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NFL power rankings countdown to training camp: Tennessee Titans, No. 9

The Titans added Julio Jones to an already star-studded offense, but their path to a Super Bowl remains obstructed.

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / The Tennessean via Pool via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Tennessee Titans won the AFC South last season, the franchise’s first division crown in more than a decade. Mike Vrabel’s squad edged out the Indianapolis Colts via tiebreaker for the title thanks in large part to Derrick Henry who became just the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Meanwhile, quarterback Ryan Tannehill built off his breakout 2019 campaign with another strong year, cementing his status as one of the league’s most efficient passers.

Still, the Titans looked like a flawed team throughout the regular season and the playoffs only served to highlight those deficiencies. Tennessee managed just 13 points during a wild-card defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, kicking off a difficult offseason that saw offensive coordinator Arthur Smith leave for the Atlanta Falcons’ head-coaching position. Several talented players also departed due to salary-cap limitations.

2020 record

11-5, 1st in AFC South

2020 defense

Points: 27 points per game, rank 24th
Yards: 5.9 yards per play, rank 23rd (tied with 3 teams)
Football Outsiders ranking: 29th

2020 offense

Points: 29.6 points per game, rank 4th
Yards: 6.1 yards per play, rank 5th
Football Outsiders ranking: 4th

2021 DraftKings Sportsbook odds

Super Bowl: +2800
AFC/NFC Champion: +1400
Win Total: 9 (Over -140, Under +115)

Offseason moves

In June, the Titans traded a second-round pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2023 to acquire Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth-rounder. The deal pairs Jones, an All-Pro wide receiver and sure-fire Hall of Famer, with A.J. Brown, one of the game’s most impressive young wideouts. While the offense remains centered on Henry and the ground attack, the tandem of Jones and Brown supercharges the passing game and should help stave off regression.

On the other side of the ball, the Titans invested several draft picks in the linebacking corps (Monty Rice) and secondary (Caleb Farley, Elijah Molden, and Brady Breeze). The team also added Bud Dupree to rush the passer, though he suffered a torn ACL in December.

Meanwhile, the Titans watched wideout Corey Davis leave in free agency fresh off his breakout season. The team also severed ties with former first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson to save cap space.

Biggest question entering training camp

The loss of Smith as the offensive coordinator leaves a massive hole on the coaching staff. Smith’s replacement, Todd Downing, has called plays before and plans to keep the system in place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Titans can expect the same results. Tennessee will get its first glimpse at what a Downing-called offense will look like in camp.

What needs to happen for the Titans to win the Super Bowl?

The Titans have yet to field a consistently capable defense during Vrabel’s tenure as head coach. The investment during the draft should help, but the unit remains far from a finished product. Vrabel needs to find a way to bridge the gap between last year’s disastrous unit and one that could provide some balance to the offense.

2021 Outlook

Tennessee remains the favorite to win the AFC South, though that reflects the team’s competition as much as anything. The Colts have a stellar roster but have a major question mark at quarterback whereas the Titans’ issues lie mainly on the other side of the ball. That defense looks like an albatross, but clubs have made deep playoff runs with worse units. Even so, the Titans will have a difficult time unseating the conference’s elite teams.