The Tennessee Titans' 2020 season was ended by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, as the Titans fell 20-13 in the wild-card round. While the Titans weren't able to make it back to the AFC Championship game this year, there are other reasons to celebrate this past season. They won the AFC South for the first time since 2008, Derrick Henry became just the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season and Ryan Tannehill was able to build on his impressive 2019 campaign and prove he was worth the extension. Unfortunately, some of the same problems that haunted the 2019 Titans popped up again in 2020, which is why Tennessee was unable to make it out of Super Wild Card Weekend.
With Tannehill and Henry locked up for the future, the Titans will spend this offseason exploring how they can build around them. Tennessee would also be smart to revamp its defense -- which took a step backwards in 2020. The Titans will also be forced to make some tough decisions when it comes to re-signing players in free agency, but what are the most important issues to address this offseason?
Below, we will examine what I believe to be the three most important steps Tennessee will have to take in the coming months.
1. Hire quality coordinators
He's no longer a secret: Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is the hottest coaching candidate in the NFL right now. His accomplishments on the offensive side of the ball took the Titans as a franchise to another level. He took Tannehill and turned him into the AP Comeback Player of the Year, as Tennessee registered two major postseason upsets to get to the AFC Championship game in 2019. Smith also turned second-round pick wideout A.J. Brown into an immediate star, and then of course helped Henry begin a run which could one day land him in Canton. It's not yet known if Smith will accept one of the six head coaching openings, but let's assume he does. Who Mike Vrabel hires to replace him and run the offensive side of the ball is going to be incredibly important, and it's a huge decision that he shouldn't make on his own. Additionally, it's time for Vrabel to correct his mistake on the defensive side of the ball and hire a defensive coordinator.
Vrabel has done a lot of good things for this Titans franchise, but deciding not to hire a defensive coordinator to replace Dean Pees was something that I think hurt this team. The Titans ranked fifth-worst in the league when it came to total yards allowed per game this season, and fourth-worst in passing yards allowed per game -- which was a clear regression from last year. Tennessee also had the worst third-down defense in the league.
"I think that this thing kind of took a life of its own," Vrabel said this week when asked about not having a defensive coordinator, via Pro Football Talk. "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. But we'll coach better, we'll play better."
Allow me to translate. Vrabel is saying that the Titans really did have a defensive coordinator in outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen, and that all he was lacking was the title. I disagree. I think the Titans need someone specifically in charge of the defense with that "defensive coordinator" title. Maybe Pees can come out of retirement for a second time.
The secondary was particularly hard to watch, as the Titans' cornerbacks consistently gave star receivers nine to 10 yards of cushion on the outside, struggled to read and react in zone coverage and were inconsistent in press coverage. These are coaching/scheme issues, not personnel issues. The secondary was also certainly not helped by the play of the defensive front, which brings me to No. 2 on our to-do list.
2. Acquire pass-rush help
The Titans were seriously lacking in pass-rush production last year, so they attempted to fix the issue in the offseason. They took a flier on Vic Beasley, and also broke the bank on a one-year deal for Jadeveon Clowney. Neither signing panned out, and the Titans finished with just 19 total sacks in the regular season -- which ranked third-worst in the league. The Titans have plenty of options when it comes to how they can add pass rushers this offseason. There are several intriguing free agents such as Shaquil Barrett, Yannick Ngakoue and Ryan Kerrigan, or the Titans could use a high draft pick on a defensive lineman. CBS NFL Draft writers Ryan Wilson, Chris Trapasso and Josh Edwards all currently have the Titans using the No. 24 overall pick on a defensive end who can get after the quarterback.
3. Figure out the No. 2 WR
The Titans have their star wide receiver in Brown, but who will be his running mate? Tennessee declined the fifth-year option on Corey Davis last offseason and he responded by putting up career-high numbers all across the board, catching 65 passes for 984 yards and five touchdowns. His inconsistencies again began to show towards the end of the season, however, as he failed to catch a pass against the Green Bay Packers in Week 16, caught just five of 11 targets against the Houston Texans in the regular-season finale while registering several notable drops and then failed to catch a pass against the Ravens this past Sunday. Davis was simply not a part of the game plan, and recorded a season-low 32 offensive snaps. Are the Titans interested in bringing Davis back? Will another team offer him a more lucrative deal? If the Titans do re-sign Davis, then that obviously keeps him as the No. 2 receiver opposite of Brown. But if not, Tennessee needs to sign another legitimate receiver. The Titans aren't exactly swimming in available cash, but there are some intriguing free agents available. Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Curtis Samuel could be looking for new homes, as could Marvin Jones or Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions.