The year was 2014. The date was September 7th. It was a cool, sunny day in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I was a junior at the University of Tennessee. It was the first NFL Sunday of the year and my giddiness had reached Christmas morning levels. After all, this was finally going to be Jake Locker’s break out season.
And at around 4pm ET that day, the hopes of Titans’ fans had been “confirmed.” In Ken Whisenhunt’s debut as Titans’ head coach, the Titans went into Arrowhead and beat the Chiefs, a team who had gone 11-5 the previous season. A team that was led by Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce and Dwayne Bowe.
It was a great, if unexpected, way to start the season. Seeing the potential of a healthy Locker, who threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns that day, in Whisenhunt’s offense was something Titans’ fans had been waiting for since drafting him 8th overall in 2011. The Titans were ready to take the next step back towards relevance.
And then they went 1-14 to finish the 2014 campaign.
So what’s my point in bringing up this rare bright spot in what was a dark and painful Whisenhunt era in Nashville? It’s simply this: Week 1 is awesome, and it feels great to have real football back. But win or lose, try not to burn the franchise down or book your February 2nd flight to Miami just yet. Do me a favor Monday morning when you wake up. Take 10 deep breaths, tell yourself yesterday didn’t mean as much as I originally thought, and then call in to the Wake Up Zone to talk about your rational feelings. Thanks so much.
Now, with all that being said, let’s talk about some Week 1 football, y’all.
Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns (-5.5)
Game Time: 1pm EDT/Noon CDT
Location: Cleveland, Ohio (FirstEnergy Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Rhett Bryan, Jonathan Hutton
Cleveland Browns Offseason Moves
If you’ve read or watched anything from the national media about the Browns, Cleveland natives should just go ahead and plan the victory parade in February. The addition of Odell Beckham Jr, along with the assumed progression of Baker Mayfield has many people pegging the Browns as the favorites to win the AFC North.
After starting the season 2-5-1 last year, the Browns finally pulled the plug on longtime head coach Hue Jackson, promoting defensive coordinator Greg Williams to interim head coach. Jackson went 3-36-1 in his time as the Browns head coach, so nowhere to go but up for Freddie Kitchens.
Key Offseason Departures
Breshad Perriman (WR), Darren Fells (TE), Dwayne Bowe (WR), Emmanuel Ogbah (DE), Jamie Collins (OLB), Kevin Zeitler (OG), Tyrod Taylor (QB)
Key Offseason Additions:
Odell Beckham Jr (WR), Kareem Hunt (RB), Sheldon Richardson (DT), Olivier Vernon (OLB), Greedy Williams (CB, rookie)
Titans Injury News
-Right guard Kevin Pamphile was seen limping off the field Thursday towards the end of practice, and he showed up on the injury report the next day with a knee injury. Pamphile is questionable for Sunday.
-Kicker Ryan Succop, after being activated from the PUP list in the preseason, was put on injured reserve Monday. Succop said he felt he didn’t have “pop” back in his leg yet, and so the team signed Cairo Santos to fill in for Succop until he can return, which wouldn’t be until Week 9 at the earliest.
-Outside Linebacker Harold Landry, who missed the entire preseason, was a full go at practice and defensive coordinator Dean Pees says he’s at 100 percent now.
Things to Watch For
–Arthur Smith’s Offense: This one seems pretty obvious, but how will Smith’s offense look compared to Matt LaFleur’s a season ago. By the end of last season, this offense ran through Derrick Henry, leading to an historic final four weeks of the season for Henry. Smith was partially hired because of his familiarity with the system so Marcus Mariota wouldn’t have to learn an entirely new offense. But the question is, with the league moving towards a more pass heavy attack, will the Titans follow suit? For a team who ran the ball on 1st down at the second highest rate in the NFL last season (54 percent), it will be interesting to see if Smith continues that trend or moves more towards the foundations of a “modern” offense.
–Battle in the Slot: The middle of the field will be a fun to watch this Sunday. Newly acquired receiver Adam Humphries will presumably be matched up against one of the better slot cornerbacks in the league, TJ Carrie, this week. Delanie Walker will also be roaming the middle of the field this week for the first time since Week 1 of last season in Miami. Look for the offense to be run out of the middle of the field primarily, with Humphries and Walker soaking up a lot of targets.
–Conklin vs. Vernon: This could just as easily be “offensive line vs. defensive line,” but if right tackle Jack Conklin can be left on an island against Olivier Vernon and have success, that frees up Mike Vrabel to come up with some sort of blocking scheme to help out left tackle Dennis Kelly with Miles Garrett. With no Taylor Lewan and Kevin Pamphile showing up as “questionable” on the injury report, the Titans are thin up front. But Conklin, who has looked good and, more importantly, healthy, in the preseason, could help the rest of the line by simply beating the man in front of him. And when I say “simply,” I mean “not many people are able to do it and I wish you luck in trying.”
That’s it for now everybody! Enjoy Week 1 and, as always, make sure you listen to 104-5 The Zone beginning at 10am CT on Sunday to stay updated on all the pregame storylines.
By: Matt Gray, 104-5 The Zone