack a ton of weapons in their passing game.
Brown was, for all intents and purposes, Tennessee’s only legitimate threat in the air.
You can’t teach this.
This play alone shows you why AJ Brown is worth every penny of the $100M Howie paid him. pic.twitter.com/JGwKjzpr2e
— Kendall Beck (@KBeckEagles) April 29, 2022
With 869 yards in 2021, he almost doubled the yardage of the team’s second-most-productive wide receiver, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, who had 476 yards on the season.
The Titans were hoping that Jones, whom they traded for last June, would return to his old self after an injury-riddled 2020 campaign.
But he only mustered 434 yards in 10 games, a far cry from the 1,394 yards he posted in 2019, his last fully healthy season.
Jones, of course, was one of the NFL’s very best wide receivers back then, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who also got two All-Pro First-Team nods.
The Titans will now have to rely on Treylon Burks, the wide receiver they took with the 18th pick in this year’s draft they got in return for Brown.
As it was, they ranked just 15th in points, 17th in total yards gained, 19th in passing touchdowns and 24th in passing yards in 2021, which are anemic numbers.
Those numbers generally won’t get a team into the playoffs, let alone into first place in its division.
The Challenge For Tennessee
The insane player movement the NFL has seen has made the AFC as strong and competitive as anyone can ever remember.
One team that looks stronger is the Indianapolis Colts, who replaced quarterback Carson Wentz with veteran Matt Ryan, who took the Atlanta Falcons to the brink of a Super Bowl championship just five years ago.
The Colts, like the Titans, don’t have an impressive group of receivers, but they do have Michael Pittman Jr., who put up 1,082 yards and six touchdowns in 2021.
Like the Titans, Indianapolis also has a superstar running back in Jonathan Taylor.
In 2021, Jonathan Taylor became the 5th player with >1,800 rush yards and >=18 rush touchdowns.
Who are the other 4?
— Jeff Bell (@4WhomJBellTolls) April 23, 2022
The Colts finished 9-8 this past season, and as a result, they narrowly missed out on the playoffs.
With an improved pass-rush attack, they should have a chance at finishing first in the AFC South.
If they do, the Titans will likely miss the playoffs, simply due to the incredible depth throughout the conference.